Standing hopefully in front of my refrigerator, I caught a glimpse of an unopened bag of bell peppers. Under the shiny plastic, I could see that the vegetable’s youth was starting to collapse, its skin sinking under extended exposure to the refrigerator’s dry chill. They needed a good blast in the oven to restore their sweet flavor and soft spice. I decided to make the classic sausage and peppers, but with chicken, because sausage and peppers is never that good anyway. Sometimes the memory of a well-known recipe can inspire an entirely new dish. My musings about chicken led to an idea about mushrooms: the rich, meaty fungus might compliment the lean, juicy poultry. By the time I closed the refrigerator door, I had a new dinner idea.
I’ve only had good sausage and peppers once, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx as a student at Fordham (go Rams!). I’ve never made the classic combo before, but I’ve had plenty of mediocre versions at potluck parties and beachside boardwalks. Why did such a delicious concept consistently yield dry, pale sausage flanked by limp, watery vegetables? I set out to find a better method that I could use for my chicken-and-mushrooms version and came across a 5-star David Tanis recipe. Unfortunately, I am not as patient or meticulous as David, so I cast off his version once I read references to multiple skillets and several numbered steps. Nope, sorry David, that won’t do.
Milling around Big Y later that day, I spotted some beautiful baby bella mushrooms, the kind that don’t have any bruises or dirt scattered across their caps, and a couple of bone-in, skin-on, organic, air-chilled chicken breasts. Despite it’s verbose title, this is the most forgiving, inexpensive kind of chicken to make on a weeknight. The boneless, skinless breasts are actually more expensive and morph from succulent to dry within a minute of overcooking. If my local Big Y stocks this cut of meat on a regular basis, yours does too. I also picked up a few spicy pork sausages to satisfy the male palette (aka Dad) in the household.
Now that I had the ingredients, I needed directions. Unsatisfied with David Tanis’s excess use of dishware and the Internet’s competing, confusing methods to make sausage and peppers, I decided to make something up. I had already discovered a recipe with just the suggestion of a classic, so I might as well continue my untethered exploration.
When in doubt, choose the simplest option (I did not discover that philosophy) and see if it works. If cutting corners leads to sub-par results, at least you didn’t waste time trying some over-complicated method. Enter: the sheet pan (I think this dead-simple appliance is what Occam had in mind when devising his razor). Crank up your oven, throw all of your ingredients into the pan, and roast until the vegetables turn sweet and charred while the meat becomes bronze and aromatic, it’s savory juices turning everything they touch into flavor gold.
This method will not work if the vegetables and meat have significantly different cooking times, but you’ll learn that on your own. Cooking is about mistakes as much as it is about invention, classic recipes as much as random combinations. If you’re making something for the first time, make sure you have no witnesses (except maybe your Netflix queue or your Mom), so that you can enjoy a failed attempt in the comfort of solitude. When invention and randomness collide to create something delicious, that’s when it becomes good enough to share. Let others taste it, critique it, and invent their own sausage-and-peppers recipe from there (sausage and peppers optional).
Sheet Pan Chicken with Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms
What you need:
- 3 bell peppers (red, yellow and orange for variations in color/flavor), sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 8 oz portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 2 lbs bone in split chicken breast (about 2 large breasts total)
- Optional: 1 lb spicy pork sausage (if you have family members who will only come to the table if you say you’re making sausage and peppers)
- olive oil (to taste)
- salt (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- garlic powder (to taste)
- oregano (to taste)
- 1 TB red wine vinegar
- fresh parsley for garnish
-Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Add bell peppers, onion, and mushrooms to pan. Drizzle everything with olive oil, toss with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Take a bite of a bell pepper. How’s the seasoning? Your immediate reaction should be “YUM!!” If not, season more.
-Bake, uncovered for 35-45 minutes total, stirring everything around after 20 minutes (unless you have a convection oven, then no stirring necessary!). Chicken is done when internal temp is 165 degrees or no longer pink inside.
-Drizzle everything with vinegar for a lil twang, garnish with fresh parsley. Relish in your accomplishment.