I was late, and there were only a few scattered seats left at Read It and Eat, a charming cookbook store in Lincoln Park. “Hero Dinners’” co-authors, Marge Perry and David Bonom, were already well into their first demo. The mood was casual, the audience relaxed, which- given that the book’s intent is to make cooking easier and clean-up a snap-was altogether appropriate.
As they explain in the introduction, the husband- and wife team creates recipes for magazines, websites, and corporations. Still, at the end of the day, they’re faced with the same question faced by other home cooks: what’s for dinner?
They write, “We want a great meal that takes almost no effort to prepare-and even less effort to clean up. And we don’t want takeout.”
“Our solution,” they continue, “lies with the humble sheet pan and its kitchen cabinet bestie, the skillet. These two ordinary pieces of cookware transform everyday ingredients into hero dinners.”
Of course, you have to partner ingredients that work well together, and you also have to know how long each of them needs to cook. Asparagus and potatoes, for example, can be cooked on the same sheet pan, but-obviously- not for the same length of time. Happily, Perry and Bonom’s recipes are clear, concise and easy to follow; there’s no guesswork.
If you’re new to this style of cooking-and even if you aren’t- it’s important to read the guidebook. Chances are, you have most or all of the equipment they suggest. On the other hand, the way they use them may not be the way you’ve used them in the past. Who knew you could make rice on a sheet pan or cook pasta in the sauce in the skillet?
The “Farmers’ Market Chicken,” complete with rice made on a sheet pan, exemplifies the book’s appeal. These are recipes designed for a home cook, recipes you’ll find yourself using again and again.
Farmers’ Market Chicken
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive-oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
2 garlic cloves
2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4-6 thighs)
2 pints cherry tomatoes, assorted colors
1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) corn kernels
1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
Makes 4 servings
- Preheat the oven to 425-degrees F. Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.
- Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil, the cilantro, parsley, lime zest, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper in a large bowl. Grate the garlic into the bowl. Stir, add the chicken and toss well.
- Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the tomatoes, onion and corn in a bowl. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Spread the rice on the sheet pan. Combine the broth, 1 cup of water, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pour over the rice. Spoon the tomato/corn mixture over the rice. Roast for 15 minutes.
- Remove the sheet pan from the oven and top with the chicken thighs. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the largest thigh registers 170-degrees F, the rice is cooked through, and the tomatoes are tender, 30-32 minutes.
“Hero Dinners – Complete One-Pan Meals That Save the Day” by Marge Perry and David Bonom, William Morrow, $29.99
Read It & Eat, 2142 N. Halsted Street 773.661.6158