chicken tray bake
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Chicken breast and vegetable tray bake with oriental flavours. You can call it a tray bake, a sheet-pan dinner or dump-and-go – either way it’s an impressive easy and tasty chicken dinner.
Whatever you say about chicken (boring, bland, meh), it’s easy to cook. There’s no worry, like with beef, that you’ll overcook it because it’s good until seriously burnt. It’s not like pork: a fine line between cooked through and dry; chicken will be dry anyway. No dilemmas of ‘whole or fillets?’ like with fish, and it’s so, so much cheaper than lamb. Also, at the end of the day, roast chicken is everybody’s favourite dinner, especially the death row inmates.
I am always torn between the ease and the blandness, plus I am forever cooking the most basic bits, chicken breasts, as that is what The Weather Man favours (I’m the non-fussy half of the dining couple). Creamy chicken, fried chicken, flattened chicken and cheesy chicken – I’ve tried it all. I’ve got to give it to the bird – it’s pretty versatile. Like a blank canvas – no wonder we always say about new meats we try that they taste like chicken.
This dish was originally going to be sautéed chicken with a kind of ratatouille on the side until it occurred to me that I could use half as many dishes, make a third of the effort and get the same result – a chicken dinner. But actually it turned out to be quite an outstanding chicken dinner.
I marinated the chicken pieces borrowing from the Chinese velveting method: corn flour based marinade which coats the meat in a velvety film to stop it from going dry. It works very well without the need to sear the meat in a pan before baking it – see what I meant about the dishes used? Chicken being chicken takes about as much time to cook as the vegetables need and it’s all ready at the same time – that’s the less effort I mentioned.
The flavour of the marinade can vary each time you make it, it’s the beauty of dishes like this, but the sweet-salty-spicy combo never lets anyone down. Your choice of vegetables may be different, but I wouldn’t throw in potatoes – they need more space and time to become roasties. And consider it for the next dinner with friends (or kitchen supper as these things are now supposed to be called) – it’s pretty impressive without much effort. You can dish it out with some slightly zinged up rice, couscous or cheesy mash.
chicken tray bakeServings: 2Time: 1 hour plus marinating
- 2 large chicken breast fillets, about 200g (6oz) each (or boneless thighs)
- For the marinade:
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 3 tsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp sake or dry sherry
- 4 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 green chilli (medium strength) finely chopped
- For the vegetables:
- 1 large red pepper
- 2-3 medium courgettes
- 100g (3 oz.) chestnut or cup mushrooms
- ½ cauliflower, divided into small florets
- 1 onion
- salt and black pepper
- 2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1. Skin the chicken fillets and cut them into bite-sized or slightly bigger chunks. Place all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and stir together; add the chicken pieces and toss them in the marinade, massaging it into the meat using your hands. Chill for an hour or overnight.
2. Core the pepper, top and tail the courgettes and chop everything into pieces similar size as the chicken. Place in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.
3. About half an hour before cooking toss the chicken, marinade and all, with the vegetables. Leave at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
4. Spread the chicken and vegetables in a single layer in a large baking tray. Transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning it over once halfway through.
5. Let the dish stand for a couple of minutes before serving.