Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cook's Illustrated

My sister gave us a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. Kent has said how he enjoys watching the PBS series, America's Test Kitchen, which is produced by the same people.

We got our first issue last week. Kent made use of one of the magazine's suggestions when he was making soup last night. When he added an egg he first mixed some corn starch with the egg. "Adding just 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to the egg that's drizzled into the soup at the end of cooking seemed to have a tenderizing effect," says a sidebar to an article on making hot & sour soup.

The nerdiness of America's Test Kitchen is more appealing on TV than in print. Whenever they make something they always wonder if they're using the best utensil for the job, or the best brand of vinegar, or whether the casserole cooks better on the upper shelf or lower shelf of the oven, or whatever. So they get together the different brands and test them. You want your bundt cake to fall easily out of the mold? There are spray on nonstick coatings that work better than the others (Pam for Baking and Baker's Joy). They put together panels of tasters who sip gallons of vinegars. Or they cook 18 casseroles, 3 on the top shelf front, 3 on the top shelf back, 3 on the middle shelf front, 3 on the middle shelf middle, and so on. It's like Consumer Reports devoted to cooking. The only color photos are on the cover. Gourmet this is not.

"In barbecue circles, the fat cap is almost always left face up, and many recipes repeat the same admonition when the meat is destined for the oven. But does it matter?" The short answer: Yes. The long answer: Three paragraphs. They cooked two briskets, one with fat on top, one with fat on bottom then compared. The fat, by melting over the meat, sealed in moisture.

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