Sheet pan dinners have been having a moment– for a quite a while. Even established cooks are hooked on quickly oiling and seasoning meat and vegetables so they can have the thrill of sliding what is actually a half sheet pan (more on that in a minute) into the oven for an ultra easy dinner. Instead of watching and stirring pots on the stovetop, they can text a friend, read a novel, order from amazon, chat up the cat, read Alyce’s blog, sip a glass of wine, or even set the table. Today’s recipe, however, is made on a quarter sheet pan. Just perfect for cooking for one or two or for heating up a very few things. Especially at holiday time when, well, time is of the essence. (Roll eyes upward thinking of the to-do list. Is your tree up? What cookies are you baking? Gifts ordered? Clothes at cleaners? ) And I adore quarter sheet pans, which I first heard about from the fine food writer David Lebovitz. Once David said to get one, I got two. And do they fit in the dishwasher perfectly? Yes. Love that. If it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, I’m thinking twice about keeping it.Jump to Recipe
So, just a minute about the “sheet pan” thing. A true sheet pan, at 26″ x 18″, is too big to fit in the majority of home ovens, though I can just squeeze one in my Blue Star 30″ gas oven. Professional bakers use them to bake things like sheet cakes…you know what I’m talking about. A cake that size serves 117 (2″ x 2″) pieces of cake and shows up for heavy duty at graduations, retirements, and big birthday parties. Home cooks, who’ve fallen in love with what they call a “sheet pan” and hence “sheet pan dinners” are actually talking about half sheet pans, which are 18″ x 13″ and eminently usable for cooking meals for four or more. If you’re not one of four (or more), but one of two, or one of one, maybe a quarter sheet pan, at 13″ x 9″, should be your go-to. So, yep; it’s the same size as a regular old rectangular cake pan. Only it’s a rimmed baking sheet. Not to be confused with a cookie sheet, which should be very flat indeed or barely raised at the edges in order to let the oven’s heat move unrestricted across the cookies. (If you must bake cookies on a sheet pan, turn it over and bake them on the back.) The rim of a baking sheet holds excess liquids or fats and keeps things like little mushrooms or round cherry tomatoes from rolling off into the bottom of your oven. All the better for YOU to cook dinner in if there are one or two of you. So let’s talk about that.
I’m not about reinventing any cooking wheels, so I’m going to let you read through Food52’s HOW TO MAKE DINNER ON A SHEET PAN, should you so desire. The crux of the thing is that everything you put in the sheet pan at the same time should be able to be cooked in the same amount of time. Or, if you’re adventurous and accurate, you can begin with the ingredients that take longer (diced sweet potatoes, say) and add ingredients that take less time (sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced onions, maybe?) toward the end. But instead of getting way into all that stuff, I’ll give you an easy beginner’s recipe that works because everything here does cook in 15 minutes at 400 F. Yes, a real meal deal in 15 minutes plus brief prep time. Sliced red onions, garlic, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, sliced peppers and salmon fillets with lemon. What more do you want? You probably could include asparagus or green beans you sliced into small pieces, too. Or larger vegetables you cooked last night. Sliced Brussels sprouts, anyone? I’m guessing you can do a little embroidery on this recipe all on your own. I’ll include a little sauce to up the ante for you and keep you happy.
How does this work? There are a few different ways it could happen, but my simple method goes like this:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Set rack at center. Cover a quarter sheet pan with foil (or parchment) and either oil or sprayit. 2. Chop vegetables and toss them with oil, spices, and herbs:
3. Add the salmon fillets to the pan at the center, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with lemon slices. 4. Tip the seasoned vegetables in between and around the fish.
5. Slide that little tray in the oven for 15 minutes, remove to check fish for doneness (I like 130 degrees F for medium salmon; you may prefer a few more minutes), and move the baking sheet to a rack to rest for 5 minutes:
6. Serve hot or warm and you’re happily done. Except for the easy clean-up!
Obviously this serves two, but I made it for just me and the next night tossed the leftovers in a little skillet for a few minutes to warm briefly for another nice dinner. I haven’t tried it, but am guessing it would work pretty easily if you doubled the whole thing and roasted it on the larger half sheet pan. That’s if you did have more folks for dinner.
I wrote out the recipe if you want to try this; see below. Or you can save the very top photo (created for facebook) to your phone or computer, print it, and stick it on your fridge just like I did in the above photo. It’s a much shorter version.
Quarter-Sheet Pan Salmon Dinner for Two
- 6 large button mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half
- ¼ small red onion, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 small ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 1 large plump garlic clove, sliced
- ¼ red bell pepper, sliced
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence or a mixture of oregano and basil
- Cooking spray
- Olive oil
- 2 (6-8 oz) salmon fillets with skin
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Horseradish mustard sauce-see notes-optional
- PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 F and place rack at center. Line 9" x 13" quarter-sheet pan with foil and spray with cooking spray or brush with oil.
- TOSS TOGETHER THE VEGETABLES with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, the crushed red pepper, the Herbes de Provence, and a tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Set aside.
- PLACE SALMON FILLETS SKIN SIDE DOWN IN THE CENTER OF THE SHEET PAN two inches apart and spread prepared vegetables around and between them. Drizzle salmon with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with 3-4 lemon slices each. (Extra lemon can be added to the vegetables, if desired.)
- ROAST FISH AND VEGETABLES for 15 minutes or until fish is done to your liking. I’m fond of salmon cooked to medium (about 130 degrees F on an instant read thermometer) but do let it cook another few minutes if you like it well-done. Move pan to a cooling rack for 5 minutes and serve hot or warm with Horseradish Mustard sauce, if desired.
A LITTLE BIGGER MEAL: Make a box of couscous. It’s nearly instant if you follow the package directions. I like to sauté a little onion or garlic and a few raisins in a splash of olive oil before adding the package ingredients and maybe half of the seasoning packet. Or you could make some microwave brown rice and serve the fish and vegetables right on top of it. Pasta? Sure. I’d go with a small variety like ditalini, orzo, or even bow ties. A green salad is another option.
WINE: I’m very attached to simple salmon recipes served with American Pinot Noir, particularly the wines from Oregon.
DESSERT: While the fat in salmon is healthy fat, it’s still fat and holds a few calories; it’s filling. If you’re cooking for a friend and need dessert, go with a little carton of sorbet or grilled pineapple on vanilla gelato.
If you liked this, you might also like my Salmon and Vegetables on Two-Cheese Grits
LIKE THIS QUARTER SHEET PAN MEAL IDEA? I’ve got a few more ideas for these dinners for 1 or 2, so stay tuned. They’ll be up on the blog in not too long. SOMETIME SOON: BONE-IN PORK CHOPS with thinly-sliced sweet potatoes, red onions, and asparagus.
There are some larger sheet pan meals on my blog. Just type “sheet pan” into the search box and several ides will pop up. At left, check out Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas.
LIFE GOES ON:
Our youngest daughter, Emily, was home for Thanksgiving (you saw if you read last week’s post) and then came up Covid positive. My husband is testing negative, but is under the weather. I had to postpone my annual book club Christmas dinner until January. We may also be missing the next bit of the holiday excitement–which is our family Thanksmas event here in our house this weekend. In the meantime, we have time to start decorating the tree and making a few cookies. Might as well not cry in our soup, but… we did just have covid last month. This thing just has a life of its own. I’ve been hearing about a lot of ill people lately. I hope you’re well.
I’m thrilled you’re here reading and keeping me company in the Christmas kitchen. What are you baking?!