In a mad dash for something yummy and quick after a long day, I reached for my Smitten Kitchen cookbook. In her book, Deb Perelman indicates that her desire is to fill the book with uncomplicated ingredients and recipes you were glad to take the time to make. I was looking for one of the quickest throw together recipes the book had to offer and this was it. Initially the name of this dish made me scratch my head. Then I began to think about chicken salad and how well grapes taste in it. The wheels began turning and I decided to give it a chance.
What I love, love, love about her cookbook goes beyond the humbly provocative images of her creations, and reaches to the text. Everything from the way she talks about each recipe to the guidance through cooking them, creates this personal connection showcasing her love for food and even more so the people she serves. This chicken recipe seems like a pretty interesting experiment, but my taste-buds were so not ready for what they encountered.
The sizzle of the chicken and bursting of the grapes, oozing into a nice sauce was just a start. This dish was absolutely the best chicken dish I have ever had or prepared. I make a lot of chicken and it happens to be a meat I cook very well with. This recipe rocked my chicken-loving socks off. The grapes soaked up all the love from the shallots and chicken juices, while giving flavor to the chicken. Then the sauce? Deb encourages cooks to observe how long it takes for others to slurp up the sauce by the spoonful. There is certainly a reason for that. It is killer.
This dish is the kind of dish you expect an amazing dessert after. Only because it demands a good follow up. The dish stands up and declares war on the idea that an upscale dish that serves a family with hugs and rainbows must take hours to reduce and simmer. The flavor is so wonderful you will be excited to see what you will cook next! It is also nice and easy for the inexperienced to gain confidence. The busy family on a budget can also enjoy this meal easily and feel as if they were at a fancy restaurant.
Recipe (According to the book):
3 lbs chicken parts (thighs, breast, legs, etc.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup seedless grapes
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
How to make it:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle. Pat dry the chicken and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (use cast-iron skillet if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat until it simmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it.
Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives, and shallots. Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and shallots to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it is reduced by half, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with rosemary and see how long it takes guests to offer to slurp the sauce with a spoon.
One note of importance, after you pull the pan from the oven and while making sauce over the stove top, be sure to use a glove. It sounds obvious but the pan is still hot! I have made the mistake, even after reminding myself. It is just habit to grab that handle when making a sauce stove top.
There are some possible modifications you may want to consider. If you want to reduce fat content you can remove skins after cooking in oven, skim some fat off the top of the reduced sauce, or drain some fat before making the sauce. The skin acts like a sealer for the juices and flavor being melded. I also kept the sauce separate and added a little on top of everyone’s chicken after it was plated. You can control the amount you want better this way. For sodium concerns, use low-sodium broth or organic broth and sea salt in place of table salt. You need less of the sea salt for the same flavor. Also I bought a whole chicken and cut it up, as it was cheaper. Use local or organic as you can.
Side dishes could include salads, whole grain crusty bread with olive oil, roasted vegetables, or mashed potatoes. Her recipes are amazing and I encourage you to buy her book and play in your kitchen! You can also visit her blog ( http://smittenkitchen.com/about/ ) for more recipes. Happy Eating!
Recipe Rating: 5 Stars