This week, instead of featuring a single item, I thought I would talk about a cooking technique that is relevant to many of the items coming out the farm right now. I like to call this technique “One Pan Roast Dinners”. However, if that leaves you feeling disappointed, here is a post from last year that includes some great recipes for cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, and beets (click here)
Basically, the one pan roast method includes a mix of vegetables tossed with olive oil and any seasoning of choice placed on a large rimmed baking sheet. The vegetables are then topped with seasoned meat (I like to use bone-in chicken parts) and baked together until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
However, there are variations to this technique depending upon the protein and the mix of vegetables you are using. Boneless, quick cooking proteins like fish and chicken breasts do better in parchments packets atop the vegetables. Also, when cooking proteins that cook rather quickly, it is often necessary to roast the vegetables first for a time before adding the packets on top in order to ensure that the vegetables all get tender.
Further, if you are using vegetables that are tougher, that require moisture, or that tend to roast more slowly, it is recommended that you cover the rimmed baking sheet with foil and pre-roast the vegetables on their own for 15-20 minutes before removing the foil and adding the protein. These types of vegetables include items like kohlrabi, eggplant, chunks of cabbage, broccoli, turnips, beets, fennel. Veggies that roast up rather easily like zucchini and summer squash, winter squash, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes will have no need of pre-roasting, unless they are mixed together in the same pan with tougher veggies OR you are using a quick cooking protein, like salmon.
It helps to chop all vegetables to the same size in all variations of this method, preferably small bite-sized chunks, in order to get even cooking.
As far as seasoning goes, simple salt and pepper, along with some mixed fresh herbs are wonderful on both the protein and the vegetables. However, I also like to use various dried herb mixtures, many of which are available in grocery stores. My personal favorites are Mexican adobo seasoning, French Herbes de Provence, Morroccan Ras al Hanout, mediterranean Baharat and Indian Garam Masala. Whole foods has a number of seasoning mixes in their seafood department that would offer a lot of variety and keep things continually interesting.
Don’t be shy with the olive oil when seasoning the vegetables. They need the fat for moisture to help them cook and to avoid sticking to the pan, not to mention for added flavor. Further, the micronutrients in the vegetables need fat in order to be absorbed by the body. Some vegetables, like kohlrabi and eggplant also benefit from adding a little bit of broth or water to the pan to give them the full amount of moisture they need to soften.
Here are two variations of this method I have been using a lot lately:
One Pan Basic Roast Chicken Parts with Mixed Vegetables
Chicken parts are my favorite way to use this one pan roasting method. Because chicken parts contain both bone and skin, they take longer to cook yet they release some fat and moisture onto the vegetables, flavoring the vegetables and helping them stay moist and to cook through. If you are using all tender vegetables (see list above) simply place seasoned chicken pieces right on top of the seasoned vegetable mix and bake in a 400 degree oven until the chicken reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees Farenheit. However, if any of the vegetables in your mix are of the tougher, slower roasting varieties, place your seasoned vegetables on a large rimmed roasting pan, add some broth or water if desired (preferred when cooking eggplant and kohlrabi), cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes before removing the foil and placing the chicken on top.
Below is a tasty recipe I came up with last week. My vegetable mix was fennel, kohrabi, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. Because of the addition of kohlrabi and fennel, I pre-roasted the vegetables first.
This recipe is great because it makes use of the fresh herbs out in the fields right now.
One Pan Roast Dinner Using Parchment Packets
Boneless chicken breasts or fish can be used in a one-pan roast as long as they are placed in parchment packets, which are then set on top of the vegetable layer. The reason for using a packet is simple. These cuts tend to dry out when openly roasted. While a fatty fish like salmon may do well without a packet, the packets do seal in juices and make the salmon incredibly moist and tender.
Basically, in this method you make separate parchment packets for each breast or fish fillet, add a little bit of oil and top with seasoning and thin lemon slices. The packets get placed on the partially pre-roasted vegetables and baked. You end up with super moist, tender chicken or fish and perfectly cooked veggies.
The problem with parchment is it doesn’t crimp up nicely like aluminum foil does so it requires a bit more fuss to make packets that don’t leak. So why not simply use foil? I strongly advise against using aluminum foil packets for cooking food at any time. Aluminum, in foil and other food sources, has been linked to several health risks, including a possible connection to alzheimers disease (1).
Making parchment packets is easier than you think. Here is a quick photo tutorial from the Food Network which shows you how to do it. Simply folding a sheet of parchment in half, placing the food inside near the center of the fold, closing the parchment back over the chicken and then making successive folds down the edges (as shown in the photo tutorial) is truly the simplest way to do it. If you find your folds don’t hold and your packet wants to open up on you, you can use a non-coated metal paper clip to hold the last fold in place.
Keep in mind that this method of cooking works best in the oven at no more than 400 degrees. Do not try to use the packets on the grill, or the parchment will simply burn.
Again, because chicken breasts and fish pieces cook more quicky than bone-in cuts, I prepare the veggies first and start them roasting in the oven while I assemble the packets. This gives them a head start so that they will be completely cooked by the time the chicken or fish is done.
I came up with this recipe earlier in the summer and it is a delicious way to use Herbes de Provence. Change up the vegetables to what you have on hand, such as zucchini, potatoes, chunks of cabbage, and/or eggplant.
– 3-4 large carrots, sliced into 1/3″ pieces
– 1 8 ounce bag sugar snap peas, stringed if needed
– 1/2 large fennel bulb, cored and chopped into bite sized pieces
– 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 teaspoons
– 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for chicken
– 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence, plus more for chicken
– 3 pastured, organic chicken breasts, trimmed
– 1 lemon, thinly sliced
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