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Recently, I shared the Top 10 Genius Recipes of 2015, and there were lots of pretty obvious prom queens in the bunch: your predictable crispy chicken, your vegan chocolate chip cookies. Of course they were well-loved!
But I always did have a thing for the underdog. Below are the Genius Recipes you paid the least attention to last year, and a case for giving each one more try.
"But why?" you may ask. "Why should I bother with these ten recipes, which in their entirety got fewer eyeballs than Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk alone?"
For one thing, I probably screwed up the first time—I didn't write a good headline or publish it at the right time. But you'll also notice a pattern: These 10 recipes are often quite practical, and healthful, and decidedly not french fries. They're a little kooky, and take a little imagination. But all of them are genius, if you know what to look for. Below, I've stood behind them, one more time.
Why you didn't care: Asparagus with what now?
Why you should: You would top asparagus with hollandaise, right? This is easier, and better.
Why you didn't care: Bran muffins will never be cookies.
Why you should: These are the best ones. Instead of processed cereals (or extra sugar or oils), Silverton uses jammy, puréed raisins so the muffins stay moist and downright sexy.
Why you didn't care: Maybe you thought you needed to make sourdough?
Why you should: You have leftover bread all the time. And it can make your salad dressing creamy!
Why you didn't care: Perhaps I wasn't clear—it's not 15 minutes of simmer time, but literally 15 minutes, start to finish. Most of that is waiting for the water to boil.
Why you should: Herbs and leftover ginger nubs and chiles never need to wilt in your fridge again. In 15 minutes, they can grow up to be soup.
Why you didn't care: You stopped reading before the last 3 words.
Why you should: You haven't had a more flavorful lentil soup, from humbler ingredients.
Why you didn't care: You prefer dry toast.
Why you should: It has cornichon juice in it! And mustard, and bacon! You get to burn toast on purpose! And as weird as it all sounds, it's a bowl of straight comfort.
Why you didn't care: There was some justifiable consternation about the original published name of this recipe (née Escarole Salad, though it contains no escarole).
Why you should: Even if you can't find Belgian endive (or puntarelle), you should still make this dressing, which features lots of anchovy and lots of garlic, and ice to calm it all down.
Why you didn't care: Maybe it was too close to Christmas. Or maybe you didn't believe me about the evaporated milk.
Why you should: Laurie Colwin's recipe puts the spinach in creamed spinach—it's a hearty side with a good knuckle-rap of spice. It will make you feel like Popeye, and not like you've just spent all night at a steakhouse.
Why you didn't care: Marrying chickpeas and spinach wasn't a problem you had.
Why you should: You can make a sauce out of anything if you mush stale bread into it. It's like gazpacho you eat with a fork!
Why you didn't care: The term fat-free. This isn't a SnackWell's commercial!
Why you should: How about some sexier adjectives? Tangy, garlicky, crunchy, fiery, sweet, herby… icy? Yes! Pretend there's fat in it if you want.
Why you didn't care: It was late in asparagus season and the last thing you wanted was to eat more of it.
Why you should: Next season (and the next), you're going to feel queasy about throwing away those bottoms all over again.
Why you didn't care: You were busy eating Thanksgiving dinner.
Why you should: The Silver Palate gave you the best dinner parties of your life in the 1980s—it's the least you could do. Plus, there are garlic cloves poached in bacon fat. Make this with leftover roast chicken, stat.
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
The Genius Recipes cookbook is here—and a New York Times Best Seller! It's a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you cook. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.