I hesitated to post this today as it is not even remotely close to grape season, but I’ve had requests from some folks about what to do with their frozen muscadines from last fall’s harvest, and though this dish is best made with fresh muscadines, it is still remarkably good when made with frozen ones. Grapes and chicken may seem like an odd combination, but just as cranberry sauce compliments turkey so well, this combination strikes a perfect sweet-savory balance that makes this one of my favorite ways to cook with grapes.
While I like the addition of allspice here, this is just as good without it, so if you don’t have it on hand, don’t let that stop you from trying this. If you, like the vast majority of people, don’t happen to have a secret stash of frozen muscadines on hand, try using regular grapes, color notwithstanding, waiting until the last fifteen minutes or so of cooking to add them to the pot.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
One 3 1/2 lb. chicken, cut into 8 portions (thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and wings, though I generally reserve the wings for stock)
1 softball-sized onion, diced
4 fat cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 teaspoon freshly ground allspice (optional)
2 small or 1 large dried bay leaf
1 cup white wine
2 cups halved and seeded muscadine grapes
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Generously season the chicken with salt on all sides, then brown the chicken in the butter, being sure not to crowd the meat in the pot (crowd the pot, and the meat ends up steaming itself instead of browning). You may need to do this in two batches. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
2. Depending on how much fat rendered from the chicken, you may need to pour some fat out of the Dutch oven before proceeding. Pour it into a mug and reserve it, just in case you find you need more later during cooking. With roughly 2-3 tablespoons of fat remaining in the pot, add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low, cooking the onions until lightly golden and soft. Add the garlic, allspice if using, and bay leaf and cook for another minute, then add the white wine and stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to lift any browned bits back into the liquid.
3. Bring the wine to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the grapes to the pot. Return the chicken and any juices that have accumulated beneath it back to the pot, nestling the pieces down into the onion and grape mixture. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 25-35 minutes or until the thighs are cooked through.
4. Remove the chicken to a plate, add the rosemary to the pot, and bring it to a boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced a bit (not much- it isn’t meant to be a very thick sauce) and the rosemary has had a chance to flavor the sauce. Cut a small piece of chicken and dip it in the sauce, tasting to see if it needs more salt. It shouldn’t need much if you amply salted the chicken before browning, but check, just in case.
5. Serve the chicken with sauce over rice or other grains, or with a crusty bread to soak up the juices.