Hurray! The worst year in living memory is finally over! Goodbye, 2020! You won't be missed.
Strangely enough, though, despite the many challenges and limitations imposed upon us all by a year of crises compounded by many other crises, it happened to be a very good year for recipes on Serious Eats. All of our recipe developers, both those on staff and our many excellent contributors somehow managed to rise to the challenge and produce a steady stream of delicious dishes, providing our readers (and all of us!) with some much-needed inspiration at a time when we all found ourselves having to cook a lot more of our meals at home.
Every year, our staff takes a moment to share the recipes that they've loved the most, and while this year is no different in that regard, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our recipe contributors and editors for their excellent work and incredible resilience during the most horrible year in living memory. And while we loved each and every recipe we published—yes, even the one with the truly terrible photo (sorry, not sorry!)—below you'll find the recipes that members of our staff made over and over again.
Creamy Pasta With Mushrooms (Pasta ai Funghi)
This year brought us a whole bunch of really spectacular pasta recipes because of Starch Madness, including Sasha's creamy pasta with mushrooms. While some people may complain that Serious Eats recipes are hard to make or overly complicated, this recipe proves otherwise. It offers a simple technique for deeply browned and flavorful mushrooms, a luxuriously creamy sauce, and perfectly al dente pasta. And it only takes 30 minutes. —Ariel Kanter, marketing director
I live for mushrooms. During my weekly trip to the grocery store, I routinely scoop up at least one, if not two, packages of mushrooms just to have them on hand. This means I’m always on the hunt for a great mushroom recipe. Attach the following words to anything—creamy, mushroom, and pasta—and I will gobble it up. Now, whenever I’m stuck on what to make for dinner, I'll make this and then call dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day. —Kristina Razon, associate editor
Earlier in the year, I spent a lot of time on Twitch cooking some of our more popular recipes. One of my favorites was Sho's bean mazemen, a broth-less ramen with a deep, rich bean flavor and a gorgeous onsen egg. All of it was new to me, but I stuck to the directions and I found it to be not only beautiful, but incredibly comforting. You can absolutely use canned beans in a pinch, but soaking and cooking the beans yourself in an herb-y, aromatic liquid will only make your mazemen more flavorful. As we move into the colder months, I highly recommend you put this recipe on your to-cook list. —Ariel Kanter
Nam Prik Ong
Last year I read a great in-depth article on the world of nam prik in Dill Magazine, and it left me not only with a clearer sense of what defined this broad and varied category of Thai dips and relishes, but also its critically important place on the Thai table—something that can be hard to grasp here in the States, where it's so poorly understood by the majority of diners that most Thai restaurants don't even bother putting it on the menu. So when the opportunity to cross-test this recipe from Derek Lucci popped up, I jumped on it, then busted out my mortar and pestle and got to work. I don't even know where to start with my praise of it. The depth of flavor, its meaty richness, layers of aromatics, tomatoey sweetness, fermented funk, and holy god that chili heat! I couldn't stop eating it, which triggered one of the biggest endorphin responses I've ever had to spicy food. I was high as a kite, and loving every minute of it. —Daniel Gritzer, managing culinary director
Nik Sharma is what I like to call a food-media unicorn. He brings absolutely everything to the table: a sophisticated flavor sensibility, a profound understanding of technique and food science, an artful photographic eye, and the ability to bring it all together in articles and recipes that are both informative and desirable. This biryani recipe is a great example. He used it to dive deep into the science of acids in marinades, proving that not all acids are equal (a brilliant and endlessly applicable observation!), and then to peel back both the literal and metaphorical layers of a grand dish like biryani. I happen to live in a neighborhood where biryani is a dime a dozen, heaps of rice studded with meat and scooped from steam tables into take-out trays. It's delicious, but most of the finer points are lost: The unveiling of the biryani so that the aromas are released at the table, the careful layering of rice and meat, and the delicate aromatics of warm spices, sweet caramelized onions, rich ghee, gamey lamb, tangy yogurt, and floral notes from the killer trio of saffron, rose water, and kewra (pandan) water. It truly is a special occasion dish. —Daniel GritzerContinue to 5 of 20 below.
Sourdough Bread (Pain au Levain)
A review of 2020 wouldn't be complete without a mention of sourdough. How many people at home got a starter going for the first time ever at the beginning of lockdown? How many loaves were born? We will never know the scale of it, but without a doubt, it was huge. Here at Serious Eats, we owe a debt of gratitude to Tim Chin, who pulled together his years of baking experience and scientific knowledge with lots of new rounds of testing to produce a series of articles on everything from the science of sourdough to a review of different flours for sourdough starters, an in-depth starter how-to, and, most importantly (because it's the point of all that work!), a great recipe for a basic sourdough loaf. Once your starter is established, the loaf is not only easy to make, but—and I still can't get over this—as good as anything coming out of many of the best bakeries. Look, sourdough had a moment in 2020, but if you missed it, it's not too late to get started. Amazing bread awaits. —Daniel Gritzer
Yam Khai Dao
Like many people, I cooked more at home this year than ever before. Preparing multiple meals and snacks every day is a lot, which has given me an even deeper appreciation for simple but flavor-packed dishes like yam khai dao. This Thai salad is bright and refreshing thanks to fresh herbs, aromatics, and a sour-salty-sweet dressing, while the runny fried eggs make it satisfyingly filling, especially when paired with a bowl of jasmine rice. It’s a perfect light lunch, snack, or component to a larger meal. With a nice mix of pantry ingredients and just a couple fresh herbs, it’s a dish that I’ve made many times over the past few months, and I love that it comes together in less than 15 minutes, especially on Zoom-heavy days. —Sasha Marx, senior culinary editor
After many, many quarantine meals that leaned heavily on melty cheese and carbs, Derek Lucci's yam khai do recipe brought some bright flavors back into my life, filling a void I didn't realize was there. I honestly think about making yam khai dao every time I see the recipe on the site (or Slack, or... right now), regardless of what I'm making for dinner. —Paul Cline, president
Hot and Numbing Shredded Lamb Noodle Soup
I love a deep dive project recipe, and Tim’s hot and numbing shredded lamb noodle soup with hand-pulled lamian noodles is an all-timer. It’s a recipe that was four years (!) in the making (Tim started working on the noodle recipe back in 2016 when we were working together at Cook’s Science), and it really shows off his range and relentless pursuit of knowledge as a cook and recipe developer. Most importantly, though, this dish is freaking delicious. I’m not the biggest noodle soup person (nobody at Serious Eats can compete with Sho’s love of the craft), but I devoured two giant bowls of this dish when Tim made it in the test kitchen last winter. The broth is perfectly balanced and spiced, the noodles are chewy and light, and the lamb is rich and tender. It’s a knockout. —Sasha Marx
Charred Brussels Sprouts and Leek Muchim With Coffee-Dijon Dressing
This recipe became my gateway to leeks—I'd never cooked with them before, and never knew what to do with them or the proper way to handle them, even though Serious Eats has plenty of leek content. Our first shoot back in the studio during the pandemic was for Sunny Lee's banchan-inspired Thanksgiving spread. I took home a quart container full of the charred Brussels sprout and leek muchim and fell in love. The bitter coffee mixed with the honey, mustard, and vinegar is a refreshing complement to the vegetables. Pro tip: make some extra vinaigrette, add your leftovers to some cooked noodles, and you have yourself a great lunch. —Vicky Wasik, visual director
One of my biggest regrets from this pandemic year was not being able to cook a full Thanksgiving spread. It's not that I missed my family (sure, I did, I swear!), nor is it that I missed eating turkey; it's because I couldn't try Sunny Lee's Korean-American take on Thanksgiving. Since my Thanksgiving guest list consisted of my wife and our toddler, cooking a (beautiful) turkey breast or even a (very tempting) pair of turkey legs would've made far too much food, so I had to settle on making some of Sunny's banchan instead. "Settle" isn't really the right word, though, since her charred Brussels and leek muchim with coffee-dijon vinaigrette essentially stole the show. I've made it almost weekly since, in part because my wife can't get enough of it, and I think it encapsulates the spirit of her Thanksgiving menu—recognizably Korean, appropriate for Thanksgiving, and a clear demonstration of her creativity, range, and skill in the kitchen. —Sho Spaeth, editorContinue to 9 of 20 below.
Pasta c'Anciuova e Muddica Atturrata
I rarely eat pasta dishes on their own for dinner; unless it's a meat-heavy sauce, they leave me feeling sluggish and unsatisfied. This dish is an exception: the generous amount of anchovies provides a deep umami base, synergizing with breadcrumbs and the tomato estratto for a filling, higher-fat tomato sauce, served on thick, chewy bucatini. Since I treated this as a pantry-cleaner with items I already had lying around, I opted to skip the optional pine nuts—it's certainly good without—but next time around I'll shell out the cash and savor the dish in its fuller, richer form. —John Mattia, video editor
How to Dry-Char Asparagus
I tend to get stuck in a rut with cooking certain foods, and roasting asparagus in a sheetpan has been my go-to since I probably first owned a sheetpan. After producing the vid to Sasha's recipe, I decided to give his way a go and I'll never go back to my old ways again. You get a kick of smokeyness from the char, but the quick-cook means the sweetness inherent in raw asparagus remains. It's simple, fast, perfect. —Joel Russo, video producer
Easy Vegetable Pancakes
I’ve found that one of the most difficult aspects of the working-from-home lifestyle is making lunch everyday. I have a bad track record with eating lunch; I'll either skip it, grab a snack, or, if I’m lucky, nuke some of last night’s dinner. Sho’s pancakes have been a lifesaver on days when my lunch outlook has been bleak; they’re easy to whip up, I can use whatever sad-looking vegetables I have in my crisper drawer, and, most importantly, they're delicious. Plus, my toddler and husband love them so it’s a win-win for everyone. —Kristina Razon
This is far and away my new favorite way to eat cucumbers. It's so deeply flavorful and intense, and at the same time super refreshing—and it's barely any work to make! The recipe says it serves two to three people as a side dish, but I've been making it in double batches and finishing it off more or less by myself in a day or two. —Daniel Dyssegaard Kallick, full stack developerContinue to 13 of 20 below.
Gâteau Invisible With Miso Caramel
This cake is a real winner. At least four people on the Serious Eats team made it immediately after it was published. In addition to the cake’s qualities adding up to be the perfect combination of sweet, savory, creamy, and fruity, making it was a good experience as well. Slicing and layering all those apples was mindlessly satisfying, almost meditative. I made more to give as gifts this holiday season! —Maggie Lee, UX designer
Better Stovetop Butter Chicken
I tried this recipe a little while after it was published, and it immediately became a family favorite. At this point, it’s become so highly requested in my house that I’ve made it more times than I can count. The most important thing I’ve found is that even though you can use pre-ground spices, toasting and grinding your own spices really makes such a difference in the overall flavor of the dish.
This recipe makes a lot of butter chicken—I remember Sho spending days in the test kitchen trying to come up with a recipe to incorporate the leftovers (butter chicken soufflé was one of his more out-there ideas). Ultimately, there’s much more sauce than chicken, and the chicken is so easy to make on its own that I usually end up preparing another batch and adding it to the leftover sauce. We’re left with butter chicken for days (about three or four nights), and it’s so good that we don’t even get tired of it. " —Yasmine Maggio, assistant social media editor
Pasta With Vodka Sauce
Daniel’s pasta with vodka sauce has become my go-to for when I want the most delicious, indulgent meal I could possibly have without having to do a lot of work. It’s so insanely creamy and flavorful even though the ingredient list is quite short, and it comes together pretty quickly. I love it with rigatoni and a good bread for scooping up every last bit of sauce. —Yasmine Maggio
Creamed Shishito Peppers
When shishito peppers are in season, I tend to keep a bunch on hand at all times. Blistering them with a little lemon is my go-to preparation (original, I know), but this year it got old, fast. Enter Sasha’s creamed shishito peppers. The recipe felt like a targeted ad—I didn’t know I was looking for it until it was in front of me. It’s simple, savory, and so different from the standard blistered peppers. I also love how versatile it is as a side, as a mix-in, or as a sauce. Though if I’m being honest, I usually consume it straight out of the pan with a spoon. —Jina Stanfill, social media managerContinue to 17 of 20 below.
No-Knead Skillet Focaccia
I've gone on the record about how much I hate baking—largely because I find it fussy, less predictable than stovetop cooking (no tasting as you go), and really, really messy. Sasha's no-knead focaccia has me questioning my whole worldview, though. It's one-bowl, it's one-skillet, and it's insanely easy, straightforward, and, most importantly, delicious. I may not be strutting around making a new batch of Tim's stunning sourdough every day (cough, Sho), but I'm officially a baker of one fine, Instagram-ready, burnished, pillowy, just-the-right-amount-of-olive-oily loaf, and I'm never going back. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, editor in chief
Galam Plee Pad Nam Pla
It's not that I have anything against cabbage—I like it just fine in coleslaw, soups, braises, and the like—but I do find it's generally a bit farty and unexciting. If, like it does for me, the sight of a cabbage in your CSA gets you down, Derek's galam plee pad nam is a saving grace. Unlike typical slow-cooked cabbage preparations, the whole recipe takes just 10 minutes from start to finish. Simply stir-fry garlic, add 2-inch slices of cabbage leaves, and add drops of water, followed by fish sauce, around the edges of the pan. (Don't worry if you don't have a wok—mine is in storage at the moment, so we've been making it in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet without any issues). The resulting dish is crisp-tender, savory, and so damn fast and easy that I marvel at it every time. It's also incredibly versatile—we've enjoyed it as a side along with more traditional Thai preparations, as well as jerk shrimp, seared salmon, and roast chicken.
Big Duck Project
One of the best parts of Serious Eats is our willingness to invest in big, sometimes impractical, recipe projects with little guarantee in terms of return, and Sasha's Big Duck Project is a perfect example. I don't know that anyone anywhere has ever wanted a huge guide for how to buy two ducks and use up (almost) every part, which also happens to include instructions for how to dry-age a duck crown in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks, but Sasha did it, and each and every part of it is amazing. Even if you don't want to dry-age the crown (and, well, why not? What's wrong with you? It's delicious!), there's a ton of great information, tips, and technique contained in each recipe and article, like using a nonstick pan to crisp up duck legs confit, or using za'atar to spice up cracklings (or, as Sasha has it, "quacklings"), so even if you don't want to do the whole dang thing (again, why not? What's wrong with you? It's all delicious!), it still has tons to teach cooks of all experience levels. —Sho Spaeth
Nigerian Beef Suya
The best part of my job is learning about delicious foods, and the fact that, sometimes, I don't even have to try to seek this new knowledge out; sometimes it just falls in my lap. Ozoz Sokoh's suya recipe is a perfect example: I'd never heard of suya before, nor did I have much experience working with some of its integral ingredients, like grains of selim or cubeb pepper. When I first tasted the recipe during cross-testing, it was a kind of revelation, one of those gustatory experiences that makes me regret how ignorant I've been of something so delicious; it made me lament all the years of my suya-less existence. To make up for that, I ate a double batch in a single sitting, which ended up being one of the best hours of my pandemic summer. And Ozoz is right: the yajin kuli spice blend is equally good on other proteins, even salmon and octopus. —Sho Spaeth