This One Ingredient Instantly Upgrades Chicken and Potatoes

published Sep 12, 2022
Pomegranate Molasses-Roasted Skillet Chicken Recipe

Thick, tart pomegranate molasses makes an excellent foil for succulent chicken legs and crispy potatoes in this oven-roasted skillet dinner.

Serves4

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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pomegranate-molasses chicken in a large skillet
Credit: Photo: Chris SImpson; Food Styling; Jessie YuChen

In my family, it’s not Rosh Hashanah without a chicken dish. When I was growing up, we celebrated the Jewish new year at my grandparents’ house, and the chicken in question was typically roasted simply, often with potatoes. And of course there was always plenty of challah on the table waiting to be slathered in honey.

That honey (always bordering on too much for the slice of bread — but hey, we want a sweet new year, don’t we?) would drip off my challah and onto the rest of my plate. When I think about how much I loved when the sticky-sweet syrup mingled with rich, salty chicken and creamy potatoes, I wonder why this was merely an outcome from the dinner plate, rather than intentional. Well, now that I’m cooking for Rosh Hashanah, it is — with a few updates to suit my palate and budget, of course. That means instead of a whole bird, it’s chicken leg quarters; and instead of honey, it’s pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate is an important image in the Jewish faith and culture, from etchings on ancient coins and Torah scrolls to mentions in the Talmud and biblical passages. One legend says that each fruit has 613 seeds, which was mirrored by the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah; another blessing expresses hope for people to be as full of mitzvot as pomegranates are full of seeds. The fruit remains particularly significant during the Jewish new year (where sweets reign as a sign of positive comings) — especially on the second night of the festivities, where a prayer is said over a “new,” or newly in season, fruit. Personally, I like to move beyond the symbolic and incorporate the fruit directly into my meal. 

Credit: Photo: Chris SImpson; Food Styling; Jessie YuChen

In savory applications, I like to embrace thick, tart pomegranate molasses. Unlike other more viscous, cloying styles of molasses, the pomegranate version (just reduced pomegranate juice) has a consistency and flavor more akin to tart balsamic vinegar than saccharine honey. The tangy-sweet condiment can be used anywhere from a dressing for roasted vegetables to a kebab marinade to a cocktail addition. And I happen to think it makes a delightful foil to rich chicken fat and starchy potatoes. 

In this recipe, I render out as much fat as possible from whole chicken legs by starting them in a cold skillet. (With more edible meat per pound than a whole bird and plenty of flavorful dark meat, the chicken leg quarters check all the boxes when it comes to affordability and flavor.) I whisk together the rendered schmaltz with pomegranate molasses, then use it to baste the seared legs, nestled into the skillet with tiny potatoes, red onions, and fresh oregano. A sprinkle of mild chile flakes and I’ll finish cooking the chicken by tossing the whole skillet into the oven. The dish can stand on its own as a meal, but I’ll never say no to a crunchy green salad — or thick slice of challah for mopping up the sweet-savory pan juices. 

Pomegranate Molasses-Roasted Skillet Chicken Recipe

Thick, tart pomegranate molasses makes an excellent foil for succulent chicken legs and crispy potatoes in this oven-roasted skillet dinner.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    whole chicken legs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 5 large cloves

    garlic

  • 2

    medium red or yellow onions

  • 1 pound

    small creamer potatoes, preferably about 1-inch wide

  • 1/3 cup

    pomegranate molasses

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more as needed

  • 5 sprigs

    fresh oregano, thyme, or marjoram, plus more for serving

  • 1 teaspoon

    mild chile flakes, such as Aleppo pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes) (optional)

  • Flaky salt, for serving

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF. Place 4 whole chicken legs in a cold 12-inch or larger cast-iron skillet and season all over with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Arrange skin-side down in a single layer—it’s OK if they’re snug, but they shouldn’t overlap.

  2. Cook undisturbed over medium heat, rotating the skillet occasionally (not the chicken) and pressing down on the chicken as needed to ensure even cooking, until lots of fat is rendered and the chicken skin easily releases from the skillet and is deeply golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

  3. Meanwhile, smash and peel 5 large garlic cloves. Peel and halve 2 medium red or yellow onions through the root end, then quarter each half. Halve 1 pound small creamer potatoes.

  4. Transfer the chicken skin-side up to a large plate or baking sheet, leaving the fat in the pan. Pour the fat into a heat-proof liquid measuring cup and add enough olive oil as needed until you have 1/4 cup. Add 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses and a pinch of kosher salt to the fat and whisk to combine.

  5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high in the now-empty skillet (no need to wipe out) until shimmering. Add the garlic, onions, potatoes, and 5 fresh oregano sprigs. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing often, until charred in spots and slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

  6. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer cut-side down so they are sitting on the bottom of the pan (the onions can be on top). Return the chicken legs to the pan, placing them on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with the reserved pomegranate molasses mixture, letting the excess drip onto the potato mixture. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon mild chile flakes or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes if desired.

  7. Return the skillet to the oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the thickest part not touching bone registers at least 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool slightly, then sprinkle with flaky salt and more fresh oregano. Serve the chicken and potato mixture with the pan juices spooned over.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The dish can be made up to 2 hours in advance, then reheated in a warm oven.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or a 350ºF oven until warm through.