Fine Cooking (October 2009)
Food nerds that we are, we were excited to see a feature about cooking with grapes in the October issue of Fine Cooking. Though grapes are by no means a new fruit to us, they are definitely an ingredient that we pass over time and time again while shopping.
It's not that we don't like them, but when we buy them, we typically relegate them to the realm of snacks. And if we're not buying them for snacks, we're getting them for the role of sidekick, where they play second fiddle on a cheese tray at a party.
What excited us about this magazine feature is that the grape recipes are extremely varied. Sure, there are expected grape uses, like a frisee and grape salad. But there are also recipes that take grapes far into the savory side of cooking.
There are, for instance, duck breasts with saba and grapes, as well as seared scallops with green grapes and lemon relish. For dessert, there's a beautiful custard tart with wine-poached grapes that we're dying to try.
And finally, there's this recipe, that incorporates grapes into a white wine-braised chicken.
Let's cut to the chase: We fell in love with this dish! The chicken was juicy and nicely seasoned, and the grapes make such a perfect pairing! The sweetness of the grapes was a perfect balance for the savory chicken. AND THAT SAUCE! We won't get into how much we loved the sauce, but suffice to say this: If you cook this chicken for guests, decorum dictates that you warn them before you tip the bowl and lick up the sauce. And -- trust us -- that's what you're going to want to do.
Now, when we set out to make this dish, we expected the grapes to be braised in the cooking liquid with the chicken. Not so!
In this recipe, the chicken is browned on all sides, and then removed from the heat. The grapes are then dropped into that same pan and cooked until just tender.
This is the point that we got a little worried. Our pan was still very warm from browning the chicken (in our defense, it hadn't said to let the pan cool at all). When the grapes hit the pan, several of the skins began to split. We turned down the heat and continued cooking them, removing the grapes after a few minutes and transferring them to a bowl.
The recipe continues, with sauteed onions, garlic and a wine reduction. The chicken is returned to the pan, broth is added, and the braise cooks for a bit.
It's not until the end, after the chicken has been removed, the liquid reduced, and cream added, that the grapes are returned to the dish.
It's a meal that's both worthy of guests and good for just making for yourself on a nice Fall night -- and if you do make it for yourself, there's no one to judge you for slurping up the sauce when you're done!
And now we're excited about finding other uses for grapes. Got any ideas? Let us know.
1 Tbs. olive oil
12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed (about 3-1/2 lb. total)
1-1/2 cups red or green seedless grapes or Muscat grapes
2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
One 750-ml bottle medium-dry Gewürztraminer
2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried, crumbled
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a 7- to 8-quart enameled Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the chicken, turning once, until golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl.
When all the chicken is browned, pour off all but 2 Tbs. of fat. Add the grapes and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the grapes to a small bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the wine reduces by almost half, about 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan, along with any accumulated juices. Add the broth and sprinkle with thyme. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until the chicken is very tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.
Raise the heat to medium high and boil the liquid until reduced to about 2-1/2 cups, about 12 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the cream with the cornstarch, then whisk the cream mixture into the sauce. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer gently over medium-low heat until the chicken is heated through. Stir in the reserved grapes. The chicken skin will be soft—remove it prior to serving, if desired.
Make Ahead Tips
This dish can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate the chicken and grapes separately.
Serve with brown rice or egg noodles and steamed green beans.