Genius Recipes

Your Top 10 Genius Recipes of 2020

And the most overlooked recipe of the year, too.

December 30, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

These are the 10 Genius Recipes that we cooked (and cooked and cooked) most in 2020. Flaky biscuits, a grandma's pad Thai, and the pan pizza that everyone and their dad was making last spring—it all checks out.

You'll also find the most overlooked recipe of the year at the bottom of the list. Greens will never match cake or crispy rice in star power, but this is actually the recipe I make the most often, to vegetable-ize my slapped-together lunches and late-night dinners, and jolt my kitchen awake.

Wishing you all greens, cake, and happy, healthy holidays until we can cook together again in 2021.

Your Top 10 Genius Recipes Of 2020

10. Louisiana Barbecued Shrimp

Louisiana barbecued shrimp is both powerfully flavored and super fast to cook—but don't let the name fool you. As author Toni Tipton-Martin writes, "You won’t find any barbecue sauce in the model/chef/restaurateur B. Smith’s dish of shrimp in spiced butter sauce: 'Barbecue shrimp' is just the name Louisiana Creole cooks assigned to shrimp braised in wine, beer, or a garlic-butter sauce." Toni likes to serve this right in the skillet at the stove, with lots of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.

9. Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

These are fluffy, flaky biscuits Carla Hall has spent her career perfecting. And anyone can make them, because Carla is a gifted and patient teacher, with a sleeveful of tricks to welcome first-timers: What if I don't have a biscuit cutter? And what should I do with all those scraps? Carla's on it.

8. Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies take all of five minutes to make, without heating the oven (or you). They're no-bake cookies, likely developed in a mid-century test kitchen, already well-loved across the U.S. under other charming names like preacher cookies and poodgies. But there is an art to nailing the glossy tops and fudgy middles, and this recipe includes the tips chef Scott Peacock has gathered over a lifetime.

7. Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

At his legendary San Francisco restaurant The Slanted Door, Charles Phan has long served Caramelized Claypot Chicken made in the traditional Vietnamese kho (or dry-braise) technique, simmering the chicken and aromatics in a small amount of fish sauce caramel. In this recipe, he streamlines the ingredients and process and takes away the stress of making caramel on a Tuesday night. Instead, you'll warm everything for the sauce at once. Charles recommends making extra caramel sauce to keep in the fridge, putting a good dinner that much more in reach.

6. Strawberry & Butterscotch Whipped Cream Cake

Pastry chef Jami Curl set out to make the simplest vanilla cake to stir together at home—one that you could pull from the oven within an hour, no electric mixer needed. Her latest cookbook Baking Gold has ideas for dressing it up with fruit and glazes and crunchy bits (like the jammy strawberries and butterscotch whipped cream you see here). And because it keeps well days longer than your average cake, you can try lots of them. You can sprinkle fruit on top or stir it through before baking. Or after baking, you can top it with anything you like: Buttercream and sprinkles for a birthday cake. Or more sour cream, fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. And ice cream would always be welcome instead of (or on top of) the whipped cream, too.

5. Banana Bread Scones

Here's a new home for those lonely bananas turning polka-dotted on the counter (or falling to the floor every time you open the freezer). These scones have all the comforts of banana bread, with crunchier edges and fluffier middles—and they're ready in about half the time. As Samantha Seneviratne writes in The Joys of Baking: Recipes and Stories for a Sweet Life, “These scones are the perfect breakfast when you’re rich in overripe bananas but don’t have the time or patience for banana bread. They bake up fast and don’t need to cool before being eaten.”

4. Rich & Creamy Beans

That sack of dried beans sitting in your pantry that you keep planning to cook and just... don't? This Genius oven technique, a riff on the Tuscan tradition of baking beans in a flask in the embers of a fire, will essentially do it for you—and make them creamier and more flavorful than ever. As Rachel Roddy writes in her column for the Guardian, “Not that you can’t get beautifully flavored beans on the stovetop, but it must be something about the effect of baking as opposed to boiling heat, the taste of both beans and broth is richer and rounder."

3. Persian-ish Rice

Samin Nosrat's Persian-ish Rice is the beginners' gateway to tahdig—that crispy, golden layer of rice from the bottom of the pot. As Samin writes, "Since traditional Persian rice can take years to perfect and hours to make, I’m including this Persian-ish variation, which I accidentally devised one night when I found myself with a few extra cups of just-boiled basmati rice on my hands." Samin loves eating her crispy tahdig with stews or at least with yogurt—something saucy to cushion and contrast with all that crisp.

2. Pad Thai

Night + Market chef Kris Yenbamroong’s famous pad Thai uses ingredients found at just about any grocery store—not because it’s easier, but because that's how his grandma has always done it. It’s so delicious and cooks in all of three minutes, so little will stop you from having it for dinner tonight.

1. Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

For this crispy, cheesy, foacaccia-esque cloud of a pizza, you won’t need any prior dough experience or special equipment, but you will need time—though almost all of it is hands-free (and the hands-on part is fun). The brilliant minds at King Arthur Baking Company tell us a little more about the pizza: "Out of all the styles of pizza, we’ve chosen Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza as our 2020 Recipe of the Year." For more on the story behind our most popular Genius Recipe of the year (by a lot), don't miss this week's episode of The Genius Recipes Tape, a chat with the force behind the recipe, Charlotte Rutledge. Hot tip: Charlotte also reveals (drumroll) King Arthur's Recipe of the Year for 2021.

The Most Overlooked Recipe of the Year

Shishito-Style Green Peppers

Smoky, bright, blistered shishito peppers have long been an izakaya staple and the one thing everyone can agree on ordering. But because shishitos can be pricey and hard to find, especially out of season, for her cookbook The Noodle Soup Oracle, Michele Humes came up with a brilliant, quick-cooking stand-in: the humble green bell pepper (which is neither pricey nor hard to find). It will quickly become your new go-to green side.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. 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."


KAREN March 14, 2021
Thank you all for being there this year, your hard labour at producing such delicious dishes. You have made my COVID experience wonderful I have baked and baked and given away, to avoid weight gain, and received so many complements from the many receives i have used during this time of isolation. I shall be more adventurous when my husband is able to eat like normal, Thank you all for all the things you have produced over the years and I have used in my short time. I have had to deal with my husband having cancer, adjusting menus so that he is able to eat the delicious dishes. My appreciation.
NDavid January 1, 2021
I am so surprised that the Shishito-style green peppers are the most overlooked recipe of the year as it is the recipe I find myself repeating over and over. in fact- these wonderous peppers helped usher out that year that just happened. Thanks for the joy you bring!