The Best Thing I Made in 2017—For Food52

December 26, 2017

Since I started working at Food52, I've marveled at how our regular contributors—Alexandra Stafford, Alice Medrich, Posie Harwood, Erin McDowell, and Emiko Davies—meticulously test and finally reveal tasty, photogenic, nearly foolproof recipes, never missing a deadline. If a recipe is complicated, they walk you through it; if it's simple, they tell you what makes it so; and in every case, they are so enthusiastic about cooking and its infinite creative possibilities.

I asked them to choose the recipe that they were most excited about publishing this year. Here's what they said:

Alexandra Stafford: Diana Henry's Moroccan Chicken and Rice

Diana Henry's recipe for Moroccan chicken and rice from Simple has not only forever changed how I make chicken and rice, but also how I braise chicken in general. For years, I made chicken and rice following the classic method: brown the chicken, sauté the vegetables, cook with water, add rice and more water, cook some more. Easy to make, loved by all—it never felt like a big deal. But Diana's method at once made it feel like a big deal: She throws everything into the pan at once and throws it in the oven—there's no browning of the meat, no staggering the entry of ingredients. The dish emerges with beautifully tender and golden chicken and perfectly cooked rice. I've yet to try other seasonings in the dish—Diana's includes dates, orange, harissa, and pistachios, all of which combine to make an incredibly flavorful dish—but I love thinking about the endless possibilities: maybe with ginger, soy, and chopped kimchi, or with green olives and preserved lemons or with turmeric, cumin, cardamom, and cashews. This throw-it-in-all-at-once technique inspired me to revisit another favorite chicken recipe and simplify it for the better.

Alice Medrich: Sponge Cake with Tiger Nut Flour

What do I love about writing for Food52? I get to follow a quirky ingredient or idea down the rabbit hole come up for air and then start over again. Definitely my jam.

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In 2017, I fell for tiger nut flour. I found it while cruising for inspiration in Whole Foods. I liked the stuff so much that I managed to cajole Food52 editors into letting me post about this decidedly non-mainstream ingredient twice. I should get an award for that smooth maneuver—which reminds me, tiger nut flour can be used in smoothies, not just cakes, cookies, and crusts.

What’s with tiger nuts? They aren’t nuts and never met a tiger. They are crunchy fibrous tubers that taste slightly sweet, and, well…nutty. Ground up, they make an unusual non-grain and gluten-free flour with a hint of crunch that reminds me of coconut. Whether or not you give a hoot about fiber, grain or gluten, protein or probiotics, don’t dismiss tiger nut flour. I made outstanding and easy cakes with it. The first was a simple (very yummy) brown butter cake with notes of vanilla, butterscotch, and banana. I also made possibly the best Passover sponge cake I’ve ever tasted. If you are a curious baker or adventurous eater, take the tiger (nut flour) by the tail—Passover is only 3 months away.

Posie Harwood: Mozzarella Biscuits

The best thing I made this year may seem too simple to stand out: fresh mozzarella biscuits. Baking biscuits captures much of what I love about the act of cooking—it’s tactile, the results are deliciously comforting, and it highlights the incredible alchemy of turning just a few simple ingredients into a flaky, buttery wonder of a baked good. Though I’ve made more batches of biscuits in my life than I could count, this recipe was a revelation. Fresh mozzarella holds up so well, melting into gooey pockets without making the biscuits dense at all (especially impressive given how light and delicately-layered they are). Mozzarella is so mild that I added a spoonful of grainy mustard (thanks to inspiration from the Ovenly cookbook). You don’t taste mustard, per se, but the condiment accents the cheesy, umami notes of the biscuits. In short, it makes them pop, and it’s a brilliant trick for any savory biscuit.

Take my word for it, or try them yourself and see what I mean. Or take the words of my fiancé’s colleagues—I regularly drop off the results of recipe testing at his office, and above all the cakes and cookies and fudgy brownies, these biscuits are hands-down the most requested.

Erin McDowell: Croissant Rolls

My favorite would have to be the Croissant Rolls. It came about as a happy accident of playing with extra croissant dough, while I was testing for my cookbook The Fearless Baker, so I was super excited to write about it for Food52. I love finding multiple applications for a well-loved recipe, especially one that's more labor intensive, like croissant dough. You can tackle the project, then reap the rewards in a variety of ways. Plus, these rolls are just so dang pretty (and buttery...and flaky...)!

Emiko Davies: Pantramvai (Milanese Raisin Bread)

This old-fashioned raisin bread pantramvai, from the outskirts of Milan, was probably the first thing I made in 2017, and it's decidedly one of my favorites. It's packed full of more raisins than you think can fit in bread—the recipe calls for equal amounts of raisins and flour—and is highly addictive: pillowy, soft bread, where the sweetness of the raisins is balanced out by the slight bitterness of the well-browned crust. They call it the “panettone of the poor,” but it's even better than panettone, so I’ll be making it around the holidays, too. It is incredibly easy and forgiving to make, you don't need any fancy equipment, just a pair of hands, so you can make it anywhere, no excuses.

What was the best recipe you cooked from our site this year? Let us know in the comments!

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Former Associate Editor at Food52; still enjoys + talks about food.