It’s more a ratio than a recipe: half a cup of dashi per beaten egg for an ethereal custard that quivers in your spoon. If you like, add soy sauce, mirin, and chunky bits of, say, diced shrimp, peas, or snow pea leaves. Then ladle into ramekins (or Japanese chawan, if you’re feeling it) and steam them covered over a pot of boiling water or bake in a baking dish filled halfway with warm water. The custard is done when it jiggles like just-set Jell-O, undecided whether it wants to be solid or liquid.
At Canlis restaurant in Seattle, chef Brady Williams adds lemon zest and yuzu juice to his chawanmushi for brightness and tops it with a tongue of uni. It’s a more deluxe version of the dish he grew up eating in his Japanese mother’s kitchen. Take care not to beat extra air into the eggs when whisking in the dashi, he warns. But do go ahead and make it your own with “whatever ingredients are lying around in your fridge.” This custard is up for anything.
Or you could make French onion soup like Michel Roux does it, in about an hour. The chef of England’s Michelin-starred Le Gavroche (the first restaurant in the country to earn three stars) prefers his French onion soup in the Normandy style. That means, in lieu of the classic beef broth, a lighter broth of chicken stock and hard apple cider (ideally the funky-sweet Norman kind), a roux to thicken things up, and onions cooked only to a light blond. It’s refreshingly different from the super-savory dark-brown version. Roux calls it “an easygoing dish.” We call it a French onion soup you’ll actually make.
There’s one downside, if you can even call it that, to ordering an entire fall pig: fatback. A mature pig comes with acres of fatback. After rendering enough of it into lard for a year’s worth of pie crusts and fried chicken feasts, I got a little desperate. I started to think of the lard as a preposition. Where could it go? In. Over. Behind. Anywhere butter could go, lard could go, too.
Underneath. I soon discovered that sheaves of fatback shoved under the skin of a chicken beats your everyday subdermal butter by two to one. You’ve got to start with a decent chicken, of course, with thick ivory skin and natural salts running in its veins, one that’s been processed with as much dignity as possible.
Here’s what to do: Thinly slice the cold fatback (again, just unrendered lard) in a bowl with garlic and lemon zest and thyme, and then gently work the fat underneath the skin. If you can’t find any decent pork backfat, give me a call. But seriously, prosciutto fat works the same magic, as does bacon. The pork fat does two things: a) it keeps the meat moist during the high-temperature roasting; and b) unlike butter, it doesn’t let off any steam, so the chicken skin essentially crisps from both the top and the bottom. Thus larded with actual lard, the skin will puff and flake into amber layers, like oak bark, fried from both the inside and out.–Amy Thielen
“It takes a village to make a biscuit,” says Nancy Silverton, founder of Los Angeles’ La Brea Bakery, co-owner of Osteria Mozza, and creator of what is arguably the world’s butteriest and best example of the form.
“I wish I could take credit for it, but frankly I was just the facilitator,” she admits, saying it all started with a wonderful biscuit she ate four years ago at Mozza’s family meal, baked by one Sarah Asch, a pastry assistant. Delicate and fluffy, with just the right amount of flaky salt on top, it became Silverton’s go-to biscuit.
A few years later, she watched another one of her bakers, Robert Shapiro, take that same dough and laminate it—folding it over on itself and rolling it out multiple times, as you do with puff pastry or croissant dough, creating layers of dough separated by butter. As the dough bakes, the butter steams and the dough expands, resulting in an even flakier final product. Stage two of the recipe evolution, complete.
The recipe took yet another turn after Silverton ate a biscuit from New Orleans chef Alon Shaya, who said the secret to his biscuits was using frozen, instead of simply cold, butter. “Those frozen particles of butter don’t completely incorporate,” explains Silverton, which makes for a lighter dough capable of even more lift. The ice-cold chunks melt more slowly, too, giving off more steam over time.
The final tweak? All a mistake. She asked her then pastry sous chef Sean Panzer to test her already-pretty-damned-good biscuits, and he inadvertently doubled the butter. Heaven.
“I like a rib with some real texture,” says chef Chris Shepherd of Houston’s Underbelly restaurant, which is why he came up with his now signature dish of three-day-brined pork ribs that he then smokes (in a method similar to the one used to make most wet-brined hams) and finishes on the grill. The result is a tender, flavorful rib that doesn’t fall apart during the smoking process, but rather retains a pleasant chew. Shepherd says that any cut of pork will be deliciously transformed with the brine-smoke-char trifecta, but it’s nice to have a bone to hold onto. The biggest upside to going the extra mile and brining for three days? “Your ribs taste like ham!” says Shepherd. “And that’s reason enough for me.”
At SAVEUR, we smoke all sorts of things in our test kitchen—ribs, brisket, plenty of vegetables, and, of course, lots of Thanksgiving turkey. But not everyone has a smoker, so food editor Ben Mims and test kitchen assistant Jake Cohen put their heads together and came up with this—we’ll say it—brilliant workaround. Taking a cue from stovetop smokers, which are essentially metal boxes with a compartment for wood chips, they simply turn an oven into a smoker by putting a foil packet of “stovetop” wood chips inside it. They get the chips burning in a foil packet on the stove (stovetop wood chips are ideal because they’re cut much smaller than usual and start burning quickly), then transfer the packet with tongs to an oven rack right under the meat and cook the meat low and slow until it’s infused with a delectable smoky flavor.
“Half of my family is vegan—they couldn’t eat what we were selling when we opened,” says Laura O’Neill, who, along with Ben Van Leeuwen and Pete Van Leeuwen, founded New York City’s beloved Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. So they spent years developing a vegan version of their ice cream that had the right creamy texture, using a combination of homemade cashew milk, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. Our favorite recipe of theirs (vegan or not!) is this one, a perfectly luscious ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate.