Amanda & Merrill

The Best Things We Learned Testing A&M's Cookbook, A New Way to Dinner

March 22, 2016

Weekend after weekend for a few months, the Food52 editors carried many bags of groceries home, set the timer, and then started “a cook”—not the "Breaking Bad" kind.

We were testing the weekend cooking plans in Amanda and Merrill’s playbook for better meals all week long, A New Way to Dinner. Each few-hour cooking plan left us with so much good food to serve as building blocks for the week ahead—and taught us a thing or two along the way.

Below are the first lessons we thought of when we chatted about our testing experiences. (We all learned a whole lot more—but you'll just have to cook from the book to see all that's possible.)

Sarah testing a spring menu of Merrill's.
  • Always have more cheese, bread, and butter than you think you need.
  • Always have a batch of cream biscuits in the freezer! They will win you so much love from your colleagues if you bring them in for breakfast. 


The grocery cart—and the parsnips.
  • Take all your butter out of your fridge before you start cooking. No matter what. Just in case. 
  • New least favorite kitchen task: "coring parsnips."


  • The best thing in the world to have at the ready is slow-cooked pork shoulder, pretty much in any form (braised, slow-roasted, crockpotted). You can put it in so many things to make them better!


Sam's before and after.
  • If you don't have a baking sheet, you can jigger one by turning your biggest casserole dish upside down and placing a sheet of parchment paper over it.
  • I can make meringues!


  • Always have a flavor-packed thing in a jar: confit, pickled something, romesco, green sauce...

  • I have intense food waste anxiety, always afraid I won’t eat all the food I bought. But I learned that I will get through all the food in a totally packed fridge in one week but only if I prepare it all first. A bunch of raw ingredients isn’t going to go anywhere.


maybe one day I will own a salad spinner

A photo posted by Ali (@itsalislagle) on

  • Buy a bag of lemons and zest and juice them en masse, thus avoiding 1. shrivelly lemons, 2. trying to zest half a lemon.

  • If at first you can't fit two watermelons in your refrigerator, try, try again.


  • I can make sausage at home! And it's easy!
  • Goat cheese is a versatile wonder. And you can actually find snap peas in NYC in the middle of winter.


Kenzi getting her cook on.
  • Whatever you do on Sunday, make a green sauce—pesto, chimichurri, charmoula, anything—just make it. It'll open up your whole fridge and pantry for the rest of the week.

  • Creamed greens.


Preorder your signed copy of A New Way to Dinner in the Food52 shop!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • gisele paul
    gisele paul
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
  • Samantha Weiss Hills
    Samantha Weiss Hills
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


gisele P. October 18, 2016
Just received the book, a pre-holiday treat to myself! Can't wait to start reading and cooking!
Erin J. March 24, 2016
That's it, I'm buying Sam a baking sheet <3
Samantha W. March 24, 2016
Erin I have one! But just one. And it's small. Guess it's time to upgrade ;)
Cristina S. March 22, 2016
Love this.