Genius Recipes

Our Team's 14 Favorite Genius Recipes Ever

September 23, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

Our Genius Recipes column, skippered by Food52’s resident Genius Kristen Miglore since 2011, is a lot of things. It’s an award nominee (thanks, James Beard Foundation!) and an award winner (thanks, IACP!). It’s been the launchpad for not one, but two cookbooks, Genius Recipes and Genius Desserts (with another on the way). It’s a newsletter. It’s a video series. It’s even a chocolate bar.

But besides all that, Genius Recipes is what we really want to eat.

In the column’s very first article, we presented the premise:

We're launching a new column from Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore that assumes the following to be true: there are good recipes, and great ones—and then there are genius recipes.

Since then, a lot has changed. As Kristen explained, “In the beginning, I was looking for the roast chicken,” and other classic recipes. “But I realized we'd all be happier cooks if we didn't just have the iconic roast chicken, but also another version where you start in a cold oven when it's too hot to preheat, or one in which you brine it with feta when you want something jazzier. All of these recipes teach us something new, and fit into our life in different ways. Plus, how boring would it be if we ate the same roast chicken every single time?”

Pretty boring.

To date, there are 353 recipes crowned Genius, ranging from The River Café’s Strawberry Sorbet to, most recently, Cowgirl Creamery’s Cottage Cheese Pancakes.

I would never be able to pick one favorite Genius Recipe myself—so instead, I asked our team which Genius Recipes they keep coming back to, and which ones changed everything for them. Even if everything just means looking at an avocado in a different way.

The Food52 Team’s Favorite Genius Recipes

1. Yi Jun Loh’s Coconut Water Soup

When I asked Kristen which Genius Recipe she’d like to make this weekend, she said, “I'm feeling pretty tired this week after some cross-country travel and many 4 a.m. wake-ups from my sleep-squawking baby, so Yi Jun Loh's coconut water soup sounds really comforting and uncomplicated right now.” The vegetarian broth gets its savoriness and depth from, of all places, coconut water. Yes.

2. Roberto Santibañez's Guacamole

“For me, this was life-changing, and I will never make guacamole any other way,” our books and special projects editor Brinda Ayer told me. “Making a paste of the chile, onion, and cilantro really allows the chunks of roughly chopped avocado to be completely enveloped by the flavors of these aromatics.” Our executive editor Joanna Sciarrino seconded that: “The only guacamole I’ll make now.”

3. Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter

This was our co-founder Merrill Stubbs’ pick. Oh, and our customer care operations manager Erin Sanders (“my go-to when the fridge is bare”). And our strategy and finance manager Annalee Leggett’s. You can ladle it on spaghetti, of course, but don’t stop there. Merrill says she uses the same strategy when she’s making a ragu. And I can’t imagine a better foundation for a shakshuka.

4. Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta

“I always make this recipe on weeknights when I need something that's super simple yet very satisfying,” our assistant editor of partner content Erin Alexander said. And by “super simple,” she means suuuper simple. The ingredient list: egg noodles, heavy cream, lemons. If you want to be an overachiever, feel free to toss in some garlicky sautéed kale or roasted butternut squash or chopped fresh herbs at the end.

5. My New Roots' Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

“I love so many Genius recipes. World Peace Cookies! No-Knead Bread! Zucchini Butter!” Joanna said (not forgetting that guacamole above). “But I really love this loaf of bread. I think I made it four times in one month, when I first encountered it. It’s definitely not your standard bread—it swaps flour for nuts, seeds, and oats—but it’s so flavorful and dense, and makes as good a breakfast as it does an afternoon snack. It’s excellent on its own, but also wonderful toasted with a smear of butter.”

6. Canal House’s Chicken Thighs With Lemon

My pick! After I trying this recipe, I find it hard to cook bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs any other way. Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer figured out that the path toward crispy skin wasn’t high heat and intense cooking, but just the opposite—a lukewarm temperature, so the fat can leisurely render. I riff on it constantly, like this version with kale and croutons, or this one with chicken-fat fried rice, or this one with asparagus, bacon and potatoes.

7. Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach’s Pork Shoulder Ragu

For someone who cooks all day, there’s nothing more appealing than a recipe that takes care of itself. Case in point: our test kitchen director Josh Cohen and this laidback ragu. “I love this technique of roasting the whole pork shoulder, then breaking it apart for ragu,” he said. It’s wonderful on pasta, of course, but also tucked into tacos, spooned onto polenta, or sandwiched in a grilled cheese.

8. Stella Parks’ No-Stress, Super-Flaky Pie Crust

Our software engineer Micki Balder is smitten with Stella Parks’ shatteringly flaky pie crust, and rightfully so. As Kristen notes in the recipe, “This is the flaky pie dough recipe that stands to make the biggest difference for a budding pie baker.” Or, for that matter, a seasoned one.

9. Herve This’ Chocolate Mousse

And by chocolate mousse, we mean: chocolate and water. Thanks to a few minutes on the stove, followed by an ice bath and strong-armed whisk, these two pantry staples turn into a fluffy cloud. As our senior video editor Rob Strype puts it: “The process of making this mousse is amazing.”

10. Danielle Kartes’ Coconut Custard Macaroons

In addition to the ragu mentioned above, our test kitchen director Josh wants his dessert, too. He calls these the “best macaroons,” especially on the day they’re made (and why would you wait to dig in?). “Folks will flip out if you serve them to a crowd at Passover,” he added. In my own experience, they flip out all other times of year, too.

Our Community's Favorite Genius Recipes

Naturally, I also checked in with our community on the Hotline about their favorite Genius Recipes. Here’s what they said:

11. Rao’s Meatballs

“Incredible,” Gammy said. “Although I have bastardized the recipe by not including the veal, you know what...they are still the best meatballs I have ever eaten. Soft, moist, and flavorful. Everyone I have ever served them to just raves about them.” Same. I was so inspired by this recipe, I stole its Genius trick (adding water) and put it toward meatloaf.

12. Crook’s Corner’s Peach Salad

AntoniaJames loves Crook’s Corner’s Green Peach Salad. Like any avid home cook, she’s found a way to make it her own: “It's even better made with fresh basil instead of mint,” she wrote. “For parties and other special occasions, I'll use a combination of white and yellow stone fruit, because it's so darn pretty. I make this all summer long, using both nectarines and peaches. It's bright, crispy, crunchy, a bit bracing, and made in about a minute and a half (not counting the time it needs to sit).”

13. Maria Speck’s Shortcut Polenta

“Mine always got lumpy or stuck to the pot, and now it’s perfect every time!” said luvcookbooks. And who could ask for more? Psst: If you’re looking for something to serve with that polenta, check out this Genius chicken gratin.

14. Martha Stewart's Mac and Cheese

Community member Gandalf gave a shout-out to one of our favorite Martha Stewart recipes (and that's saying something). This superlative casserole—extra-gooey sauce, extra-crispy crust—calls for 26 ounces of cheese (sharp cheddar and Gruyere or Pecorino Romano), and don't you dare drop that amount. Bring it to any potluck and you'll be the talk of the town.

Which leaves you. What are your favorite Genius Recipes? Let us know 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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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

Linda R. September 23, 2019
Thanks for being here. What I’ve seen so far are perfect recipes——-made with ingredients most people would have in their pantry already!