In the game of weeknight cooking — which I feel, at best, is rigged and not in our favor especially if you (or you and your partner) are out working all day — our allies are as follows:
- Children, should you have them, happy to eat dinner at 8/9 p.m. on a weekday. (Let me know where to find them.)
- Prepping and planning meals over the weekend so everything is mostly ready to go when you get home from work. (Requires a desire to spend any part of the weekend prepping meals, which I, regrettably, do not.)
- Mastering the slow-cooker, so your dinner is ready when you get home.
- Mastering the pressure-cooker, so long cooking times can be reduced to smidgens.
- Contentment with quick simple meals (scrambled egg toasts, frozen tortellini, sandwiches) and/or a deep arsenal of great recipes that come together quickly.
- Meal delivery services, which take the recipe-selection, shopping and prep work out of cooking, making it go faster.
And so, with this, I am announcing that I’m leaving my job here at Smitten Kitchen LLC to go work for a meal delivery start-up. All the best food writers are doing it! I kid, I kid.
In fact, I wanted to talk about something that can fit nicely into the fifth item: sheet pan dinners, because I’m rather taken with them these days. It shouldn’t be a radical concept — everything on a sheet pan, into the oven, roasted at once — but I think in these days of restaurant chef-driven home cooking, subrecipes and cooking with multiple components has become more the norm than it should. The holy grail of the single-tray category I’d say is the 2014 Sheet Pan Suppers cookbook from Molly Gilbert, a paean to maximum ease, minimal cleanup and flavor intensification of roasting and broiling. Another great solo act in this category is Melissa Clark’s Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Arugula and Garlic Yogurt as charming for its flavors and textures as it is for the stop-you-in-your-tracks stunning work of Andrew Scriviani’s camera.
But all I’ve ever wanted to add to this lot is a riff on an Indian-spiced chicken that favors roasting over a saucy braise. The chicken tikka you see in restaurants is, in the words of Meera Sodha, “so luminously orange you could see it from space.” Fortunately, in her excellent Made In India cookbook — a collection of recipes aimed at dispelling the myth that Indian food is intimidating or complicated, intended for first-timers and/or seasoned cooks, using no wild goose chase ingredients, which means if I could stamp it with the praise hands emoji, I would — Sodha shares her family recipe. But, because I’m a heretic, or someone who at best inauthentically dabbles in Indian cooking, I didn’t want my tikka on skewers as it’s usually presented, but with some aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) in there for more of a meat-and-potatoes type meal. The results were so good, half the vegetables didn’t make it to the dinner table because my husband and I kept plucking away at them.
One year ago: Strawberry-Rhubarb Soda Syrup
Two years ago: Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Three years ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
Four years ago: Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
Five years ago: Blackberry Coconut Macaroon Tart
Six years ago: Radicchio Apple and Pear Salad
Seven years ago: Bialys
Eight years ago: Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake
Nine years ago: Arborio Rice Pudding
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cannoli Pound Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Better Chocolate Babka
2.5 Years Ago: Purple Plum Torte
3.5 Years Ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
4.5 Years Ago: Apple Pie Cookies
Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka
Chicken marinade adapted from Made In India
- In the recipe in the book, Sodha has you mash the ginger, garlic, chiles and spice in a mortar and pestle to a paste. I suppose you could also process them in a food processor or blender. I went for the method that required the least extra objects and just minced everything and mixed it, which is how I’ve written it below. If you’d prefer not to mince, definitely use one of these other methods.
- I show this (perhaps confusingly) in a 10×15-inch pan, which is the biggest that fits in my tiny oven. I scaled the recipe for a proper sheet (technically a half-sheet) pan most of us use, a 13×18-inch. You could also divide this over 2 quarter-sheet (9×13-inch) pans. The 10×15-inch version you see here yielded an awkward three servings, fine for us, not for most people.
- Cooking times will of course vary by the size of your chicken pieces. When roasting chicken breasts (always large) and drumsticks and thighs together, I halve the breasts right through the bone to even up the cooking time.
- Don’t have garam masala? Sadly, neither do I after purging some dusty spices all of five days ago. (D’oh!) To roughly approximate 1 1/3 teaspoons (yes, slightly more than you’ll need because I’m presuming everyone will be missing a spice or two below) garam masala you can use: 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/8 teaspoon each ground cumin, cardamom and mustard, 1/16 teaspoon each ground black pepper and ground fennel, plus a pinch of ground cloves and ground cayenne. “Deb, you’ve got to be kidding me…” I know, I know. You could also just add a few extra pinches of several of those and have a delightfully spiced outcome.
- Worried about spiciness? Because I think this is a good thing to know about whoever is writing your recipes, I consider myself a moderate heat appreciator, but I cook fairly mild because my 6.5 year old is not. Even with a full jalapeno in there (which can run quite mild or hot, so not necessarily a perfect measure) and a 1/4 teaspoon spicy chili powder, this was just lightly hot. The yogurt really dulls the heat. Hope that offers a guidance so you can adjust it to your preference.
For the chicken
1 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced (see Note up top)
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 fresh green chili (I used a jalapeno), seeded and minced
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne, or adjusted to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 pounds chicken thighs, drumsticks or halved chicken breasts (all skin-on, bone-in)
For the vegetables
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds (about 4 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled if desired, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 3/4 pounds (1 small or half a very large head) cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
To finish, if desired
A few thin slices of red onion
Dollops of yogurt
A few tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro, parsley or mint, or a mix therof
Combine ginger, garlic, fresh chili, yogurt, salt, spices and sugar in a freezer bag, bowl or container. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook the dish, heat your oven to 425°F. Line a half-sheet (13×18-inch) with foil and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add potatoes, cauliflower, salt, cumin and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss together with you hands until evenly coated.
Remove chicken from marinade and leave excess behind. Make spaces in the vegetables for chicken parts throughout the pan. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower to ensure they’re cooking evenly, and return the pan to the oven for 10 to 20 minutes more (i.e. 30 to 40 minutes total roasting time), until chicken and vegetables are cooked through.
While it roasts, if you’d like to use the lightly pickled onion rings that we did on top, which added a nice tangy fresh zip to the dish, separate the rings and toss them in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Set aside until needed.
When chicken and vegetables are cooked, top with garnishes of your choice — we used dollops of yogurt, herbs and scattered the above onion rings all over. Serve right in the pan.