It becomes apparent when you're standing over the stove, cooking, which recipes are good, better and best. (And which are just plain bad, for that matter.)
There were forgettable recipes I had to try this year. But there were plenty more that I am glad to have in my repertoire.
Like Kim Schwenke's ricotta. Over Christmas weekend, I made the 312 Chicago pastry chef's ricotta again. It was snowy outside and cozy inside, a lasagna sort of Sunday. Damn, that was some good lasagna.
I had some leftover ricotta, which I promptly put in the fridge and then couldn't stop thinking about all Monday. So Monday's dinner was an apple and celery salad and the rest of that ricotta mixed with a bunch of chopped chives, dill and parsley and spread over toast, an Ina Garten recipe. Damn, that was a good little dinner.
Of course, some of our contributing writers had their picks, too. Only a fraction made it in today's issue. But so you know, here's some of what they had to say:
Louisa Chu, who wrote about Art Smith in February, calls his 12-Layer Cake a "showstopper and unbelievably rich . . . For a couple of Chinese-American girls who grew up with a mom who's a gifted cook but not a baker, this cake made up for a lifetime of no home-baked goods -- make that two lifetimes."
Judith Dunbar Hines, the city's culinary arts director and our Low Mileage Kitchen columnist, swooned over Province chef Randy Zweiban's Lavender Honey Glazed Chicken (pictured above), in Brian Clark's July story on local honey. "Any time I'm tired or depressed," Hines said, "all I want is an old-fashioned baked chicken and the use of honey . . . and the lavender in this one is NOT old-fashioned but it made me especially happy."
Jennifer Olvera tested a recipe for Potato Pancakes with Maple-Horseradish Sauce and Smoked Whitefish for a March story about the maple syrup season in Illinois, and was struck - in a good way - by the "weird flavor pairings." "Crisp (latkes), bright (apples), smoky (fish) -- texturally triumphant."
Leah Zeldes' vote also was for one of her own dishes, bourboned-up Smo-o-oth Sweet Potatoes she shared for her portable Thanksgiving story. Seanan Forbes loved the pierogi that ran with her April profile of Rockit chef James Gottwald's grandmother; a New Yorker, Forbes swears these are better than any she's had, "and I lived in the East Village, where pierogi reign." And Tavaner Bushman chose Panzanella from Chicagoan LaManda Joy, creator of the Peterson Garden Project -- "pretty spectacular -- and so simple, which makes it all better."
I would link to all of the stories and recipes I just mentioned, but in case you haven't noticed, we have a new website that has inexplicably tucked away (for the time being, I'm told) our recipe archives into some deep, dark corner of the interwebz. My apologies.
But maybe some of these recipes ring a bell; maybe you even clipped these, or others, over the past year. Hang on to them. Keep cooking. Happy New Year.