Can you cook Thanksgiving dinner as a sheet pan meal? One chef says yes. Here's how.
For those who cook Thanksgiving dinner each year, memories of busy kitchens — where every burner on the stove is going at once — abound. In most homes, the turkey's in the oven on one rack, a vegetable side dish or dessert is on another and the stove top covered with traditional Turkey Day foods like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy. Everything's cooking all at once, and it's a giant exhausting undertaking. And, that doesn't even begin to address the clean up after dinner is finally over.
An excellent way to streamline Thanksgiving this year is to try a modified meal: a sheet pan dinner. While you won't want to toss a whole turkey on a baking sheet, a sheet pan Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect idea for smaller groups or people who simply don't want to deal with a giant bird.
How to make a sheet pan Thanksgiving dinner
A sheet pan meal is the easiest way to cook any sort of multi-faceted meal, and that includes Thanksgiving. It's a way to streamline and go a little smaller than you would. But cooking a large turkey in a one-sheet meal runs the risk of being an uneven cook, so James Beard Award-winning chef Pati Jinich says to consider cooking a breast or pieces — or even going with chicken instead (not a bad idea, considering there's a turkey shortage this year.)
For planning purposes, the star of Emmy-nominated TV series Pati's Mexican Table also says to keep in mind that any sheet meal may take a little longer to cook due to the amount of food in the oven. The fuller the oven is, the more time it takes.
"Even though Thanksgiving is a time to cook and open up your space to be with friends and family, the reality is that it can sometimes get a little bit crazy and people can get overwhelmed by having to cook a lot," Jinich tells Yahoo Life. "[A sheet pan meal] simplifies roasting the turkey from five hours down to just one hour, which is a huge timesaver."
Jinich shares her recipe for Oaxaca Chicken with Oregano and Garlic with Yahoo Life, and explains that the recipe is easy to switch between chicken and turkey. "I recommend using the drumsticks and the wings," she says, "but either way, the key is to marinate the poultry for a long time, at least 24 hours so the oregano and lime flavors really absorb.
As a side dish, she recommends making roasted sweet potatoes and carrots on a separate sheet pan, cutting each up and tossing them on the pan. "You can cook them in one oven this way," she says. "Thanksgiving is about combining savory and sweet flavors, and the sweet potatoes and carrots compliment the oregano and lime in the turkey very nicely.
Once you've cooked the poultry and vegetables on sheet pans, consider adding some store-bought sides, like cranberry sauce, gravy or even a soup course, to make the meal feel a bit more festive.
Giving Thanksgiving leftovers the sheet pan treatment
Whether you prep your Thanksgiving dinner on a sheet pan or the old-fashioned way, leftovers can also receive the sheet pan treatment to turn them into something extra special. "One thing that comes to mind for a Thanksgiving leftover sheet tray meal is a bright roasted vegetable salad," says Ryan Bartlow, chef and owner at New York City restaurant Ernesto's. "Every year we cook plenty of root vegetables, plus Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and mushrooms in many different Thanksgiving dishes. There are usually a lot of parts of the vegetables that aren't used — odd bits, halves of this and that and stalks and stems."
Bartlow likes to chop these leftover vegetables into similarly-sized pieces, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them on a sheet tray. "The vegetables that I would use would certainly be Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, red onions, cremini mushrooms and baby beets (skin-on is fine.)"
"They can all go on the same tray at the same time at 350 F," he adds, "All veggies should take around 20 to 25 minutes." Once cooled, Bartlow likes to make a tangy vinaigrette with mustard, honey and sherry vinegar and dress all the vegetables together in a large bowl.
Season those leftover vegetables with a little more salt and cracked pepper and you'll have a healthy leftover sheet pan meal as well.
Oaxaca Chicken (or Turkey) with Oregano and Garlic
Courtesy of Pati Jinich
30 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 pounds turkey legs and wings
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Using a food processor, process or mash the garlic, oregano, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper until coarse and well mixed, yet not completely pureed.
Rub the garlic mixture all over the turkey and place skin side down on a non-stick baking sheet. If you don't cook right away, you may marinate the turkey for up to 24 hours, covered in the refrigerator.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce temperature to 375 F. Flip over the turkey pieces, pour the chicken broth on the bottom of the sheet, and return to the oven for 45 minutes, or until the turkey is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife.
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