Of all the edible heralds of spring, rhubarb may be the rosiest — and the most sour. After a cold, gray Northeastern winter, piles of the lipstick-red stalks at the farmers’ market practically glow, tempting even ambivalent cooks to scoop them right up.
So what, if in their natural state, the stalks are astringent enough to make you wince? With minimal effort (and usually, a lot of sugar), rhubarb’s fierceness can be coaxed into a purr.
This recipe, however, leans into rhubarb’s savory side, tempering its cranky acidity with a little bit of honey and a good dose of schmaltz, courtesy of roasting chicken. The whole dish is sheet pan-simple, yet completely unlike most other roast chicken recipes, pinker, tangier and more complex.
For the prettiest color, reach for the reddest rhubarb stalks you can find. This won’t matter one bit in terms of flavor — green rhubarb is not inherently less tasty than red — but it does make the dish a lot more vivid.
To that same sheet pan, I added red onions, which everyone knows are really purple. They collapse into violet heaps among the nuggets of rhubarb and golden-skinned chicken, lending sweetness as well as depth.
As usual when I’m in the kitchen, I opted for dark meat, a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks. I always prefer bone-in chicken because the bones give the meat a richer flavor when the marrow seeps out while roasting. But even more to the point, I like to gnaw on the cartilage and nibble the skin, both impossible with boneless, skinless pieces.
If you prefer white meat, you can also substitute bone-in, skin-on breasts. Just start checking them 10 minutes earlier since white meat takes less time to cook than dark meat.
After pulling the sheet pan from the oven, give everything a big stir to incorporate the browned bits and chicken juices stuck to the pan. To me, this is the tastiest part of any sheet-pan chicken recipe, and especially here, seasoned with honey-roasted rhubarb, thyme and a little coriander.
Then, before serving, make sure to sample a piece of rhubarb. If you pucker and squint, drizzle everything with a bit more honey.
I like to serve this with a crackly baguette and maybe some steamed and buttered asparagus on the side. After all, springtime stalks taste better in pairs.