Birds in Grape Sauce
The entire poultry family can be cooked this way, a celebration of both birds and grape juice. We were introduced to the method-and to the magic and pleasures of cooking with grapes-during a week at the cooking school at Tenuta di Capezzana, the food and wine center in Tuscany.
Fresh grape juice, easy to make in a food processor, is a new and elegant taste to those of us who grew up with the bottled kind. The taste will, of course, depend on the grapes, which you can vary depending on what's available and on the bird you are roasting. Use this recipe as a flexible blueprint for your own variations-the juice of red grapes is great with turkey or squab, for instance. Both red and green grape juice are good with chicken. You can even blend the juice of two or three different kinds of grapes to create your own "nonalcoholic wine" for cooking.
2-1/2 pounds red or green grapes,
washed and stemmed
1 small onion
1 celery rib
1 carrot, peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 Rock Cornish game hens, about 1 pound each
4-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
A handful of fresh herb sprigs,
such as rosemary or thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (optional)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (optional)
Small clusters of grapes
and fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. And set a rack on the middle level. Have ready a shallow roasting pan that will hold the birds comfortably.
Put the grapes in a food processor and process until they are pulverized. Scrape the mash into a strainer set over a bowl and push down with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible; there should be about 2 cups (drink any extra). Set aside.
Place the onion, celery and carrot on a cutting board and chop them together until they are a coarse mix. Spread them on the bottom of the roasting pan and drizzle them with olive oil.
Rinse the game hens under cool water and pat them dry with paper towels. Stuff the cavities of each with the garlic cloves and enough herbs so that the stems stick out of the cavities. Drizzle olive oil over each hen and massage it in all over the bird, then season generously with salt and pepper.
Set the birds on the vegetables in the roasting pan, pour in the stock, and roast for 1 hour, basting every so often with the pan juices. After 1 hour, or when they are almost cooked, pour 1 cup of the grape juice over the birds. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and roast for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until their skins have crisped.
Remove the birds to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Pour the remaining 1 cup grape juice into the pan. Boil the liquid over high heat to reduce by about half, about 10 minutes. Strain if desired, and adjust the seasoning. Serve the sauce as is, or stir in the butter for a richer sauce. Or, to thicken the sauce, mix the butter and flour into a paste and slowly whisk it into the pan over medium heat. Let simmer for a few minutes, until thickened.
When ready to serve, pour the sauce onto a platter or four plates. Place the birds on the sauce and garnish the platter or plates with grapes and herbs, if desired.
Salad of Smoked Trout, Pink Grapefruit and Radicchio*, finishing with Walnut and Prune Cake, Périgord Style*.
Capezzana Carmignano (mostly Sangiovese and a little Cabernet) or Sangiovese.
* These recipes are found in book.
The Best American Recipes 1999
The Year's Top Picks from Books,
Magazines, Newspapers and the Internet
Series Editors: Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin
Houghton Mifflin Company, October 1999
Hardcover, $26.00, 228 pages
8 full-color photographs
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
The Best American Recipes 1999
- Birds in Grape Sauce
- Southwestern Black Bean Burgers
- Mediterranean Spinach and Rice
- Sweet and Spicy Pecans
- Lemon-Almond Pound Cake
This page created December 1999