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COOKING FOR TWO: Sheet-Pan Chicken keeps cook cool inside house

by Melissa Clark, The New York Times | July 14, 2021 at 1:55 a.m.
Sheet-Pan Chicken With Zucchini and Basil (The New York Times/Linda Xiao)

There's an unwritten rule that dictates if you're cooking a celebratory dinner or for any summer gathering, then grill you must.

But what if you don't have access to any outdoor space? Or what if it rains? Or what if it's just too hot to even consider standing outside over a fire, sweating onto your flank steak?

Even unwritten rules are meant to be broken. If grilling isn't in the cards, I offer an alternative: a golden, basil-festooned chicken and zucchini dish that's as exuberantly summery as a sheet-pan dinner gets.

It's the combination of zucchini and basil that makes this so appropriate for early summer — before the basil flowers and the zucchini grow big enough to fend off bear attacks.

The best zucchini to use here are harvested young, when they're still small and slim, with minimal seeds and thin skin that crisps and browns in the oven.

To help along this browning, don't turn or stir the zucchini, which can make it soggy. Just let everything roast undisturbed so that the chicken skin can turn mahogany. As it cooks, the zucchini caramelizes, which it will do all over — but especially on the side that makes contact with the pan.

Although fresh basil is the starring herb of this dish, some dried mint or oregano also seasons the chicken. For the sake of symmetry, I initially tried using dried basil. But it's not as flavorful as dried mint or oregano, which add a savory and complementary depth to the mix. An herb blend, such as za'atar or herbes de Provence, would also work.

Because this dish is cooked on a single sheet-pan, there's just enough to feed two or three.

Serve this with something to sop up the heady pan juices, like crusty bread, rice, couscous. That's another advantage of breaking the summer grilling rule: All those glorious juices are there for your bread instead of dripping, sadly, into the fire.

Sheet-Pan Chicken With Zucchini and Basil

  • 1 ¾ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ pounds zucchini, sliced into 1-inch chunks (about 5 cups)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a press or minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint or oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked with a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chef's knife (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves, for serving

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels, and season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Place zucchini on a rimmed sheet-pan and season with a little more salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, mint or oregano, coriander (if using) and red-pepper flakes. Whisk in oil. Add chicken to the pan with the zucchini pieces and pour garlic mixture over all, tossing until well coated. Spread chicken and zucchini in a single layer, and roast until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is browned and caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes. You don't need to turn anything.

Once the pan is out of the oven, squeeze a lemon wedge over everything. Garnish with basil and serve with more lemon wedges and red-pepper flakes on the side.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

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