This is a deceptively decadent meal. Unassuming chicken thighs turn crisp in the oven, and all their chickeny flavor is concentrated in the cauliflower rice for the ultimate pilaf. Just when it’s all feeling maybe a bit too indulgent and cozy, the cranberry sauce busts onto the scene with a kick of orange and a jab of jalapeño. This is a roast chicken dinner with plenty of attitude.
Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice, about 10 pulses. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, mix the riced cauliflower with the olive oil and salt. Spread it evenly on one of the prepared baking sheets.
Combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl, then rub it onto the chicken pieces. Place the chicken in a single layer directly on top of the cauliflower rice.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Save the orange for later and julienne the peel. Remove the dates from the water, place them in the bowl of the food processor, and purée into a smooth paste. Transfer the puréed dates to a large mixing bowl and add the orange peel, cranberries, oil, salt, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Thinly slice the jalapeño and add it to the bowl. Toss all the ingredients with two wooden spoons and transfer the mixture to the second baking sheet.
Place both pans in the oven and roast until the cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, 10–15 minutes. Remove the cranberry sheet from the oven and allow it to cool a bit.
Squeeze the juice from the orange into a small bowl. Transfer the roasted cranberries to a medium bowl, remove the cinnamon sticks, and stir in
Divide the rice among individual plates, top with chicken, and add cranberry sauce on the side.
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