Come summertime, most of us want foods that somehow manage to satisfy while still seeming light and refreshing. No dish better delivers on both counts than the classic iceberg wedge salad, a retro creation that is all about simplicity. And yet, to be the celebration of flavor and texture that it should, we need to make sure to cut the toppings small and play up contrast in flavor and texture wherever possible.
'Cheese' on Serious Eats
When I have leftover mac and cheese and pulled pork after a day of barbecuing, I don't just reheat it and eat it the next day. I fold them together into these outrageous fried mac and cheese bombs, stuffed with barbecue-sauced pulled pork and coated in a cornbread crust.
This insanely delicious tamale filling is also one of the easiest—fruity roasted poblano peppers paired with strands of melted mild Oaxacan cheese. It's a minimal combo that delivers a lot of flavor within a light and tender tamale dough.
Grated cheese is a common taco topping, but it's also a boring one, failing to take advantage of the cheese's best assets: its melting and crisping abilities. The solution is the here with these crispy cheese tacos, in which we fuse melted, crisped cheese to a tortilla, which can then be stuffed with all sorts of fillings.
Ultra-crunchy onion rings and melty mozzarella sticks combine to make a bar food mash-up that's out of this world. No fussing with hot oil necessary—these are baked, not fried!
Poutine is only as good as its three components—fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Getting all of them just right can take time, including making your own stock, from-scratch fries, and homemade cheese curds. For a much quicker, yet still incredibly delicious, version, take our lead by making gravy with doctored store-bought stock and one of several fries and cheese options.
Jalapeño poppers get a barbecue-style update with bacon, pulled pork, and tangy raspberry sauce. No frying necessary: just cut the jalapeños in half, stuff them, roast them, and serve them with sauce for a sweet, spicy, smoky, and downright delicious appetizer.
Normally I'm all about innovation and deep digging and hardcore testing here at The Food Lab. But this time I'm starting with a dish so iconic, so incredible, so damn-near-flawless in its original form that the best I can possibly hope to do is tweak it just a bit to suit my very particular personal tastes. I'm talking about the ricotta gnudi at The Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield's West Village gastropub. Thin, thin pasta surrounds a core of creamy, explosive sheep's milk ricotta all served in a brown butter and sage sauce. And the good news is that my favorite dish isn't even that hard to make.
A perfect poutine is a trifecta of the best of its three ingredients—fries with a crisp exterior and soft interior, fresh and soft squeaky cheese curds, and a beefy brown gravy that's just flavorful enough without overwhelming the fries or curds. Getting each piece of the puzzle together for an ultimate version like this takes some time, but once complete, the reward is so good you'll go gaga even if you're totally sober.
I love gnocchi. At least, I love the gnocchi in my mind. Light, pillowy, flavor-packed, they're the perfect vessel for a good red sauce. The big problem? Potato gnocchi take a long time and are far from foolproof. Say hello to their quick, easy, and delicious ricotta-based cousins.
Polish pierogi get a Philadelphia-style twist with a gooey cheesesteak filling with shaved beef, caramelized onions, and both provolone and mozzarella cheeses.
These cute no-bake chocolate and Nutella cheesecakes are a chocoholic's dream come true. An intense dark chocolate filling is spooned on top of a crumbly Oreo crust and topped with a creamy, rich Nutella filling. They don't really look like a traditional cheesecake, but does that matter?
It looks like a pizza, it cooks like a pizza, but don't make the mistake of actually thinking it's a pizza. Tarte flambée, the Alsatian flatbread topped with fromage blanc (a fresh, tart, spreadable cheese), thinly sliced raw onions and bacon, is as Franco-Germanic in flavor as can be. This method delivers a bar-style tart, cooked on a flour tortilla in a cast iron skillet, then browned under the broiler. It has a thin, cracker-like crust that is irresistible.
It looks like a pizza, it cooks like a pizza, but don't make the mistake of actually thinking it's a pizza. Tarte flambée, the Alsatian flatbread topped with fromage blanc (a fresh, tart, spreadable cheese), thinly sliced raw onions and bacon, is as Franco-Germanic in flavor as can be. This method delivers a classic tart, made on pizza dough rolled very thinly and cooked on a blazing hot Baking Steel or pizza stone right under the broiler.
Who says Chicken Cordon Bleu is reserved for sit-down dinners? Here, we've transformed it into a dip with chicken, ham, and plenty of melted cheese. Plus, by using a slow-cooker, you can make it in advance and just keep it warm until it's time to serve.
I have the bad habit of letting little uneaten nubbins of cheese languish in my fridge until they're so stale there's nothing left to do but throw them out. This cheese pie (really, it's a quiche, if you want to be a stickler about accuracy) is the solution, transforming those once doomed leftover bits and giving them new life as pockets of beautiful melted cheese set in a custard base.
A grilled cheese inspired by cemitas—the Pueblo, Mexico sandwich specialty. Stringy Oaxacan cheese surrounds a spicy, creamy mash of avocado and chipotles in adobo, while a layer of whole papalo leaves add an herbal pop. This sandwich may not have the meat or the classic cemita roll, but it still manages to capture the bold, fiery flavors of the original.
Blue cheese, shredded chicken, and Frank's RedHot are straddled by two melted layers of Monterey Jack—all the spicy, meaty, funky, cheesy flavors of a bar food classic, translated into the ultimate comfort food.
One of my favorite breakfasts: cut a hole out of a slice of bread, cook in butter, break an egg into the hole. Well, we wondered what would happen if we built a grilled cheese out of two of those bad boys. We did it, and deliciousness ensued.
A double stacked burger with three mini bacon-filled grilled cheese sandwiches sandwiching it.