Bread sauce, made with milk infused with cloves, onion and bay,
is a classic accompaniment to chicken. Start this recipe a day
ahead to brine the chicken. This step can be skipped, but brining
produces juicier meat.
125 gm (½ cup) fine salt2 tbsp caster sugar 1chicken (1.5kg), at room temperature4lemons2garlic cloves, bruised 2fresh bay leaf sprigs 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 1½ onions, thickly sliced into rings Melted butter, for brushingBread sauce 20 gm butter1 tbsp olive oil½onion, finely chopped1small garlic clove, peeled and bruised 1dried bay leaf 4cloves 300 ml chicken stock200 ml milk 170 gm crustless bread, diced1 tsp sour cream, or to taste
Stir salt and sugar with 500ml boiling water in a heatproof bowl until dissolved. Add 3 litres cold water, transfer to a plastic container and refrigerate until chilled (2 hours). Add chicken to brine and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from brine, rinse under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels, then stand for 20 minutes to come to room temperature.
Boil 2 whole lemons in a saucepan of water until just tender (8-10 minutes). Cool briefly, then coarsely chop (discard seeds). Mix in a bowl with garlic and a bruised bay leaf, stuff into chicken cavity and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat oil in a flameproof roasting pan over medium-high heat, add onion rings and fry, turning once, until starting to caramelise (5-6 minutes). Place chicken on top. Brush chicken with melted butter, then drizzle with olive oil. Halve remaining lemons and squeeze over chicken, then add lemon husks and remaining bay leaf sprig to pan. Season chicken, tie legs together with kitchen string, then roast, basting with pan juices or extra butter occasionally, until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced (about 1½ hours). Increase oven to 250C and roast just until skin browns to your liking (5-6 minutes). Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, for bread sauce, heat butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf and cloves, and sauté until onion softens (10-15 minutes). Add stock and milk, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer gently for (5-6 minutes). Stir in bread, simmer until it absorbs the liquid (4-5 minutes), then process in a blender until smooth. Stir in sour cream, season to taste, and add more milk if you prefer a thinner sauce. Serve chicken and pan onions with bread sauce.