Chefs call it a half-sheet and think it’s used for baking.
That’s because chefs don’t think the same way as home cooks. They’re not as resourceful.
What they call a half-sheet, we call a rimmed baking sheet. What they think is best used for, say, cookies, we picture using to cook a whole meal. It’s simple, it’s convenient, and the best part is that you only have one pan to wash.
Sheet pan meals are up and coming; they’re the new big thing. For those in the know, they’re already a trend. Entire cookbooks are devoted to the trend, along with the inevitable blogs.
Some of the recipes you find in these cookbooks and blogs are, honestly, a little less than thrilling. You can find pizza after pizza after pizza. But what is so interesting about baking a pizza on a rimmed baking sheet? You may as well fill the pages with recipes for cookies.
For my baking-sheet meals, I wanted recipes that were thrilling. Recipes that would make you look at your sheet pan in a whole new way. Recipes that exemplify a method of cooking rather than merely embrace a fleeting fad.
Take, for instance, the mixed vegetable shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern specialty that is, if anything, even more popular currently than sheet-pan meals. Though it is often eaten for breakfast, it’s wonderful any time of the day.
Typically cooked in a skillet on top of a stove, shakshuka is a dish of tomatoes and other vegetables — in this case, zucchini, onions and red bell pepper — that is cooked into a thick sauce. The sauce is then used to poach eggs, and it is all eaten together.
The dish is amazing, a whirling melange of perfectly balanced flavors topped off with a beautiful, runny-yolk egg. And baking it in a sheet pan in the oven makes it much easier to create and serve.
Once I made (and gobbled up) my shakshuka, I turned my attention to something a little meatier. I made steak.
That’s right, I broiled a steak in a sheet pan, and I’m glad.
Maybe it was the blue-cheese butter with a little fresh thyme that I used to finish the steak when it was done. Maybe it’s the inherent beefiness of a rib eye. Maybe it is the colorful combination of green beans and grape tomatoes that I cooked on the same sheet.
No, I’m pretty sure it was the blue-cheese butter, with a little fresh thyme. You could put that stuff on a cinder block and it would taste great. Imagine how good it is on steak.
Next up was a pan full of pork chops with roasted apples and Brussels sprouts. Apples go with pork chops like blue cheese and butter go with steaks, and a little fresh thyme. But actually, I think it is the Brussels sprouts that make this dish so excellent.
Pork chops are a little sweet for a meat, of course, and apples are a little sweeter. When you add brown sugar and cinnamon to the mix, that only intensifies the effect.
So what you need is a counterbalance. A healthy splash of apple cider vinegar helps, but it is the Brussels sprouts, with their bitter, cabbage-like taste, that makes this dish such a winner. Caramelized with a slight char from broiling, these veggies are completely addictive.
For my last dish, I made strudel. Not the typical sweet strudel, because these are sheet-pan meals. I made a strudel for dinner.
Specifically, I made a strudel with leftover chicken and wild rice, plus a hint of Swiss cheese. When I presented it to our taste testers, it was devoured almost immediately.
The easy-to-make filling is delicious by itself, but that’s not what makes it a strudel. The strudel part comes from wrapping the filling in several layers of rich and delicately crispy phyllo dough.
If you buy it frozen instead of making it yourself, phyllo is easier to work with than some people fear. Just use one sheet at a time, and keep the other sheets covered with a damp paper towel. Brush each sheet with melted butter, using the softest pastry brush you have. That should keep the sheets from tearing.
But honestly, if you present someone with a Chicken and Wild Rice Strudel, and a couple of the sheets are torn, nobody is going to care.