Sheet Pan Supper: Gochujang Root Vegetables with Chicken Thighs

synchronicity Noun; pron: syn·​chro·​nic·​i·​ty, siŋ-krə-ˈni-sə-tē; plural: synchronicities
1: the quality or fact of being synchronous.
2: the coincidental occurrence of events.

I love it when I'm walking with a friend—in this instance with my neighbor Ann, a professor of Asian art history, a professional soprano and an expert plantswoman—and we're talking, as we often do, about a favorite recipe. In this case, it was a sheet pan supper she'd made recently and, as we rambled behind our dogs through the neighborhood, I realized I had all the main ingredients in my fridge to make it that night.

Synchronicity, indeed!

When I arrived home I looked up the recipe online and found it was by New York Times writer Yewande Komolafe, who wrote "this recipe calls for a wintry mix of squash and turnips, but equal amounts of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and beets, or lighter vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts or broccoli will work well, too."

I treasure this homemade gochujang recipe.

I had two very large garnet yams and two medium-sized rutabagas on hand, so I had roots aplenty, plus some carrots I'd just pulled from my neighbor Bill's garden earlier that day. The rutabagas still had their hefty leaves attached, so I chopped those up into bite-sized pieces, too, and threw them in with the rest of the vegetables.

Of course I had the exceptional gochujang I'd made from my friend Denise's family recipe, and I tweaked the NYT recipe by adding several cloves of garlic, a spoonful of locally made Jorinji miso and a couple of glugs of fish sauce to the sauce, plus a splash of fish sauce in the salad dressing.

The real genius of this recipe—thank you, Ms. Komolafe, I'll now be doing this with other dishes—is topping the roasted vegetables with a salad of lightly pickled radishes and scallion greens just before serving. I lucked out there, too, by pulling from my veg bin a gorgeous black radish from that selfsame CSA share.

If you have all the ingredients on hand, so much the better, but this is worth shopping for, too, and comes together in about an hour, most of which is roasting time

Gochujang Roasted Root Vegetables and Chicken Thighs

For the roasted vegetables and chicken:
3 Tbsp. gochujang*
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
1 Tbsp. white miso
4 large cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. garnet yams and rutabaga chopped into 1-inch pieces, about 5 loose cups (see above to substitute other vegetables)
10 scallions, roots trimmed, green and white/light green parts separated, sliced into 3" lengths
Kosher salt
3-4 good-sized, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the salad:
1 bunch radishes, about 10 oz., or 1 med. large black radish, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. fish sauce

Heat the oven to 425°.

Combine the gochujang, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, ginger, pressed garlic and vegetable oil in a zip-lock bag. Add the yams, rutabagas and scallion whites (reserving the darker greens for the salad), and shake to coat with sauce. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt and toss to coat in whatever is left of the glaze in the bag. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up between the vegetables on the sheet. Roast until vegetables are tender, chicken is cooked through and the skin crispy and browned in spots, about 40 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, thinly chiffonade the scallion greens crosswise. Cut the radishes into thin rounds. If using a black radish, cut into approx. 1" sticks and slice thinly crosswise (do not peel—that black skin is very dramatic). In a small bowl, toss the sliced scallion greens and radishes with the rice vinegar, sesame oil and fish sauce. Season to taste with salt and set aside to lightly pickle, stirring occasionally to distribute dressing evenly.

When chicken and vegetables are done, remove the chicken to a plate and transfer vegetables to a platter. Quickly top vegetables with the drained quick-pickled salad, then place chicken thighs on top.

The recipe suggests serving this with steamed rice, but to me, root vegetables are generally fairly starchy, so I didn't feel it needed the rice.

* If you don't want to make your own gochujang, I've found Mother-in-Law's is a decent brand, but won't have nearly the depth of flavor you'll get from homemade.

Turnip Revelation: Discoveries Come Free with a CSA Subscription

Two Recipes That Got Me Further Down the Root Road.

Root vegetables make me uncomfortable. There. I said it.

As a writer who covers our local food system, the farmers, ranchers and fisherfolk who do the hard work of bringing food to our tables, not to mention the incredible bounty of vegetables, meats, fish and edible delights within that system, you'd think nothing would be able to stump me. Well, I'm here to tell you that many root vegetables have been in a Pandora's box that I'd just as soon have kept shut.

Turnips can be white, pinkish or purple-topped. All are delicious!

Not that I would put them on my "never put this in your mouth" list or that I find them, to put it in toddler terms, "yucky"—I've had plenty of stellar meals prepared by excellent cooks featuring everything from celery root to kohlrabi to turnips and their kin. It's just that I wasn't brought up eating or cooking with them in a thoroughly middle-class 1960s American home, with Campbell's soup, frozen (or worse, canned) vegetables and that housewife's dream, Hamburger Helper.

My mother, who worked full time and had three kids and a husband to feed, was a good cook short on time, so convenience foods, available and much-ballyhooed in her "ladies magazines" of the time, made sense in her hectic life. As for me, since starting Good Stuff NW, I've inched my way into the world of root vegetables, sizzling sweet hakurei turnips with their greens in the oven or roasting a melange of roots under a chicken.

Turnip stew with lamb.

But subscribing to a CSA the past couple of years put my root-phobic inclinations to the test, since turnips, celeriac, kohlrabi, rutabagas and beets are par for the course in fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest, challenging my "never toss perfectly good food in the compost" mantra. When I found our food bin half-full of turnips the other day, I had to cave and resort to combing my cookbook collection and consulting the oracle (i.e. the Goog) for ideas.

The following stew and soup would qualify as both belly-warming and delicious, and have taken me just a little further down that rooty road.

Quick and Easy Creamed Turnip Soup

This is a super simple, creamy, incredibly luscious soup for dinner that makes enough for four good-sized appetites (top photo). It also makes a fun appetizer (think gazpacho) served warm in small, clear glass cups. Adapted from Spruce Eats.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 medium to large turnips, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
8 c. chicken broth or vegetable broth, or a combination of half water and half broth
2 c. half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Turnip greens, or parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and leeks, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turnips and broth. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the turnips are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and, using an immersion blender, purée the soup until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. (If you use a regular blender, allow the soup to cool slightly and work in batches, covering the lid of the blender with a kitchen towel to prevent splatter burns.)

After puréeing, return the soup to low heat and add the cream, stirring to combiine, making sure the soup does not boil. (The more cream you add the thicker and more luxurious the soup becomes.) Add salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of cayenne or chopped turnip greens or parsley, if you like. Serve hot. 

Lamb and Turnip Stew

Adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine,

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
 and pepper
1 onion, halved lengthwise and again crosswise into eight pieces

6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

6 Tbsp. flour
1 c. dry white wine
 or rosé
4 c. chicken stock or broth
 of your choice
3 medium-sized turnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2" dice
2 medium carrots, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 c. half-and-half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped turnip leaves, parsley or mint for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook the lamb over medium heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large plate. Add the onions to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to the plate with the meat.  

Remove the pot from the heat and add enough oil or lard to make 6 tablespoons of fat. Whisk in the flour, then return the pot to the heat. Add the wine and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in 2 cups of water along with the stock and whisk until smooth, then add the lamb and onion mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour, adding more water or stock if there isn't enough liquid. (Note: Sopping the gravy with bread is critical!)

Add the turnips, carrots and potatoes to the pot and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream; season with salt and pepper and warm briefly without boiling. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish as desired. Serve with crusty bread.

You can find literally hundreds more recipes for root vegetables and other common CSA offerings at Cook With What You Have, a reference that many local CSA farms offer as a free resource to their subscribers. Have questions about what a CSA is? Get more information about CSAs, and get a list of area CSA farms and what they offer. Also, Portland author Diane Morgan's James Beard Award-winning book Roots is a comprehensive guide to more than 225 recipes for these often-underappreciated vegetables.