This is part two of an end-of-year roundup series for the dumpster fire known as 2020. To read part one, check it out here.
Happy New Year! In the spirit of acknowledging that we’re in a new year, our next post in the roundup is all about the new-to-me recipes and food items that I tried out in 2020 and have incorporated into my regular rotation. And if you know me, you know that having anything become part of a regular rotation is a big deal. Why? Because I’m picky.
New Recipe Picks
- Instant Pot Short Ribs from Just One Cookbook
I am legit obsessed with this recipe. It was the first new thing I tried making when lockdown first started and since then, I’ve made it a whole bunch of times. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, a pressure cooker works too I believe. (But honestly, I would go out and get an Instant Pot just for this. It’s THAT good.)
HOT TIP #1: If you love daikon radish like I do, you can add a bit more than what the recipe calls for. Just don’t go overboard, or else it’ll dilute the flavor too much.
HOT TIP #2: Make sure the daikon you buy doesn’t have any green to it. Otherwise you’ll end up with bits that are annoyingly rough, stringy, and indigestible.
HOT TIP #3: I don’t typically like stewed carrots, but I’ve found that leaving them out definitely messes up the flavor balance. Don’t skimp on it.
- Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken from Samin Nosrat, author of Salt Fat Acid Heat
When I first saw that this recipe only called for three ingredients (buttermilk, salt, and chicken), I thought it had to be a trick. Then I made it for Thanksgiving, and despite substituting plain yogurt for the buttermilk (because the store didn’t have it) and forgetting to take the chicken out an hour before I was supposed to start cooking it, it was still deliciously juicy and I officially became a convert. I made it again for Christmas, this time using actual buttermilk and following directions to a T, and it was even better than the first. I’m never going back to a store-bought roast chicken after this because the juiciness (even on an organic chicken!) was insane.
HOT TIP #1: If you sub in plain yogurt, make sure to get the regular kind and not the Greek kind. It’ll still work, but you will have to do a lot more manual work to make sure it evenly covers all of the chicken. Let’s just say when I made it the first time with Greek yogurt, my fiancé had to get nice and intimate with the chicken… 🙈
HOT TIP #2: If you don’t have butcher’s twine to tie up the legs, roll up some aluminum foil and use that instead.
- Avocado Toast with Furikake and Sesame Oil, inspired by Just One Cookbook
My foodie friends all know how much I admire and love Nami’s recipes from Just One Cookbook. Her post on Japanese twists to regular avocado toast inspired me to make a version with furikake and sesame oil, which was a total slam dunk. I haven’t tried her other suggestions, but they all look and sound amazing.
HOT TIP: I typically get the kind of furikake that just has nori (dried seaweed) and roasted sesame seeds, but there are a lot of different types out there. You can find them in most Asian grocery stores and online.
- Cheese Toast with Mixed Seasoning from Yours Truly
This is more like a snack hack, but I’ve eaten it for breakfast when I just really wanted to use up leftover cheese I happened to have in the fridge. I put some grated mozzarella on bread, toasted it in my toaster oven until the cheese started bubbling and turning golden brown, then sprinkled on some dried thyme and shichimi togarashi for a kick. The result was a delicious, subtly herb-y toast that made me feel like I was eating a fancy grilled cheese.
New Takeout Picks
Right before shelter-in-place happened last March, I bought a loaf of bread from Backhaus on a whim. It was wonderfully fresh with a soft, springy texture and a slight sourdough taste that got more pronounced the longer you left it out. That was the good bit. The unfortunate bit was that it basically ruined all other bread for me and thanks to their Country Pan Loaf, I’ve become a bread snob. It’s become a weekly staple now and I often can’t resist ordering a few pastries to go along with the bread.
TRY THESE: Country Pan Loaf, Chocolate Loaf, Raspberry Pistachio Croissant, Almond Croissant, Seasonal Flavor Scones
- Palette Tea Garden
When we first saw signs for a “modern Chinese” restaurant that was coming soon to the nearby mall, I was inclined to be skeptical. I’m not a fan of most Asian fusion foods and too often, that’s what modern Chinese ends up being. When I eventually tried their dim sum though, I had to admit it was pretty legit and it’s since become one of our go-to’s when we’re craving dim sum. I haven’t tried much of their other offerings, but I imagine they’re just as delicious.
TRY THESE: Classic Ha Gao (shrimp dumplings), Seared Radish Cake and XO Sauce, Garlic Pea Tendrils, Lotus Leaf Abalone Sticky Rice
- San Ho Won
I got really excited when I found out that the team behind Benu, a 3-star Michelin restaurant in San Francisco, was starting a new Korean restaurant concept called San Ho Won. COVID forced them to delay their official opening, but as a preview, they started offering set menus of reimagined Korean classics for takeout. While the price is still high enough that it’s unlikely you’d get this on the regular, the amount of food and the wonderful balance of flavors in each set is totally worth the occasional splurge. Think of it as getting Michelin-quality food at a discounted price. When I asked my fiancé what food he ate in 2020 was worth mentioning, San Ho Won was his pick.
HOT TIP: San Ho Won releases their weekly menu on Sundays and you can order online here.
- Rise Woodfire
There’s a new pizza place in town (in downtown San Mateo) and it certainly “rises” to the occasion. (Sorry, I had to.) This placed opened up a few months ago right by the San Mateo Caltrain Station and has quickly become a household favorite. As a native New Yorker, my fiancé is extremely picky about his pizza and he approved of this place, so you know it’s at least halfway decent. Other items on their menu such as their sandwiches and sides have also not disappointed.
TRY THESE: Margherita Pizza, Brussels Sprouts and Smoked Pancetta Pizza (just trust me on this), Super Food Bowl, Fabulous French Dip Sandwich, Mac and Cheese (and take it from someone who doesn’t normally like mac and cheese)
New Drinks & Snack Options
- Coffee Tea “Plover” from The Boba Book
If I’m being honest, I have mixed feelings about highlighting this book. On the one hand, it’s quite an achievement in and of itself, as it’s the first book of its kind and does a decent job at detailing the history behind boba culture and where it comes from. On the other, it’s by Boba Guys, which is an establishment that’s had some recent diversity and inclusion issues come to light in regards to their staff. (Not to mention the fact that their very hipster branding is something I’m rather allergic to). However, I did really enjoy making this drink and I liked that the recipe is relatively easy and accessible. So… I guess my takeaway is to appreciate the content but remain critical of the establishment?? *runs away*
- Matcha Mochi Muffins (or Cupcakes) from Tiny Urban Kitchen
I made these on a whim a few weeks before Christmas and OH MY LORD are these dangerously good. Just within the first 15 minutes of taking them out, my fiancé inhaled three of these little muffins and I had to exercise extreme discipline in “only” eating one and a half. The one downside to the recipe is that they make two dozen, which really is too much for two people. I tried cutting the recipe in half when I made it a second time, but they didn’t end up as perfect as the first time. In the future, I’ll probably stick with the original ratios and just give some to friends.
HOT TIP #1: Add the matcha powder last to the batter, so that it soaks up all the oil and incorporates well into the mixture.
HOT TIP #2: Get some black sesame seeds and sprinkle them on top of the batter before putting them in to bake. You’ll get a nice nutty flavor that pairs well with the muffins.
HOT TIP #3: This recipe doesn’t call for any other flour other than glutinous rice flour, so the texture you’ll get here is more mochi than muffin. I’ve seen other recipes out there that are more muffin-like, so you could always check those out too if that’s what you like.
HOT TIP #4: Let the muffins cool a bit before you eat them, so the texture and flavor come out more. If they start drying out after a few days, pop them into the microwave or toaster oven for 20-30 seconds and they’ll bounce back.
- Oat Milk
I kind of hate myself for even bringing this up because it feels very millennial of me, but I discovered oat milk at the beginning of this year and have not looked back since. While I’m fine with having things that involve regular milk, I don’t usually stock up on it at home and default to soy milk instead. However! Oat milk has just the right amount of creaminess and flavor that work well in drinks and is a good base for cereal and granola. I even baked with this (in the matcha muffin recipe above) and it worked perfectly. Any brand should be fine, but stay away from the “oat beverage” at Trader Joe’s. That stuff is pretty much just a watered down version masquerading as proper oat milk.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this roundup and that 2021 brings us all more good eats.