An all sheet pan Thanksgiving inspired a new cookbook

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These chaat masala nachos were inspired by a Priya Krishna recipe. Photo by Johnny Miller.

If you want to cook more efficiently instead of using a gazillion pots and pans or you're a singleton who likes to cook but often makes too much food, this one's for you. The sheet pan is the workhorse of the kitchen, offering cooks an easy tool to make efficient and balanced meals. But it's easy to default to one or two good ideas and make them over and over. That's why it's so great to have Hot Sheet: Sweet and Savory Sheet Pan Recipes for Every Day and Celebrations, a cookbook from the talented duo of Olga Massov and Sanaë Lemoine. Their sheet pan recipes cover every meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and they go way beyond utilitarian.

Evan Kleiman: What draws both of you to this very specific kind of cooking, enough to want to do an entire cookbook about it?

Olga Massov: The idea initially came to me after we did a sheet pan-focused Thanksgiving issue at the Washington Post. It was the first year of the pandemic. We were thinking in the summer about how to cover the holidays and the writing was on the wall. No one was going to be going anywhere, nobody was going to come over to anybody's house. I was personally very sad about it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I hosted and I have my family and friends around the table. It fills my heart with so much joy to see everybody eating, talking, and relaxing. I decided that even if I couldn't have a table full of people at my house, I was going to still have a nice meal with my family. 

It's just me and my husband and my now nine-year-old. I said I'm just going to roast a duck on a sheet pan and maybe throw some potatoes and things on it to create a festive meal. It'll be Thanksgiving but it'll be scaled down. Then, sort of as a throwaway, I said to my boss, Joe Yonan, "What if we did a sheet pan-themed Thanksgiving?" My boss was really into that idea and that's exactly what we did. Afterward, I started thinking about what else can I make on a sheet pan? I made a sheet pan pancake, and that was great. The best part about it was that we all ate at the same time. 

I started thinking about how I would personally benefit from a book like this but I couldn't find a cookbook that incorporated breakfasts, snacks, appetizers, mains, and desserts all in one book. I started jotting down ideas in an Excel spreadsheet and running them past Sanae and saying, "Do you think this is a good idea? Would you eat this?" Sanae started putting so many incredible ideas in the spreadsheet that I thought to myself, "It would be so incredible if we both went on this journey together." So I sheepishly asked her if she would like to become a co-author on this book and I'm very lucky that she said "yes."

After making a Thanksgiving meal using only sheet pans, Olga Massov (left) recruited Sanaë Lemoine to co-write a cookbook devoted to the kitchen workhorse. Photo by Johnny Miller.

When I think about sheet pan cooking, I think, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, put whatever I have on the pan, throw it in. Are most recipes cooked at the same temperature or is there a great deal of variation? 

Sanae LeMoine: Yeah, there's a great deal of variation. For instance, the other day I made Olga's frittata, which cooks at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, so at a lower heat. And that gives you a really silky, delicate frittata. We have some recipes that call for using just the broiler, for instance. We have these salumi skewers with grapes that I think are just cooked under the broiler really quickly. So there's actually a great range where we try to account for the fact that all ovens are different. So there's going to be variation in temperature, even though we recommend that you use a thermometer or that you put a thermometer in your oven so you can have a better sense of what the exact temperature inside your oven is.

Let's try and get through an entire day of meals starting with breakfast. Can you really make a giant pancake on a sheet pan?

Olga Massov: You can, yes, and it's delicious. We do it all the time at home. One trick I learned from my colleague at the Post, Becky Crystal, is she would make hers and she put toppings in various sections. So one section of the pancake was blueberry because that's what her son liked. Another section was chocolate chips because that's what she liked. I think they left one plain just for the fun of it. You can definitely do it and instead of one person just standing there and flipping pancakes over and over, you have this pancake you cut up into whatever shapes you desire and then you eat all at the same time.

So much better for the cook.

Olga Massov: So much better for the cook, especially if you have people over.

Let's move on to some savory daytime food. I make nachos a lot, probably too much.

Olga Massov: No such thing.

I love the idea of your chaat masala nachos. Could you describe them?

Olga Massov: Sure. So these are nachos that have cheese but instead of your typical bean, cheese, salsa, maybe meat situation, I took inspiration from Priya Krishna's recipe. I think it was in her cookbook or maybe it was in the New York Times. She basically added the flavors that she grew up with to the nachos and made them Indian-ish. I love, love, love chaat and I love popteejat and bhelpuri, so I kind of drew inspiration from those two chaats. So my nachos have a yogurt drizzle, they have a tamarind chutney, they have a cilantro chili chutney as well. And every bite is spicy, sweet, tart, salty. You get all these different flavors in each bite. I won't tell you if I've eaten an entire sheet pan of those nachos by myself but I think you can guess.

There's a recipe for spiced yogurt chicken with chickpeas and eggplant. Could you describe the technique of using almond flour in the marinade? It's so interesting.

Sanae LeMoine: It's a technique that I learned from Meera Sodha and what I love about it is that it creates a slight crust around the chicken. I think she uses it in a recipe where it's a whole chicken but she'll sometimes thicken her stews and curries with almond meal as well. It adds a little richness. It gives you a little texture in that crust as it cooks in the oven. It's also gluten-free, which is helpful. This is a dish that I would make for one of my friends who's celiac so instead of using flour or breadcrumbs, you're still getting some of that texture.

There's this wonderful take on fajitas you have that is marinated with gochujang and served with kimchi, onions, and peppers. Yeah,

Olga Massov: The first cookbook that I wrote as a co-author was The Kimchi Cookbook with the wonderful Lauren Chan who has the Mother In Law kimchi company. She introduced me to the wonder that is gochujang and how it makes everything richer and gives it a spice and a hit of umami. I don't eat red meat very often but when I do, I like to pair the flavors of beef with something that will deepen its flavors even more. I think gochujang does it so well and I love kimchi. I wrote a book with Lauren about it. I always felt like pairing steak with gochujang and kimchi and sticking it into a vaheda was really fun and delicious, so I decided to use it for the book.

We are pie people on the show, so we have to talk about slab pie, which according to me is the ultimate cheap pan dessert. You have one with sour cherries. What is your method for slab pies?

Olga Massov: I am also a pie person and I'm delighted to know that you are a pie person as well. I start with an all-butter crust. I've experimented with many different recipes over the years and to me, nothing really beats an all-butter crust and it's easy to throw together with just my hands. But I like to par-bake the crust especially because sour cherries tend to be juicy, they tend to have a lot of water. You want to ensure that the bottom crust stays nice and crispy and provides a textural contrast with the cherries. When I make my filling, I like to use pulverized tapioca filling. Then, I either do a plain crust on top or, as we did in the book, cute little circles all over which can be fun if you're making a pie with a kid who is eager to get their hands dirty and wants to decorate.

Olga Massov uses an all-butter crust for this seasonal cherry slab pie. Photo by Johnny Miller.

Breakfasts, snacks, appetizers, mains, and desserts all get equal love in Hot Sheets: Sweet and Savory Sheet Pan Recipes for Every Day and Celebrations. Photo courtesy of Harvest.