Part 3 of The Super Awesome Cover-to-Cover Project
Simple can be amazing. That's what we heard from many members of the Team Bon Appétit. Whether it was a bowl of spiced cashews, a super-easy shot of red-pepper soup, grilled cheese sandwiches or crackers with exactly one ingredient, many of these Bon App recipes go to show that just because something's easy doesn't mean it's not delicious.
For those of you looking for a challenge, never fear. There are plenty of more-involved dishes in the mix, and Team Bon App rose to the challenge! (We just have to tip our hats to Connie, who deboned an entire duck -- bill and all! -- for her Duck a L'Orange.)
There's one group of these recipes we're especially excited about. When we first read this issue of Bon App, it was the cakes that got our tongues wagging. And the readers who ended up with the cakes seemed extremely happy with the results.
Check out those cakes -- and every other recipe from the issue -- in the Cover-to-Cover entries from Team Bon Appétit!
Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage
"I was so excited when I learned that I was on Team Bon Appétit and so very relieved that I was not assigned the Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting (sorry teammate Megan!). So my assignment was the Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage.
The recipe was fairly easy to follow but I did make one adjustment; the pepper that I used was a Thai chile pepper from our garden and for some unknown reason they were little infernos this year so instead of thinly slicing the pepper, I scored it and infused the honey to keep the heat down.
I was flying along feeling very confident until I got to the fried sage which was a lot trickier then anticipated. Apparently, the key here is having the oil at just the right temp and not crowding the sage. If the oil was too hot, the sage was brunt in seconds. If too crowded and the oil temp dropped, you get soggy sage. So after going through what seemed like an entire sage plant I finally got it right and my tart actually held some resemblance to the magazine photo.
The other lesson learned here was not to drink Prosecco slushies (which is apparently what you get when you forget the bottle of Prosecco in the freezer) while baking with puff pastry, thank goodness for oven timers!"
Carmelized Onion and Shallot Dip
"Overall this is a great dip. The onion flavor is subtle enough for a group setting but strong enough to change this into something way better than what you can buy at the supermarket. I brought this to the Philly Food Swappers event along with some pita chips and everyone really enjoyed it. I was glad I had an event to serve it at because the recipe does make quite a lot so I would suggest cutting in half if it was for small group since it is a heavier dish. I will definitely be adding this to my party recipe rooster as it was very simple to make and well enjoyed. (I substituted rosemary in place of the thyme because that is what I had.)"
Chile Lime Cashews
"I went on a wacky foodie wild goose chase, trying five stores, but was unable to come up with kaffir lime leaves. I doubled the lime zest as directed. Fortunately I had all the chiles on hand, because that's how I roll.These were delicious. Of COURSE they were, because freshly roasted cashews are among the most addictive foods in the world. The chile-lime seasoning was enjoyable, but I'm not going to say they took the cashews to a new level or anything."
Crunchy Sake Pickles
Kathleen and Jeff
"The recipe was quite easy to follow. The one thing we did not include in our recipe was the Sesame Seeds. We have a daughter with a Sesame Seed Allergy (weird one!) The veggies were delicious (we used carrots, cucumbers and radishes). The Sake provided a very interesting flavor that seemed to intensify as time went on. One downside was they really started to smell up the fridge so I brought the leftovers into work to share. Everyone tasted but no one went back for seconds. One of the guys who typically eats everything found the smell so awful he couldn’t even try one."
Frico (Lacy Cheese Crackers)
"'Cheese. Just cheese. Nothing else. Talk about a boring recipe.' Those were the initial thoughts that went through my head as my Cover-to-Cover assignment came through. Frico, however, turned out to be pretty cool. Watching those little piles of cheese turn into a bubbly mess and finally into crisp, lacy crackers was worthy of a time-lapse film. They are a bit greasy but go great with fresh, tomato soup."
Mini Shrimp Rolls
"Bon Appetit's Mini Shrimp Rolls are the perfect compromise for when you're craving a New England Lobster Roll, but don't want to fork out the dough for lobster meat. Buttered, toasted King's Hawaiian rolls replicate the flavor of the traditional roll and the crumbled potato chips provide a crunchy, salty finish. While this recipe is already simple, you can even cheat like I did and use precooked shrimp to further cut a step. Remember these two-bite sandwiches for an impressive (but affordable) starter at your next party or potluck." Read more at Allison's blog.
Ricotta and Sage Fried Meatballs
"This was so much fun! I made this after a weekend wedding trip to Boston -- I live in Los Angeles -- and it was a perfect way to decompress.
While it was a tedious process, the result was delicious. My husband was sure that an entire sage leaf per meatball would be overpowering, but it wasn't. They had the just the right amount of spicy, chewy, and crispy. I made the balls a bit larger, yielding 18 rather than 24 and they needed 3-4 minutes to fry, rather than one minute. Definitely not the kind of food I typically make, but I will keep it in the repertoire. A success!"
Seared Steak Lettuce Cups
"I can only rave about this dish -- it was super easy, SO delicious, and looked awesome. Kind of hard to beat that combination. Quality ingredients make all the difference. And since it's such a simple recipe, splurging on a few items doesn't break the bank. Get the best-quality meat and veggies you can find. You won't be disappointed. This is my new go-to dish for a wow appetizer!"
"Overall, I'd give these a B. They were tasty, crunchy and very simple to make. The recipe made a pound of pistachios, so I have a big bag of them in the freezer now for cocktail party emergencies. It takes the full amount of baking time to make sure they don't still have that raw texture, and they come out of the oven soft, but they really do crisp up while cooling. The nuts just kind of needed a kick in the pants on the the flavor scale. Next time I would definitely add a bit of salt and maybe take the cayenne up a bit."
BEVERAGES & COCKTAILS
"It was super fantastic. Great favor and it was super easy to make. I will am going to keep the syrup in my fridge for a quick drink!"
Philadelphia Fish House Punch
"I'm not the biggest fan of a holiday punch bowl, but this drink is a great one to make in punch-size proportions, then serve in small, elegant glasses. I made individual star-shaped ice cubes to give it a little more holiday dazzle. What I truly love about this drink is its adaptability. It could be your holiday party season drink, and be different each time you serve it. The key: Switch out the fruit-flavored liquor. I want to try pineapple next. Cheers!
Philadelphia Fish House Punch recipe
Spiced Apple Cider
"Nothing is as comforting to me as apple cider so I was beyond excited to be assigned this recipe. In my opinion, this recipe 'amps up' an already delicious drink and is perfect for serving at fall parties or sipping alone while immersed in a book on the couch. If you love apple cider, you'll love this even more. Give it a try -- it's so simple there's no reason not to!"
Mustard Greens, Roasted Squash, and Hazelnut Salad
"I will fully admit to not having high hopes for this salad, primarily because I find mustard greens too bitter to be the only greens in a salad. I was wrong, on every level. The squash is a fantastic alternative to acorn or butternut -- and the dressing truly transforms the salad and the flavor of the greens. I fully expected this salad to be a true 'side salad' and come home with extras (the salad was made as an intended side to BA's cover recipe). But everyone had seconds and I came home with nothing but extra dressing.
Full disclosure: I had neither sherry vinegar nor hazelnut oil, and in shopping around would have spent about $30 for two things I was concerned about never needing again. So I substituted champagne vinegar and my best olive oil. The salad tasted amazing with that ... so use of the expected vinegar and oil would probably just heighten the flavors even more."
Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese
"I think it is an excellent salad to serve with grilled steak. It needed a little more bite and I added a few capers. But it was to die for. Very nice. If you hold the cheese, it is even better the second day!"
"This was a good, basic salad. The vinaigrette was very easy to throw together, and it's sweetness worked nicely with the bitterness of the greens. The manchego and toasted walnuts livened it up a bit, though overall it seemed almost like a non-recipe. This would be a quick, easy salad that would go with most anything. I did have to substitue a mix of Belgian Endive and Radiccio for the Treviso which was nowhere to be found in Little Rock, Arkansas!"
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
"The secret to making grilled cheese for a crowd, you ask? Turn on the oven. Encourage your guests to customize their sandwiches by offering a combination of cheeses, breads, and fixings and you have a cheesy, gooey party happening in your own kitchen. Then simply pop them on a baking sheet to cook, slap them together and voila.
Without really planning on it, my grilled cheese sandwiches became very Canadian with premium Cheddar cheese, Oka [Ed. note: a Canadian cheese] and a local Cambozola. Add some crispy bacon slices, very thinly sliced Okanagan Bosc pears, a combination of pestos and mustards, some flash pickled onions and the scene is set. Add a garlic dill pickle on the side and you have a match made in heaven. Bon Appetit!"
"My boyfriend and I picked a bushel of apples last weekend, so we were eager to put them to use. While desserts that incorporate apples abound, entrees are harder to find.
We loved this one. The onions get great caramelization on the grill, and the apples take on the smokiness while keeping their refreshing tartness. Paired with the slightly spicy Mornay sauce (we added extra cayenne) and crunchy, grilled flatbread, it's absolutely delicious. So much so that while the recipe says it makes 8 servings, it was more like 2.5 for us.
With 100 apples left, we'll definitely make it again (although next time we'll defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator instead of trying to speed up the process in the oven and accidentally cooking it a bit, whoops)."
"Easy & delicious! We eat the Trader Joe Creamy Tomato Soup in the carton all the time, and this was even better.
I did not bundle my thyme, and my store had only LEMON thyme. Didn't notice the lemon in the finished soup, and I was able to pick out all the sticks before blending.
And I blended with a stick blender, instead of transferring to a blender. I think it would be smoother if transferred to a blender, but I don't mind a few lumps."
Roasted Red Pepper Soup Shots
"Deliciously simple recipe that highlights each ingredient used. I'd recommend using a good-quality olive oil for the best flavor. I garnished with fresh basil and homemade vegan feta-like cheese, and if I was entertaining, I definitely would have gone the capers route -- they would be the perfect complement. Tastes great warm, too, with some crusty beer bread."
Bouillabaisse with Rouille and Garlic Toasts
"This delicious recipe had me searching high and low within a 60-mile radius for live mussels! You would think that living an hour away from the Pacific Ocean, I wouldn't have a problem securing the main ingredient of my BouilIabaisse, but that was not the case. After numerous inquiries, I ended up being able to special order a batch from a nearby grocer. I was told the order would come in four days later! On the designated day, I received a phone call that the mussels weren't up to par and that they were hoping for a fresh shipment the following day.
I must admit that I would never have ventured to make this recipe, had I not been 'challenged.' I learned how to beard and steam mussels, how to create rouille and make fresh fish stock. The finished product was an absolute hit. The hubs was thrilled with the delicious outcome and encouraged a repeat performance at a later date. Personally, I loved the rouille which came together quickly in my Vitamix and the only alteration to the recipe was the elimination of the egg in the rouille exchanged for a pat of butter.
The flavorful bouillabaisse-style tomato-leek-onion based broth was accented with saffron and fresh herbs. I would definitely make this again and believe it would make for a delightful dinner amongst friends. Be sure to give yourself ample time to secure your mussels and realize that they will come to you alive so you must act quickly!"
Garlic Shrimp and White Beans
"This was a relatively easy dish to prepare and really didn't take much time at all, probably 30-40 minutes total. All of the ingredients, other than the chiles de arbol and shrimp, were already in my pantry. I love white beans but don't use them nearly enough so this recipe gives me yet another reason to reach for the cannellini beans rather than the black beans.It's very garlicky so make sure your significant other enjoys garlic as much as you do. It can be very spicy, but I didn't leave the chile in the oil very long since my husband isn't a fan of spicy food.Absolutely include some grilled bread as part of your meal. You're going to want to soak up the juices. White wine, maybe a Pinot Grigio, would be terrific with this dish."
Braised Lamb Shanks with Gremolata and Baked Polenta
"I found this recipe really easy to follow, this was my first attempt at lamb and baked polenta so I appreciated how straightforward the directions were. Both the lamb and the polenta turned out great. I will definitely be using the polenta recipe on a regular basis!"
Braised Pork Shoulder with Apple Cider and Ginger Beer
"This was a very interesting-tasting dish. It was sweet from the ginger beer and cider, and the garlic and shallots gave it depth. Overall very pleasing, However I really wanted it to be spectacular. It was a fun, tasty experiment, but I wouldn't make it again."
Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet
"I host Sunday football dinners at my house every week, which means 1) I have a ready crowd of testers and 2) I'm always looking for a hearty recipe that feeds a lot of people. This cassoulet was perfect. There are several steps, but none of them are especially hard, so it's perfect for a lazy Sunday. A little bit of prep work, and you can easily do all the steps during commercial breaks between the games. I imagine it would be quite easy to spread the steps over a few days if necessary. Also, boiling smoked bacon and cloves and onions makes your house smell like Christmas.
I work at a farmers market, so it was pretty easy for me to find skin-on slab bacon. Everything else was readily available at the Mt. Pleasant farmers market or Whole Foods. I forgot to get the bread in advance, so I just toasted it for a few minutes in a low oven (200 or so) to stale it and continued with the recipe. My only complaint is that I forgot to serve the dijon and the cornichons (everyone was too busy diving into the pot), and the recipe definitely needs that hit of acid to help cut through all the porky goodness. I kept them for next time though, because I'm definitely adding this to my Sunday dinner rotation."
Pork Loin Braised in Milk
"When I read about this project, I was up for the challenge! Then, when I got assigned the recipe I was worried that I got the simplest recipe in the entire issue, but was optimistic that simplicity would yield spectacular results. Unfortunately, I was only right about the first part.
This recipe is simple to prepare, and the results were less than spectacular. The pork came out tender though a bit dry (the dryness may have been a result of too high a temperature from my old stove).
The real problem was is that it tasted very bland. And the braising liquid, which is just seasoned milk, was very unappealing as a sauce, so I didn't serve it. With this recipe, Bon Appetit let me down for the first time.
There are many more flavourful ways to prepare pork than this."
Skirt Steak with Romesco Sauce
"This recipe marked a big first step for me: I actually had to talk to the butcher because there was no skirt or flank steak to be found in the prepackaged section. I got a nice piece of flank steak, one of the cuts the recipe suggests. I altered the spice rub by avoiding fennel because I know I dislike the flavor, and I had to grill the meat in two pieces since I only had my little George Foreman, but I kept everything else the same.
It was incredibly delicious! The meat was so flavorful, and I will be using the spice rub again for sure. It's definitely worth it to spring for a good cut of meat here, since it's the focus of the recipe. The Romesco sauce was also excellent, but a little too labor-intensive for me. It took far longer to make than the steak itself, though it did complement the meat well. I added some roasted green beans from my CSA share to round out the meal."
Chicken In Garlic-Almond Sauce
"The additions of the almonds and toasted bread were a delicious Spanish upgrade to what would otherwise be a pretty basic chicken recipe (chicken, garlic, onions, stock). To continue down the path of using ingredients outside my norm, I opted with sherry instead of white wine. Although it didn't knock the socks off of my discerning diners (to include my husband and three year old), it introduced us to a new flavor profile and I'm glad we tried it!"
Duck à l'Orange
"Things I learned from making this recipe:
1) The place to buy a duck in Akron, Ohio is the Chinese grocery store.
2) said duck is frozen and without giblets, however it comes complete with head, feet, eyes, bill...
3) cutting up a duck is about the same as cutting up a chicken.
4) this was not a difficult recipe--the meat is fantastic, very tasty; the sauce is simply a mega-reduction of orange-tinged duck stock.
5) I would amp up the orangey-ness of the recipe next time; the rich duck meat could definitely handle it."
Pimenton Roast Chickens with Crispy Potatoes
"We halved the recipe as there are only 2 of us here. I had to turn the oven down about 10 minutes in because the chicken was getting dark. The chicken had wonderful flavor and was seasoned throughout and the potatoes were perfectly crispy. I will definitely be making this again."
RICE & PASTA
Garganelli with Fennel and Pork Shoulder Ragù
"The title of the recipe sounded great, basically pasta with a pork ragu. Being from Iowa, I love all things pork, right down to chocolate dipped bacon, and the annual Bacon Fest.This dish, however, was disappointing. First it was time-consuming. The instructions called for mixing the pork with salt and then letting that sit in the refrigerator 2 hours or overnight.Once I started on the sauce, it was another 2-21/2 hours of simmer time, so advance planning is necessary to bring this dish to the table. The night I planned to cook it for dinner, I started the sauce too late and ended up having some soup while the sauce finished. It then became a snack for me while my partner enjoyed it. I found the dish too strong on pork flavor, with no hints of the fennel or tomatoes. For the time and effort spent, I would rather make a traditional bolognese.On a side note. I had a hard time finding the Garganelli pasta here in Des Moines, but was successful in ordering it from Amazon. It came 2 day delivery and was fresh/frozen and is wonderful."
Pasta with Pistachio Pesto
"I loved this dish for many reasons. First, I am a sucker for alliteration. Second, it used up some of the odds and ends I still have from the garden- tomatoes, garlic, and mint. Third, it took 15 minutes to make this, from start to finish. Fourth, it tasted unexpected and delicious, the mint playing perfectly off of the meaty pistachios and tomatoes. Unfortunately, the pesto kind of looked like someone threw up a layered taco dip. But if you can get past that, this dish is a shoe-in for a super-fast weeknight meal packed with flavor (if not style)."
Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup
"I was really excited because my family ADORES brussels sprouts and I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit and was curious about it. First, if you are going to make this recipe, please make sure your brussels sprouts are absolutely dry; otherwise, when you put them in the oil they will splatter, burn you, and make a sorry mess of the stove. Other than that, they were pretty easy to make and the sauteed sprouts tasted and looked lovely.
However, all that changed when I mixed in the maple syrup and butter and tossed the brussels sprouts to coat as it says in the recipe. Among my kids and my husband who were tasting, the polite ones said they weren't their favorite. The rest said yuck! But since I had made them a couple of hours before dinner, and having nothing to lose, I let the maple syrup caramelize a little.
AND THEN!!!!! Mmmmmmm..... total transformation! they were very good -- the flavors melded and everything had a nice subtle mapley taste to it. If I were to gild the lily, i would have added some very tiny pieces of fried bacon and -- why not? -- little cubes of sauteed apples. But then of course, it would not be this recipe. :-) "
"A couple of thoughts. First, I had never worked with phyllo pastry before, and this experience doesn't exactly have me looking for opportunities to bust into the extra box I purchased (to give me a bit of a safety net if I royally screwed things up with the first box). It is fragile and tempermental, and assembling the croustades took far longer than I was anticipating. Second, and this could well be user error, it took far more butter to assemble the cups than the recipe called for. Third, these were delicious, the filling was quite flavorful and everybody enjoyed them. That said, were I to do this again I would likely make it as a crumble, or as some sort of pie or turnover. I'd much rather work with a pie dough than with the phyllo. Finally, and again, this could be user error, these leaked quite a bit, to the point that I had to clean the oven later that same day."
Brown Sugar Ice Cream
"I cook and bake a lot, but I never made ice cream before, so I was thrilled to get the assignment to make Brown Sugar-Bourbon ice cream for the Cover-to-Cover challenge. I was even more thrilled that a co-worker was kind enough to loan me her ice cream maker.
What I didn’t like: I think that Bon Appetit tends to over-simplify the directions in their recipes, so I had to read and re-read the directions several times until I was certain I had it figured out. It was almost so easy that I had to keep rechecking to make sure I was doing it right.
I wasn’t 100% on board with the texture of the ice cream when it was finished. It was a little grainy, which, in retrospect, could have been solved by straining the custard a second time, or perhaps using cheesecloth in the strainer. I’ll know to make that adaption the next time I make it.
One last thing: the ice cream never got frozen hard like the ice cream you’d buy at the grocery store; it was more like soft-serve. A food-savvy co-worker tells me that it’s probably the hard alcohol that prevents it from freezing solid.
What I did like: The ease of making this recipe, once I figured it out. I laid out all the measured ingredients and bowls and pans, and I zipped through the process quickly.
Taste-wise, I was in love with the flavor of the custard, even before adding the vanilla and bourbon after cooling the custard overnight in the fridge. I walked around with a bowl and several spoons to get feedback from co-workers and everyone was very happy with their samples.
Overall feelings: I would make this again, with a few slight adaptions, such as using cheesecloth when it’s time to strain the custard. I enjoy the flavor of bourbon, so I doubled up using two tablespoons instead of one. I noticed it was a little boozy when I got out my tasting spoon, which some people might not like, so I think it would be possible to add the bourbon to the milk/cream mixture when it’s boiling on the stove to cook out some the alcohol but still retain the flavor. Also, cooking off the alcohol may aid in a more solid freeze. I think this ice cream can be great on its own, or served with a warm piece of apple pie, or in a grown-up milk-shake with even more bourbon added to it!"
"I learned a few things from making this cake: I only have one 8" cake pan, a large banana makes 1/2 cup mashed, and if you're halfway through making a cake and run out of sugar, you can pulse up some sugar cubes in the food processor. I highly recommend making this in two 9" cake pans instead of buying the extra-deep 8" pans; the baking time is the same.
The cake tastes mostly like the rich peanut butter frosting, with strong undertones of banana and chocolate. Imagine a peanut butter and banana sandwich with chocolate chips sprinkled on it. It's a little dense, probably from the banana, but moist. And the cake itself weighs over six pounds! Get a sturdy plate."
"As you can see I had to bake in four 8-in pans because that is all I had. (It's supposed to have 6 layers). The frosting is to die for, but the cake just so-so considering all the time it took to make and the pricy ingredients. One vanilla bean was $9.00!! and 14 ounces of chocolate!! But no worry, we will eat it all :-)) Better go take my evening speed walk before I consume my 800 plus calorie serving. Note to self: Next time don't print out the nutrition information...."
Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake
"Oh boy, this cake. A few suggestions 1) start early, 2) work with a partner and 3) follow directions.
The cake is deliciously amazing and made for a very happy birthday. Worth all the time and effort making it. Enjoy!"
Salted Caramel "Ding Dong" Cake
Liz and Andrew
"This was certainly a time-consuming endeavor and a special-occasion-only type of cake, but the result was well worth the effort. The cake itself was rich and dense and very reminiscent of the Hostess cakes of our childhoods. Despite the presence of the a lot of coffee and strongly acidic natural cocoa, the cake had a very balanced and kid-friendly chocolately flavor. The marshmallow cream was delicious and fairly mind-blowing for the people that we tested the cake on. We didn't fleck the top with sea salt per the recipe, as it seemed like each individual component of the cake was already well-seasoned, especially the caramel ganache, which had a somewhat intense bitterness that a baker would want to be very careful about. The caramel transitions from a light gold to a very dark amber in a matter of seconds, so you really have to keep an eye on it in the final moments to get the right flavor and consistency.
All in all, this was a delicious and fun cake to make, really harkened back to classic Hostess treats, and would be a wonderful cake to make for birthdays and special events."
The Tomboy Cake
"This cake. Oh, this cake. Everyone in my office loved it, and they're still talking about it several days later. I was over it before it was even assembled. It just takes so long, has so many steps (including some that seem unnecessary -- this is a magazine that advocates buying, instead of making, ice cream for ice cream cake. So why can't I use almond meal instead of grinding my own almonds?) and creates so many dirty dishes.
Even with all that, though, the cake is good. Make sure to keep an eye on the layers while they're baking -- mine seemed over-browned 10 minutes before the recipe said they should be done. And maybe consider using store-bought lemon curd if you don't have at least three hours to let homemade curd cool. But it is pretty, as long as the sides of the cake layers come out looking normal. At least you don't have to do a crumb coat, right?"