I spend so much time cooking and thinking about what I'm going to cook next that I don't often get to look back at what I've actually done. This has been a pretty big year for me recipe-wise, with some fun breakthroughs, some delicious staples that have made their way into my everyday life, and other recipes that while they may not be the simplest, are worth every second of the time and effort that go into them.
Here are my favorites of they year. They aren't necessarily the most popular, but they were the ones I had the most fun developing and eating.
General Tso's Chicken
Who doesn't love crispy, sweet-and-savory Chinese-American food, raise your hand? Now I would like everyone with their hands raised to quietly file out of the room so that the rest of us may enjoy our General Tso's chicken in peace. The trick to extra-crisp coating is a combination of vodka and a unique breading process.
I like this recipe because it's a threefer: once you've learned how to make that crispy chicken, you can use the exact same method for orange chicken or sesame chicken (or any number of delicious Chinese-American classics—try it on beef!).
Get the recipe for General Tso's Chicken »
Perfect Steam-Boiled Eggs
Oh my goodness, did I boil and steam my way through a lot of eggs this year! But it wasn't for naught. Through the process I discovered exactly what makes egg shells difficult to peel (hint: it all has to do with the temperature at which you cook the eggs), and how to get rid of the little dimpled divots at the base of a boiled egg for a technique that is just about as close to foolproof as you can get with eggs, and that's saying a lot.
Get the recipe for Perfect Steam-Boiled Eggs »
The Best Black Bean Burgers
I was tickled pink when I finally nailed the black bean burgers I'd been working on. The key part of the process was realizing that partially dehydrating the beans by roasting them first would solve the mushy texture problem that 99% of black bean burgers out there fall victim to. If there's one veggie burger recipe that'll convince meat eaters that veggie burgers are more than just a poor meat substitute, this is the one.
Get the recipe for The Best Black Bean Burgers »
KENJI SMASH, is what I would say to myself as I was making these burgers. The initial concept for them came when I was helping my friends develop a menu for Harlem Shake, a burger joint up near my old digs on 125th street and Lenox. The idea? We all know the crisp browned crust is the best part of a burger. So what if we developed a burger technique that maximizes it? The end product is two ulta-thin patties that are as crusty as you can imagine, fused together with a slice of melted cheese. It's gloriously flavorful and fatty and oh god now I want to stop writing and go make one for myse...
Get the recipe for Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers »
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
Take a look again. That's cheese sauce. Vegan cheese sauce. I'm not normally one to get into faux foods, but when the idea to use the elasticity of over-processed potatoes in order to give a vegan cheese sauce the right gooey texture came to me, I just couldn't resist. This pourable, brownable, gooey, stretchy sauce is packed with flavor and perfect for everything from Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese to the Ultimate Fully Loaded Vegan Nachos to these Vegan Cheesy Baked Potatoes with Broccoli.
Get the recipe for Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce »
Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza Supreme
So I may have exaggerated just a bit when I said that these pizzas are world class bar pies (no offense to Adam, who actually makes world-class bar pies), but damned if they don't offer the best flavor-to-effort ratio of any recipe this year. They take 11 minutes start to finish and you end up with a thin, crisp pizza that's better than most of what you'll find in actual pizza shops these days. No joke!
Get the recipe for Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza Supreme »
For years I've wanted to develop a 100% animal product-free roast that would be worthy of a celebration in and of itself. This vegan roast made with carrots, mushrooms, beans, and nuts, is the result. The big flavor kicker? The same smoked mushroom "bacon" that I developed for my vegan B.L.A.T. sandwiches (another one of my favorite recipes!). Those little smoked mushroom chips are compelling.
Get the recipe for Vegetables Wellington »
DIY Instant Noodle Cups
I ate Cup Noodles all the time as a kid, both of the toddler-at-home-alone-on-Saturday-morning type, and as the poor-college-student-who-never-grew-up type. This set of recipes captures the fun and convenience of just-add-boiling-water pot noodles, but made with fresh ingredients and more complex flavors. Be the envy of your office mates! Your brown bag lunch at work will never be the same!
Get the recipe for DIY Instant Noodle Cups »
Slow Cooked Italian-American Red Sauce
Some things are worth taking the time to do right. This red sauce packs more flavor than any stovetop version through the slow caramelization and reduction that takes place in the oven. I was so happy with the sauce that I used it again in my chicken Parmesan, and so happy with the technique that I applied to to my Slow-Cooked Bolognese Sauce. Both are worthy recipes unto themselves.
Get the recipe for Slow Cooked Italian-American Red Sauce »
Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots
It's the garlic knots I grew up loving in the pizzeria, but with a crisp, cast-iron-fried bottom crust, plenty of salty pepperoni bits, and deep garlic and Parmesan flavor all in fun, party-friendly, pull-apart form.
Get the recipe for Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots »
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
OK so technically this recipe wasn't in the 2014 calendar year, but it was within a year of the publication date of this article, so I think it's fair game. Of all the recipes I've worked on this past year, these cookies were probably the one with the most individual tests. Over 1,500 cookies went into the development of this recipe, and the end results are as close to the perfect cookie as I've ever made with a toffee-like buttery richness, crisp edges, soft, chewy centers, and craggy, chocolatey crevices throughout.
Get the recipe for The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies »