We are so excited to start cooking in 2015! But first let's take a quick look back at 2014.
In our ongoing quest to test-drive food magazine recipes, we tried out a lot of dishes last year. Some were good; some were duds. Here are the best things we made all year long, in chronological order. First up are our favorite food magazine recipes, followed by a few other favorites from last year.
The 10 Best Food Magazine Recipes from 2014...
1. Pork and Squash Stew with Chiles Tender bites of pork in a savory broth with a warm, comforting heat. It's the perfect dish for winter -- and, as we wrote back in February, an ideal make-ahead dish.
4. Edamame-Miso Tuna Salad Sandwiches This is probably the one dish we've made the most since posting about it last year. The mix of miso, hot chile oil and edamame is a great new spin on tuna salad. We've made this (especially for lunch to take to work) more times than we can count.
5. Ayam Jeruk (Grilled Chicken and Toasted Coconut Salad) We debated whether to include this dish in our year-end roundup, because we'd made so many substitutions in the recipe. But who cares? This dish was to die for, and we're sure it's even better if you can find fresh galangal. And shaved coconut. And candelnuts. And Asian shallots. And Balinese long peppers...
6. Asian Marinated Tomatoes These tomatoes are really more of an accompaniment or a condiment than a stand-alone dish. But they're marvelous. If we may quote our own post from last summer: "Imagine if a bowl of salsa spent a semester abroad in Thailand, and got really into meditation and mystic Buddhism and lemongrass, and then came home and hopped up on your grilled chicken." Who doesn't want that??
7. Spiced Lamb Burgers Nothing we made last year was as drool-worthy as these lamb burgers. As we said back in July, "The lamb is flavorful and full of wonderful spice from the coriander, cumin and cinnamon. The fat from the lamb melts into the pitas, soaking them with flavor and making them crispy and amazing." If you're not salivating at that, there may be something wrong with you.
8. Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon In August, we solidly declared this the "DISH. OF. THE. SUMMER." We stand by that. This salty/savory/sour/sweet/pungent/crispy/juicy dish is everything you want in a grilled entree.
9. The Barefoot Contessa's Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes It's highly possible that no dish we've featured has ever elicited a greater response than these potatoes that we made for our Fakesgiving test-run of recipes. We heard from countless -- countless! -- friends and family and Bitten Word readers who made these for Thanksgiving. And just about everyone has told us these are the best mashed potatoes they've ever made.
P.P.P.S. The roasting took much longer for us before we ended up with anything remotely "golden" or "crisp." And about a third of the segments were too blackened too use. On top of that, while the roasted citrus looks kind of cool in the bowl (or does it? Does it just look like black bits floating in your relish?), we couldn't discern that it added anything in terms of flavor.
P.P.P.P.S This relish is eye-wateringly tart. Come on, it includes raw lemons.
P.P.P.P.P.S We ate some leftover relish on fish and it was decently good. But we had to mix in some agave to temper the overwhelmingly sour citrus.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. If you're looking for a great cran-sauce alternative, consider this Tart Apple Chutney we made in 2012. We very much liked that as a complement to turkey. But again, we think you'd want to serve that in addition to a cranberry sauce.
When we had Margie & Co. over for dinner earlier this summer, she showed up with a whole little goodie bag of food treats: eggs and produce from her own farm, some cured meats, a couple nice cheeses, and some lovely pickles and preserves.
One of the things she pulled out of her bag of tricks was a small jar of homemade tomato jam. "Actually," she said, "don't ever fool with tomato jam. It's not worth it. It just tastes like sugar."
Margie's cautionary words were ringing in our ears when we decided to try Fine Cooking's recipe for Summer Tomato Jam. We wanted to see for ourselves whether tomato jam would be a good way to make use of the abundant tomatoes in our area right now. So we went to the farmers market, bought a bunch of tomato "seconds" (you know, the ones that are slightly damaged or overripe) for about a buck a pound, and got to work.
We're looking for magic in the kitchen. The dish that surprises. The condiment that elevates meat. The new pairing of flavors that just rocks our socks.
And we're hoping to find that magic in food magazines.
As we leaf through the pages of each month's new magazines, we look for things that are different. Sometimes that means they're actually unusual. Other times, it's that a dish is of the sort we've never made before. And sometimes, we're just intrigued by the small, tucked away recipe in the back of a magazine, like these Salted Herbs, which were part of the same feature as Minute Steaks with Montreal Seasoning and Herbed Anchovy Butter.
Billed as being "great on everything from steak to chicken, fish and vegetables, as well as in soups and stews," we had high hopes for these Salted Herbs, thinking they would be excellent with our everyday takes on fish and chicken that are a staple at our house. The idea is simple: lots of herbs and vegetables chopped in a food processor, tossed with salt and stowed in the fridge.
This recipe, though, is not for us. There's something off in the flavor of batch we made. We've used it on fish and chicken (better on the fish, offputting on the chicken), and it's so salty that you can only use it very sparingly. (And you know how much we love salt!) No, there was just some element that didn't do it for us. Maybe the spinach? Maybe the chives?
But still, we really like the idea of herb salt, and we may give it another whirl, adding more of the herbs and less of the salt.
Alas, no magic to be found here. At least not for us.
Last Thanksgiving, we were really excited about making a side dish of Hearty Greens with Kumquats. It seemed like such an interesting twist on basic greens that we were eager to try it as part of our run-up to Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we couldn't find kumquats anywhere. We tried several grocery stores and specialty produce markets; we even looked at ordering some online. But they were nowhere to be found. Too bad, we thought. We ditched the dish.
This year, like Charlie Brown trying to kick a kumquat-flavored football, we fell for it again.
This Cabernet Cranberry-Kumquat sounded like a wonderful, unique spin on traditional cranberry sauce. We flagged it as a must-try recipe.
And then we started calling grocery stores. Same as last year: Nobody had any kumquats, and nobody knew when they'd be coming in. We called every place we could think of. (In a truly next-level display of craziness, we even called a couple produce places in New York City. Clay had a work trip to New York, and we briefly considered bootlegging some kumquats on Amtrak. But even the New York purveyors didn't have any.)
Now, in fairness, we were doing our Great Kumquat Search a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving. But most of the places we talked to said they don't usually get kumquats until January.
All of which leads us to an inescapable conclusion:
A) Bon Appétit has a time machine; or
B) Bon Appétit has a kumquat-cloning machine; or
C) You might have to make a substitution to this recipe.
We've got some ideas for one of those. (Sadly, we're fresh out of time machines and cloning devices.)
Though numerous dishes on this blog give evidence to the contrary, we are, in our day-to-day lives, healthy eaters.
But at Thanksgiving, all bets are off, and we love a little decadence.
If there's a time to haul out the high-fat, high-calorie ingredients, it might as well be at Thanksgiving.
You can rub your turkey in duck fat, run through pounds upon pounds of butter, and pour on cream to your heart's content. You can even take a relatively healthy dish and make it oh-so-not-healthy. Go ahead, smother those poor green beans in bacon fat! They won't mind.
At Thanksgiving, more is more.
That's what initially drew us to this Roasted Onion and Chestnut Compote.
Fasten your seatbelts, Bittens. This recipe's a rich one.
Yesterday, we hosted Fakesgiving, our annual test run of a whole bunch of Thanksgiving dishes.
Essentially, that means that we've done nothing but cook and clean for the last 48 hours. And just about every dish we own is currently dirty. But we love Fakesgiving. It's always a great time filled with good food and good friends (and, last year, The Washington Post!).
This year, we made 15 dishes, and we can't wait to share them with you. Many of the dishes we made were big hits that you should definitely consider adding to your Thanksgiving menu this year. There were other dishes that were less popular, and we'll talk about those, too.
And then there was this Pear and Port Gravy.
It represents a Fakesgiving first: a dish so bad we decided not to serve it.