Chef John's 12 Best Recipes of 2019
Chef John's Queso Dip
"I used to make something very similar to this 'chili con queso' dip at the Mexican restaurant I worked at in college," says Chef John. "The saucy texture is the key to its addictive irresistibility. Instead of too much cheese piled up on your chip, you get a beautiful, silky coating, and as soon as you finish one, you can't wait to dip another, and another, and another, until there are no chips left."
"Agrodolce, a generic Italian term for any type of sweet and sour condiment, really shines when used for braising chunks of succulent pork shoulder," says Chef John. "I'm not sure if Italians barbecue like we do here in the States, but the sauce very much reminded me of something we'd brush on a rack of ribs while sipping a cold beer. This soul-warming comfort food is amazing served on rice, pasta, polenta, or, as seen here, a big pile of ricotta mashed potatoes."
Creamy Cashew Chicken Curry
"Mooove over, real cream -- this curry is made rich and creamy with (cow-free) cashew cream, which is remarkably similar to heavy cream in appearance, taste, and in-sauce behavior," says Chef John. "In fact, cashew cream actually thickens up faster. You won't need anything too exotic, besides maybe garam masala, to make this straightforward recipe. Garnish with whole cashews, lime wedges, and cilantro. Serve with rice, garlic naan, or both!"
Laotian Grilled Chicken (Ping Gai)
"This particular ping gai (Laotian for 'grilled chicken') recipe seems to have originated from the Queen Mother Cafe in Toronto, so some North-Americanization may have occurred," says Chef John. "But rest assured, this is at least twice as good as your average grilled chicken, North American or otherwise. Generous amounts of freshly ground pepper and chopped cilantro are the main players in the marinade, while a sweet, garlicky dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment."
Mississippi Beef Short Ribs
"Recently the internet went wild for a delicious Mississippi pot roast wherein beef is braised in a slow cooker with butter, pepperoncini, and packets of powdered au jus gravy and ranch dressing," says Chef John. "Guessing that the MSG from the latter two ingredients explained all the rage, I decided to mimic the flavors using from-scratch seasonings and boneless short ribs. It came out really well, especially when served over mashed potatoes with a garnish of parsley."
Pineapple Pulled Pork Al Pastor
"There's nothing like a juicy pulled pork sandwich, especially one inspired by a famous taco," says Chef John. "Maybe it's the brine, or that I'm just easily satisfied, but it's been my experience that if you simply season aggressively and cook the meat over smoky coals up to a certain temp, you'll be rewarded with tender, moist, and very flavorful meat. Slather it with the grilled pineapple salsa for the full 'al pastor' experience."
Southern-Style Baked Banana Pudding
"If you like banana cream pie, you'll absolutely love baked banana pudding," says Chef John. "Not only is there no pie crust to mess with, but I think the vanilla wafer cookies pair even more perfectly with the fruit and custardy pudding. We want the bananas to match the texture of the custard-soaked cookies, so make sure you buy them a week beforehand. Other than that, not much can go wrong with this simple Southern classic."
"Though the name of this recipe is ordinary, the flavor is anything but, thanks to its use of rendered sausage fat, which makes everything it touches taste meatier, including the chicken breasts and mushroom pan sauce," says Chef John. "Introduce this ultra-forgiving technique to any friend who's intimidated by cooking to prove just how easy it is to pull off a gorgeous dinner."
Baked Philly Cheesesteak Sliders
"A proper Philly cheesesteak is hard to make at home, as you need a professional meat slicer and a very hot flat top grill. But with this baked slider method, your average home cook can achieve something very close to the original," says Chef John. "Plus, the small rolls make me feel like a big man. Speaking of feeling like a giant, football season is upon us, and I can't think of a better sandwich to make for your buddies coming over to watch the game! Garnish with chives."
Chef John's American Goulash
"One of my all-time favorite comfort food meals growing up was the beef goulash they served in my school cafeteria alongside a slice of buttered white bread and a carton of milk," says Chef John. "Little did I know that it wasn't really goulash, but an Americanized version, invented to stretch a small amount of beef into enough food for a not-so-small family. This is one of those very simple dishes that does not taste simple--perfect for your weeknight dinner rotation."
Bacon-Wrapped Spring Chicken
"Stuffing a boneless, skinless chicken breast with something delicious and then wrapping it in bacon is never a bad thing," says Chef John. "It turns a super boring, please-wake-me-up-when-it's-over piece of poultry into an exciting entree that's sure to impress. The key to this technique is keeping the knife still while creating a nice big pocket in the chicken. It is, truly, a method for all seasons."
Easy Red Chicken Enchiladas
"Starting with a homemade red sauce, these Tex-Mex enchiladas are faster and easier to make than their Mexican forefathers, but still so delicious," says Chef John. "This recipe makes 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough for 4 to 6 individual skillet enchiladas or 1 regular baking dish. Garnish with sour cream and guacamole."