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Cheddar Waffles with Pork Schnitzel, Country Ham and Sunny-Side-Up Egg

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Cheddar Waffles with Pork Schnitzel, Country Ham and Sunny-Side-Up Egg Feeds 4 hungry folks I’m fanatical about waffles. They are far superior to pancakes, French toast, and the other breakfast sweets of the world. If you don’t have a good waffle iron, spend a few bucks on a heavy-gauge, nonstick model. The reason is, we’re

Cincinnati Chili Five-Way

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Whenever I go somewhere I’ve never been, I do a little restaurant research. The first time I researched Cincinnati, I found myself inundated with chili parlors. I knew about Cincinnati chili, but I had no idea it was so deeply woven into the local culture. I picked out four places to try. If you told me you were going to take spaghetti noodles and dump cinnamon and chocolate-spiked chili on them, I’d say “What are you talking about?” When the first plate was placed in front of me, I thought, “This is the craziest food I’ve ever seen!” But I liked it enough to eat it four times in one day. It’s now one of my favorite got-a-craving foods. This recipe combines the elements I loved from all four places: It includes the heavy spicing of Skyline, the thin consistency of Pleasant Ridge, the finely grated cheese of Camp Washington, and the topping ratio of Gold Star. This might infuriate some people from Cincinnati, but it’s actually meant to honor their city’s signature dish. Oh, and if you’ve never had it, five-way means it includes chili, spaghetti, onions, beans, and cheese. Two-way is just chili and spaghetti, and you can figure out the numbers in between.

Buttermilk Biscuits

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Biscuits are a fine art—one that I am capable of saying I have not mastered. My biscuits usually come out good, sometimes great. But my chef de cuisine at Woodfire Grill, E.J. Hodgkinson, has mastered biscuit making. It’s difficult to admit this because E.J. is not from the South; he’s from California. This is his recipe, and it comes out the same every single time. The recipe is based on weight, not volume, though I have included both measurements here. Biscuits are often erratic because people measure by ingredient volume, which changes with the weather. When it’s humid, flour absorbs moisture from the air and increases in volume. For consistency, it helps to measure by weight whenever you’re baking. But what really makes this recipe unique is how the fat is incorporated into the flour. In any biscuit, the fat needs to be mixed into the dry ingredients as quickly as possible so that the butter doesn’t melt. Most recipes call for cutting the butter into small pieces, then cutting them into even smaller pieces in the flour with a handheld pastry blender. To simplify the process, E.J. freezes the butter hard as a brick, then grates it like cheese on a box grater directly into the dry ingredients. This method quickly incorporates the butter without overworking the gluten in the dough, which is what toughens biscuits. His recipe makes a sturdy, layered, fluffy biscuit. It’s not the softest biscuit on the planet. But the method is bulletproof and not finicky at all. As soon as the biscuits rest for a couple minutes out of the oven, I like to split them in half and spread them with peach butter.

Low-Country Oyster Roast

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina, sits about 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia. It’s one of the largest waterfront properties on the East Coast, full of nature preserves and walking trails, and with a swanky inn and spa that overlooks the May River. It’s a classy place, and every year they celebrate the region’s food and culture at the Music to Your Mouth culinary festival. After the event is done on Saturday, the organizers put on this supercool party for the visiting chefs as a sort of thank-you. They swing these massive cast-iron griddles out over a giant bonfire on the riverbank. They load up the griddles with May River oysters and roast ’em until they pop open. They dump the roasted oysters on a picnic table and you stand elbow to elbow with other guests, squeezing lemon juice or hot sauce onto the juiciest, sweetest, saltiest roasted oysters you’ve ever tasted. I love it. Every year, I spend the entire party time standing at the table. I feel like I’m knocking back a grotesque amount of oysters. One year, I came back from the event and apparently hadn’t gotten my fill because I developed this recipe to satisfy a need. I made a spicy emulsified butter sauce to spoon into the warm oysters. At first, I worried about serving this dish. People never have two minds about oysters: They either love them or hate them. I’ve since served these oysters hundreds of times, and all of six people have refused to try them. That’s a pretty good percentage. I should also mention that an exponentially large number of people ate this dish simply because it was put in front of them. And they ended up loving it!

Slow-Smoked Pork Loin with Bitter Greens

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Think of this as an American take on classic steak carpaccio. But the meat is pork and it’s cooked with smoke. You thinly slice the smoked pork loin, lay it on a plate, and then top it with greens dressed with a simple anchovy vinaigrette. The smoked pork tastes almost like Canadian bacon but without the curing. To get a jump on things, you can smoke the loin up to a week ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. For that matter, you can make the vinaigrette ahead too. Keep those elements in the fridge, and this dish is the perfect last-minute lunch or light supper.