Family-Pleasing Holiday Meals
The festive season might signal indulgence, but it also calls for simple, healthy recipes with easy cleanup. We might have friends that drop by, family staying for the weekend or last-minute guests. The simpler we can make meals, the better.
Many chefs and home cooks have found the ideal method: the sheet pan supper. Simply arrange the protein and vegetables on a baking sheet and place it in the oven, where the ingredients burnish to perfection as the flavors concentrate. Experts recommend a heavy duty, 13-by-18-inch sheet pan, also known as a “half sheet” or a “rimmed” baking pan. They’re available at local cookware shops and box stores that carry kitchenware.
“Sheet pans combine easy prep, process and cleanup and deliver interesting, sophisticated flavor,” says Molly Gilbert, a Seattle chef and the author of Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven.
Yet even this streamlined cooking method has a few best practices. Carla Snyder, a cookbook author in Hudson, Ohio, lines her sheet pans with unbleached parchment paper for easy cleanup. The author of One Pan: Whole Family – More than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals also sprays the liner with olive oil, so food won’t stick.
Naomi Pomeroy, a chef in Portland, Oregon, recommends preheating the pan in the oven, and then carefully adding the food. “If you put a room-temperature tray in the oven with, say, Brussels sprouts, it can get steamy, and then they can get soggy,” she says.
Gilbert favors groupings of foods that will cook in about the same time, such as fish fillets and tender vegetables for a shorter time, or bone-in chicken and root vegetables that take longer.
Dinner and Beyond
Sheet pan entrées can serve up meals beyond just dinner, making them a big help during the holidays. Sarah Britton, the Toronto author of My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season arranges blocks of feta cheese on a sheet pan, surrounds them with fresh bell pepper slices, quartered cherry tomatoes, black olives and preferred herbs. She drizzles it all with olive oil, and then bakes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, just until the cheese is soft. It can be served as an appetizer with whole grain crackers or as an entrée with crusty bread and a salad. The rest can be used as a sandwich filling the next day.
Sheet pan meals can be a gift that keeps on giving.
Judith Fertig writes award-winning cookbooks plus foodie fiction from Overland Park, KS (JudithFertig.com).