According to Michael Chiarello la vendemmia means the autumn grape harvest and red grapes at the store reminded me of this recipe. It’s also a good introduction to reduction sauces. Reduction sauces are about letting different liquids like wine and stock reduce together to intensify the flavors. They’re quick and fairly easy. Follow the link for reduction sauces to get the basic recipe and directions. I love a good sauce and learning how to make these helped me feel like I was really cooking, I hope they inspire you as well.
The other thing I wanted to tackle here is timing. I’ve heard from friends who cook that trying to get everything done at the same time can be a challenge, so I’m including a bit of my thinking about that here. If you already feel good about your timing, just skip ahead to the recipe. As I’m getting myself ready to cook, I think about which dish is going to take most of my active time, in this case it’s the chicken dish. So, I prep my veggie sides and get them all ready to go before I start my meat dish. For tonight’s menu, I cut my romanesco, put it in a pan with the water, olive oil, salt and pepper and then covered it and put it on the stove. All I have to do then is turn on the burner when we’re about 10 minutes away from being done. Then, I peeled and cut the parsnips, cut the potatoes and had them ready to go in the pan since these went in separately. I also got the herbs ready for both the potato/parsnip recipe and the chicken, put oil in the pan for the potatoes and put this pan on the stove. Then I prepped everything for the chicken and got started. The chicken goes in the oven in the pan for 10-15 minutes and while this was cooking, I cooked the parsnips and the potatoes. I took the chicken out of the oven a little before it was done cooking, moved it to a plate, returned it to the oven to finish while I got going on the sauce and while it was reducing, I finished up the parsnip/potato dish and got the romanesco cooking. When the sauce was done, so was everything else and all I had to do was serve and eat! I hope this is helpful for some of you who may still be working out the timing thing; it certainly took me a while to figure this out but I think it’s necessary if you’re going to eat at a reasonable time on a weeknight!
Now here’s the recipe with a few changes:
2 pounds seedless red grapes
4 large bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
2 teaspoons Fennel Spice (see recipe), optional, just salt and pepper if you don’t have this made
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chicken stock
Puree the grapes in a blender, then strain through a sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 2 1/2 cups juice.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken on all sides with salt, pepper and Fennel Spice if you have it.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Add olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Then put in breasts, skin side down and brown on all sides, 7-8 minutes total. When browned well, put skillet in oven and cook until the chicken is done or registers 165 on a thermometer, about 12-15 minutes. I take the chicken out after about 10 minutes, transfer the breasts to an ovenproof plate and return to the oven to finish cooking while I put the pan on stove and start on the sauce.
Add the shallots to the fat in the pan and cook on medium-high until softened. Add rosemary and cook about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the juice to the pan (and emjoy the other 1/2 cup as a treat for the chef!), turn the heat up to high and simmer briskly until reduced by half. Add the stock and reduce again by half or until the sauce has a creamy consistency. Tonight when I made this, it tasted a bit too sweet and thin to me, so I added 1/4 cup of cream and then 1 teaspoon or so of red vinegar and that fixed it right up. You should end up with about 1 cup or so of sauce.
Cut the breasts in half with a cleaver and serve topped with lots of sauce.