Our Favorite Recipes of 2018
José Santaella's Chicken Fricassee with Potatoes and Carrots
After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican chef, not only rushed to help his surrounding community, he made sure his San Juan restaurant was one of the first to reopen. People needed a place to eat, and his 40-plus employees needed the financial and familial support amidst the wreckage.
And that's what lies at the heart of Santaella's success: in both food and ambience, it provides the kind of comfort he found in his grandmother's kitchen. The chef's fricase de pollo is a delicious representation of that ethos with slow-simmered chicken cooked down with potatoes and green olives. Even better, the sofrito (an aromatic tomato-garlic paste) that lies at the heart of this dish can be applied to any number of soups, sauces, and meats (try on shrimp and pork chops). So, don’t be afraid to make a double batch and freeze the leftovers.
Spanish Tortilla with Serrano Ham and Anchovy Salad
Lobster and wild mushroom galettes, Greek spanakopita with swiss chard, even a shrimp and grits version of shepherd’s pie. In 2018, we sought to show that round was the new square meal. But nothing wowed our test kitchen quite like this crispy tortilla espanola layered with salty Serrano ham and paprika. A quintessential entry in Spain’s culinary canon, we upped the ante with a crowning thicket of anchovies, Marcona almonds, shaved Manchego, and sherry vinegar-soaked greens.
Scallop Pasta with Catalan Romesco Sauce
To complement our feature on Rappahannock Oyster Company's valiant effort to resurrect the bay scallop industry in the Chesapeake area (which was all but wiped out in 1933), we included several scallop recipes to showcase the bivalves incredible versatility. The Rappahannock crew suggests eating their product raw, like an oyster, but most come pre-shucked from New England. Can’t find whole bay scallops in the shell? No problem. Try this simple pasta twirled with Manchego cheese and smoky romesco, a nut-and-pepper-based sauce originating from Spain’s Catalonia region. It’s our little nod to D.C. chef José Andrés, who’s been one of the biggest advocates for Chesapeake bay scallops.
Mini Tacos with Fried Oysters and Pimiento Cheese
Every October, Florida and Georgia fans converge on St. John's River, outside of Jacksonville, Florida's TIAA Bank Field to celebrate one of college football's greatest rivalries. But even more important than the final score is the boatgating menu for each side.
Cookbook author and Georgia super fan, Rebecca Lang, refuses to be outdone by anyone wearing Gator orange and blue. This year, she created a DIY taco spread with cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, spicy chipotle pimiento cheese, and a cooling fennel slaw with plenty of lime and cilantro.
Octopus with Potatoes and Chorizo
For the kickoff of our “New Coastal Classics” column, test kitchen chef Robby Melvin created a modern riff on that most Spanish of combinations: octopus and chorizo. His key to tender, colorful octopus tentacles (because no one likes rubbery cephalopod) is repeatedly blanching them, and then simmering in a white wine-water solution. Afterward, he raised the smoke quotient by charring on a grill, and serving the octopus with dry-cured Spanish chorizo and seared fingerling potatoes flecked with Espelette pepper and smoked paprika.
At his newest Maui restaurant, in Wai-Lea, chef Sheldon Simeon is looking to expose a different side of Hawaiian cuisine. As much as he loves plate lunches and poke (see his other restaurant, in Ka-hului), the chef has a deep repertoire that delves into his Filipino background, as well as his travels around the globe.
For example, his play on Lowcountry hoppin' John, inspired by Simeon's time in Charleston during the filming of Top Chef. The chef connects the dots between the two cultures by combining Hawaii's love of black-eyed peas and rice, along with "nasty bits" like braised oxtail.
- Recipe: Hoppin' Juan
Cajun Burger with Collard Greens and Fried Oysters
It seems the smash burger was the de rigueur patty preference of 2018. But for anyone looking for an alternative to the Shake Shack formula, we offered eight adventurous takes on the American classic.
One standout (among many) was our juicy Cajun burger. A riff on excellent collard green melt in New Orleans, we sandwiched together a beef-andouille burger with fried oysters, quick-cooked collards, and a swipe of chow-chow. Yeah, it's a mouthful, but far more enticing than your standard LTO with yellow mustard.
Moving from Boston to Birmingham, AL (where Searching is based), one of the most pleasant discoveries was seeing the prevalent Greek influence on the area’s cuisine. At meat-and-threes like in Homewood, you can order keftedes and baked Greek chicken alongside more Southern-leaning offerings like meatloaf and fried catfish. Another Greek institution, Nabeel's Café, is famous for its taramasalata dip served with fresh pita. Our homage to this staple of Greek and Birmingham meze stays true to the original by blending soaked bread, olive oil, lemon juice, and red caviar (typically tarama, or carp roe). It’s creamy, tangy, salty, and utterly irresistible.
- Recipe: Taramasalata
Viet-Cajun Crawfish Boil
Houston, Texas is not only one of the biggest cities in the U.S. (encroaching on Chicago for third place), it's also one of its most diverse. After the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the mass exodus from Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, the Bayou City became home to the second largest Vietnamese population in the U.S. And that influx of Southeast Asian influence has led to some of the tastiest innovations in Gulf Coast gastronomy.
Take for instance, the Viet-Cajun crawfish boil, perfected by restaurants like Like the latter, which combines elements of Vietnamese and Cajun cuisine, our recipe calls for mudbugs, corn, and potatoes to be simmered in an aromatic boil (with lemongrass, fish sauce, and Old Bay), then generously doused in garlic-butter sauce. For the full Houstonian experience though, increase the amount of cayenne and hot sauce into fiery levels of heat. It’s not a true Viet-Cajun boil until your face is as humid as the Houston weather.
- Recipe: Viet-Cajun Crawfish Boil
Matt Gaudet's Superfine Fish Burger
Former Food & Wine Best New Chef, Matt Gaudet, shocked the foodie elite when he shuttered his award-winning Cambridge, MA, restaurant, West Bridge, in 2015. Even more shocking was his next career step: a fast-casual spot in tiny Manchester-by-the-Sea that specialized in pizza, ribs, and one unique (dare we say healthy-ish?) fish burger. Gaudet binds fresh salmon and tuna with edamame and carrot, sears it on a grill, and slathers it with yuzu mayo.