As Sam Sifton wrote in a delicious story today in The New York Times Magazine, we're in that frustrating shoulder season when cooks are tired of winter and longing for spring. Like Sifton, I'm finding inspiration these days – when it's too early for asparagus and English peas – in cabbage. In my case it's gorgeous, crinkly savoy cabbage, which, in my neck of the woods, has been turning up recently with lovely regularity in supermarkets.
In the past, I've always had trouble figuring out how to treat savoy cabbage right. Usually I braise it, and that's good. Lately I've been roasting it – even better!
Also lately, I've been wanting to create one of those sheet-pan recipes that are so trendy right now. The reality has proved less miraculous than I'd hoped. Though I love the idea of tossing everything onto a pan, shoving it in the oven and forgetting about it for an hour, the truth is that things have different cooking times. Roast chicken thighs with turnips until the chicken is done, and the turnips won't be as tender, golden-brown and caramelized as you'd want them.
Adding the three main components of this dish – chicken thighs, turnips and savoy cabbage – one at a time to the pan solves the problem, deliciously. In fact, I think this one-pan dinner is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in some time! Chicken thighs are great because they're chicken thighs. The turnips cook longer than everything else, so they get soft and caramelized almost to the point of sweetness, with really concentrated flavor. And the cabbage, which gets an umami boost from shiitake mushroom powder and soy sauce, roasts till it has all kinds of wonderful texture, from soft and silky to crunchy on the edges. The flavors and textures of the three meld together gorgeously.
It's a dish so simple you can toss it together for glorious weeknight dinner, but it's impressive enough that you could serve it at as a main course for a dinner party. Here's a bonus: It's super-healthy, even for someone watching their carbs. (Turnips have way fewer carbs than, say, potatoes.)
Here's the way it goes. Toss the turnips in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, throw 'em in the pan and roast 15 minutes. Push them to the side of the pan and add the chicken thighs skin-side down. These you've tossed with a little fennel seed, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Next whisk together a little more olive oil and fennel seed with shiitake powder and soy sauce – for that blast of umami. Toss the Savoy cabbage leaves in that mixture to coat, then add them to the roasting pan. Thirty-five minutes later, dinner is ready.
Oh – unless you want a little sauce to pass with it. Either way, with or without, it's pretty great. If you do want sauce, arrange everything on a warm platter, deglaze the roasting pan with white wine or water (the recipe tells you how), and strain it into a pitcher to pass with the chicken.
Want the recipe? You got it:
Bon app – and happy almost-spring!