Chicken thigh baked with rice, eggplant and figs

Moroccan Monday – Best Sheet Pan Chicken Recipe

Toward the end of this dish baking, your kitchen has a lovely orange blossom and Moroccan spice aroma that transports you to what feels like a different world.

Happy Labor Day! I know we all tend to dine out on holiday weekends, and that can get a little old. Deep down, we’re just looking for an easy, fresh and healthful recipe that enables a chill night at home. My Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken is great for that. For one thing, the nice bottle of white you’ll need to make it, only calls for one cup…the rest you can sip on during dinner. I recommend picking up a second bottle of the same wine as it’ll pair perfectly with this dinner.

The ingredients for this one are a little expensive, but not if you think about quantity. This slow roasted platter of veggies, sweet dates, olives and sumptuous chicken, simmering in a delicate orange and peppery sauce leaves you with surplus spices and Medjool dates.

Dates are the sweetest, yummiest breakfast ever…you can add the turmeric and other Asian spices left over for future sheet pan dinners.  Here’s what the spice rub for your chicken will look like when you mix it according to recipe instructions:

This recipe hails from North Africa – one of the few places I still haven’t gone, yet fantasize about in my upcoming cookbook Canvas & Cuisine. I love how Moroccan food pairs sweet with tart, better than most anywhere else. Salty olives with sweet dates, hot spices with cooked brown sugar . . . I can’t think of a bigger treat for dinner. This is a one-pan meal, ideal for serving with a bowl of lemon-infused jasmine rice.

Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet ‘n Salty Carrots and Chickpeas

serves 4 to 6

30 minute cuisine

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 whole orange, cut into thin slices

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

½ pound pitted dates, about 1 ½ cups

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

For chicken:

8 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can mix and match with boneless breasts)

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 more for veggies

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges

1 pound baby carrots, about 12 to 14, cut in half

1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Mix together all the spices in a small bowl. This will make more spice mix than you need, but it will keep well in an airtight container. Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. Add two to three tablespoons of the spice blend into the bag. Seal and shake the bag to coat the chicken. Add the orange slices. Place the bag into the refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours and as much as overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the chicken from the bag and place into a baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the top of the chicken. Season with some of the salt and pepper.

Place the onion, carrots, garlic and chickpeas into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the spice blend and 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the veggies around the chicken. Plop the olives and dates in and around the chicken and vegetables. Pour the wine over everything.

Bake until the chicken is cooked through (when the internal temperature reaches 165°) about 30 to 45 minutes. Pluck the chicken pieces from the sheet pan and place onto a serving platter. Spoon the pan juices, fruits and veggies over the chicken pieces. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Cook’s Tip

The best way to ensure all the chicken cooks at the same time is to make sure that the pieces are of similar size. If you have chosen to cook chicken breasts, you might cut each breast in half to match the size of the thighs.

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