Sheet pan meals are fun to make, because they are full of surprises. They often combine foods in unusual ways, and create unusual flavors as a result.
The Week 7 meal for Cooking Club did both of those things, and it was a surprise hit as a result. The recipe for Curried Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives featured foods that were not familiar to our young chefs, particularly the apricots and olives. They wanted to taste them as soon they came out of their packages and were surprised at how different they were — the apricots were sweet while the olives were salty. They wondered how they would taste together, and they soon would find out.
The sheet pan meal required a lot of preparation, but it wasn’t all chopping as some of our earlier meals had been. There was a lot of mixing as well.
To start, Joel Rodriguez and Joshlynn Hill found the curry powder, cayenne pepper, paprika and cinnamon in our spice pack and mixed them into a marinade with red wine vinegar and olive oil. After cutting the boneless chicken thighs in half, the three chefs then took turns “mushing” the chicken with the marinade to make sure it fully absorbed the flavors.
Meanwhile, Mayalee Ramos, Jomarys Vega Santos, Angela Darden and Madeline Rookwood worked with Ms. Linda to create our first dessert — Blackberry and Strawberry Crisp Bars. The bars had originally been planned as rhubarb bars, but it was too early to get the tangy spring vegetable in the supermarket, so our class improvised. To provide tang for the sweet strawberries, our chefs substituted the blackberries, slicing them all together to mix their juices.
For the base of the fruit bars, the dessert team carefully measured the dry ingredients, mixed them with applesauce and brown sugar and smoothed the mixture across the bottom of a sheet pan. Then they sprinkled the fruit over the top and popped the concoction in the oven. When the fruit bars came out, the class was thrilled to see how colorful they looked as Mayalee arranged them on a large white plate — and how wonderful they smelled.
While the bars cooled, the chicken cooked an extra few minutes, until it was perfectly brown and moist. It looked great when Jomarys artfully arranged it on our handsome white platter and spread the apricots, olives and cauliflower over the top. Jomarys then joined Mayalee in a proud parade marching the platters to the table.
No one was sure how the meal was going to taste, but everyone agreed it smelled great. It tasted as good as it smelled. “This is sooo good,” Mayalee said after trying the chicken. “I want to take some for my family,” Angela added.
As for the fruit bars? The reviews didn’t need words. Everyone gave them a thumbs up, and everyone took seconds.