Chicken

A Spicy, Smoky Shawarma-Inspired Sheet Pan Dinner

February  2, 2017

Nearly three years ago Molly Wizenberg wrote a blog post on Parmesan-roasted cauliflower, a recipe she discovered from Bon Appétit one that, as the magazine promised, would become her go-to. The process is simple: Toss a head of cauliflower florets, a few unpeeled garlic cloves, and a sliced onion with olive oil, salt and a few thyme sprigs. Roast in a hot oven, and after 30 minutes, when everything—the florets, the onions, the garlic—begins caramelizing, sprinkle it with Parmesan and cook until the cheese melts, forming what Molly describes as “lacy, frico-like webs and shards.”

Molly offers a few ideas on how to serve the cauliflower, including tossing it with pasta or spooning it into bowls and topping with a fried egg. She also notes you could just eat it, and “call it a meal,” the title of her post. For years, I called it a side dish, and rarely strayed from the recipe. But since discovering the beauty of the sheet pan supper, I used the recipe as a jumping-off point, adding spices to change the flavor, and chicken to make it a more complete meal.

Whole spices = more flavor (aka what you want). Photo by Alexandra Stafford

The seasonings in my recent variation evoke shawarma, a Middle Eastern street food typically prepared on a vertical rotisserie with lamb or chicken, which cooks for hours. Everything comes together in about the same amount of time as the original recipe, the only additional work being making a spice mix and buying chicken. It’s simple: First, rub the cauliflower and onions with a mix of toasted cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Roast for 30 minutes, then add boneless, skinless chicken thighs (rubbed in the same spice mix) to the sheet pan, and cook for 10 minutes more. By the end, just as in the original recipe, the cauliflower and onions caramelize, becoming meltingly tender and irresistibly sweet. As the chicken thighs cook, moreover, they release their juices, which seep into the vegetables, making them even tastier.   

Serve this mix of smoky, spicy chicken and vegetables with naan and a lemony yogurt sauce, and call it a meal—a new go-to sheet pan meal.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A few tips:

  • If you have a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds will impart better flavor—fresher, smokier, earthier—than pre-ground. This step requires just a few more minutes of time and effort, but the scent and flavor are worth it. I also like the visual appeal as well as the texture of the partially crushed seeds coating the vegetables and meat.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts could be substituted for the thighs (see notes in recipe for cooking times).

  • This could certainly be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken—the spiced onions and cauliflower are irresistible on their own. You could use a mix of cauliflower, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, or any of your favorite roasting vegetables.

  • Some sort of sauce is essential. A cooling Greek yogurt sauce, whose tang so nicely complements the sweet vegetables, works particularly well here, but you could also use a tahini sauce or an herby sauce with a good amount of acidity.  

What's your go-to sheet pan meal? Tell us in the comments!

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Like others, I had to cook the thighs for closer to 30 minutes than the 10 recommended but I like a good browning on my vegetables so they were delicious even though they cooked longer. I was planning on making this a night earlier but, due to an unexpected spousal miscommunication, the kiddos ended up eating cheeseburgers instead. But all's well that ends well since it meant that the chicken got to marinade overnight (without the salt). Made the lemon-yogurt sauce as suggested but add some minced garlic and parsley. Served with seasoned basmati rice topped with toasted pine nuts and a Greek salad with lemon juice, olive oil and finishing salt. Great weeknight meal! Thanks for the recipe”
— Niknud
Comment

Alexandra Stafford is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.

28 Comments

Michael March 1, 2017
The only part I don't get 100% is when to cut up the chicken into the tiny pieces that makes shawarma. Before cooking or after?
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 1, 2017
Hi Michael,<br /><br />This is not part of the recipe. As noted above, this is not a traditional shawarma recipe—it's shawarma-seasoning inspired. Hope that helps. You, of course, could cut the chicken up into tiny pieces after it has cooked if you like that texture/consistency, etc.
 
A February 23, 2017
This is tasty. However, I have to agree with others who have expressed doubt about the cooking time for the chicken thighs. At 400 degrees for 10 minutes the chicken thighs not only will be undercooked, but they will still be contaminated with the bacteria that plagues all raw chicken. And further, being undercooked they will contaminate the vegetables as well. If, instead, you include the cut up chicken thighs from the very beginning, and cook them at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, they will be cooked through and tender, not at all overdone. Note that this will work for thighs but not for breasts - they would be too dry with this cooking method.
 
dzatz February 17, 2017
I absolutely loved this when made (as instructed except longer cooking time) last week. I am going to make for a party this Sunday. Any recommendations for wine pairing?
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. March 1, 2017
Shoot, sorry just getting to this! What did you pick? Any suggestions? I am not the one to ask, bc I always drink the same red wine with everything—wines made with grenache or a blend, like Côtes du Rhône. I know nothing, however.
 
Amy K. February 16, 2017
I prepared this exactly as described with the tahini-yogurt sauce and it was a huge hit with my family. Personally I loved the vegatables alone on the pita with the sauce. The onions carmelized.
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 16, 2017
So happy to hear this, Amy! And I feel the same ... chicken is totally optional for me :)
 
Niknud February 9, 2017
Made this for dinner last night and it was excellent. Like others, I had to cook the thighs for closer to 30 minutes than the 10 recommended but I like a good browning on my vegetables so they were delicious even though they cooked longer. I was planning on making this a night earlier but, due to an unexpected spousal miscommunication, the kiddos ended up eating cheeseburgers instead. But all's well that ends well since it meant that the chicken got to marinade overnight (without the salt). Made the lemon-yogurt sauce as suggested but add some minced garlic and parsley. Served with seasoned basmati rice topped with toasted pine nuts and a Greek salad with lemon juice, olive oil and finishing salt. Great weeknight meal! Thanks for the recipe
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 9, 2017
Oh fantastic! I've been meaning to try an overnight marinade. Love the sound of all of your sides — Greek salad, rice with pine nuts ... yum! Glad to hear this worked out despite the variations in cooking times.
 
Diana B. February 5, 2017
Well, I made this, and it was delicious - will be a staple in my house. However, the chicken thighs were still raw at 10 minutes, they took more like half an hour to cook through. That may be because I interpreted a "hot oven" to mean 400 degrees. Since I had to cook longer, I stirred the cauli now and then so it wouldn't char, but the end result was superb. Subtle, delicious flavors!
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 6, 2017
Hi Diana! So happy to hear this despite the adjustments you had to make to get the chicken to cook through. I'm glad the cauli/onion mix didn't get too charred. Thanks for writing in and sharing your adaptations!
 
Steven W. February 7, 2017
Thighs are thick...You could try slicing then in half, or even dicing them.
 
Jennifer February 5, 2017
Hi Alexandra, Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see instructions on using the chicken breast instead of thighs in the recipe in terms of cooking time.
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 6, 2017
Hi Jennifer! You have to click over to the actual recipe page: https://food52.com/recipes/67675-sheet-pan-chicken-and-cauliflower-shawarma . Below the slideshow of photos (above the ingredient list) is a note section — expand that so that you can see all the notes. The instructions for cooking breasts are there. Hope that helps!
 
Diana B. February 3, 2017
It really does help, Alexandra, thank you for your very good answer! I just wanted to be sure it wasn't a misprint. Can't wait to try this recipe.
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 4, 2017
Sure thing!
 
Diana B. February 3, 2017
This sounds wonderful in every way, but I have a question: Can chicken thighs really cook through in only ten minutes? Thanks.
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 3, 2017
Hi Diana! They have been cooked through for me every time after 10 min. I think maybe because the sheet pan is hot when they enter it, they cook faster. I also let them rest for 10 minutes on the hot sheet pan. Cut into one after the 10 minutes to check, and if it's not done, you could return them to the oven for another 5 min -- thighs are forgiving. Hope that helps!
 
Bscanl2 February 3, 2017
Can you tell me how to make the yogurt sauce? Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 3, 2017
Yes! It's 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix, taste, adjust as needed with more salt or lemon. This is in the recipe notes too for future reference -- notes are above the ingredient list on the recipe page.
 
Fresh T. February 2, 2017
I love when I get e-mail alerts with your recipes. They always make my day! This looks delicious and I can't wait to try it!
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 2, 2017
Dana, you are too kind — thank you!!
 
PhoebeLapine February 2, 2017
this is brilliant!
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 2, 2017
Thanks, Phoebe!! xo
 
ChefJune February 2, 2017
I'm off to get the whole recipe! I can taste it made with cubes of lamb shoulder rather than chicken. Even better!
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 2, 2017
Ignore my question on the recipe! I see you would use lamb shoulder — sounds so good. Let me know how it turns out!
 
Sue February 2, 2017
Seems like a variation on Diana Henry's very delicious chicken with cauliflower, potatoes and parmesan. Sounds delicious as well.
 
Author Comment
Alexandra S. February 2, 2017
I don't know that one, Sue! Going to look it up — sounds delicious.