Introduction Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They’re handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacies. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we’ve folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too.
This is how I framed Genius Recipes when I launched it as a weekly column on Food52 in June 2011. In the years since, the definition really hasn’t changed: These recipes are about reworking what we’ve been taught and skipping past all the canonical versions to a smarter way.
For example, if you were to look to a classical text or cooking class, you’d probably think you’d need to truss and flip and baste a chicken as you’re roasting it. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of that—you will probably get a good dinner out of the exercise. But Barbara Kafka, in writing the cookbook Roasting: A Simple Art
in 1995, perfected roasting everything
, from mackerel to turkeys to cucumbers. She puts chicken in the oven, legs akimbo, at a raging 500°F (260°C), then hardly touches it. Hers is the juiciest roast chicken I’ve tasted, and has the crispiest skin, without fussing—so why would you?
This book is full of happy discoveries like this roast chicken (page 106), drawn from the experience of the best cookbook authors, chefs, and bloggers around. No one cook could have taught us so much. From historic voices in food like Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, and James Beard to modern giants like Ignacio Mattos and Kim Boyce, we’ve learned that making something better doesn’t mean doing more work—and oftentimes, it means doing less. If you look to the people who’ve spent their careers tinkering with these dishes, they’ll often show you a better way to make them.
Here in this collection are more than one hundred of the most surprising and essential genius recipes. Some are greatest hits from the column that keep inspiring new conversations and winning new fans. I also dug up a bunch more recipes, like Marion Cunningham’s famous yeasted overnight waffles (page 29) and Dorie Greenspan’s apple cake with more apples than cake (page 221), to stock our kitchens and keep us cooking and talking. You’ll also find new tips and variations and a good number of mini-recipes alongside the full-length ones. These genius ideas were simple enough to distill into a paragraph or two and made the collection whole. My hope is that this book, held all together, can act as an alternative kitchen education of sorts.
Some of the recipes are already legends: If you’ve been reading about food for a while, you’ve probably already heard of the tomato sauce with butter and onion (page 151), the no-knead bread (page 39), the one-ingredient ice cream (page 200). I love sharing these on Food52, because it seems everyone has an opinion and a good story to tell.
A handful of others are tricks I stumbled across myself: The oddball ingredient I saw when I trailed in the kitchen at Le Bernardin (page 101). The simple carnitas I found in an old Diana Kennedy cookbook when I was missing the burritos at home in California (page 120). The winning ratatouille after I tested four in a day (page 191). The dessert served at the James Beard Awards that Melissa Clark posted on Instagram (page 203)—watch out, world: I’m paying attention!
But if we had to rely on me, Genius Recipes would have been a nice little series that would have petered out long ago—and it surely wouldn’t have evolved into a book. I’d hoped I would have help finding the gems, since the spirit of better cooking through community has always driven Food52. But I couldn’t have known that the tips would just keep coming—that the majority of the recipes I would gather, and the most unexpectedly brilliant ones, would come from emails and tweets and conversations with the Food52 community, fellow staffers, and other writers, editors, and friends.
I wouldn’t have looked twice at a soup made of cauliflower, an onion, and a whole lot of water (page 88). And broccoli cooked forever is almost daring you not to (page 176). But cooks from Food52 said these were worthy of genius status, and they were right. Genius Recipes is proof of the power of crowd-sourcing and curation, but also of listening and trusting other cooks. Even though many of these recipes have been around for years, some for decades, only now can we gather and share them so quickly.
I hope you will use the recipes in a number of ways. Some may become formulas (I don’t make roast chicken or guacamole or oatmeal any other way anymore). But others, I hope, will be jumping-off points. Maybe you’ll make the kale panini just as written (page 165), then next time you’ll use collards or whatever greens you have, or start making just the quick pickled peppers to keep around. As soon as you make the olive oil and maple granola (page 15) once, if you’re like the legions of commenters on Food52, you’ll start tweaking it and making it your own.
Please do, and the next time you discover something genius, let me know. Broccoli Cooked Forever
From Roy Finamore
Serves 4 to 6
2 bunches (2 to 2 1⁄4 pounds/900g to 1kg) broccoli
1 cup (240ml) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 small hot chiles, halved lengthwise (Finamore likes small fresh red peppers, but you can substitute green Thai chiles, various dried ones, even a big pinch of red chile flakes)
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, cut the florets off the broccoli. Peel the stems and cut them into rather thick slices, about 1⁄3
When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli and cover the pot to bring it back to a boil quickly. Blanch the broccoli for 5 minutes. Drain.
2. Put olive oil and garlic into a large skillet over medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the
hot peppers and anchovies. Cook, giving a stir or two, until the anchovies melt. Add the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to very low, and cook for 2 hours. Use a spatula to turn the broccoli over in the skillet a few times, but try not to break it up. It will be very tender when done.
3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to a serving dish. It is delicious hot or at room temperature. Meatballs
Makes about 28 meatballs
1 pound (450g) lean ground beef
8 ounces (225g) ground veal
8 ounces (225g) ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup (100g) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 1⁄2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Combine the beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, blend the ingredients together. Mix the bread crumbs into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water, 1 cup (240ml) at a time, until the mixture is quite moist. (If you want to make sure the seasoning is to your liking, fry off a small test meatball, taste, and adjust.) Shape into 2 1⁄2- to 3-inch (6.5 to 7.5cm) balls.
2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, fry the meatballs in batches. When the bottom half of each meatball is very brown and slightly crisp, turn and cook the top half. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.
3. Heat the marinara sauce to simmering. Lower the cooked meatballs into the simmering sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Serve alone or with pasta. Orange & Almond Cake
From Claudia Rode N
Serves 6 to 10
2 large oranges
6 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (225g) ground almonds
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (225g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Butter or oil, for the pan
Flour or more ground almonds, for the pan
1. Wash and boil the oranges (unpeeled) in a little water for nearly 2 hours (or for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker). Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the seeds. Turn the oranges into pulp by rubbing them through a sieve or by putting them in an electric blender or food processor.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter and flour a cake pan with a removable base, if possible. (I used a 9 by 3-inch/23 by 7.5cm round cake pan, and you can use oil and almond flour if you’re going for dairy-free and gluten-free.)
3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the ground almonds, sugar, baking powder, and orange puree and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, then have a look at it—this type of cake will not go any flatter if the oven door is opened. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the pan before turning out.
Copyright © 2015 by Kristen Miglore, Foreword by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.