2019 was my first full year at Serious Eats, and I made sure to fill up on all the great food that came out of our test kitchen. There’s always something to look forward to, between Stella’s monthly dessert visits and Sho’s daily noodling projects. It’s fun to look back at what our small team was able to produce over the course of the year, and it gets me excited about all the stuff we already have planned for 2020! But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a selection of my favorite Serious Eats recipes from 2019.
I don’t buy or bake a lot of cookies, but I do love Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. There’s something about their crispy snap, and butterscotch-y flavor that really does it for me. So when Stella announced in an edit meeting that she would be developing a copycat recipe of her own, I was so in and made sure to be in the office when she came to New York to bake them for the recipe photo shoot. These cookies are ridiculously tasty, and I love how Stella breaks down the science of making them.
Sho is the king of the undersell at Serious Eats. When he has any of us taste and weigh in on one of his in-progress recipes, he starts with a trademark Sho-ism like, “This is NOT good, and I’m really unhappy with it… but here’s some food. Eat it if you want.”
It’s surprising that he never spent time cooking in restaurants because Sho has the self-deprecating, obsessive tinkering bug that you see in most professional cooks. Behind the sarcasm and praise-deflection, there’s a refusal to settle for mediocrity that makes Sho’s food so good. He will work on a dish until he gets it right. So don’t let the title of his article, “Not the Best Chicken Adobo (but Still Pretty Good)” fool you—he makes a mean chicken adobo. You should make it because it doesn’t suck.
Late-summer peak tomato season is my favorite time of year as a cook. I am at my happiest on days when I wake up early and hit up the greenmarket on my way into work, picking up as many heirlooms and Sungolds as I can carry, and then putting them to good use in the test kitchen.
This tomato salad is highlighted by a bright tonnato sauce that’s perfect for low-key, no-cook hot summer nights, and it’s one of the tomato-centric recipes that I packaged together this summer. It’s simple, delicious, and not too hard on the eyes either.
I loved tasting Daniel’s ode to chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) cuisine, lomo saltado, when he was developing the recipe. A delicious beef stir-fry with snappy vegetables, that comes with a side of rice AND fries?? Sign me all the way up. I hadn’t eaten a ton of lomo saltado before this year, but I’ve since corrected that.
There’s no way I could have a top-ten list of recipes that didn’t include at least one pasta dish. The star of this simple spaghetti recipe is undoubtedly the colatura di alici, an Italian fish sauce from the fishing town of Cetara. Like Southeast Asian fish sauce, colatura is an umami bomb, but the two taste very different. This dish combines the salty, savory, sea flavor of colatura with the classic flavors of aglio e olio pasta for an easy weeknight dinner.
One of my favorite days at Serious Eats this year was when I got a chance to tag along with Elazar and the video team to help out with the shoot for his first Resetting the Table video all about Cambodian cooking with Chinchakriya Un and her amazing mom, who fed all of us with this phenomenal lemongrass chicken stir-fry. The highlight of this dish is the pounded kreung paste made with galangal, makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, chilies, and fresh turmeric. It’s so bright, literally and figuratively, and really makes the chicken sing.
Grilling and smoking (in the barbecue sense of the word) recipes are a nightmare to develop in New York City, where legal outdoor cooking spaces are very hard to come by. This summer we took over our colleague Niki’s apartment for a week to grill out in her backyard in Brooklyn. When coming up with a list of recipes to tackle, Daniel realized we didn’t have a great real-deal slow-smoked pulled pork recipe, and he took it upon himself to remedy that. I must have eaten roughly an entire pork shoulder over the course of that week, and I don’t have any regrets.
It’s an objective fact that the best flavor of gelato is pistachio, so I kind of lost it with excitement when Stella started messaging me this spring with questions about sourcing Sicilian pistachios. Once again, I made sure to clear my schedule for the day that she was shooting this recipe in the test kitchen, and I periodically check the Serious Eats HQ freezers in hopes of finding a magical lost batch of this perfect pistachio ice cream.
In my mind, recipes like XO sauce are the ones that really show what makes Serious Eats special. For years, I had been wanting to publish a recipe for XO, which is, as SE readers are now well-aware, one of the best condiments of all time.
I had pushed for it at the last food media company I worked for, but my pleas and pitches were always turned down because the powers that be claimed it was a recipe that involved too many hard-to-find ingredients and finnicky cooking steps. When I got to Serious Eats and pitched XO at an edit meeting, I was ready for another “maybe someday, but not now” letdown, and instead everyone was immediately on-board. That was pretty great.
Even better was the enthusiastic response that the recipe and subsequent offshoot recipes got from our readers! It goes to show that in the internet age hard-to-find ingredients aren’t really a thing anymore (especially when readers are already online if they’re looking at our recipes). So long as there’s a delicious payoff, people are willing to take on a cooking project. It’s a beautiful thing. XOXOXO
Speaking of cooking projects, I was really happy with how this Thai-inspired roasted pork shoulder feast turned out. I’m a big fan of family-style dining when it comes to serving a crowd, and I worked on a couple of recipe packages this year that fit in that mold.
This one is great for summer entertaining, with a big old roast pork shoulder to tear into with your friends, and dress up with a salty-sour-spicy dipping sauce and crispy fried shallots. Served up with sticky rice and plenty of refreshing greens and herbs, this is a crowd-pleasing feast with a ton of make-ahead components to keep you from stressing out when you have company over for dinner.
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