Of all the edible harbingers of spring, rhubarb is arguably the rosiest — and the most acidic. After a cold, gray winter in the Northeast, piles of lipstick-red stalks at the farmers’ market practically glow, tempting even ambivalent cooks to scoop them up right away.
So what if in their natural state, the stems are astringent enough to make you shiver? With minimal effort (and usually a lot of sugar), the fierceness of rhubarb can be coaxed into spinning.
However, this recipe leans towards the savory side of rhubarb and tempers the cranky acidity with a little honey and a generous dose of schmaltz, courtesy of the chicken roast. The whole dish is simple in a pan, but totally different from most other roast chicken recipes, pinker, tangier and more complex.
For the best color, take the reddest rhubarb stems you can find. It doesn’t matter in terms of taste – green rhubarb is not necessarily less tasty than red – but it does make the dish a lot more lively.
To that same baking pan I added red onions, which everyone knows are really purple. They coalesce into violet mounds among the nuggets of rhubarb and golden-skinned chicken, giving both sweetness and depth.
As usual when I’m in the kitchen, I chose dark meat, a mix of thighs with bone and drumsticks. I always prefer bone-in chicken because the bones give the meat a richer flavor as the marrow seeps out during the roasting process. But even more to the point, I love nibbling the cartilage and nibbling the skin, both impossible with boneless pieces.
If you prefer white meat, you can also replace breasts with bone. Just start checking them 10 minutes earlier, as white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
After removing the baking sheet from the oven, give everything a good stir to incorporate the browned bits and the chicken juice that is stuck to the pan. To me, this is the tastiest part of any plate chicken recipe, and especially here, seasoned with honey-roasted rhubarb, thyme, and a little cilantro.
Taste a piece of rhubarb before serving. If you wrinkle and squint, drizzle everything with a little more honey.
I like to serve this with a crusty baguette and maybe some steamed and buttered asparagus on the side. After all, spring stems taste better in pairs.
Recipe: Pan Chicken With Rhubarb And Red Onion