What does it mean to go through a century and a half’s worth of New York Times recipe collection? Food52 co-founder and chief executive Amanda Hesser, a former New York Times food writer and editor who now runs the cooking and home startup, tested more than 1,400 meals over a six-year period.
As she said in her introduction, “my criteria for whether or not to add a recipe was simple: after checking it out, I’ll ask myself, ‘Would I cook this again?'” “And the answer was yes for 1,124 of the recipes,” says the author.
W.W. Norton & Company first released “The Essential New York Times Cookbook” in 2010, which was the culmination of this collaboration. Her work has now been updated 11 years after its first publication, with 65 recipes removed and 120 new ones added, the majority of which are from the last decade.
As a result, she gained an insider’s perspective on how many meals, especially holiday foods, have evolved through time.
In an email, she said that “earlier Thanksgiving meals were more conventional and… less enjoyable.” Writing Thanksgiving dishes these days is comparable to playing professional sports, with authors refining and honing their recipes months in advance. Their goal is to come up with a turkey roasting method or pie recipe that will become popular on the internet.”
The recipes that follow represent a cross-section of time spans. Although not all of these books were initially released for previous Thanksgivings, many are appropriate for the holiday – and beyond.
In 1999, Ms. Hesser published an article for The Times on this cake by David Lebovitz. A quarter-pound of fresh ginger is required for this recipe. “Do you really need me to say anything else?” Ms. Hesser expressed herself.
He began his career as a pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and has since built a successful career as a cookbook author and food blogger. However, this recipe, which comes from his first cookbook, “Room for Dessert,” goes back to the beginning of his literary career. Simply flavoured and spiced using just cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and, yes, a lot of fresh ginger, this recipe is the epitome of simplicity, coming together in about 30 minutes and without the need for a mixer. The cake, like the recipe itself, holds up wonderfully over time, with the flavours merging and intensifying as time passes.
According to The Times, this dish was developed from Yves Labbé, who was the chef of Le Cheval d’Or, a Vermont restaurant that featured French rural food. The recipe was first published in The Times magazine in 1991. Chef Mr. Labbé was known to serve this meal with quail in a red-wine sauce, and the recipe’s straightforward directions belie the layers of flavour it contains. Using its own juices, the cabbage boils down while the sweetness of the apples and maple syrup, a Vermont staple, balances out the harshness of the cabbage and makes it more tolerable. The end product offers a wide range of appeal.
In “The Essential New York Times Cookbook,” there aren’t many recipes from the 1940s and 1950s to be found. That was done on purpose. It is said in the preface that “if you could taste any of the dishes I cooked from this period, it would be clear to you that I am sparing you from a world of suffering.” Ms. Hesser is credited for saving her readers from “a world of hurt.”
A superb dip, on the other hand, transcends time — particularly when it is prepared with fresh herbs, as in this 1959 recipe from Craig Claiborne, which, according to Ms. Hesser, stood out among other dishes from the period. Anchovy dip with capers, garlic and anchovies gets prepared fast and then waits in the refrigerator, ready to give you some more time if your guests arrive early and the turkey is running late.
Once in 1992, when Ms. Lewis, many years after creating her groundbreaking cookbook “The Taste of Country Cooking,” was the chef at the Brooklyn restaurant Gage & Tollner, and again in 2000 when it was adapted by Ralph Vetters, who was a medical student at the time, was published in The Times. Mr. Vetters’ sweet potatoes, which he served with a squeeze of lemon, were a family recipe passed down through generations of his and his husband’s family members. This is Ms. Lewis’s 1992 rendition, which attests to the piece’s enduring popularity.