America’s Test Kitchen produces two television shows and publishes cookbooks and two magazines, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country. As a part of their recipe-development process, they send out unpublished recipes to volunteer home cooks, who test the recipes in their own kitchens to see if they get the expected results. The volunteers fill out an online survey once their testing is finished. It’s easy to sign up to volunteer; just go to the Cook’s Illustrated website and scroll down until you see the invitation to sign up, click on the link, and follow the instructions. (At this writing, they are updating their list, and not currently accepting new testers. I expect that will change, so if you’re interested, keep checking back.)
I have tested a bunch of recipes for them, most great, a couple not as good. They ask testers not to share or publish the recipes anywhere until they have been published by America’s Test Kitchen, so I don’t. I have discovered it takes about 6 months from when I first see a Test Recipe, to when it shows up in a magazine. I thought I’d give you a rundown of the published recipes I’ve tested, links to them (with photos), and my personal opinion of each one. The websites are paid-subscription-access-only for most recipes, but there is a free trial, so you could sign up for that, get the recipes you want, and then cancel. I have found my membership worth the money, however, so you might consider staying on. Now to the recipes!
1. Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans: This recipe is pretty much the same as it was when I tested it, and it is easy, herby, creamy, and satisfying. It might sound strange to serve pasta with potatoes in the same dish, but all that starch is what makes the sauce so creamy. I can certainly recommend this one. It’s one of those dishes you’ll be tempted to eat straight from the pot with a fork and a glass of wine.
2. Roasted Butternut Squash with Tahini and Feta: I wasn’t as fond of this recipe, and it may be other testers felt the same, because although it is published on the website, it was not one of the two variations published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine (Jan/Feb 2014). The technique used to roast the squash is not terribly difficult, and it results in sweet, caramelized slices of squash, but the toppings, both in flavor and amount, completely overwhelmed the delicate squash flavor. The tahini dressing, feta, and mint all work well together, and with the squash, but feta and mint are powerful flavors, so I ended up scraping most of the topping off. I haven’t tried any of the other variations, but I might-they sound great, and I have a few butternut squash still kicking around from our last CSA shares. (As of this writing, this recipe is free without a subscription. Go get it!!)
3. Grilled Glazed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts: When we tested this one (and by we, I mean I did the prep and The Husband did the grilling), we were having trouble with heat control on the grill, so ours burnt a little. But now that I look at the published recipe, I see an important change was made: the powdered spices, that we were to mix in with the milk powder mixture sprinked on the chicken before grilling, were relocated into the glaze mixture that was brushed onto the grilling chicken. That may have affected our results. So now this makes me want to try these again, when we can get to our grill, which is currently ensconced in at least 18 inches of an ice/snow combination that would thwart any invading army attempting to get anywhere near it, and looks to be there for another month at least. Something to look forward to. We tested the Honey Mustard Glaze and the Miso Sesame Glaze, so I will start with those. Both glazes were sweet, tangy, and salty-what more could you want?
Potatoes O’Brien: They changed the name to O’Brien Potatoes, and adjusted the temperature for cooking it, but other than that, this recipe is exactly as it was when I tested it, and that’s because it’s really good and really easy. The potatoes became remarkably crispy, considering they were not fried in oil the usual way. They hardly needed any attention, and the savory, full flavor coaxed from these common ingredients is just as remarkable. I would definitely recommend this recipe.
British-Style Currant Scones: This recipe yielded the best scones I have ever made, period. They were light, fluffy as heck on the inside, with a little bit of crunchiness on the outside, with little sweet sneak attacks from the currants. I see that adjustments have been made to the baking temperature, and rack height in the oven, but the ingredients and method are the same. I didn’t think this recipe needed any changes, so I am curious to try making them with the Test Kitchen’s adjustments to see what the difference is. Seriously, you want to bake these scones. I want to go bake them right now, honestly.
Lemon Pudding Cake: I was lucky enough to test this recipe twice. The first time I had several questions about how it was supposed to look and taste, because the instructions for the recipe were not all clear. The second time there had been clarifications added, and descriptions of each step, and the cake came out much better, and was lemony, smooth, and sweet. I see the Test Kitchen decided to publish it as individual ramekins rather than one large dish; I can see how this would make the servings more neat and elegant. I might try it this way to see what the difference is. It is very tasty and worth baking again.
That’s all I can share with you at this time. I have tested a few more recipes for the Test Kitchen, but I haven’t seen them published yet, so they are secret!! Two of them are for an upcoming cookbook, and the others are for the magazines. When I see them, I’ll let you know. Go check out the ones I can share with you, and I’ll see you again soon, here on the Road.