Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year-End List: My Eleven Favorite Things I Cooked in 2010

It's that time of year when list-making seems like the thing to do, so I figured I'd join the fun. This was my first year doing the ol' Cookbook Adventure thing, and I've been really pleased with the number of totally awesome recipes I discovered in my cookbook collection. Some were extraordinarily time-consuming, others were more straightforward. Some were gorgeous on the plate, others were relatively rustic. Below are my Top Eleven, all of which made me smile and long to be eating them again when I looked back at the posts. (I'm going to defy convention and start with my very favorite, rather than building suspense by counting down from 11...)

1. Peas and Carrots (Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook)
Thomas Keller's "Peas and Carrots" was an easy pick for this Best of 2010 list since it's absolutely my favorite thing I've ever cooked in my life. I still get a little weak in the knees remembering that ginger-carrot emulsion. There are no words for the awesomeness of this dish. It was perfection.

2. Pork Columbo with Roti (Norman Van Aken, New World Kitchen)
Were it not for the brilliance of Peas and Carrots, this dish could easily have been on top of my list. It's one of the more rustic-looking dishes on the list, but that's really the perfect presentation for comfort food like this. As I mentioned in the original post, I had no idea what to expect from this dish before I made it, but after one bite I knew it was exactly what I'd been craving my entire life... I'm going to have to make another batch of this one very very soon.

3. Perfect Carnitas (Modified from Bruce Aidell, Complete Book of Pork)
Amazing carnitas are the main thing I missed when I moved away from access to high-quality trashy Mexican food. After I made this version at home, I knew I could happily live in New England forever despite the absence of restaurants serving one of my favorite foods. The perfect refried beans and Mexican rice from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico and homemade corn tortillas, pico de gallo, and guac turned these carnitas into a perfect Carnitas Plate. So very good... It ain't fancy, but it's what I love.

4. Ridiculously Awesome Lobster Burgers (Michel Richard, Happy in the Kitchen)
I love lobster, as do all good-hearted people, and this was a really cool way to eat it. I love the playfulness of Michel Richard's recipes, and every component of this dish was a bit of a revelation. Love.

5. Amazing Gyros (Michael Psilakis, How to Roast a Lamb)
This is probably the ugliest dish on this list, but is also one of the tastiest. I am a huge fan of gyros but had never tried to make them at home until I found the recipe in Michael Psilakis's awesome book. Every component was good, but the combination was mind-blowingly delicious. Well worth the effort.

6. Brazilian Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Rojo and Cebollas Fritas (Norman Van Aken, New World Kitchen)
From one of the ugliest to one of the prettiest. This dish was super-easy and super-awesome. The flavor profiles were gorgeous together, and it ended up looking fairly impressive on the plate, too. Topping the steak with fried onions topped with melted Manchego was a genius move. Awesome.

7. Sautéed Atlantic Salmon with Leeks and Beurre Blanc (Thomas Keller, Bouchon)
This is a dish that I thought was too unimpressive to serve to guests... until I made it as a "low-key" dinner for my mom when she came to visit. Turns out that the herbed Beurre Blanc will rock your world, and those damn melted leeks (which Keller insists you make by discarding 3/4 of every leek) are the prefect complement. As always, Mr. Keller knows what he's talking about.

8. Momofuku Pork Buns (David Chang, Momofuku)
These were a favorite for me not only because they were so delicious but because they turned out just like I'd hoped. I was quite proud of myself for making the perfect little steamed bread pockets and the perfectly cooked pork belly. Yay!

9. English Muffins with Bay Leaf Butter (David Chang, Momofuku)
This is another one that is a favorite in part because I was feeling so impressed with myself by the time I finished making these. Sure, they were the best English muffins I've every had... and, sure, the Bay Leaf Butter was insane... but they were also really fun to make. As my kitchen filled with the amazing smell of (Amish) butter while the muffins cooked on a griddle, I knew these were a great idea...

10. Perfect Burgers (Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home)
A perfect burger is a beautiful thing, and I've never tasted one more perfect than the burger that results from Thomas Keller's recipe. With a freshly ground patty made from a combination of brisket, sirloin, and chuck, this thing taught me how moist and flavorful a burger could truly be. I will never make burgers another way again.

11. 48-Hour Short Ribs (David Chang, Momofuku)
This was the recipe that convinced me once and for all of the brilliance of sous vide cooking. These short ribs are cooked for 48 hours until perfectly tender, but at a low enough temperature that the flesh remains medium-rare throughout. Brilliant.

So, that's the list. Thomas Keller and David Chang led the pack with 3 recipes each, and Norman Van Aken was a surprise, coming in next with 2 recipes. (I only made two recipes from New World Kitchen this year, but both were on this list because they were that good...) Can't wait to see what comes out of my kitchen (and my cookbooks) in the new year...

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