This recipe answers two good questions: what to do with past-their-best grapes? and how to cook chicken breast in a different way?
It’s just the right combination of sweet, salty and – well, chicken. And it’s another very simple tray bake with boring old chicken in a new-ish company.
Reasons to eat chicken
I eat pretty much everything apart from mushy peas. I’m a complete omnivore, concerned with sustainability and animal welfare but choosing to eat the meat, provided it’s responsibly sourced and free range.
I am also calorie conscious, having always struggled to curb my greediness (see food and eat it – that’s my diet of preference); although we are being told sometimes calories are deceptive and not an indicator of how much we should eat at all.
But until somebody comes up with a simple and effective method of controlling our food intake, I’ll rely on my food policeman app with its daily calorie allocation.
Which means that chicken is this meat eater’s most frequent protein option, being lean, safe and not bank breaking even when organic. But as mentioned above, it is also the most boring cooking material imaginable.
How else can you cook chicken?
I like variety on my plate. Perhaps there are people who are happy to consume the same roasted chicken breast every Tuesday and Thursday but I’m not one of them. Chicken fillets in the fridge are a challenge: we eye one another, the chicken sniggeringly promising it will taste the same no matter what I do; me, devising new spicing, seasoning and processing modes.
To give chicken its due, its blandness makes it versatile, like a blank canvas you can fill it with whatever colour and texture you like. And so we can mallet the fillets and adorn with Parma ham for chicken saltimbocca, smother it in breadcrumbs or batter for a variation of schnitzel or Milanese.
We can cook it with cream and leeks or stir fry it with oriental flavours. It can be super-hot, or it can be sweet and creamy. Chicken, the poultry chameleon!
Tray bakes are another inventive cooking method because the chicken can be seasoned in many different ways and it can tray bake alongside varied vegetables – or fruit, as in this case.
Chicken fillets or chicken thighs?
I prefer thighs but The Weather Man is a breast man (hehe). Thus the perfect option for us would be a mix of breast and thighs but can we really be bothered to search and swap amongst the chicken pieces when hungry and eager to just tuck in? We can’t and so – you guessed, didn’t you? – I selflessly opt for chicken breast only.
How to make chicken breast juicy?
To stop it from mercilessly drying on the tray, buttermilk is the secret tool. Marinating chicken, whole or pieces, in salted buttermilk causes a miraculous transformation of dried out miserable meat bits into succulent morsels.
Just dump the chicken pieces in the bag of buttermilk the night before and the next day you’re sorted. You can still season it after marinating however pleases you. Thank Samin Nosrat, not me.
Grapes and olives? With chicken?
Yes and yes. It really is a great combination – sweet and salty is great not only in caramel ice cream. You can pick whatever type of olives you like or have at hand, but I like the idea of all the side players looking like one another: purple grapes, Kalamata or Violette olives and dark brown chestnut mushrooms.
And chicken – which, let’s face it, will look like chicken.