For some reason I was remembering a woman I knew when I was barely into my 20s. I don't even remember her name, but I remember her small apartment in New York City with large, multi-paned windows. And I remember sitting down to a dinner of chicken and green grapes on rice. At the time I thought it was the most sophisticated dish I had ever seen come out of a friend's kitchen. I had never seen such a pairing before, and certainly had never eaten anything that had cooked grapes in it. It obviously made a deep impression, because all these years later, I found myself longing for chicken with grapes.
I knew I wasn't going to re-create that dinner of so many years ago, but a fond memory does strange things. It lures you into exploring avenues you might have otherwise passed by. And memory, because it's so faulty at best, gives you creative license. Was that fennel she used? Did she have tarragon in the dish? I have no idea, so I made a dish up with the help of epicurious.
Now, you have to understand how I use epicurious, as well as how I use cookbooks in general. I will decide that I want to make chicken, for instance. and I will look for recipes containing chicken. Sometimes I have a "direction" in mind - say, Greek, or Thai for instance. Sometimes not. This time it was an ingredient which became essential -- the grapes. After looking through several recipes for chicken salad with grapes, one for chicken cooked with muscat grapes, and a recipe for pork with black grapes and balsamic vinegar, my head was filled with the raw material I needed. I walked away from the computer and into the kitchen. The ideas began to simmer in my mind and slowly, like the lovely reduction I saw emerge from the cast iron pot on my stove, my recipe bubbled up and onto this site. Unlike many of my own recipes I've written about in the past, this time I actually measured after chopping and halving, so I have a fairly decent approximation of what I did. I opened the package of organic, free-range chicken breast tenders I had splurged on in Trader Joe's, poured myself a glass of pinot noir and began.
5 chicken breast tenders
1/2 C chopped red onion
3-4 TBS olive oil
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
fresh ground pepper
sprig of rosemary
several dashes of thyme (or fresh sprig)
Lay chicken breast tenders on a plate, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper
Dice red onion
Rinse, dry and halve grapes
Heat a heavy pan and pour in about 1 1/2 TBS olive oil
Place chicken tenders in pan on medium high heat and cook, turning once so both sides are browned.
Remove chicken tenders to a plate.
In same pan, heat another 1 1/2 TBS olive oil
Add the onions and the grapes and cook until onions are tan - about 8-10 minutes
Add sugar and cook until it carmelizes. This will take about 30-45 seconds
Add broth and vinegar and bring to a boil
Reduce heat slightly and simmer until liquid reduces to about half
Add herbs and cook for another 30 seconds
Add chicken, cover and reduce heat. Cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Note to self:
I will try once again to grow tarragon in my garden. This dish turned out even better than I had imagined it might. I'd love to try it with tarragon instead of rosemary and thyme, though I can't really complain. While the sauce was reducing, I got to go for a walk and pick fresh rosemary which is growing about 4 blocks away. Still, the sweetness of the tarragon might be interesting.
I find that I agree with Ina Garten - kosher salt is somehow better for flavoring meats before cooking.
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2 years ago