While many recipes for Rosh Hashanah and the chagim call for sweet sauces and marinades, I enjoy a good sweet-and-sour option on the holiday table.
Pomegranate syrup is a perfect base for such a dish because it’s flavorful and tart and is also a seasonal favorite for the holiday. The syrup is fragrant when cooked and faintly exotic when mixed with honey, fresh ginger and garlic, but it’s not so overpowering that it will scare off people who are used to simpler food. You can use regular honey or silan, which is a date honey, for this recipe, too. The flavors meld together beautifully without overpowering each other.
This recipe is great when you are pressed for time before the holidays because it tastes beautiful and can be prepared quickly. This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, so this easy-to-make dish is a wonderful thing to have at your fingertips. It takes about 20 minutes on the stove followed by 15-20 minutes in the oven.
You can make this a day ahead and warm it before serving, but it’s simple to make for a fresh second night or daytime meal. The marinade reduces to make a beautiful sauce to ladle over each piece of chicken when plating.
3 pounds dark meat chicken, bone-in. You can use drumsticks, thighs, quarters or any combination
Coarse kosher salt to season
For the marinade:
½ cup pomegranate syrup (concentrate, not juice)
⅓ cup honey or silan (date syrup)
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons fresh grated ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking and garnish:
¼ cup avocado or vegetable oil for browning the chicken
Pomegranate arils for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle the raw chicken with kosher salt on both sides.
Mix the pomegranate syrup, honey, pepper, ginger, garlic and olive oil in a large bowl with a whisk, then add the chicken to the marinade. Use a fork to turn the pieces of chicken so that they are well coated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 6 hours. When I have the time, I marinate the chicken overnight, cook it in the morning and rewarm it before the meal. Be sure to turn the chicken over in the marinade a few times right before you cook it.
Preheat your oven to 350 F with the wire rack in the middle.
Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add ¼ cup of oil to the pan to heat. Reserve the marinade.
Use tongs or a fork to add the chicken, top side down, to the hot pan and brown it for 10 minutes. You should hear a sizzle when you add the chicken to the pan, but if the oil seems too hot, reduce the heat to medium.
If you’re using chicken quarters, you may need to brown the chicken for a few extra minutes since they are larger pieces. Turn the chicken and brown the bottom for 5 more minutes.
Add the marinade to the pan and allow it to come to a soft boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook the chicken in the marinade for 2-3 minutes. The honey caramelizes beautifully, but be careful not to burn it.
Use tongs to remove the chicken to a baking dish, reduce the heat on the pan and allow the marinade to reduce for 2-3 minutes more, whisking occasionally.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and bake it uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken reaches a minimum temperature of 165 F. I get a little anxious with poultry so I prefer to cook it to 180 F. If you’re making this ahead of time, and will warm it later, take the chicken out when it reaches 165 F. This will ensure that the chicken does not dry out when reheated.
To reheat, cover the dish with foil and warm it for 20 minutes or so.
There is a nice amount of reduced sauce for serving, but this is not a “sauce chicken” so don’t leave this in the oven for an hour to warm — it will dry out and the honey in the sauce will burn. I suggest serving this with rice, which collects the beautiful flavor of the sauce nicely.
You can garnish this dish with slivered almonds, scallions or parsley for a little added color and texture. Sprinkle it with pomegranate arils to add a special touch to your holiday table.
Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, happy and abundant year ahead.
Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.