Food-Back to School-Sheet-Pan Suppers

A recipe for roasted chicken, potato wedges and green peas prepared in a sheet pan can be seen on Sept. 6 in Alexandria, Virginia. This easy-to-prep, easy-to-cook, easy-to-clean, all-in-one-pan method can be applied to lots of different dinners.

If you are a teacher or a parent, back-to-school season can mean a ramped-up schedule with less time to cook. If you’re a college student in your first apartment or dorm room, you might be cooking for yourself for the first time. And no matter who you are, the pandemic means you’re probably cooking at home more than you used to.

Luckily, in this coming season of shorter, busier days, we’ve got sheet-pan meals to fall back on.

When I moved to Chicago just out of college, I couldn’t get enough of Papa Milano’s Chicken Vesuvio. It was a simple dish of Italian-spiced roasted chicken, potato wedges and green peas, as delicious as it was old-fashioned. The chicken and potatoes were slick with a lemony-white wine sauce, and I loved the almost-burnt ends of the potato wedges. To give this recipe a sheet-pan supper makeover meant no more browning the chicken and potatoes on the stovetop and finishing them in the oven. It would all go into the oven at once, and cook and brown in one pan.

Chicago’s Chicken

Vesuvio on a Sheet Pan

1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), broken down into breasts, wings and thigh-leg pieces (leaving thighs and legs attached), or 4-6 bone-in chicken breasts and thighs

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

Freshly ground white pepper

2-3 lemons, cut in half

3-4 pounds russet potatoes, cleaned and cut into wedges

8-12 cloves garlic, peeled

Fresh oregano, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

½ cup dry white wine

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus more if you want the sauce richer

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Place the chicken pieces in a large re-closeable bag. Pour olive oil over them and massage to coat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Set the chicken on the sheet pan. Season both sides of the pieces generously with the Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Add the cut lemons to the pan. Make sure you have one half lemon for each piece of chicken.

Place the potato wedges and garlic cloves in another re-closeable plastic bag and add olive oil. Massage to coat evenly. Season potato wedges generously with the Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Place the potatoes and the garlic on the sheet pan, spread evenly apart in one layer. Sprinkle all over with half of the fresh oregano.

Roast until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through, 50-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Test the chicken using an instant-read meat thermometer; it should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit for the white meat and 180 degrees Fahrenheit for the dark meat. If the chicken and potatoes are cooked through but not brown enough, let them sit under the broiler for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let chicken and potatoes rest on the sheet pan. Pick up two of the roasted halved lemons and, while they are still hot, squeeze them over the chicken and the potatoes. Scatter the fresh oregano all over. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or 10-inch skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallot for about 3 minutes or until the butter foams and begins to brown. Add the wine to the skillet and turn up the heat for 1 minute to deglaze the pan. Add the roasted cloves of garlic to the pan and smoosh them with a fork. Stir well. Reduce the heat and add the peas. Let simmer about 2 minutes or until the peas are warmed through. Taste the sauce for seasoning. If you want it to be richer, add the rest of the stick of butter. Make sure you add enough salt because this sauce will be what flavors the chicken. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken.

Serve immediately with the potatoes and a roasted lemon wedge. Squeeze more lemon over chicken and potatoes if desired.