Archives for posts with tag: Cook’s Illustrated

I’m the first to admit I’m a little late to the strawberry rhubarb party this year. It’s not my fault! My day job has turned into a day-and-night job leaving little time to tend to matters of the kitchen. Take heart, yesterday morning I woke up with my priorities straight. I ran (literally) to the Fort Greene farmer’s market (site of the fiddlehead fiasco a few weeks ago) to fetch strawberries so small and sweet they resembled raspberries and tasted like jam. And I was delighted to see the rhubarb still hanging around, weeks after I first saw it (and rushed by it) at the Union Square Greenmarket.

But what’s that I see? Cherries?! I haven’t even tasted my first bite of a strawberry-rhubarb crisp this season and already there are cherries to contend with? Maybe next week. Yesterday I was on a mission and would not get distracted, no matter how sweet the cherries looked.

I was after the classic strawberry rhubarb pie. A fool’s mission, you may think, given the tendency for strawberries to explode mid-baking, making for a runny mess for your crust to sop up. So call me a fool. I love this particular pie. I love it in June (I love June period). I love it with ice cream or without. I love it standing up in a Brooklyn kitchen late at night or in a backyard in Vermont. And most importantly, so does my grandmother, and I wanted her to have a big ole piece of it.

I thought about fussing of course. I picked up and smelled the herbs at the market, wondering at first how sage would go with these flavors, then thyme, then mint. And then wondered about balsamic vinegar and black pepper, before deciding to keep it simple. Well, mostly simple.

The only two additions I allowed were freshly grated ginger and lemon zest, just to spice things up a bit without going completely rogue. I love the combination of rhubarb and ginger, and that of strawberry and lemon. The proof was in the filling: when baked this pie was not too sweet, but lusciously fruity, jammy, June-y, tart, with just a hint of the lemon and ginger to elevate the senses.

And fear not—the pie crust took all of five, maybe eight, minutes to make, and no food processor or pulsing required. I’d been wanting to try Cook’s Illustrated recipe using vodka in place of the water. The theory is that vodka, in large part pure alcohol, provides the necessary liquid to bind the dough, then cleverly evaporates during baking to yield a flakier crust. I proceeded cautiously and used only 1/4 c of ice-cold vodka (left over in my freezer from New Year’s), mixed with 1/2 c water. And you know what, the crust was buttery and flaky and darn tasty.

Next week: cherries anyone? And good luck to Rafa at the French Open this morning, I would love to see him put an end to Djoki’s streak. Only two months til the US Open!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

For the crust:
2 1/2 c flour (I like 2 c all-purpose and 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (16 tbsp), cut into small cubes
1/2 c cold water
1/4 c cold vodka

Combine the water and vodka, add an ice cube or two, and set aside. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work quickly (with a pastry blender, whisk, or your hands) to combine until pea-sized crumbs form. Add 1/2 c of the liquid and continue mixing. You can add the rest if and when you need it, which you probably will. Separate the dough into equal halves, flattening a bit and transferring to plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of an hour and up to one week.

For the filling:
1 1/4 lb rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 c cane or white sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar
dash of salt
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 c corn starch
Optional: 1 egg yolk mixed with a little water for glaze

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare to roll out the dough by cleaning a large surface and flouring it. I like to roll out dough directly on a large piece of saran wrap. Roll half of the dough into a roughly 12- or 13-inch diameter. Carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie dish and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, salt, zest, lemon juice, ginger, and corn starch. Transfer the filling into the pie crust. Roll out the second half of the pie dough, this time to a slightly smaller diameter. Transfer over top of the filling, pressing around the sides to remove any gaps. Trim the ends of the pie and crimp the edges. Make decorative slits to let steam escape. Brush the top with the egg yolk mixture.

Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven, baking at 400 for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and let cool completely (if you can resist) before digging in.

Yesterday may have been the coldest day of winter so far. I don’t have proof to back that up except it was the first day I’ve worn tights under my jeans and had to use a scarf to cover my face and not just my neck. Also, I passed at least two people on the street who had near-frozen icicles of snot dripping down their nose. Even my yoga class went from an attendance of twenty the week before, to a measly six brave souls.

Luckily I remembered what my eighth-grade science teacher in Vermont taught me about layering: loose layers, wool is preferred, leave enough room for air to circulate and heat up, and most importantly tuck everything in so no skin is exposed in any way. New England common sense, of course, but wizardry to a girl from Long Island who never owned a pair of gloves.

So it was the perfect day to make soup. But instead of the usual hearty favorites—mushroom barley, bean chili,  chowder —my friend Jill and I settled on this carrot-ginger-miso recipe from one of our favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. While not hearty per se it was warming and comforting and will keep you on track for hitting your new year’s whatchamacallits by being all healthy and vegan and whatnot.

We served the soup with a crunchy cucumber salad with ginger, sesame, and scallion from Cook’s Illustrated and a dark rye bread that Jill made with cocoa and espresso (it’s like your toast and coffee in one). Accompanied with the latest episode of Downton Abbey I forgot all about the blustery cold outside. (Will Matthew and Mary get together already, jeez.)

I’m publishing the recipe as is, but Jill and I agreed we’d make a few adjustments in the future. For one, the consistency was very puréed, almost baby-food-like, which, don’t get me wrong, can be enjoyable. But I’d increase the vegetable broth. Next, the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup white miso, but I’d ratchet that on up to 1/2 c if you’re feeling bold. As is you could barely discern the miso flavor. Finally, I’d add a tablespoon or two of rice wine vinegar if you have it, it was missing just a tiny acidic zing. But otherwise I really enjoyed it and would definitely make again.

Carrot-Ginger-Miso Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 regular or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled or smashed
1 tbsp finely chopped or grated ginger (or more)
4 c vegetable broth
1/4 c white miso paste, or more
Toasted sesame oil, for drizzling
2 scallions, very thinly sliced, for garnish*

Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and ginger. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in blender or with an immersion blender. In a small bowl whisk together the miso and 1/2 cup of the soup. Stir the mixture back into the pot of soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional miso.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and scallions.

*You can do a quick pickle of the scallions by letting them marinate in a mixture of 6 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp salt, and 1 1/2 tsp sugar while you’re making the soup.

While roasting chicken is a fairly simple endeavor—at least it can be; like anything I suppose it can be made as complicated as you want—I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made it during the week. For me it’s all about the weekend, Sundays in particular. The leftovers can be used in numerous ways all week and it’s just the thing to cap off a leisurely weekend. It must run in the family because my mom also tends to make roast chicken on Sundays down in Raleigh.

This past week I was perusing Cook’s Illustrated, one of the best food publications in a very crowded market. (I’d also add a plug for the Art of Eating, Edward Behr’s quarterly from Vermont.) The website featured a dish called Weeknight Roast Chicken, and it caught my attention because, as the weather turns cooler, I turn on the oven. And I have a bit of a thing for roast chicken recipes. It’s such a simple dish yet each cook has quite a personal, specific method for how to make it just so. So when a chef I like, or in this case a magazine, shares a recipe for the dish, I pay attention, curious to see if I’ll learn any new tricks. A personal favorite is Simon Hopkinson’s from his book Roast Chicken and Other Stories.

Cook’s Illustrated never fails to disappoint. With an army of testers they publish only airtight recipes. This method calls for preheating the skillet in a 450-degree oven then turning off the heat halfway through. This makes for a nicely browned bird that retains its juices. The pre-heated skillet gives the thighs a jumpstart on cooking. The seasoning is merely salt and pepper sprinkled over the bird that has been coated with a tablespoon of olive oil. I inserted half a lemon and a half a bulb of garlic to the bird’s cavity. You don’t want to crowd the bird too much with stuffing, which slows the cooking. To the skillet I added chopped carrots, shallots, and garlic cloves, sprinkled with just a little salt and olive oil. Next time I’d add a little smoked paprika to the chicken’s skin before cooking.

I served the bird with a pear-endive-blue cheese salad, dressed with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette, and a shiitake mushroom rice pilaf.

Roast Chicken, easy enough for a weeknight, proper enough for a Sunday
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 (3 1/2 to 4 lb) whole chicken
1 tbsp olive oil or softened butter
1/2 lemon
1/2 to 1 clove of garlic
optional: a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme

1. Adjust the oven rack to its middle position and place a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (like cast iron) on the rack. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Clean the chicken and pat dry thoroughly with a towel. Rub the entire surface with the oil or butter. Sprinkle evenly with about 1 tbsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Place the lemon, garlic, and herbs if using into the bird’s cavity. Tie the legs together with twine and tuck the wings behind back.

2. Transfer the chicken breast-side up to the pre-heated skillet. Careful when handling the hot skillet. Roast the chicken at 450 until the breasts are 120 degrees and the thighs 135 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the chicken in for another 25 to 35 minutes, until the breasts register 160 degrees and the thighs 175.

3. Transfer to a serving dish and let the chicken rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes if you’re starving and 20 minutes if you can stand it.

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