There’s no debating the ease and simplicity of making meals in slow cookers. It’s a staple in most Northwest homes and for good reason. But there’s another kitchen tool probably buried in cabinets and living in the slow cooker’s shadow. Drum roll please … it’s the sheet pan. Food blogger Molly Gilbert of Seattle wrote a new cookbook called “Sheet Pan Suppers” that features 120 simple, surprising and hands-off recipes that highlight the full potential of the simple baking sheet. From classic roasted chicken to apple doughnut cobbler, Gilbert tackles it all with humor and pizzazz. She’s not afraid to explain really basic cooking techniques or go on a few funny food tangents. Her recipes are fun, easy and delicious. We’re not saying you’ll love your Crockpot any less after reading Gilbert’s book, but we think you and that sheet pan are about to get a whole lot closer. Gilbert’s book is out on Dec. 2 and will be sold in bookstores everywhere.
425: Some cookbooks come off as a little pretentious, but you have this fun voice. How did you achieve that?
Molly Gilbert: I like to write the way I talk. I started writing about food and recipes on my personal blog, and I think that starting out in such a casual, personal forum helped me get comfortable with my own voice as a writer, which carried over into the cookbook.
425: Tell us a little about your culinary past; what got you into this world?
MG: My appetite! I’ve always loved to eat. Growing up, food was always a big part of my family’s traditions and celebrations. When I graduated from college and started working in the corporate world, I realized pretty quickly that PowerPoints and business suits weren’t right for me. So I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City. It was a big, scary jump at the time, but I haven’t looked back since.
425: Where do you grocery shop?
MG: I love the Ballard farmer’s market on Sundays for fish, eggs and produce, but I also love grocery stores. I could spend a long time hanging out in Metropolitan Market just sampling cheese and exploring the salad bar.
425: Is there a brand of sheet pan you recommend?
MG: I like sheet pans that are made of stainless steel — there are lots of good brands out there. I have a bunch of Chicago Metallic ones that are nice and sturdy — they’ve held up well through the process of writing an entire book about sheet pans.
425: Did you also take all the photographs for the book? Have any fun food photography tips?
MG: Yep, I took all of the interior photographs for the book. My best advice for food photography is to use natural light. Whether you’re using a fancy schmancy DSL camera or just your iPhone, shooting in natural light is the way to go.
425: This is kind of an evil question, but what’s your favorite recipe in the book?
MG: I’d sooner choose my favorite child! (Just kidding; I don’t have kids yet). I love the entire brunch section — the Banana Cinnamon Toast is one of my favorites for its ease and simplicity. I also love the Baked Turkey Meatballs with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes; that one’s a staple in my kitchen. And the Fajita Flank Steak with Peppers and Onions is kind of amazing. Oh, and the Italian Chocolate Sheet Cake! I want it to be my birthday cake for the rest of my life. … Is that too many?
425: Choose your favorite: milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
MG: Milk chocolate forever!
425: Moms are going to eat this book up (pun intended). How much of the book features kid-friendly meals?
MG: I think the book is pretty chock full of kid-friendly recipes — the French Bread Pizza, Crispy Chicken Strips & Biscuits, Pecan “Fried” Fish & Tartar Sauce, Fancy Tuna Melts and Halloween Candy S’mores are a few that come to mind. And no matter the recipe, getting your kid to help in the prep work of the meal (drizzling olive oil over veggies, or mixing up the dry ingredients for biscuits) is always a good idea.
425: You incorporate a ton of produce into your meals. Should readers always buy organic? Does it matter? What’s your take?
MG: I think it’s important to be mindful about where your produce comes from, and to try to eat locally and sustainably, but always buying organic is expensive and unrealistic. I choose organic produce when I can, but I don’t obsess over it.
425: You mentioned on your blog that your grandmas are really important to you.
MG: My grandmas are the best! Gramma Lynn and Gramma Inez — both such dynamos. They are two smart, strong, warm and loving women. Gramma Lynn looks like a movie star (like, actually) and makes a mean pot roast, and Gramma Inez’s banana cake recipe and ability to crush the Sunday crossword are top-notch. And they both dress better than I do.
425: You’re engaged! Congratulations. Do you know what you’re serving at your wedding yet?
MG: Thank you! It’s very exciting. The wedding will be this fall in Montauk, New York, so we’re serving grilled local fluke with chimichurri sauce, as well as braised beef short ribs. In truth, I was more concerned about the wedding cake than the dinner itself — we decided on chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse filling. I can’t wait!
425: Favorite guilty pleasure food?
MG: An extra-thick Oreo milkshake.
425: Your book is about using the ‘often overlooked’ sheet pan. What food or ingredient do you think gets overlooked?
MG: Salt! Specifically, kosher salt (I like the clean flavor and versatile texture). I think home cooks are afraid of using too much salt, so often don’t use enough and wind up under-seasoning their food. Salt brings out the best flavor in food, whether it’s a pan of roasted asparagus or a bowl of homemade caramel sauce. If you’re cooking your own meals (and not eating too much processed stuff), I think it’s perfectly healthy (and so much tastier) to use a decent amount of kosher salt in the process.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
These roasted Brussels make a nice side dish for chicken, pork, beef or lamb. They are also wonderful served over pasta and topped with shaved Parmesan and toasted nuts. Serves 4-6 as a side dish or 4 as a main dish with pasta.
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup dry white wine or water
1. Preheat oven to 425°F with a rack in the center position.
2. Toss together Brussels sprouts, olive oil, pancetta, shallot, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper on a sheet pan until everything is combined and well-coated in oil. Spread the Brussels sprouts in a single layer and roast until the pancetta is crisp and the Brussels sprouts are browned and charred in spots, 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Remove pan from oven and stir wine into the still-hot sprouts, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any flavorful brown bits into the dish.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup ice-cold water
- 4 large apples (I like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or a mix of both)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into very small cubes
- 1 egg, beaten, or 1/2 cup heavy cream (for brushing the crust)
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
- Vanilla or salted caramel ice cream, for serving (optional)
1. To make the dough, place the flour, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a food processor. Pulse for about 5 seconds to combine. Add the unsalted butter and pulse about 10 times, until the butter has been processed into bits of various sizes. Pour the cold water down the feed tube, then pulse the mixture until the dough starts to come together.
2. Lightly flour a work surface. Dump out the dough onto the surface. Flour your hands and gather the dough into a flat disk; it will be a bit wet and sticky. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until firm, at least 1 hour, up to 1 day. (Alternatively,chill it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.)
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the center position. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
4. Clean and generously flour the work surface and rolling pin. Unwrap the dough, set it on the surface, and roll it out to a 15-by-12-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to the prepared pan, handling it gently. Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator or freezer, to firm up the dough while you prepare the apple filling, about 10 minutes.
5. Peel, core, and slice the apples into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a large bowl, drizzle the lemon juice over them, and toss very gently to coat. Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg, and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator or freezer. Arrange the apple slices in tight, overlapping rows down the middle of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Generously sprinkle the apples with the sugar mixture and dot them with the salted butter. Fold the dough border over the apples, overlapping it where necessary, to create a free-form crust.
7. Brush the exposed crust with the beaten egg. Bake the galette until both the crust and apple edges are deeply brown, 45 to 60 minutes. Let the galette cool for 5 minutes.
8. While the galette is cooling, combine the apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until smooth. Brush the apples with the apricot glaze. Allow the glaze to set until no longer runny, about 10 minutes.
9. Slice the galette into big squares and serve it warm with generous scoops of ice cream. The galette also does well at room temperature alongside some coffee or tea.
The galette will keep, well wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.