Martha Stewart and rapper Snoop Dogg have a cooking show.
Titled Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, each segment features M & S competing culinarily with each other while chatting amiably with a rotating cast of celebrity friends.
Like most folks, I never would have pictured the unlikely union. I mean, what could a stiff cream puff media mogul and a mellow rapper, actor and self-professed former pimp talk about? One would think they’d have nothing in common but time spent in prison.
One would be wrong. They have plenty to say to each other, and the show is cute. While I won’t be re-shuffling my Monday night schedule any time soon to watch it regularly, I spent an enjoyable hour watching their endearing comradery. I also learned a thing or three. First, while fried chicken was initially brought to America by Scottish immigrants (I didn’t know), it was African-Americans who improved the dish with their own mix of spices and seasonings (now that I did know). Second, Martha was struck by lightning not once, not twice, but three times, which makes her a certifiably tough broad. And third, Martha once fed a chicken vodka before cutting its head off. Suddenly prison time is the least interesting fact about her.
Still, watching the show was at times disorienting, especially when well-heeled Martha said things like ‘I can’t lose to the hood.’
It reminds me of the first time I heard of sheet pan cooking, which amounts to baking a complete meal on a rimmed sheet of metal. It didn’t make sense. What, no pots and pans? No Dutch ovens or cast iron pans? No lids?? I initially couldn’t imagine it any more than I could picture Martha and Snoop Dogg being BFFs.
It turns out I was just lacking imagination. Alchemy can arise from unfamiliar or unexpected things.
Discovering sheet pan cooking has introduced me to a new world, one where I can quickly create flavorful, juicy and well-browned food with almost unrecognizably easy clean up. That means everything on busy weeknights. And, depending on what is being cooked, it can also offer a truly 30-minute meal.
Now, sheet pan cooking has its limitations.
For starters, it’s not all hands-free cooking. While you can prepare a practically inexhaustible selection of ingredients on sheet pans, they may not all have the same cooking time. This means staying close to the kitchen and opening up the oven door a few times to add ingredients along the way.
You also can’t cook everything on sheet pans. Pasta and dried legumes are a prime example. Interestingly enough, rice can be as long as a second sheet pan is used as a lid. This means that some nice crusty bread or quick-cooking couscous are in order if the menu doesn’t include potatoes or other starchy vegetables.
Finally, while sheet pan cooking creates delicious meals, it will never develop the depth of flavor found in a braised or long-simmered dish.
Shortcomings aside, I’ve become a fan and have learned some things along the way.
- Use only regular aluminum or stainless steel sheet pans. Avoid jelly roll pans, which are flimsy and warp at high heat, and non-stick pans, whose coating invariably erodes or chips off into the food.
- For the easiest possible clean up, line sheet pans first with aluminum foil, including the raised sides, and then with parchment paper trimmed to fit the pan’s bottom. I add parchment paper because while food sometimes sticks to aluminum foil, it never sticks to parchment paper. This ‘double approach’ allows cooks to return their sheet pan to its designated drawer at the end of the meal without touching a drop of water and soap. Yipee.
- Pricey baking sheets called silpats can be used instead of parchment paper. Made of food-safe silicone and fiberglass mesh, they are durable, resistant to any temperature, and completely non-stick. They do, however, require washing after each use. Boo.
- Finally, if unfamiliar with pan sheet cooking, follow trusted sources for recipes to develop your chops. This recipe is slightly adaptated from one of my favorite magazines, Southern Living. Like a trusted friend, it certainly helped me to navigate my own first attempt successfully.
And as Martha and Snoop can attest, friends are a wonderful thing to have.
Making sheet pan honey-glazed salmon & vegetables
Set oven shelf to approximately 5-inches from the broiler coils and preheat oven to 550°F. Line a large sheet pan, including the raised sides, with aluminum foil (for easy clean up). Trim parchment paper to fit snugly in the bottom of the pan.
Wash 4 6-oz. salmon fillets and dry with paper towels. Arrange them on sheet pan so that there is at least 1 ½ to 2 inches between them.
In a small bowl combine 4 TBSPs honey, 1 ½ TBSPs Dijon mustard, 1 ½ TBSPs soy sauce, 1 ½ TBSPs rice wine vinegar and ½ tsp dried red chili flakes. Whisk well and brush marinade on salmon fillets and let marinade.
As you can see, I decided to brush the parchment paper a bit so that some of that good flavor could get on the veggies I’ll add to the dish.
Now prep the vegetables. Wash and snap the ends off of 1 lb. asparagus and 1/3 lb. green beans. Wash 8 thin carrots. Wash and slice 2 navel oranges into 1/3-inch thick medallions.
Place the prepped vegetables, 2 TBSPs olive oil, 1 tsp. of toasted sesame oil, and salt & pepper in a large bowl and, using your hand, mix until all vegetables are evenly coated.
Arrange them around the salmon fillets. Add the sliced oranges to the same bowl and mix to cover them evenly with the leftover oil.
Add them to the sheet pan.
Turn the now very hot oven to broil and wait a couple minutes for it to hot. Brush the salmon again with the marinade and place the sheet pan in the oven. Cook for 3 minutes.
Take the sheet pan out of the oven and brush it once last time with the remaining marinade. Return to oven and cook for 3 additional minutes. Note: if salmon fillets are more than 1 ¼ inches, you may want to cook it an additional minute or two. Serve warm with cooked jasmine, rice or quinoa. Makes 4 servings.