Let Molly Gilbert’s story be a lesson to all food bloggers. Good content attracts good things, and that doesn’t just mean readers. Book publishers might come calling, too.
That’s how Molly’s first book, Sheet Pan Suppers by Workman Publishing, came to be. The Seattle blogger at Dunk and Crumble was contacted by a Workman editor who provided her with both the idea for the book and the opportunity to write it.
“I’d been using sheet pans for ages, since culinary school. You use them all the time there,” Molly says. “But an editor at Workman had the idea to do a full meal on a sheet pan. She found me and they needed an author.”
Sounds easy, eh? Molly begs to differ. She still had to write the proposal, a daunting, multi-page job, and then develop, experiment with and test the recipes. There are 120 in the book.
“I took the idea and ran with it,” Molly, 30, says. “I fleshed it out.”
We talked with Molly earlier this month when she was visiting family in her Philadelphia hometown and where she was also attending some events for the book. Signing books is part of her gig these days. She left the East Coast a year ago to move to Seattle where she lives with new husband Ben, who works for Microsoft. Molly graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and the French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center) in New York. She was an intern in Saveur magazine’s test kitchen and has taught cooking classes.
Here is part of our conversation:
Q: There have been stories and reviews in many publications since Sheet Pan Suppers came out in December 2014. Are you surprised?
A: It’s been kind of a trip for me. There has been a lot of online and print buzz. I didn’t really expect that.
Q: What is your advice to other bloggers who hope a publisher contacts them about a book?
A: I wouldn’t encourage people to write a blog with that in mind. It’s rare. Write the blog because you enjoy it.
Q: Speaking of blogs, where did the name of yours come from?
A: I was just thinking of food and foods that I liked. I was thinking about cookies and donuts and the name came flying into my head and it was available.
Q: What’s the focus of Dunk and Crumble?
A: The blog for me is a place to share recipes that I like and little snippets of everyday life. I really enjoy taking the photos, though I am not sure I would say that the photos are the focus. I try to keep it light and fun and a place where you can forget about other parts of life. I get a lot of comments … I love hearing from people that they make something and it works.
Q: So back to the book, what’s the trick with making a sheet-pan dinner?
A: Make sure you have a sheet pan. (Molly giggles a bit here.) A jelly roll pan or a cookie sheet with a rim. It needs a rim for sure. I like aluminum or stainless steel pans, as opposed to non-stick. They hold up well for longer. Then line them with parchment paper or foil, rather than a spray. Clean-up is so much easier.
Q: Then what?
A: Make sure the veggies and proteins line up with the cooking time. For instance, you might do potatoes with chicken on the bone (because they both need lengthy cooking time). You can also cook in stages. It’s the flavorings where it gets fun to experiment, especially with fresh herbs and spices.
Q: What are some of your favorite recipes in Sheet Pan Suppers?
A: I make the chicken with peanut sauce a lot and the fancy tuna melt is a popular one in my house. It was fun to take dishes you don’t normally think of cooking on sheet pan, like chicken Parmesan, ratatouille and fajitas. I like the desserts, too, because sheet cakes and coffee cakes feed so many people.
Q: What is it about the idea of sheet-pan suppers that appeals to people?
A: I think people don’t have a ton of time to cook or don’t want to do step after step or dish after dish, so if something is relatively easy and straightforward people gravitate toward it. The premise is simple and elegant .
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am in the beginning stages of a follow-up on this book. I also started a podcast called “And Eat It Too” with my friend Sarah Barthelow. (She blogs at The Little House Pantry.) It starts with a food phrase (for instance, “The proof is in the pudding” or “no spring chicken”) and then we talk about it for 15 minutes.
- Cooking spray optional
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 bunches broccolini 1 pound total
- 4 to 6 thin-cut boneless skinless chicken breasts or cutlets (1 to 1½ pounds total)
Place a rack 4 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler. Line a sheet pan with foil.
Whisk together brown sugar, peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, vinegar, water and lime juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside ¼ cup of the peanut sauce for serving.
Brush broccolini and chicken with remaining sauce to coat, and arrange in a single layer on prepared pan. Broil until the chicken is just cooked through, the broccolini is well charred, and the sauce is bubbly and deeply browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning and flip chicken halfway through.
Serve the chicken and broccolini hot from the oven with the reserved dipping sauce alongside.