Veggies: Why make chili in a sheet pan? Flavor.
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.