I’m always looking for new ingredients or combinations of flavors to reimagine weeknight dinners. Especially when it comes to sheet-pan dinners, one of my favorite paths from kitchen to table this time of year. I’m often allured by speciality or buzzed-about ingredients (and I certainly have a fridge and pantry full of things like miso, tahini, 'nduja, and harissa at the ready). But sometimes, that one ingredient to elevate and invigorate a dish is hiding in plain sight.
In this case of this sheet-pan chicken dinner, it’s red seedless grapes — you know, the prosaic table variety available all-year round in supermarkets everywhere. You may have a bag in the fridge right now!
Red seedless grapes aren’t exactly the type of fruit to wax poetic about (I’ll save that for spring’s strawberries, summer’s stone fruit, or even fall’s Concord grapes), but they’re reliable, consistent, and relatively inexpensive. I throw a bag in my shopping cart pretty much every time I’m at the grocery store. Besides being a stalwart snack for my kids, I add them to salads to lend juicy freshness (à la the classic Waldorf). Or if I’m looking for a simple, off-the-beaten-path appetizer to pair with meat and cheese, I’ll pickle them with heady, fragrant spices.
But roasting this fruit is, by far, my favorite treatment. Grapes become all kinds of magical when they’re exposed to heat: Their skins slouch and caramelize, their middles get jammy and concentrated, and their sweetness intensifies. Basically, they become complex, intriguing versions of their former selves.
Red grapes are my personal favorite for roasting because of their natural sweetness (meaning deeper, richer caramelization in the oven) but any variety of seedless grapes, from green to black, responds favorably to high-heat roasting.
I learned about the wonders of roasted grapes from the community on this very site. Recipes like this Simple Roasted Grape Chicken, Roasted Fennel and Grapes, and Grape, Almond, and Olive Oil Cake made me a roasted grape convert, and ideas like these Crostini with Roasted Grapes only heightened my affection. They're no less delicious when grilled or broiled in clusters, still on the stem, which I like to do alongside grilled meat, like this Go-To Grilled Chicken. Several times over the last few months, I’ve made this bewitching Burrata with Grilled Grapes & Basil from Ottolenghi’s Simple as an appetizer for casual gatherings.
So I’m not sure why it took me so long to invite grapes to the sheet pan for a simple weeknight-friendly dinner full of flavor and verve.
Inspired by the Curried Chicken, Grape & Cheddar Salad that I created for Food52's "Mighty Salads," I decided to pair grapes with curry-rubbed chicken thighs — the rub a simple, spunky mix of olive oil, curry powder, and yogurt. Cauliflower also seemed a natural pairing, given its affinity for spicy curry and sweet, jammy fruit.
From there, I borrowed a tried-and-true technique from this sheet-pan chicken: I staggered the entry of ingredients by roasting the chicken thighs solo for about 15 minutes, then nestling the grapes and cauliflower around the chicken. Just 20 minutes later, the chicken emerged from the oven burnished and richly flavored, the cauliflower tender and crispy-edged, and the grapes gloriously sticky and sweet.
The combination was compelling, especially with a smattering of bright green herbs and salted, creamy yogurt on the side.
It was one of those almost obvious, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that dinners that I immediately put into my weeknight rotation. And while I constantly riff and improvise when I cook, I wouldn't even think of making this sheet-pan dinner without the red grapes. They’re the dish-making ingredient.
Sheet pan curried chicken with cauliflower and grapes
Serves: 4 to 6
For chicken and curry rub:
6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 2.5 pounds total)
2 tablespoons full-fat yogurt (either regular or Greek)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons curry powder (salt-free), such as madras or maharajah
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For rest of sheet pan and yogurt sauce:
1 teaspoon curry powder (salt-free), such as madras or maharajah
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for yogurt sauce
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup red or black seedless grapes, left whole if small, or halved if large
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup full-fat yogurt (regular or Greek)
1 large lemon
A few big handfuls of roughly chopped cilantro, parsley, or dill
Click here to read the full recipe.