Chicken Tray Bake

So, I heard you don’t have much time for cooking. No problem, I’ve got you covered! There aren’t a lot of recipes that allow you to prepare a mountain of protein while at the same time cooking up a healthy side dish (only stews are nearly as efficient). We combine chicken thighs with tasty veggies, bold spices and refreshing citrus fruits. The reward is crispy chicken skin, tender meat and delicious veggies for days.

The humble chicken leg is the tastiest part of the bird, only outshadowed by the fatty wings. Whenever you want the chicken to be the star of a dish, you will need to use the thighs. The breast is best used for curries or other recipies where it’s not so much about the chicken, but more about spices or other additional flavours.

This time it’s all about the chicken: crispy, spicy skin and tender, juicy meat, falling off the bones. There will be lots of leftovers for the next days too. Sadly the skin loses it’s crunch in the fridge, but the flavour only gets deeper.

Get yourself a good chicken. Yes, it seems obvious, but it’s too important not to mention. Try to get a free range quality, organic if possible and affordable, and quite big. You want big thighs because they come from older chickens, which had some time to grow and develop flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1,5-2kg of chicken thighs (depends on the size of your tray)
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 onions (I like red onions here, they are a little sweeter and I think their colour is awesome)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C. Peel the onions and chop them, and also the other veggies, into mouth sized chunks. Put everything into the tray.
  2. Make a spice rub: get your pestle and mortar, crush some pepper and salt, then add spices as you like. Paprika is great, it gives a nice colour and wonderful flavour. Fennel seeds are always a good idea. I almost always add dried onions and garlic to any spice rub.
  3. Massage the chicken thighs generously with the spice rub. You may drizzle them with olive oil beforehand, so the spices stick better to the chicken. I do this over the tray, any spices that fall off the meat flavour the veggies. Cut the lemon into eight slices and place them between the chicken thighs.
  4. Put the tray into the oven and let bake for about an hour. That’s a little longer than usually recommended, but I want crispy skin and flesh so tender, that it falls off the bone.

Mixing it up

You know me by now, I like to give flexible recipes, more like templates to customise as you like them, less of a textbook you need to follow. This is basically a version of roasted vegetables with chicken on top. You can vary the veggies, just make sure you don’t add too many “watery” types like zucchini or tomatoes, as they will turn your roasted veggies into cooked veggies. Not a catastrophe, but I prefer my veggies roasted.

Whole chicken thighs work as well as drumsticks here, maybe you have to leave them a little longer in the oven. The spices you use are up to you, the only must-have is a generous amount of salt, as it helps crispening up the chicken skin. And crispy skin is the real star of this recipe. I like lemons here, they will turn dark and “marmelade-y”, giving a welcome sweet and sour note to the veggies. But you can use any citrus fruit here: oranges for more sweetness, clementines for a little christmas flavour. I wouldn’t use grapefruits, they could add a little too much bitterness.

Another type of bird could be wonderful: remember that goose and duck need more time in the oven, so you might want to lower the temperature a little to prevent them from burning. There will be lots of fat from goose and duck thighs, so drain the veggies and keep the incredibly flavoured fat for later use in the fridge.

Did you like the recipe? Share some beary-comfort food with your beloved ones!

What version did you make? Let me know in the comment section below: I am looking forward to get inspired by you!

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