October 07, 2002
Fruits of America
posted by Nadia

a bucket of grapes

Inspired by the plucky little concord grapes we found at the market (and emboldened by the recent New York Times piece on concords and muscadines), we decided to try one of the ever-popular game/fruit pairings that are all the rage these days. And seriously, who isn't a fan of duck breasts with cherry-shallot sauce, fois gras with pomegranate glaze, pork chops with applesauce, etc.?

There was no duck at the market today, and we didn't feel like picking tiny cornish game hen bones out of our teeth, so we settled on a less haughty alternative -- turkey drumsticks. Plebian, maybe ... but they're dark meat, relatively flavorful and meaty, moist, and provide an opportunity for skin crispification. In those respects, not too different from the duck we'd had our hearts set on.

As to the fruit component, I borrowed a technique described in the NYT recipe for "Grape Hull Pie" to prepare the grape sauce (jam? chutney? chunky deliciouness?). Having never dealt with fresh concord grapes, I had no idea how to begin, and this seemed as good a way as any. We separated the skins from the meat (a relatively easy process, because the skins were pretty thick and slipped off in one piece), cooked the flesh with some white wine until the seeds separated out, strained out the seeds, added the chopped skins to the juicy mess, and cooked it some more. Then we added some sautéed shallots, salt, pepper, and a wee bit of chicken stock.

The result was pretty darn good. The turkey legs were moist, with crispy and flavorful skin, but had the typical turkey leg problem of too many funny tendons. The grape sauce was an incredible experience -- the concords tasted exactly, but exactly, like a tenfold stronger version of grape jelly. Having never tasted concord grapes before, my palate identified them as "fake grape flavor," rather than more intelligently interpreting fake grape flavor as derived from real concord grapes. The sauce left my tongue with a tannic tang, and made me want to cook more with the grapes. We served the meal with green cabbage sautéed in butter until brown (my favorite side dish!)