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Cook's Illustrated


CrescentFresh
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From my e-mail bag.

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Please join us for a book signing, Q&A, and discussion with Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and host of the America’s Test Kitchen television series. Christopher will discuss The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which features more than 1,200 kitchen-tested, everyday recipes from America's Test Kitchen.

DATE: Tuesday, October 25, 2005

TIME: 7:00 PM

LOCATION: Friendship Heights Villlage Center (with Politics & Prose)

4433 S. Park Avenue

Chevy Chase, MD 20008

PHONE: (301) 656-2797

RSVP appreciated

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Now this could be interesting. Am I alone in finding Cook's Illustrated one of the most irritating periodicals out there? I mean, really, imitation vanilla wins the taste test? sheesh. :lol: They should change the slogan "America's Test Kitchen" to "Re-inventing the Wheel". :P

Thanks for passing along the info, CrescentFresh.

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Now this could be interesting.  Am I alone in finding Cook's Illustrated one of the most irritating periodicals out there?  I mean, really, imitation vanilla wins the taste test?  sheesh.  :lol:   They should change the slogan "America's Test Kitchen" to "Re-inventing the Wheel".    :P  

Thanks for passing along the info, CrescentFresh.

I tweaked a "Test Kitchen" pork roast recipe tonight for dinner. It came out really good. And I usually don't trust anyone who wears a bowtie.

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Now this could be interesting.  Am I alone in finding Cook's Illustrated one of the most irritating periodicals out there? 

I've learned alot from their recipes. That said, the magazine really is irritating these days. They keep doing the same things over and over, since that's what their focus group testing tells them people want. This means 86 versions of things like mashed potatoes, brownies, and roast chicken.

I wonder if Chris Kimball is going to read one of his cornpone "On the Ol' Farmstead in Vermont" editorials :lol:

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I tweaked a "Test Kitchen" pork roast recipe tonight for dinner.  It came out really good.  And I usually don't trust anyone who wears a bowtie.

I find I have to tweak almost all of their cookbook recipes, which is really amusing for a book called "The Best Recipes".

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I find I have to tweak almost all of their cookbook recipes, which is really amusing for a book called "The Best Recipes".

"Best recipes make not necessarily best results."

I forget if that was something I found in a fortune cookie at TemptAsian or if it was from "The Wisdom of Yoda."

:lol:

Edited by CrescentFresh
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This particular cookbook that Chris Kimball is speaking about is geared even more to the "masses"--As I understand it, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is aiming to take the place of the red and white standby Betty Crocker. Probably not for the DR crowd.

On the other hand, I have found The Best Recipe to be a great resource in our kitchen, and I respect what Chris Kimball has done, and is continuing to do. I don't believe any cookbook to be the end-all/be-all and my nature is to want to tweak any recipe, no matter how good it is...that's just my nature. My husband on the other hand, is a baker, and has that ability to follow recipes to the tee. Some cookbooks work better for some than others--no need to dis the guy.

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So did anyone end up going?  I am a fan of The Best Recipe too, but Chris is insufferable on the show.  Maybe he's more engaging in real life though from what I've read, it's highly doubtful.

It's hasn't happened as of yet....but we probably won't be going. Icky, rainy, depressing day, just want to go home. Is it 6:00 yet? :P

edited to say that I just realized I'm a ventworm! At the rate I'm going, though, it's more like an inchworm :lol:

Edited by squidsdc
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Mr. bimbap and I attended the Chris Kimball event last night. Kimball talked for about 10 minutes and then opened the floor to questions which were, thankfully, intelligent and well-thought out.

There was a good turnout even in the awful weather. The room wasn't completely full, but it was certainly approaching it. All who attended received the most recent copy of Cook's Country (the more down-home sister magazine to Cook's Illustrated) and a handy pocket-sized buying guide for Cook's recommended products.

Kimball was no different than his TV persona (that is to say he was well-spoken and sarcastic). He had some funny anecdotes about the magazine and the taping of America's Test Kitchen. My favorite was from the taping of the tastings with Jack Bishop which are done one right after another on the last days of filming. During a butter tasting, Kimball noticed that they had spread the butter quite thickly on the baguette slices he was sampling. Bishop assured him that it was so he could get the full flavor of the butter, but actually it was to hide the fact that they had spread hot chile paste under the butter. At his first bite, Kimball immediately tried to gulped down a glass of water only to discover that it was vodka.

We got suckered in and bought the new cookbook, but didn't stay to get the personalize bookplate that Kimball was signing.

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I just got an email saying that Chris will be doing this again.

DATE: Thursday, October 5, 2006

TIME: 7:00 PM

LOCATION: Hosted by Politics & Prose

Off-site at Friendship Heights Village Community Center

4433 South Park Avenue

Chevy Chase, MD

PHONE: (202) 364-1919

RSVP appreciated

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Advice from America's most arrogant includes thoughtful ideas like "make the damn recipe my way" and "nobody in America can make pie dough anymore" and the classic "the gourmet cooking thing is over".

This short interview exemplifies why I cancelled my subscription to Cook's Illustrated.

You left out the [He laughs.] after the first quote. :) For the most part I think he has some good points. If someone is learning you really need to follow recipes closely. How else are you going to know what to correct if it does not turn out right?

Besides folks like us, do you really think that a great number of the population is making decent (if any) pie dough? I doubt it.

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Advice from America's most arrogant includes thoughtful ideas like "make the damn recipe my way" and "nobody in America can make pie dough anymore" and the classic "the gourmet cooking thing is over".

This short interview exemplifies why I cancelled my subscription to Cook's Illustrated.

I still have a subscription and watch the show occasionally, but this article makes me reconsider. I like the attention to detail, but this comes off as "Forget authentic - our dumbed down version is all you can pull off and is better anyway."

"Make the damn recipe my way" did bring back memories of this thread, but at least Joe was insisting on orthodoxy for authenticity's sake.

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I still have a subscription and watch the show occasionally, but this article makes me reconsider. I like the attention to detail, but this comes off as "Forget authentic - our dumbed down version is all you can pull off and is better anyway."

I did not quite read it like that. He states that the versions that they print are made with ingredients that you can pick up at any supermarket. Again consider the audience. I think the focus here is trying to get more people in the kitchen versus creating authentic dishes. The general public is not going to travel to 3 supermarkets, 2 speciality shops, and one ethnic grocery to make dinner.

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Besides folks like us, do you really think that a great number of the population is making decent (if any) pie dough? I doubt it.

It's not the specific comments, really, but the attitude behind them. There's a Hammacher-Schlemmer quality to the writing, an they try to re-invent the wheel. I mean really, The Cook's Bible ?! That's a damn arrogant claim. Word of God my ass.

consider the audience. I think the focus here is trying to get more people in the kitchen versus creating authentic dishes.

Agreed. But he doesn't have to slam the rest of us in the process.

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I have to agree with Elizabeth that Kimball comes off as a prick here. We cancelled our subscription long ago because I disliked the hectoring tone of the recipes, and the endless "I tried this, then I tried that, and discovered if I add an extra two steps that I can't fuck it up."

ETA: some language in this post is not suited for children under 17.

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I like Cook's Illustrated, because the writing makes clear what's necessary (quantity and technique-wise) and what's not. It's easy to riff off a Cook's recipe and I pick up a new technique once every third issue or so. But it's not as good as it was five years ago.

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I'll add my two cents. I have a subscription (a Christmas gift from friends). I actually appreciate the "I tried this and I tried that" comments, if and when they back it up with the science. I enjoy knowing not only how to make good food, but what kinds of things screw it up. I think it helps me be a better home cook, especially when I'm coming with up stuff of my own and not following someone else's recipe.

On the other side of the coin, magazines like Saveur and Gourmet have wonderfully detailed and challenging recipes but I doubt I can remember the last time I tried anything from either magazine (I subscribe to both). They're both fun reading but it stops there. I don't think I actually learn much (in terms of cooking technique) from them.

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I'll add my two cents. I have a subscription (a Christmas gift from friends). I actually appreciate the "I tried this and I tried that" comments, if and when they back it up with the science.

xcanuck, do you have Cookwise, by Shirley Corriher? She uses a scientific approach and is more entertaining. I also recommend McGee's book whose name is escaping me right now.

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I'll add my two cents. I have a subscription (a Christmas gift from friends). I actually appreciate the "I tried this and I tried that" comments, if and when they back it up with the science. I enjoy knowing not only how to make good food, but what kinds of things screw it up. I think it helps me be a better home cook, especially when I'm coming with up stuff of my own and not following someone else's recipe.

On the other side of the coin, magazines like Saveur and Gourmet have wonderfully detailed and challenging recipes but I doubt I can remember the last time I tried anything from either magazine (I subscribe to both). They're both fun reading but it stops there. I don't think I actually learn much (in terms of cooking technique) from them.

My take on the difference between Cooks Illustrated and Gourmet is that if I'm looking for a nice-ish meal to make in my little apartment in DC, then I'll go to CI and know that I'll be able to find something to make with ingredients that I can get at either Trader Joe's or the Capitol Hill Safeway ( :) ), and cooking implements that I can pack into a couple of cabinets. But, if I'm visiting my parents and have the run of the cuisinart, kitchenaid mixer, extra-large oven, fresh herb garden, and Mom's cooking expertise, then I'll go to Gourmet. Otherwise, it's just an exercise in frustration.

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That's right where I get off the CI bus. It fosters an attitude that experimentation leads to failure.

I disagree as well. He does not say that experimentation leads to failure, but that unless you understand the techniques, experimentation may lead to problems.

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Sometimes "it's the singer, not the song". How an idea is communicated is at least as important as the idea itself. Thus, if Kimball had said "it's a shame so few people in America can make pie dough anymore", I would be nodding in agreement and eagerly reading the rest. But the statement "nobody in America can [emphasis mine] make pie dough anymore" shows an attitude that I find disturbing.

There's room in our culinary universe for multiple approaches. Kimball's way isn't the only way.

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My major problem with the "best recipe" approach of CI is that you're locked into their tastes. And having tried a few things, I don't always agree with their taste.

I also find their "I tried this" annoying sometimes. Especially when they set up "straw man" techniques. "I tried to debone the duck with a spoon, but it didn't work". Well, no shit, Sherlock!

Finally, I do think he came off as a real prick in this interview. It presented a very condescending opinion of his readers/viewers.

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xcanuck, do you have Cookwise, by Shirley Corriher? She uses a scientific approach and is more entertaining. I also recommend McGee's book whose name is escaping me right now.

Heather - is this the same Shirley Corriher that shows up periodically on Good Eats? I will get Cookwise immediately! Thanks for the tip.

As for the McGee, I have both the old and new editions of On Food and Cooking. The old version is all tattered and complete with tons of highlighting. What a valuable resource!

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Heather - is this the same Shirley Corriher that shows up periodically on Good Eats? I will get Cookwise immediately! Thanks for the tip.

As for the McGee, I have both the old and new editions of On Food and Cooking. The old version is all tattered and complete with tons of highlighting. What a valuable resource!

I believe so. Cookwise is a great book.

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I pick up CI every now and then when the cover appeals to me as I'm standing in line at the grocery. I have to wonder if his comments lost something in translation or when edited for length because I recall CI often has recipes with the core recipe and then multiple variations. To me, that is an invitation to play around once you get the intent so you get a good result. I also like the I tried this or that angle because while I have read Cookwise, I don't always remember each detail when I'm scanning my kitchen looking for an acceptable substitute or to put me on the right path when I decide to play a little.

I thought he came off snarky in the article, just like on tv. I like snark. It didn't strike me as arrogant. But I also don't mind best of or bible in a title. I get the sales angle. The content will determine whether or not I buy the book.

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I'll add my two cents. I have a subscription (a Christmas gift from friends). I actually appreciate the "I tried this and I tried that" comments, if and when they back it up with the science. I enjoy knowing not only how to make good food, but what kinds of things screw it up. I think it helps me be a better home cook, especially when I'm coming with up stuff of my own and not following someone else's recipe.

On the other side of the coin, magazines like Saveur and Gourmet have wonderfully detailed and challenging recipes but I doubt I can remember the last time I tried anything from either magazine (I subscribe to both). They're both fun reading but it stops there. I don't think I actually learn much (in terms of cooking technique) from them.

Gourmet and Saveur are in different categories, the content is largely oriented towards travel and luxury restaurants and the recipes assume that you already know what you are doing. As far as I can tell, the Gourmet recipes are available free on Epicurious.com, and the Saveur recipes on their website.

Cook's Illustrated is for a different niche, that of people who are interested in deconstructing recipes and the science, lore, and thoughts that go into them. If you like this niche, you'll probably like writers like Harold McGee, John Thorne, and, of course, Larousse Gastronomique.

Also as far as I can tell, if you have an online subscription to Cook's Illustrated all the recipes are online. I have yet to determine whether the "Best Recipe" books ever have anything new or just the old stuff retreaded.

Personally, I am a fan of cook books that have recipes that have been tested to a fare-thee-well, like these, Julia Child, the old Joy of Cooking, and yes, Betty Crocker. You can rely on these cookbooks not to let you down in producing exactly what they promise. Betty may be pedestrian, but she's reliable.

Today's New York Times magazine has a review of the 75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking that appeals to me. (Link.) I miss the old Joy, recently obtained an old version because the 1997 version dumped some of my favorites. Actually my mom gave it to me because she was tired of me "borrowing" hers and giving it back with sticky fingerprints on the pages. :)

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I like CI's approach. It gives me a different way to view a recipe. I remember (though not word for word), for example, a recipe for salsa started out by saying that they tried the recipe three different ways:

1) using just raw fresh vegetables that they bought from the supermarket

2) using canned vegetables

3) roasting the fresh vegetables in a oven

They found (and the tasters agreed) that roasting the vegetables first will give a more desirable flavor.

Little tips like that that give me a different perspective on a recipe.

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I like CI's approach. It gives me a different way to view a recipe. I remember (though not word for word), for example, a recipe for salsa started out by saying that they tried the recipe three different ways:

1) using just raw fresh vegetables that they bought from the supermarket

2) using canned vegetables

3) roasting the fresh vegetables in a oven

They found (and the tasters agreed) that roasting the vegetables first will give a more desirable flavor.

Little tips like that that give me a different perspective on a recipe.

But that also assumes that you are looking for a cooked salsa rather than a fresh salsa. I think what turns people off is the idea that there is only one way to do something and it is their way.

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But that also assumes that you are looking for a cooked salsa rather than a fresh salsa. I think what turns people off is the idea that there is only one way to do something and it is their way.

It was actually the for the salsa to be used in their Huevos Rancheros recipe. I was just using the testing technique as an example of how they make recipies several different ways and let their testers decide which technique provides the best outcome.

But as far as the salsa recipe itself, the vegetables are cooled before the salsa is prepared. I'm sure the carmelization of the tomatoes, chilies, and onions provide a different flavor.

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As I look at my pile of CI's, i was a subscriber for a couple of years in the 90's, Iv'e come to the conclusion that their only redeeming value/s are the lovely color ilustrations on the back cover. Whats in between the covers...well I think most people have said it already; bland (obvious) recipes, overwrought technique, pedestrian taste (arogant pedestrian taste) and sometimes inexplicable ratings.

Having said all that, I'm keeping them (not only for the back covers) but also as a gift for my college age daughter. When the day comes that she decides to learn how to cook I think they could be a good practical primer for the novice home cook.

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Was Kimball as annoying in person as he is on television?

Not sure. He was late meeting his dining companion, though. He seemed to enjoy the meal, but they were done in about an hour - which to me is nuts. If you were at Palena in the back room, that, to me, requires at least two hours to fully enjoy.

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