Mexico Life
Chicken and potatoes, sheet-pan style. Chicken and potatoes, sheet-pan style.

Sheet-pan dinners (and one dessert): a cinch to prepare

Beets, onions, tomatoes, turnips and carrots transform wonderfully when roasted

Sometimes it seems like cooking trends are really something common that’s been around for a while (or forever) with a new fancy name. “Sheet pan” dinners – i.e., roasting meats, fish and vegetables on an oiled cookie sheet in the oven at a fairly high temperature – might be one of the most recent.

That said, who doesn’t like an easy, delicious dinner, with minimal prep and cleanup, that doesn’t require unusual ingredients?

I often cook like this when I want a vegetarian night, using whatever veggies I have on hand. (It’s also a good way to add some glamour to the infamous “top shelf special.”) Roasting vegetables turns some of their natural starches into sugars, resulting in more hearty, in-depth flavors.

Beets, onions, tomatoes, turnips and carrots all transform wonderfully when roasted, and even high-sugar fruits, like pineapple, yield a richer, more complex sweetness. What I do is chop the veggies into more or less inch-size pieces, toss them around in an olive oil, soy sauce and Balsamic mixture, add some salt and pepper and maybe some other spices, and then throw the whole thing on a cookie sheet in my fancy-dancy toaster oven.

In about 30 minutes at 400 degrees they’re roasted to a state of caramelized decadence. Accompanied with some fluffy Basmati rice and maybe sprinkled with a little fresh Parmesan, it’s a lovely, simple and healthy dinner. And, if you line the pan with foil, clean-up is really a cinch.

Use these recipes as guidelines, and feel free to adjust them to your own tastes and what you have available. Different kinds of fish, cuts of chicken and most vegetables (other than leafy greens, although they can be roasted, too, just for less time, coated with a bit of olive or coconut oil) will all work fine.

Salmon & Broccoli with Chile-Caper Vinaigrette

Cauliflower would work well too.

  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 six-oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño, seeds removed, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. drained capers

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss broccoli and 2 Tbsp. oil on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until browned and crisp-tender, 12–15 minutes. Remove from oven. Rub salmon with 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Push broccoli to edges of baking sheet and place salmon in the center. Roast until salmon is opaque throughout, 10–15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine chile, vinegar and pinch of salt in small bowl and let sit about 10 minutes. Mix in capers, salt & pepper and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Drizzle fish and veggies with vinaigrette just before serving.

Chipotle-Lime Shrimp: minimal prep and cleanup.
Chipotle-Lime Shrimp: minimal prep and cleanup.

Chipotle-Lime Shrimp

  • 1-½ pounds baby red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • ½ lb. asparagus or broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 lb. uncooked shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled & deveined
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°. Place potatoes on greased baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, squeeze 1/3 cup juice from limes, reserving fruit. Combine lime juice, melted butter, chipotle and remaining salt. Remove sheet pan from oven. Arrange asparagus or broccoli, shrimp and reserved limes on top of potatoes. Pour lime juice mixture over vegetables and shrimp. Bake until shrimp turn pink and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. – TasteOfHome.com

Chicken with Potatoes & Kalamata Olives    

  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-½ lb. fingerling potatoes, halved
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 chicken legs (thigh & drumstick; about 3 lb.)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 450°. Pulse bay leaf, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes in spice mill until finely ground. Toss potatoes, olives, 2 Tbsp. oil, and half of spice mixture in a large bowl; add salt and pepper. Place chicken on a baking sheet; rub with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Season with salt and pepper and rub with remaining spice mixture. Arrange potatoes around chicken. Roast until potatoes are fork-tender, chicken is cooked through, and skin is crisp, 35–45 minutes. Serve topped with parsley and lemon zest.

And for dessert, some roasted pineapple with honey and almonds.
And for dessert, some roasted pineapple with honey and almonds.

Honey-Almond Roasted Pineapple

  • ½ cup packed grated piloncillo or brown sugar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • ¼ cup creme fraiche or plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds or natural unsalted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment or foil. Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves. Add pineapple; toss to coat. Let marinate, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Place pineapple, one flat side down, on prepared pan; reserve marinade. Bake 15 minutes, turn, brush with marinade, and bake until tender and caramelized, 10-15 minutes more. Drizzle with remaining marinade, let cool slightly. Garnish with crème fraiche, nuts and mint.

Janet Blaser of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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