The “sheet pan dinner” bandwagon is roaring through sites like Pinterest, Facebook and even the newspaper, and I have to admit I’ve jumped on board. During the week I love the simplicity of cooking everything together in one pan and letting the oven do the majority of the work while I focus on setting the table and pouring a glass of wine. With that said, I take issue with the newest trend – “Dump Dinners”.
I see them all over the place these days – “dump cake,” “dump crock pot meals,” “dump dishes.” It’s my humble opinion that the word dump belongs nowhere near the word dinner or near any food for that matter. While dishes like this Roasted Sausage and Sweet Potatoes are mindlessly easy, and yes, theoretically the ingredients could be “dumped” in the pan with indifference, I believe that food should always be made to reflect beauty, be appetizing and aesthetically pleasing. It should be treated with the utmost respect – the respect due to the animals who gave their lives for it and the farmers who poured their livelihoods into growing, nurturing and harvesting it. This is, after all, the stuff that nourishes our bodies and those of our children and families. I don’t know about you, but I would never just “dump” something into my body.
These midweek meals are perhaps more significant to our well-being than, say, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. This is the food that comforts us at the end of a long day, the food that gets us through the work week and sustains our kids through their school days. There’s absolutely no reason a quick and easy weeknight meal should be treated any differently than a large Sunday lunch served on fine China with cloth napkins. I look at it as a way to honor and be mindful of everyone and everything that went into making it – from the farm to the market to the home cook to the table. Even if the ingredients were simply tossed onto a pan and roasted, there is nothing “dumped” in this meal.
I love to purchase mild pork sausages that are flavoured with fennel. They resemble what we here in the US think of a breakfast sausages in both size and shape, but they are anything but the maple-flavoured links we eat with pancakes. Be sure to not buy breakfast sausage. Any other mild pork or chicken sausage will do, just adjust the cooking time according to their size. I roast the sausages with Mandarin orange segments and sweet potatoes that have been seasoned lightly with cayenne pepper for spice and cumin for interest. I love the way the sweet and spicy flavours play on your tongue. At the end of the baking process, everything is coated in a citrus glaze of Mandarin orange juice, honey and butter, and cooked until the sugars caramelize. Adding a garnish of fresh green parsley lightens the flavour and makes a simple sheet pan dinner feel fresh and bright.
Roasted Sausages with Sweet Potatoes and Mandarin Oranges
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 2 TBSP olive oil + 1 tsp for greasing the pan
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 12 oz mild pork sausages (approx. 14 sausages)
- 3 – 4 Mandarin oranges
- 1 shallot, peeled and sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 TBSP butter
Preheat the oven to 400 F/200C. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
Juice one of the mandarin oranges into a measuring cup. You should have approximately 1/4 cup juice but, if not, juice a second orange until you have 1/4 cup of juice. Peel the remaining oranges and break into segments. Set both the juice and prepared orange segments aside.
Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut each sweet potato in half, then cut each half into quarters or eighths lengthwise. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin, Cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss to make sure the spices are evenly distributed on the potatoes. Spread the sweet potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the potatoes to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom. Nestle the sausages in among the sweet potatoes. Scatter the orange segments and sliced shallots on top. Place back in the oven and roast an additional 30 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time.
Meanwhile, place the mandarin orange juice, honey and butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until the butter is just melted and the honey is fully dissolved in the juice. Season with a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pour the juice mixture over the sausages and potatoes and place back in the oven for 5 minutes longer, until the sauce is bubbly and thick.