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Cooking with "Cook's Illustrated"


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Last night, I made CI's Pork and Cabbage Dumplings and Stir-Fried Sichuan Green Beans for the first time. I made my own gyoza-style wrappers, because I prefer them a bit thicker than the store-bought wonton wrappers I can get. I've made other dumpling recipes in the past, and this was pretty good, though not as good as the duck confit potstickers I made a while back. I still haven't managed to perfect the art of getting them crisp enough on the bottom, yet still easily removable from the pan. One day.

The green beans were also pretty good, but nothing spectacular. I can't imagine my sherry-sugar substitute for the two tablespoons of Mirin called for in the recipe made *all* that much of a difference. Overall, the meal made me quite thirsty, though it did not taste overly salty. It needed some other, fresher flavor to break up the salty pork factor. Not sure what, though.

Edited by abooja (log)
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This week I made the Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew from the March 2008 Issue (Here if you have online access.). I followed the recipe pretty closely, subbing in homemade chicken stock for the canned stuff and guanciale for the pancetta, but otherwise leaving this one alone. I used some gigantic Rancho Gordo Runner Cannelini beans, which were terrific for this, though they increased the cooking time a bit. Overall this is a very full-flavored, nuanced stew: one of the best versions of this dish I have ever had. I highly recommend whipping up a batch of this if it's cold where you are. And it's pretty economical to boot!

gallery_56799_5925_40271.jpg

i love this stuff -- i could live on it. and as i may have mentioned elsewhere, the "brining the beans" technique is now what i use for all dried bean recipes -- great texture and flavour. btw: end of summer i made the blueberry muffins with the streusel topping and found them *delicious* - can't believe another poster tossed them! but de gustibus, right?

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Thanks, isomer. Can someone explain a little more? How long do you soak the beans? What does the salt do? Just how salty are we talking about. I always thought that salt toughens beans. Do you do that every time you cook beans?

Thanks!

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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Has anyone tried the Chicken Kiev from the Mar/Apr 2006 issue? I was thinking of making it for a dinner party, but I'm going out of town so I won't have a chance to test it out on my family beforehand. It appeals to me because 1) it can be mostly made ahead, and 2) it's chicken. I am also open to other suggestions of main dishes that would fit those criteria. (Between religious restrictions, pregnancy, and just plain dislikes, I can't serve the following: beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, mercury-containing fish, soft cheeses, and undercooked food. So I figure that leaves me with chicken.)

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Has anyone tried the Chicken Kiev from the Mar/Apr 2006 issue?  I was thinking of making it for a dinner party, but I'm going out of town so I won't have a chance to test it out on my family beforehand.  It appeals to me because 1) it can be mostly made ahead, and 2) it's chicken.  I am also open to other suggestions of main dishes that would fit those criteria.  (Between religious restrictions, pregnancy, and just plain dislikes, I can't serve the following: beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, mercury-containing fish, soft cheeses, and undercooked food.  So I figure that leaves me with chicken.)

I haven't tried the Chicken Kiev, but I am a big fan of the Modern Coq au Vin from November 2006. It calls for bacon, but I've skipped it more times than I've used it. It's still delicious. This is a make ahead dish as well.

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Has anyone tried the Chicken Kiev from the Mar/Apr 2006 issue?  I was thinking of making it for a dinner party, but I'm going out of town so I won't have a chance to test it out on my family beforehand.  It appeals to me because 1) it can be mostly made ahead, and 2) it's chicken.  I am also open to other suggestions of main dishes that would fit those criteria.  (Between religious restrictions, pregnancy, and just plain dislikes, I can't serve the following: beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, mercury-containing fish, soft cheeses, and undercooked food.  So I figure that leaves me with chicken.)

If you're looking for pasta dishes, I've heard( on the CI Bulletin Board) that the Baked Ziti from the lastest issue is getting really good reviews( its on my list to make next month). I've made the spinach lasagna( bechamel) multiple times and that always gets really great reviews too. Both of the above are made with cottage cheese.

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A week or two ago, I bought a mess of red peppers on sale and roasted them, then took some andouille out of the freezer to thaw. A couple of days later, CI comes in the mail, with a link to a recipe for brown rice with andouille, corn and red peppers. Clearly, this was fate.

I added extra andouille and served it as a main course casserole. And... it's fine. Basically, what you'd expect. I'll probably serve it again some time, because it's easy, my wife liked it a whole lot, and if you serve it with a salad, that's dinner right there. But it's not something you'd really need a recipe for.

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Thanks, isomer. Can someone explain a little more? How long do you soak the beans? What does the salt do? Just how salty are we talking about. I always thought that salt toughens beans. Do you do that every time you cook beans?

  Thanks!

They soak 2 cups of Cannellini beans in 4 cups of cold water mixed with 3 tablespoons salt for 8-24 hrs, then drain and rinse. CI says helps them develop a creamy texture and tender skins. I haven't tried it, so I can't comment. Chris?

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I'd have to stretch my memory a bit to evaluate the claim of "creamy texture, tender skins," but I do recall that they were just about perfect. Mine were huge so I had to cook them a bit longer than CI suggests, but I found that the technique worked well. It does, of course, require some advance prep... They did their usual batch of tests to evaluate the various bean-cookery advice out there, and had some science to back up their results, so brining the beans is my new method. Though, note they they use 4 quarts of water, not 4 cups, to 2 cups beans and 3 tbs salt. It's a lot of water, but you want to make sure the salt concentration is right!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Hi everyone!

I'm brand new to eGullet and so happy to be here! I'm particularly happy to find so many Cook's Illustrated fans, as I am a complete devotee myself. :smile:

I'm in a bit of a special situation in that I am an English teacher who is usually teaching overseas. So, despite the fact that I have enough kitchen equipment back in the States to outfit Le Cordon Bleu, I never get to take it with me! So, for me, Cook's Illustrated (and all of their sister publications) are great because the recipes are usually simple and don't require all of my fancy equipment. (The two major exceptions being a food processor and standing mixer, but I've found some ways around them.)

I have so many favorite recipes from CI, but the one that I've been doing the most lately is Lemon Chicken Rice Soup. So simple, but bowl-licking good. I usually add twice as much lemon juice, to be honest. Also, I've been doing their Sesame Noodles with Chicken. I make the sauce (no blender, so I use creamy peanut butter) in advance, and then I use just enough to coat an individual portion of pasta as needed. Usually lasts me a few days and just gets better and better.

I've recently subscribed to ATK video-on-demand, and I find myself watching the Blueberry Pie segment over and over again...has anyone tried that recipe?? I'm dying to know if that dough reliably turns out so flaky!

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”~~ Thomas Wolfe

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I've recently subscribed to ATK video-on-demand, and I find myself watching the Blueberry Pie segment over and over again...has anyone tried that recipe??  I'm dying to know if that dough reliably turns out so flaky!

Hi, twilight --

I have made that blueberry pie several times, and the foolproof pie crust many, many times and, yes, the crust is reliably good, and flaky. It is my go-to pie crust recipe for almost all applications. The only problem with it, and this is not much of a problem at all for me, is that crimped edges do not stay crimped upon baking and tend to poof out. Not completely, but enough to be annoying if this sort of thing is important to you.

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Chris, your recommendation for Carbonnade a la Flamande reminded me that I have had that recipe in my beef recipes file for a while now. This rainy weather combined with the fact that we found a bottle of Chimay Ale when we were cleaning out the pantry last weekend (How did that happen?) seems to call out for that recipe Do you use the blade steaks that the recipe calls for or do you use another cut of meat? Has anyone else made that recipe with another cut of beef?

Thanks!

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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Chris, your recommendation for Carbonnade a la Flamande reminded me that I have had that recipe in my beef recipes file for a while now. This rainy weather  combined with the fact that we found a bottle of Chimay Ale when we were cleaning out the pantry last weekend (How did that happen?) seems to call out for that recipe   Do you use the blade steaks that the recipe calls for or do you use another cut of meat? Has anyone else made that recipe with another cut of beef?

Thanks!

I can't say for certain if I've made that specific dish, but I know in a lot of beef braises they say you can successfully use other cuts from the chuck, though they often have a specific chuck steak or roast (like the blade steak above) that they particularly like.

Edited by Jujubee (log)
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Chris, your recommendation for Carbonnade a la Flamande reminded me that I have had that recipe in my beef recipes file for a while now. This rainy weather  combined with the fact that we found a bottle of Chimay Ale when we were cleaning out the pantry last weekend (How did that happen?) seems to call out for that recipe  Do you use the blade steaks that the recipe calls for or do you use another cut of meat? Has anyone else made that recipe with another cut of beef?

Thanks!

I've made this recipe often over the past few years and have used both of their recommended roasts- chuck eye and top blade. Of the two, I found the chuck eye more tender and beefier tasting. A bit more expensive, though. I've also used boneless shoulder roasts. Very similar to the chuck eye. The blade cut involved a bit more trimming than I prefer but the flavor is good.

This is my very favorite beef stew- just a few ingredients and what you *do* use includes delicious ale!

See post #16156

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Has anyone tried the Chicken Kiev from the Mar/Apr 2006 issue?  I was thinking of making it for a dinner party, but I'm going out of town so I won't have a chance to test it out on my family beforehand.  It appeals to me because 1) it can be mostly made ahead, and 2) it's chicken.  I am also open to other suggestions of main dishes that would fit those criteria.  (Between religious restrictions, pregnancy, and just plain dislikes, I can't serve the following: beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, mercury-containing fish, soft cheeses, and undercooked food.  So I figure that leaves me with chicken.)

If you're looking for pasta dishes, I've heard( on the CI Bulletin Board) that the Baked Ziti from the lastest issue is getting really good reviews( its on my list to make next month). I've made the spinach lasagna( bechamel) multiple times and that always gets really great reviews too. Both of the above are made with cottage cheese.

I made the Baked Ziti tonight. Very tasty, it was a little loose in consistancy. Next time maybe I'll try a drier cottage cheese instead of creamy.

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Do you use the blade steaks that the recipe calls for or do you use another cut of meat? Has anyone else made that recipe with another cut of beef?

I generally use your standard chuck roast, nothing special. I prefer it well trimmed, which takes some patience, but the result is worth it, and it's usually pretty cheap.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Last week I made one of their recent incarnations of Bolognese (the one from the March 2008 issue): I was not impressed. From the blurb at the top: "In this country meat sauce usually means a hastily made dish with rubbery ground beef and no flavor." What their recipe makes instead is a "slowly made dish with mushy ground beef and no flavor." Where's the red wine? Where are the porcinis? Button mushrooms? Please. And their obsession with making the meat "tender"? No thanks. I wonder if what they describe as "rubbery" I would describe (somewhat more complimentarily) as "toothsome." I mean, you're going to put it on a plate of al dente pasta: it needs a little texture. Making this was really not that much faster than going with a more authentic variation, and it requires more babysitting. Has anyone else tried this one? Am I off-base here?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I recently had a dinner party and tried a bunch of stuff from CI. Usually I like to test out recipes beforehand on my family, but I had been pretty busy leading up to it so instead I went with new-to-me stuff from CI because I could be fairly confident that there wouldn't be any major disasters. Results ranged from acceptable to positively addictive.

Mediterranean-Style Deviled Eggs (Restaurant Favorites at Home) - These were AWESOME. Quite a few people wanted to know what I put in them. One guy told me he ate about 8 of them, and I probably would have done the same except I was busy doing hostess stuff so they were pretty much gone by the time I was able to try them. Because of all the additions, there is a lot more filling than egg whites, so I cooked up some extra hard boiled eggs just for more egg whites to stuff.

Marinated Goat Cheese (It's been printed in a few different publications. I was using Italian Classics, but I know I've seen it elsewhere.) - Also awesome and couldn't be simpler. Quite a few people also wanted to know how to make this one, though you barely need a recipe. More than the sum of its parts.

Caponata (Italian Classics. I noticed they re-did this in the magazine more recently, but I used the older recipe from the aforementioned cookbook.) Solid and tasty, but not addictive.

No-Knead Bread (Jan 2008) - Excellent. I think the addition of a splash of beer and a spoonful of vinegar really does boost the flavor compared to standard no-knead bread. I was worried the vinegar would make it too sour, but it is definitely not a sourdough.

Roasted Corn Bisque (Restaurant Favorite at Home) - Eh. Maybe I was setting myself up for failure since it is definitely not corn season, but with the new supersweet varieties they have in the off season I've had some decent ears. Plus, the recipe said adjusting with sugar at the end would compensate for off season corn. It wasn't bad, but it was too starchy. The consistency was also a far cry from the smooth and elegant texture they promised in the description. It also looked kind of unappealing. I considered not serving this one, but then decided I was among friends. I did like the fried leek garnish though; I might try that one on something else.

Arugula and Roasted Pear Salad with Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese (Nov 2000) - Good combination, but way too much "stuff" for the amount of greens.

Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine (Italian Classics) - I thought this was just okay, though my guests really seemed to love it. Maybe it's because I did 1.5 times the recipe, but the resulting liquid didn't really reduce down and was kind of watery. I ended up taking the shanks and vegetables out and further reducing the juices, which definitely improved the flavor and body of the liquid. I still found it kind of boring though. Maybe other folks would consider it classic.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (on their website - don't know the issue) - Excellent. This recipe was developed to specifically address the issue of heavy, gluey re-heated mashed potatoes. Their method of partially microwaving, then baking, beating until smooth, then adding dairy first, and melted butter second really works. I also liked the roast-y flavor from baking the potatoes.

Roasted Asparagus (various publications) - Easy and good, but you don't really need a recipe. Have made it a million times.

Lemon Layer Cake (March 2007) - This one wasn't bad really, but I wouldn't make it again. Because I had such high hopes, I was actually pretty disappointed. The main probably is that there is way too much lemon curd for the amount of cake, and I really like lemon! The white layer cake is their standard (good, reliable base for other cakes), the revised method for the seven-minute icing works well, and then lemon curd itself is nicely stabilized for cake-layering purposes. It also looks beautiful, but the flavor is just way off balanced. I was actually a little embarrassed by this one.

Sables (Nov 2008) - A last minute addition to serve with coffee (I also did Korova Cookies, but that's not CI and everyone already knows about those), mostly to use up some extra egg yolks from the deviled eggs. They were okay. I don't know what authentic sables are suppose to taste like, but these didn't seem special to me. Solid and tasty though. I didn't find the texture particularly sandy, as per the description.

The best part of this menu was that it was almost all make ahead, which is a big consideration of mine when throwing a dinner party. I find it makes a huge difference in how much I am actually able to enjoy myself. So that was definitely a success.

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Mediterranean-Style Deviled Eggs (Restaurant Favorites at Home) - These were AWESOME.  Quite a few people wanted to know what I put in them.  One guy told me he ate about 8 of them, and I probably would have done the same except I was busy doing hostess stuff so they were pretty much gone by the time I was able to try them.  Because of all the additions, there is a lot more filling than egg whites, so I cooked up some extra hard boiled eggs just for more egg whites to stuff.

More about what was in these eggs, please!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I'm not sure about copyrights or whatnot, but roughly speaking:

Sauteed up a bit of celery and scallions with a pinch of curry powder and salt. Let it cool and then mash that up with the egg yolks along with a very generous amount of mayo and a bit of parsley. Drain and flake/chop up a can of high quality tuna in olive oil (this is KEY - they recommend Ortiz, but I couldn't find it so I used Zoe, another brand from Spain) and mix that in. S&P to taste. Fill as usual for deviled eggs.

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