Father’s Day is many things—some of them sweet and sentimental, yes, but accompanied by a fair number of holy-crap-what-do-I-DO anxieties. I’m the only child of divorced parents, so making Father’s Day a special occasion falls squarely on my shoulders. And, let me tell you, Atlas ain’t got nothin’ on me. First of all, my dad’s birthday consistently falls in the same week as Father’s Day. Considering that he’s hard to shop for to begin with,* finding a way to treat him not once but twice in the space of a single week can be an overwhelming prospect. Which is why I try to go all out and whip up a master meal as a gift unto itself.
* If you’re having similar struggles, you may want to check out our Father’s Day gift guide.
I asked the rest of the Serious Eats team to share what they’ll be making for their fathers this year, and what I got was a pretty impressive array of options. Come Sunday, I know I’ll be putting more than a few of these recipes to good use, from a towering devil’s food cake to crispy risotto pancakes.
For as long as I can remember, the first thing my dad did after coming home from work, even before kicking off his shoes, was to throw together a quick chaat. It’d be a pretty impromptu endeavor; he’d toss in cereals and crushed-up tortilla chips, along with some fresh aromatics and herbs. His chaat changed day to day and depended on whatever was in the pantry. For Father’s Day, I’d like to make him a real-deal, homemade papri chaat. It’s a whopper of a recipe, with two chutneys, two fried things, and, of course, a chaat masala made with a laundry list of ingredients. But I think nothing would make him happier than an upgrade to his post-work snack. (Yes, my dad works on Sundays.) —Sohla El-Waylly, assistant culinary editor
One of the dishes my dad would make from time to time when I was a kid was a pot of sauerkraut cooked with pork chops. His dad grew up an orphan in Germany during World War I, wandering the streets barefoot and collecting scrap metal to sell for a few coins. When he emigrated to the United States as a 13-year-old, he brought very little of his early German life with him—understandably, the pressures to assimilate and leave behind any trace of being German were strong during that period. His habit of eating pork and kraut was one of the few traditions that survived. Sure, choucroute is technically French, hailing from Alsace, and sure, June isn’t the best time for such hearty fare, but it’s the most glorious version of that meat-and-cabbage combination I’ve ever tasted, and I think my dad would agree. —Daniel Gritzer, managing culinary director
Devil’s Food Cake
Back around Mother’s Day, I went on at length about the balanced, nourishing, vegetable-heavy dishes I like to make, or imagine making, for my recently vegan mom. With my dad, whom I actually may be cooking for IRL this Father’s Day, that’s all out the window. In food as in few other aspects of his life, my dad has a weakness for the rich (German chocolate, bacon, lasagna) that’s matched only by his love of the over-the-top (unreasonably hot chili peppers, perilously strong coffee, the brightest of all bright-orange cheese puffs). And moderation isn’t his strong suit: My dad is the sort of guy you could imagine eating so much that he pukes. Okay, maybe not these days, but I’m just positive this happened when he was a kid.
Of all the dessert recipes we have that could stand up to such an appetite, the devil’s food cake that originally appeared in Stella’s book is the most likely candidate. I’ve never made it before, but the combination of Dutch cocoa, chopped dark chocolate, brewed coffee, and a whole mess of butter—along with Vicky’s photos of those dark, brooding layers sandwiching fluffy chocolate buttercream—is enough to sell me. The biggest challenge won’t be making sure I have the right equipment on hand or that it’s cool enough in my parents’ Mississippi kitchen for the buttercream, but keeping my dad from stealing chunks of cake and spoonfuls of frosting while I work. —Miranda Kaplan, editor
Hi, my name is Tim, and my dad is a chocoholic. Think party-size bags of M&M’s at every gathering and Max Brenner sampler packs for Christmas. So this is really a no-brainer: three layers of dark, rich chocolate cake, smothered with a generous helping of chocolate Swiss buttercream, topped off with chocolate cookie crumbs. Plus, dark chocolate is good for Pops’ blood pressure, right? RIGHT?! We’ll keep telling ourselves that as we go back for seconds and thirds. —Tim Aikens, front-end developer
Extra-Crispy Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Vanilla Waffles
My dad isn’t much of a cook, but he is a great cheerleader. Ever since I started cooking, back when I was a kid, he’s been the ultimate taste-tester, a finely tuned human smoke alarm—his acute sense of smell detects the slightest hint of overdoneness well before the timer has gone off—and an inquisitive observer. He’s deeply interested in the hows and whys of recipe alchemy and history—sometimes to my chagrin when I’m elbow-deep in a marinade, peering over my shoulder to gauge if the butter on the stove is more nut brown than golden brown, and trying to remember to stop the stand mixer whirring on the counter before those soft-whipped peaks pass the point of no return.
Process and context have always been as important to him as the result, something that translates seamlessly from food to life and back again. Pairing Sohla’s honey butter–doused fried chicken with Stella’s buttermilk waffles would be the perfect multi-component project. Not only would the combo satiate his sweet tooth, it’d also hit that perfectly indulgent craving for pure fried goodness. They’re recipes I could tackle in parts throughout a weekend, with plenty of opportunities for him to sporadically poke his head into the kitchen for taste tests and long, spirited conversations that spin off in a dozen different directions. It’s rare that we get the time to do such things anymore, and, as a bonus, we’d get some stellar fried chicken and waffles out of it, too. Win-win-win. —Marissa Chen, office manager
French Onion Soup
My dad once, rather infamously, spent a great deal of time and money attempting to make a very fancy French onion soup. Unfortunately, the return on investment was pretty dismal, and we haven’t made French onion soup since. He still orders it whenever it’s on a menu, though, and waxes poetic on every caramelized, cheesy, toasty bite. One recipe that delivers all the hits and definitely won’t fail is Daniel’s French onion soup: It’s easy, relatively quick, and once we’ve made it together, my dad will be able to replicate it whenever a craving strikes. —Kristina Bornholtz, social media editor
Fresh and Creamy Lime Pie
My dad is decidedly Team Pie, and in the realm of pie, he’s particularly fond of meringue (although he wouldn’t turn his nose up at cherry or blueberry, either). To balance out the potential heaviness that often goes hand in hand with family cookouts, I’ll be serving up this light and fresh lime pie—seasonality be damned. It’s as cold and refreshing as a glass of limeade, and the perfect palate cleanser to end a summer meal. —Stella Parks, pastry wizard
A Thai Feast
My dad lives across the continent from me, so I’m pretty sure I won’t be cooking anything for him this Father’s Day, but if I were, I’d make a spread of Thai food (one of his two favorite cuisines). I’d start with this Spicy Chicken, Banana Blossom, and Herb Salad, packed with fried alliums and coconut. (You can sometimes find banana blossoms in Asian or Indian markets, but this salad will work just fine with shredded cabbage in their place.) Then I’d move on to some Pork Larb (a sweet and hot meaty salad flavored with toasted rice) and Phat Bai Horapha (stir-fried beef flavored with chilies and basil). Fred’s not so into rice, but I’d still whip up a batch of this easy Crab Fried Rice, if only for my own sake. It’s Father’s Day for me, too, after all. —J. Kenji López-Alt, chief culinary consultant
Crown Roast of Lamb
My dad is an incredible cook, and he always pulls out the stops when he has me over for dinner—I’m talking Moroccan pastilla, osso buco, vitello tonnato, and many other trademark concoctions. So I’m always on the lookout for new special-occasion dishes I can make to return the favor. This Father’s Day, I’m turning to a recipe I’ve had my eye on for years: Daniel’s crown roast of lamb, which is filled with a couscous stuffing and topped with a bright pistachio-mint sauce. It checks off all the boxes: some of my dad’s favorite ingredients, a stunning presentation, and guaranteed delicious results. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, executive managing editor
Risotto al Salto and Chili Crisp
My father and I have a somewhat contentious culinary relationship, in large part because, while he loves Serious Eats and makes our recipes regularly, he doesn’t ever seem to follow the instructions. It isn’t laziness, nor is it absent-mindedness; it’s usually because he thinks he knows better. Which is why I always dread receiving the email each week in which he announces his intention to make some new recipe or another. I can generally tell whether or not he’ll be successful, and it often has to do with how much attention to detail a recipe requires.
Case in point: Daniel’s risotto al salto, which, while straightforward enough, does require a little fussiness; you need to rotate the rice pancake in the pan to ensure even browning, and Daniel takes great pains to point out that flipping the thing is a relatively tricky endeavor. Of course, my father made his attempt, using risotto with rather large pieces of sausage in it (which, I SHOULD NOTE, Daniel specifically says to avoid the first time out), and sent me a picture of his failure, including the entirely unnecessary message “This recipe did not work for me.” Anyway, if I were making him a Father’s Day dinner, I’d make the flippin’ pancake, and I’d serve it alongside some of Sohla’s chili crisp, since my father has asked me why anyone would make it when you can buy the stuff in the jar at your local Chinese market. Because it’s better, Dad! —Sho Spaeth, features editor
Singaporean Chili Crab
When I was young, having crab at home was a treat, but still cheaper than eating it at a restaurant. I have memories of cautiously peering into the sink as my father handled the pinching crustaceans with force and speed. He’d stir-fry them Cantonese-style, or simply steam them with soy sauce on the side. This Father’s Day, it’ll be my first time making a crab dish (yikes!). But with a Serious Eats recipe and my dad’s guidance, I’m confident this Singaporean Chili Crab will be a hit. —Vivian Kong, product designer
Skillet Chocolate Cake
My dad loves chocolate cake. (It’s a love I have very much inherited.) For Father’s Day, I’ll be treating him to Stella’s skillet chocolate cake: The ganache frosting is super luscious and rich, and the cake (typical of Stella’s recipes) is perfectly moist and deeply chocolaty. And in the future, he can make this recipe for himself without much trouble. He already has the cast iron pan, and the whole thing comes together right in it. I can only hope that he’ll think to return the favor and make it for my birthday. —Ariel Kanter, marketing director