America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and on our two public television cooking shows.
Despite the cozy image conjured by the name, few people actually make home fries at home, probably because the dish calls for more time, elbow grease, and stovetop space than most cooks care to devote. We wanted nicely crisped home fries with tender interiors that would serve six to eight hungry people—and wouldn’t chain the cook to the stove for an hour. Because if you’re making a beautiful batch of perfectly scrambled eggs, you probably need some equally good potatoes to go alongside.
Since time was a priority, we decided to parcook the spuds before roasting them in the oven. Parcooking would dramatically cut down on roasting time, while finishing them in the oven would allow us to make a big batch.
The juiciness of a perfect summer peach is sublime—except when you want to bake it into a pie. To tame the moisture, we macerate the peaches to draw out some of their juices and only add some of the juice back into the filling. We also use both cornstarch and pectin to bind it, because we find that using two thickeners leaves the pie with a clear, silky texture and none of the gumminess or gelatinous texture that larger amounts of either one alone produces.
Making a lattice top for a pie can be intimidating. But it needn’t be if you use our simple technique: Freeze strips of dough and then arrange them in our prescribed order over the filling. Done properly, this approach gives the illusion of a woven lattice with less effort.
Not only does a lattice top look beautiful, making for a great presentation, but it lets the right amount of steam out, ensuring that your pie won’t bubble over or rupture in the oven. And with some tinkering, we found a way to make one that’s easy as, well, pie.
Potato salad is an easy dish to make and transport to a summer potluck. But all too often the star of the show is mayonnaise, rather than the recipe’s namesake ingredient. We found that the secret to a creamy and light potato salad is to emulate the Austrians: Ditch the mayo and look to the soup pot.
We boil the spuds in a shallow pan with chicken stock, water, sugar, and salt, which leads to deeply flavored potatoes. We also found that adding a surprising ingredient, white vinegar, expanded the window of time during which the spuds go from properly cooked to mushy and broken.
This is because potato cells are held together by pectin, a large molecule that acts as a glue. This glue weakens when heated in water, allowing the cells to come apart, which first softens the potato and then breaks it apart. Vinegar’s acidity slows the breakdown of pectin, expanding the amount of time between the point when a potato starts to soften and when it fully breaks down.
We use Yukon Golds in this dish, as they have just enough starch to contribute creaminess without breaking apart. To finish our potato salad recipe, we add mashed potatoes to the dressing, which thickened it perfectly every time.
5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Editor's note: Brothers Matt Lee and Ted Lee recently both hosted and cooked at the James Beard Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards ceremony. Their latest book, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award in the American cookbooks category, and the duo are about to launch Cookbook Boot Camp, a two-day intensive workshop for professional chefs and others eager to publish cookbooks of quality.
Like many regions of the country, South Carolina's Lowcountry experienced a cold, hard winter that seemed like it would never end. And it wreaked more than a bit of havoc on the ingredients we forage for - and typically find abundant - come Spring. Something about their being less plentiful made us realize how much we love them and wish they had a bigger platform, a more prominent venue, leagues more supporters.
It’s exciting to have farmers in the South digging deep into seed banks, finding heirloom grains and legumes that haven’t been tasted for decades. But we’d also like to shine a light on these five naturalized plant ingredients that already grow in abundance and are often overlooked. So this is a call to action to chefs in the South - and elsewhere - to get hip to the brilliance of FREE FOOD.
5 practically free ingredients we wish more Southern chefs would use: Matt Lee and Ted Lee
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