If there’s ever been a year in need of sweetening, it’s this one. So I’ve been looking forward to Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, more avidly than usual.
Like many Jews, my family will dip apples and challah in honey, and bring sweet fruit-laden dishes to the table as a harbinger of the year to come. The sweeter its entry, tradition suggests, the sweeter it shall continue. As far as religious rituals go, it’s a pretty pleasant one to follow.
Because the holiday usually falls during plum season, the juicy stone fruit is a natural on the menu. Marian Burros’ gloriously buttery plum torte has been an entrenched favorite ever since the recipe came out in 1983.
Plums can shine in main dishes as well. Here, I’ve layered them in a sheet pan with chicken and sliced red onions, which caramelize in all those plummy juices.
If you use a mix of red, purple and yellow plums, you’ll make a particularly colorful meal that’s perfect for the holiday.
And, like so many sheet-pan dinners, it’s mostly fuss-free. You do need to season the chicken a few hours ahead, but your actual hands-on time is minimal. Marinating gives the bird a chance to absorb the earthy flavors of toasted fennel seeds and allspice, along with garlic, lemon zest and a fiery jolt of red-pepper flakes.
I also add a drizzle of honey to the pan, and not just because of Rosh Hashana. Plum skins are notoriously tannic, and a little honey smooths things out. The combination of honey and spices gives the plums a chutney-like appeal, while the onions add a silky texture. Even better, as everything roasts, the plums absorb some of the savory chicken drippings, melting into a tangy, bright sauce that’s rich with schmaltz.
One thing to keep in mind when shopping is that rock-hard plums may not release enough liquid to make a sauce. If you can’t get ripe, soft plums nearly bursting with juice, substitute another stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines and pluots will all work, though since these tend to be sweeter than plums, you might need a squeeze of lemon at the end.
Just don’t add too much acid. Sweetness is the very point here — whether you’re celebrating Rosh Hashana or looking for an easy, seasonal sheet-pan chicken recipe that’s both richly hued and more festive than most.