Rhubarb, of all the food signs of spring, may be the brightest in colour, but it also has the most tart flavour. After a long, dreary winter in the Northeastern United States, the mounds of the lipstick-red stalks at the farmers market virtually sparkle, enticing even reluctant chefs to scoop them up and use them immediately.
What difference does it make if the stalks, in their natural form, are so astringent that they cause you to wince? The ferocity of rhubarb can be tamed with little work (and typically quite a lot of sugar), and one may hear it purring in no time.
This dish, on the other hand, emphasises the savoury qualities of rhubarb by taming the tartness of the fruit by adding a touch of honey and a generous helping of schmaltz, which is rendered from chicken that has been roasted. The whole meal may be prepared in a single sheet pan and is very distinct from the vast majority of recipes for roast chicken in that it is pinker, tangier, and more involved.
Find the most crimson-colored stalks of rhubarb you can get your hands on for the most beautiful hue. Green rhubarb is not fundamentally less delectable than its red counterpart, thus this change will not affect the meal’s taste in the least; nonetheless, it will give the dish a much more vibrant appearance.
In the same sheet pan, I also put some purple onions, which, as everyone knows, are really called red onions. They disintegrate into lilac clumps amid the nuggets of rhubarb and the chicken with golden skin, adding both sweetness and depth to the dish.
When I’m in the kitchen, I almost always go for the dark meat, which in this case consisted of bone-in thighs and drumsticks. When it comes to chicken, I always go for the one that still has the bone in it because the marrow that’s in the bone imparts a deeper taste to the flesh when it’s roasted. But what’s more important is that I like nipping at the skin and gnawing on the cartilage, both of which are hard to do with boneless and skinless portions.
You might also use bone-in, skin-on breasts if you want white meat instead of the dark flesh. Since white meat requires less time to cook than dark meat, just start checking them 10 minutes sooner than you normally would.
After removing the sheet pan from the oven, give everything a good swirl to integrate the chicken juices and browned parts that are clinging to the pan. This is my favourite portion of any chicken meal that is cooked on a sheet pan, and it is particularly delicious in this dish since it is flavoured with honey-roasted rhubarb, thyme, and just a touch of coriander.
Then, just before you dish it out for the guests, be sure to try a slice of the rhubarb. If you find yourself puckering and squinting, add a little bit extra honey to everything.
When I serve this dish, I prefer to accompany it with a crispy baguette and maybe some steamed asparagus that has been buttered on the side. After all, the flavour of springtime stalks is improved when eaten in pairs.