Dec 2011

The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Recipes of 2011

Thit Nuong - Vietnamese Grilled Pork

Thịt Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork

Made from an aromatic mix of shallots, garlic, lemongrass, honey, fish sauce, and sesame oil, the marinade mingled with the meat overnight to ensure that every bit of pork was permeated.  The next day, I fired up the grill, loaded up the “meat cage,” and cooked everything up in several batches. With four pounds of pork to plow through, The Astronomer and I were each treated to half a dozen bowls of bún (vermicelli rice noodles), as well as several loaves of bánh mì for the better part of a week. Thịt nướng is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread is an indulgent marriage of sticky buns and doughnut holes. Served hot out of the oven, it’s a gooey, golden, and unabashedly sweet affair. While it may be civilized to eat it with a fork and knife, I prefer to monkey around with my fingers, pulling each nub apart, slowly and deliberately. Monkey Bread is the ultimate brunch time centerpiece.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil

Published in New York Magazine in 2003, this recipe is originally from the kitchen of L’Impero, where Chef Scott Conant cooked before opening Scarpetta. Due to the straightforward nature of the ingredients and instructions, I was skeptical that it would be able to recreate the true majesty of the original dish. I remained a skeptic up until the moment when the sauce began to come together. As I crushed the fresh tomatoes, melding them with the scorching olive oil, the smells and flavors wafting in the air were wholly familiar. Once I added in the basil, butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and saw how tightly the chunky sauce clung to the strands of spaghetti, I knew for certain that the recipe had not led me astray.

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Cardamom Crumb Cake

Employing cake flour in both the crumb topping and cake resulted in a delicate body and a satisfying crumb. Rich buttery notes tied everything together, while the cardamom added a sexy touch like only it can.

Bò Bía – Vietnamese Jicama and Chinese Sausage Rolls with Hoisin Dipping Sauce

Bò Bía – Vietnamese Jicama, Carrot, Chinese Sausage, Egg, and Dried Shrimp Rolls

Whereas The Astronomer loves gỏi cuốn most, I’ve always been partial to these lesser-known rolls filled with jicama, carrots, thin egg ribbons, Chinese sausages, and dried shrimp. The dipping sauce is identical in both situations, but the flavor profiles are completely different. While gỏi cuốn is mostly subdued save for the bites with fresh mint and garlic chives, bò bía brings bold flavors and interesting textures from start to finish.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

The “Perfect” Chocolate Chip Cookie

After everything was sifted, creamed, mixed, portioned and baked, I was left with a dozen and a half really amazing cookies. As promised, the exterior was golden and crisp, while the interior was slightly gooey and stratified with chocolate. The flakes of salt atop each cookie kept the sweetness in check and added depth of flavor. It was the most perfect chocolate chip cookie I’d ever eaten.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Rather than drive to the mall for an easy pretzel fix, I headed to the supermarket for yeast and kosher salt. Homemade pretzels are far and away more laborious than forking over $3 to the lady behind the counter; however, I found the entire process fun, challenging, and quite delicious. The pretzels taste best fresh out of the oven, so go ahead and eat four in one sitting. It’s the right thing to do.

Chocolate Spice Donut Muffins

Chocolate Spice Donut Muffins

Imagine a magnificently moist muffin with a most delicate crumb. Then, paint it with a luxurious coat of rich melted butter. Lastly, roll it about in a bowl full of sugar. Now, take a bite. Pure heaven, right? Buttery lips, sugary fingertips, and all!

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

I pictured the anchovies’ tongue-twistingly salty funk mellowed by the zesty tomato sauce, the bold punches of garlic and red pepper flakes elevating the flavor profile, and of course, the fresh basil adding an herbaceous freshness. As vivid as my imagination is, tasting the Pasta alla Norma in all its finished glory was even better and brighter than I could’ve imagined. It’s an assertive tomato sauce with interest and intrigue.

Peppermint Sandwich Cookies with Candy Cane Bits

Peppermint Sandwich Cookies with Candy Cane Bits (or Homemade Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s)

The star of the cookie is the pretty pink filling, with its clean peppermint flavor and crunchy bits of candy cane. The thin chocolate sables clasping onto the cream are crisp, buttery, and a touch salty, rounding out the sweetness just right.

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5 thoughts on “The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Recipes of 2011

  1. The dude and I made a batch of thịt nướng on Boxing Day and we enjoyed grilled pork goodness this week. Thanks very much for the recipe… happy 2012! 🙂

  2. Here are The Astronomer’s Top 10 Recipes (Top 10 cooked by the Gastronomer, that is–for my own creations, check out Stellar Recipes, where the quantity of posts does not yet merit yearly recaps).

    Beggar’s Linguine — Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
    Chocolate Spice Donut Muffins — G-Ma’s Bakery
    Homemade Soft Pretzels — Cooking Light
    Goi Cuon — Sunday Night Dinner
    Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil — New York Magazine
    Lemon Ricotta Muffins — Cooking Light
    Rhubarb and Raspberry Crostada — Bon Appetit
    Thit Nuong — family recipe
    Cardamom Crumb Cake — America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
    Monkey Bread — Cooking Light

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