Why make chili in a sheet pan? Flavor

By

Published:

 

I love my sheet pans, I do. Just about every Sunday, as I’m sure I’ve said before, I spend most of the afternoon rotating them in and out of my oven, as I roast vegetable after vegetable. I use those vegetables in various combinations and with various sauces and toppings in grain bowls, salads, pastas, soups, stews and more.

What I haven’t done with a sheet pan, at least not until recently, is make chili.

The recipe is in Raquel Pelzel’s latest cookbook, “Sheet Pan Suppers: Meatless” (Workman, 2017), the vegetarian follow-up to a popular book. I admire Pelzel’s work, and she makes a convincing case for the sheet pan as your friend when you want to get quick, satisfying meals on the table with minimal cleanup.

But chili? I was curious whether such a wet dish would be more annoying than convenient to make on a sheet pan in the oven rather than in a saucepan on the stove top, so I tried it out.

This is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe, and while I wouldn’t have thought twice about stirring the pot, adding ingredients or adjusting spices, I found it awkward to keep opening the oven, pulling out the sheet pan, doing what I needed to do and putting it back in. That was especially true once I added the liquids and covered the pan with aluminum foil for the final baking. The sheet pan held the liquid just fine, but to avoid spilling I had to balance it carefully and use a shovel-shaped spoon to scoop and turn the mixture without pushing it over the rimmed edges.

Still, I loved how roasting seemed to better concentrate the flavors of the onions and peppers, the spices, even the canned tomatoes, black beans and the veggie crumbles (I used crumbled tempeh instead). The results spoke for themselves. And I did have the sense that the oven’s gentler heat made this method more forgiving, that if I had let it cook another 10 minutes or so, nothing would have scorched – and that’s not always the case on the stove top.

The next time I make chili, I’ll be honest: I might start by roasting vegetables in the oven, then I’ll probably finish it on the stove top once those liquids go in. But maybe not. I admit that I’m thinking about my sheet pans a little differently now, with my curiosity piqued about their versatility, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Sheet Pan Chili

6 to 8 servings (makes 8 cups)

We found that a shovel-type spatula with a flat edge works well for stirring and serving the chili in the pan. Veggie crumbles give this oven-roasted chili a hearty texture, but you can leave them out. There’s a fair amount of fine chopping here; you can use a food processor. Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips, or spoon it over macaroni and cheese. Adapted from “Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven,” by Raquel Pelzel (Workman, 2017).

1 medium red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded; 1 finely chopped, the other cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 medium green bell peppers, stemmed and seeded; 1 finely chopped, the other cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (piment?n; sweet or hot)

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

26 ounces (3 1/4 cups) canned, no-salt-added chopped tomatoes, and their juices

About 11 ounces (3 cups) crumbled tempeh or veggie crumbles, such as Morning Star Farms brand (optional)

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup water

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Chopped avocado, for serving

Thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Shredded cheese, for serving (optional)

Sour cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the red onion with the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast (middle rack) until the onion is soft and just starting to brown, about 12 minutes.

Add the finely chopped red and green bell peppers (reserve the 3/4-inch pieces), the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and cook until the peppers are soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and add the tomatoes, tempeh or veggie crumbles, if using, the black beans, the 3/4-inch bell pepper pieces, water and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring gently to incorporate.

Carefully cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil, crimping it loosely around the edges; it’s good to use oven mitts for this. Roast (middle rack) for about 45 minutes, stirring midway through the cooking, until the large pepper pieces are tender and the pan liquid has reduced somewhat. Taste and add more salt, as needed.

Divide among bowls; serve warm, topped with cilantro and serve with toppings of your choice.

Per serving (based on 8): 150 calories, 7 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar