If there’s ever been a year in need of sweetening, it’s this one. So I’ve been looking forward to Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, more avidly than usual.
Like many Jews, my family will dip apples and challah in honey, and bring sweet fruit-laden dishes to the table as a harbinger of the year to come. The sweeter its entry, tradition suggests, the sweeter it shall continue. As far as religious rituals go, it’s a pretty pleasant one to follow.
Because the holiday usually falls during plum season, the juicy stone fruit is a natural on the menu. Marian Burros’ gloriously buttery plum torte has been an entrenched favorite ever since the recipe came out in 1983.
Plums can shine in main dishes as well. Here, I’ve layered them in a sheet pan with chicken and sliced red onions, which caramelize in all those plummy juices.
If you use a mix of red, purple and yellow plums, you’ll make a particularly colorful meal that’s perfect for the holiday.
And, like so many sheet-pan dinners, it’s mostly fuss-free. You do need to season the chicken a few hours ahead, but your actual hands-on time is minimal. Marinating gives the bird a chance to absorb the earthy flavors of toasted fennel seeds and allspice, along with garlic, lemon zest and a fiery jolt of red-pepper flakes.
I also add a drizzle of honey to the pan, and not just because of Rosh Hashana. Plum skins are notoriously tannic, and a little honey smooths things out. The combination of honey and spices gives the plums a chutneylike appeal, while the onions add a silky texture. Even better, as everything roasts, the plums absorb some of the savory chicken drippings, melting into a tangy, bright sauce that’s rich with schmaltz.
One thing to keep in mind when shopping is that rock-hard plums may not release enough liquid to make a sauce. If you can’t get ripe, soft plums nearly bursting with juice, substitute another stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines and pluots will all work, though since these tend to be sweeter than plums, you might need a squeeze of lemon at the end.
Just don’t add too much acid. Sweetness is the very point here — whether you’re celebrating Rosh Hashana or looking for an easy, seasonal sheet-pan chicken recipe that’s both richly hued and more festive than most.
Recipe: Sheet-Pan Chicken With Roasted Plums and Onions
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hour, plus at least 2 hours’ marinating
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Large pinch red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into parts
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 cups ripe, soft plums, pitted and cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced from root to stem in 1/2-inch wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2/3 cup torn mint, basil or cilantro leaves (or a combination)
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour seeds into a mortar and pound with a pestle until coarsely crushed (or lay seeds on a cutting board and pound them with a can or jar).
2. Put the seeds into a large bowl and stir in lemon juice, zest, garlic, honey, allspice and red-pepper flakes.
3. Season chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and add to the bowl, turning the pieces to coat them with marinade. Mix in plums and thyme sprigs. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the chicken pieces, plums, and thyme sprigs on a rimmed baking pan. Add onions, spreading them out around the chicken and plums. Season plums and onions lightly with salt. Drizzle everything with olive oil.
5. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, removing the white meat if it’s done before the dark meat.
6. Transfer chicken pieces as they are done to a platter. Spoon the plums and onions around the chicken. Drizzle a little of the pan drippings over the chicken and serve, garnished with the herbs and flaky salt.
And to Drink …
With this festive Rosh Hashana dish, it’s nice to have an equally festive wine. My inclination with the plums is to pick a red wine. A juicy pinot noir would be ideal, as long as the richness is balanced by sufficient acidity. If you wanted something a little more structured, you could try a Pomerol or a good merlot. Plenty of other reds would work, whether a cru Beaujolais, nebbiolo with some age, cabernet franc from the Loire or a Rioja. If you prefer a white, I would opt for a chenin blanc from the Loire Valley or California, or maybe a white St.-Joseph from the Rhône. A rich Austrian riesling would also be good. If you are looking for kosher versions of these wines, try 67 Wine in New York or kosherwine.com. — ERIC ASIMOV