sheet pan chicken curry

sheet pan chicken curry

Of all the apartment ovens I've had in the last ten-plus years, my current one is nearly the smallest, but also my favorite. However, it's literally one millimeter away from being the bane of my existence. A few weeks after we moved to Hong Kong, I visited the restaurant supply shops on Shanghai Street with my carefully recorded oven measurements, holding my paper Ikea ruler up to dozens of pans to find one that would work. Maybe I was being a little ridiculous, but here's the thing: when it comes to fitting a large metal sheet inside a small metal box, there's no room for error. It's not like a duvet cover that's slightly too long, or a console that juts a quarter inch above the window line. If a sheet pan doesn't fit, it's not going to fit, and there's no amount of wishful thinking that will make it work.

So finally, I found a very standard-looking 18x13-inch pan that measured up almost perfectly. It was just a hair too wide, but I reassured myself that my measurements were probably on the conservative side, and I went for it. I mean, I know, it's only like $8US, but I absolutely hate buying stuff I don't need, and I hate wishful thinking even more, so this was a big exception. I ran home and immediately held the sheet pan up to the oven for the moment of truth, and—guys—it FIT! Kind of! The pan brushes the sides on its way in, and it has to be jiggled back and forth on its way out after it's (otherwise imperceptibly) warped from the heat. But I appreciate efficiency, so this makes me weirdly happy.

sheet pan chicken curry

Anyway, that's all just to say that as long as you have an oven that will fit one, you should absolutely own an 18x13-inch sheet pan. It's easily one of my top three favorite kitchen tools because it's incredibly versatile, durable, inexpensive, and it easily transitions from oven to tableware. But perhaps best of all, it makes dinner so unbelievably easy and delicious. You just throw everything together, roast it at a high temperature (between 400 and 500° F), and dinner is on the table in no time. But while it really is that easy, you do need to know a couple simple tricks to make your sheet pan dinner extra delicious.

sheet pan chicken curry
sheet pan chicken curry

How to make the best sheet pan dinners

1) Make sure you spread everything out into one even layer before it goes in the oven, and make sure the pan isn't too crowded. My sheet pan recipes are all formulated for 18x13-inch pans, so if you double the recipe, make sure you use two sheet pans or work in batches. One layer ensures that everything cooks through evenly, and that you get really nice caramelization across the whole thing.

2) It's important to cut all the components to the proper size. However, this doesn't simply mean that everything should be cut to the exact same size. Certain ingredients will take longer to cook than others, and everything has to stay in the oven for the same amount of time, so if you cut everything into the same size, some things will overcook by the time others are done. There are a few wonderfully forgiving ingredients, which are done pretty much whenever you want them to be done (like onions, and to some extent carrots and tomatoes), but certain ingredients (like chicken breast and potatoes) are best during a relatively narrow window of doneness.

So be sure to cut longer-cooking items into smaller pieces and faster-cooking items into bigger pieces. For instance, if you were to cut the potatoes and chicken to the exact same size, the potatoes will still be a little crunchy in the middle by the time the chicken is cooked through. But if you cut the potatoes smaller than the chicken, everything will finish cooking at the same moment and dinner will be particularly delicious.

3) Don't just sprinkle on the spices and drizzle on the oil. Instead, I like to mix the spices, salt, and oil together, and then use my hands to make sure everything is evenly coated. This leads to beautifully tempered spices, and evenly browned meat and veggies.

sheet pan chicken curry

sheet pan chicken curry

yield: 4 to 6 servings
active time: 10 minutes
total time: 40 minutes
this recipe is based on my grandmother's
chicken curry
download a PDF to print

  • 1 to 1 1/4 lbs chicken breast, cut into large chunks

  • Salt

  • 1/2 of 1 onion, sliced thinly

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes

  • 1 pound potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks

  • 2 or 3 carrots (1/2 pound), cut into bite-sized chunks

  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

  • Crushed red pepper, to taste (between a pinch and 3/4 teaspoon)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

  • Rice, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 500° F.

  2. Season the chicken with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt and chill it for at least 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.* The chicken chunks should be about twice the size of the potato chunks (see photos).

  3. Place the chicken, onion, tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots in the center of a sheet pan.

  4. Combine the oil, salt (I use 3/4 teaspoon), curry powder, and crushed red pepper, and drizzle over the chicken and veggies. Mix everything together until it's very evenly coated, and then spread everything out into a single layer.

  5. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes (open the door after 10 minutes to check on it and let some steam out. It's ready once the potatoes and chicken are cooked through, and the top has some charred and caramelized spots. Keep an eye on it while it cooks to make sure it's not burning). Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice.

* This dry-brine step prevents the chicken from drying out while it cooks (don't skip it!).

sheet pan chicken curry

mujadara-style lentil tacos

mujadara tacos

It seems like just about every time I read up on the history of a Middle Eastern fruit or veggie, it turns out to have originated in China. So it's no surprise that most of the fruits and veggies that I need for cooking and blogging about Assyrian food are much easier (and cheaper!) to find here in Hong Kong than they are in the US. In fact, there are certain things that my grandparents grew up eating, which I never even tasted until this year—like mulberries! I can't get enough mulberries.

But while it's hard to go to a wet market and miss the giant mountains of koosa (for instance), some Middle Eastern ingredients require a little more digging. Like, I still haven't been able to find parsley in tabbouleh-level quantities for a reasonable price—each teeny tiny little pouch in the British supermarket is $3US, and it's finally almost no longer emotionally painful to shell out that much for something I'm used to buying by the bundle for $1. And while most pantry items are somewhere out there, they're not available everywhere, and almost always outrageously priced, and usually not the exact brand or variety I prefer. So whenever I come back from the US, I make a trip to my favorite Middle Eastern market, and then pack my suitcase full of tahini, pomegranate molasses, extra-fine bulgur, and all the other things I'd miss.

mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos

Most people I know here with ties to elsewhere are similarly obsessed with tracking down their favorite ingredients, which brings me to this post. My friend Mina ordered these amazing corn tortillas from LA and was kind enough to share them, so I immediately stashed them away in the freezer before enjoying them, because I knew I was going to have to come up with something delicious to really appreciate this little miracle. Then, a few weeks later, when I suddenly had a craving for something I've never had before, I immediately sprinted the four paces from the sofa to our shoebox-sized freezer (but like, knee high boot shoebox-sized), threw the tortillas in the fridge, and anxiously awaited these mujadara-style tacos.

Mujadara is a Middle Eastern lentils and rice dish, but it's really more like lentils and rice and caramelized onions. Thinly sliced onions quietly sizzle and sweat until they finally turn golden-brown, and not just a little charred on the outside, but deeply browned all the way through to their centers. Some cooks even fry a few of of the onions until they get nice and crispy (an opportunity for extra flavor and texture I'd never pass up). The caramelized onions bring so much texture and flavor to the lentils and rice. And, it turns out, they're very delicious in taco form.

mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos

More mujadara inspiration

I looked around and found even more mujadara inspiration for you guys. I'm definitely not the first to figure out that these two are a match made in heaven, and there's so much good mujadara/taco-related content
out there. Hope you enjoy!

Zena n Za'atar's Mediterranean lentil, caramelized onion, and cauliflower tacos
Dolly and Oatmeal's springy mujadara tacos with pea tendrils and leeks
Eats Well with Others' mujadara burritos
Maureen Abood's mujadara topped with an egg
Molly Wizenberg's pared down mujadara
Sarah Jampel's sheet pan mujadara

mujadara style tacos
mujadara style tacos

mujadara-style lentil tacos

download a PDF to print
see also
mujadara, mujadara french onion soup, and my mom’s lentils and rice

caramelized onions

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced onions (from about 2 large or 3 medium onions)

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

  1. Heat a wide pot (like a large dutch oven) over medium or medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Once the pan is hot, add the oil, followed by the sliced onions and salt. Stir to coat, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan every 2 or 3 minutes.* They should be loudly sizzling and turning a little bit golden, but not browning or burning on the bottom.

  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low or medium, and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring and scraping once every 5 minutes or so. They should still be audibly sizzling, but more quietly than before.

  3. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 40 to 60 minutes, stirring and scraping about every 10 minutes. You should still be able to hear a faint whisper of sizzling.

  4. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring and scraping constantly for 5 to 10 more minutes. The onions are done once they have significantly deepened in color.

  5. Split the caramelized onions into 1/3 and 2/3 (2/3 for frying, 1/3 for the lentils).

fried onions

  • 1 cup olive oil (plain, not extra virgin; or use another neutral-flavored oil)

  • 2/3 of the caramelized onions

  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers (about 4 minutes). Carefully add a scoop or two of the caramelized onions and use tongs to spread them out into a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

  2. Cook for about 5 minutes until crispy-chewy and deeply golden brown. Before they burn or become too brittle (perhaps with your stove, sooner than 5 minutes), remove them with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate, and add a couple more scoops of the onions to the pan, working in batches until they're all done. Discard the remaining oil.

lentils

  • 8 ounces brown or green lentils (from half a 1-pound bag)

  • Salted water for simmering

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baharat *

  • The other 1/3 of the caramelized onions (the ones you didn't fry)

  • More salt to taste

  1. Bring a stockpot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once it's boiling, add the lentils, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook them until they're tender (but don't let them get mushy!). Different varieties of lentils will take different times to cook, but start testing after about 15 minutes.

  2. Once they're done, strain the lentils and rinse them really well under running water. Also rinse out the pot you cooked them in.

  3. Return the pot to medium heat and heat the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add the rinsed lentils and the remaining caramelized onions (the non-crunchy ones), increase the heat to medium-high, and cook stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, just to meld the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

yogurt sauce (jajik)

  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press

  • A few grinds black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, garlic, black pepper, cilantro, olive oil, and salt.

toppings and assembly

  • Corn tortillas, warmed in the microwave or oven until soft

  • Cilantro leaves removed from their stems

  • Radishes, sliced thinly

  • Chopped tomatoes

Spoon a bit of the lentils onto a tortilla, followed by the yogurt sauce, radishes, tomatoes, cilantro, and crispy fried onions. Enjoy assembled tacos immediately (leftover individual ingredients will keep in the refrigerator for several days).

* If you don't have a baharat blend and don't feel like making one, feel free to just use the following ground spices: 3/4 teaspoon cumin, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon coriander.

mujadara style tacos