2012 was really spectacular for me. The highlight of the year had to be July 7, which was the day I married my beautiful wife Asheley. A close 2nd to our wedding day was the week-plus we spent eating our way around Paris on our honeymoon. It was a culinary adventure we will never ever forget. And although a lot of the year was pretty busy with planning both the wedding and honeymoon, there were still some pretty amazing recipes I came across in the kitchen.
Looking back over all the recipes I posted throughout 2012 was a lot of fun… there are some dishes I completely forgot about and totally am going to make soon, like the Pork Tinga Tacos and Baja Fish Tacos. I also got to see how horrendous most of my food photos were at the beginning of last year. Yikes! Improvement has definitely been shown in that department I think… I’ve been learning a lot about food photography from some books and my good friend and very talented photographer Tyler as of recent, but I still have a ways to go. I actually just bought a new camera as a Christmas present to myself, and am super excited for what’s to come in 2013. But for now, here’s a look back at 2012.
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1. Authentic Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill
I absolutely love Pulled Pork. It’s what I order every time I check out a new BBQ place for the first time. At home up to this point, I was making “pulled pork” in a slow-cooker. It was delicious but totally inauthentic. I wanted to make the real deal. Buying a smoker wasn’t really in the deck of cards, so I had fun converting our gas grill into a makeshift smoker. The results were phenomenal!
2. Crack Pie with Speculoos
No, I didn’t come up with the name “Crack Pie”. I’m not that clever. Created from the whimsical mind of Pastry Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku’s Milk Bar in NYC, this very sweet and slightly salty pie is highly addicting. I slightly adapted her original recipe to include one of Belgium’s greatest culinary secrets: Speculoos.
3. Taccozzette con Stracotto
Taccozzette con Stracotto, or Pasta with Braised Pork Shoulder Ragu, is my favorite dish at Mario Batali’s Otto in NYC. It’s basically pulled pork that has been cooked in a tomato based sauce. It’s amazing. The braised pork shoulder ragu is a one-pot wonder, and this dish is impressive enough to serve at dinner parties with friends or a fancy Sunday family dinner.
4. Pork Tinga Tacos
Tinga is a traditional Mexican dish that features braised shredded pork (alternatively, beef or chicken) that is simmered with onions, garlic, fire roasted tomatoes, and spices. I like to serve it up in a tortilla topped with sliced avocado, crumbled queso fresco, and a squeeze of lime. It is an absolutely delicious Winter taco!
5. Grilled Flatbread with Apples, Bacon, and Lee
Who knew grilling pizza dough was so easy? It creates a beautiful golden brown crust while keeping the inside fluffy and light. The flatbread then gets topped with a Mornay cheese sauce and sautéed apples, bacon, and leeks. This flatbread was my favorite dish to serve at get-togethers this past fall.
6. Blueberry-Thyme Soup with Vanilla-Honey Mascarpone
One of the most spectacular desserts Asheley and I tasted in Paris (and we had a lot of desserts) was from the hands of Chef Kevin O’Donnell at L’Office. He made an unforgettable blueberry dessert soup with mascarpone cheese and homemade shortbread-poppy cookies. When we came home from Paris in late July, recreating that soup was my #1 mission.
7. Home-Cooked Cowboy Beans (Frijoles Charros)
Asheley loves these slow-cooked pinto beans with onion, bacon, fire-roasted tomatoes, and pickled jalapeños. They are her all time favorite. In fact, whenever she orders beans at a restaurant, she always looks at me and says so sweetly “these are good, but I love those cowboy beans”! I can’t take any credit for the recipe though… it’s from Rick Bayless’ incredible book, Mexican Everyday.
8. Roasted Acorn Squash with Ricotta and Honey
I’m always looking for great side dishes, but for some reason never really got into squash. Man was I missing out. It’s so good! This simple preparation of roasting the squash concentrates its sweetness, and topped with creamy ricotta and a kiss of honey, this acorn squash is stunning and divine.
9. The Most Amazing Winter Caprese Salad
Another one of my favorite’s from Mario Batali’s restaurant Otto in NYC, this winter caprese salad is ridiculously good. Mario Batali shared the recipe in his cookbook, Molto Gusto. Tomatoes are slowly roasted in the oven and tossed in agrodolce, the Italian “sweet-sour” glaze, then topped with fresh mozzarella and a quick and easy homemade pesto. This is normally the starting course I serve during winter Italian dinner parties.
10. Super Easy No-Knead Bread
My friend Tyler has been on a bread-making kick this past year. He brought over a loaf of bread he baked to a party and I was floored by how good it was. He shared with me the No-Knead Bread recipe by NYC bread-baker Jim Lahey that he used. As I found out, making it is surprisingly simple and the results are super impressive.
11. Baja Fish Tacos
Flaky white fish. Cabbage Slaw. Mango Radish Salsa. Chipotle Crema. Need I say more? I haven’t made these in a long time, so I’m glad I came across the recipe while writing this post… I’m totally making these tacos next week!
12. Compost Cookies
From the same Pastry Chef that brought you Crack Pie, these Compost Cookies are a perfect salty-sweet creation. And in the true spirit of composting, you can use whatever salty or sweet mix-ins you have lying around the house, which ensures a new and unique cookie every time you bake up a batch. I like to use potato chips, pretzels, chocolate chips, and rice krispies in mine!
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