Month: December 2018

10 Savory Saffron Recipes to Make Any Meal a Special Occasion

10 Savory Saffron Recipes to Make Any Meal a Special Occasion

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Daniel Gritzer, Liz Clayman] Many people get scared away from saffron by its price tag, and that’s totally understandable—the dried crocus stamens are among the most expensive ingredients in the world, pound for pound. The good news is that just a pinch…

21 Sparkling-Cocktail Recipes for a Bubbly New Year’s Eve

21 Sparkling-Cocktail Recipes for a Bubbly New Year’s Eve

[Photographs: Elana Lepkowski, Vicky Wasik] It’s always fun to ring in the New Year with a glass of bubbly. If you’re celebrating with just a few other people, it might be worth busting out a fancy bottle of Champagne—or the best Cava, or Prosecco. But…

Our Favorite Videos of 2018

Our Favorite Videos of 2018

Top Videos of 2018 Collage

We put out a lot of videos this year, but the ones we’ve chosen to highlight below were are our personal favorites, the ones we cooked from and watched the most. These videos made us hungry, made us laugh, and helped us become better cooks. We learned how to roll out flaky and crisp paratha, cook dosa batter, emulsify a perfect pasta alla gricia, and more.

What Wouldn’t You Do for a Homemade Klondike Bar?

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

This is a great video. Maybe it’s because Stella uses the term “Flufftown, USA;” maybe it’s because of the really sexy chocolate-dipping shot to kind of Batman-ish soundtrack; or maybe it’s because “Boop Boop Boop” has made it into Serious Eats vernacular. Aside from that, I truly appreciate the effort Stella made to develop the recipe. These Klondike bars are absolutely perfect, and the video made me feel like perhaps I could be successful at making them myself. —Ariel Kanter, director of commerce strategy and editorial

What Wouldn’t You Do for a Homemade Klondike Bar? »

Texas Sheet Cake Forever

[Video: Serious Eats Video.]

I don’t think Stella will mind me telling you that she really, really doesn’t like being on camera. I, however, love watching Stella on camera. Not because I’m sadistic and like seeing someone in discomfort; it’s because she so successfully takes that “I don’t want to be here” feeling and converts it into a perfectly snarky, yet still very likable, persona. This video is just one good example of Stella doing the thing she hates doing so well. —Daniel Gritzer, managing culinary director

Texas Sheet Cake Forever »

A Day in the Life of a Dim Sum Cart

[Video: Natalie Holt]

Every time I eat dim sum (read: every single weekend), I marvel at the enormous towers of bamboo steamers coming from the kitchen. Providing a behind-the-scenes look at how these restaurants function is a fascinating idea, but doing so from the vantage point of a dim sum cart is both hilarious and revealing. Plus, the video illustrates just how talented—not to mention hard-working—the chefs and waiters at our favorite dim sum establishments are. —Elazar Sontag, editorial assistant

A Day in the Life of a Dim Sum Cart »

Elotes Meet Risotto al Salto in an All-Star Mashup

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

I really love this short and fun video. It’s a great combination of Sohla’s delightful energy and fun camera angles, and Vicky and Daniel’s hilarious cameo certainly help. Not to mention how fantastic the elote risotto pancake looks! —Grace Chen, office manager

Elotes Meet Risotto al Salto in an All-Star Mashup »

Pressure Cooker Corn Risotto Cooks in Four Minutes, Tastes Like Summer

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

This starts out as an elegant but straightforward recipe video for a pressure cooker corn risotto, playing out to what looks like an orderly conclusion, only to carry on into an anarchic “next day” epilogue. It’s a celebration of the impulsive spirit of making new dishes from leftovers. —John Mattia, video producer

Pressure Cooker Corn Risotto Cooks in Four Minutes, Tastes Like Summer »

Zen and the Art of the Maryland Crab Feast

[Video: Serious Eats Video]

Before I start, I need to give y’all a preface: I’m allergic to shellfish, and therefore did not eat this crab. But I did get to participate in the filming of it, where we hauled a big vat of crabs out into the courtyard of our office complex and had ourselves a little afternoon respite. I have happy memories of sitting and drinking beer in the sunshine, watching my coworkers savagely tear open crabs with their bare hands while following Daniel’s instructions. The final product was one of our most-viewed videos of the year, which incited a lively debate in the comments on the semantics of “crab feast” versus “crab boil,” which I moderated with great joy. — Kristina Bornholtz, social media editor

Zen and the Art of the Maryland Crab Feast »

Dosa (Indian Rice-and-Lentil Crepes)

[Video: Vicky Wasik]

I never jumped on the slime video bandwagon, and I think this is as close as I’m ever going to get. Equal parts strangely satisfying, suspenseful, and trypophobia-triggering, it’s got all the components of those videos you watch on the internet but you’re not really sure why. Plus, I learned how to griddle a dosa. —Maggie Lee, designer

Dosa (Indian Rice-and-Lentil Crepes) Recipe »

The Right Way to Eat Chicken Wings Is All the Way

[Video: Natalie Holt]

In my personal life, I strive to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude, but my professional self knows that strong, sometimes unpopular, and well-founded convictions make good food writing, and, as it turns out, good food videos. (The “well-founded” aspect is an element I find to be missing from a lot of clickbait-y food opinion pieces out there.) Plus, food waste is a pet peeve of mine, so I had to love Wing Hysteric Daniel Gritzer’s office exposé/mini tirade against those half-hearted eaters who lose interest in their chicken wings once they catch even a glimpse of bone. C’mon, people! Even your dog knows better than that! I especially like the theatrically sneaky jog into the kitchen around 1:05. —Miranda Kaplan, senior editor

The Right Way to Eat Chicken Wings Is All the Way »

How to Get the Most Out of Your Instant Pot

[Video: Serious Eats Video]

I’ll be honest: I really thought this video had a chance of going viral. Then I showed it to my sister-in-law, who looked confused and asked me what an Instant Pot is. Having to explain a joke isn’t an encouraging sign about its quality; it also isn’t really the kind of thing you want to do for a second time when you show it to your mom. And a third when you show it to your best friend. But, BUT! I’ll do it for you anyway, because really, I promise, once you get it, you’ll think it’s just about the most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen. Premise: Instant Pots are all the rage! And they’re great. They’re also just…electric pressure cookers. When we decided to do this video, we thought we’d poke some inside-jokey-fun at the fact that Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook/The Whole Internet had become obsessed with a specific brand of a product that’s been around for a long time. So…how about now? Is it funny now? DO YOU GET IT? I hope so. It’s pretty great. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, executive managing editor

How to Get the Most Out of Your Instant Pot »

Traditional Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

Toum really is the garlicky eggless mayo that goes with everything—watch the video—and it really is easy to make, and you really should make some yourself. But I picked this video as a reminder and warning for my past and future colleagues and friends: If you visit the Serious Eats office, you, too, might get tricked into singing Toumbop (to the tune of Mmmbop) on camera. —Paul Cline, VP of product

Traditional Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce) Recipe »

Paratha (Flaky South Asian Flatbread)

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

There’s a lot to love about this video: parathas are one of my favorite foods; the double-coil technique; the weird, kind of creepy jazz. But the main reason I love this video is because of the “ooh” Sohla lets out when she puts her back into flattening the dough. — Sho Spaeth, features editor

Paratha (Flaky South Asian Flatbread) Recipe »

Gricia Is the Silky, Porky Roman Pasta Everyone Should Know

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

I could watch pasta videos for hours. Let’s be honest, I have definitely done that. —Sasha Marx, culinary editor

Gricia Is the Silky, Porky Roman Pasta Everyone Should Know »

Chili Crisp: Spicy, Salty, Crunchy, Tingly, and Good on Everything

[Video: Natalie Holt]

As much as I love copycat recipes AND Lao Gan Ma brand chili crisp, it never occurred to me this was something I could make from scratch. But Sohla’s excitement for breaking down the complexities of the recipe and straightforward technique won me over, and I wound up making a life-changing batch for myself. The video made it look like a lot of fun to try at home, and it was! —Stella Parks, pastry wizard

Chili Crisp: Spicy, Salty, Crunchy, Tingly, and Good on Everything »

Mystery Box Cooking Challenge: Sohla Versus Stella

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

I love this video because it took Stella and Sohla out of their comfort zones, and let their natural instincts shine through. This was one of the more chaotic/labor intensive/challenging shoots to date, but getting them out into the world at the farmer’s market and then back in the kitchen was worth it for all the fun moments. I also think it gave the audience a closer look into how the Serious Eats test kitchens work. —Vicky Wasik, visual director

Mystery Box Cooking Challenge: Sohla Versus Stella »

How to Make a Pan Sauce, and How to Fix a Broken One

[Video: Natalie Holt]

I’m a sucker for a Sohla video, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Not only is it doubly informative, teaching you how to make a pan sauce and fix a broken one, but there’s also a bit of comic relief towards the end. Two dogs, a Brad, and Sohla’s crack-up laugh really round out a cooking video. —Tim Aikens, front-end developer

How to Make a Pan Sauce, and How to Fix a Broken One »

How to Pick the Best Mortar and Pestle

[Video: Serious Eats Video]

This video has changed my life. Okay, maybe a bit extreme, but it’s true—I’ll never pronounce “pestle” wrong again. The main reason I love this video so much is that it shows the level of research and obsession Daniel and the rest of the Serious Eats crew have for food, and all the ways you can prepare and cook it. Seeing Daniel test out and speak his mind about what applications each M&P succeeds and struggles with, I finished the video feeling like an expert. —Joel Russo, video producer

How to Pick the Best Mortar and Pestle »

Quick Gingerbread Cookies for Busy Holiday Bakers

[Video: Serious Eats Team]

How can you not love Stella’s videos when she says stuff like, “Scraping a bowl is a way of showing a dough you care.” It doesn’t matter to me that this video is all about holiday gingerbread cookies, which I don’t even like. I love this video for the same reason I love all of Stella’s videos for Serious Eats. I think the way she interacts with the camera ends up putting the viewer at ease, and makes her incredibly delicious work seem all the more approachable. —Ed Levine, founder

Quick Gingerbread Cookies for Busy Holiday Bakers »

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Our Favorite Feature Stories of 2018

Our Favorite Feature Stories of 2018

[Photographs: Clay Williams, Vicky Wasik, Jennifer Burns Bright, Adam Kuban, Max Falkowitz] For most of our readers, the feature stories on Serious Eats aren’t the biggest draw—some who know us strictly for our recipes probably don’t even realize we publish anything else. But when we…

Cranberry-Jalapeño Baked Brie Dip Recipe

Cranberry-Jalapeño Baked Brie Dip Recipe

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg] Gooey melted Brie is a hit on its own, but when combined with a sweet, tart, and slightly spicy topping of minced cranberries and a bit of jalapeño, it becomes an instant party favorite. This is an incredibly simple last-minute appetizer that…

Ed’s Favorite Special Sauce Podcast Episodes of 2018

Ed’s Favorite Special Sauce Podcast Episodes of 2018

[Photographs, clockwise from top left: Sara Babcock, Simply Recipes, Elizabeth Bick, Andrew Cebulka]

Last year I wrote that asking me to pick my favorite Special Sauce episodes of the year was like asking a father to choose his favorite child. I’m afraid picking this year’s favorites was, if anything, even more difficult, mostly because of the variety of storytellers we had on Special Sauce this year, from Rick Bragg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and New Yorker humor writer Jenny Allen to Eater and Resy co-founder Ben Leventhal. And although Jenny and Ben’s episodes could have very easily made the list, they didn’t. I hope they’ll still come back.

I really do love every episode equally, for the same reasons I love Serious Eats as a whole: I like putting together a strong team and watching each member do their thing.

In the case of Special Sauce, that means the teamwork of our new Associate Producer Grace Chen and producer/editor extraordinaire Marty Goldensohn; the editors at Serious Eats; and you, our listeners. Between selecting and researching guests, structuring and conducting the 90-minute interview, editing it in post-production, and writing up an article to accompany the audio, each Special Sauce episode is really a microcosm of Serious Eats as a whole. Both on the site and on Special Sauce we’re trying to tell the best, most well-informed food-related stories in whatever form is appropriate, be it a recipe or technique, a video, a feature, or an equipment review.

All that being said, after great deliberation, I’ve chosen five Special Sauce episodes that I think exemplify the best audio storytelling we do. I hope I haven’t offended my other Special Sauce “children,” the other 45 we produced this year, because each of those contains many unforgettable gems, as well.

Special Sauce is available on iTunes, Google Play Music, Soundcloud, Player FM, and Stitcher. You can also find the archive of all our episodes here on Serious Eats and on this RSS feed.

Rodney Scott

[Photograph: Andrew Cebulka]

Pitmaster Rodney Scott’s path to barbecue celebrity is a most unlikely one, as you’ll hear. I don’t know too many high school graduates who end up coming home to stay up all night cooking barbecue after their graduation ceremony.

Listen to part one and part two of Rodney Scott on Special Sauce.

Rick Bragg

[Photograph: Michael Lionstar]

Rick Bragg is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. He came on Special Sauce to talk about his mother-centric memoir-with-recipes, The Greatest Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table. What a wonderful storyteller and raconteur Bragg turned out to be!

Listen to part one and part two of Rick Bragg on Special Sauce »

Edward Lee

[Photograph: Sara Babcock]

You may know Edward Lee from his appearances on Top Chef and The Mind of a Chef, but I feel like I really got to know this hyper-articulate, thoughtful, Korean-American chef when he came in to record his episodes of Special Sauce, and I think you will, too.

Listen to part one and part two of Edward Lee on Special Sauce.

Deb Perelman

[Photograph: Christine Han]

Deb Perelman is, of course, the founder of Smitten Kitchen, and, as such, she is one of the original recipe bloggers. There’s a reason why her site has legions of loyal followers, and although it doesn’t exactly have to do with how wonderful she is to talk to in person, I believe you’ll catch a glimpse of it in her conversation with me.

Listen to part one and part two of Deb Perelman on Special Sauce.

Elise Bauer

[Photograph: Courtesy of Simply Recipes]

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes, our Fexy stablemate, and like Perelman, she was a pioneer in the recipe blogging world. Listening to the two of them is like taking a class on the history of food blogging. There’s also an incredible story behind Elise’s site, which I am very happy to be able to share with all of our readers.

Listen to part one and part two of Elise Bauer on Special Sauce.

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

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26 Recipes to Make the Most Out of Your Cast Iron Skillet

26 Recipes to Make the Most Out of Your Cast Iron Skillet

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Morgan Eisenberg, Matthew and Emily Clifton, J. Kenji López-Alt] I’ve spent my whole adult life living in apartments, which means I’ve never had the space to amass as many pans as I’d like. Practicality dictates that I buy only what I’m really…

Daniel’s Favorite Recipes of 2018

Daniel’s Favorite Recipes of 2018

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, unless otherwise noted] This was a big year for me. At the end of 2017, my wife, Kate, and I had a baby, so 2018 was our wild walk through his first year as he grew from a little lump of flesh…

Christmas Beef: A Delicacy for Only Me

Christmas Beef: A Delicacy for Only Me

whole roasted beef tenderloin

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Growing up, I never saw my mother let a bite of barley pass her lips. She grew up poor in post–World War II Japan, when polished white rice was scarce and therefore expensive, so barley was often served in its place. It wasn’t the taste so much as the texture that put her off, that reminded her of her once-miserable existence—the ratty clothes, the run-down house, the hopeless prospects for a bookish girl in a sleepy seaside town in a culture she believed devalued women. “Never again,” she once said when I asked her about her aversion to barley, and she might as well have been talking about those clothes, that house, being poor, or living in Japan, feeling imprisoned by circumstances beyond her control.

Scarcity has a way of stamping its mark on your life. My mother’s dislike of barley was akin to the aversion Depression-era children in this country have to waste of any kind, particularly of luxuries, like pretty paper used for wrapping presents. It doesn’t have to be a scarcity borne of privation, either; my father, whose family lacked for nothing except good taste, has spent a lifetime trying to make up for the insipid food he was served as a kid. I suspect that each and every one of us can trace some quirk or predilection or preference in the present to some absence in the past. For my part, I have a periodic need to eat rare or near-raw beef, which I can easily attribute to the fact that I lived in India for 14 years.

From 1986 to 2001, beef was our family’s number one luxury, served only on the rarest of occasions, at the most special of meals, which, despite the fact that we weren’t especially religious, included Christmas dinner. Foie gras and caviar couldn’t even come close; it was possible to buy either if we had the money or the inclination,* but beef was entirely unavailable from butchers and grocery stores in New Delhi, because cows are considered sacred by the country’s Hindu majority.

Raw pork was unavailable, too, although I’m not entirely sure why, but it never really rated quite as high on my list of coveted foods. I have no doubt that part of our reverence for beef was due to the fact that while the meat was unavailable, cows were everywhere; small herds of cattle walked the city streets by day, often gumming up traffic, and bedded down in parks at night, making all of us feel a little bit like castaways dying of thirst.

* Fun fact: After the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991, the Indian black market was flooded with good caviar and high-quality cigarettes, which my parents snapped up for very, very cheap. When I moved to America when I was 18, I’d eaten more good caviar in my life than I had porterhouse steaks.

While beef was inaccessible to us, many other expatriates could get their hands on it—those who, through some affiliation with the various diplomatic missions in the city, had gained the privilege of shopping at the missions’ commissaries. This led to some moments of envy that seem odd in retrospect. I clearly remember spending days yearning for the Rice-a-Roni that I’d had at some American kid’s sleepover, solely because it’d had a fair amount of hamburger meat, and turning my nose up at some pilaf my mom had made to shut me up.

I felt the daily lack of beef all the more keenly, I think, because of the way my parents sought out and devoured it whenever we went abroad. In the United States, it was rare roast beef sandwiches, the beef sliced thin and topped with salt, pepper, mayo, and red onions—as a kid, I was astonished that this delicacy was available almost anywhere in the country. In Hong Kong, it was bowls of pho, with rounds of raw beef shingled on top. In Japan, when visiting my grandparents, we’d request shabu shabu as one of our first meals, and upon our arrival we’d be presented with platters of thin slices of beautiful beef, folded and layered in such a way as to seem an offering, the marbling so complete it looked like the meat had trapped lightning.

This kind of behavior can give you a reputation. To this day, all of my relatives believe I crave beef at all times, even though I have lived in the US for close to 20 years and am able to eat it whenever I like, and do, quite often.

One of the last times I saw my Japanese grandfather, I was visiting alone. When we sat down to dinner, my grandmother proudly set down a thin ribeye steak in front of me, barely browned on its exterior, raw on the inside. “You all always wanted to eat beef when you came,” she said to me, even as she acknowledged that cooking beef, particularly steaks, wasn’t her forte. I ate it happily—though it was a bit more on this side of moo than what the French might call bleu—but did forgo some of the gristlier bits, which my grandfather, a product of his times as much as my mother was of hers, didn’t hesitate to pop in his mouth and gum until they’d given up their flavor.

A reputation is rarely unearned. Just the other day, my brother and I were reminiscing fondly—rapturously, if I’m being perfectly honest—about a tenderloin my uncle cooked one Christmas. Tenderloin has always been my father’s family’s traditional Christmas roast, and my uncle, who has a way with the grill, managed to achieve an appealing and totally complete char on the meat’s exterior, even though the interior temperature can’t have topped 110°F. I don’t know that the rest of my family appreciated that meal, but my brother and I, the sole representatives of the family branch who had beef issues, couldn’t stop going back for more helpings of that filet, the near-black crust ringing little rounds of meat the color of a bruise.

That’s another of the habits scarcity brings into being: The moment that you’re presented with whatever it is that you’ve been denied, your instinct is to gorge yourself beyond reason, to take in as much as you can, while you can. One summer my mother and I got stuck in an airport hotel in Bangkok, and while I can’t remember why we were there, I do remember we ordered a Thai beef salad from room service, even though we weren’t particularly hungry. I must have been quite young, since I was fiddling with a Game Boy when the salad arrived. When I finally looked up, my mother had already taken a bite. Her face was lit with what I can only describe as joyful determination, and she said, “It’s good. Let’s order another.”

And we did, enjoying every last bite of what I think was sirloin, cooked rare over charcoal, dressed with cilantro, lime, fish sauce, red onion, possibly mint, and an abundance of fresh red Thai chilies. When we got the call that told us our flight had been delayed another couple hours, we ordered a third.

Since we couldn’t buy beef in India, our only recourse was to bring it in ourselves, and so we did, every time we returned to the country. Right before we got on the plane, my parents would buy whole, frozen, untrimmed, vacuum-sealed muscles—tenderloins, flanks, strip loins—and we’d pack them in a suitcase that we’d brought along specifically for the purpose, which would then be checked in under the name of either me or my brother, a half-baked attempt to allay suspicion or mitigate whatever punishment we’d deserve from the customs authorities. As we got off the plane, we’d all be afflicted by the same anxieties over the beef in the checked bag: Had it defrosted too much? (Yes, invariably.) Would the bag have been flagged? (Yes, invariably.) Would we be able to get it out of the airport without paying for it, or having to throw it out?

At the baggage carousel, we’d pick up the suitcase, which, more often than not, would exude pink liquid in steady drips, and would have chalk scribbled all over it by the baggage handlers because of said mysterious pink liquid, and we’d place it on the bottom of one of those luggage carts, buried underneath all our other bags. As we walked past the customs officers, down the lane for those with nothing to declare, my brother and I were tasked with keeping pace with the meat-case on either side of the cart, to obscure any telltale chalk marks that might alert the authorities.

One of the benefits of having to buy beef in this way was that, from a very young age, I was able to watch as my father cleaned up the untrimmed muscles, a task he would’ve been entirely unqualified for were it not for the fact that we owned the first volume of Jacques Pépin’s The Art of Cooking. Aside from being one of the most beautiful cookbooks ever published, it shows in clear step-by-step photographs every bit of butchery a cook could ever need, including how to skin a lamb. I’d watch, rapt, as my father used a not-very-sharp knife to cut away the sinew and fat, gradually revealing, like a little meat David, the blue-red beef buried underneath.

My parents weren’t the fanciest cooks, so our Christmas meal was pretty straightforward, even if it felt very luxurious. It was the one meal for which we’d use an actual tablecloth, so white it was begging to be stained, and we’d set out the silver cutlery that was otherwise used only at Thanksgiving. We were all terrified that the tenderloin, so dearly purchased, would be cooked past rare, so we had an unspoken agreement that underdone was just as good as properly cooked. The beef was accompanied by nothing more than some sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and a Caesar-ish salad.

For a number of reasons, my wife and I typically spend Christmas Eve alone together, and we have adopted my family’s Christmas dinner tradition as our own, with a few small changes. Of course, I don’t have to cart frozen beef across national borders, and I don’t have to do any trimming of whole muscles, and the two of us require only two generously sized filet mignons.

But everything else is the same: the mushrooms, the potatoes, the approximation of a Caesar (no egg, no croutons, but a bracing amount of anchovy in the dressing). While I cook my wife’s filet to a perfect medium-rare using the reverse sear, I tend to cook mine on the stovetop, butter-basting over a medium flame. Not just because I want to cook my steak to a different temperature, but because I like the exterior to be a bit more well-done, and the interior to be a bit rarer, so that at its very center it’s a little raw. It feels appropriate for a holiday spent, for reasons both practical and irrevocable, away from my family. Which is to say: It’s a little blue, but not very.

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

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22 Hot Cocktail Recipes for Cold Winter Nights

22 Hot Cocktail Recipes for Cold Winter Nights

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Elana Lepkowski] It’s still practically shorts weather in California, where I live, but the folks at Serious Eats World Headquarters in New York assure me that it is, in fact, winter. Back when I lived in places that actually got cold, winter…