Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate
It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.
I mean, Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, so that was a highlight. I know it’s controversial, but I really do love V-Day, and this year was a good one. I went to yoga. My roommate surprised me with the pink workout set from my gift guide along with 3 pounds of Sour Patch Kids and a Whitman’s Sampler. I posted an aggressive number of wedding photos with my fancy new husband because such shameless pageantry is acceptable on February 14th. And then I got super high on sugar (which actually made me quite productive) before getting all dressed up to drink pink champagne and eat oysters with said fancy new husband. It was the best.
It was also quite the foil to my Tuesday, which was a complete shitshow. Albeit one with a chicken silver lining. (We’ll get to the chicken part shortly, don’t worry.)
On Tuesday afternoon, our building’s contractor and an electrician stopped by to take a look at some issues in our apartment. A faulty socket, some lighting issues, etc.—nothing major. Right before they left, we decided to check one more item off the “faulty” list, which was the subpar water pressure in Logan’s bathroom. (Yes, we now have separate bathrooms. It is one of my life’s greatest joys to date.) This wasn’t realllly in these dudes’ wheelhouses, as they are not plumbers, but they said they’d happily take a look.
The contractor did some poking under the sink and then said many words. I don’t recall 99% of those words because anything related to plumbing and electricity all sounds like, “kdjakljf euioaru ea kah fheoir e. daksjaf kdjfalks;j!!!” to me. But he did say, “I don’t want to touch this because I feel like it could just ‘pshhhh!!!’ [insert hand motion for ‘explode’].” I said, “Great, don’t touch it,” to which he responded, “Okay, I’m just going to turn [insert pipe word] back like it was.” And then….
Cue screaming (me) and many Spanish expletives (them).
Water is gushing from the pipe, and the bathroom starts flooding. Fast. We can’t figure out how to shut off the water, so I escape to the kitchen to call our super. I can hear the men screaming at each other in Spanish, there are many scary noises, I’m trying to explain to the super what is going on—very difficult given that I had NO IDEA what was going on—and it is chaos. These two guys keep running out of the bathroom soaking wet (did I forget to mention that the water was HOT?!), asking if I have hammers and knives (??), and then sprinting down to the basement because apparently they needed to turn off the water to the whole building.
In the midst of the madness, the doorbell rings. I open the door and a 65+ year-old Chinese couple runs straight past me (no introduction) and into the bathroom, where they start yelling and waving their hands at the contractor and electrician. The English is heavily accented on both sides, so they’re having trouble understanding each other, which I find very funny despite the circumstances. “Excuse, me hello?” I said timidly to these strangers, who eventually introduced themselves as the owners of the furniture store downstairs that was currently getting soaked in the water from my bathroom. Hello!
The man leaves pretty quickly, but the woman takes a seat at my kitchen counter and proceeds to switch from water-related questions to odd personal questions before stating that she will stay until we get this pipe situation figured out. She then kindly offers to watch the tap in the kitchen, while I watch the one in my bathroom. I’m not sure why we we’re doing this, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to Instastory catch my breath. I need to stress eat something, but I haven’t been snack shopping in a while, so I crush half a pound of baby carrots.
Several hours, a big mess, and one real plumber later, the pipe is capped and I’m blissfully alone in the apartment. I had a dinner meeting planned but obviously canceled because EMERGENCY, so now I need to feed myself. The thought of braving the 6pm crowds at Westside Market seems far too daunting, so I start pulling odds and ends out of the fridge. Chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, some cauliflower. I think about making a cauliflower and sweet potato puree and searing the chicken in a cast iron and finishing it in the oven, but these thoughts make me TIRED. And they involve multiple pots and pans. What if I just throw everything on a sheet pan and call it a day?
And so I do. And then I add a bunch of other things in my fridge.
It is GLORIOUS. So glorious that I forget all about the afternoons disaster. (Chicken silver lining!!!) Glorious enough that I decide to remake it the very next day and take some glamour shots to share with you. You’re welcome!
This sheet pan dinner is a straight up seasonal flavor fiesta, friends, and I strongly feel that you should make it as soon as humanly possible. Let’s quickly break it down, shall we? Chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower are seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and go into the oven for half an hour. The chicken comes out juicy and crispy-skinned surrounded by caramelized sweet potatoes and cauliflower, then the whole shebang gets topped with a squeeze of lemon, plenty of fresh cilantro, tart-sweet pomegranate arils, spicy jalapeño rounds, and salty feta crumbles. It hits the sweet-savory-spicy flavor trifecta and, not gonna lie, it’s pretty mind-blowing.
A few recipe notes and you do you options before I leave you. First things first, you need to preheat your sheet pan while the oven comes to temperature. (This helps the chicken crisp up when you place it skin-side down on the hot baking sheet.) If you don’t have a large sheet pan, you can use two small sheet pans like I did and then consolidate before garnishing. You don’t want to pile everything onto one small sheet pan or the vegetables will steam instead of getting all caramelized and crispy. Personally, I like extra crispy chicken and vegetables, so I popped my sheet pans under the broiler for about 2 minutes after the 30 minutes of cook time. This is optional, but hiiiighly recommended.
What’s also great about this recipe is that you can mix things up based on what you have on hand. Not into chicken thighs? Try bone in chicken breasts split in half crosswise. Butternut squash is a great sweet potato sub, parsley works in place of cilantro, and lime is just as good as lemon. I also love this dish with goat cheese, and raisins, currants, grapes, and even fresh mango could all be great fruit options if you don’t dig pomegranate. Sky’s the limit.
Happy long weekend-ing, friends. May it be filled with delicious things and free of disasters!!
Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes, and Pomegranate: (Serves 4)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼-½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (depending on how much you like pepper)
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes (You can peel or leave unpeeled. Dealer’s choice.)
1 medium head of cauliflower, florets removed (about 4 cups florets)
3½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (4-6 thighs)
1 thinly sliced jalapeno
½ cup pomegranate arils
½ packed cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (Goat cheese is also great.)
Juice of ½ lemon
-Place a large rimmed baking sheet (or 2 smaller baking sheets) in the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
-Meanwhile, combine the salt, paprika, cinnamon, and pepper in a small bowl.
-Place the sweet potatoes and cauliflower in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 2½ tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with half of the spice mixture. Toss to combine.
-Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towel. Rub the thighs all over with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season with the remaining spice mixture.
-Place the thighs skin side down on the pre-heated baking sheet(s). Arrange the sweet potatoes and cauliflower around the chicken (not on top of it!) in an even layer, leaving a little space between the vegetables if possible.
-Roast the chicken and vegetables for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet(s) from the oven. Turn the chicken thighs over and give the vegetables a quick stir. Return to the oven and roast for 15 minutes more (30 minutes total) until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. (If you like particularly crispy skin on your chicken and a little char on your veggies, transfer the sheet pan to the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the chicken skin is browned and super crispy.)
-If you used two sheet pans to cook the chicken and veggies, transfer everything to one of the pans or a serving platter. Top with the jalapeño, pomegranate arils, cilantro, and feta. Squeeze the lemon juice over everything and serve warm.
It’s so festive and pretty, no??!
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