Once again, my post results from a request from my husband for a recipe he found in his email. It’s one of those increasingly popular sheet-pan dinners from The New York Times that have become a go-to for us while under quarantine.
I typically use this one-pan approach for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. This recipe, however, called for the boneless, skinless variety, which have never been a favorite of mine. But since these were the only ones available at our local supermarket, I decided, albeit reluctantly, to go ahead and make Melissa Clark’s Sheet-Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes and Pancetta.
Influenced by reader comments on the recipe and the unavailability of pancetta, I adapted it to our tastes. I chose to marinate the chicken for about an hour in olive oil, lemon juice, grated garlic, paprika, oregano, brown sugar, and cumin. Since I find Clark to be rather conservative when it comes to herbs and spices, I upped the amounts of paprika, oregano, and cumin. I also cut the bacon into lardon-like strips rather than dicing it.
I have to admit that I wasn’t too optimistic about this dish; those limp chicken thighs didn’t have much appeal. But as the chicken cooked, the aromas that filled our kitchen were giving me more hope. And when I removed the pan from the oven, it looked so good that I asked my husband to take a few photos.
Upon tasting the dish, we were both wowed: The chicken was surprisingly succulent, with deep flavors from the tomatoes, oregano, and garlic. Along with the bacon, the cumin and paprika added a hint of smoke and garnishing the plates with fresh dill imparted a bit of brightness.
We were both so pleased with this dish that in the last ten days, I’ve made it twice. One time, rather than using the original marinade, I substituted a half cup of fresh pesto that I had made the night before. It was even more delicious.
Since the start of this pandemic and sheltering in place, I’ve been determined to keep our nightly dinner a source of comfort and hope. More than nourishing our bodies, our meals strengthen our spirit and resolve to beat this thing. And the successes I’ve had with this dish have helped me realize my prandial objectives.
Note: Because I wasn’t too sure how this recipe would turn out, we didn’t take too many pictures. Consequently, this post, is not illustrated with the usual photos detailing the ingredients and highlighting the steps.
Sheet-Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes and Bacon (adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark on The New York Times “Cooking” website)
1. Season 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
2. Marinate the chicken in a blend of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, grated garlic, paprika, dried oregano, cumin and, if you like, brown sugar. Place in the fridge for about an hour. I like to do this in a large plastic freezer bag.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle position.
4. With the side of a knife, smash and peel about 9 or 10 garlic cloves.
5. Halve one pint of cherry tomatoes.
6. Cut 2 ounces of thick-cut bacon into ¼ inch strips.
7. Tear ¼ cup fresh dill or parsley.
8. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a sheet pan.
9. Add the sliced tomatoes and smashed garlic to the sheet pan spreading them around the chicken.
10. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.
11. Scatter the bacon over the chicken, tomatoes, and garlic.
12. Season tomatoes lightly with salt and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
13. Roast on the middle rack until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, stir the tomatoes and pancetta, but don’t move the chicken.
14. Transfer chicken to plates. Stir the tomatoes and pancetta around in the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and sides, and stir in torn dill or parsley and black pepper to taste.
15. Taste for seasoning.
16 . Spoon tomatoes, garlic and pancetta over the chicken to serve.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Grigio