I spent a little more time this past year cross-testing the amazing recipes from contributors and a little less time developing my own, and this list reflects that (I still developed a whole bunch). It was a great experience that gave me a chance to learn more about cuisines I’m less adept at as a cook and refine my understanding about what a “good” version of some of those dishes might look like. I also continue to work with some of the best cooks and recipe developers in the business, and many of their recipes are featured here as well. Make them all; you won’t be disappointed.
One of my favorite things to do at Serious Eats is to cook—not my recipes—but our contributors’ recipes as part of the cross-testing and photography process. It gets me out of my own head and areas of expertise and introduces me to dishes I’ve often never made before. It’s a tremendous learning experience. This Filipino pancit recipe from chef Yana Gilbuena just absolutely blew me away. The sauce is indescribable, loaded with smoked fish, a rich shrimp-and-chicken stock, brightly brick-colored annatto powder, and loads of intensely crustacean-y crab “fat.” And then the toppings just take it to the next level: roasted pork belly, tender shrimp, fried garlic, and crumbled fried pork rinds. I mean, c’mon.
Over the past few years, I’ve taken a swing at some of Louisiana’s classics, like jambalaya and étouffée, so it seemed like the time was ripe to finally try my hand at gumbo. And what fun it was! I descended into the depths of roux and got intimate with thickeners like filé powder and the oh-so divisive okra. It’s such a complex dish with flavors that are deeply comforting but also a little mysterious. And, of course, this is just one version. Gumbo has many faces, and I can’t wait to explore more of them.
This is drunk food at its finest, but to be honest, I’ve never even eaten it drunk. Sasha tested this recipe during working hours, which means that the following endorsement comes from a completely sober mind: This chicken is insaaaaaaane. Buffalo wings—and I love them—truly have nothing on these char-grilled chicken thighs in a spicy-sweet chili sauce, all of it covered in a blanket of melted mozzarella. If I have one New Year’s resolution, it’s to finally eat this thing drunk.
This cheesecake recipe requires, before anything else, that you buy an entirely new specialized pan exclusively for it (okay, requires is too strong, but that pan is heavily recommended). In any other case, upon seeing that, I’d say, “Yeah right, not gonna happen.” But this is Stella’s New York cheesecake recipe, and it’s truly the best. And anyway, whenever Stella tells you to do something, you should just do it. Because it’s Stella, and she’s a genius, and if she says you need a new pan, you need a new pan.
What’s so great about this cheesecake? It’s epically tall and almost unrealistically creamy with the gentlest of tang to counter all that rich dairy fat (secret ingredient: fresh goat cheese). It really is the best—and I’m a Brooklyn native, so I know of what I speak.
Any time I can find a reason to bust out (one of) my (many) mortar(s) and pestle(s), I’m all in. That made a deeper dive on this classic Spanish sauce a no-brainer. There are a million recipes out there for romesco, and many of them are very good. But most of the ones in the United States take one shortcut I’m not okay with, and that’s using roasted red bell peppers in place of the dried chilies traditionally used in Spain. The bell peppers make a good sauce; don’t get me wrong. It’s just lighter and brighter and sweeter than the earthy notes those dried chilies add, and to me, that’s where the sauce really gets interesting. You should try it (and no, I won’t fault you if you use a food processor instead).
A dish like al pastor tacos is a conundrum for the home cook. Attempting to recreate the spit-roasted meat in the highest fidelity possible without the spit requires jumping through quite a few hoops. Kenji has jumped those hoops before in a brilliant way, but it’s inarguably a production. What I love about these skewers from Sasha is the elegance and simplicity of his solution: Just make them into kebabs! It’s almost head-slappingly obvious once you see it. Tasting them just confirms it: This is the easiest way to make great al pastor at home.
If you’ve been sleeping on Sho’s ramen recipes, you’ve truly been sleeping. He’s obsessed, and we’re all the benefactors. I’m lucky because I work with Sho, and sometimes get to eat his ramen, but I’ll admit that it’s a project I’m not likely to do at home these days, what with all my own recipe-developing to do.
That’s why I’m particularly into this mazemen recipe, which is a broth-less style of ramen. Removing the broth from the equation makes ramen much more approachable for the home cook (especially if you have a source for good ramen noodles). This recipe takes advantage of Sasha’s recipe for XO Sauce; the XO is a small project, but a little bit goes a long way. After that, there’s really not too much more you have to do beyond cook the noodles and dress them with XO. That’s the kind of ramen recipe I can really get down with.
There are some dishes I use as a yardstick to measure the skill of a kitchen. Out for pizza? A Margherita is a must, just to see how they do with a basic like that. Gelato? Gotta get at least one scoop of nocciola (hazelnut). When I get Korean, japchae is the one I order every time, and it can run the gambit, from dry, dull, and one-dimensional to oily, steamy, and wet.
I’d like to think I know a good japchae when I see one, but as enthusiastic and frequent of a Korean-food eater as I am, I’m no expert. This recipe from Seoyoung Jung was an eye-opener for me, revealing just how artfully the noodles can be composed. Hers is balanced and restrained—no pooling puddle of slick sauce or grease—but it’s still deeply flavorful and satisfying. It redefined, for me, what a good japchae could be.
I’m not the biggest cake person. The icing is often too sweet for me, and the cake portion rarely elevates the rest of it except in the hands of the very best bakers. But a cake like this one that’s skillfully made and not slathered in whipped sugar speaks to me. Stella lets the olive oil shine through in this one, opting for a higher-quality oil to really bring that grassy flavor to the fore. It’s delicate and moist and just perfect after dinner or with a cup of coffee in the morning.
A few months ago, Sasha, myself, and a few other members of the Serious Eats crew traveled to a farm in Upstate New York to film some cooking videos. Sasha made the pomodori al riso he’d grown up eating in Rome and then perfected as this recipe for Serious Eats. It’s an absolutely beautiful expression of a ripe summer tomato, sweet and fruity and jammy and juicy. And those potatoes that roast alongside the tomatoes ain’t half bad either. Set a reminder for yourself now: You’re going to want to cook these come next summer.
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