Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Last year, my family and I went out for Thanksgiving dinner. There, I said it. As a dedicated home cook, I feel a little like a traitor to the cause, but going out for Thanksgiving was, in a word, awesome. No prep work, no piles of dishes, no mess. Instead, there was sleeping in and napping, playing games, watching movies and taking walks. After years of creating ever-more-complex holiday traditions that were collapsing under their own weight, heading to a nice restaurant and letting someone else do the work was a holiday miracle. Check out the November Food & Dining guide for great ideas.
I’m still not sure what this holiday season will bring, but I am certain that the lessons of last year will not go unlearned. Somewhere along the way, the traditions I had worked so hard to cultivate ceased to make me happy and started to simply feel like labor. So, I’m starting from scratch and looking for ways to pare things down while still enjoying delicious food and time with family.
The internet is chock full of recipes for all sorts of dinners that can be made entirely on a single sheet pan. After a little experimentation, I’ve come up with a turkey dinner that tastes reminiscent of all the classic flavors, dirties a minimum of dishes to prepare, and can be on the table in about an hour. It’s certainly not exactly the same as a whole bird with all the trimmings, but it’s quite tasty and gets you out of the kitchen in less than three days. Even if you can’t envision making this for your Thanksgiving feast, it’s a spectacular weeknight meal.
I recommend prepping all the veggies and the turkey before you start, then it’s just matter of tossing things with olive oil (the amount you use is up to you, but I recommend coating the veggies thoroughly without leaving a puddle of oil in the bottom of the bowl). The turkey cutlets are coated in a crumb mixture that tastes very much like classic stuffing. Because of the steam from the vegetables surrounding the turkey as it cooks, the coating stays soft. If you prefer a crispy crust on the turkey, pan fry the cutlets on the stove top in a small amount of olive oil instead of baking them in the oven, while roasting the vegetables in the order listed here. If you go that route, you’ll have a few more dishes to wash, and it will take a few extra minutes, but it will still be a completely reasonable endeavor.
As you put things in the oven, rinse preparation tools and dishes and pop them in the dishwasher. When the final product comes out of the oven, you’ll have a clean kitchen to serve from and just one sheet pan to wash. A tasty turkey dinner with no post-meal devastation in the kitchen: it’s something to be thankful for.
Sheet Pan Thanksgiving Dinner
This meal comfortably feeds four very hungry people, or five to six moderately hungry people. If there is any turkey left over, it makes a great sandwich the next day.
2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
½ pound baby carrots, cut in half
¾ pound small potatoes, cut in half (red or gold)
½ pound green beans
Salt and pepper to taste1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless turkey breast cutlets
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes, cut baby carrots and potatoes in half. (If potatoes are larger, cut into bite-sized chunks.)
3. Mix panko bread crumbs and parsley in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, poultry seasoning, and mustard. Dip turkey cutlets in mayonnaise mixture, then roll in panko crumb mixture, then set on a plate. When all the cutlets are coated, place the plate in the refrigerator to chill while you work on the vegetables.
4. In a small bowl, drizzle olive oil over potatoes, tossing to combine well, then place on a rimmed, half-sheet pan (18 x 13 inches). Place in the oven, and set the timer for 10 minutes.
5. Place the sweet potatoes in a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. After potatoes have been in the oven for 10 minutes, remove the baking sheet, and add the sweet potatoes to the pan, put the pan back in the oven, and set the timer for 10 minutes.
6. Place carrots in a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil. When the timer rings, remove the baking sheet from the oven and add the carrots and the turkey cutlets. Spray the cutlets with cooking spray (like Pam) to help the crust adhere and hold its shape as it cooks. Place the sheet pan back in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
7. Rinse the green beans and put in a small bowl. Coat them with olive oil. When the timer rings, add the beans to the pan. (The pan will be full, so you may have to carefully add the beans to several nooks and crannies.) Place the pan back in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer rings, use the tip of a knife to test that all the vegetables are soft and ready to serve. Use a thermometer to test the temperature of the turkey (it should be 165 degrees). If the turkey is ready but the vegetables need a few more minutes, place cutlets on a plate and loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Season vegetables to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.