This post is sponsored by Chapters-Indigo.
“These are the recipes that inspire you to change how you make a standard dish, that become the recipes you cook for the rest of your life.”
Genius Recipes is the much-anticipated cookbook from Kristen Miglore, the author of the popular Food 52 column of the same name. These are recipes that, through either a technique, the new use of a familiar ingredient or the debunking of a kitchen “old wives’ tale” can change the way we cook a certain dish. Miglore has explored many of these recipes (from cookbooks, food writers, authors, chefs, bloggers and other writers) through her weekly column, anaylsing them, testing and re-testing, offering tips, variations and techniques she hopes will change the way people will think about food and cook. The book teaches us techniques or tips that should make us feel “genius” in the kitchen ourselves and includes recipes from some of the biggest names in the food world – Marcella Hazan, Nigella Laswon, Jim Lahey, Michael Ruhlman, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi to name but a few. (Bonus: more than half the recipes in the book have not been featured in the column). Miglore has curated a book of “the most talked-about, just crazy enough to work” recipes she calls the “essentials”, creating a different kind of cookbook with contributions from many “because no one cook would have taught us so much.”
The headnotes are as interesting as the recipes themselves, so it’s not a book you simply cook from. No, this is a cookbook that is not out of place on a coffee table (thanks to the gorgeous photography by James Ransom). It’s the kind of cookbook you make notes in. A cookbook whose pages will eventually be splattered and stained from use. And it’s the cookbook which, when we cooked from it with my monthly Cookbook Book Club generated the most discussion of any that we have worked with.
The book is divided into meals/ courses (Breakfast, Snacks & Drinks, Soups & Salads, Meaty Mains, Meatless Mains, Vegetables and Desserts). There are no other sections, no “how to use these recipes”, no “about the ingredients” because all the information Is included in the recipes and glorious headnotes – full of interesting tidbits and stories about the recipes’ origins. Some of the recipes do include tips and tricks (and additional recipe ideas) but it’s definitely all about the recipes and stories.
It’s a book to excite food nerds everywhere, challenging pre-conceived notions of how a particular dish should be made, starting conversations, even disagreements about those notions. Any book that gets people excited about and interested in food and cooking is a winner in my mind and I don’t think you can get much more conversation-worthy than Genius Recipes.
Savoury recipes include: scrambled eggs (imagine them poached!), deviled eggs (secret ingredient: butter), guacamole not prepared in the smooth style you might expect, hummus where the addition of iced water helps keep the flavours sharp, Bloody Mary made with tomato water (!), a kale salad where you don’t have to massage the leaves, a soup made with cauliflower, an onion and olive oil, buttermilk fried chicken you’ve brined beforehand, a carbonara without pasta (sssh, it’s onions, not spaghetti!), meatballs where tepid water works its magic to rehydrate the breadcrumbs and lighten up the mix, making it go further too), pasta with a creamy sauce made from caramelized onions and Greek yoghurt (it works!!) and roast chicken (you’ll be amazed at how high your oven temperature can go!). In the desserts category, there’s a chocolate mousse with just 2 ingredients (water and chocolate), an apple cake that’s more apples than cake (this one is a standard in our household), a pumpkin pie that bakes in half the time of a traditional pie recipe, caramel made out of sweet potatoes and an eggless lemon curd.
See what I mean? These are recipes that will challenge you intellectually in the kitchen. Recipes you’ll want to talk about. And try again, maybe figuring out your own “genius” tips.
Meatballs from Rao’s
Recipe from Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore . Published by Ten Speed Press (April 7 2015) . All rights reserved. Published here with permission.
Spaghetti and meatballs doesn’t have to be a meal that you simmer all day, nor does it need to put you into hibernation once you’ve eaten it.
Other great meatball recipes rely on milk or even mayonnaise for their tenderness and personality. This one from Rao’s restaurant in New York City has the most unexpected secret ingredient of all: lots of tepid water. It’s going to look like way too much (2 cups for 2 pounds of meat?). You will also doubt you can serve very many people with this. But that’s before you dump your water over the rest of your ingredients, and see the breadcrumbs quickly start rehydrating. Like little sponges, they suck up all available liquid, expanding and lightening the mix. Now you have meat, garlic, cheese, and herbs, all delicately clinging together with a little egg and a lot more wet, willing bread.
I’ve found that you can mix, shape, and fry these meatballs in exactly the time it takes to whip up Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter (page 151).Then you’ll plunk them into the sauce for 15 minutes to finish cooking. You could just slip them straight into the sauce to cook instead, but when you fry until they’re good and brown first, you’re invoking the Maillard reaction—caramelizing all the cobbled surfaces and cranking up the rich, meaty flavor, which it then generously shares with the sauce.
Whether you want to tell your guests that their spaghetti and meatballs took 1 hour, not 10 (and mention the pint of water), that’s up to you.
Makes about 28 meatballs
1 pound (450g) lean ground beef
8 ounces (225g) ground veal
8 ounces (225g) ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup (100g) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
11⁄2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄2 small clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (165g) fresh bread crumbs
2 cups (475ml) lukewarm water
1 cup (240ml) good-quality olive oil, for cooking
Your favorite marinara sauce
Pasta, for serving (optional)
Combine the beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, blend the ingredients together. Mix the bread crumbs into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water, 1 cup (240ml) at a time, until the mixture is quite moist. (If you want to make sure the seasoning is to your liking, fry off a small test meatball, taste, and adjust.) Shape into 2.5- to 3-inch (6.5 to 7.5cm) balls.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.
When the oil is very hot but not smoking, fry the meatballs in batches. When the bottom half of each meatball is very brown and slightly crisp, turn and cook the top half. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.
Heat the marinara sauce to simmering. Lower the cooked meatballs into the simmering sauce and cook
for 15 minutes. Serve alone or with pasta.
This recipe works best if you make your own fresh bread crumbs (that is, grind or grate some stale bread). In a pinch, if you need to use finer, store-bought bread crumbs, cut back by half, and don’t use quite as much water. (The full measure of store-bought crumbs would give you something resembling a stiff, mealy dumpling.)
Buy Genius Recipes on Chapters-Indigo.
Genius Recipes – a giveaway!
Thanks to Chapters Indigo we have one copy of Genius Recipes to give away to a Canadian reader!
To enter, add a comment below telling us your all-time favourite "genius recipe".
For a second entry, tweet the following message:
I entered to win a copy of @food52’s #GeniusRecipes from @RecipeGeekMag + @chaptersindigo Details: http://bit.ly/1ZkRhEz
Then come back to let us know you did in a second comment!
Contest will run from Wednesday January 13, 2016 to Wednesday February 3, 2016
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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