Back in January 2011, I was glancing at the Sunday magazine that comes in my local newspaper. A photo of Jamie Oliver caught my eye. And then an even larger photo of his tray-baked chicken with sweet potatoes, onions and sage fought for my attention. Having, shall we say, respect (might you call it a slight crush?) for Mr. Oliver, I decided this recipe was worth a try. The description and photo gave me confidence to try this dish — it was sure to be a winner! Well, I’ve made it twice and it is very delicious. The chicken is super moist, as promised, the potatoes tender, and the sage gives the dish a wonderful potent flavor.
But that potent flavor is exactly my one problem with this dish (sorry Jamie… I still think you’re awfully cute … and a great chef!). This meal has so much flavor — it’s the kind of meal you keep eating, whether you are full or not — just one more bite … a bit more chicken … now one extra slice of sweet potato. But, the problem was, with each extra bite the sage would make my eyes go wide open and my head would scream “SAGE!” It was delicious, and I ate way more than my share, and Mr. Oliver should take that as a huge compliment, but when all was said and done, I couldn’t get the taste of the sage out of my mouth or memory.
So the last time I made this — months ago — I wrote a note to try it again, but with rosemary instead of sage. That’s what I did today. Other changes I made were minor, such as using garlic powder rather than crushed garlic in the brine, mainly due to my lack of time while making the brine this morning. Also, I didn’t have a fresh lemon, so I couldn’t include lemon zest. I used bottled lemon juice rather than fresh. Finally, I don’t know what size roasting pan Mr. Oliver uses, but there was no way in Idaho I was going to fit 3 sweet potatoes AND 4 medium potatoes along with the chicken breasts in my one pan. Therefore in the recipe below (my version of Mr. Oliver’s wonderful recipe), it lists a reduced number of potatoes. Today, since I was having company for dinner, I made a double batch — two trays — which is a great way to feed a crowd and super easy to prepare. Everyone loved it!
Baked Chicken à la Jamie Oliver
1 quart water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed OR a generous amount of garlic powder
2 sprigs fresh sage (leaves only) OR rosemary (*Note: “fresh” is the key word … don’t use dried for this, it just won’t be as good … I know, I’ve done it and regretted it)
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
juice and zest of 1 lemon OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the bake:
4 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (*Note: Today I used breasts and chicken legs, and the first time I made it I also included some chicken thighs … they all work well)
2 slices smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh sage (leaves shredded) OR rosemary
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (Jamie and I prefer organic … :))
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
a few pats of butter
You want to make the brine at least a few hours before making the meal. Ideally you want the chicken to sit in the brine for a minimum of 2 hours, with 8 hours being preferred.
Add all the brine ingredients into a large container, and whisk to combine. Put the chicken pieces into the brine; cover and refrigerate.
When ready, remove the chicken from the refrigerator to allow to get to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350F.
In a large baking tray or roasting pan, put the bacon, potatoes, onion and garlic, sage (or rosemary), a good drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour in the broth. Cook for 30 minutes.
Drain the chicken pieces (discard brine) and pat them dry.
Remove from oven and pour in the cream. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Place the chicken on top and dot with pats of butter on each chicken piece. Cook 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.