16 Dishes to Cook in 2016

Hammed-up ribs, one-hour French onion soup, and our new favorite thing to do with eggs

The Simplest Fried Chicken Ever

Parker's BBQ Fried Chicken
It only took a couple of decades of searching, but we think we've finally found it—the perfect fried chicken. It was hiding under our noses this whole time in North Carolina, at Parker's BBQ. Their amazingly crisp, crackly version barely warrants a recipe. Calling for just salt, pepper, flour, and oil, it's as stripped down as they come. Both the chicken and the flour are generously seasoned with salt and pepper; the rest is all about maintaining the temperature of the oil and leaving the chicken in for just the right amount of time. Simply season, dredge, and fry. See the recipe for Parker's BBQ Fried Chicken »Nicole Franzen

Japan's Incredible Savory Egg Custard

chawanmushi
Dashi and eggs. Have those things? Good, then you have dinner, or breakfast, or whatever meal you like. Because chawanmushi, a versatile hero of the Japanese kitchen, is the dish for all meals and all kitchens, a simple savory egg custard that's easier to make than an omelet and just as customizable.Matt Taylor-Gross

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.

One-Hour French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
French onion soup is a wonderful dish to eat and a terrible one to make. That is, if you do it the classical way, with thinly sliced onions cooked for hours until they turn the color of molten mahogany and the texture of butter. Sure, that soup is breathtaking. But it also requires endless stirring and hawk-eyed attention to keep the whole thing from burning.Matt Taylor-Gross

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.

Easy Fermented Soda

Easy Fermented Soda
Combine a bag of frozen fruit with a little sugar and hot water and let it sit on your counter for a week before straining. Total active time: ten minutes. Final product: a sophisticated, tart, fizzy, sour fermented juice that you can use in myriad ways. Chef Amy Thielen likes to add fermented raspberry juice to grown-up, not-too-sweet ice cream floats for a bright splash of flavor. You can start with really any fruit—the smaller and juicier the better, so most berries are safe bets—then mix the final product into cocktails, add a splash to your prosecco, or even drizzle it into vinaigrettes for a pleasing zing. See the recipe for Fermented Raspberry Soda »Justin Walker

The Speediest Chocolate Cake

Swedish "Gooey" Chocolate Cake
You're not too busy to make an amazing Swedish chocolate cake. What's a Swedish chocolate cake? It's one of the best cakes we've ever had, and you're 15 minutes away from eating it. That includes mixing the ingredients and baking it. From chef Magnus Nilsson, of the restaurant Fäviken Magasinet, in Järpen, in the far reaches of rural Sweden, this cake, known as kladdkaka, is a beloved favorite in his homeland (and in the Nilsson house). The batter, sans baking powder, is cooked until just set, yielding a tender, almost wobbly, warm cake that firms up into a rich, fudge-like slab when cold. See the recipe for Swedish "Gooey" Chocolate Cake »Justin Walker

Old-School (Like, Really Old-School) Tacos

Cochinita Pibil Tacos
In the Yucatán, Mexico, in the days of yore (and in certain places today if you know where to look), rich, thickly sauced pork was wrapped in banana leaves and stewed in a flame-heated pit known in the Mayan language as a pib. Back then, the banana leaves served to contain the meats and their juices and prevented them from exposure to dirt. But today, even with the advent of stoves, the leaves remain a crucial component of the classic cochinita pibil, ensuring that no moisture is lost and that a subtle, sweet aroma is imparted to the final dish. To cook with banana leaves at home, rinse and pat dry fresh or thawed ones and use them to line the sides and bottom of a standard Dutch oven before folding the tops in over the food. The leaves also make an excellent grate lining for grilling delicate fish and vegetables. See the recipe for Cochinita Pibil Tacos »Dylan + Jeni

The Comeback: Casseroles

Roasted Vegetable and Cod Casserole
"I grew up with my mom making super Americana rotary-club-type casseroles," says Justin Smillie, chef of Upland in New York City and author of the cookbook Slow Fires. "Canned mushroom soup, crispy corn flakes, and Fritos on top, that kind of thing." As an adult, Smillie still loves a casserole, but in a much more refined form. His cod—parsnip version, shot through with garlicky croutons and topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots, caused our whole staff to give the chef a standing ovation when he made it in our test kitchen last year. "I just love a good, bubbly, gooey, comforting casserole when it gets cold out," Smillie says. Us too. See the recipe for Roasted Vegetable and Cod Casserole »Matt Taylor-Gross

Asian-Style Chicken Wings

Japanese Fried Chicken
Japanese chicken wings: They're better than non-Japanese chicken wings. Especially those from Sylvan Brackett, chef-owner of San Francisco's Izakaya Rintaro. Instead of frying plain wings, Brackett marinates them for a few hours in sake, mirin, and ginger, which tenderizes the meat and infuses it with flavor. Then he tosses them in potato starch, which has less gluten than AP flour and creates a crisp, light coating that resists the sog factor. Finally, he sprinkles them with sansho, the Japanese equivalent of Sichuan peppercorns, to provide some heat while pleasantly, addictively numbing the mouth. See the recipe for Teba No Karaage »Nicole Franzen

The Grill-Everything-But-The-Meat Burger We Want to Make All Summer

The Grill Everything But the Meat  Brisket Burger
For burger perfection, Wes Rowe, the chef behind the successful weekly WesBurger pop-up in San Francisco, inverts the conventional wisdom: Instead of a grilling the patty and keeping the toppings crisp, he cooks his meat in a pan and grills everything else. "I love grilling," he says, "but it's hard to do burgers really well." There are heating inconsistencies and oily flare-ups to consider, so Rowe cooks his brisket burgers on a bed of onions in a skillet set on the grill grate. The onions simultaneously season the meat and soak up the juices, resulting in a tender, perfectly cooked main event, while the grilled lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and bun lend charred smokiness to each bite. See the recipe for The "Grill-Everything-But-The-Burger" Brisket Burger »Justin Walker/Food Styling: Mariana Velasquez

The Eternal Charm of the English Meat Pie

Beef Cheek and Stout Pie with Stilton Pastry
A new generation of London chefs is reveling in the frumpy, old-school cool of their country's beloved meat pies, adding little nips and tucks to bring them up to date. James Lowe of Lyle's puts a farmers' market spin on pasties—an old coal miner favorite—by stuffing them with sunchokes and Comté, while Daniel Doherty of Duck & Waffle turbocharges the classic meat pie with an incredibly rich filling of stout-braised beef cheek and pastry laced with Stilton. See the recipe for Beef Cheek and Stout Pie with Stilton Pastry »Bill Phelps
Amy Thielen's Improved Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken Rules: For the Best Bird, Start With a Pig

Amy Thielen has discovered the ultimate secret to perfectly crackly skin and supremely juicy, rich roast chicken meat: pork.Matt Taylor-Gross

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

The Best Biscuits We've Ever Had

Nancy Silverton's Better Butter Biscuits
Treat these super-buttery biscuits like puff pastry for folds that separate into flaky layers when baked.Matt Taylor-Gross

"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.

Ham-ify Your Ribs

Brined, Smoked, and Grilled Ribs
A three-day brining, smoking, and charring process adds incredible flavor to these ribs from chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston. The result tastes like grilled bacon.Joseph De Leo/Food Styling: Susan Spungen

"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."

A Better Vinaigrette

Marinated Tomatoes with Mint
Instead of making a traditional vinaigrette, try using vegetables to flavor themselves. Take Martha's Vineyard native Chris Fischer's vinaigrette for his tomato-onion-mint salad: A hefty pinch of kosher salt helps draw out juices from split cherry tomatoes, and then those juices mix with a glug of red wine vinegar and olive oil to make a tomato-rich dressing, no separate bowl or whisk required. See the recipe for Marinated Tomatoes with Mint »Elizabeth Cecil

Turn Your Oven into a Smoker

Slow-Smoked and Spice-Brined Turkey Recipe, thanksgiving turkey recipes
Inspired by the flavors of Peking duck, this turkey is infused with a Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, and fresh ginger brine, then lightly smoked over oak.Matt Taylor-Gross

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.

Vegan, Cashew-Milk Ice Cream (Yes, Really)

Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
This vegan ice cream from Brooklyn's Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream takes a classic flavor combination, peanut butter and chocolate, and uses cashew milk to make for an extra rich ice cream.Farideh Sadeghin

"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.