Nigella Lawson—domestic goddess and champion of home cooks—has for years been a supporter of the laziest form of sheet pan dinner, or traybake. The most influential ingredient here is frozen peas—quite a lot of them, still completely frozen. As she explains, “The steam they produce as they bake makes the chicken beautifully tender, its skin crackly and crisp on top.” Adapted slightly from At My Table (Flatiron Books, 2018). To read the whole story, head here. —Genius Recipes
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Nigella Lawson’s Chicken & Pea Traybake
1 hour 30 minutes
7 cups frozen petit pois (about 2 pounds)
5 medium to large leeks (about 14 ounces trimmed weight), cut into 1-inch slices (note: if the light green part of the leek looks dirty in between the outer rings, remove the outermost layers and rinse them well)
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 small bunch dill, torn into pieces
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
To serve: steamed or boiled baby potatoes, mashed potatoes, or rice or other grains (optional)
Heat the oven to 400° F and clatter the frozen peas into a large roasting pan (Nigella says not to go smaller—measuring inside from inside rim to inside rim—than about 15 by 11 inches, and a little larger is fine), followed by the leeks, garlic, vermouth, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and most of the dill. Turn everything together in the pan—breaking up any large clumps of the frozen peas—until well mixed. I advise you to wear CSI gloves for this, just to stop you from getting frostbite, though you still will feel the cold.
Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top, then drizzle them with a little olive oil and give them a good sprinkling of salt, before roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, give the peas a small stir or tamp down, so that the few that are sitting on the surface and drying out a little are submerged in the liquid. Don’t so the same to the leeks, however, as the bits that are peeking out will become desirably caramelized in the heat. Put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, by which time the peas and leeks will be soft, and the chicken tender and cooked through, its skin golden and crisp.
Tear off the remaining dill fronds, and scatter over the top on serving, perhaps with some simply steamed baby potatoes to soak up the pea and chicken juices.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.