Wine & Food Killers: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers & Balsamic Tomatoes and Jauma Like Raindrops Grenache 2017

There’s a lot you can say about September, and about its obvious superiority to all the other months. August’s blistering heat has been replaced by a subtle crispness in the air. September telegraphs school and new beginnings, and the ambient aroma of freshly sharpened pencils. After summer’s lackadaisical laze, I feel newly sleek, sharp and full of potential. And, as a side benefit, it becomes socially acceptable to turn on the oven again.

After spending the summer eating chilled, blended soups, salads and sushi, rediscovering the oven feels like a revelation: it does all the hard work for you and produces real greatness. Diana Henry, one of my favourite recipe writers, is fully aware of its powers; her newest book, From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves, is a celebration of the versatile, homey, unpretentious tray-bake dinner.

With this dish, I took the best parts of two recipes she’s recently teased, both of which use the humble chicken thigh as their base. Add a litany of vegetables – potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic – and some Mediterranean thyme and fennel seeds, plus lemons and a bit of heat in the form of red pepper flakes. To top it all off: tomatoes that are roasted until jammy, doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and honey. The resulting dish feels like the epitome of home cooking: hearty and homespun and satisfying on a bone-deep level.

Grenache is a grape that’s often paired with lamb, grouse or other game meat; depending on where it’s from, the sun-loving varietal can itself turn thick and stewed, and taste like cooked-down fruits. But Jauma’s exquisite Like Raindrops, made in Australia’s McLaren Vale region, is Grenache handled with lightness. It pours a glittering, gemstone-red, and while it tastes like snappy cherry, it also features subtle spice qualities, and a lovely, floral note.

This Grenache is light enough to be a natural fit with the chicken; little wonder some winemakers label it “the Pinot Noir of the South”. Together, the two have the soul of a rustic feast, though just enough elevation to feel worthy of a special occasion.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers, and Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Diana Henry
Serves 4

For the chicken thighs:
600g new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered or halved, depending on size
6–8 cloves garlic, kept in their peel
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
2 bell peppers, seeded and stemmed and sliced into wedges
10–12 thyme sprigs
2 unwaxed lemons
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional
8 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
3–4 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

For the balsamic tomatoes:
600g medium tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
2–3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2–3 tablespoons honey
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the potatoes, garlic, onion wedges, bell pepper wedges and thyme sprigs across the tray. Using a microplane, grate the two lemons over the contents of the tray, before halving and squeezing over the juice. Drizzle over the olive oil.

2. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, and season with the salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss evenly to coat.

3. Place the chicken thighs evenly across the tray. Brush lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of sea salt, plus freshly ground pepper.

4. Next, line a separate, medium baking tray with parchment paper for the balsamic tomatoes. Halve the tomatoes and arrange cut-side up. Drizzle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, and season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

5. Add both trays to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, remove the tomatoes from the oven (they should be lightly charred and very soft) and set aside. Add the capers to the chicken tray and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes more. The dish is ready when the potatoes are fork-tender, the chicken thighs are cooked through, and their skin is golden and crisp.

6. Leave to cool for a few minutes before dividing the chicken, vegetables, and any accumulated juices between four plates, plus the balsamic tomatoes; be sure to remove the garlic from their peels. Serve with rustic bread and/or a green side salad, if you wish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Jauma Like Raindrops here and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Harissa Roast Chicken and Partizan Lemon & Thyme Saison

Everyone needs to have a good roast chicken recipe in their back pocket. It’s one of the single most soulful, satisfying things you can make; it’s quick enough not to be a faff, but worthy of special occasions. Its aroma is the distilled essence of hospitality. You’re safe, and the world is a good place, when there’s a chicken in the oven.

Though simple is often best when it comes to roast chicken, I also like mine with a bit of spice. Like harissa, a chilli paste by way of North Africa. Made with roasted chillies, spices, and – in this case – rose petals, it’s a little bit smoky, quite hot, and deliciously complex. Harissa is the star of this marinade, alongside zingy lemon, garlic, and honey.

There are certain beers that go well with food, and then there are those that taste even better with dinner on the side. For me, Partizan’s Lemon & Thyme Saison falls squarely into the latter category. On its own, this sessionable 3.8 percenter is light of body and easy-drinking, and has a good deal of lemony sharpness; its flavour profile already suggests culinary potential. But in the company of this chicken, its sharpness is traded in for balance and roundness, its light body made a refreshing counterpart, its lemon flavour perfectly matched.

As soon as it gets cool enough to turn your oven on, then, make this your plan for dinner – it’s a perfect, seasonal bridge of a recipe.

Harissa Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken (around 1.7 kilos)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1.5 lemons
1.5 tsp sea salt
3 tsp honey
1 tsp ground coriander
3.5 tbs rose harissa paste
2 tbs olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

First, spatchcock or butterfly your chicken. If you haven’t used this method before, it takes only a couple of minutes to prep, and it leads to a much better bird: by pressing the chicken flat, it cooks more evenly – no more over-cooked breasts and underdone thighs here – and much more quickly (a dinner party advantage).

To spatchcock your bird, take a very sharp knife or a pair of sturdy kitchen shears. Remove the backbone by snipping or slicing along both ends of the spine (save this bit and make a very delicious homemade stock). Once the spine has been removed, place the bird, breast-side up, in front of you, and press on its breastbone with your hands. You should hear a small snap, and the chicken should flatten. Here’s an instructional video, should you want a visual guide.

Place the bird on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined tray. To make your harissa marinade, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Use two-thirds of this marinade to coat both sides of your bird, working some underneath the skin, and reserve the last third to use as a serving sauce. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least three to four hours, or up to a day.

When your chicken is ready to go, heat your oven to 200 degrees C. Cook the bird for 35 minutes, rotating halfway through so it cooks evenly (you may want to check for browning at around 25 minutes – if it’s looking dark, you can tent loosely with foil while waiting for it to finish cooking). After it’s out of the oven, stick a knife into the thickest part of the thigh and, if the juices run clear, you’re golden.

When the chicken is ready, quarter it and drizzle over the remaining harissa sauce. I also served mine with a bowl of Israeli couscous salad on the side.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And pick up some delicious Partizan Lemon & Thyme Saison via our online shop...