Category Archives: Main

chocolate puddle cakes

From their big debut in the 1990s from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to their ever-presence on dessert menus since, chocolate molten lava cakes are easily one of the most trodden tropes of the restaurant world. There are enough riffs on it out there to fill two internets; does anyone need another? The Smitten Kitchen has been lava cake-free since its 2006 inception mostly because I’m not terribly into warm, oozy desserts (I KNOW). But it’s not just about me anymore, is it? Last Valentines I had a moment of glowy domestic benevolence and decided to make them for the family and blew each and every one of their minds, most especially my husband, who demanded to know if I had known how to make them all along, why had I waited so long? Fair enough.

melt butter and chocolate
whisk in sugar, salt, an egg and yolk
lush chocolate batter

So here goes nothing. If tiny sunglasses, overalls (much to my delight), combat boots (ditto), flannels, slip dresses, small backpacks, choker necklaces, crop tops, and other 1990s treasures can have their moment again, why not these? At least, perhaps, for the duration of a single date night. Or, even better, an I-don’t-need-a-date-to-make-awesome-cake night.

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bodega-style egg and cheese sandwich

Like many New Yorkers, I have strong feelings about bodegas (adoration born of dependence) that go from the bodega cats to the stuffed shelves (mine appears to carry more items than our Trader Joe’s), to the griddles. I am in awe of the people who cook at them. I am constitutionally incapable of multitasking, I can barely handle simultaneously cooking a dinner and a side dish without setting fire to one or the other, but they make half a dozen different egg sandwiches at a time like its nothing.

quick whiskpour the egg flatcheese in the middlefoldall tucked indone in one minute

I know the BEC (bacon egg and cheese) is the gold standard of bodega breakfast sandwiches, but I like my bacon crisp and on the side, thank you very much, and rarely on a Monday morning. My order is always an egg-and-cheese on rye toast, and truly one of the most blessed things about NYC is that is rye bread is often considered a standard bread option. My only quibble with them is that often the cheese isn’t melted enough either because the cheese was not engineered with melting in mind (ghastly) or because it wasn’t given long enough to heat up. I am not giving cooking tips (please cancel me immediately if I do) to someone making me an egg sandwich for $5 so instead try to make them at home as often as possible where I have my own little method that ensures that the cheese is always melty.

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baked buffalo wings

My friend Art Bovino is obsessed with Buffalo wings. (I can hear you saying “SAME,” by the way.) He’s so obsessed that he spent a lot of time in Buffalo over the last couple years learning everything he could about them so he could write a book, and ended up having so much to say, he wrote two. The first, Buffalo Everything, came out last August and it’s a guide to eating in the city, takes us to bars, old-school Polish and Italian-American eateries, Burmese restaurants and newer farm-to-table cafes. The second, The Buffalo New York Cookbook, came out a few months later and teaches us how to make all of the food he fell in love with at home, from beef on weck, chicken finger subs, sponge candy, Tom & Jerrys, frozen custard, and, of course, all of the Buffalo wings you could ever dream of. He talks to the restaurants that lay a claim to creating them and others that just made them more famous or delicious. He talks to the masters. He learns the rules. He learns technique. He learns niche trivia (did you know that the “flats” of wings actually have more meat than the “drumettes?” I didn’t either!) And while not everyone agrees on everything, they all agree on this: baked Buffalo wings are a pale and unacceptable imitation of the real thing.

Meh, I say. You just haven’t made great ones. These are.

toss with salt and baking powderready to dry out overnightblue cheese saucebutter and hot sauce

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crispy rice and egg bowl with ginger-scallion vinaigrette

It’s really unfortunate timing, because we’ve got a long year to go and I at one point had many great and luminous cooking plans for it, but they’re all cancelled now because on the afternoon of January 4th, before 2019 had really even kicked in, I ate the best thing I had or will all year or maybe ever — because what would the internet be without some unnecessary melodrama — and I threw it together from a mess of leftovers in my fridge.

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plush coconut cake

If you told me a year and a half ago that I wouldn’t have just one, but two vegan cakes on the site, and that I liked them so that I honestly question from time to time why any cakes have any eggs in them, ever, I’d have thought you lost your mind. Let me explain: I know there are amazing and delicious vegan cakes in the world, but I believed I’d need flax eggs or the liquid from a can of chickpeas or some other magic to pull them off; I figured I’d leave it to the experts. Plus, I suspect my devotion to butter and buttermilk is well-established by now.

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cozy cabbage and farro soup

Last April, Food52’s Cookbook Club chose Smitten Kitchen Every Day as their book to cook through that month, but I promise, this isn’t the point at all. The club has monthly picks and a yearly Bonus Book, a cookbook participants cook through at their leisure. So while April was my book’s month, for 2018, that book was Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.

cabbage deserves love and adorationthinly sliced

I already loved this book. We talked about it that month in regard to a crunchy asparagus salad that I mixed with chopped jammy eggs on toast, with a photo that still makes me smile. I told you that you needed to buy that book right then, especially if you also delighted in inventive but not overly complicated vegetable preparations (225 of them, even) and things you hadn’t thought of but would immediately tuck into your repertoire.

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cosmopolitan

Did you learn how to cook anything new this year? Anna Hezel, senior editor at Taste (one of my favorite breakout food publications of the last couple years) asked this on Twitter last week and like a Muppet to the ABCs, I couldn’t resist jumping in. I’m glad I did. I always wish I had more time to cook all the things I want to cook (my To Cook list is still thousands deep), wish I could share more recipes more often here, but this caused me to look back at the new recipes here in 2018 and feel a murmur of pride. Look at all we did! I learned to make falafel, and that it’s shockingly easy! I got to make Pad Thai I crave the most at home. We got cacio e pepe just about foolproof at home, just when I was convinced I never would. I learned about melting potatoes. We made the sheet pan sandwiches of my dreams and they’re vegan too. We had a real talk about the InstantPot and got some delicious short ribs out of it. I learned to make the best apple pie I’ve ever had. I made a completely bonkers layered mocha cheesecake late in the day on my husband’s birthday, and last week we mashed up baklava and babka, just because we could. I look at all of this and I am so excited about the year we’ve had, many of these things I had barely dreamed up yet this time last year, and I hope next year is even better.

And now, a brief moment of sap: Getting to hang out here, indulging my culinary whims, and having a cheering and encouragement squad had been one of great surprises and delights of my so-called adult life. Who knew what I’d do when I grew up? Certainly not me. I bumbled along, I tried things I hated, I tried things I didn’t hate but felt no passion for, and one day I landed here and, to my surprise, am rarely asked to leave. I am so thankful you are here and since I am not tired of cooking, I hope you never get tired of reading.

So tell me: Did you learn how to cook anything new this year?

Meanwhile, here are your Smitten Kitchen favorites from this year:
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baklava babka

I have something really pretty and really festive for us today. I hope it doesn’t send you running for the hills. When recipe hybrids are good — think pretzel croissants, cronuts, donut-looking cakes, donut-tasting muffins, brownie cookies, and pretty much everything on one of my favorite wildly creative cooking blogs — it’s usually because the two desserts that are mashed up have more in common than just cleverness, elements in each that make each other better.

risen, ready to rollthen cinnamon sugarchopping the nutsrollingsplittwisted

It was the honey syrup that convinced me that babka-meets-baklava could clear this hurdle. Syrupy finishes are common in desserts from across the Middle East and Levant. It’s the finishing soak in baklava’s crispy baked phyllo and chopped nuts layers, pulling them together. It’s the finishing, shiny soak in the kranz-style babkas popularized by Ottolenghi. And it’s what makes this buttery, nutty, braided sweet bread wreath sweet glossy perfection, and deeply baklava-like.

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falafel

Until recently, if you’d asked me if I ever wanted to make falafel at home, I’d have said “sure, one day” but what I meant was “nah, why bother?” I was certain that falafel was fussy to make and had a long ingredient list. It probably related in some way to a fritter, meaning that it was bound with eggs and flour, and probably had breading on it too, all pesky steps and this is even before you get to the peskiest of all: deep-frying them. I figured that it’s one of these things that there as many recipes for as there are people who make it, thus whatever I came up with would be wrong by default – too firm or too soft, with chickpeas instead of favas or vice-versa — no matter what. But this isn’t the whole truth. The fact is that below 14th Street, there are two locations each of Taim and Mamoun’s every time I even distantly considered whether I needed a homemade falafel recipe in my life, I knew I could get a perfectly executed sandwich in my hands before I even wrote out a grocery list.

soaked chickpeas and everything else
onion, garlic, herbs, spices, salt
the right texture

Hey, I’m not proud of this. I pride myself on being a curious person in the realm of cooking so it’s pretty pathetic that I had falafel all worked up in my head as this highly complex thing and never once, you know, read a few recipes. Had I, I’d have learned many extremely cool things about falafel such as the fact that while you do need to start with dried chickpeas (come back!), you don’t even have to cook them, or not in the classic long-simmered way, to make it. You soak them overnight in cold water, grind them up with seasonings and herbs, pack them into spoonfuls, fry them in less than an inch of oil in merely a few minutes, and that is it. There’s no egg. There’s no breading. It’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, it’s dirt cheap, and it’s easy, I mean criminally easy, to make. And I had to do it immediately.

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chocolate caramel tart

Shortly after my husband and I began dating — the dark ages; no seriously, his phone at the time looked like this and I was like whoa, look how fancy you are, dude — we went on a road trip somewhere, stopped at a gas station, and I told him to grab something candy-ish, surprise me. This boy came back to the car with a pack of Rolos, and honestly, it’s amazing we didn’t break up right then and there because Rolos are terrible candy and it’s about time someone said it. [Oh I can hear the reverberations of a thousand unfollows but I will absolutely die on this hill, and remain undeterred.] They’re gooey so they give off the appearance, the suggestion, of being good candy but the goo tastes like nothing. I feel this way about all caramel that appears inside candy bars, which tastes me more like thickened corn syrup than anything toasty and nuanced. Plus, they’re inside a milk chocolate shell, so it’s sweet against sweet, no contrast whatsoever, and so help you if you don’t eat them in a single bite, I hope you enjoy having sticky hands for the rest of the drive. I know, I know what you’re thinking: it’s an absolute mystery how I ended up with such a picky child.

In my unsolicited opinion, three things could improve Rolos: a real toasty, buttery caramel, the contrast of dark chocolate, and a bit of salt. As good caramel is gooey, we’re not going to fight it, but that’s what plates and forks are for.

dry ingredients for shellblend up the crustchocolate tart crustpressed in and trimmedfoil tightly, no weightsmelt the sugar and cook until amberadd butter, then creamblurry poured caramelcooled caramel layerchopped chocolate or chipschocolate and creamspread the ganache

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