No joke: About four years go, the cover recipe for this book actually changed the way I cook. I had just graduated college and had one of those 12-hour-workweek English teaching assistant jobs in France.
The gig had lots of perks (my school was a former medieval prison, lunch breaks were always two hours long), which didn’t include financial compensation. I mostly ate on the cheap and scoured the Internet for new ways to dress up familiar ingredients.
Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter crossed my radar one day thanks to Food52, and having nearly all of the ingredients except canned tomatoes in my pantry, I whipped it up that night. I quickly committed the recipe to memory and have stocked canned tomatoes ever since. This sauce has everything from the simplest of crowd pleasers to the most comforting of solo dinners. It’s no surprise to me then that it’s a significant inspiration for what has now become Food52’s latest book, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.
Kristen Miglore, Brooklynite and Food52 executive editor, assembled these revolutionizing recipes from a range of cookbooks, friends, mentors and institutions including Williamsburg’s own Saltie (see below for their Ship’s Biscuit recipe). We recently caught up with her to learn more about what makes a recipe “genius,” where she likes to shop for ingredients and what ubiquitous kitchen ingredient we should be adding to our Greek yogurt.
Edible Brooklyn: What makes a recipe “genius” in your book? Which recipe was your initial inspiration for the Food52 column?
Kristen Miglore: I actually just wrote an article all about this! But the simplest answer is that a recipe is genius if it has the capacity to change the way you cook. I can’t take credit for the initial idea of the column — it grew out of conversations with Food52’s cofounders Amanda and Merrill, which mostly revolved around Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter (the recipe on the cover of the book).
EB: Did any of these recipes personally change the way that you cook? If so, which ones?
KM: So many! I’ll never make guacamole (or roast chicken or oatmeal) another way. And there are plenty that I don’t always follow, but riff on: Greek yogurt is better with salt on it, whether you’re also putting toasted quinoa and dates on it like Sitka and Spruce or not. Now, when I’m making chicken stock, I add any vegetables and herbs toward the end so they taste fresher, like Tom Colicchio. I make the eggs from Saltie and add herbs or chile flakes, depending on my mood.
EB: How did you discover these recipes? Solely cookbooks? Eating out? Friends? Mentors?
KM: All of the above. Most came from tips from the Food52 community at large, and there are so many I never would have thought to try had I not had a smart cook e-mailing me to say, “You must try this soup made with cauliflower and an onion and a lot of water.”
EB: How long have you been an avid home cook? Is it something you did while growing up?
KM: My parents are big cooks, and at some point I decided that being called a good cook was one of the greatest compliments you could get. I set out to become one, and failed many, many times in the process.
EB: Where are your favorite places to shop for ingredients in New York (especially for the focaccia that this recipe requires)?
KM: I love the focaccia at Baba Cool Café in Fort Greene. I’m not sure where they source it, but Sullivan Street Bakery, Grandaisy, or Eataly would be good retail options. We also have Saltie’s recipe for focaccia on Food52, which is fantastic and very hard to mess up.
Other than focaccia, I can usually get everything I need within a few blocks of home at my local Saturday greenmarket, well-stocked bodega and fancy provisions store. If I need something special, Kalustyan’s will almost definitely have it (plus, you can get excellent Indian food upstairs at the lunch counter).
EB: If you were to recommend a gateway recipe to the book, which one and why?
KM: Hazan’s tomato sauce — which we affectionately call Marcella Sauce — is a great one, because it’s a classic and its simplicity is so unexpected (you don’t even have to chop the onion). Once you make it, you won’t buy jarred sauce again.
EB: Which recipe surprised you the most?
KM: At the top of the list of recipes I had no confidence in at first is Rao’s Meatballs — because it calls for 2 cups of water (for 2 pounds of ground meat). There’s something very liberating about testing a recipe like that. You’re giving up control and suspending judgment, and then you stand back and see the bread crumbs absorb all the water and you have a lovely, light, delicately-bound-together meatball, which happens to go perfectly with Marcella Sauce.
Ship’s Biscuit, from Saltie in Williamsburg
You might not think there’d be ways to improve upon the egg sandwich — fry an egg, melt some cheese on toast, maybe get a little bacon involved. Crushed together with the yolk as condiment, this is breakfast, sure, but it’s also lunch, dinner or a midnight snack. And for many of us, this happens a lot, so a new egg sandwich is a boon. This one, from Brooklyn sandwich shop Saltie, takes a novel egg-cooking technique — a hybrid of fried and scrambled — and adds very little.
The soft scrambled eggs are really clotted whites, suspended in a barely thickened yolk — something like if you were to slash an over-easy egg to bits. They’re served on a piece of split focaccia with ricotta, which acts as both a subtle variation in curdy texture and insulation for the bottom layer of bread. Eating it is a messy operation — but it doesn’t last long.
Makes 1 sandwich
1 sandwich-size piece of focaccia
About 2 tablespoons fresh ricotta
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 large eggs
- Cut the focaccia in half horizontally and put the bottom half on a plate, cut-side up. Spread the ricotta in an even and generous layer on the cut side. Set aside.
- To soft scramble the eggs, melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Break the eggs into the pan when it is warm but not yet hot. Sprinkle the eggs lightly with salt.
- Let the pan heat up, and don’t move the eggs until the whites begin to set. Using a rubber spatula, move the whites around the pan to help cook through, while keeping the yolk unbroken. When the whites fluff up and are almost completely set, remove from the heat and fold the yolks into the white. The residual heat should cook the whites through and leave the yolks soft. This is kind of like scrambling an over-easy egg.To emphasize: Be careful not to overcook the eggs. Err on the side of runny rather than dry.
- Spoon the eggs on top of the ricotta. Replace the top of the bread and serve right away.