Since the dawn of time, my working lunch has been yogurt, fruit, raisins and sunflower seeds. But when the photo team was working in my house, shooting the images for my latest book, “Dorie’s Cookies,” there was lunch every day for the crew — and lunch wasn’t apple and yogurt. One day we had my Farmers Market Frittata; on another, Claudia Ficca, the food stylist, made salmon burgers. We’ve had baked rigatoni, quinoa salad, stuffed peppers and lots of green salads with chunky vegetables and tomatoes from the garden.
And then one day, when time was short, we had this dish: chicken, apples, onions and kale, cooked on a sheet pan and ready in a smidge over half an hour. We declared it a triumph, and it has become one of my go-to dishes.
The expression “sheet pan dinner” is trendy now, but really the one-sheet meal is not all that different from a one-pot meal, except that it’s so much faster. The essence of a sheet pan meal is that it is, indeed, a meal, and the key to making the meal great is that everything you put on the pan has to cook in the same amount of time as its neighbors. It’s a bit of a juggling act to find foods that go together and have the same cooking times, but you can usually make the dish work by paying attention to how you cut things. Chunks cook faster than wholes; chicken and fish cook faster than beef, depending on how you slice, dice and chop; and seafood cooks super fast.
For this dish, I chose bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts — big ones; the two halves weighed in at about 1 1/2 pounds total — and then I hacked them in half crosswise. Because I’m a sucker for meat and fruit, and because it’s the season, I included cored and halved apples. There are red onion wedges alongside the apples, and kale hides under the chicken; make sure to tuck in as much of the kale as you can, so that only a few frilly edges peek out and singe under the high heat. But what really makes the dish is the seasoning, a mix of vaguely Moroccan and kind of Middle Eastern spices.
The main spice is ras el hanout, a North African blend that’s rarely the same from one spice mixer to another. It typically includes sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice; musky ones, like cumin; bright notes of ginger, galangal, coriander and pepper; and some floral notes, often from rosebuds. (Here’s a recipe for making it at home.) It’s exotic, and it’s made a touch more exotic and more citrusy when you add ground sumac to it. You can substitute garam masala for the ras el hanout and lemon zest, and a tad of additional salt for the sumac, and the dish will still be terrific.
You can also change the spices completely, of course, and you can add a head of garlic, cut in half (or swap it for the onions), use pears instead of apples, or include wedges of sweet potato. Don’t skip the fresh lemon juice on the finished dish. The juice adds vividness to the spices and perks up the roasted onions and kale.
After having this quick, hearty, satisfying dish for lunch, it’ll be hard to go back to a steady diet of apple and yogurt — and maybe I won’t.
Photo by Dixie D. Vereen. This story originally appeared in my Everyday Dorie column for the Washington Post.
Sheet Pan Chicken With Apples and Kale
Components that are cut to cook evenly at the same time and a blend of savory spices make this simple meal work on a single baking sheet. Ras el hanout is a complex spice blend with North African roots; you can make your own or buy it.
It will help to have an instant-read thermometer (for the chicken).
MAKE AHEAD: The spice mixture can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks.
Ras el hanout and ground sumac are available at Whole Foods Markets and at Mediterranean markets.
- About 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
- 1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought ras el hanout (may substitute garam masala; see headnote and related recipe)
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac (may substitute the finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus a pinch of salt)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- Pinch ground harissa or ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 large apples, preferably Honeycrisp
- 2 lemons
- 1 medium red onion, trimmed and cut into quarters
- About 8 large leaves curly kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces
- 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves (about 11/2 pounds total), cut in half (may substitute 4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or a double layer of parchment paper; oil the surface.
To make the spice mixture, stir together the ras el hanout, sumac, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and the harissa or cayenne pepper, then stir in the honey and 1 teaspoon of the oil, which will turn the mixture into a paste.
Peel the apples, core them and cut them in half horizontally. Squeeze the juice from a lemon half over the apples and rub it in (to keep the fruit from discoloring). Arrange the apple halves cut side up on the baking sheet, using one half of the pan for the apples and the onion, and spoon some of the spice mixture on top of each apple (about 1/3 of the mixture, total, spooned around the top of each). Put the onion quarters on the sheet, then drizzle a teaspoon or two of the oil over them and season each lightly with salt and a little black pepper.
Season the torn kale with a little salt, rubbing the salt into the leaves, and then toss with 1 teaspoon or so of the oil. (They will wilt a bit.) Arrange the kale on the other half of the baking sheet.
Cut each chicken breast crosswise in half (for a total of 4 pieces; if you’re using thighs, leave them whole). Rub the remaining spice mixture into the chicken pieces, on all sides. Place the chicken on top of the kale, tucking the leaves of kale in so that most of them are covered by the chicken. Squeeze the juice from the remaining half of the lemon over the chicken. Cut the squeezed lemon halves in half and nestle those quarters among the chicken pieces.
Roast (middle rack) for 25 to 35 minutes or until a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees.
Cut the remaining lemon into quarters for serving, for squeezing over the chicken, apples and kale.
Divide the chicken, apples, kale and onion quarters among individual plates; serve right away.