The best things I cooked in 2020 + what to cook for the holidays
An all-cooking edition.
|Nisha Chittal||Dec 20, 2020|| 13|
2020 was a big year for home cooking. We all spent more time at home this year, and found ourselves with a lot of extra free time to try some more ambitious cooking projects, and just a pure need to feed ourselves with restaurants closed down in many parts of the country.
So this week, I’m looking back at some of my favorite things I cooked in 2020 — from the big projects I tackled for the first time, to the dinner recipes I loved so much that I returned to them over and over again. Plus: I’ve got tons of suggestions for what to cook, eat, and drink over the holidays!
The best things I cooked this year
The dinner recipes I made on repeat this year:
I made these spicy sesame noodles with ground chicken and peanuts so. many. times. If you eat meat, this is a winner, folks.
For vegetarians, I also made these spicy sesame noodles with crispy tofu many times too.
I love this sheet pan gochujang shrimp and green beans because it takes 5 minutes to prep and then you stick it in the oven.
This ground chicken larb is so versatile and I served it a bunch of different ways: sometimes with quinoa as a grain bowl, sometimes with lettuce cups.
These chicken meatballs with tomatoes and chickpeas and feta were so so so good I wanted to shout about them from the rooftops.
I’ve also made these Korean BBQ style meatballs a dozen times and they never fail me (yes, I’m a meatball enthusiast)
Maple and miso salmon with green beans became one of my go-to ways to prepare salmon
My biggest cooking achievements/firsts/ “projects” I tried during quarantine
Superiority Burger’s deep fried tofu sandwich was incredible
I made sweet potato gnocchi from scratch!
Samin Nosrat’s Big Lasagna lived up to the hype.
No-bake cheesecake bars were a revelation.
Like everyone, I tried my hand at making bread. I made the famous no-knead bread, but mine came out a little flat (though it was edible!). What I loved more was BA’s easy no-knead foccaccia which is basically impossible to mess up.
I made scallion pancakes for the first time and they were so much fun!
I made these sour cream and onion biscuits twice this year and really loved them - it was my first time making biscuits and they couldn’t have been easier.
I did a lot more baking this year than I usually do, and in particular made a lot of cake (it’s 2020, why not eat more cake!) My faves were: strawberry spoon cake, pantry crumb cake, lemon poppyseed pound cake, one-bowl apple bundt cake.
Also, BA’s Best banana bread was terrific, and BA’s best chocolate chip cookies really are the best chocolate chip cookies. (I made them multiple times, and it’s the brown butter that really makes them special)
What I read this week
Two great pieces on how social media became a nightmare and a minefield this year: The year social media became an absolute nightmare, Vox, and Our shared un-sharing, The Cut.
An oral history of the world’s biggest coupon, New York Times. It’s the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons!!
Slack is the right tool for the wrong way to work, The New Yorker.
Texas wedding photographers have seen some $#!+, Texas Monthly.
Do celebrities know what sexism is?, Jezebel. They do not.
What if you could do it all over?, The New Yorker.
The year of ambitious TV watching, The Atlantic.
In a pandemic holiday, women still do it all, The 19th.
What I cooked this week
What to cook for the holidays
If you are celebrating Christmas this week, or maybe New Years Eve next week, I’ve got holiday recipe ideas! While I haven’t 100% locked my holiday menus yet, I have tons of ideas and inspiration.
To me, the fun part of holiday cooking - no matter what holiday - is that it gives you an opportunity to make those rich, indulgent, “special occasion” dishes you might not make on a regular weekday. But there’s also a lot of freedom to make it whatever you want — Thanksgiving has traditions, but Christmas has a lot more variety! I’m also not a ham person, and who wants to make a giant ham or a big roast when we’re having smaller gatherings this year?
So here are some of the things on my radar. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas: these recipes are just fun, delicious recipes for any occasion, IMO — or maybe for NYE!
Appetizers/ aka snacks for while you cook: I am using Christmas as a once a year excuse to make baked brie! (I have so many random farmstand jams lying around and this is a great way to use one up). Other ideas: this lemony whipped feta dip with charred scallions sounds great, figs stuffed with goat cheese, stuffed mushrooms with panko and pecorino. Also, Ann Friedman’s cheese ball recipe is a classic and very easy and I might just have to make that instead. Or if you want a bread, these fluffy cheddar biscuits sound so good!
Sides: I’ve been wanting to try Nik Sharma’s brussels sprouts with pickled shallots and labneh, so that might be one of my side dishes. And I didn’t have any potatoes at Thanksgiving, so I’m thinking about maybe this cheesy hasselback potato gratin or this similar cheesy potato gratin from Bon Appetit. Other sides that sound good: cheesy broccoli casserole, roasted brussels sprouts with honey and miso, and this shaved brussels sprouts salad with apples and hazelnuts sounds incredible if you want something lighter, or this brussels sprouts salad too.
Breakfast: I love a french toast casserole, so I’m going to make one the night before so I can pop it in the oven on Christmas morning (this Smitten Kitchen recipe is a fave of mine, but a bit fussy, so if you want an easier recipe this one is a good classic version.) But I made this sticky toffee monkey bread for a holiday brunch last year and it has also become a fave. (and this pumpkin chai version also sounds amazing!)
Pastas: If you’re just not feeling the main and sides thing, I’m also super into the idea of making a giant baked ziti (I might do that for Christmas Eve). Or for a wintery twist, maybe this baked butternut squash pasta that uses pureed squash in the sauce (I made this two years ago and it was delicious!), or this spicy baked butternut squash pasta that I’ve had bookmarked for a while.
Wine: Lately I’ve been drinking the Las Jaras Slipper Sippers Nouveau, a really light, juicy, tart red that is so easy and fun to drink. A great holiday wine!
New Year’s Eve
For our little New Year’s Eve at home, all I’ve been wanting is oysters and champagne. I ordered oysters from Island Creek Oysters (they ship nationwide and there’s still time to order for NYE!) and am going to try my hand at shucking oysters for the first time.
For bubbles, I’m going to pair the oysters with a Capriades Pet Nat and probably order in some takeout to take a break from cooking!
Thank you, Natasha! If you, too, enjoy this newsletter, would you consider sharing it with a friend or two or on social media? Your referrals are the main way this newsletter gets new subscribers! Thank you for reading & sharing. ❤️
Thanks for reading! If you like this newsletter, you can click the “heart” at the top of this post on Substack or share it on social media or forward to a friend — they can subscribe at nishachittal.substack.com. You can also leave a comment on this post to tell me what you think! And you can follow me on Twitter here and Instagram here.