One pot meals have long been a staple of the hurried home cook, and the concept is stretching its boundaries by featuring sheet pans in place of pots. Three area men, who know well the challenges of getting dinner on the table around work schedules, volunteer commitments and their kids’ youth, high school and collegiate activities, share their take on the sheet pan dinner.
Cooking is a creative outlet for Chad Curtis. “I enjoy the challenge of creating something new, healthy and delicious for my family,” he says. “It’s always a good night in our house when everyone eats what I prepare.” His specialty menus include smoked brisket, Huli Huli chicken, and scallops in a champagne sauce. (“My mother-in-law’s absolute favorite,” he says.)
Curtis’ wife, Rochelle, introduced him to cooking, and he honed his culinary skills by reading and testing recipes. “I find inspiration from multiple sources, including Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman and, my absolute favorite, Julia Child,” he says.
“It’s fun to create new versions of traditional dishes,” Curtis says. “I also enjoy taking a theme, such as Mexican or Greek, and research traditional foods and try to recreate my own versions.” His go-to cookbooks include The Joy of Cooking (for basic recipes), The French Laundry Cookbook (fancier fare), The Professional Chef and How to Cook Everything (daily meals).
For Curtis, preparing family meals is about more than just creating good-tasting fare. “It’s critical to instill in my kids (high school daughter and grade school son) the importance of good healthful eating, and the only way to do that is to learn to cook for yourself,” he says.
Curtis isn’t a sheet pan cooking novice. “I've used this template—protein, vegetable, healthy carbohydrate—many times. It’s easy, healthy, and everyone eats it, so we avoid the short-order kitchen later in the evening,” he says.
“Essentially, we have some discerning eaters in the family, so chicken is generally a safe choice for everyone,” he says. “We all love vegetables, especially roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.” Apricot-Dijon Chicken is a frequent guest at the Curtis’ dining table. “We eat this meal about once a week, and everyone loves it,” Curtis says. “As the family's primary dish washer, I especially love the clean-up.”
Mike Oberle began cooking as a young boy, growing up in Edina with his parents and siblings. “I used to make breakfast for my dad on the weekends, and he really liked what I made him,” he says. “He started asking me to make him breakfast more often, and I guess it started then expanding into other meals.” Today, Oberle draws inspiration from reading the American Test Kitchen cookbooks and keeping up with some of his favorite cooking shows on television.
While the Oberles’ son and daughter are away at college, Oberle remains at the kitchen’s helm for himself and wife, Julie. “I do all of the cooking and enjoy it,” he says, noting he doesn’t have specialty menus but enjoys making his family’s favorites, including banana bread and spaghettini.
Belonging to a two-career family, Oberle appreciates the importance of getting a tasty weekday meal on the table in little time, which is why he decided to highlight for readers his take on pork chops and vegetables. “It was something that would take little prep time and could get on the table within 30 minutes,” he says. While Oberle is adept in the kitchen, sheet pan cooking was new to him. “I had never heard of sheet pan meals and was surprised at the simplicity of preparing a quick meal,” he says.
Greg Grazzini learned to cook out of the need to keep his freezer inventory in check. “In our home (which he shares with wife, Maureen, and college-age son and high school-age daughter), we eat no store-bought meat or fish,” he says. As an avid hunter and fisherman, every year, he fills three or more freezers with game, including 10 duck species, three goose species, whitetail deer, Western Canada moose, woodland caribou, Rocky Mountain elk, pheasant, turkey, Chukar partridge, mourning dove, sharptail grouse, wild hog, halibut, salmon, rockfish, shrimp, walleye, northern pike, perch and sunfish. “I am pretty much self-taught with the game, but my two grandmothers were good influences,” Grazzini says “I enjoy baking pies and cakes as well.”
Grazzini also gleans inspiration from game cookbooks, jazzing up the recipes with modern spices, ideas from restaurants and online, and hunting and fishing magazines’ tips. “The internet is great place to start, especially with vegetable pairings,” he says. “I like to experiment at hunting camp with friends and [get] their input. Our hunting camp meals can get elaborate.”
Sheet pan cooking was new to Grazzini, and he was “surprised at the ease, speed and variety that you can cook” with the process. He has a couple of recommendations, including lining the pan with foil to help with cleanup. “One thing I did, to allow the fish coating to crisp up, was elevate the fish on a cooling rack sitting in the sheet pan—good idea,” he says. “[It] also gave the pan more room for vegetables.”
Tools of the trade
Chad Curtis counts good, high quality olive oil; an array of vinegars, including balsamic, red, white and rice wine; and Pomi brand strained tomatoes as his top-three must-have pantry items. Greg Grazzini lists garlic, butter and balsamic vinegar as his pantry must haves.
As for kitchen accoutrements, Curtis recommends a set of excellent knives. “Spend a lot on them,” he says. “They are critical and will last forever. I'm presently in the market for a Shun and Chubo.” Curtis also owns a Dorkfood sous vide device, which turns his crockpot into a sous vide. “It’s great,” he says.
Grazzini recommends a Mix Master, all clad pots and pans (Le Creuset Enameled Cookware) and an assortment of good, sharp knives. “I am not a big gadget guy—the manual tools I enjoy best are a good knife and simple kitchen utensils,” Grazzini says.
Lunds & Byerlys and Lakewinds are Curtis’ local, go-to stores for ingredients and cooking tools. “Amazon for everything else,” he says. Grazzini recommends Kowalski’s or Lunds & Byerlys for unique spices and vegetables. “I like to go to the farmers markets, but [I] generally don’t have time,” he says.
Prohibition Pork Chops with Vegetable Trio
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- 8–10 small, round Yukon or Russet potatoes,
- quartered with skin on
- 2 cups broccoli, stems removed
- 4-6 carrots, peeled and left whole
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Favorite barbeque sauce (Recommendation—Prohibition from Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern in Chicago)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray. Season the chops with salt and pepper. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Place the carrots on the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and pork chops and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, flip the meat, stir potatoes and carrots and cook for 10 minutes. During the last five minutes, generously baste the chops with barbeque sauce.
Apricot-Dijon Chicken With Seasoned Vegetables
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
- Olive oil
- 3 T. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup apricot jam
- 3-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Paprika (smoked, Hungarian or hot),
- to taste
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Sriracha sauce, to taste
Brussels sprouts and carrots:
- 1-1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, cleaned and sliced thin
- 5-6 carrots, cleaned and sliced on the bias
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (convection). Place chicken breasts between two sections of plastic wrap. Pound them until uniform thickness is achieved (not too flat). Salt and pepper the chicken and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. In a bowl, mix Dijon mustard with apricot jam.
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges and place on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika.
Slice the bottom stems off the Brussels sprouts and peel off a few layers. Wash thoroughly and slice. Peel and clean carrots and slice. Mix Brussels sprouts and carrots and place on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Cook for 30-35 minutes. In the final 8-10 minutes of cooking, spread mustard-jam mixture on the chicken breasts. Mix Sriracha and sour cream, and drizzle over sweet potatoes when done cooking. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over Brussel sprouts and carrots after cooking is complete.
Pistachio and Panko Crusted Halibut
- 4, 4-6 oz. Halibut filets, skin removed
- ½ cup pistachios, finely chopped
- ½ cup Panko crumbs
- 2 T. Lowry’s Lemon Pepper with zest of lemon
- ¼ cup honey mustard
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
- 1 1/2 bunch of asparagus, approx. 32 spears medium diameter ends trimmed
- 2 cup sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Thyme sprigs for garnish, approximately 10
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (convection). Drizzle 3 T. of olive oil and lemon juice over fish to coat. (Use plastic bag for best results.) Combine Panko crumbs and lemon pepper on a plate, dip fish and lightly coat. Spray cooling rack with cooking spray in sheet pan, place fish on the rack and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Combine mustard and pistachios; apply to top of filets after they are refrigerated for 20 minutes. Combine the sweet potatoes and asparagus, 2 T. of olives, salt and pepper to taste in plastic bag, and shake to coat. Remove the cooking rack and arrange olives and vegetables on a sheet pan with thyme sprigs, and set the rack over the pan. Lightly spray top of fish with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes.