One-Pan Dinners, a Cook’s Best Friend

fish dish
Pan-roasted halibut with charred cherry tomatoes | Photo by Keri White

Simplicity is an asset in a recipe, assuming the outcome is tasty and the ingredients are solid. And in these challenging times, anything that makes life easier is welcome.

These two recipes are adaptable and accessible — the chicken marinade can be virtually anything that has some flavor. I used the combo below because that’s what I had on hand, but if your pantry has a different inventory, by all means, use it — soy/hoisin/teriyaki sauce, mustard, salad dressing or oil and wine with a sprinkle of your favorite spice blend.

Ditto the vegetables; I used potatoes and sweet potatoes because I had one or two of each — not enough for dinner for the family, but plenty when pooled. If you don’t have them, use carrots or beets or onions or cabbage. Really, any hardy combo of vegetables works fine. The chicken and roasted vegetables are fine as is, but a green salad or another light, simple green vegetable side add a nice complement to the heartiness of the chicken dish.

As for the fish, I had a quart of cherry tomatoes that was past its prime, so pan roasting them to a tasty char was a good way to salvage them. If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, chop regular tomatoes or use a can of diced tomatoes — fire-roasted would be great here. It won’t be exactly the same, but flexibility is key.

The tomatoes serve as both a sauce and a side, but you can certainly add some pasta, rice or crusty bread to round out this meal — dipped in the tomatoes it is something pretty heavenly.
We served sautéed beet greens as a side because they were starting to wilt, but this dish stands on its own just fine.

One-Pan Chicken
Serves 4

I used thin cut chicken pieces because that’s what I had. But thicker breasts, bone-in pieces or boneless thighs would work well — just be sure to adjust the cooking time for larger pieces. Marinating overnight brings more of the flavor into the chicken, but you can get away with a couple of hours if that is all time permits.

A note on the pan: I used a round, ovenproof skillet with a lid and cooked the dish covered for all but the last 10 minutes. This kept the chicken from drying out, but it also prevented the potatoes from crisping. On the plus side, they were soft and tasty, and infused with the marinade flavor. But they lacked that crisped edge that makes roasted vegetables so delicious.

If that is a priority, use a rimmed baking tray and spread the potatoes out around the chicken, rather than underneath.

For the chicken:
1½ pounds chicken
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

For the vegetables:
2 large potatoes, cut in
bite-sized chunks
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in
bite-sized chunks
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper

In a zipper bag or sealable container, mix the mayonnaise, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Add the chicken and turn each piece to coat thoroughly. If using skin-on pieces, work some of the marinade under the skin. Marinade for 2-24 hours.

Line a large ovenproof skillet with parchment (optional clean-up minimizer) or skip the parchment and just coat the pan with oil to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the prepared vegetables in a pan and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat and distribute the seasonings.

Place the chicken pieces on top of vegetables, and pour any additional marinade over the ingredients.

Cover and cook until done; if using thin chicken pieces and the vegetables are cut small, it takes about 35 minutes; larger, bone-in pieces and vegetable chunks may take up to an hour or more.

Pan-Roasted Halibut with Charred Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4

This can be made with any firm-fleshed fish — delicate fillets like sole and flounder might not stand up as well to the heft and acidity of the sauce.

It is a straightforward preparation using classic summer ingredients — tomatoes and basil. If you are feeling creative and want some variety, pitted oil-cured black olives would be great in this dish, as would capers, dill, parsley or chili peppers.

4 halibut fillets (about 1½ pounds)
Salt and pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 quart cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup basil leaves, cut in ribbons

Sprinkle the halibut with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes. Shake the pan and move the tomatoes around until they char and burst, about 10 minutes. The bottom of the pan may caramelize and burn a bit; keep scraping it and stirring it into the tomatoes; this “jam” delivers a wonderful smoky, intense flavor.

While the tomatoes cook, microwave the butter for 30 seconds until it is soft but not melted. Mash it with garlic and slather it on the fish.

Lower the heat to medium-low, move the tomatoes to the edges of the pan and place the fish in the pan.

Spoon the tomatoes on top of the fish, add white wine and cover the pan. Cook for about 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

Strew basil atop the dish, remove it from the heat and cover it for about 30 seconds to allow the basil to steam slightly. Serve and enjoy.


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