A simple sheet pan chicken and plums recipe featuring crispy saffron- and garlic-infused chicken topped with a savory sweet plum pan sauce. Jump to recipe.
Last week was glorious. Cool and crisp, rainy, misty – fall. Then it vanished,the jackets went back on their hooks, and the normal hot, dry September weather returned. I am not into it.
As a family, we did a good job of enjoying summer. We took our first big trip in years, went boating, spent languid afternoons at the pool, relaxed with friends, and had countless cookouts. Stepping away from the grind of regular work was so nice that, faced with it now, I find my mind wandering back to those days by the pool. Before this summer, I’d been under the impression that a vacation well spent cures burnout, but in my case, it seems to have brought it on.
I generally save my ennui and soul searching for February. No matter the time of year, the cure is always the same: woodland walks and more kitchen experiments. If those experiments yield a company-worthy recipe with weeknight-worthy timing, all the better.
I’ve decided that chicken should always be served with a good sauce and this sheet pan saffron chicken and plums recipe creates one effortlessly. While the chicken crisps, the plums and lemons surrounding it meld with the chicken drippings to make a savory sweet plum sauce. The crisp-skinned, tender chicken is suffused with saffron, red pepper, and garlic. A spice paste is applied ahead of time – and the longer it sits, the better.
A note on plums: This recipe will accommodate even the most average plums, but is at its show-stopping best when mostly sweet European prune plums are used. One or two of the more tart varieties can be tossed in for a hint of sour, but sweet plums really make the dish.
A simple sheet pan chicken and plums recipe featuring crispy saffron- and garlic-infused chicken topped with a sweet and savory plum pan sauce. For best results, allow chicken to sit overnight with the spice rub. Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark for The New York Times.
- 3 pounds dark meat chicken (a mix of thighs and legs)
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- zest of 1 lemon (reserve lemon for plum sauce)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound plums (preferably a variety of sweet European prune plums), cut into 1-inch slices**
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 lemon (reserved from spice rub), quartered
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger root
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional***)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
At least a couple hours ahead of time, but preferably the night before, make spice rub for the chicken. With a mortar and pestle, grind saffron threads, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Add garlic, lemon zest, and sea salt, and smash into a rough paste. Mix with olive oil.
Rub mixture all over chicken, making sure to coat both sides. Cover and set in the fridge 2 hours or longer.*
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a medium-sized bowl, toss plums with shallots, lemon, olive oil, ginger, honey, allspice, and sea salt.
Arrange chicken on an 18 x 13-inch sheet pan. Spoon plums and any juices around chicken pieces. Tuck bay leaves throughout. Slide into oven and roast 40 - 45 minutes, or until plums have cooked down, chicken skin is crisped, and a thermometer inserted sideways into thigh meat reads 165 degrees F.
Arrange chicken on a platter. Pluck lemons and bay leaves from the plum sauce and tuck around the chicken pieces. Carefully scrape plum sauce from the hot sheet pan into a bowl. Serve chicken and sauce with a side of rice or the grain of your choice.
*In the interest of fewer dishes, I stored the spice rubbed chicken on a sheet pan. When it was time to cook, I just added the plum mixture and slid it into the oven.
**Depending on the size of the plum, this may mean halves, quarters, or sixths.
***To make recipe Whole30-compliant, omit honey.