You know, when you’re living in an area surrounded by major wine producing regions, mid- to late Autumn will, for better or worse, bury you in grapes. Even if you don’t enjoy drinking wine and/or merrily participating in the inter-regional rivalry and the related (battle-)festivities, there’s basically no way around the grape as such and everything else you can possibly do with it.
If you walk through town – any town in an 300km’ish radius for that matter – you’ll see fresh grapes on sale, homemade and artisan grape-products from oil to jam to hooch… the list goes on forever. Adding the foodie cherry on top: no matter which restaurant’s daily or seasonal menu you might look at, there will be grapes in one form or other on there – from India to Iceland, from Thailand to Turkey and anywhere in between, everyone appears to agree on at least this one thing: grapes fit into every cuisine. While, as you know, I’m usually all for snooping around in cooking pots all across the World, this time around I’ll go completely local! Because… Yum~! Welcome to a post-wine-harvest feast in a Riesling-drenched corner in South-Western Germany near the Alsatian border~ These amounts will net you 4 servings.
The Riesling Chicken with Grapes and Almonds
4 Chicken Breasts or Thighs – with or without the bones, pick whatever piece you like best
150g White Seedless Grapes, peeled and halved
150g Red/Rose Seedless Grapes, peeled and halved
2 Shallots, sliced into fine ringlets
1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
150ml Dry Riesling or Champagne – the latter would satisfy the extravagant whim of the month quite nicely
100ml Intense Chicken Stock or Duck Stock
1 Orange, Juice and Zest
1 Tbsp Almond Flour
50g Ghee or Clarified Butter
2 Tbsp Ground Almonds
1 Tsp Raz el Hanout
4 Sprigs of Lemon Thyme
4 Sage Leaves, each one tied to or wriggled into one of your chicken piece
s2 Bay Leaves
4 Tbsp Almond Slivers, toasted
Salt and Pepper to Taste
This is commonly served with spiced rice (like the one over here in my Roasted Rosemary Lamb with Apricots recipe – skip the mint and the other dried fruit and you’re golden) with pine nuts and raisins or, alternatively, potatoes or freshly baked bread just waiting to soak up every last drop of the sauce. Take your pick and let’s get started!
1) Melt the clarified butter or ghee in a wide, heavy-based pan sitting on medium heat.
2) Add and sauté the shallots and garlic until they start to turn translucent.
3) Grab a deep dish, plate or tray and pile up the almond flour, ground almonds and a generous pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper – give the lot a gentle fork-through to combine everything.
4) Turn the chicken pieces over in this mix until each piece is nicely covered all around.
5) Transfer them to the pan imediately and fry them, turning them over every couple of mins until they’re deliciously golden and crispy all around.
6) Take the chicken out of the pan for a couple of blinks and deglaze the pan with the orange juice, chicken stock and your choice of Riesling or Champagne. Or Cremant for the less jaded ones~
7) While the liquids work up a bubble, decide whether you’d like to have little thyme leaves dot your sauce (in that case, pick the leaves off the sprigs and throw them into the pan) or if you want its aroma in there and nothing else (if so, throw in the sprigs now and retrieve them later).
8) Once the proto-sauce has reached the bubble point, stir in any remains of the flour mixture along with the orange zest, bay leaves and Ras el Hanout.
9) Pop the chicken back in and allow the lot to simmer away for 10 mins with the lid on, then flip the pieces over, add the grapes, give the pan a gentle shake and leave the contents of the pan to simmer for another 7-10 mins or until the chicken is done.
10) Have a quick taste of the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you prefer a thicker or even creamy sauce, you could add a know of chilled butter or Crème Fraîche
11) Plate up with your choice of side, scatter the servings with a spoonful of toasted almond slivers and enjoy the dish with the wine or bubbly you used for the sauce~