In addition to her always-funny cat blogging, Hanah Metchis often blogs about her exploits with new recipes. So in that grand tradition, I thought I’d tempt you with thoughts about three days worth of meals cooked up in my kitchen:
Last night, Paul and I enjoyed delicious steak au poivre with brandy cream sauce, braised belgian endives (a favorite), and baked spiced pears.
Tonight, we’ll be having chicken marsala, mango and tomato salad with basil dressing, green beans with orange essence and maple-toasted pecans, and sangria.
On Saturday, we’ll be enjoying chicken cutlets stuffed with gorgonzola, walnuts, and figs, carrots vichy, and some as-of-yet unknown dessert.
Let’s just say that I was in a serious mood to cook when I made up the dinner menu. By the way, almost all of these recipes are courtesy of the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated. Unlike most, their recipes are reliably stellar. Why? Because unlike most, they focus on the science of cooking — and always test an insane number of variations of a recipe in order to get the most delicious one. As a result, I totally trust their recipes to be well worth my time, effort, and money.
But you might wonder whether such extensive testing of recipes is really necessary. After all, shouldn’t a cook be able to deduce the effect of changes to a recipe based upon past experience? It’s just chemistry, right? Well, it’s not that easy, as cooking involves such complex chemical processes that reliable prediction is often impossible. And even in cases where general principles might apply, many recipes will have some obscure, not-yet-thought-of confounding factor in terms of ingredients or preparation. Thus it is critical to test variations of recipes, to vary the factors that are most likely to result in changes for the better. (As such, it’s also necessary to have an idea of what constitutes better or worse, i.e. to know what your goal for a dish is.) The Cooks Illustrated recipes always have a short essay on their testing, which (in addition to being interesting and well-written) is invaluable for implementing the recipe well.
Okay, I admit it, I’m in love with these folks… or at least my stomach is.