Throwback to November 2017, when the Food52 Cookbook Club was tackling J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s epic first cookbook, The Food Lab. We absolutely loved this book, so much so that we perpetually have it on reserve at the library on both our library cards and whenever it’s our turn to have it checked out, we welcome it home with a little hug.
Several recipes from The Food Lab were highlights on our Thanksgiving table (including the broccoli cauliflower casserole, the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce and I’m sure there were more) but we’ve also made several others (eg pasta alla Norma, eggs florentine, biscuits and gravy) and the list just keeps growing.
The recipes in his book vary between simple and complex and we love the science sections where he explains a different ingredient or technique in depth. Here I’m going to tell you about 3 of our favorite simple recipes…
The Fry Sauce: My gosh is it good. And dead simple. Seriously, you chuck stuff in a bowl and stir it together. The first time we made it we used the dill pickle juice, but decided we wanted the texture relish offers so ever since we replace it 1:1. On burger night we usually buy frozen chips that we cook in the oven, and it has now become our standard condiment that we serve with them.
Similarly, the garlic croutons: Kenji says to use a good quality bread loaf, but one night I needed a salad and all I had was lettuce, store bought dressings and cheeses in the fridge so I thought if I had croutons we could make a caesar style salad. The only bread I had left was frozen wholemeal bread ends that I normally use for breadcrumbs (or often end up as my breakfast or lunch, cos you know, I’m a mom and that’s how I roll) so I cut them up and tossed them through a mixture of oil and garlic and a few other seasonings and baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes and voila! They were so addictive I kept coming back hours after dinner had finished and ate every last one. So good!
Lastly, his maple sage breakfast sausage. This recipe has changed my world. No seriously. Australia knows nothing of American style breakfast sausage and they are the poorer for it. And I have for ages been lamenting not having Jimmy Deans here. We have this delicious breakfast casserole recipe that I usually make at Christmas and special occasions and I’ve explored a few alternatives in the past but never been too convinced until I tried using this. And if you just buy pork mince like I did and omit the bacon, it is seriously no more than mixing the ingredients by hand in a bowl and leaving it in the fridge to marinate before frying it off in a pan. Dead set it is the bomb. We’ve used this in his biscuits and sausage gravy recipe and once when we had leftover mince we turned it into sausage and biscuit breakfast sandwiches (again something we don’t get here in Australia) and I feel instantly transported to America when I’m feeling a bit homesick even after almost 19 years.
There you have it, three reasons to get your hands on The Food Lab, or at the very least, follow J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab column on Serious Eats.