Sheet Pan Bay Leaf-Orange Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

When I read The New York Times’ recipe for Bay Leaf Chicken I was intrigued.  Most recipes calling for bay leaf only use 1.  This was meant to use up a lot of fresh bay leaves from the garden in a marinade for chicken thighs.  I wanted to try the recipe in spite of not growing bay leaves in my garden and I easily substituted dried bay leaves.   The marinade is absolutely fantastic.  It is more of a thick wet-rub with bay leaf, Worchestershire sauce, orange zest and the warming spices  of cumin and  coriander.  The original recipe asked for mustard seeds which I did not have so I substituted some grainy mustard and added some cumin seeds. The chicken thighs can marinade for as little as an hour or up to overnight.  Mine marinaded about 4 hours.  I modified the recipe completely from this point on.  I roasted the chicken in a sheet pan alongside sweet potatoes and shallots.  This dish smelled absolutely divine while cooking.  Instead of a parsley salad, I made a wilted spinach salad to accompany the chicken.  To serve, I spread a layer of baby spinach on a serving platter. I placed the hot chicken and sweet potatoes/shallots over the spinach to wilt it.  I drizzled the whole dish with a simple mustard vinaigrette then added the orange chunks and toasted sunflower seeds.  Sublime! So colorful and pretty, too.  

For the chicken:

  • 5 dried bay leaves, double if you using  fresh
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,  divided
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds or 1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
    finely grated zest from 2 Navel oranges(reserve oranges for salad)
    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    2 1/2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 of a red onion, peeled and sliced

For the salad:

  • 2 oranges, peeled, pith removed and cut in chunks
    5 ounces baby spinach
    2 tablespoons orange champagne vinegar or rice vinegar
    1  garlic clove, minced
    pinch  kosher salt
    1 teaspoon of grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, toasted
  1. In a bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients together:  2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic, mustard, salt, orange zest, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, Worchestershire and cumin seeds.  Rub all over both sides of the chicken thighs and marinade in a large non reactive dish in the fridge for at least an hour or up to overnight.
  2. Toss the sweet potatoes with the shallot, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 clove of garlic and the hot pepper flakes and reserve until ready to cook the chicken.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F when the chicken is ready to cook.  Arrange the chicken on a sheet pan and toss the sweet potatoes and shallots around it.  Roast on the bottom rack for about 30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are done.  To brown the chicken I set the sheet pan under broil for 3 minutes.  You may omit this step if your chicken has nice color.  Mine did not.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, make the vinaigrette.  In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt and mustard.
  5. Assembly:  Arrange the chicken on a bed of spinach spread across a shallow serving platter.  Place the sweet potatoes/shallots around the chicken.  If you have any cooking juices, add them to the vinaigrette.  Pour the vinaigrette over the whole dish.  Toss the orange pieces around the sweet potatoes.  Sprinkle with the toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

You can read Melissa Clark’s original NYTimes recipe here.