Updated: Sep 16, 2017
Happy Friday, y'all! TGIF, right? What are your plans for the weekend? Tell me about them in the comments below! As for my plans, I'm thinking about taking my family to tomorrow's festival on the town common. Waltham Day is a communal celebration of the rich history of my home city, and I love to share the experience of going to such fun, free, local events with my loved ones. We'll swing by for a couple of hours, and then we'll head home to cook up a big dinner for all of us to enjoy. What'll we make? I have some ideas...
So Wednesday, I wrote about the five flavors of fall. I also promised to share one of my favorite autumn recipes, one that's great to throw together on a busy day for a no-stress family dinner in the evening.
I think one of the best parts of this meal is that it can be prepared in two ways: dumped on a roasting pan and shoved in the oven, or tossed in a crockpot to cook while you're at school or work. It's laden with earthy, hearty root vegetables to fortify you throughout the chilly autumn nights, and it's both sweet and savory, which will get even the little ones interested in trying this veggie-filled dish.
Though putting together this four-person dinner requires a lot of prep, it's wholly worth the effort, and it can easily be halved, doubled, or tripled to suit your needs. Sheet pan meals are wonderful for meal prep because you can make them Sunday night and have lunch or dinner set for a busy week! Planning dinner ahead of time is a lifesaver.
Whether you're going the slow cooker route or the oven route, both methods are vastly simplified if you handle the chopping and marinating the night before. Wash the veggies (leave the skin on—that's fiber!) and chop them into chunks the night before, then store them in an airtight container or a Ziploc baggie in the fridge overnight. The chicken will also roast more quickly if you boil it for 15-30 minutes and let it cool before marinating. Decrease the overall cook time accordingly.
Maybe you'll read through the ingredients and see some vegetables you don't like. Swap them out for similar ones! Mix up the spices to suit your tastes! The photographed version has no carrots, and I used chicken drums and thighs. Cooking is an experimental experience, and you get to explore all sorts of culinary paths here. If you're looking for a vegetarian or vegan version of this dish, swap out the chicken for marinated tofu (for protein) or simply drop it altogether!
Now for the actual recipe. It seems lengthy, but if you prepare your tools and ingredients ahead of time, it's a breeze! Try it out and tell me how it went, especially if you made any substitutions or additions—once, we added thick cuts of applewood smoked bacon, and it was positively resplendent. Half the fun in cooking is sharing and modifying recipes, so let's get into some #FridayFun together!
Harvest Sheet Pan Chicken Serves 4
A sink to wash and prep the vegetables and apple
A plate for setting the chicken aside
A fridge to set aside the prepped food (optional)
A pot large enough to boil the chicken (optional)
A garlic press (optional)
2 chicken leg quarters, 4 chicken breasts, or 4 chicken thighs
1 large sweet potato
1 large russet potato
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 medium zucchini
1 medium red delicious apple
4 cups brussels sprouts, halved
2 large carrots (optional—I hate cooked carrots.)
1 medium red onion (optional—but a good decision...)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons grade A dark color & robust flavor maple syrup (formerly known as grade B maple syrup)
kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (This may seem like a lot, but remember: this is a savory recipe with a bit of sweetness!)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch ground cloves (approx. 1/8 teaspoon)
1 pinch ground cardamom (approx. 1/8 teaspoon)
Put the chicken in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Half of the oil, syrup, and spices will go in this marinade, so add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 minced cloves of the garlic, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger (1/2 teaspoon dried), 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, a dash of cardamom, a dash of cloves, and some kosher salt to the bag.
Seal the bag, shake until the chicken is evenly coated, and set it all aside, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
If using an oven, preheat it to 425°F. If using a slow cooker, line the inside with foil and turn it on.
Wash, dry, and chop the vegetables and apple into chunks. If cooking now, toss the apple and veggies with the remaining oil, syrup, and spices and evenly layer them in a roasting pan or slow cooker. If preparing ahead of time, place in another Ziploc bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours and add the marinade when you're ready to cook.
Take the chicken out of the marinade and place on top of the apple and veggies. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or in the slow cooker (2-3 hours on high; 4-6 hours on low). The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
Remove the chicken, lay it on a plate to rest, and cover the plate in foil. Toss the apple and vegetables in the crockpot or on the pan and continue cooking until caramelized and tender (10-15 minutes in the oven; check the slow cooker every 15 minutes).
Divide the veggies and apple evenly and serve warm with the chicken.