Being a somewhat less than hip septuagenarian, I wasn’t familiar until recently with the phrase “Winner winner, chicken dinner” that’s often used at casinos to celebrate a victory. But after hitting the jackpot with last night’s chicken dish, my better half thought it an apt expression to accompany a toast.
The recipe, “Sweet Chicken Surprise,” is from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients cookbook, which has become for us a go-to source for quick and easy dinners. And while the word “sweet” may lead one to think this might be similar to a barbecue or Asian dish, it’s anything but. A combination of red vermouth and seedless grapes provides a subtle sweetness that’s made even deeper and more complex by an abundance of unpeeled garlic cloves that roast along with the chicken in a moderate oven.
I found that the recipe’s 350°F roasting temperature rendered chicken thighs that were more succulent and juicier than those I typically roast on a sheet pan at 450°F. Perfectly browned and crisp skin is ensured by quickly frying the chicken skin-side down on the stove top before putting it into the oven.
For the recipe’s two 7-ounce chicken legs, I substituted four large, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and used red seedless grapes rather than mixed-color. I also added 5 minutes to the called for 40 minutes of roasting and, after removing the chicken, placed the pan with grapes and the garlic under the broiler for several minutes to shrivel the grapes and darken the garlic for added flavor. Finally, after removing the pan from the oven, I placed it on the stove top over high heat for a couple of minutes to concentrate the sauce. Here’s a link to original recipe online.
I’m sure this delicious dish will find its way back to our table before too long; rich in flavor with minimal effort, it’s perfect for a busy weeknight supper, a sure bet, a home run.
Sweet Chicken Surprise (adapted from 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver)
4 large, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 bulb of garlic
10 ounces red seedless grapes
6 tablespoons red vermouth
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put a non-stick ovenproof frying pan on a high heat. Rub the chicken all over with ½ a tablespoon of olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, and place skin side down in the pan.
3. Fry the chicken for 6 to 7 minutes until golden.
4. Lightly squash all the unpeeled garlic cloves from the bulb with the heel of your hand and add to the pan.
5. Add the picked grapes to the pan.
6. Turn the chicken skin side up, pour in the vermouth and transfer to the oven to roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and tender, and the sauce is sticky and reduced.
7. To shrivel the grapes and darken the garlic for more flavor, remove the chicken and pan and place the pan with grapes and the garlic under the broiler for a few minutes. Watch closely.
8. Remove the pan from the oven and place on medium high heat. Add a splash of water, the tarragon, and cook for a few minutes, scraping up any sticky bits, and reduce the sauce.
9. Lightly sauce the chicken and serve on heated plates.
Wine Pairing: Beaujolais-Villages, Merlot