We eat a lot of chicken so to break up a pattern of eating the same thing every time chicken is on the menu, I look for recipes with lots of flavor and ease of preparation. Several years ago I came across David Lebovitz recipe for Chicken Lady Chicken in his cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. After reading his description, I knew it was going to be one of the first recipes to try out for myself. In the recipe, David marinates a spatchcock chicken in harissa, wine, mustard, garlic, soy sauce and honey overnight then browns the chicken in a skillet before baking it in the oven. It is delicious and one of my favorite recipes from his book.
Sometimes, I forget to plan ahead for an overnight marinate and often need to adjust the recipe and marinate for an hour or less. Marinating a whole chicken for less than an hour is not worth the effort, so I found it best to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. As a result of my inability to plan ahead, sriracha chicken was born. I use the same marinade from Chicken Lady Chicken, or a slight variation thereof, with boneless chicken thighs and bake them in the oven. What I get is golden chicken thighs with the bright sriracha flavor and lots of pan juices. For today’s purpose, I made a whole meal out of Sriracha chicken by adding sweet potatoes, broccoli, shallots and garlic cloves for an easy weeknight chicken dinner.
I am particularly fond of making meals that cook together in the oven. With just some initial prep work, I am free to relax while the oven does all the work. My favorite combination is marinated chicken with potatoes and shallots. The marinade and juices from the chicken infuses with the potatoes and shallots making them silky and full of flavor. Any type of wax potato will work, but sweet potatoes add a whole other flavor component which compliments the layer of heat from the sriracha chicken.
This winter I have grown especially fond of oven roasted broccoli. The broccoli spears get nice and browned adding a slightly charred and caramelized flavor. This winter is just too cold, and the toasted notes of roasted vegetables warms me up. I especially like roasting whole garlic cloves protected in its peel with the broccoli. Roasted garlic softens and becomes wonderfully sweet. It does not burn and taste bitter like it would if you roasted the broccoli with minced garlic. The key to perfectly roasted garlic with vegetables or meats is use medium-sized garlic cloves. If they are too big, the garlic cloves won’t finish roasting at the same time as the broccoli, sweet potatoes or chicken.
Helpful Tips for making Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
Combining all the ingredients in one pan just made sense to me. All that goodness roasting together in the oven is hard to resist. Unfortunately, they do not all fit on one sheet pan like I planned. Spreading them out between 2 pans is the best option.
Roast the sriracha chicken, sweet potatoes and shallots on the larger pan, while the broccoli and the garlic roast on a smaller one. You could divide the ingredients strewn together between two medium same size pans. Yet, I like keeping the chicken thighs all on one pan to produce the most amount of pan juices as possible.
For silky potatoes, roast the potatoes with the marinated chicken and remaining marinade along with the shallots. On another pan, roast the broccoli and garlic cloves.
If you prefer crispy potatoes, roast them separately and add the garlic, shallots and broccoli to the pan with the chicken. You may need more olive oil for the sweet potatoes if you do.
It is important to make sure you have the right size pan. If the pan is too large, the pan juices will dry up. Too small and the chicken will steam and get a mushy texture.
For boneless and skinless chicken, thighs work better than breasts. Use this marinade for boneless chicken breasts, pounded about a half-inch thick and marinate the chicken for less than an hour. Grill the chicken breasts over medium high heat.
This recipe is easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner and fancy enough to serve for a dinner party. Chicken thighs marinate in a sriracha marinade for at least an hour then roast in the oven with sweet potatoes and broccoli. You can easily adjust the level of heat from the sriracha by using more or less sriracha depending on how you like it. Feel free to substitute the sriracha with harissa.
Roasted garlic tastes so good with the broccoli. Make sure each garlic clove is not too big, otherwise it will not finish roasting when the broccoli and chicken are done. Each person can squeeze out the garlic from the peel on their own plate.
The sriracha marinade is slightly adapted from David Lebovitz My Paris Kitchen, "Chicken Lady Chicken recipe
This recipe is best eaten immediately and hot. Any leftovers are easily warmed in a microwave oven for a couple of minutes.
6bonelessskinless chicken thighs- about 2.5 lbs (1 kg 154 g)
4TBextra virgin olive oildivided
1TBfresh lemon juice
2TBdry white wine
1 ½tspsriracha or harissamore, or less depending on how spicy you like your food
1-2TBSminced fresh tarragonmore for garnish
About 1 lb476 g sweet potatoes, about 2 medium sweet potatoes
About two heads of broccoli1 lb 5 oz (673 g)
4 - 6medium size garlic clovespeel on
65 ½ oz / 161 g small shallots, peeled and separated
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Prepare the marinade
Trim off extra fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large non-reactive mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and toss the chicken around with your clean hands to spread the salt evenly over the chicken thighs. Clean your hands and set the bowl of chicken aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, sriracha, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and minced tarragon. Whisk until the honey is completely dissolved and the marinade is evenly combined.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and use your clean hands to mix the chicken to get an even coating over each thigh. Clean your hands and cover with plastic wrap.
If you are cooking the chicken right away, let the chicken marinate on the counter for no more than an hour. Otherwise, refrigerate the chicken. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to roast it.
Prepare the Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Place two oven racks in the two middle slots in the oven, making sure there is enough space between each rack for two sheet pans with all the ingredients to fit between.
Trim each head of broccoli by cutting off part of each stem. Use a vegetable peeler to gently peel off the outer layer of the broccoli stem and remove any leaves, (see note). Cut up the broccoli into spears, making sure they are even in size. Add to a large mixing bowl.
Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, lengthwise. Cut each potato wedge into pieces about 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) in size. Add to bowl with the broccoli spears.
If any of the shallots look too fat, slice them in half lengthwise. Add the shallots and garlic cloves to the bowl. Add the remaining extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt with several rounds of black pepper and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. I mixed everything together in one bowl to save on cleaning up two mixing bowls. If you prefer, keep the broccoli and garlic separate from the sweet potatoes and shallots. They will eventually go on different sheet pans.
Putting it all together
When you are ready to roast your dinner, spread out the chicken thighs over one large rimmed sheet pan large enough to accommodate the chicken thighs, the marinade, sweet potatoes and shallots. Spread out the sweet potatoes and shallots between and around the chicken thighs. You want enough space for air to circulate around the chicken and potatoes, but not too big to dry up all the juices. The area of my sheet pan for the chicken was approximately 11.5 x 16 inches (29 x 40 cm).
Spread the broccoli and garlic cloves over a small sheet pan approximately 8.5 x 11.5 inches (21.5 x 29 cm).
Place each sheet pan on its' own rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes switch the two sheet pans, from top to bottom and front to back for even roasting. Continue to bake for 20 more minutes.
Check the chicken thighs for doneness. Pierce the biggest thigh with a fork, if you feel some resistance the chicken it is not done. Also, the juices from the chicken will run clear when the chicken is done. If the juices are cloudy or pink, the chicken needs more time to cook. The internal temperature of properly cooked chicken is 165°F/ 74°C. The potatoes and broccoli are done when they feel soft through the middle when pierced with a fork. If the broccoli is finished cooking before the chicken, remove it from the oven and keep warm.
When the chicken is done, turn on the broiler and remove the broccoli if you have not done so already. Baste the chicken with any pan juices and broil the chicken for a couple of minutes to brown the edges of the chicken to your likeness.
When the meal is done roasting, arrange the chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, and shallots on one serving platter then pour any pan juices over the chicken. Place on the dining table. Or arrange the food on a plate for individual servings. Make sure to include any accumulated juices from the chicken, a garlic clove and shallot on each plate. Each person can squeeze the garlic out of its peel and spread it on the broccoli or potatoes. Garnish with fresh tarragon.
Use most of the plant: Broccoli stems are very sweet. You can cut the removed stems into wedges and add to the broccoli spears. Cut the stem in quarters lengthwise to make a wedge. The very end of each stem is woody, so cut off that section and discard.
What I love about cooking is its split personality. Cooking requires technical precision, but also a certain amount of flexibility. It seems like an odd arrangement, but both precise technique and the ability to be spontaneous and adapt, happily co-exist when the heat is on. Technique, experience and intuition dance together and enlighten the cook toward a delicious masterpiece.
Inspiration and real-time situations influence a cook’s technical strengths and creativity. How many creative works of art and scientific truths have evolved out of “mistakes”? And, where would the world be without the creative spirit to “fix” them? I do my best to plan and be prepared whenever I start to cook a meal. However, I can’t tell you how many times I started cooking something and realized I was missing one or more of the required ingredients, the chicken went bad overnight, or had the wrong size pan. Damn, now what? A quick survey of the situation and my pantry, something unintended develops and who knows could be a new family favorite.
I rely on recipes I call my foundations. These recipes can easily adapt to any of life’s unexpected adventures, or my creative whims. One foundation recipe is Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel. I fall in love with roasted fennel every time I eat it, and this recipe is no exception. The subtle sweetness of the fennel compliments the richness of the caramelized shallots and roasted chicken. I will also seek out any excuse to use fresh tarragon. Still, the bones of the recipe allow me to develop many reincarnations at whim or by necessity.
Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is not complicated to make, or have a lot of speciality ingredients. A total bonus is, it does not require my full attention while it is cooking. Yet, there are a couple of technical factors that will influence the recipe’s outcome. The obvious one is knowing when the chicken is properly cooked. Undercooked chicken will make you sick and overcooked chicken is chewy and dry. The not so obvious influence is the baking pan.
Tips for Success making Oven Baked Chicken
In this instance size, does matter. The size and type of pan will determine how long the chicken will cook, and how it will cook. The higher the sides the more pan juices will develop. Too large of a pan and the juices will dry up. A pan that is too small will not allow for enough air circulation to achieve crispy skin and have the chicken cook properly.
I baked eight pieces of chicken with all the vegetables in a roasting pan that was 16″ x 11” x 1 1/2″ (41cm x 27.5 cm x 4 cm) in size. The finished meal was perfectly baked chicken with crispy skin, caramelized shallots and plenty of pan juices. Yet, being flexible is my mantra so use whatever baking pans you have. The size of the pan is more important, than the type of pan. Hopefully you have a baking dish with sides. If you only have small pans, divide the recipe between two pans. The outcome might be slightly altered, but more importantly you can still make this delicious baked chicken dinner without making a trip to the store.
Second, be observant and listen to the chicken with your senses. The chicken will tell you when it is done. Pierce the chicken at its thickest part with a fork, and take note about how much resistance you feel. The fork will slide through a perfectly cooked piece of chicken with little resistance. You should see clear liquid flowing out of the holes made by the fork. If you see cloudy or bloody juices spilling out of the chicken, the meat needs more time to cook.
Additionally, you can cut open the meat and look inside. It is better to cut across one piece of chicken then serve undercooked chicken to your friends and family. Chicken meat that is properly cooked, is not pink or appears raw. It should be juicy as well. The meat is overcooked if it looks dry and there are no flowing juices. The internal temperature for just cooked chicken is between 165˚F and 170˚F.
I like to follow the recipe exactly as instructed the first time I cook it. I learn about how to prepare a new dish and about the author. Learning new techniques is fun, but so is being creative and adapting to my set of circumstances. So, after the first trial run, I am comfortable adapting a recipe to fit my mood, or to what is in my pantry.
Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is a balanced chicken dinner accented with tarragon, vermouth, garlic and lemon. If necessary you can adjust the ingredients, including the amount of time to marinate the chicken. Don’t like vermouth, no problem switch it with a dry white wine. The fresh herbs are not available at the store, fear not and use dried herbs. Can’t find shallots, regular onions sliced into thin wedges will suffice. No time to marinate the chicken, no worries it will still taste fine if you mix everything together right before you cook it. The depth of flavor may not be as intense, but it will be satisfying and delicious.
Cooking a meal should not be stressful. I always say use what you’ve got and enjoy the process. Technique is your friend that sets the foundation but also allows you to be creative and adapt to any of life’s mistakes and adventures.
The combination of fresh tarragon, shallots, fennel and vermouth add subtle and sweet flavor to the baked chicken. If you have time, marinate the chicken and vegetables for one to four hours. Not to worry if time does not allow for marinating the chicken. The baked chicken will still be delicious.
Use a Pyrex like baking dish, roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet to bake the chicken. The pan should be large enough for all the chicken pieces and vegetables to fit in without being too crowded or too big.
Servings6- 8 servings
8Skin on bone in Chicken Thighs or combo of breasts and chicken*
1 1/2tspKosher salt
Zest of half a lemon plus 1 whole lemon cut into 8 wedges
2sprigs fresh thyme
3sprigs fresh tarragon
1tspfresh ground pepper
1fennel bulb and fronds
Trim the chicken thighs of extra skin and if using chicken breasts cut each breast in half. Arrange the chicken on a tray. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with Kosher salt and let rest on the counter while you make the marinade.
Peel the garlic, remove the green germ, and mince half of the garlic cloves. Place the minced garlic in the mixing bowl. Strip the thyme and tarragon leaves from their stems and finely chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Add the lemon zest, mustard, honey, olive oil, ground pepper and 1/4 cup vermouth to the bowl and whisk together until incorporated.
Cut the fennel bulb in half, remove the core and thinly slice the bulb, no more than a 1/4 inch. Reserve the fennel fronds and set aside.
Peel each shallot then cut each bulb in half. Set aside with the fennel.
Add the chicken to the marinade then use your clean hands and mix the chicken until each piece is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Add the sliced fennel, remaining garlic cloves, and shallots then mix them all together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1 - 3 hours. Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator if longer than one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F, 15 minutes before you want to bake the chicken.
Spread the chicken, fennel and shallots over a large roasting pan that is just large enough to accommodate all the chicken without crowding the pan. You can slip the fennel under the chicken.
Place the lemon wedges around the pieces of chicken, fennel fronds and the remaining 1/4 cup of vermouth to the roasting pan.
Bake the chicken and vegetables for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with pan juices and bake for 20 more minutes. Check to see if the chicken is done. The chicken is done when piercing the chicken with a fork, there is little resistance and the juices are clear. The internal temperature should be between 165F and 170F.
When done, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the fennel, shallots and lemon, drizzled with remaining pan juices.
If you prefer, you can make this dish with boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F. If the chicken did not brown as much as you like put the chicken and vegetables under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I do not recommend making this with boneless chicken breasts because they will cook to quickly and the vegetables will not be done. Boneless chicken breasts get mushy if they are marinated for more than an hour.
The roasting lemon wedges with chicken adds great lemon flavor. You can eat the lemon slice rind and all. Use only lemons with a thin rind. Too much lemon pith does not taste very good.