Before an arctic blast killed my fig tree, I ate only the figs plucked in season from my Brooklyn backyard.
I never got that many, so I’d nibble each precious fruit as it ripened, preferably still hot from the sun, bursting with sweet pulp and crunchy seeds.
Now I buy my figs at the supermarket. And because they have ceased to be part of some imagined Mediterranean idyll, I’ve actually been cooking with them more than ever.
The intense syrupiness of the figs is especially apropos for Rosh Hashana . Traditionally, Jews serve sweet dishes, for a sweet new year.
I’ve sautéed them, grilled them, poached them. But my favorite is roasting. Roasted figs have a condensed, caramelized sweetness. Even mediocre figs turn into glistening, jammy puddles after a brief stint in a very hot oven.
In this recipe, I pair the soft roasted fruit with crisp-skinned chicken to make a slightly fancy and exceedingly easy sheet-pan supper.
Figs are what make it fancy. Cooking everything at once on sheet pans makes it easy. It’s become my new favorite dish for early autumn entertaining, especially as Rosh Hashana rolls around.
The intense syrupiness of the figs is especially apropos for the holiday. Traditionally, Jews serve sweet dishes, for a sweet new year. Apples dipped in honey are the classic way to go. A platter of roasted chicken and figs makes a fitting main course.
Before roasting, I like to marinate the chicken with citrus rind and rosemary to increase the savoriness of the dish. Thinly sliced chilies aid the cause, providing a welcome bite. If you’re worried about upsetting small children and other chili-avoiders, you can leave out the chilies, or add them to just one of the two sheet pans. But they do mellow as they roast, so even the most mouth-burning serrano won’t be the scorcher that it was.
Cooking everything at once on sheet pans makes it easy.
The recipe calls for bone-in chicken parts, and you can use any type you like, or a whole cut-up chicken. If you do use a combination of white and dark meat, arrange them on separate pans so you can pull each one from the oven as it finishes. White meat cooks more quickly than dark.
Then when fig season ends, you can try this dish with other soft, juicy fruit like grapes or plums. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to pick them from your arbor or orchard. But rest assured that you can work wonders with supermarket finds.
Roasted Chicken with Figs and Rosemary
Total time: 1 hour, plus 2 hours’ marinating. Servings: 6.
4 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken parts
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
2 rosemary sprigs, needles removed from stems (discard the stems)
2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or finely minced
1/2teaspoon finely grated orange or lemon zest, plus optional orange or lemon wedges for serving
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ripe figs, stemmed and quartered lengthwise
1 to 2 jalapeño or red chili peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1. In a large bowl, toss chicken with salt, rosemary, garlic, citrus zest and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight (the longer the better).
2. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Spread chicken pieces out on two rimmed baking sheets, making sure there is plenty of room between the pieces. Arrange figs among the chicken pieces, then scatter jalapeño slices on top. Drizzle everything generously with olive oil.
3. Roast, switching the position of the baking pans after 15 minutes so everything browns evenly, until the chicken is golden and cooked through. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes for the breast meat, and 30 to 40 for the dark meat. Serve chicken with the orange or lemon wedges for squeezing, if you like.