Food52 Life

What *Really* Makes a Genius Recipe Genius?

April 21, 2016

Our fearless Creative Director Kristen Miglore has been uncovering them in her column by the same name for five years.

But do you know exactly what it takes to declare a recipe genius? Or where Kristen finds them, how she tests them, or the ones that have taken on a life of their own?

This episode of Burnt Toast is dedicated to the answers to all of these questions, and many more—it's a look at the inner workings of Genius Recipes from the genius herself. (It was also an excuse for me to sit down with a friend and colleague and get a little nerdy about cooking, but that's neither here nor there.)

Play the episode above, find it on iTunes, or listen to it using your favorite podcatcher. (Don't have one yet? We're fans of Stitcher.)

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As I mention in the episode, we talk about a lot of recipes during the show. We explain many of them as we go, but for those of you who'd like the full recipes, here they are, below. They're listed in the order they're mentioned, and to be honest, all together, they read a little like a greatest hits album might. Enjoy.

What recipes have you tried that are truly genius? Tell me in the comments.

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From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Katie Gardner
    Katie Gardner
  • Sarah Smith
    Sarah Smith
  • Charlotte
  • Lisa
  • Kneale Culbreath
    Kneale Culbreath
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


Katie G. December 23, 2016
Smitten Kitchen's homesick Texan carnitas made in the crock pot, then finished on the stove.
Sarah S. April 26, 2016
Can you PRETTY please link to the tofu recipe that was referred to in the listener genius recipe "testimonials"? I've been digging around for it but so far to no avail!

Absolutely loved this episode and am now newly turned onto the Genius Recipes. I can't wait to start making some of them!
Kristen M. April 26, 2016
Thank you so much, Sarah! Yotam Ottolenghi's Black Pepper Tofu was a new recipe featured in the cookbook (about half of them were new to the Genius series), but luckily it was also reprinted in Fine Cooking after the book came out:
Sarah S. April 26, 2016
THANK YOU! It sounds like I need to check out the cookbook asap. :) I can't wait to make this tofu!
Charlotte April 25, 2016
The other one I'd add (might be there? haven't looked through them all) is the French Yogurt Cake. I've been making one for every occasion since I read Clothilde's original post in 2002? 2003? These days I use Dorie Greenspan's recipe because the book is on the shelf -- I usually add fruit, often my canned sour cherries, and slivered almonds on the top -- but you can also do it as an olive oil cake with rosemary and orange or lemon, or with any other fruit you have. I've cooked it in cake pans, bundt pans, loaf pans and it always comes out great. Again, my def of a genius recipe is when you can swap stuff out and it still works. I've taken one of these to every potluck and bereaved person for the past 10-12 years.
Kristen M. April 26, 2016
Thank you! Trying it ASAP. Which book of Dorie's is it from?
Charlotte April 26, 2016
The big Baking book (the one with the Devils' Food and marshmallow cake on the cover). And I've sort of mashed it up with this one from Clothilde Dusolier:
Charlotte April 23, 2016
You asked about lasagne on the podcast -- the recipe on the Barilla no-bake lasagne noodle box changed my lasagne game for good. I modify it some depending on what's on hand -- usually lighten up on the cheese, add something green to the ricotta-egg mixture (spinach, or I keep a basil-garlic-olive-oil paste in the freezer from my garden), and often I'll use bolognese instead of meat + marinara. But the basic recipe/procedure is pretty bulletproof, delicious, and means lasagne is in our regular rotation around here.
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
Thank you, Charlotte! Love the idea of riffing on back-of-the-box recipes. They're usually so well-tested (for good reason!), but it's great to be able to jump off and go your own way.
Lisa April 22, 2016
Michael Ruhlman's Pasta tomato water recipe was totally amazing. We enjoyed this recipe over and over again throughout tomato season and never got tired of it. It is genius because it is simple, allows us to use freshest ingredients. The way how it is done intensified all flavor and goodness of ingredients, each of them works in harmony, resulting in a pure enjoyment.
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
One of my favorites, too!
Kneale C. April 22, 2016
Loved the podcast about Genius Recipes, which has become the most-loved cookbook in our house. My husband and I were talking about one of our very favorite genius recipes, Marion Cunningham's Crackered Eggs from The Breakfast Book. What makes it genius? Using saltine crackers, melted butter, milk, and two eggs (yes, that is correct, 2) to create a dish that tastes like buttery scrambled eggs. It is basically elegant nursery food for grownups. I hope you'll try it!
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
I love the sound of these (and I really love that book). Thank you!
Gabriella G. April 22, 2016
I'm so glad I listened to this podcast :) I've only been here for a few weeks and hadn't gotten around Genius recipes yet...
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
Meghan April 22, 2016
I'd love to see a Genius Recipes Volume 2! It's one of my most-used cookbooks!
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
Thank you, Meghan! I'm so happy to hear this.