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The $10 Chicken Sheet-Pan Dinner I Make to Feed My Family of Four

Food52 logo Food52 9/10/2018 EmilyC

I gave my trusty sheet pan and oven a little break over the hottest part of the summer. But with summer winding down, and life ramping up, I’m calling them back into action. My kids headed back to school (and their various after-school activities) following Labor Day, and my husband and I are now entering busy seasons at work, so I’m arming myself with as many easy, inexpensive, and delicious sheet pan dinners—the kind where everything is roasted on a single, rimmed sheet—as possible.

a pizza sitting on top of a table: Dinners just like this. © Provided by Food52 Dinners just like this.

This is precisely why I came up with this Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken with Figs and Bread Salad. It’s not only a meal my whole family enjoys, it’s something I can easily manage on harried weeknights because both prep and clean-up are a breeze. Plus, for those weeks when I haven’t shopped ahead (which happens when weekends are busy, too!), I can easily grab what I need at the grocery store around the corner from me—no hard-to-find or pricey ingredients needed.

It’s inspired by two recipes from Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Café Cookbook I’ve been making for years. From the Braised Chicken with Figs, Honey, and Vinegar, I took that that perfect tart-sweet combo of figs, honey, and vinegar. And from the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, I pulled out the glorious bread salad full of schmaltzy croutons and fresh greens. Then, I turned the whole thing into the most streamlined one-pan dinner I could imagine.

food on a table: 11 Big-Batch Dinners to Get You Through the Busy Fall Rush © Provided by Food52 11 Big-Batch Dinners to Get You Through the Busy Fall Rush 11 Big-Batch Dinners to Get You Through the Busy Fall Rush by Katie Macdonald a close up of a pan: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baking Sheets © Provided by Food52 Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baking Sheets Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baking Sheets

A few tips and tricks make this one especially easy and inexpensive:

  • Get a leg up: Quicker cooking and cheaper than breasts and thighs, drumsticks are ideal for sheet pan dinners because they roast quickly and evenly. Plus their naturally compact size leaves plenty of sheet pan real estate for the other good stuff!
  • Make a triple-threat vinaigrette: One scrappy vinaigrette—just honey, vinegar, and olive oil—is used three times: to slick the chicken before it heads to the broiler, to flavor the bread, figs, and onions before they’re added to the pan, and to dress the arugula right before serving.
  • Jumpstart your drumsticks: By starting rather than finishing your drumsticks under the broiler, you get crispy, golden skin and cut down on roasting time in a hot oven...a very good thing while it’s still hot outside. Plus, many ovens (mine included) reach desired temperatures faster after the broiling element has been used.
  • Plump up dried figs: Dried figs cost less than fresh ones—and as much as I adore the latter, they’re in-season for such a short time and super perishable. By macerating dried figs in vinegar and hot water, they plump up nicely and taste just as delicious when roasted.
  • Make the crispiest croutons: Because the croutons are added to the pan after broiling the drumsticks, they have just the right amount of time to get ultra-crispy (without burning) and to soak up the fatty, delicious drippings.
  • Toss in greens: A few big handfuls of arugula add so much freshness and brightness. But if other greens are closer at hand (kale, spinach, mustard greens), reach for them instead.

a bowl of food on a table: 6 Ingredients That Are Cheaper in the Bulk Aisle—and a Surprising One That Isn’t © Provided by Food52 6 Ingredients That Are Cheaper in the Bulk Aisle—and a Surprising One That Isn’t 6 Ingredients That Are Cheaper in the Bulk Aisle—and a Su... by Emma Laperruque How I Cook Healthfully & on Budget for My Family of 5 © Provided by Food52 How I Cook Healthfully & on Budget for My Family of 5 How I Cook Healthfully & on Budget for My Family of 5 by Anna Francese Gass

I had affordability in mind when developing this recipe, but even I was pleasantly surprised when I did the math. (The breakdown is based on a recent grocery run of mine in Arlington, VA, but it’ll obviously vary by store and region.)

$3.00 worth of chicken drumsticks (2 pounds, about 8 to 10, at $1.50 per pound)

83 cents’ worth of olive oil ($10.36 per bottle)

5 cents’ worth of apple cider vinegar (99 cents a bottle)

20 cents’ worth of honey ($2.99 per squeezy bear)

25 cents’ worth of yellow onion (a small one)

$2.60 worth of dried figs ($3.50 per bag)

$1.75 worth of peasant bread ($3.49 per loaf)

$1.00 worth of arugula ($2.99 per bag)

Total for four servings: $9.68...making the total cost per serving $2.42.

No matter where you live, this dinner is cheaper than pizza delivery, takeout, or fast food, or those meal kits designed for the busiest types of nights. And for just how easy and inexpensive this meal is, it tastes anything but. It’s a combination of flavors and textures I can’t get enough of, and filling enough to satisfy on its own, no sides needed.

I’m keeping this recipe close at hand as we head into the fall. There are so many things within the span of a week that are completely out of my control, but a good, affordable dinner isn’t one of them.

a pizza sitting on top of a table © Provided by Food52

Sheet Pan Chicken with Figs and Bread Salad

By EmilyC

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided (plus more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 pounds chicken drumsticks (8 to 10)
  • Kosher salt plus freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 dried figs (Mission or Turkish), stems removed and halved
  • 4 cups torn bread chunks (from half a loaf of sourdough, ciabatta, or French bread)
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • A few large handfuls of arugula

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