This year started off the same way last year ended, but eventually, there was a return to some of the joys of pre-pandemic life (though admittedly, some of that seems to be fading away once again). For the Serious Eats team, that meant a fully masked and vaccinated return to the test and studio kitchens, developing and shooting a host of new recipes that would soon become our (and your) favorites. It's important, however, to give credit to our many contributors who are still making the magic happen from their home kitchens. Their tireless work and endless creativity helped diversify our library even more.
At the end of each year, our staff takes a moment to share their most loved recipes that we've published, and it often presents itself as a challenge—how can we possibly pick just one? (Spoiler alert: we usually can't). With a multitude of new dishes to choose from—including many, many Thai, Filipino, and Armenian ones—we put ourselves up to the task. Below you'll find the new recipes we turned to again and again…and again this year.
Derek Lucci's recipe for yam khai dao (Thai fried egg salad) quickly became a staff favorite last year; we were all cooking it nonstop at home. More recently, he published another yam-style salad recipe as part of his and Pailin Chongchitnant's package on Thai salads, including this one packed full of plump shrimp, ground pork, and herbs, all tossed in a bright and bracing lime juice–and–fish sauce dressing. My love of seafood salads is well documented, and this one, oh wow, this one…it may take the crown. —Daniel Gritzer, culinary director
I knew I was going to love Derek Lucci's tam khao pod kai kem (Thai corn salad with salted duck egg) before I even tried it. It has everything that I love: in-season corn; a super punchy, savory dressing; a tiny bit of heat; and a variety of textures. Who in their right mind doesn’t like those things? This recipe is so well-balanced and presents a lot of ingredients that I already loved in a way that was really refreshing to me. I made it for my family alongside a few of Derek’s other recipes (shoutout to gaeng khua prik si krong moo), and it was by far the first bowl that was emptied. —Jina Stanfill, social media editor
Sasha’s pasta alla zozzona was put on instant repeat in my house after it was developed for Starch Madness this year. From my perspective, anytime there's an excuse to eat both sausage and guanciale in one dish is an easy sell. But what really gets me in this cousin of carbonara is the addition of acid from the tomato passata—egg yolks make this sauce silky but the brightness of the tomato really lightens up the pork, egg, and cheese combo. And my husband has no idea what it’s called but asks for “the fancy carbonara” again and again. Fine with me! —Elspeth Velten, general manager
I remember seeing Sunny Lee’s Basque cheesecake come across my IG feed around that time Basque cheesecakes were everywhere on everyone’s IG feeds. But it was so much more striking and beautiful than any other one I’d seen that it kept me up that night; I ended up making it that weekend and so enjoyed the deeeeeeply burnt caramel energy of it all that I suggested it as an activity for my next no-new-friends-marathon-Zoom-session. Six Serious Eats Basque cheesecakes came together across the country over the course of one Sunday, crushed by the time we reconvened that Wednesday. Magic! I could weep! —Tess Koman, senior editorial director
I won't lie: I haven't cooked that much this year. Well, I have cooked most nights, but I haven't made many new recipes—relying, instead, on whatever I can conjure up for dinner using my imagination and whatever's in the fridge. There are many reasons for this, including the pandemic and limited grocery store trips, a move, and getting a puppy who soaks up 99% of my post-work free time. However, I have made this pasta e ceci a bunch. It relies on ingredients I (almost) always already have in my pantry and fridge, and is an incredibly delicious low-effort, high-reward recipe. It also takes just 30 minutes to pull together, which is ideal for a weeknight. —Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, commerce editor
I, like Riddley, have also failed to cook many new recipes this year. I admittedly didn't even cook my favorite new recipe from this year, Sunny Lee's Korean corn cheese, but I tried it in the test kitchen and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. The combination of sweet and savory flavors—not to mention that irresistibly gooey mozzarella cheese—will make you want to eat the whole skillet. It's the perfect vehicle for fresh, in-season corn, but I love that Sunny adapted the recipe to work with the unsung heroes of produce: frozen and canned corn. —Yasmine Maggio, assistant editor
I was in the fortunate position of getting to cross-test a number of the recipes published this year, and one of my absolute favorites was Sunny Lee's gamja-tang, a Korean stew made with pork ribs, potatoes, cabbage, and daikon radish. It's a fabulous mix of some of my very favorite ingredients, and because Sunny calls for adding the vegetables in stages instead of all at once (a technique we employ across a variety of recipes here at Serious Eats), everything is perfectly cooked, and the texture is impeccable. Making gamja-tang was also a great excuse to add a new ingredient to my pantry, perilla seeds, which add a distinctive and enticing flavor and aroma. Gamja-tang is hearty, laden with vegetables, and also only uses one pot. What's not to love? —Jacob Dean, updates editor
One Favorite Recipe? Impossible!
I've been saying for months that the best recipe we published this year, and the best thing I've eaten in years, is Derek Lucci's gaeng khua prik si krong moo. Spicy, salty, and meaty, it's one of those dishes that seems to continuously get better as you eat it, the ample slick of unemulsified fat on top of the curry tempering the spicy punch-to-the-mouth of chile heat and black pepper. I strongly recommend making the curry paste yourself using a mortar and pestle for the full effect, but I've made it using the red curry paste substitution Derek recommends (at my father's suggestion), and what little it loses in depth and complexity of flavor it gains in convenience. (I've also found both the finished curry and the Southern Thai curry paste to be excellent for use in quick noodle soups for lunch).
However, there are a few other recipes that I'd also like to highlight, since I now make them regularly and can't imagine my life without them. Sunny Lee's baechu kimchi recipe is the first that's ever really worked for me; similarly, Tim Chin's fermented hot sauce primer has made up for years of fermented pepper mash failures (the blueberry-habanero one is a favorite in my house). Tim's batter-fried chicken is also a regular in my dinner rotation, as is Nik Sharma's aloo paratha recipe—I've been making aloo paratha for years, but the subtle spicing of Nik's aloo filling was a revelation to me, as I'd previously been firmly in the “more is more” camp of loading up the filling with spices, specifically amchur.
Finally, I want to point out the understated perfection of Sasha's orecchiette con salsiccia e cime di rapa recipe, which I make once a week. It's quick, easy, delicious, and it's the only way my daughter will happily eat a bowlful of broccoli rabe. —Sho Spaeth, editor
I recently had the pleasure of cross-testing all four of Andrew Janjigian’s excellent outdoor tabletop oven pizza recipes, and couldn’t get enough of his “Armenian” pie that combines Armenian flavors and classic Italian pizza features, with a lahmajun-inspired lamb sausage and nigella-laced Armenian string cheese in place of fior di latte. It’s fantastic. Derek Lucci put together a phenomenal package of Thai salad recipes, and the salty-sour-sweet combination of the tam khao pod kai kem (corn salad with salted duck egg) is outrageously delicious. One of my other favorite recipes from this year was Sunny Lee’s gaji-namul (marinated eggplant banchan), that I made many, many times this summer. I love the creamy texture that the roasted eggplant takes on when mixed with the savory-sweet doenjang and sesame dressing. It’s a super simple side dish that can be made in advance and served at room temperature, perfect for lazy dinners or WFH lunches. —Sasha Marx, senior culinary editor