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Top 5 Recipes of 2017

As I put another year to bed and set my intentions to do better in the next, the great meals I had were as much about who I shared them with as the food I put on the table. For me, it's the good friends and family I dine with that make meals special. Still - some are more special than others. I've reveled in my successes and been humbled by my kitchen failures - including two batches of broken mayonnaise in one day. It was another year of learning and improvising. After twice failing to get eggs and oil to emulsify into mayonnaise - something I've successfully accomplished dozens of times - I combined sour cream and buttermilk with no mayo for horseradish sauce to serve with my beef tenderloin (added to prepared horseradish, lemon and chives), and it was delicious. I've had some great meals this year. From a lavish five-course dinner with Jeff on Valentine's Day at Guenther Seeger New York to quiet nights at home with a perfectly cooked roast chicken. Here are the five best things I made. So as you set out for new adventures in the kitchen, be prepared to make some great things and some not so great things. In sustenance and ceremony - I hope you enjoy them all with the ones you love.

5. Beef Tenderloin With Horseradish Sauce -- It was the eve before Christmas Eve family dinner for nine that became six and with a start time that veered from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. because of a delayed flight. Our new freezer broke and one guest, who was on London time, fell asleep before dinner, which is cool because she's a vegan anyway. Still - when we pulled the meat from the oven and deglazed the pan with red wine and butter, I knew it was going to end well. Medium rare, actually. Beef tenderloin is not cheap, but it's super easy to make and delicious. Dry brine the meat overnight (I used Bella Cucina porcini salt) and take it out of the refrigerator two hours before cooking. Sear it in a pan for 10 minutes and finish it in a 250 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

4. Brisket Redux -- I've been making brisket the same way forever by searing, braising, blending, chilling, slicing, saucing and re-heating. This year I decided to simplify. I still seared the meat, but this time I transferred it into a slow cooker on low for seven hours with 2-3 chopped onions and a bottle of red wine. I let it cool before refrigerating it, slicing it it , putting it back in the roasting pan with some of the cooked wine and letting it warm in the oven. Meanwhile, I cooked down the rest of the wine by half. Pour reduced wine over the meat and served it with grits.

3. Fish in Coconut Sauce -- My friend Kelly taught me this one at her house on Martha's Vineyard and every time I make it I think of the great dinners we enjoyed with friends on cool summer nights after long days at the beach. Saute vegetables in coconut oil, ginger and lime. Add the fish, pour in full fat canned coconut milk, cover and let simmer for 10-20 minutes. Finish with chopped basil and mint and serve over jasmine rice.

4. Persimmons -- I'm not sure how I lived this long without them, but from my very first bite everything became illuminated. I slice them in a salad of bitter greens, pomegranate and chopped celery. I love them so much that two weeks ago I planted a tree in our yard.

5. Roast Chicken -- Whether it's just Jeff and me sopping up the pan juices with hunks of challah or with guests for a special occasion, this is far and away my favorite thing to make and eat. Dry brine the chicken for at least two hours and up to two days in kosher salt uncovered in the refrigerator. Take it out 30 minutes before you cook it. Stuff the bird with a lemon, a head of garlic and bunch of rosemary. Wipe off the salt, slather in olive oil and pepper and bake on 500 for one hour. The oven will smoke and sizzle. Don't be afraid. There's magic happening in there, and you won't be disappointed.

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