New Year's is an occasion that means a lot to us here at Serious Eats, mainly because it's a chance to renew our collective commitment to a healthier lifestyle. To cleanse ourselves of the sins of the previous year, if you will. In that spirit—and because we know our readers also value the opportunity to purge—we pledge to clean up our act once and for all and start offering what everyone wants this time of year: healthy, nutrient-dense recipes only, for the temple that is your body. Expect to be cooking heavily with dandelion greens and chia seeds in 2016.
Ha, just kidding! Not that we don't support a balanced approach toward eating (and dandelion greens and chia seeds certainly have their place), but the key to pleasure in food, as in all things, is a little indulgence once in a while. And we're firm believers in the idea that if you're going to enjoy a rich, ultra-comforting, and—let's just call it what it is—fatty dish, you might as well pull out all the stops. This collection of recipes offers something for every occasion: late-night junk food, like homemade jalapeño poppers and pizzadillas, and extravagant main dishes, like lasagna and cassoulet. Get ready for your happiest new year yet.
Greasy, Gooey Snacks
Cornbread-Coated Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Wedges
Deep-fried mac and cheese wedges? That's practically rabbit food. To really get crazy (and crazy delicious) with leftover mac and cheese and pulled pork, layer the two together, coat them in a cornbread batter, and fry them into these crispy-outside, melty-inside little bombs. The cooled cheese sauce molds easily to the pork, making sure that you get an even distribution of both in each bite.
Crispy Deep-Fried Jalapeño Poppers
Using cream cheese, seasoned with a blend of ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and lime juice, gives you a filling that melts without expanding and blowing up. Double-dredging the poppers in milk and flour allows the breading to stick without over-thickening. The result is a golden-crusted bite with some mouth-tingling heat, giving way to a warm, creamy, spicy center.
Pulled Pork Jalapeño Poppers With Raspberry Sauce
Stuffed with pulled pork in addition to cream cheese—and wrapped in bacon to top it all off—these are an order of magnitude beyond your basic poppers. Besides adding a nice smoky flavor to complement the spice, the bacon holds the filling in and eliminates the need for breading and deep-frying. A raspberry sauce drizzled on top lends a fruity tang.
The Ultimate Extra-Crispy Double Fried Confit Buffalo Wings
Homemade Buffalo wings are better than any you'll find in a sports bar. The key is double-frying—a very slow first round essentially confits the wings and makes them super tender, while a second trip into hotter oil crisps them up. We like to keep the sauce traditional with a mix of Frank's Red Hot and butter.
Totchos (Tater Tot Nachos) With Cheese Sauce, Charred Tomato Salsa, Chorizo, and Pickled Jalapeños
Who says tortilla chips are the only viable base for nachos? The humble tater tot of your childhood cafeteria lunches is also warm, crunchy, golden, and terrific when covered with toppings. And those toppings don't have to be low-end: In this version, we use charred-tomato salsa, crisp chorizo, fresh vegetables, and a cheese sauce made with real cheddar.
Pizzadilla (Quesadilla Pizza)
Bar-style tortilla pizzas are among the great cheesy snacks of this world. You can make yours cheesier—and therefore better—with this genius mashup: the pizzadilla. Simply build a quesadilla in a skillet, stuffed with pizza sauce and mozzarella, then layer whatever toppings you like on the top tortilla and broil it. It's a match made in late-night drunken heaven.
The Ultimate Poutine
Poutine, the Canadian dish of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy, is far from highbrow cuisine, but with a little care and time, your homemade take can be a masterpiece. Freshly fried potatoes, with crisp, salty outsides and creamy insides, combine with a flavorful gravy and soft, chewy cheddar cheese curds. If you can't find fresh curds near you, it's not too hard to make your own from scratch.
Burgers, Dogs, and Sandwiches
If you just can't decide whether you want a homemade Big Mac or a homemade Whopper, here's the ultimate hybrid to save you from having to make that wrenching choice. We combine the flame-broiled Whopper patty with our meticulously re-created Big Mac special sauce, and top it with both fresh and dehydrated onions for a burger that's the best of both worlds.
The Double Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt
This gut-buster of a sandwich makes the McWhopper look downright dainty. A double-decker cheeseburger, made with two quarter-pound patties and four slices of bacon, is already pushing the limits of decency. Replacing the buns on that double burger with three thin grilled cheese sandwiches? That's just taking decency out back and shooting it. Hey, we did say we'd pull out all the stops, right?
Ultra-Smashed Brunch Burgers With Quick Jalapeño Hollandaise
After a debaucherous New Year's Eve celebration, you might need a little pick-me-up in the morning, and this potent hangover killer is just the thing to drag you out of bed. We smash beef patties to yield plenty of crisp edges, then top them with oven-cooked bacon, fried eggs, avocado, and a spicy jalapeño Hollandaise. Buttery toasted English muffins are ideal for soaking up all that runny yolk and sauce.
Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs With Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Mayonnaise, and Potato Chips
This loaded hot dog takes inspiration from the Sonoran-style version that's popular in Arizona and parts of Mexico. Here, we ditch the beans from the traditional recipe and use a mixture of salted tomatoes, avocado, and onion, plus pickled jalapeños instead of the usual jalapeño sauce. Crushed potato chips give the dogs some much-needed crunchy texture.
Chili Cheese Dog Grilled Cheese
What's better than the simple, heartwarming grilled cheese of your youth? Combining that sandwich with the chili dog of your youth. Just jam a sliced fried hot dog (or two) and any chili you like into a standard grilled cheese.
Ultra-Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder
For a classic main dish that will satisfy the entire table without breaking the bank, a reverse-seared pork shoulder is the way to go: Roast it at a low temperature all day long until the meat is spoon-tender, then crank the oven as high as it will go to crisp the skin.
Lechon Kawali (Filipino Crispy Fried Pork Belly)
Lechon kawali, a beautifully crispy treatment for fatty pork belly, requires a bit of time, but it's easy to make. Boil the pork until it's tender in water seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves, then let it air-dry in the fridge overnight. The drying step makes for an extra-crunchy exterior when the belly is sliced and deep-fried.
The Food Lab's Southern Fried Chicken
For the moistest possible fried chicken, we brine it in buttermilk, which both tenderizes and seasons it, then mix a little brine into the flour coating to give the pieces a craggy, extra-crunchy crust. To make sure the chicken cooks evenly, fry it until it's perfectly golden on the outside before cooking it through in the oven.
Chicken-Fried Chicken With Cream Gravy
The Texas classic chicken-fried chicken isn't quite as redundant as it sounds—it just calls for pounded cutlets instead of drumsticks and breasts. A spicy buttermilk brine, followed by a coating of flour mixed with a dash of brine, will result in the same craggy, crisp crust you'll get with our Southern fried chicken recipe. But the real beauty of chicken-fried chicken is the excuse it gives you to add a healthy dose of peppery cream gravy.
The Best Chicken Parmesan
Our ultimate chicken Parmesan recipe takes a lot of cues from the Southern fried chicken recipe above, but adds a few special touches. Parmesan cheese in the breading improves both flavor and texture, and a slow-cooked red sauce makes it rich and savory. Slather the chicken with the sauce, load on cubes of mozzarella and grated Parmesan, and throw the whole thing in the oven until the cheese melts.
The Best Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
These enchiladas are a bit on the sophisticated side, but still just as satisfying as the ones you grew up with. Mexican-style crema and pepper Jack cheese are balanced by a smoky charred-poblano salsa, and the varied flavors in the dish complement the braised chicken without overpowering it.
Traditional French Cassoulet
A dish that's meaty and hearty doesn't necessarily have to be junk food. A rustic cassoulet is a great example—packed with poultry, sausage, pork, and beans, it's a super-filling meal on a cold day. Traditional cassoulet is made with duck, but chicken is cheaper and absorbs the cured meats' flavors wonderfully; if you miss the duck flavor, add a bit of duck fat to the mix.
Cheesy Pastas and Casseroles
The Food Lab's Ultra-Gooey Stovetop Mac and Cheese
No matter how groggy you are on January 1, in 15 minutes you can make a stovetop macaroni and cheese that's far better than the blue box, and nearly as easy. We use a mixture of melting cheeses—like extra-sharp cheddar and American—and multiple thickeners and emulsifiers—cornstarch, evaporated milk, and eggs—to get the sauce extra thick and creamy, and a little vinegary hot sauce to cut through the richness.
Lasagna Napoletana (Lasagna With Sausage, Smoked Cheese, and Meatballs)
A relatively light and vegetable-forward lasagna is a great option for a standard dinner. Lasagna Napoletana, on the other hand, is something you'll want to save for when you're stuck inside all day during a howling winter storm, with nothing but time on your hands and a yen for a gooey, glorious mass of meat and cheese. It's a monster of a dish, packed with sausage, homemade meatballs, and four different kinds of cheese—ricotta, mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, and Parmesan—all layered with pasta sheets and a slow-cooked red sauce.
Crispy Baked Pasta With Mushrooms, Sausage, and Parmesan Cream Sauce
Considering that this pasta dish comes together in just about 30 minutes from start to finish, it's way more luxurious than you'd expect. Sautéing the mushrooms in rendered fat from the sausage adds flavor, while soy sauce and lemon juice pump up the savoriness. Combine the mushrooms with pasta and a cheesy cream sauce, top it with bread crumbs, and bake it right in the cast iron skillet for a soul-warming weeknight meal.
American Chop Suey (Macaroni, Beef, and Cheese Skillet Casserole)
Chili mac, beefaroni, Johnny Marzetti, American chop suey—whatever they call it where you're from, this dish of pasta cooked with ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese is a delicious piece of Americana when done right. We simmer the pasta with green peppers and onions and, in classic New England style, add some Worcestershire sauce. Low-moisture mozzarella and grated Parmigiano Reggiano bind it all into a thick, cheese-smothered casserole.
Baked Ziti With Two Mozzarellas and Parmesan Cream Sauce
Baked ziti should be a fantastic comfort food, but it often disappoints—and the culprit is usually grainy supermarket ricotta. This baked ziti eliminates the ricotta entirely and replaces it with a Parmesan cream sauce. Low-moisture mozzarella gives you nice pockets of meltiness throughout, and fresh mozzarella on top lends a clean, milky flavor.