My childhood memories of Chinese soy sauce chicken revolve around my mom trekking to a deli in San Francisco Chinatown with me toddling by her side. There, she’d carefully point to a plump one hanging in the window, which would get chopped ferociously with a cleaver into manageable pieces, and wrapped up in a takeout box for our dinner that night.
At home, I’d help plug in the rice cooker for fresh steamed white rice, while my mom stir-fried some asparagus, bok choy or gai lan from the fridge. It was the makings for a quick, simple, and satisfying weeknight family meal.
Pineapple was not something she’d necessarily think to pair with it. But thankfully, food writer Cathy Erway, whose mother hails from pineapple-growing Taiwan, had that light-bulb moment. Because like Tom Cruise to Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” pineapple completes soy sauce chicken.
The fresh juicy chunks add sweetness and tropical bright acidity, providing another level of flavor to the soy-caramelized chicken. After all, who among us doesn’t zero in on the pineapple pieces in a dish of sweet and sour pork, right? Best yet, Erway makes this complete dish in a sheet pan in the oven for utmost convenience.
“Mom’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy” is from her new cookbook, “Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner” (Ten Speed Press). Erway, a Brooklyn-based James Beard Award-winning writer, has created 50 recipes for everyone’s favorite protein using the “it” method of laying it all on a sheet pan, sliding it into the oven, and forgetting about it until the timer goes off.
Because “Honey-Mustard Sheet-Pan Chicken with Brussels Sprouts” is so easy to make. It’s one of those recipes that requires little exertion mentally or physically. It’s effortless enough to make on a weeknight. And it uses many ingredients that you probably routinely have on hand.
The book showcases 115 recipes that especially speak to young families like hers who are time-pressed to get food on the table for kids and spouses. These are dishes that are simple enough to make day in and day out, such as “Cinnamon Streusel French Toast,” “Sweet Potato Fries with Magic Green Tahini Sauce, ” “Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps,” and “Chocolate-Mint Whoopie Pies.” There’s even a chapter on easy entertaining with recipes to feed a crowd, including “Loaded Nachos Bar” and “Weekend Waffle Bar.”
Sheet-pan entrees are all the rage now in this time-pressed era because everything cooks in one baking pan, making prep and clean-up a breeze. I took that one step further: The recipe says to spray nonstick baking spray on a large baking sheet. Instead, I lined my baking tray with aluminum foil, then sprayed the foil with nonstick spray. That way, only the foil gets dirty, not the pan.