Atomic Chile Jack Cheeseburgers
Michael Symon has this burger on the menu at his popular Ohio restaurant chain B Spot. It gets its name from the incendiary ghost chile that's used to season the meat as well as the pickled jalapenos and hot sauce.
The ideal hamburger combines the fattiness of chuck with the rich, beefy flavor of sirloin. Grace Parisi uses equal parts of both cuts in her mix, a foundation you can transform into all sorts of variations. If you have the time, grind my own meat after salting it overnight: It's an extra step that makes the burger truly superb.
Crunchy Fish Sticks with Tartar Sauce
Michael Schlow uses potato flakes from a box in place of bread crumbs to form a supercrispy crust for cod fillets. For a quicker version, Grace Parisi dredges cod strips in flour and potato flakes to create crunchy fish sticks, which she serves with a chunky sun-dried-tomato tartar sauce.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Arugula Pizza
The secret to this crispy pizza: giving the dough lots of time to rise so it's pliant enough to stretch very thin. At Medlock Ames's tasting room, general manager and cook Kenny Rochford offers ultracrispy pizzas for free on weekend afternoons.
Oven Fries with Herbs and Pecorino
Made with starchy baking potatoes—flavored with garlic, fresh herbs and Pecorino Romano cheese—and tossed with just a little extra-virgin olive oil, these fries emerge from the oven crisp and delicious.
Classic Southern Fried Chicken
In The Help, the character Minny reveres Crisco, calling it "the most important invention in the kitchen since jarred mayonnaise." She uses Crisco to fry chicken to perfection, admiring the way the vegetable shortening "bubbles up like a song" as it cooks.
Barbecue-Glazed Turkey Burgers
Turkey burgers are a popular lunch at Gwyneth Paltrow's house, where she serves them on toasted brioche buns. She usually adds a topping or two, like Swiss cheese and a few pickled jalapeños. Jarred barbecue sauce adds a ton of flavor to the burgers and helps keep them from drying out. Paltrow got that tip from her friend Lee Gross, a macrobiotic chef who is obviously not averse to the occasional burger.
White Fudge Sundae
Wayne Harley Brachman, pastry chef and author of the cookbook American Desserts, says he likes "to look at things upside down and backwards." That explains his reverse sundae, with its luscious, creamy white-chocolate fudge sauce and cocoa whipped cream. He even uses chocolate ice cream, though he concedes that the traditional vanilla would be just as delicious.
Hello Kitty Hot Dogs
Daniel Wright of Cincinnati's Senate tops these inspired hot dogs with wasabi mayo and a ponzu-spiked cabbage and carrot slaw. Cutting a cross pattern into the ends of the dogs helps them get crispy.
Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches
A giant step up from a fast-food breakfast sandwich, this biscuit is topped with eggs, cheese and country ham, jam optional. These tender biscuits have a salty edge. If you prefer, decrease the amount of salt in the recipe to 1 1/2 tablespoons.
General Tso's Chicken
Zach Brooks adores this sweet-spicy Chinese-American restaurant staple. The version here is lighter than take-out because the chicken is only lightly coated in cornstarch and is pan-fried rather than deep-fried.
L.A. chef Suzanne Goin (an F&W Best New Chef 1999) grew up on the healthy flavors of California cooking and embraces that style in her restaurants Lucques and A.O.C.
Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw
Fish tacos are a staple among California surfers but are often beer-battered and fried. Kerry Simon's healthier, grilled version enriches the guacamole with low-fat sour cream.
A unique twist on the pizza, this white bean and pancetta variety is almost more bruschetta than it is pie.
Black Bean Burgers
Most veggie burgers are a pale imitation of the all-beef original, but even with ordinary black beans in place of Rancho Gordo Midnight beans, these robust patties with roasted red pepper spread are moist and delicious. The spread doubles as a fantastic dipping sauce for French fries.
Sweet Potato Fries
A bar in Chicago flavors its sweet potato fries with furikake, a Japanese seasoning made from salt, sesame seeds and nori that the restaurant spikes with chile or hot paprika. If you can't find furikake (sold at Asian markets), substitute chipotle chile powder.
Fried-Fish Sandwiches with Jalapeño-Spiked Tomatoes
"These should look much too big to eat with your bare hands," says Alex Aguilera about his crispy fish sandwiches.
Crispy Onion Rings
"There's nothing better than a simple tempura of a primo vegetable," states Peter Hoffman. For this sensational version, he coats thick onion rings in an ultralight batter and quickly fries them. Hoffman says that any vegetable that slices nicely, like delicata squash, fennel or zucchini, would be great here, as long as it "takes to the batter"—meaning the batter stays on.
Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Chef John Hennigan says the idea for this chicken sandwich came from a small deli in New York City. Hennigan substitutes a creamy truffled artichoke tapenade for the mayonnaise used in the Lenny's version.
Fried Apple Pies
These crunchy warm pockets of glazed apples boast substantial flavor, not unlike a sweet empanada.