You Had Me at Step One: The Recipes We Can't Quit

What are your criteria for a Valentine's Day crush? Exciting and obsession-worthy are good starts. But we look for other traits, too—tender and comforting is nice, and trustworthy, steadfast, and reliable are all musts. Ideally, they'll also be eye-catching and captivating, they'll stimulate your senses, and they'll always, always leave you wanting more. And, of course, variety in texture is of paramount importance—and we're definitely partial to a balance of sweet and salty, tart and herbal...

Oh, that's an important distinction. We're talking about our food crushes here, not human ones.

Romance with a real, beating-heart life form is all well and good, but a beloved recipe will let you have your cake and eat it, too—or your pie, or the eggplant parm of your dreams, whatever the case may be. Below, you'll find the recipes that, for us, check all the above boxes and more. These are the dishes that we come back to time and again—the meals we gaze at lovingly, take countless pictures of, and can't stop bragging about. You might say we're too engrossed in our work, that maybe we should consider stepping out of the kitchen and tending to our relationships with friends and family. To that, we can only reply: These recipes would never say that about us.

Pressure Cooker Chicken With Chickpeas, Chorizo, and Tomatoes

J. Kenji López-Alt

Whenever someone asks me what I make in my Instant Pot, I tell them about this recipe—it's the first pressure cooker meal I ever made, and it's super easy. Why? You simply throw in the ingredients and cook them on high pressure for 15 minutes, and dinner is ready. What's more, most of the ingredients are things you likely already have in your pantry, like chickpeas, paprika, chicken stock, and diced tomatoes. Just pick up your chicken and chorizo, and you'll be good to go. I really can't say enough about how delicious this is—it's spicy and salty, comforting and filling. It's hearty, but the dash of sherry vinegar at the end gives it a wonderful brightness. I like to pour in some couscous at the last minute or prepare some rice on the side, then eat the leftovers all week long. —Ariel Kanter, marketing director

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The Best Cherry Pie

Vicky Wasik

When Stella first joined the Serious Eats team full time, among the first things we asked her to prioritize were classic fruit pies, like apple, cherry, and blueberry. She was not excited. "I don't really like pie," I remember her telling me, her slight Southern drawl dragging out the word "like" so as to more delicately deliver the bad news. "No kidding? That's crazy...but you can make pie, right?" I shot back, the pushy New Yorker in me cutting to the point. "Sure, I can make pie." I wasn't too worried. With Stella's talents, her pies weren't going to be bad, that much was certain. So when she flew to New York to make and photograph her pies for publication, I looked forward to tasting them. Still, given her warning, I wasn't expecting to take a bite and then have my eyes bulge from their sockets, a condition that I believe has caused a permanent change to my glasses prescription.

Stella's pies, and her cherry pie in particular, are the greatest pies I have ever eaten anywhere in my entire life, full stop, period, the end. And I love pie, so that's saying a lot. The fillings explode with fruit, and she's dialed in her sugar and starch levels for pitch-perfect texture and flavor. And her crust! It's the flakiest, the crispiest, the golden-est, the moisture-resistant-iest, the still-perfect-the-next-day-iest (yes, even the bottom crust, after it's sat below the filling overnight). How a person who claims to not like pie could make the world's best version, I'll never know, but I'm eternally grateful. —Daniel Gritzer, managing culinary director

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30-Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I make a batch of this soup at least three times each winter. It's incredibly easy (as all soups should be, in my opinion), and, in the words of Kenji, it has a great flavor-to-work ratio. The white beans give it the heft I want from a hearty winter soup, and the addition of a Parmesan rind to enrich the broth is a revelation. Pro tip: Take a hint from another one of Kenji's soups and add some lemon zest to brighten it all up. —Vicky Wasik, visual director

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Perfect Prime Rib

J. Kenji López-Alt

My wife, Vicky, is the baker in the family, so if she were looking over my shoulder as I wrote this, I'm sure she would be extolling the virtues of one of Stella's recipes, like her angel food cake. But she's not here, so I'm going to give props to an oldie (and, if it's dry-aged meat, moldy) Serious Eats recipe: Kenji's unforgettable prime rib. It's time-consuming, and the finished product is more than a little unwieldy, but damn, is it delicious. In my estimation, it might be beef's Platonic ideal. Plus, if you make Kenji's prime rib for a dinner party, it'll make one hell of an entrance when you bring it to the table—your guests will be impressed before they take a single bite. Make sure to give the entire article a read, even if it isn't till after you put the roast in the oven: It's full of both useful and interesting beef-related tidbits and down-to-earth scientific intel. —Ed Levine, founder

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One-Bowl, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Vicky Wasik

My ultimate move for proving I'm a strong, independent woman—to my parents, to my friends, to my potential suitors—is pulling out an impressive recipe and executing it flawlessly. The key is for said impressive recipe to be deceptively easy. Enter Stella's overnight cinnamon rolls. They truly require only one bowl and a stand mixer, and the rest is up to simple science. There's not much more I can say about this recipe, except that it just works. The Greek yogurt incorporated into the dough gives the buns an almost Cinnabon-like quality—it keeps the dough super light and fluffy and produces the most amazing smell while they bake. It gets people hyped. I firmly believe there is no more special way to start the day than with one of these rolls. They turn an average Saturday into a memorable one. And on an already-special day—like when I made them for my family for Christmas Day—they're just the icing on the, well, cinnamon bun. —Kristina Bornholtz, social media manager

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Chicken Paprikash

J. Kenji López-Alt

In the depths of winter, when we're craving something hearty and soul-warming but not overwhelmingly, tiringly rich, and neither a soup nor even a chili will do, my boyfriend and I can always agree on the merits of chicken paprikash. Kenji's recipe takes more effort, but in just a bit more time than your run-of-the-mill paprikash recipe, it produces a silky, tangy, full-bodied stew punched up with plenty of good paprika, enriched with fish sauce and gelatin-enhanced stock, and brightened with yogurt, citrus, and grassy dill. If I have an extra half hour, a spare burner, and a few clear inches of counter space, I'll boil up some shreds of homemade herb spaetzle and ladle the paprikash over it. On a leisurely late afternoon, over our two steaming bowls and another episode of some TV show we've watched a million times, nothing could be more comforting. —Marissa Chen, office manager

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Vegan Garbanzos Con Espinacas y Jengibre (Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew With Ginger)

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

There's a reason Kenji calls this his favorite Serious Eats recipe. Okay—to be fair, I don't know if he loves it for the same reasons I do, but I can come up with a few possibilities. Like some of my favorite people, it's special because it doesn't require a lot of poking or prodding or huge expenditures of effort to be good. It combines a handful of really unassuming and ordinary features—chickpeas, tomatoes, fresh spinach, ginger, paprika, vinegar—but they're not quite ingredients you expect to see together, or not ingredients you've seen assembled in quite this way, and so they become exciting again. It doesn't ask too much. Canned beans are okay; white wine vinegar works if you don't have sherry. It plays happily with your vegan friends and converses easily with your health-nut family members. It's simple enough that you can start it at the end of a long workday and have energy to spare when it's done. When you sit down at the table with a bowl of it and a side of crusty bread, you'll let out one of those little sighs that say, I'm at home, and everything's okay. And that first bite, a mix of smoky from the paprika and earthy from the chickpeas and bright from the vinegar, will remind you that good and nourishing and easygoing, in food as in people, doesn't have to mean boring. —Miranda Kaplan, editor

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Sunny Lemon Bars

Vicky Wasik

I'm what you might call a reluctant baker—I don't have much of a sweet tooth, my oven is tiny and unreliable, and even after completing culinary school, I continue to find cakes and breads deeply intimidating. Collectively, these factors have led me to worship Stella's lemon bars. The buttery and rich shortbread-style crust takes just a few pulses with a food processor to make, and the custard is bright, vividly yellow, and tart enough to keep the sweetness from becoming cloying, a distracting feature in other lemon bars I've encountered. They require very little time in the oven, which means I don't need to stress about them coming out under- or overdone. And, provided you have a good instant-read thermometer, they're virtually impossible to mess up. The only thing that would frustrate me is the mountain of lemon carcasses left over, but Stella has a solution for those, too: Macerating them in sugar for several hours yields a sweet, lemony syrup, which you can mix right into some whipping cream to top the whole thing off. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, executive managing editor

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Foolproof Pan Pizza

J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Friday nights when I was growing up, you could find the Cline family at Pizza Hut. The four of us would pile into our wood-paneled station wagon and drive across town to the second-closest Pizza Hut (the nearest location lacked a license to sell beer). My brother and I would spend our time bouncing between the table, the cocktail-style Galaga/Ms. Pac-Man machine, and the jukebox, but eventually we'd settle down for some of Pizza Hut's pan pizza.

I haven't been to a Pizza Hut in years, but I make Kenji's Foolproof Pan Pizza every few months. It's more or less the perfect re-creation (of my memories) of Pizza Hut's pan pizza—and it's really hard to screw up. —Paul Cline, developer

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Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

J. Kenji López-Alt

You know that feeling when someone you've cooked for graciously asks for the recipe, even though you both know that they'll never try it at home—perhaps because it’s too hard, it requires special ingredients, or it calls for a six-hour-long rest in the refrigerator? Well, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you can change someone’s life with a short stack of great pancakes, and maybe some decent maple syrup. That’s why I love Kenji’s buttermilk pancake recipe. If you’re into food science, you can read all about glutenin and gliadin, the pair behind the magic of gluten, in his full article. But let’s say you’re not, and that it’s breakfast time, and you want to feed your family. For a little extra time and prep work (whipping egg whites, folding said whites), you can serve up some pancakes that are way better than the boxed stuff.

When someone asks for this pancake recipe, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll try it for themselves. Today it’s pancakes; tomorrow it’s prime rib (or, you know, waffles). —Sal Vaglica, equipment editor

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Double-Chocolate Cream Pie

Vicky Wasik

For special occasions, I pretty much always make Stella's double-chocolate cream pie. I wouldn't call this an easy recipe, but Stella's directions are clear and simple to follow. Go step by step, from the buttery crust to the Swiss meringue, and you won't fail. This pie is a showstopper for a lot of reasons—the deep chocolate custard (made from dark chocolate and Dutch cocoa powder) is so rich, and the burnished meringue on top looks really professional. The first time I pulled it out of the oven, I couldn't believe what I had achieved. If you're looking to impress someone, especially someone who loves chocolate, this is the way to their heart. And mine—please make this for me. —Ariel Kanter, marketing director

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15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Once the temperature dips below 50°F, I go hard on soup. It's warm, it's filling, it's usually pretty cheap, and the leftovers only improve with time. Plus, you can dip stuff like bread and grilled cheese sandwiches into it. 'Nuff said. This year's gray skies and cold snaps have had me reaching for easy comfort food, and Kenji's 15-minute vegan tomato soup couldn't be easier or more comforting. The "15-minute" part jumped out at me first, but it was the simple ingredient list that sealed the deal—I had practically everything I needed to get started. After just 15 minutes, I savored the tangy sweetness known to all good tomato soups, and none of the richness that cream usually brings to the game. So I felt just fine having two bowls of it (so much for leftovers). —Natalie Holt, video producer

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Salisbury Steak

Vicky Wasik

There are a lot of exceptional recipes on Serious Eats that I turn to again and again: Kenji's perfect risotto, Stella's cheddar biscuits, Daniel's clams casino, and, more recently, Sohla's cheesy bread.

But if I had to pick one recipe I love above all others, it would be Daniel's Salisbury steak, since it embodies everything I love about our approach to recipe development. It isn't expensive or fancy; it doesn't really require any special ingredients (aside from liquid smoke, which is optional anyway); it isn't particularly time-consuming or hard to make; and it is extremely good. I didn't grow up eating this stuff at lunch counters or cafeterias or out of TV dinner trays, so there isn't even any element of nostalgia for me—it's just supremely tasty. And how could it not be? It's basically a good meatball in patty form, topped with a rich mushroom sauce.

After making it more times than I care to count, I've realized that the recipe is also a prime example of the importance of technique, and of how paying attention to the little details can make a good dish great. Sure, you can choose not to mince the onions that go into the patties, and you can choose not to diligently slide the patties around in the pan so that their surfaces are nicely browned all around; it's true that you can skimp on properly browning the mushrooms, or overshoot the final cooking temperature, or skip the smidgen of cider vinegar at the end. The Salisbury steak you eat will still be pretty tasty. But if you do cut the onions into a proper mince and check the meat mixture for seasoning, if you properly brown the meat and the mushrooms, and if you taste the final sauce and add vinegar bit by bit at the very end, what arrives at the table is the kind of meal only an accomplished cook could produce—and that accomplished cook is you. —Sho Spaeth, features editor

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Italian-Style Eggplant Parmesan

Vicky Wasik

I used to live my life believing that eggplant Parmesan was an abomination. I never understood why anyone would take the time to painstakingly put slices of eggplant through a careful three-stage breading procedure, only to drench them in tomato sauce and transform the once-crisp rounds into a soggy scourge on society. Daniel was working on the video for his Italian-style eggplant Parmesan when I first started at Serious Eats, and I knew I was home when I noticed there wasn't a crumb in sight. Instead of using a heavy breading, this recipe starts with tender slices of eggplant at the peak of their season and fries them stark naked, like the day God made them. The eggplant slices swell with grassy olive oil, becoming creamy and rich, before they're layered with mozzarella and a triple-threat tomato sauce. After eating half a pan of the stuff at the test kitchen, I went home and made a batch for dinner the very same night. This recipe continues to make frequent appearances in my kitchen, and has permanently changed my stance on eggplant Parmesan, while simultaneously quadrupling my olive oil consumption—because you gotta get in those macros, bro! —Sohla El-Waylly, assistant culinary editor

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Pressure Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Vicky Wasik

Even before the pressure cooker variation came along, Daniel's stovetop beef barley soup was my favorite recipe of 2016, and on regular rotation at home. I always feel so virtuous putting that many grains and vegetables into a dish, and the tender, melt-in-your-mouth chunks of beef make the dish rich and hearty enough to justify popping a bottle of red wine. It was always a Saturday-afternoon thing, a recipe I could have going in the background while I puttered around the house with other chores. But the pressure cooker version changed all that, slashing the recipe's timeline in half and making it fast enough to throw together on a weeknight, too. —Stella Parks, pastry wizard

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Charred Salsa Verde

J. Kenji López-Alt

I discovered this recipe pretty late—just a few weeks ago—but it has very quickly become my go-to salsa recipe. If you can find tomatillos, the salsa is unbelievably easy to make: big, rough chops on the veggies; a quick stint under the broiler; a whir in the blender; and that's it. Smoky, sweet, charred, peppery, and as fiery as you want to make it, the flavors are deliciously complex. And it only gets better when you've made it a few times and have gotten a feel for how much heat you want. (I may or may not have burned off all the taste buds on a loved one's tongue the first time.) Try it with Kenji's sous vide carnitas! —Tim Aikens, front-end developer

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BraveTart's Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vicky Wasik

Everyone knows that freshly baked cookies are always better than the store-bought packages. We also know how disappointing it can be to try a recipe from a random search and end up with a sad, bready-tasting batch. However, since trying out Stella’s chocolate chip cookies, I've bookmarked the recipe, and baking them has become a weekly tradition. The recipe works perfectly well with mass-produced chocolate chips. My recommendation, though it’s going to take some self-control, is to bake only as much as you’ll devour within 24 hours, then freeze the remaining dough for another indulgent time. Be sure to read the full article, too—I love the historical nugget in which Stella explains how chocolate chips first came to supermarkets. —Vivian Kong, designer

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