My flight home from Seattle was cancelled this morning and because I booked my tickets on Orbitz, and the flight was a Continental flight, I’ve been zooming back and forth from the Orbitz website to the Continental website trying to figure out my next steps. Turns out, there’s not much I can do: apparently, Continental will re-book me eventually and though I’d like to speak to a human on the phone to confirm that, so many people have been stranded by the great blizzard of 2010, there’s no way I’m going to speak to a human at either Continental or Orbitz for a very, very long time.
Which is why this is a perfect moment to do what so many other food bloggers, magazine editors and newspaper writers do at this time of year: I’m going to write my Best of 2010!
2010 was a really great year for me. I sold my second book, a cookbook for Artisan, which I’ve been researching, writing and re-writing since June. The book’s brought me to Washington D.C., Chicago, Portland and Seattle so far and fostered two excellent friendships, one with my cookbook intern, Tyla Fowler (of this blog) and one with my cookbook photographer, Lizzie Leitzel (of this blog), with whom I’ve been traveling all these months.
And in the little bits of time I haven’t been working on the book, I’ve been cooking, eating out and reading. Which brings us to the first three categories of our “listicle” (that’s what Eater.com calls these lists and it’s a good name for it.)
My Favorite Dishes That I Cooked in 2010
[Note: all the recipe names are clickable links to the actual recipes.]
I know this one’s a winner because I made it again and again and again. The potatoes and root vegetables get coated in all that chicken fat and the specific cooking instructions (starting temp, butter on the breast, lowering the heat after 25 minutes) are so precise and perfect, even when you play with the recipe (see here) you’ll stick to Chef Keller’s instructions. The man is a god and this is a god-worthy chicken dish.
This was the cookie to end all cookies; so naughty and indulgent (filled, as it is, with pretzels, potato chips and chocolate chips, plus plenty of butter and eggs) I had to take it off the menu after a few months (Craig kept requesting it) and revert back to more wholesome chocolate chip cookies so we didn’t die early deaths. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make these cookies at least once. Just keep in mind that some people had problems with the texture; my solution was to really pulverize the potato chips and pretzels so they become a kind of flour to give the cookies more structure. Or just add a little more flour.
With the blizzard and Christmas and New Year’s approaching, it’s hard to remember what springtime tastes like. But one look at that picture and I’m reminded of what happens when the snow melts, the buds start budding and the farmer’s market is filled with sugar snap peas and other springy stuff. (Credit to Franny’s where we first ate this dish; it’ll now be a springtime staple.)
I know it’s presumptuous to tell you, a chili-loving public, that this is the best of your life. So I’ll simple tweak that title here, in this round-up, and say it’s the best chili of MY life. How could it not be with slab bacon, pork shoulder, chilis in adobo and beer? It also inspired my own Don’t-Miss-The-Meat Vegetarian Chili which won a nice review on Serious Eats.
This may be the first time I have my own original recipe in my year-end best-recipe round-up. I won’t toot my own horn too much (it is, after all, just oatmeal cooked with milk and spices and topped with nuts and dried fruit) but this oatmeal is now one of my favorite things to make on a cold weekend morning. The key to it is using steel-cut oats and starting the night before; you wake up, put the oatmeal on a flame and 10 minutes later, you’re eating pretty.
Other hits that I cooked this year: Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie (my friend Rob Meyer, who shares a name with this pie, declared it one of the best desserts he’s ever had), Pork Chops with Cider Sauce, Leg of Lamb and Lobster Rolls.
The Best Dishes That I Ate in Restaurants in 2010
Somehow I was invited to this swanky lunch where journalists gathered to sample the food of Chef Eric Frechon from The Bristol in Paris at Daniel in New York. This was Michelin 3-star food and the most dramatic dish arrived on the platters like the one you see in that picture: chicken cooked in an inflated pig’s bladder. Apparently, this is an old preparation from the Brillat-Savarin days and the moist environment ensures a moist chicken. Truthfully, if you’d just served me the chicken and didn’t tell me it was cooked in a pig’s bladder I wouldn’t have known, but the sheer audacity of the presentation makes this dish list-worthy.
True, it’s not a single dish, but the sushi that we ate at Sushi Yasuda for Craig’s birthday this year was so otherworldly and good, it totally transformed my notion of what good sushi is and how it should be eaten (apparently: with your fingers, handed to you by a world class sushi chef.) Sadly, Chef Yasuda is leaving New York but the restaurant shall persevere. If you want to experience sushi the way it should be experienced, make a reservation at the bar here.
Some dishes are so iconic that it doesn’t matter where you eat them, as long as you eat them. But if you’re going to eat a Chicago-style hot dog for the first time, you’re best off doing it in Chicago. So when Lizzie and I were there earlier this year, staying with my friends Ben and Andy, we enjoyed the real deal at Flub-a-Dub Chub’s. The combination of the hot dog, the bun and all those toppings produced an explosive symphony on my plain-Jane New York style hot dog-accustomed palate. In the battle of great hot dogs, I give the prize to the Windy City.
If bread is a canvas, Gabrielle Hamilton is Picasso, especially when it comes to the sandwiches she serves at her East Village restaurant, Prune at lunch. The combination of colors, textures, and ideas that she piles on to bread are nothing short of extraordinary. I think I’ll have to be a lunch-time regular to see what sandwich she invents next.
This is the fudgiest, dreamiest combination of chocolate and ice cream I have ever encountered. There’s not much to say about it except if you haven’t eaten it, you have to go eat it. Right now…blizzard or no blizzard!
My Favorite Food Books That I Read in 2010
I read two books by New York Times food writers this year and both were excellent in their own way. In both cases, the authors struggled with addiction (Bruni: food, Severson: alcohol), in both cases eating provided solace and, in Severson’s case, salvation. Both books were peppered with scoopy anecdotes (Severson saw Alice Waters’s underwear, Bruni convinced the world that Mary Tyler Moore had died), jaunty humor and, in Severson’s case, recipes. (That’s where that Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie came from.) I can’t recommend one over the other: if you’re into food and searing, self-searching autobiography, I’d make time for them both.
This year I also read Clarissa Dickson-Wright’s “Spilling The Beans,” which has much in common with the two books above–another searing, self-searching food memoir–only, despite the charm of its author (she’s one of the Two Fat Ladies, a show that I discovered this year and that I’ve grown to love) proved too episodic and name-droppy to recommend. It’s a shame, too, because Dickson-Wright has a truly remarkable story to tell: she went from being the first woman admitted to the bar in England to squandering her fortune on booze, becoming homeless, nearly dying and then, after re-building her life at a popular cookbook store, achieving national treasure status as a funny Fat Lady on television. Her father was a brilliant monster (he’d beat her and her mother regularly) and the early scenes are truly compelling. But as the book chugs along, Dickson-Wright never truly takes us into a scene, rendering it fully; instead she leapfrogs from incident to incident and the reader is left a bit dizzy. Still, if you’re a fan of “Two Fat Ladies” and want to know more, give the book a go.
Other Cool Things That Happened This Year
– My parents met Craig’s parents, I cooked them dinner, and wrote about it for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. (And now that post is going to be in the “It Gets Better” book!)
Whoah, after reading all that, is it possible that 2010 was The Amateur Gourmet’s best year ever? I don’t mean me the person, I mean me the website (but also me the person.) It’s very possible, indeed.
Thanks for reading all this and for making 2010 so special! Let’s hope 2011 is even better.
Previous Year-End Wrap-Ups