Autumn is on its way, and with it, the joyful grape harvest season – or “La Saison des Vendanges” as we call it in French. Running all throughout the end of August until November in France, grape harvest season is a celebratory time of the year that sees a frenzy of activity in French vineyards. Ripe grapes are harvested, and wine makers can finally measure the quality and quantity of their crops.
Parallely, this season also sees fresh grapes making their way into French kitchens and in our seasonal recipes. And among these famous grape harvest recipes, is the “Cailles aux Raisins” (Quails with Grapes). This classic French recipe features whole quails wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of cooked grapes. It is an exquisite dish, that is often made for big occasions.
A simplified, more approachable “Cailles aux Raisins”
As a way to make this “Cailles aux Raisins” recipe more approachable and easy to make on the daily, I came up with these Bacon-wrapped Chicken Breasts in Grape Sauce. The whole quails are replaced by simple chicken breasts draped in bacon strips and served on a bed of creamy grape sauce, made with crème fraiche, honey and spiked with sage.
I know boneless, skinless chicken breasts sort of have a reputation for being bland and dry. But in this recipe, they stay moist and flavorful when wrapped in bacon. The sauce is sweet and tangy thanks to the lightly blistered grapes and honey, yet mellowed down with the sage and smooth crème fraiche.
It is a delicious combination of textures and flavors, and a great recipe to easy your way into Autumn…
How to make these Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts in Grape Sauce
The recipe starts by salting the chicken breasts 2 to 3 hours before you start cooking (leave them on the counter). This allows enough time for the meat to fully absorb the salt, and results in evenly seasoned and moist chicken breasts. After that, the chicken then get wrapped in bacon, adorned with a fresh sprig of rosemary and baked in the oven.
If you have a meat thermometer, now is the time to use it – you want the inside of the breasts to reach a temperature of 165°F(74°C). Read my cooking notes below for more details on meat thermometers. Once the chicken breasts are cooked, set them aside covered with foil and start building the sauce.
In a large frying pan, caramelize the onions and garlic in butter and extra-virgin oil. Add the grapes (previously marinated in wine vinegar, lemon juice and zest) along with sage and honey. Cook them until fragrant and lightly blistered. Add the crème fraiche and stir to combine. Finally, nestle the chicken breasts in the sauce and cook for a few extra minutes until warmed through.
My Cooking tips:
- Make sure you salt your chicken beforehand (2 to 3 hours before), to allow the salt to penetrate into the meat. If you’re interested in knowing more about how salt is used to build and enhance flavor in food (especially for meats), I recommend the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.
- Having been intimidated with cooking meats in the past, getting a meat thermometer has been a great tool to help build my confidence. Here is the one I have, if you’re interested in purchasing one. It makes it very easy to control the proper cooking of your meats, and you simply know the meat in done when it has reached the intended temperature.
- For the grapes, you can opt for white, red or a mix of both. I recommend you choose seedless grapes as this will make the dish more enjoyable in texture when eating.
- Although it wasn’t easy to find up until a few years ago, crème fraiche has now become common in grocery stores in Canada and the US. You can usually find it next to sour creams. Some of my favorite brands includes Liberte and Maison Riviera.
I hope you’ll love these Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts in Grape Sauce as much as I do! This is a simple yet impressive recipe that is perfect to ease your way into Autumn and enjoy the abundance of fresh grapes.
You can easily double the quantities to serve it for 8 people. It goes perfectly with a side of rice and/or simple French beans in butter.
You may also like:
- Chicken Marengo
- Roasted Chicken with Dijon Herb Butter
- Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon
- One-pan Garlic Lamb Chops with potatoes and carrots
Did you make this recipe?
4 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts (200-250g each)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
8 slices bacon
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
For the Grapes:
600g grapes (white, red or a mix of both)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp (15ml) red wine vinegar
½ lemon, zested and juiced
For the Sauce:
1 tbsp (14.5g) unsalted butter
1 tbsp (15ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
1 tbsp (18ml) honey
1 sage leave, finely chopped
2 tbsp (29g) Crème Fraiche (35-40%MF)
Make sure you read my cooking notes before you start.
2 to 3 hours before starting cooking, salt rub the chicken breasts on both sides. Sprinkle with black pepper and nutmeg, and leave on the counter.
When ready, pre-heat your oven to 375°F/190°C (or 360°F/185°F for a convection oven).
Rinse the grapes thoroughly and pat them dry with paper towel. Cut about two thirds of the grapes in half, leaving a third of them whole. Transfer the grapes into a bowl, add salt, black pepper, vinegar, lemon juice and zest. Stir to coat the grapes evenly and set aside for about 30 minutes.
Wrap the chicken breasts with two slices of bacon each, tucking the ends underneath and slipping a sprig of fresh rosemary in-between. Set a cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet and transfer the chicken breasts with the bacon to the rack. Top each chicken breast with 2-3 dots of butter. Bake the chicken breasts for 30 minutes (or 25 minutes in a convection oven). If you have a meat thermometer, the chicken breasts should reach an inside temperature of 165°F/74°C. Set the chicken breasts aside, covered with foil.
In a large frying pan (no lid needed) over medium-heat, melt the butter with the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is lightly caramelized. Add the grapes, honey and sage and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened (some grapes might blister and/or burst). Stir in the crème fraiche and cook for 5 minutes. Nestle the chicken breasts in the pan, and cook for 5 more minutes.
Serve immediately, with white rice and/or French beans in butter.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appetit!