I wondered what the most popular recipes have been on The Recipe, our online curated recipe archive that has been up and running for about two years.
Some results were not surprising. Of course, iconic dishes from Triangle restaurants would be popular, such as Poole’s Macaroni and Cheese and the Angus Barn’s Chocolate Chess Pie.
What did surprise me was that Celery Stalks Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Apples came in second, behind Winter Minestrone Soup. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised because those two recipes come from well-regarded television stars known for producing reliable, tasty recipes: PBS star Lidia Bastianich and the Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten.
As our way of saying farewell to 2106, we’re reprinting a handful of the most popular recipes and sharing links to the top 16. Enjoy!
Our Top 16 Recipes
5. Holiday Cookies (five years’ worth of winning recipes from our annual contest)
10. Pig Pickin’ Cake
Celery Stalks Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Apples
Recipe tester substituted good-quality blue cheese for the Gorgonzola dolce, the milder variety of this cheese. From “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine,” by Lidia Bastianich (Alfred Knopf, 2015).
4 ounces Gorgonzola dolce, room temperature
3/4 cup mascarpone, room temperature
1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled, finely diced
10 inner celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 3 pieces each
1/2 cup inner celery leaves, for garnish
In medium bowl, mash together the blue cheese and mascarpone until smooth. Stir in the diced apple, and mix well.
Use a teaspoon to stuff the mixture into the celery stalks. Chill for an hour before serving and serve garnished with the celery leaves.
Yield: about 30 pieces
Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone
Author Ina Garten serves this soup with garlic bruschetta, which is easy to make. Toast thin slices of French bread, brushed with olive oil, in a 425-degree oven for 6 minutes. Rub each piece of toast with a peeled garlic clove. Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 2012).
Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 1/2 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, about 4 cloves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
6 to 8 cups chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti, orzo, riso or farfalline
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic bruschetta, for serving
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.
Add tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock or broth, bay leaf, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Remove bay leaf and discard. Add beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat soup, add spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons, like tossing a salad. Cook just until leaves are wilted. Stir in white wine and pesto. Add salt to taste, if needed. Serve with bruschetta and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Vivian Howard’s Squash and Fontina Casserole
This recipe is adapted from chef Vivian Howard, co-owner of Chef & the Farmer restaurant in Kinston, and star of the “A Chef’s Life,” on PBS. This recipe originally appeared in The News & Observer’s monthly Specialty of the House column in October 2015.
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons bacon fat
4 medium yellow onions halved and sliced thin, about 4 cups
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8-10 medium yellow squash or zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch rounds or half moons
3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups grated Fontina, Swiss or white American cheese
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-by-8-inch casserole dish and dust the inside of the dish with cornmeal. Alternately, you could use six (6-ounce) ramekins and make individual casseroles.
Heat bacon fat over medium heat in a 12-inch saute pan or cast iron skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add the squash, sage, rosemary, salt and black pepper. Stir it all to combine and cook over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes, checking periodically to make sure things aren’t sticking. You are looking for the squash to release all its liquid and begin to brown. Remove pan from the heat. While things are still steamy, stir in cheese. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Then stir in the egg.
Fill whatever vessel you choose three-fourths of the way with the squash mixture. Bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes for the large casserole, or 15 to 20 minutes for the small ones. Either way you’re looking for it to brown on top and around the edges. Serve warm.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Angus Barn’s Chocolate Chess Pie
This Chocolate Chess Pie recipe was requested by a reader for The News & Observer’s monthly Specialty of the House column. The pie is such a popular chocolate dessert at the Angus Barn that the North Raleigh restaurant makes 600 pies a week. Owner Van Eure assures home cooks that this dish is easy to make, but they also sell it at the restaurant’s country store. Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your city, to Specialty of the House, The N&O, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 (1-ounce) squares Baker’s semisweet chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1 unbaked pie shell
Whipped cream for topping, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate in the top half of a double boiler. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add melted chocolate mixture and mix until well-combined. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake until set, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool and top with whipped cream, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings
Poole’s Macaroni and Cheese
The macaroni and cheese is an iconic dish at Raleigh’s Poole’s Diner. Chef Ashley Christensen calls this dish, macaroni au gratin, and shared it several years ago in the monthly Specialty of the House column. Chef Christensen suggests that if you wish to add any extra ingredients (such as roasted tomatoes or caramelized onions), they should be layered between the pasta and the cheese topping.
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 pound of macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1 cup shredded gruyere, divided
1 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1 cup shredded white cheddar, divided
2 tablespoons cold butter
Pinch of sea salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Set a rack in the oven about 4 inches from the broiler, and preheat broiler.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, reduce cream by a fourth. Lower heat to medium. Stir in the macaroni and 3/4 cup each of the gruyere, Parmesan and white cheddar. Stir with a wooden spoon while tossing the contents of the pan in a sauteeing motion. Add butter and salt, and continue stirring until the butter is emulsified into the sauce.
Transfer mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup each of the gruyere, Parmesan and white cheddar over the top, distributing them evenly.
Place the dish under the broiler. Watch it carefully, as you will need to rotate the dish to create an even crust. This will take from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler.
Remove gratin from the oven and season with fresh cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings