Of all the edible heralds of spring, Rhubarb may be the rosiest – and the sourest. After a cold, gray winter, heaps of lipstick stalks at the farmers’ market are practically glowing, tempting even ambivalent cooks to scoop them up.
So what if in their natural state, the stems are astringent enough to make you wince? With minimal effort (and usually lots of sugar), the ferocity of rhubarb can be brought to purr.
This recipe, however, leans into the savory side of rhubarb, tempering its sourness with a bit of honey and a healthy dose of schmaltz, courtesy of the roast chicken. The whole dish is a simple casserole, but completely different from most other roast chicken recipes, pinker, tangier and more complex.
For the best color, go for the reddest rhubarb stalks you can find. It won’t matter in terms of flavor – green rhubarb isn’t inherently less flavorful than red – but it does make the dish much more lively.
On that same baking sheet, I added red onions, which everyone knows are really purple. They crumble into purple heaps among nuggets of rhubarb and golden-skinned chicken, providing sweetness and 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 oozes out during cooking. But more specifically, I like to gnaw on the cartilage and nibble on the skin, two things impossible with boneless, skinless cuts.
If you prefer white meat, you can also substitute breasts with bone and skin. Just start checking them 10 minutes earlier because white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
After removing the baking sheet from the oven, stir well to incorporate the browned bits and any chicken juices stuck to the pan. For me, it’s the tastiest part of any skillet chicken recipe, and especially here, seasoned with honey roasted rhubarb, thyme and a little cilantro.
Then, before serving, don’t forget to taste a piece of rhubarb. If you squint and squint, wash it all down with a little more honey.
I like to serve this with a crusty baguette and maybe steamed and buttered asparagus on the side. After all, spring stalks taste best in pairs.
Pan-fried chicken with rhubarb and red onion
This simple yet robust dish celebrates the savory side of rhubarb. Here, a little honey, slices of sweet red onion and the rich juices of roast chicken thighs and drumsticks temper its acidity. Serve this dish with a crusty baguette or rice to catch the hot sauce at the bottom of the pan. That’s the best part.
Total time: 45 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4
800 g bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks (see tip)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt, more as needed
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1 large red onion, cut into 1½ cm thick wedges
5 sprigs of thyme
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
230 g rhubarb stalks, cut into 1½ cm pieces
3 tablespoons honey, plus more to taste
20g coriander or mint leaves and tender stems, torn
1. Heat the oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and season with cilantro, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.
2. Place the onion wedges on the prepared baking sheet and season lightly with more salt and pepper. Add the chicken and thyme sprigs to the skillet and pour 3 tablespoons of oil over everything. Toss until well coated, then spread the chicken and onions in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes.
3. While the chicken is baking, combine the rhubarb and 3 tablespoons honey in a medium bowl. Lightly drizzle with oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper and toss until the rhubarb is well coated.
4. Remove the chicken from the oven and gently spoon the rhubarb onto the hot pan around the onions and chicken. Continue roasting until chicken is cooked through and rhubarb and onion are tender and caramelized, 25 to 35 minutes more, stirring rhubarb and onions (not chicken) halfway through. cooking.
5. Mix the rhubarb and onions very well, making sure to incorporate all the browned bits and any chicken juices from the bottom of the pan (this is the tastiest part). Then enjoy a piece of rhubarb. If very tart, drizzle with a little more honey, stirring well. Serve the chicken with the rhubarb-onion mixture garnished with herbs.
Point: You can replace the thighs and drumsticks with bone-in breasts with skin. Just start checking 10 minutes earlier because white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
And to drink…
You can go many ways with this sweet and tangy dish, depending on the final level of sweetness. If you added quite a bit of honey, I would choose a moderately sweet wine. A Moscato d’Asti would be delicious, fresh, lively and low in alcohol. A kabinett or spätlese riesling from Germany would also be delicious. You could even go all out with a Sauternes or a Coteaux du Layon. If the dish is more balanced or even slightly tart, I might opt for a Jura red, a Poulsard or a Trousseau, light but not lost in flavor. These can be hard to come by, so alternatives would include Gamay, whether from Beaujolais, Loire or Oregon; a relaxed Chinon; or a fresh Ribeira Sacra.
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