Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cookbook Review Wrap-Up: America's Test Kitchen 2011

As you no doubt noticed, last week I petered out after three days of recipes from this cookbook. I didn't cook much dinner on Thursday (BLT sandwiches) and Friday we ate out (and had a surprisingly delicious and well-cooked meal at Outback) after seeing Harry Potter. However, I didn't want to let it go without further inspection. This is a very nice cookbook and one that has given us plenty of good things to eat.

Last week, I tried to choose recipes that covered different types of food. The Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings and Amish Potato Salad came from the "Starters & Salads" chapter; Almost Hands-Free Risotto came from the "Vegetables & Side Dishes" chapter; and Maryland Crab Cakes came from the "Seafood" chapter (shocking, I know). On Saturday, I attempted their Reduced-Fat German Chocolate Cake with rather awful results but I'll go into that later. I had plans to make Grilled Vegetable and Bread Salad (aka Panzanella) and Chicken Tacos (even though their recipe called for 3/4 cup chopped cilantro) but, as usual, overestimate my drive to cook on those days where I'm feeling less than the thing.

We have eaten Easy Cheesy Quiche for Two (using the Easy Ham and Swiss Quiche for Two variation) several delicious times; having failed to locally find a 6" pie plate, I've been doubling the recipe for a 9" pie instead AND using a different pie crust recipe since theirs is rather fussy for my liking. One of the first recipes we made was Grilled Asparagus with Garlic Butter - so yummy! The Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce, Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (the cheese did exactly what the writer claimed it wouldn't: all the cheese clumped together and stuck to my tongs) , and St. Louis Pizza (where are you supposed to find shredded American cheese?) were all just okay. Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts were good but it felt strange to bake the chicken first and then brown it.

Now, about the cake. Did you know that baking soda and baking powder are chock full of sodium? Baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate after all, with well over 1,000 mg sodium per teaspoon. That presents a problem for me since I'm now on a low-sodium diet but there are alternatives you can get and that's what I used when I made this cake:

And here's what I got:

To be more specific, size-wise:

For reference purposes, that donut is a regular glazed donut from Dunkin' Donuts. Not very impressive, eh? The cake turned out chewy and dense, even more so than a brownie, but did not have a bad flavor. The frosting was better but after it sat, I could peel it off the cake in sheets. I've been tempted to bake the cake again with regular baking soda to see if there would be a difference though there really wasn't too much cake batter to begin with.

Don't despair! I've saved my favorite recipe from this book for last and let me assure you that if I was not concerned about my salt intake, I would be making these at least once a week for sure: Crispy Roasted Potatoes. Just typing that makes my mouth water. I love french fries and roasted potatoes but any time I've tried to make oven fries I get frustrated. The fries don't become crispy and more often than not, they stick to the baking sheet, even on non-stick! This recipe solves those problems and is pretty dang easy. Just make sure you've got plenty of ketchup!

Crispy Roasted Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6 (or two very hungry people)

  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 medium), rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a Dutch oven and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and gently simmer until the exteriors of the potatoes have softened but the center offer resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, toss to combine. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons more oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to toss until the exteriors of the potato slices are coated with a starchy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Working quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the surface. Carefully transfer the potatoes to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer (skin side up if an end piece). Bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are goldne brown and crisp, 15 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes.

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula and tongs, loosen the potatoes from the pan and carefully flip each slice. Continue to roast until the second side is golden and crisp, 10 to 20 minutes longer, rotating the baking sheet as needed to ensure the potatoes brown evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

You can get it HERE from Amazon.

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