Wine Harvester’s Chicken

The French are big on braising. It’s a technique used to soften tough cuts of meat, which are often the most flavorful ones (and least-expensive), and traditionally, the ones French people liked to eat. But also during tough times, cooks would bring pots of food to their local bakers, who keep their ovens going while they were baking bread, and for a few coins they’d have them slow cook, or braise, their dinner for them. The iconic “P” in Poilâne bread is a nod to a similar tradition of people bringing their unbaked loaves of bread to a communal oven, and people would slash a mark in their loaves, or their initial, so they would know whose bread was whose, once all the loaves were baked.

But I’m not sure this dish has roots in France. I haven’t seen many references to “harvester’s chicken with grapes” in France. A few searches for poulet vendageur aux raisins turned up some not-very-encouraging results. So it may be something invented by someone who romanticized something that’s less-than-glamorous, namely, grape-picking. But who likes chicken very much and decided to pair it with a big bunch of grapes, like I did.

I’ve picked grapes a few times and after about 15 minutes in the hot sun of southern France, I was ready to call it a day and pop open a bottle of rosé, and drink it in the shade. I can peel apples for hours, segment oranges until the cows come home, and roll pastry like a champ. But picking grapes is very hard work.

Even if you’re not a vendangeur, or vendangeuse, or live in a grape-picking region, you can make this during other seasons, as long as there are grapes. Or if you live in part of the world where you have plenty of grapes to choose from at the moment, because the seasons are reversed from the other hemisphere, this recipe is to include you. And we all want to be inclusive, don’t we?

So while I’m happy to support the people who make wine by drinking—and eating—the fruits of their labors, when shopping for what to eat with some of the many bottles of wine I have tucked around my apartment, at my outdoor market the other day I chanced upon some plump, dark grapes and wanted to indulge myself in a braised chicken dish with morsels of smoked bacon and juicy raisins, as the French would say. And this is the result. (Not shown: Wine alongside.)

Seedless grapes are rare in France, and most people don’t mind the seeds. (Although they seem to be a little more refined about getting them out of their mouth than I am.) Wherever you are, find a grape variety that tastes good, if you can. In the U.S., Concord or Niagara grapes are very flavorful, or muscat. Of course, since this is a wine harvester’s meal, any grapes used for making wine are appropriate. But you could use Red Globe-style grapes, and count on the bacon-powered braising liquid to give them a boost of flavor.

I did try this dish with seedless grapes, and vastly preferred the dish made with unseeded ones. Not just because I like to make a fool of myself trying to get grape seeds out of my mouth not-so-discreetly, much to the amusement of my French dining companions, who wonder if I was raised by animals and rescued by my parents when I was twelve. But I found the halved, seeded grapes got lost in the sauce.

(For the record: Emily Post said, when asked how you should remove food from your mouth, like seeds and fish bones: “With the same utensil that you used to put the food into your mouth.” Which makes sense, although grape seeds are a little tough, unless the tines of your fork are very close together, unlike mine.)

While we’re being honest, I like this dish the same day it’s made (above), but it’s even better rewarmed after it’s had time to sit in the flavorful sauce. I rewarm it in a shallow gratin-type dish with some of the sauce, for about twenty minutes in a 375ºF/190ºC oven, until it’s heated through and browned on top. Adding enough sauce at the start so the chicken pieces are halfway submerged is the right place to begin when reheating it. A quick flash under the broiler at the end will give the chicken pieces a nicer color. And if you’re anything like me – and I hope for the sake of your friends, you’re not when trying to extract grape seeds from your mouth, without drawing undue attention to yourself – you tend to watch things in the oven like a hawk, so do cook/broil the chicken pieces until they’re nicely browned, just the way you like them, with a simmering pool of the wine- and bacon-flavored sauce surrounding everything.


Wine Harvester's Chicken
Print Recipe
4 servings
Use the most flavorful grapes you can find, such as muscat, Niagara, or Concord grapes, although it'll be fine made with regular store-bought grapes, too. If don't want to deal with seeds, you can halve the grapes and pluck out the seeds, or use seedless grapes. You can make this with a whole chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces, or 4 thighs (leg and thigh sections), cut in half, separating the leg from the thigh, so you have 8 pieces. I found the chicken was even better the second day, when I warmed leftovers in a gratin dish, uncovered in a moderate oven - about 20 minutes or so in a 350ºF/175ºC, then turning on the broiler to give the chicken some color. I like the curious flavor of allspice, but feel free to use another spice or seasoning that you think would compliment the fruity grapes, such as ground or crushed cardamom, cloves, or cinnamon. For those avoiding wine, you could double the amount stock and add a big squeeze of lemon juice.
1 whole chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces, or 4 thighs cut in half (see headnote)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a tablespoon or more for frying the bacon
1 cup (150g) diced, thick-cut bacon
3 shallots, minced, or 1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (375ml) dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
1/4 cup (60ml) red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two 1-inch (3cm) strips fresh orange zest
10 branches fresh thyme, (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
10 allspice berries, lightly crushed
2 cups (315g) stemmed grapes
1. Season chicken with salt and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. (This step isn't imperative, but does make the meat more succulent.)
2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven, large, wide casserole, or roasting pan, that has a lid.
3. Sear chicken piece so they are brown on both sides, about 5 to 8 minutes per side. Depending on the size of your Dutch oven or casserole, you may need to do them in batches. Remove pieces of chicken to a bowl once they're browned.
4. Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
5. Saute the bacon in the pot. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Stir the bacon until it's mostly cooked, then add the shallots or onion and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
6. Add the wine, stock and vinegar to the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the black pepper, orange zest, thyme, and allspice. Put the chicken pieces in the pot, skin side down, cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
7. Remove the pot from the oven. Turn the chicken pieces over, so they're skin side up. Bake, uncovered, adding the grapes to the pot midway during cooking, until the liquid in the pot is thick and reduced to the point where the chicken pieces are about halfway submerged in sauce, and the chicken is browned. (About 30 to 45 minutes.)

Serving: The chicken would go well with mashed potatoes, or another root vegetable puree, or wide noodles tossed in a little butter.

Storage: The chicken will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.


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51 comments

  • March 17, 2017 12:51pm

    There’s a “rue du Four Banal” in my village. It has to do with the communal oven and the “banal” part comes from “ban”–other ovens were banned because of the risk of fires burning down the whole village, as they often did back then. So baking your bread there was obligatory (though you had to pay), and each family had an allotted time.
    Your recipe looks delicious and might even reconcile my husband with chicken.

  • Megan
    March 17, 2017 2:03pm

    Thank you! I love discovering new ways to incorporate fruits in cooking. I had roasted quails with grapes before in Germany, and was told that it was based on a French classic called Cailles aux raisins. But I never tried to make it because I can’t find very good quail meat in my local stores.

  • Sandra
    March 17, 2017 4:19pm

    This is very similar to coq au vin, with real grapes and more interesting spices. Hmmm, after ducks ( New Orleans Commander’s Palace recipe) I’m roasting later, this is next up for a meal.

  • Merry
    March 17, 2017 4:22pm

    This sounds delicious and I might just have to make this for Friday night Shabbat dinner. Question — is there something to substitute for the bacon to make this kosher, like certain spices/herbs to get that taste? Thanks!

    • March 17, 2017 5:24pm
      David Lebovitz

      You can swap out turkey bacon for it (I’ve seen it in kosher and halal stores), or use a teaspoon or two of chopped fresh rosemary to give the sauce a flavor boost.

      • Meryl
        March 20, 2017 9:56am

        I had the same question as Merry – thanks for the suggestion of alternatives to bacon. It will feature at my shabbat table too

        • Sharon
          March 21, 2017 1:48am

          There’s also a kosher beef “bacon” that’s widely available. All the fat and smokiness of regular bacon but kosher! This is my Shabbat meal this week, too.

  • carvingthyme.com
    March 17, 2017 4:25pm

    Thanks David. I’m always looking for interesting things to do with my grape vine. Last year I preserved the young leaves for dolmas. I make cooking fires with the prunings. I’ll make your chicken as soon as the grapes show up. Maybe I’ll cook it outside on a grape wood fire?

  • Kathleen Mann
    March 17, 2017 4:26pm

    This looks so good, David! It reminded me of a Melissa Clark recipe (and the accompanying photo which is etched on my brain.) Also, never knew about “spatchcocking”! :-)

  • March 17, 2017 4:27pm

    I had something like this in a local Touraine restaurant about 5-6 years ago. The chef has since retired, but she was one of those people I always trusted to get the flavour combos right, even if the description of the dish on the menu looked like something I wouldn’t like.

  • Hillary
    March 17, 2017 4:43pm

    Might give this a try! With your bundle of herbs, did you add anything else besides the thyme?

  • Bev
    March 17, 2017 4:52pm

    I’ve never seen bacon in the U.S. look that good.

    • Natalie
      March 17, 2017 5:37pm

      Yep, that’s French bacon! You can buy it fresh, salted and dried, or smoked. Sadly US bacon is the opposite – 80-90% fat…

      • ronald shapley
        March 21, 2017 4:39am

        To the gals who were svetching over US bacon, how about using pancetta ????…..also, I love the dry brine technique……and the roasting pan and the carbon steel knife(?)…

        • Savvy
          April 16, 2017 1:29am

          pancetta works!! and is very accessible in my market.

    • Bernadette
      March 17, 2017 10:12pm

      My thoughts as well.

      A beautiful looking dish, David, your photographs are impeccable here. Must try.

    • Randy Francisco
      March 18, 2017 12:21am

      Yes. Hills shoulder bacon from Pendleton. Buy it at Town and Country markets here in the Seattle area. It’s around, made by different companies. Enjoy your hunt.

  • March 17, 2017 6:06pm

    My husband, who is French, eats grapes, seeds and all. I tend to take the seeds out of grapes before putting them in my mouth. Also, my husband isn’t a fan of fruit in meat dishes. Who can explain it? I can’t.

    • Deborah
      March 19, 2017 3:56am

      Substitute cippoline onions for the grapes. Yum!

  • Sandy
    March 17, 2017 6:37pm

    Yum…looks great !!

  • Sandy
    March 17, 2017 6:38pm

    Yum…looks great !!
    Yes, perhaps I am repeating myself…but new recipe??
    Still think it looks delicious….

  • Shelli Mansfeld
    March 17, 2017 7:03pm

    This sounds divine but I don’t cook with bacon. What could I use as a substitute?

    Also can you help out with a recommendation for a brilliant meat dish for a Seder night; and, a main course for vegetarians (that isn’t a quiche or pie).

    Thank you and I think your blog and your recipes are The Best.

    • tim
      March 17, 2017 8:02pm

      He did try to answer that above.
      Turkey bacon was his answer.

      I would say use more schmaltz instead for the fat content and smoked turkey wing or 2 that you don’t serve for the smoke flavor.

  • Bettie DeWitt
    March 17, 2017 8:05pm

    I think the tannin in the seeds is good for you. After all, grape seed extract is sold as a supplement and chewing the seeds must add needed fiber to your guts as well. Unless you have IBS or something…..http://www.webmd.com/diet/grape-seed-extract

  • Rachel
    March 17, 2017 8:43pm

    Hi David, if I’m substituting the allspice berries for another ground spice (such as cinnamon, cloves, etc), how much do you suggest using? Thanks for another wonderful sounding recipe :) love your site so much!

    • March 18, 2017 1:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks, it depends on which spice you use. Something like cloves you want to use just a generous pinch whereas cinnamon or something else, you can go a little heavier on. I would keep it to under 1/2 teaspoon, although you can taste the sauce three-quarters of the way through cooking (or whenever the chicken is cooked through) and adjust.

  • Antoinette
    March 17, 2017 8:45pm

    I enjoy your blog and I have read your book “My Secret Life in Paris”. I found it humorous and informative at the same time. I’m originally from Italy and I remember when I was still living there that we would eat the seeds in grapes as well as the seeds in watermelons and not think anything of it, it’s just the way it was. But once I moved to the US, I noticed that Americans didn’t eat the seeds and over the years, I stopped eating them too. So, in some ways, Italians and French are alike.

  • March 17, 2017 10:20pm

    Beautiful !! I can’t wait to make/try this. My favourite way to cook . Thank you for sharing david! :)

  • Linda A
    March 17, 2017 10:20pm

    This looks delicious! I’m going to try it.

    Funny comments about the seeds. I guess I’m weird but, I like the seeds. And, eating them has health benefits. (But, no doubt, you already knew that … and isn’t going to convince you to try to develop a taste for them to save you the trouble of all that tooth-picking! ha.)

  • Kerrie
    March 18, 2017 1:22am

    Thanks you for dinner tonight. Weather 31c. today so will cook after the sun goes down.

  • Elizabeth Isadora Gold
    March 18, 2017 4:58pm

    Do you think this would work in a slow cooker? If so, how long would you do it for? Thanks!

  • mumimor
    March 18, 2017 7:34pm

    Just tried this for dinner, since I had all the ingredients ready. It was superb!
    I had to omit the allspice, though I’m certain I would have enjoyed it, but my daughter hates “cake” spices in savory dishes. I didn’t substitute it – maybe added a bit more pepper. This is definitely going on the regular rotation. I love chicken, and always buy a whole one, but change between roasting it whole and cooking the parts separately and making a stock of the carcass. This week we had chicken breasts in Marsala sauce yesterday, your delicious recipe today, and there will be hotwings with fried rice tomorrow (and lovely stock in the freezer).
    Did I say your recipe was superb? Thanks David

  • David
    March 18, 2017 9:42pm

    I’ve a question which I’ve not seen an answer for on this blog, but is shown in this post as in many others. You probably have answered it in your books, but I don’t as yet own any of them…[blush]

    When you say 1 cup, do you mean 1 US cup (236.6ml) or 1 metric cup (250ml). I see that when you use 1 cup of liquid, you put 250ml in brackets afterwards. Is that a metric alternative – that is the nearest suitable metric size, – or the fact you are using metric measuring cups?

    Here in England we can get both US and Metric measuring cups, often in the same shop, plus Marks and Spencer’s bizarre 1 cup = 220ml, and probably others as well, but I’ve not seen the larger Imperial cup measures for some time.

    I know the difference is small between US and Metric, but perhaps sometimes makes the difference, especially for dry ingredients?

  • Sue Jones
    March 18, 2017 10:45pm

    Made it tonight. Delicious- the grapes were sensational!!

  • Sue Jones
    March 18, 2017 10:46pm

    PS. I used a piece of speck as you can’t seem to get thick cut bacon here in Australia either.

  • Paul Huckett
    March 18, 2017 11:21pm

    Thanks, I’ll be cooking this next weekend for our visitors to our country home .Grape harvest, both wine and table grapes , is in full swing in south east Australia . Fortunately our young local butcher makes all his own small goods in a large smoker converted from a shipping container . Very traditional bacon too, with no pressure-forced moisture which just adds weight to commercial products and depletes flavour . Thanks again for my favourite blog/email . I watch my inbox waiting . Our next trip to Paris will again be guided by your recommendations .

  • Bill
    March 19, 2017 12:52am

    A question about reheating. Since you said the dish was even better reheated the next day, my question is about the grapes. If I am planing to make this for a dinner party, the night before, is it better to add the grapes when reheating, or do they hold up well enough through the double cooking? I was even thinking of adding half originally, and the remainder when reheating. Thoughts?

    • March 19, 2017 9:36am
      David Lebovitz

      I added mine during the first cooking, and they held up fine in reheating.

  • David D.
    March 19, 2017 2:04am

    Had an identical thought about the bacon … wonderful meat to fat ratio in the pic. Making this tonight as a dry run for a party tomorrow pm. May go w/ the alt. referenced spices in lieu of the allspice depending. Eager to cook/taste.

  • Eleanor
    March 20, 2017 1:45am

    Made this tonight and it was picture perfect and delicious. It was easy to halve the recipe for two, using 4 thighs and I’ll have 2 for another meal. I cut back the cooking time for our US supermarket organic (whatever that might mean) thighs which I figured would take less time than “real” French chickens or even US walking around chickens, if I could find them. Love your blog and photos.

  • Hillary
    March 20, 2017 3:41pm

    I made this for dinner on Saturday night and it was FABULOUS! I used 2 bone-in, skin on split chicken breasts and 2 bone-in, skin on thighs and followed the directions exactly (except I used about 1/4 tsp ground allspice and did not have the whole berries). I used muscat grapes (whole). Would absolutely make this again.

  • Kathi Hofmann
    March 20, 2017 8:58pm

    I made this yesterday and we waited until today to eat it because you said it is better the second day. It was delicious! This is a keeper. I love your blog. The recipes are great and, the other information about living in France that you add is always entertaining and informative. I lived in Germany for 27 years and miss Europe a lot.

  • Gisella
    March 21, 2017 2:51pm

    It’s kinda strange to see whole grapes in a chicken dish but for some reason this looks delicious. ^_^

    Can’t wait to try this recipe out. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sallie Pritchard
    March 21, 2017 3:27pm

    Most fabulous chicken recipe I have eaten in a very long time. Moved right up to the top of my go to meals. Thank you for sharing your love of food and cooking with us. I posted on Instagram and everyone wanted the recipe. Leftovers for dinner last night and they were even better. x Sallie

  • Amy
    March 22, 2017 3:12am

    That was yummy. Thank you. I’ve been in a dinner rut lately.

  • Christine
    March 24, 2017 4:17am

    This was SO tasty!!! Thank you so much. It reminded us of a variant of chicken marabella and was just fabulous. Like I was in the south of France again…

  • Janie Cohen
    March 26, 2017 6:42am

    I also love your blog David. Thank you! I’m sure you know Elizabeth Luard. In her cookbook “European Peasant Cookery” she has a recipe called Grape-Pickers’ Soup. I’m sure you’d love it as it’s a fantastic read and an amazing recipe.

  • Marg
    March 26, 2017 6:47am

    Made it last night. Delicious. Looking forward to the leftovers. No thick cut bacon so used pancettta. Cardamon instead of allspice. Thank you.

  • antjas
    April 6, 2017 1:20am

    Formidable!! The meat just melted off the bone and brown rice soaked up the flavorful sauce. Hope to find muscat grapes some day at the market and try again

  • Paula
    April 7, 2017 11:51am

    So sorry if I’ve missed this, but after you’ve brined the chicken with the salt, do you rinse the chicken before cooking with it?

    • April 7, 2017 12:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      The chicken isn’t actually brined (the would involve salted water) – this is merely salted, and it doesn’t get rinsed off. It’s a way to tenderize meat, if done in advance, and you’ll notice I don’t add salt to the recipe (until the end, where you’re welcome to add any additional to taste), although you’re welcome to wipe the pieces dry if you wish to remove excess salt, although I found 1 1/2 teaspoons just the right amount.