Food52 had an article some time ago about genius recipes, which links to a column they run and a forthcoming book. But it made me think, what are the recipes that I would consider genius – that once made, changed my perspective on that dish forever.
Marcella Hazan’s butter and tomato sauce came up a lot in that piece, and I’d endorse that too. I think I first came across it on Amateur Gourmet, but honestly, there came a point where it seemed to appear on every other blog, so I had to try it. The main revelation is knowing that you can make delicious good-enough-to-eat-with-a-spoon tomato sauce without sauteing or frying anything, and using tinned tomatoes.
I now roast broccoli and cauliflower fairly regularly in preference to boiling or steaming, but I think it was Heidi’s recipe for roasted cauliflower popcorn that first turned me on to this idea. Amateur Gourmet’s the best broccoli of your life was another endorsement for this approach. Sometimes I do something much simpler, and just coat the florets in a little oil before roasting, but I often add a sprinkling of vinegar too, and some breadcrumbs if I have them around. I think it was Jamie Oliver that first prompted me to add vinegar or citrus whenever roasting root vegetables, and now I do it routinely.
Jenny Rosenstrach from Dinner: A Love Story is evangelical about her pork shoulder ragu – and with good reason. It was her solution to entertaining again after having kids. It requires very little preparation time and is endlessly rewarding. The ‘aha’ moment for me was realising that a lump of meat can be braised to the point of falling apart, and then shredded into its cooking liquid there and then. Yes, I had braised meat before, but either in cubes (which take ages to brown before you can get going) or in a large piece that was then sliced or shredded to serve as is, or the liquid needed to be chilled/skimmed/reduced before using. This one-pot dish just needs you to brown the pork on a few sides before adding onions, tomatoes, wine and herbs and sending the whole thing to the oven for four hours. The amount of meat is manageable for four people, or for two with leftovers through the week (many recipes for pork shoulder ask for the whole joint and feed 10-12).
Another obvious choice is Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread (I usually work from Clotilde’s metric translation). It has been posted and reposted (including here), but that recipe introduced a number of really useful home bread baking principles, which can be incorporated into other bread recipes and methods. The first was slow rising, by using a very small amount of yeast. A lot of bread recipes are geared to being done as fast as possible, and so use 10 or more grams of dried yeast to 500g flour. This recipe has a tiny 1/4 tsp of yeast and still gets a good rise. It is also a wet dough, but that doesn’t matter as you don’t knead it, so avoid the sticky mess that can result. And finally, it is baked in a preheated casserole or cast iron pot with a lid. This not only prevents the very wet dough from spreading out into a pancake in the oven, it also contains the steam created at the start of the cooking, giving a better crust.
Do you have your own genius recipes?