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How to Make Duck à l’Orange

How to Make Duck à l’Orange

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Sometimes it helps to go back to the beginning. That’s what I did while developing my recipe for duck à l’orange. When I told my wife, Kate, that my testing process would put it on our dinner table—again, and again, and again—she […]

Duck à l’Orange Recipe | Serious Eats

Duck à l’Orange Recipe | Serious Eats

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Duck à l’orange is a classic French recipe featuring a whole roasted duck with crispy, crackling skin along with an aromatic sweet-sour sauce known as sauce bigarade. The original sauce bigarade is made with bitter oranges (sometimes called bigarade oranges, sour oranges, […]

Our Favorite Books to Give Food Lovers (2018)

Our Favorite Books to Give Food Lovers (2018)


[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Books make the best gifts. There are just so many of them, and no matter how obscure the interests of the giftee, there’s bound to be a volume out there that suits them perfectly. In this year alone, even in the somewhat limited sphere of “books about food,” there have been some stellar books published about topics as varied as fermentation, surviving the apocalypse, a refugee’s journey from Southeast Asia to Oakland, and the rarefied world of haute cuisine.

Here, then, are just a few of our favorite books to give as gifts. Not all of them are newly published, but all of them are a pleasure to page through and learn from.

The Food Lab

We’re pretty sure most Serious Eats readers have a copy of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by Kenji López-Alt, since it’s indispensable, which means you know how great a gift it will be for anyone who is interested in improving the quality of the food coming out of their kitchen.

BraveTart

Stella Parks‘s BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts is a fantastic gift for anyone who has even a marginal interest in desserts. As with Kenji’s book, Stella’s contains a slew of recipes you won’t find on our site (including a foolproof and delicious buttermilk biscuit recipe), and offers an incredible amount of detail about the chemistry of baking. But what sets the book apart are the deep dives into the histories of different desserts, which are as entertaining and edifying as they are well-researched. (The one about Key lime pie caused a bit of a kerfuffle in Florida—sorry, Floridians, we’re with her on this one!)

Bangkok

Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Serious Eats alum Leela Punyaratabandhu was one of our favorite books to come out last year, and we think it’s a great gift for anyone who loves cooking Thai food at home and wants to expand their culinary repertoire. It’s a steal for the noodle soups alone, but we particularly enjoy Punyaratabandhu’s seafood recipes, like the pan-fried salted king mackerel steak.

Hawker Fare

Hawker Fare: Stories and Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai and Lao Roots by James Syhabout, the chef behind the Michelin-starred Commis in Oakland, and award-winning author John Birdsall, is a great introduction to some of the flavors that make Isan and Lao cuisines unique. The recipes are wonderful, but what we find so compelling about the book is Syhabout’s story: a refugee who arrived with his family in the United States at the age of two, Syhabout went on to pursue a career in fine-dining. Only after establishing himself did he embark on a personal journey of discovery to find out more about the food of his forebears.

Provisions

Hoping to familiarize yourself with Jamaican food beyond jerk chicken and curried goat? Want to learn more about the evolution of Caribbean cuisine? Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking is the book for you. Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau share 150 bright and exciting vegetarian recipes inspired by the women who first taught the two sisters to cook. The recipes are accompanied by gorgeous photos, and a thorough history of Caribbean foodways. It’s an inspiring—and delicious—ode to the women who make Caribbean food great.

The Noma Guide to Fermentation

The hottest new nerdy book of kitchen geekery has to be The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Rene Redzepi and David Zilber. If you know someone who’s mixed koji up with dried fish to make a kind of fish sauce, this is the book for them. Also a good gift for anyone who’s into drying meats or pickling—it details methods and processes that take those hobbies a step further.

Season

Nik Sharma’s Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food has received an appropriate amount of praise from across the food media world (that is, a lot!), and while much is rightly made about the beautiful photography, we’re here to say that the recipes are the real draw. Sure, there’s Sharma’s way-better-than-storebought naan recipe, and the eggplant pilaf with pumpkin seeds is a marvel of texture and flavor, but the really impressive ones embody the kind of inventive cuisine that draws from multiple cultures to produce dishes that can only be described as emphatically, joyously American, like the roasted carrots with sesame, caraway, chili, and nori. Great for cooks looking for inspiration yet still hopelessly devoted to classic, comforting dishes.

Estela

We usually aren’t the biggest fans of the big and beautiful cookbooks put out by super fancy restaurants, in part because they have limited appeal to most home cooks, even if they are fascinating windows into the processes and methods of some of the best chefs in the world. We’ll make an exception for Estela by Ignacio Mattos, though, since it’s as inspiring as it is informative. The XO sauce recipe is a perfect example, but there are some dishes that just cry out to be made, like the beef tartare with sunchoke chips (it’s not actually beef, it’s bison, which Mattos says “tastes better” than raw beef does—the more you know!). Perfect for ambitious home cooks.

Joe Beef

Another exception to the rule about cookbooks and fancy restaurants is Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse by Frederic Morin, David McMillan, and Meredith Erickson. This is a book for people who like to live extra large, and by that we mean people who are intrigued enough by the microwaved foie gras recipe to consider trying it some day. It is, as with the authors’ previous book, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts, a text that espouses an eating- and cooking-philosophy as much as it is a collection of recipes. Give it to a gourmand.

The Cooking Gene

Sometimes it takes a little while before the importance of a book really sinks in. I’ve written about why I think The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty should be read by just about everyone, but I also think it makes a wonderful gift for anyone who is interested in history, food, the history of food, and this terribly flawed but nonetheless beautiful thing we call America.

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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Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

With bold spices and a delicate snap, these gingerbread cookies are the perfect holiday bite whether served plain and simple or with a thin layer of royal icing to garnish. A pinch of orange zest in the dough helps elevate the aroma of spices, adding […]

Quick Gingerbread Cookies for Busy Holiday Bakers

Quick Gingerbread Cookies for Busy Holiday Bakers

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats Team] Gingerbread cookies are one of my all-time favorites, not just around the holidays, but in general. They’re crisp, flavorful, and none too sweet, while their wafer-thin serving style also minimizes their richness, stretching a stick of butter into […]

16 Dutch Oven Recipes for Simple, Warming Meals

16 Dutch Oven Recipes for Simple, Warming Meals


Photo collage of Dutch oven dishes: Tuscan ribollita, ropa vieja, coq au vin, and Ghanaian groundnut stew with chicken

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, Daniel Gritzer]

Ask a chef what their most prized piece of cookware is, and there’s a decent chance they’ll point to their Dutch oven. A high-end model, like a Le Creuset, is a serious investment, but for the money you get a wonderfully versatile pot that you’ll use for all sorts of things—cooking rice, frying chicken, baking bread, you name it.

A Dutch oven’s true calling, though, is making stews, braises, and other one-pot dinners, so it’s an essential piece of equipment for easy, hearty, comforting meals on chilly winter nights. The combination of their deep shape, ample size, and the heat-retaining powers of cast iron makes Dutch ovens the best tools for browning meats and vegetables, then slowly cooking them to perfect tenderness. To help you appreciate your Dutch oven as much as any chef, we’ve rounded up 16 of our favorite Dutch oven dinners, from chicken cacciatore and Portuguese caldo verde to Guinness stew and oven-cooked pulled pork.

Chicken Massaman Curry With Wheat Beer and Potatoes

[Photograph: Emily and Matt Clifton]

This one-pot chicken curry is perfect for the capsaicin-averse—unlike a fiery red or green curry, massaman is flavored primarily with warm spices, like star anise and cinnamon. The dish gets an unusual spin with the addition of Belgian-style wheat beer, which is a decidedly nontraditional ingredient but has citrusy, bitter notes that work beautifully here.

Chicken Massaman Curry With Wheat Beer and Potatoes Recipe »

Chicken Cacciatore With Red Peppers, Tomato, and Onion

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

The term chicken cacciatore always refers to a braised chicken dish, but that’s about all you can count on—the details vary widely from recipe to recipe. This classic Italian-American chicken cacciatore is flavored with a bright, fruity combination of red bell pepper, onion, and tomato; for another take on this versatile dish, try out our mushroom-studded version, too.

Chicken Cacciatore With Red Peppers, Tomato, and Onion Recipe »

Coq au Vin (Chicken Braised in Red Wine)

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Coq au vin traditionally requires hours of stewing to tenderize the tough meat of a rooster, but that doesn’t make sense for a modern cook—your local butcher probably doesn’t carry roosters, which means you’ll most likely be using a roasting hen that will dry out with an overly long cooking time. That’s why this recipe hinges on a relatively quick braise with red wine, mushrooms, bacon lardons, and onions, producing a dish that tastes like even better than if it cooked all day.

Coq au Vin (Chicken Braised in Red Wine) Recipe »

Osso Buco (Italian Braised Veal Shanks)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This rustic, comforting dish is made by braising veal shanks in a hearty wine- and vegetable-based sauce until they’re fork-tender. A bright mixture of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic tops it off, keeping the dish from feeling too heavy. Serve the veal however you’d like, but a bed of saffron-scented risotto alla milanese is traditional.

Osso Buco (Italian Braised Veal Shanks) Recipe »

Braised Chinese-Style Short Ribs With Soy, Orange, and 5-Spice Powder

[Photograph: Emily and Matt Clifton]

I’m always looking for recipes that will provide me with plenty of leftovers, so this is a personal favorite—these braised short ribs will last a pair of eaters over a couple of days. Flavored with a balanced sweet-spicy mixture of soy, orange, Chinese five-spice powder, honey, and ginger, among other ingredients, they’re great served over polenta or buttery mashed potatoes for dinner, then shredded up for tacos the next day.

Braised Chinese-Style Short Ribs With Soy, Orange, and 5-Spice Powder Recipe »

Easy Oven-Cooked Pulled Pork

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

It may be impossible to make true barbecue without a smoker, but you can still make indoor pulled pork that’s pretty darn delicious. How? By slowly cooking a pork butt in a Dutch oven and mixing in homemade barbecue sauce. A little bit of liquid smoke, from a quality brand like Wright’s, adds some smoky flavor to heighten the resemblance to the real thing.

Easy Oven-Cooked Pulled Pork Recipe »

Ropa Vieja

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Most ropa vieja recipes call for simmering the beef in one pot and making a sauce of onions, peppers, and tomatoes in another. Here, we cook the beef and the sauce all in the same Dutch oven, a one-pot method that both saves time and makes the dish extra flavorful. Searing the beef before its long simmer is another helpful step for adding layers of flavor.

Ropa Vieja Recipe »

Rich and Flavorful Guinness Beef Stew With Potatoes

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Despite its dark color, Guinness has a mild flavor that tends to get lost when you cook it into a stew. To ensure you can actually taste the roasted-coffee and chocolate notes of a pint of Guinness, we fortify this recipe with brewed coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Using two sets of aromatic vegetables—one long-cooked to infuse the stew over time, the other just lightly sautéed before going into the pot for the last 45 minutes—provides the best balance of good flavor and texture.

Rich and Flavorful Guinness Beef Stew With Potatoes Recipe »

Ghanaian Chicken and Peanut Stew (Groundnut Soup)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

If you’ve never sampled Ghanaian food before, this simple chicken stew, made rich and creamy with a base of peanut butter and spicy with Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, is a great introduction to the cuisine. Chicken legs make a more tender and flavorful alternative to white meat, while smoke-dried fish (if you can find it) adds an extra savory, fishy undercurrent. For a more adventurous version of the dish, swap out the chicken for goat meat and honeycomb tripe.

Ghanaian Chicken and Peanut Stew (Groundnut Soup) Recipe »

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Making this New Orleans staple is remarkably easy, requiring nothing more than beans, vegetables, cured pork and sausage, and patience. Using a variety of pork products, including andouille sausage, smoked ham hock, and pickled pork shoulder, will give the beans the most depth of flavor, though a splash of apple cider vinegar can furnish some of the brightness of pickled pork if you can’t find the latter. Despite popular myth, it’s a good idea to salt the soaking water for your dried beans, as it helps to tenderize them.

New Orleans–Style Red Beans and Rice Recipe »

Pozole Verde de Pollo (Green Mexican Hominy and Chicken Soup)

[Video: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Traditional pozole verde is a multi-day, multi-pot endeavor, but this recipe gets you most of the way there with a single Dutch oven and a little more than an hour of cooking. To streamline the process, we toast the pumpkin seeds in the Dutch oven, then cook the chicken and vegetables in the same pot and add canned hominy rather than starting with dry.

Pozole Verde de Pollo (Green Mexican Hominy and Chicken Soup) Recipe »

Pacific Razor Clam Chowder

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Not to be confused with long, rectangular Atlantic razor clams, Pacific razor clams are beefy bivalves with a clean flavor and subtle sweetness. If you’re lucky enough to have access to them, try putting them to use in a warming clam chowder, flavored with leeks, thyme, and dry vermouth. The most important part of the recipe is not overcooking the delicate clam meat, which is why we turn off the stove and let residual heat poach it for just a minute before serving.

Pacific Razor Clam Chowder Recipe »

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup With Sausage)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The Portuguese soup caldo verde is hearty and comforting, but takes just half an hour to make, so it’s a perfect dish for lazy rainy days. We make it with shredded kale and a mixture of russet potatoes, which break down during cooking and help to thicken the soup, and Yukon Golds, which stay in intact chunks for textural contrast. Our recipe calls for adding cooked pork sausage, like linguiça, but you can leave it out to keep the dish vegetarian.

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup With Sausage) Recipe »

Vegan Curry Butternut Squash Soup With Kale

[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

This vegan one-pot soup is packed with contrasting flavors and textures: sweet, tender squash; nutty, crunchy pepitas; bright cilantro; hearty quinoa; spicy curry powder; and more. You may not need an entire bunch of kale for the soup, so turn any extra into a simple salad to serve on the side.

Vegan Curry Butternut Squash Soup With Kale Recipe »

The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Sorry, Texans: We think you can actually make an awesome pot of chili with lots of beans and zero meat. (Which isn’t to say we don’t like meaty chili, too.) We make this richly flavored vegan version using a variety of dried chilies and chipotles in adobo, which combine to give it all the punch you’d expect. A little soy sauce and Marmite boosts the umami, and a shot of booze—vodka or bourbon—helps bring out alcohol-soluble flavors.

The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili Recipe »

Ribollita (Hearty Tuscan Bean, Bread, and Vegetable Stew)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Thickened with beans and bread, ribollita is a hearty Italian vegetable stew that’s ripe for improvisation. This recipe calls for onions, leeks, carrots, squash, turnips, and celery, but you can and should mix that up depending on what looks good at the market. The texture of the dish can be varied, too—you can leave it thinner and brothy, thicken it into a porridge, or even sauté it into a savory pancake.

Ribollita (Hearty Tuscan Bean, Bread, and Vegetable Stew) Recipe »

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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The Best Gifts for Cocktail Lovers (2018)

The Best Gifts for Cocktail Lovers (2018)

Photo by Vicky Wasik When it’s the holiday season, alcohol-related gifts tend to be guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Most hosts will be swimming in actual booze from their guests, but you can stand out from the crowd with a bar cart–worthy drink accessory, be it a decanter […]

The Travel Knife: Don’t Cleave Home Without It

The Travel Knife: Don’t Cleave Home Without It

Small Japanese knives with wooden saya sheaths make perfect travel blades. [Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Earlier this year I took a trip to Alaska with a group of chefs and food writers. We stayed at a remote lodge, accessible only by boat and seaplane. While there, […]

The Best Dutch Cocoa for Brownies, Hot Chocolate, and More

The Best Dutch Cocoa for Brownies, Hot Chocolate, and More


Nu Naturals, Cacoa Barry, Callebaut, Bensdorp, Droste, Valrhona

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Those who’ve sampled their way through the chocolate desserts in my cookbook or here on Serious Eats may have noticed a trend—my recipes almost universally call for Dutch-process cocoa powder.

To fully appreciate the why, it’s important to understand what cocoa powder is: the mass of dry matter left behind after the oily cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans that have been fermented and roasted for maximum flavor. This powder is naturally acidic. Natural cocoa powder is sold as is, while Dutched cocoas include an additional step to neutralize that acidity (a process developed by a Dutch chemist, hence the name).

Cocoas within each style can vary wildly in flavor depending on the type of cocoa bean used, where it was grown, its quality, how long it was fermented, how darkly it was roasted, and how much of its fat was removed (and, in Dutch styles, the specific degree of alkalization). That means that the flavor, color, fat content, and pH of any cocoa powder will vary from brand to brand and style to style.

Collage of five natural cocoa powders and one low-fat powder for comparison

An assortment of natural cocoas.

Broadly speaking, the natural cocoas sold in American supermarkets tend to come from mediocre cocoa beans that have had almost all of their cocoa butter removed, resulting in a light-red powder that’s starchy and low in fat—about as rich and luxurious as a handful of chalk. The acidity often has a tinny quality, rather than one that’s zippy and bright.

An assortment of Dutch cocoa powders spread out on a metal surface

An assortment of Dutch cocoas.

But because Dutch-style cocoa is perceived as a specialty product that can be sold at a higher price, most Dutch-cocoa brands contain nearly twice the fat of natural styles, and often come from better-quality beans. The result is a slightly alkaline cocoa powder that’s higher in fat, lower in starch, and more aromatic all around, with a mahogany color and a flavor profile that emphasizes cocoa’s darker, nuttier, earthier tones.

Overhead close-up of the crackly, dark-brown surface of brownies

In the past, calling for Dutch cocoa was my way of nudging bakers toward higher-quality ingredients, ensuring that brownies and cakes bake up moist and rich, loaded with cocoa butter and a deep chocolate flavor. But that’s not to say all Dutch cocoas are equally rich and delicious, or that all natural styles are low-fat and bland.

Search around online, and you’ll find plenty of natural cocoas that retain a higher proportion of cocoa butter and come from top-quality beans with a beautifully bright acidity. I included five of them in an overview of my favorite natural cocoas.

Overhead shot of six bowls containing ingredients for homemade brownie mix, each with a different variety of Dutch cocoa

Likewise, there are crappy Dutch cocoas out there, made from low-quality beans that have been squeezed dry to remove every last drop of cocoa butter, then alkalized to the point of tasting more like ash than chocolate. Others still may be only half alkalized, which can throw off the chemistry of a recipe that was developed for a true Dutch cocoa.

So here’s a collection of Dutch cocoas that I can personally vouch for, all of them road-tested in my homemade brownie mix to show off their differences in flavor, color, and richness. Note that you can often save money by buying in bulk—like any cocoa, Dutch styles are shelf-stable and can generally be kept for years, as long as they’re protected from sunlight in an airtight container at cool room temperature. When in doubt, consult the expiration date from the manufacturer; it will generally be a year or two from the date of purchase.

Nu Naturals

Nu Naturals Organic Cocoa, Dutch Process

This fair-trade Dutch cocoa falls into the range of 22 to 24% cocoa butter, which is more than twice the fat of most supermarket offerings. While it has a deep chocolate flavor, it isn’t as earthy as other brands, allowing some of the cocoa’s fruitiness to pull through.

In brownies, it baked up unexpectedly dark, given its comparatively light color. The taste-testers at Serious Eats found these brownies to be the chewiest of the lot, perhaps owing to the cocoa’s particular balance of fat, starch, and pH. At 87 cents per ounce, it’s a great value for any baker looking for a multipurpose Dutch cocoa that won’t break the bank.

Cacao Barry Extra Brute

Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder

Another Dutch cocoa in the 22-to-24% range, Cacao Barry Extra Brute is rich and aromatic. The company sources its beans from countries in West Africa and uses a fermentation and drying process that adds to the complexity of flavor.

This brand has been my personal go-to for years; its deep color and richness lend a dark chocolate punch to any recipe. It’s sold in larger packages than many other brands, exemplifying the value of bulk purchasing at just 56 cents an ounce.

Callebaut CP777

Callebaut CP777 Cocoa Powder

Made with a blend of beans from West Africa, as well as from Central and South America, Callebaut’s CP777 has a well-rounded chocolate flavor that’s classic but complex.

At nearly $1.20 an ounce, it’s on the pricier end, so consider it something of a special-occasion splurge. While its fat content likewise falls between 22 and 24%, it made brownies that seemed particularly gooey and rich, so we suspect it’s on the higher end of that spectrum.

Bensdorp Royal Dutch

Bensdorp Dutch-process cocoa

Bensdorp is a Dutch chocolate company with a 175-year-old tradition to its name. Its “Royal Dutch” style of cocoa uses West Africa–sourced beans that are more darkly alkalized than many other styles, giving it a gorgeously dark color and earthy flavor.

This cocoa also has an especially fine grind, which lends a glossy sheen in brownies and good solubility in applications like hot cocoa.

Droste

Droste Cocoa

At 20% fat, Droste is a little leaner than some of the other Dutch cocoa powders here, but it was a sleeper hit in our blind tasting. Though it’s not fancy, there’s nothing to complain about in its earthy chocolate flavor. Because it’s relatively easy to find in supermarkets and semi-fancy groceries alike, Droste is one of my preferred choices when I’m between shipments on brands that require a special order online, so I was pleased to see it perform so well with our tasters.

Convenience factor aside, buying in bulk online can help drive down the cost per ounce when compared with the retail markup you get in stores.

Valrhona

Valrhona 100% cocoa powder

While you won’t see the word “Dutch” on the packaging of this French cocoa, nor any mention of alkalization, we’ve been assured by representatives from Valrhona that its cocoa is indeed alkalized. It’s a cocoa powder favored by professionals, with a bold flavor owing to the company’s high standards in sourcing and manufacture—and it’s got a price tag to match.

When bought in half-pound containers, Valrhona is nearly $2 an ounce. If you’re serious about your cocoa powder, my recommendation is to spend more up front to buy in bulk and either split the order with a few baking buddies or sit back and know you’ll be well stocked for years. This will drive the cost down to just 65 cents an ounce, a tremendous value for such a high-end cocoa. It made a rich, dark, and glossy brownie that was Vicky’s top pick.

Ultimately, deciding on the “best” cocoa is a rather personal endeavor, but trying different styles and brands is the best way to better understand your own preferences and baking style. If nothing else, these cocoas offer a chance to explore your favorite recipes in a new light, to see how one ingredient can impact the flavor overall.

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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Blue Cheese and Toasted-Pecan Dip Recipe

Blue Cheese and Toasted-Pecan Dip Recipe

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg] Tangy, buttery, and piquant, this spin on traditional blue cheese dip features toasted pecans for crunch and flavor. It’s a snap to make and can be spread on sandwiches or served with everything from chips to raw broccoli and other vegetables, so […]