Lynda Balslev: Sheet pan simplicity doesn’t skimp on flavor |

Lynda Balslev: Sheet pan simplicity doesn’t skimp on flavor

You’ve probably heard of sheet pan dinners. The term may be trendy, but the concept is not. It simply means arranging all of your dinner components on a rimmed baking sheet, coating them with oil and seasoning, then roasting in the oven. And, voila, you have a complete dinner on a tray.

While the emphasis is certainly on ease of preparation, with the right ingredients this cooking method ensures maximum flavor. Oven roasting coaxes out the flavors of vegetables and meats and is a surefire (no pun intended) way to cook to crispy, golden perfection. The key to building great flavor is the ingredients you use to coat and bind the dish. They can be as basic as olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, or more elaborate with aromatic marinades, spices, herbs and citrus.

This recipe combines two ingredients that are well suited for roasting: bone-in chicken thighs and romanesco, a chartreuse green brassica that looks like a cone-headed cauliflower. Importantly, they both require a similar amount of cooking time, so they can happily team up on a baking sheet without one ingredient overcooking while the other keeps on roasting. (You can also use white cauliflower in this recipe.) A potent, herbaceous chermoula sauce, robust with garlic, lemon and spices, coats the whole lot and drives in flavor.

The finishing touch to this recipe — not required, but recommended — is a smoky red pepper sauce for swiping and drizzling. It’s inspired by Spanish romesco sauce (not to be confused with the romanesco vegetable!) and traditionally consists of roasted tomatoes and ground almonds or hazelnuts. This smoother rendition uses roasted red peppers to create a sweet and smoky condiment.

Oven roasting coaxes out the flavors of vegetables and meats and is a surefire (no pun intended) way to cook to crispy, golden perfection.

Sheet Pan Chermoula Chicken With Romanesco Cauliflower

Active time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, plus marinating time

Serves 4

Chermoula Sauce:

1 1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves and tender sprigs

1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves and tender sprigs

1 cup fresh mint leaves

Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

4 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 cup olive oil

8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin

Red Pepper Sauce:

2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed, coarsely chopped

1 red jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed (optional), coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium head romanesco (or white cauliflower)

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Lemon wedges for serving

Combine all of the chermoula ingredients, except the oil, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Add the oil and pulse to blend. The chermoula should have a runny salsa consistency. If it’s too thick, add more oil to loosen.

Place the chicken in a large bowl. Pour in the chermoula and stir to thoroughly coat, rubbing the marinade between the skin and meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.

Combine all of the red pepper sauce ingredients in the cleaned bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Taste for seasoning. (The sauce may be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the romanesco into thick steaks from crown to stem in 3/4-inch slices. Cut out the cores and cut the cores into bite-size chunks. (The cores are sweet and edible, so don’t discard them.)

Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush the cauliflower steaks and pieces on all sides with the residual marinade from the bowl and arrange around the chicken. Season everything with salt and black pepper.

Transfer the tray to the oven and roast until the romanesco is tender and the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (it should register 165 degrees when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part closest to the bone), about 30 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with lemon wedges.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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