Of all the edible heralds of spring, rhubarb may be the rosiest – and the most sour. After a cold, gray winter, piles of the lipstick-red stalks at the farmers’ market practically glow, tempting even ambivalent cooks to scoop them right up.
So what, if in their natural state, the stalks are astringent enough to make you wince? With minimal effort (and usually, a lot of sugar), rhubarb’s fierceness can be coaxed into a purr.
This recipe, however, leans into rhubarb’s savory side, tempering its cranky acidity with a little bit of honey and a good dose of schmaltz, courtesy of roasting chicken. The whole dish is one pan-simple, yet completely unlike most other roast chicken recipes, pinker, tangier and more complex.
For the prettiest color, reach for the reddest rhubarb stalks you can find. This won’t matter one bit in terms of flavor – green rhubarb is not inherently less tasty than red – but it does make the dish a lot more vivid.
To that same baking tray, I added red onions, which everyone knows are really purple. They collapse into violet heaps among the nuggets of rhubarb and golden-skinned chicken, lending sweetness as well as depth.
As usual when I’m in the kitchen, I opted for dark meat, a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks. I always prefer bone-in chicken because the bones give the meat a richer flavor when the marrow seeps out while roasting. But even more to the point, I like to gnaw on the cartilage and nibble the skin, both impossible with boneless, skinless pieces.
If you prefer white meat, you can also substitute bone-in, skin-on breasts. Just start checking them 10 minutes earlier since white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
After pulling the baking tray from the oven, give everything a big stir to incorporate the browned bits and chicken juices stuck to the pan. To me, this is the tastiest part of any one-pan chicken recipe, and especially here, seasoned with honey-roasted rhubarb, thyme and a little coriander.
Then, before serving, make sure to sample a piece of rhubarb. If you pucker and squint, drizzle everything with a bit more honey.
I like to serve this with a crackly baguette and maybe some steamed and buttered asparagus on the side. After all, springtime stalks taste better in pairs.
One-pan chicken with rhubarb and red onion
This easy yet robust dish celebrates rhubarb’s savory side. Here, a bit of honey, some sliced sweet red onion and the rich juices of roasted chicken thighs and drumsticks temper its tartness. Serve this dish with a crackly baguette or some rice to catch the tangy sauce at the bottom of the pan. It’s the best part.
Total time: 45 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4
800g bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks (see tip)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
Sp tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 large red onion, cut into 1½cm-thick wedges
5 thyme sprigs
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
230g rhubarb stalks, sliced into 1½cm pieces
3 tbsp honey, plus more to taste
20g coriander or mint leaves and tender stems, torn
1. Heat oven to 200C and line baking tray with parchment paper. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season all over with coriander, 1 tsp salt and sp tsp pepper.
2. Place onion wedges on the prepared baking tray and lightly season with more salt and pepper. Add chicken and thyme sprigs to the pan and drizzle 3 tbsp oil over everything. Toss until well coated, then spread chicken and onions in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes.
3. While the chicken is in the oven, combine rhubarb and 3 tbsp honey in a medium bowl. Lightly drizzle with oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss until rhubarb is well coated.
4. Remove chicken from oven and carefully spoon rhubarb onto the hot pan around the onions and chicken. Continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through, and the rhubarb and onion are tender and caramelised, 25 to 35 minutes longer, tossing the rhubarb and onions (not the chicken) once about halfway through.
5. Stir the rhubarb and onions very well, making sure to incorporate all the browned bits and chicken juices from the bottom of the pan (this is the tastiest part). Then sample a piece of rhubarb. If it’s very tart, drizzle with a little more honey, tossing well. Serve chicken with rhubarb-onion mixture garnished with herbs.
Tip: You can substitute bone-in, skin on-breasts for the thighs and drumsticks. Just start checking 10 minutes earlier since white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
And to drink…
You could go several ways with this sweet-and-tart dish, depending on the final level of sweetness. If you’ve added quite a bit of honey, I would pick a moderately sweet wine. A Moscato d’Asti would be delightful – fresh, lively and low in alcohol. A kabinett or spätlese riesling from Germany would likewise be delicious. You could even go all out with a Sauternes or a Coteaux du Layon. If the dish is more balanced or even a bit tart, I might reach for a Jura red, a poulsard or trousseau, which is light-bodied but won’t get lost among the flavors. Those may be hard to find, so alternatives would include gamay, whether from Beaujolais, the Loire or Oregon; an easygoing Chinon; or a fresh Ribeira Sacra.
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