I was recently paging through Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, when I came to her recipe for Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary. It transported me back to my first cooking job at L’Espalier in Boston. Family meal, in any restaurant, is the time before dinner service starts, when the cooks prepare and eat a meal together. Depending on the restaurant, this could mean anything from ordering pizza, to eating frozen food from the fryer, or, in some cases, skipping the meal altogether.
The cooks at L’Espalier took family meal seriously. Alex, our talented and informed grill cook, always planned the main dish days ahead of time. The rest of us would find out the day’s menu when we got to work and would scramble to come up with meaningful contributions from our stations, while prepping for that day’s rush. No matter how busy we were going to be, everyone was expected to remove their aprons and eat dinner together in the main dining room.
One memorable meal involved piles of crisply roasted links of sausage served with bursting hot grapes and meltingly soft sliced onions. I stole some warm rosemary focaccia from the baking and pastry station, wrapped the steaming bread around the crispy sausages, blackened onions and juicy grapes, and ate it with two hands, standing up. When I realized what I’d done, I ran back for seconds, so I’d have something to eat, seated, in the dining room. I gobbled the second portion too, and returned to my station sated and sleepy-eyed.
When I saw Deb Perelman’s version involving chicken and olives, I knew I had to give it a try. The olives add brine and depth to mild-tasting chicken, and off-set the sweet grapes. I increased the number of shallots called for, and finished the dish with a little butter to thicken the sauce. The fat from the butter also tempered the salty olives and highlighted the sweet grapes. The rosemary adds a fragrant earthy flavor.
This dish is a straightforward one-pot meal that is great for dinner parties or Sunday Supper, but make sure your guests are seated first, or it might be gone before you get it to the table.
- Chicken parts from one 3 to 4 pound chicken – legs, drumsticks, breast
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 large shallots, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 1.5 cups seedless green grapes
- ½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
- ½ cup unsalted chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a rack in the center of the oven. Salt the chicken lightly on both sides and heat a 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and half of the chicken pieces to the pan, skin-side down. Let sear, undisturbed for about three minutes, or until the skin has turned a crispy, golden brown. Turn and repeat on the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Remove the pan from the heat, then return all of the chicken to the pan, skin side up, and surround with the sliced shallots, olives, and grapes. Place in the oven and cook, undisturbed, for about twenty minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through and juices run clear when pierced.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chickento a platter. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the wine or vermouth. Cook for one minute until the raw alcohol smell burns off, scraping up the browned bits. Add the chicken stock and boil for three to five minutes, until the sauce reduces slightly. Add the butter and rosemary to the pan and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with whole grains, rice, mashed potatoes, or warm crusty bread to sop up the sauce.