I would love to take credit for this Best Sheet Pan Chicken recipe, but it’s courtesy of Ms. Paltrow’s “It’s All Easy” cookbook. It’s her riff on the world famous roast chicken from Zuni Café in San Francisco. I ate there in the early ’90’s while working on “Heart & Souls” and my mouth still waters when I think of the chicken. That’s some damn good bird.
As a serious eater and an amateur chef, there is no higher bar in my book than a fabulous roast chicken. My Mom has always said that you can judge a chef by his or her chicken. The reason for this is that it’s so easy to overdo either by cooking it for too long and drying out the white meat or simply overdoing it with an overabundance of added flavors.
My favorite toppings for a roast chicken are olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it. Sometimes, I’ll add a few herbs. Maybe a little lemon or garlic. But really, the simpler, the better. That’s why I love this Best Sheet Pan Chicken recipe. First of all, it’s divine tasting. Seriously. Guest will be talking about it for days. Second, the ingredients, though simple, work beautifully together to create a delightfully, complex burst of flavor for your taste buds. And last, it’s all made in one pan so it’s easy to clean up. In short, fabulous.
Best Chicken = Best Sheet Pan Chicken
The key to this recipe is buying a great tasting chicken. If you have a Farmer’s Market or local butcher where they carry free-range chicken then that is going to be your best bet. If you can find a chicken that wasn’t fed grain, even better. The breasts are going to look puny. We’ve all gotten so used to the Hulk sized chicken breasts from commercially produced, grain-fed chickens that we forget what the chicken breasts of our youth looked like. They are about 4-5 oz. Tops. And the meat from free range chickens is denser and sweeter. If you can’t find free-range then the Kosher chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s are a good substitute. However, if you use Kosher, cut back on the salt as the meat has already been brined in salt water.
Don’t Fear the Fish
This recipe calls for smashed anchovies. I can already see many of you turing up your nose, but don’t. While I am not an anchovy lover, smashed anchovies or anchovy paste can really elevate a recipe. They add what’s called “umami”. This is often referred to as the fifth taste — one beyond salty, sweet, sour and bitter. It is an incredibly satisfying flavor that also helps with the digestion and absorption of protein. So, don’t fear the fish.
This recipe is so good that I have found that it really does only serve 4. So, I will often double it for a dinner party. Or, perhaps, for visiting family during the holidays…. Enjoy!