My Favorite Recipes of 2009

December 31, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

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Craig’s sister Kristin and I joke that I should have a catchphrase, that when I meet new people I should declare, with mock-sincerity: “Food is my passion.” Ok, maybe you have to be there for that concept to be funny, but regardless, food IS my passion and this year I feel like my cooking is entering the realm of “he’s no amateur.” Sure, I had my doozies. Remember my burnt sticky buns? My flambé incident? And yesterday, I made hummus for lunch in my blender and added way too much chickpea water so the result was rather pukey. But otherwise? I’m riding high on a wave of culinary competence. And these, my friends, are my Top 10 success stories of 2009. Are you ready? Let’s get cooking.

[Note: click the dish names for the original posts and recipes.]

10. Squid & Leeks in Red Wine

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We start with a strange one, a purply, seafoody stew direct from Richard Olney’s “Simple French Food.” I’ve never been much of a seafood chef, but this dish is rather foolproof: you cook leeks, then you cook calamari, you add herbs and garlic, then red wine, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. You’ll wind up with something sophisticated, colorful, and hearty enough for dinner but not so filling that you feel sick. A perfect dish for date night or Valentine’s Day, whichever comes first.

9. Baked Granola

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One of the funniest things that happened in 2009 is that I told you I was on a health kick. Remember that? Hilarious! But a happy side effect was that I made granola from the Baked Cookbook that instantly became a fixture of my repertoire. A simple combination of oats, honey, brown sugar and lots of spices yields a granola that’s such a pleasure to eat, you’re not even aware that it might actually be healthy for you. (I know, I know, mean heath-nut commenters, YOU don’t think it’s healthy, but as an alternative to cookies, doughnuts and cake, it’s practically like a week of doing yoga). This granola is so good, I may actually make some now. See? I’m not kidding.

8. Homemade Ginger Ale

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In the summer, this was a real winner. From the Jean-Georges cookbook, the intensity of the fresh ginger and the fiery chili mixed with the sweetness of the sugar and the fizziness of the soda, made this an obligatory thrist-quencher on a hot, sweaty day. Bonus: we brought the ginger syrup with us to a July 4th picnic, mixed with some dark rum and had ourselves some delightful Dark & Stormys. To quote the Barefoot Contessa: “How bad can that be?”

7. Banana Cake

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Oh my God, I just had the urge to tear a hole in my computer screen so I can rip that banana cake out and eat it right now. Don’t you want to do that too? It’s just the best kind of cake, in my opinion. Unfussy, a bit messy, as I said in the original post: “a PTA bake-sale kind of a cake.” It has bananas (duh) and buttermilk in the cake batter and cream cheese and sour cream in the frosting. Are you convinced yet? If not, you’re a fool and I do NOT want to know you. How do you like them bananas?

6. Lentils with Bacon

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Some foods just sound sexy. “Lentils,” at least to me, don’t fit that category. I don’t know: lentil soup? I shrug my shoulders. Lentil salad? I sigh wearily. But lentils with bacon? Instant excitement! And this recipe, inspired by my new favorite TV chef Anne Burrell, is a real beast. It’s got the bacon, the lentils, but it also has vegetables–carrots, onions, and celery–and then, at the end, two secret ingredients that take it over the moon: mustard and red wine vinegar. Booyah: you’ll never make lentils the same way again.

5. Ginger Scallion Noodles

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If you’d told me last year that, in 2009, I would recreate one of my favorite David Chang dishes at home with any success, I’d have called you a liar. Yet, lo and behold, because of the brand new Momofuku Cookbook, I saved a trip to the East Village and saved a bunch of money too. Now I keep soy sauce and soba noodles on hand and all I need to proceed is ginger, cauliflower, scallions and a cucumber. It doesn’t take much to be a kitchen superstar with this recipe in your pocket.

4. Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

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Falling in love with a recipe is like falling in love in real life. At first, you’re wary, you imagine all the ways it could go wrong (won’t the blue cheese be lumpy? won’t the Sriracha make it too spicy?) but you take a leap of faith and, in the end, you’ve met your soulmate. So it was with this Michael Symon recipe, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had and one that I will make again and again and again forevermore. If this soup asked me to marry it, I’d say yes; if that’s not true soup love, I don’t know what is.

3. The Best Beans of Your Life

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Maybe I get a little drunk with hyperbole, but so what? That tomato soup in the last entry really IS the best tomato soup of my life, and these beans–from The Barefoot Contessa–are really the best you will ever have. I mean, ok, maybe you’re not into big flavors, maybe you don’t like bacon, maybe you hate babies and musicals and EPCOT Center and if that’s the case, there’s not much I can do to save you, is there? All I’ll say is that when you put a big pot of red kidney beans, bacon, maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, chili paste, and ginger in the oven, what comes out will scandalize you it will taste so good. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine, but you have serious trust issues.

2. Roasted Shrimp & Broccoli

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In 2008 I introduced many of you to roasted broccoli. It was a real revelation, the transformation of a humdrum ingredient into something spectacular. Leave it to Melissa Clark, then, of the New York Times to elevate that to an even higher plane. Now, what was at most a side dish, is an entire dinner. A fast, economical and deeply satisfying dinner made with ingredients you can find anywhere, I’ve made this several times since first trying it, playing with the spices (I go a little more aggressive) and the starch I serve it with (first rice, then cous cous). Give it a whirl and I bet you’ll have a new weeknight staple. Don’t worry, your kids will eat it.

1. Coq au Vin

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At #1, we enter the warm embrace of the unconquerable Molly Stevens whose book, All About Braising, is such a treasure, I almost don’t want you to know about it. How will I pretend to be a great chef when you come over for dinner if you know my secret? Molly Stevens never steers you wrong; and this, her recipe for Coq au Vin, is a masterpiece of refined French techniques and logical shortcuts (using frozen pearl onions instead of peeling your own) with results so lovely, so inspiring, after making this you feel like one day you may very well be king or queen of the Foodiverse. Sorry to burst your bubble, friend, but as long as Molly Stevens lives, that’s never gonna happen: the crown belongs to her.

And that, dear readers, concludes my best-of lists for 2009. I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year: we’ll see you back here, with some big surprises, in 2010.

Related Posts:

My Favorite Restaurant Meals of 2009

The Best of 2009 (The A.G.’s Gift-Buying Guide)

My Top 10 Restaurant Dishes of 2008

2008 Wrap-Up

The Best of 2007

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