Roasted Chicken Makes Everything Better

Nothing says “everything is going to be all right” like a roast chicken dinner.

To me, a juicy, crisp-skinned bird is more comforting than mac and cheese or even chicken soup, and a lot more satisfying, especially when I get to devour the glistening, burnished tail.

But when there’s no room in the freezer for a whole chicken, chicken parts are an excellent substitute. Here, they’re roasted on a sheet pan with whole garlic cloves, cherry tomatoes and pancetta (or bacon, or whatever other fatty pork product you have).

The thighs are my choice for sheet-pan roasting because they’re extremely flavorful and highly forgiving. If you overdo it, they’ll stay nice and moist, giving you some leeway if you need to cook the other elements on the pan a little longer until it’s all golden. You can use either bone-in or boneless thighs, but boneless takes up less valuable storage space. Chicken breasts, either bone-in or boneless, will also work here, just cook them for a few minutes less.

Another advantage of boneless thighs is that they are thin and don’t need to be seasoned ahead of time the way thicker cuts do. Just smear them with aromatics and spices — in this case, a mix of grated garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano and lemon — and they’ll be ready to go.

Adding a handful of whole garlic cloves to the pan is one of my standard poultry maneuvers. The garlic practically confits in all the melting chicken fat, becoming soft, creamy and practically candied. I like to smush the slack cloves on slices of sourdough, where they spread like pungent butter.

Comparing those velvety garlic cloves to butter made me want to throw some cherry tomatoes into the chicken pan: When roasted, the tomatoes shrivel, condense and turn jammy. Together, with the bread, they felt like a spin on butter and jam, appropriate for the dinner table.

Because it’s April and my tomatoes are more tangy than sweet, I tossed in a little brown sugar to help balance their acid. But if you’ve got perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes, you could leave the sugar out.

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