Caraway Sheet Pan Chicken with Apples, Honey, and Squash
The Rosh Hashanah—Jewish New Year—table is full of symbolism. Apples and honey are the classic Ashkenazi foods eaten to usher in a good and sweet New Year. Mizrahi Jews (Jews from Africa and the Middle East) celebrate with Rosh Hashanah seders that include a luscious display of symbolic foods that often include some pretty excellent puns—vegetables with names that sound a lot like "destroy our enemies" in Hebrew. This article from Haaretz details some of the symbolic foods, which include but are not limited to: apples, honey, leeks, beets, heads (be it cabbage, goat, or fish), pomegranates, carrots, gourds/squash, fenugreek, green beans, garlic, chard, and dates. This chicken recipe incorporates apples, honey, squash, and garlic, making it a great Rosh Hashanah food. The squash and apples make an excellent side dish reminiscent of but lighter than tsimmis.
This recipe makes enough chicken for four two-thigh servings. Aquavit is a Swedish liquor flavored with caraway; it melds wonderfully with buckwheat honey to balance the sweetness. Marinating the chicken in advance, separately from the apple and vegetables, will produce the best results, but you can mix everything together in a sheet pan and let it rest 30 minutes before putting in the oven. This recipe goes great with kasha (toasted buckwheat groats).
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 lbs)
1/2 a kabocha squash, peeled and cut into cubes (about 3 cups)
1 large or two small, firm apples, cut into cubes (I used Honeycrisp)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 shallot, sliced
6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
For the marinade:
5 tbsp unfiltered sunflower oil
4 tbsp Aquavit
juice of one lemon (about 2 tbsps)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp buckwheat honey
2 tbsp kosher salt (f you use table salt, use 1.5 tbsp)
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp caraway seeds, crushed to bring out their flavor
Combine the ingredients for the marinade. Coat the chicken in the marinade and leave in the refrigerator for 6 hours to overnight.
For a faster version, you can mix everything together on the sheet pan at once—just include the extra sunflower oil—and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. If making the fast version, skip the next step.
Toss the kabocha, apple, garlic, thyme, and shallot together with the chicken and marinade and spread onto a sheet pan. The chicken thighs should be skin side up. You want enough space between the chicken and fruits/vegetables so that some of the marinade cooks off and the chicken fat melts into the squash. If the pan is too crowded, everything will get soggy. Let the chicken come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Put the chicken in the oven for an hour. You may want to check in on it after 45 minutes. This recipe will produce chicken that is cooked through with a crispy skin.
Remove the chicken thighs from the sheet pan and scoop the apples and squash into a serving bowl.