A plug for "Cook's Illustrated"

Maggie's Farm linked to a NYT review of the odd-duck "Cook's Illustrated."  It's off the beaten path, certainly -- no advertising, no restaurant or chef reviews, and it features decidedly bizarre editorials that have nothing whatever to do with cooking.  The recipes tend to be on the boring side.  It's worth reading, nevertheless, as the only cooking guide I'm aware of that employs the scientific method.  The test kitchen works on recipes obsessively to determine whether tweaking this or that ingredient, or the cooking time or technique, yields results approved by blind taste-testers.  Common grocery-store or mail-order ingredients get an impartial "Consumer Reports"-style treatment as well.  The NYT article confirms that the magazine's founder, Chris Kimball, isn't out to inspire cutting edge food trends for special occasions, but only to enable workaday cooks to produce reliable results with a minimum of effort, night after night.  I swear by his biscuit recipe.  And though his editorials apparently don't rate highly with his subscribers, I think they're great.

I'm not much of a cook, doing best when I stick to reliable, easy recipes.  In contrast, my husband excels at difficult cooking:  more Thomas Keller than Chris Kimball.  He works at recipes until he can produce them perfectly, all appearing on the table at the right time.  His attention span amazes me.  If I try to cook three things at once, one of them is going to get forgotten at some critical stage, and smoke alarms are not out of the question.

Ace says today that the NYT has become a Democratic Party newsletter with a good crossword puzzle ("Democratic operatives with bylines").  That's fair, except that they still put out the occasional enjoyable Leisure/Style or Science/Health article.


Grim said...

Mary Alice also taught the children to fish and hunt and gave each of them a .22 by their 12th birthdays. One afternoon, while Kimball’s father stood lecturing about gun safety, Mary Alice grabbed the rifle out of her son’s hand and shot a bird off a wire.

How bad can it be?

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation, especially if you wonder why some things do not work. "Cooks Illustrated" provides the flops as well as the successes. And their equipment reviews are better than most. I don't have access to many of the ingredients they prefer, but what I've made from the magazine and cookbook (also usable as doorstop or free-weight) are excellent.