I am new to the world of cooking from recipes, having grown up with parents and grandmothers who produced the most gorgeous and delicious Chinese meals as if by magic.
To branch out from Chinese food, I turned to Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog (smittenkitchen.com) and have been eagerly cooking and baking my way through her beautifully photographed and charmingly written first book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Knopf). Perelman not only includes anecdotes in the recipes themselves, she introduces each dish by narrating how she came up with the recipe and refined it by trial and error, all in her tiny Manhattan kitchen.
Last month, her cookbook provided a solution for both stomach and heart: a birthday present for my boyfriend, who loves home-cooked meals, doesn’t like restaurants, and prefers that I not buy him material gifts. His birthday meal would be shared with his good friend visiting from Seattle, so I wanted to make something impressive. I have never prepared roast chicken before, rarely use a cast-iron skillet, and had to ask what “browning” meant. Everything went according to plan except for the parts when the abundance of pepper filled the apartment with smoke, and when I reducing the reduction all the way down to almost nothing.
This recipe yields remarkably tender chicken with an unusual combination of flavors that will make your dinner companions happy and look great on Instagram.
Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yield: serves 4
3 pounds (1 1/3 kg) chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts), with skin and bones
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup (90 grams) seedless grapes
1 cup (130 grams) pitted Kalamata olives
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup (120ml) dry white wine
½ cup (120ml) chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle. Pat chicken dry, and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (use a cast-iron skillet if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about 5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it.
Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives, and shallots. Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked through and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and olives to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it has reduced by half, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with rosemary and see how long it takes guests to offer to slurp the sauce up with a spoon.