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Food

A Sheet-Pan Supper That Defies the Seasons

Posted February 6, 2018 4:52 p.m. EST

For most of the year, I hold to the notion that what grows together goes together, especially when it comes to mingling things on a sheet pan.

Spring’s tender greens and shoots; summer’s juicy zucchini and tomatoes; fall’s pumpkins and Brussels sprouts; winter’s dense roots — it’s easy to come up with a harmonious dish within each season, in which all the vegetables roast at about the same rate.

This recipe ignores all that.

Although winter sweet potatoes are undeniably the focus here (along with ever-seasonal, stalwart chicken thighs), I’ve paired them with summery bell peppers, imported from who-knows-where. They can be expensive, but the other ingredients here are thrifty.

Peppers give a burst of juicy sweetness not available from a root, and by February, that’s as welcome on the plate as a sunny 50-degree afternoon on the weekend. Enjoy them when you have them.

It’s important to use red, yellow or orange bell peppers, the fleshier the better. Green ones don’t have the sweetness needed to become profoundly caramelized.

Back in winter’s root cellar, I also add red onion, in two different ways. In the first, the onion is roasted along with the peppers and potatoes. Roasted at high heat, red onions get crisp at the edges, providing textural contrast to all the luxurious softness.

I also add them raw as a garnish, quick-pickling them to add some tangy brightness to the mix. I use cider vinegar as the acid, tamed with a drizzle of honey. You don’t need to plan ahead for this kind of pickle; it comes together in about half an hour while the vegetables and chicken roast.

And as for that chicken, thighs are my preferred sheet-pan cut because they are forgiving in terms of timing. A few minutes more or less won’t dry them out. However, if you’d rather make this with chicken breasts, choose the bone-in, skin-on kind if possible, and watch them carefully. They cook more quickly than thighs, so remove them just as their juices no longer run pink when poked with a knife (150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Then leave the vegetables in the oven for a few minutes until they are thoroughly golden and tender.

Then set the table, uncork the wine and enjoy a not-perfectly-seasonal dinner while dreaming about spring.

— RECIPE:

Sheet-Pan Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Peppers

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, plus 30 minutes’ marinating

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed

1 to 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)

2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces sweet potato (1 large), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Cilantro leaves, for serving

Preparation:

1. In a small, shallow bowl, mix together vinegar and honey. Mix in half the red onion and a pinch of salt and set aside for garnish, tossing the mixture occasionally as the chicken cooks.

2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, coriander and black pepper. Add chicken to bowl and rub the mixture all over it. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together 2 tablespoons oil, sweet potato, pepper, remaining onion, sage, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, cayenne and allspice. Spread vegetables out on a rimmed baking sheet.

4. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to marinated chicken and turn to coat. Place chicken pieces, skin-side up, among the vegetables, making sure chicken is surrounded by them, but not on top of them. (Chicken should rest directly on the baking sheet.)

5. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and raise heat to 450 degrees. Use a wide spatula to flip vegetables over (but not chicken). Drizzle chicken (but not vegetables) with 2 teaspoons liquid from the onion-vinegar mixture. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes longer.

6. To serve, top chicken and vegetables with a spoonful of onion-vinegar mixture and plenty of cilantro leaves.

— SIDEBAR:

And to Drink ...

You could choose a lot of different kinds of wine for this dish, and you would be happy. I’m going to opt for a lively red with plenty of acidity that will go with both the earthy chicken thighs and sweet potatoes as well as the bright flavorings and caramelized bell peppers. Beaujolais is the natural choice, especially one of the crus like Morgon, Fleurie or Côte de Brouilly. Other options of the same ilk include frappato from the Vittoria region of Italy, barberas from the Piedmont region of Italy, and any number of fresh reds made by the perhaps arcane process known as carbonic maceration. You want white? Why not? Dry chenin blancs, dry rieslings and lively, easygoing chardonnays will go very well. — ERIC ASIMOV