The 9 Dishes We NEED to Eat Before 2018 Ends

Last month, we did a where everyone in our little crew picked some food-related things that we’re really into and that could make for good presents for yourself or others (kitchen equipment, cookbooks, stuff for the table, that sort of thing). This email is kind of like that, except you can eat everything.

We (Kate, Daniel and I) each tasked ourselves with picking three recipes that (for one reason or another) we can’t get out of our heads and kind of need to eat before the year is over. We all took different approaches to this prompt: Kate’s are recipes that she simply loves to cook and eat, Daniel’s are rooted in family nostalgia, and mine are total mid-winter staples (including a pork rib and pasta dish that would be my Christmas dinner if I celebrated Christmas). The only requirement was that they all be delicious, which they are.

There’s a decent variety (and not everything is predictable), so hopefully there’s a dish or two that might make its way onto your table as we wind down the year. I’ll be back to say hello before 2018 is done, but in the meantime, happy holidays (to all who are celebrating something in the coming days) and have a wonderful week.

— Mark

Evan Sung for the New York Times

If you’re reading this, it’s probably sometime Friday morning or afternoon, in which case I am likely stuck in traffic and torrential rain on I-95 heading home to see my family in Boston. A few hours from now, I’ll be sitting down to an early dinner in a neighborhood Italian restaurant. We’ll all open the menu, my dad will see that it includes fried calamari in the “antipasti” section (I already checked), and will ask us all, “how about some calamari for the table?” This has never not happened. Ever. Death, taxes, and my dad suggesting “calamari for the table” are the only certainties (though it’s nearly a sure thing that he’ll also finish the full contents of his plate, then tell the server that he didn’t like it; killer dad joke!). I love everything about this (him, fried squid, the boundary-pushing humor, its place in our family lore, and the comforting consistency of it all). The version here (Mark’s, of course) is crisp, super light (it’s coated only in flour, not batter), and definitely good enough “for the table.” (Also, if you celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, either because you’re part of an Italian-American family or, like me, you convinced your Jewish family to start celebrating it because it’s amazing and you’re jealous, this calamari is a welcome addition.)


Bolognese is not technically holiday food in my family, yet for me and my sister it’s basically a religion. Put us in a room together for more than a few minutes (especially a drafty one in Boston in December) and there’s a pretty good chance that sooner or later we’ll find ourselves leaning over the stove fogging up our faces with that blessed saucy steam and dipping hunks of bread into the mirepoix-scented fat (or as we call it in our fake Italian, “brodo di lardo”) that renders out of the meat as it browns. Like I said, kind of a sacred ritual for us. The recipe here (from How to Cook Everything Fast) is not entirely “traditional” (it doesn't simmer slowly for hours, and includes a cheater’s glug of heavy cream instead of milk), but it’s the kind that we love, and that chances are (hint hint, Elisha) we’ll be making before the year is up.


My wife’s grandma Kathy was probably one of the most badass people I’ve ever met (courageous, whip smart, and a wonderful cook—and that’s just the beginning). Christmas at her house always meant a few things: her Hungarian Szekely Goulash (simmered pork shoulder, smoked sausage, and sauerkraut over buttered egg noodles with sour cream) on Christmas Eve, her perfectly-calibrated combination of matriarchal doting and ball-busting, and her “Grandma French Toast” (aka “Overnight French Toast”) on Christmas morning. It’s thick slices of challah or brioche packed into a baking dish, soaked overnight in custard, sprinkled with sugar and baked until the top gets all crusty and caramelized. This is the smell you want to wake up to in winter. A few years ago I had her email me the recipe and convinced Mark to adapt it for How to Bake Everything. (The only things "adapted" were the instructions, which in many original "grandma recipes" tend to be a verbose and highly specific set of index-card-scribbled-directions like "1. Combine ingredients in a dish. 2. Bake in a hot oven until done.")


Celery root rémoulade is more of a seasonal thing: Especially since I came to live at Glynwood, where there’s a winter vegetable share (CSA), I eat root vegetables pretty much daily. Eating them raw (as in a shaved beet salad, or a grated turnip garnish) is a refreshing change, but celery root rémoulade—with freshly made mayonnaise—is kind of a pinnacle, one of the best seasonal salads you can possibly eat in mid-winter.


Pasta with Ribs is as much of a special occasion dish (for me) as there is. It comes from a time in my life when my friend Andrea and I first got to know each other—the mid 80s—and did a lot of cooking. What came out of that, what I learned from cooking real Roman cuisine several nights a week (with an actual Roman), was a newfound respect for the glories of pork fat, which in this dish dissolves in the tomato sauce and makes it glisten; it's really as luxurious a tomato sauce that exists, and eating the soft meat off the bones while chowing down on a bowl of sauced pasta…nothing better. Like I said, if I did Christmas, this would be my dish.


Chicken Adobo was once described to me as “the best chicken dish ever,” and though it’s equally good at any time of year, its depth of color and flavor makes it especially fine in winter. I have nothing more to say about it except that if you’re not already a fan, you will be after this.


Photo: Romulo Yanes

I like brunch just as much as the next person, but generally, I like it at home—ours or friends’—the best. And I love bagels, but sometimes I like making things, too. I made this egg dish years ago and loved it, and months back, I remembered it and made it again, for some friends (friends who really like and are good at food). It was a hit. It’s tasty, impressive looking, and simple—you just need to take a little time to cook the onions. A brunch staple.


Photo: Yunhee Kim for the New York Times

Generally, I am allergic to recipes with too many ingredients or that take up copious amounts of time. I’m happy to tackle a project on the weekend, but on weeknights, I basically want to use five ingredients and be in the kitchen for an hour, tops. This recipe intimidated me at first—frying the tortilla strips, making the stock, shredding the chicken—but what it takes up in time it makes up for in ease. And the payoff is beyond worth it. The soup is so rich in flavor (even so: don’t skimp on the toppings, which add to the fun) and just a total showstopper. I guarantee you’ll make it more than once.


Photo: Romulo Yanes

To me, this recipe perfectly encapsulates what makes Mark Bittman so good at what he does. At first glance, this chicken may not seem super exciting—a good weeknight option, yes. But the simple additions of cornmeal (for crunch and heft) and soy sauce (my heaven) paired with the lime bring it to the next level. (To be clear: it IS an excellent weeknight option. But a really delicious one.)


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.