America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
. . . because everything does not come out perfectly in your kitchen either!
After a few years of marriage now, Chaya has convinced me not to experiment on recipes with our dinner guests. So, if you do ever find yourself over for dinner at our house, rest assured we will serve a solid family dinner success—and no, I will not chronicle the mishaps. Because not everything comes out correctly in anyone’s kitchen, the good people over at America’s Test Kitchen have come out with a great resource for cooking and the why something works or does not work.
The cookbook is a candid look at a candid operation we know as Americas Test Kitchen TV. I offer this quote from Christopher Kimball,
But, unlike much of what is on television today, this is not a performance. The cameras give you an honest, if slightly more lively, view of how we work in our test kitchen. The set that you see on the show is, in fact, a real working kitchen. This is where we live Monday through Friday, developing recipes for Cook’s Illustrated magazine (Kimball, 2001).
Chaya and I had America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook recommended to us by our guest on our next podcast this Friday, Brie Aronson, farm cook for the legendary Polyface Farms and we had to check it out. Turns out that even the pros do not get it right every time. That is very comforting, because we do not either.
But we try and try again. With a little help from science and a dose of experience, we can progress and know where and why our process broke down. The ability to troubleshoot your own results is truly a high level of the learning process. Best path to success with meatballs, mashed potatoes or marriage is to never stop being curious—what worked, what did not work, how can I improve that?
It may be possible that you are not the world’s best mashed potato maker, but you want to be. What makes for a good batch of lick-the-bowl-clean mashed potatoes? Is it the bowl, the butter, the salt—what? Now I know, because after dozens of batches of mashed potatoes the folks over at the America’s Test Kitchen recipe repository now have given away not only the secret sauce but the science behind the best mashed potatoes. If you like food science as much as I do, then you will geek out on this video:
It is great when something works, but even better is knowing why it works so that you can fix something that goes wrong. Did you happen to catch the discussion about which flours are best for different purposes at about the :36 minute mark? Hint: If you want the best protein and most nutritious flour, then you are going to have to grind your own.
For the best results without guess work, years of experience, a dose of science and the benefit of other people trying 9 blenders to see which one is the best for your money in order for your tomato bisque soup to come out like a winner, then I recommend the Americas Test Kitchen Cookbook.
Science-heavy or not, there are parts of the book that are simply not for us such as Coca-Cola© Ham (p. 204-205). But I found the blind butter taste test (and which brands had more butter fat) to be fascinating (p. 221-222). Your mileage may vary . . .
Check your local library to see if they have a copy or pick up your own, I am pretty sure that you will be perfecting your own version of the America’s Test Kitchen recipes in no time. From the best corkscrew, to mouth watering fried chicken to the proper method for packing brown sugar—my inner food science geek recommends the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.
Pro Deo et Patria
Kimball, C. (2001). America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. (p. ix). Brookline: Boston Common Press.
Book cover photo is from America’s Test Kitchen: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/