Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.
Pretend a friend just gave you the best bottle of steak sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’d ration it, troll the internet for fancy shops that carry it, send subliminal angst to housemates who take too much or—the nerve—leave puddles behind on their plates.
Now pretend that sauce is one you can stir together from your pantry, with three humble ingredients you can stock and restock from any old grocery store. You’d have an unending supply of the world’s best steak sauce. You’d never suffer the anxiety of a dwindling stash again. You’d be free.
What I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life.
It’s easy to assume that our most cherished staples—steak and barbecue and hot sauces—are complex and untouchable, honed by flavor scientists in labs to taste exactly like what we’re wired to crave.
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But really all they are is salt, umami, tang, and heat. And there’s a whole lot of that living in our pantries. Here, in chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Soy-Mustard Sauce, they live in soy sauce (salt, umami), rice vinegar (tang), and a hefty amount of ground mustard (heat!). Together, these three push all the buttons.
“What I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life,” writer Catherine Newman detailed on her blog Ben & Birdy in 2014. “It made me feel like I'd never actually eaten anything before that tasted good, and like I might never again afterwards.”
But what Newman has since discovered is that this sauce does damn fine work parading through all sorts of other foods: brown rice, edamame, fish of all kinds, and, notably, steak. When I first tasted it, I felt a rush of rich, salty, brightness and ballooning heat, then an instant tug to go back in for more. It framed and amplified the steak in the loudest, juiciest way.
The experience was so intense, I worried it might be an acquired taste that others wouldn’t like, briefly forgetting about wasabi with sushi, horseradish in Bloody Marys, and hot sauce on everything. One very high-energy Food52 team taste test later, I knew I was wrong. This stuff is loved, wildly, by all. And you can make it anytime you want.
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]. Thank you to Catherine Newman for unearthing this gem!
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."