Greek sheet pan chicken, using a recipe from the website Downshiftology. (photo by Shelley Civkin)
I know it’s pretty laughable that I only discovered parchment paper a few years ago, but there’s always someone late to the party. Parchment paper is your friend, and it’s so ridiculously versatile and handy, I can’t believe I baked without it for all these years! (Although, having been single until I was 53, I must admit to not having baked much in those years.) I even turned my husband Harvey onto it. Now he uses parchment paper for everything. I caught him the other day trying to make a fruit salad on parchment paper. We buy the stuff by the truckload now. It saves on clean up, eliminates the possibility of burned pans, and withstands high heat. Plus, it contains some sort of magic that results in perfect meals every time. Seriously, I haven’t had a fail since I became a parchment paper convert. I know. Crazy, right?
My latest foray into culinary exploration using parchment paper was Greek sheet pan chicken. Harvey tried the recipe first, and it scored a 10/10. Weeks later, he asked me if I wanted to make it and, quite frankly, I couldn’t say no. After all, he’s been making me pancakes for breakfast three times a week, so I was hardly in a position to negotiate. I was just worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate it. But I sucked it up, donned my Disclosure Diner apron and got on with it. Without a word of a lie, this recipe produces the most juicy, harmonious flavours I’ve had in eons. And there was virtually no clean up – winner, winner chicken dinner.
The recipe is from the website Downshiftology, and it’s by Lisa Bryan. Thank you, Lisa. It’s a wee bit labour-intensive, with all the chopping, mincing, dicing and marinating, but what isn’t time-consuming these days? Caveat: the original recipe calls for feta cheese, but since I don’t mix meat and milk, I omit that. Believe me when I tell you that there’s plenty of salt in this recipe already. Feta compli! Just cook up a side of rice, orzo, quinoa or bowtie pasta and you’re set. Oh, and maybe whip up a salad if you’re feeling inspired.
Now, I know that lots of people prefer the leaner white chicken meat, but thighs are just more tender and moist. You can be the judge, but I can’t be responsible for the cooking time for chicken breasts, so you’re on your own there.
Give this recipe a go, and tell me if this isn’t Mediterranean cooking at its best. I generally have a rule to not use recipes that call for more than five or six ingredients, but I made an exception here, and it paid off in spades.
GREEK SHEET PAN CHICKEN
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 3 tbsp)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted (more, if you love olives)
1/4 cup feta cheese (optional)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 425°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
- Put chicken thighs in a bowl (or plastic bag) and pour two-thirds of the marinade on top. Then toss the chicken around in the marinade to make sure it’s well coated. Marinate the chicken for 15 minutes or more.
- While the chicken is marinating, put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the zucchini, bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes onto the sheet and drizzle the remaining marinade on top. Toss together to coat the vegetables.
- Add the chicken thighs to the baking sheet and nestle the veggies around them. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven, add the olives (and feta, if you’re using it) and then put it back in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is cooked through. You can always turn on the broiler for a minute or two at the end if you like the skin crispy.
- Sprinkle the chicken and vegetables with finely chopped fresh parsley before serving.
Not only does this dish look gorgeous, but it’s got deep, rich flavour and the recipe is pretty easy to follow. Of course, if you’re serving it to company, it’ll take a bit of manoeuvring to transfer it to a platter because there are so many moving parts. But it’s a pandemic, so who’s having company over for dinner anyway?
Sometimes, I think to myself: do I really want to bother with all this dicing and chopping and slicing? Operative word: sometimes. This is a treat-yourself-to-a-sumptuous-dinner-and-stop-being-so-lazy kind of meal. Like my dad used to say: you’re the most important guest in your own home. Go nuts. Cook for looks. And taste. Like so many different meals, this one is just as good if not better the next day, since the flavours seem to marry overnight.
As for a pre-dinner treat, why not aim for easy but yummy. If you want to bump up the fanciness quotient a notch, make some toast points (crusts cut off), smear on some mayonnaise or egg mix, and top with caviar. I buy the inexpensive black lumpfish caviar for special occasions and it’s delish. It’ll impress the heck out of your partner, your guests, even yourself. And, you know what? You deserve it! Why should caviar be reserved just for New Year’s Eve or engagement parties? Those poor misunderstood fish roe – they deserve to be showcased all year round. If I weren’t afraid of all the judging that might accompany it, I’d eat caviar every day.
Another caveat: don’t eat this meal before you go for a blood test, because your sodium will be off the charts.
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.