How to Make Sheet Pan Chicken Great
My wife Meg loves to cut out recipes from the New York Times weekend edition and the Wall Street Journal. But not only does she cut them out, she and I prepare them including this one for sheet pan chicken.
Typically, we have most of the ingredients for these recipes on hand and those we don't, we substitute or run out to the store and pick them up. Some nights we make them exactly as written but other times we substitute ingredients or add some to change them up a bit. Just depends on how adventurous we're feeling.
Marinating Makes the Difference When It Comes to Sheet Pan Chicken
My wife asked me to prepare this meal on Wednesday night and laid out all the ingredients. At 5 o'clock when I looked at the recipe, I noticed it said to marinate the chicken for 2 to 24 hours. Ut-Oh, the Infamous Meanwhile.
We didn't want to eat too late so I marinated the chicken to sit for 24 hours and have Thursday night instead. We whipped up a quick pasta dish, Orcchiette with Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes instead.
What I learned from this experience is just how great chicken can be when marinated for 24 hours. Wow! I've always thought chicken is a conduit for sauces because chicken today doesn't have much flavor unless you buy it locally from a farm. This marinated chicken was incredible.
Marinates Don't Have to Be All Liquids
I've always thought of marinades as mostly liquid that your ingredients swim in. For example, I like to marinate chicken or pork in a Soy Vay Island Teriyaki. I add the chicken or pork to a zip-lock bag and then some Soy Vay and let it sit for a few hours.
Delicious, but let it sit for 24 hours and it's even better.
The marinate for this recipe incorporates very little liquid and it works. There is a little from the fresh lemon juice but only a couple of tablespoons. There is some honey too but I don't think of that as a liquid.
It's important you use fresh plums that are not rock hard. You want them a little on the soft side. If you can only find hard plums at the market, stick them in a paper bag for a couple of days to get them nice and ripe.
If you can't find ripe plums, try another stone fruit like peaches or nectarines.
We added some new potatoes to this dish but next time I make it, I'm going to add carrots and mushrooms to the roasting pan. You can try adding whatever ingredients you enjoy and have on hand. I can see beets, asparagus or even leeks.
I would also use a bigger roasting pan and cook more chicken so everyone can have two pieces. It's that good.
The fennel seeds and thyme sprigs came out of our garden. Fun.
A Nice Wine to Serve
We did a virtual wine tasting from Alexander Valley, California and learned about the Alexander Valley Merlot. It was excellent and priced well so we picked up a few bottles. It went extremely well with this meal.
The Alexander Valley Merlot is 100% Merlot. I haven't had a pure Merlot in a long time but I will be ordering more of this again.
Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Plums, Potatoes and Onions
- Sheet Pan
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- juice from orange or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest or lemon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- hot red pepper flakes to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 4 chicken thighs skin on, with bone
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 ripe plums cut into ½ inch slices
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 1 medium red onion peeled and cut into ½ inch wedges
- 8 small new potatoes
- olive oil extra virgin - for drizzling
- ⅔ cup basil leaves torn
- Using a small skillet over medium heat, add the fennel seeds and cook until fragrant. About 2 minutes. Don't let them burn.
- Using a motar and pestle, ground until coarsley crushed. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can try using a cutting board and can. I decided to use my spice grinder and crush them to a powder.
- Once toasted, add to a large bowl, big enough to add all the chicken pieces. Add the orange juice, orange zest, minced garlic, allspice, red pepper flakes and honey.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the bowl. Using a spatula, turn the chicken pieces to coat them with the marinade.
- Add the plum slices and thyme sprigs. Give the chicken a quick stir, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F when you are ready to start cooking.
- In a rimmed sheet pan (or roasting pan) coated with spray oil or olive oil, add the chicken pieces. In between the chicken, add the plums, onions and potatoes.
- If there is any liquid left in the bowl, spoon it out evenly over the chicken.
- Drizzle a little olive oil or spray with canned olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place in the preheated oven and roast for 45 minutes or until the chicken thighs are done.
- To serve, plate the chicken pieces, spoon the plums and onions around the chicken and add the potatoes.
- There most likely is going to be some pan juices in the pan. Spoon or drizzle the juices over the chicken.
- Garnish with shredded basil and serve.