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Worth your time to listen!

Posted by compumom (My Page) on
Thu, Dec 8, 11 at 2:14

Tonight's NPR broadcast of Fresh Air featured an interview with Chris Kimball. DH heard it on his way home, we replayed the podcast and both found it informative and interesting.

The well paced show included kitchen shortcuts for busy cooks and of course the science behind their recipes and methods.
Some of the topics or tips have been shared by experienced cooks on the CF, like the vodka pie crust recipe from Wizardnm, but others were new to me!

Here is a link that might be useful:


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Here is the link.

Thanks Ellen!

Here is a link that might be useful: ATK interview.


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Read it. But there is more info in the audio.

December 7, 2011

The mission of America's Test Kitchen is simple: to make "recipes that work." The syndicated PBS cooking show, hosted by Christopher Kimball, simplifies recipes in ways that home chefs can easily replicate with a fairly high degree of success.

Cook's Illustrated Cookbook
2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America's Most Trusted Cooking Magazine
by America's Test Kitchen and John Burgoyne

Making sure amateur chefs can re-create recipes designed by professional chefs is of utmost importance, Kimball tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"We bring people into our kitchen and watch people cook our recipes and send our recipes out by email, and we know that what people do with those recipes bears little resemblance to what we do with them," says Kimball. "For example, they will substitute ingredients with great abandon. They will never read the recipe ahead of time."

Kimball remembers a chicken recipe from several years ago. One man wrote in to say it was theworst chicken recipe he'd ever made. Turns out, the man didn't have chicken in the house, so he'd substituted shrimp.
"Well, 40 minutes of cooking shrimp in a skillet is simply not going to come out very well," Kimball says. "And guess whose fault that was? Mine. So most of recipe writing is what the person at home is going to do to your recipe. It's not whether you can make it in your test kitchen."

Kimball is also the founder, editor and publisher of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. More than 2,000 recipes from the magazine are collected in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. On Wednesday's Fresh Air, Kimball and his Test Kitchen colleague Bridget Lancaster highlight some of their favorite kitchen shortcuts and cooking techniques:
On turkey: Cooking turkey is fraught with peril, Lancaster says" all sorts of things can go wrong. She recommends either brining the bird before cooking" by placing it in a salt and water solution for a few hours" or dissecting the bird ahead of time and roasting it in parts.

"It's the most genius concept that I think we've come across," she says. "You roast the turkey breasts, you roast the parts, they all go on at the same time right onto a sheet pan, and the turkey breast, the thighs, they come out perfect. ... It's the most hands-off recipe you can come across."

On minestrone soup: Need an easy way to make minestrone soup broth? Use V8, says Lancaster: "Somebody just mentioned, 'Why don't we try V8, like the commercial says?' And V8 was perfect. It gave just the right body to the minestrone, the right seasoning. It was an 8-for-1 instead of a 2-for-1 ingredient, because it has all of those flavors in one shot."

Harold McGee's 'Keys To Good Cooking' For Chefs
(After adding the V8, Lancaster added pancetta and chicken broth to heighten the flavors. She suggests tasting as you go to see what works.)

On store-bought beef broth: Make sure to check the back of the can to make sure beef is actually listed as an ingredient. Kimball says that store-bought broths are often full of chemicals and salt. "I think the last time we rated them, Rachael Ray's beef stock won," Kimball says. "And I remember doing a blind tasting for the TV show, and I was surprised."

(Homemade tastes better but can require pounds and pounds of meat to make, so it's easier to doctor the store-bought kind.)

On using frozen peas to make pea soup: Lancaster says if you're making pea soup, don't bother with the fresh stuff" they're a pain to peel, and they might not be in season.

"[Frozen peas] are actually picked at the most fresh point," she says. "And somebody else has done all the work [of peeling] for you. And they're great, especially if you're using them as an ingredient in a stew. The key is to add them almost as an herb right at the end, and to let them sit in the soup or a risotto for just five minutes to warm them up."

(Kimball adds that canned tomatoes and frozen blueberries can also be substitutes for the fresh stuff" and sometimes taste better, depending on the season.)

On poaching salmon: Salmon is expensive, and if you poach the entire fillet in water, it can wind up with very little flavor, says Lancaster. She recommends adding lemons to the bottom of a pan so that you're only partially submerging the fish in the poaching liquid. Also, try adding wine and herbs to the poaching liquid to lower its boiling point" in order to build a fish with more complex flavors. "It's pretty darn amazing," she says. "And flavorful, which you never get with poached salmon."

AP/Keller and Keller
Chris Kimball is the founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated and the host of the PBS cooking show America's Test Kitchen.

On the best pie crust ever: Kimball recommends substituting vodka for half of the water used in your recipe. "You end up using more total liquid [with this method]," he says. "When you bake it, half of the vodka, which is one-quarter of the total liquid, is alcohol, and almost all of that dissipates in the heat of the oven. So you end up with a dry, flaky dough, which you can also roll out."

On one of the biggest mistakes made in the Test Kitchen: Kimball says you should never put a hot glass casserole dish on a wet countertop. Why not? He says it can break into about a thousand pieces. Lancaster adds that one incident with a roux, a glass container and a wet countertop once left the Test Kitchen looking like a scene fromLethal Weapon. "Test cooks were diving across the counter to get away from it," she says.
On working in the Test Kitchen: Think working in a test kitchen and tasting food all day would be enjoyable? It is, but there are downsides to the job" like the "five-pound-a-year rule," which is how much weight the typical test chef gains in a year. And then there are the constant tastings.

"One of the worst things was brownie tastings," says Lancaster. "Because, of course, you don't just have to taste them, you have to feed on them all day. One of the test cooks that works there, she and I counted up the calories we consume in one day. And it was frightening."

Recipe: Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

This recipe works best with either a metal colander that sits easily in a Dutch oven or a large pasta pot with a steamer insert. To prevent excess evaporation, it is important for the lid to fit as snugly as possible over the colander or steamer. A steamer basket will work, but you will have to transfer the hot potatoes out of the basket to rinse them off halfway through cooking. For the lightest, fluffiest texture, use a ricer. A food mill is the next best alternative. Russets and white potatoes will work in this recipe, but avoid red-skinned potatoes.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (4 to 6 medium), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks, rinsed well, and drained
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Table salt
2/3 cup whole milk, warm
Ground black pepper

1. Place metal colander or steamer insert in large pot or Dutch oven. Add enough water for it to barely reach bottom of colander. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil. Add potatoes, cover, and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook potatoes 10 minutes. Transfer colander to sink and rinse potatoes under cold water until no longer hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Return colander and potatoes to pot, cover, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft and tip of paring knife inserted into potato meets no resistance, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Pour off water from Dutch oven.

2. Set ricer or food mill over now-empty pot. Working in batches, transfer potatoes to hopper of ricer or food mill and process, removing any potatoes stuck to bottom. Using rubber spatula, stir in melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt until incorporated. Stir in warm milk until incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Recipe: Oven-Fried Bacon
Serves 4 to 6

Use a large, rimmed baking sheet, such as a jelly-roll pan, that is shallow enough to promote browning, yet tall enough (at least 3⁄4 inch in height) to contain the rendered bacon fat. To save time, you can add the bacon to the oven before it reaches 400 degrees, but exact cooking time will vary from oven to oven. If cooking more than one tray of bacon, exchange their oven positions once about halfway through the cooking process.

12 slices bacon, thin- or thick-cut

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange bacon slices in a large jelly-roll pan or other shallow baking pan. Roast until fat begins to render, 5 to 6 minutes; rotate pan front-to-back. Continue roasting until crisp and brown, 5 to 6 minutes longer for thin-sliced bacon, 8 to 10 minutes for thick-cut. Transfer with tongs to paper towel-lined plate, drain and serve.

Recipe: Ultimate Banana Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf

Note: Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The test kitchen's preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (see note)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid).

3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1 1/2-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Excerpt from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook by Cook's Illustrated Magazine Editors. Copyright 2011 by permission of Cooks Illustrated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read it.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I heard this interview yesterday while driving. I had never before paid attention to the reason for addinig vodka to pie crust, but once I heard the science behind it I decided to buy a small bottle of vodka and try the vodka crust. My mother taught me to use only as much water as it took to hold the ingredients together and that I had to do so in order to get a good result. I have been wanting a mince pie, so I will go to the supermarket and liquor store today. I love NPR and turn the radio on as soon as I wake up in the morning. If I am in the car I listen. My radio time is all day until 7:30 in the evening when Jeopardy comes on.


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Pie crust.

I use the vodka crust recipe with success. I do not handle pastry with any skill or confidence. The best texture for me is with lard. But I think the best flavor is with butter,


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Great article!

I smiled when I read about the guy that used shrimp instead of chicken then berated Chris when it turned out awful.

One of my pet peeves with on-line comments of recipes is when they go into detail on the (many) changes they made to the recipe. They are not rating the original recipe at all!

Some changes are good information, especially when several people make one or two minor changes, but geesh, some change the main component and other important ingredients that made the original recipe what it was.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Now you know why canning instructions are so laboriously detailed and canning advisors are relentlessly pedantic--it's because you never know what some people might decide to do, and canning is one area where your are limited in what you can do. Sure, add a pinch of cinnamon to your jam, but the masses out there will push the envelope much farther, and all foods are not the same when it comes to safe preservation methods, nor can you change the method. But people always do! And that's why canning recipes are written with large margins of error, so if you actually do follow the recipe and just slip up a tiny bit, no need to worry. But even saying that is risky, since your idea of "tiny" is not the same as mine, lol! Like . . . "I didn't have tomatoes so I substituted beets--they're both red right?" :)

Oh, and I am a devotee of the V8 tip for all kinds of soups, yes minestrone but also lentil, borscht, chili, etc. I keep it on hand primarily for my soup making.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Many years ago I was part of the team that critiqued the instructions for laundry appliances. We were told to make the directions so clear that even a chimpanzee could do the laundry...and then a woman rinsed her husband's paint pants in gasoline to get the paint out and tossed them into the dryer.
I copied and filed the banana bread recipe...sounds wonderful.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

(@ lpink: DS#2 just told me this joke the other day: "A pedant walks into a bar. Well, it's a restaurant with a bar. Technically it's a brewpub since it has an onsite microbrewery....")


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I couldn't get past the notion of peeling fresh peas. It only dawned on me now, that they mean the pod. LOL.
Am I the only one who was thinking who peels individual peas?


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

jessyf,
hahahahaha, love that!

jasdip,
I agree with you. There is a certain cooking website (that starts with an E) and some of the reviews are ridiculous because of the changes, or worse, when they admit they didn't even make the recipe but here's what they would do if they made it. I also wonder what the 300+ person thinks they can possibly add in their review that hasn't been mentioned.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Jessy I don't get it, what's so funny? Sounds just like a typical conversation with me! :)
BF's standard line: "FINSH A THOUGHT WILL YA!"


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Typo

FINSH, that's how they say "finish" in New Jersey!


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Chris Kimball -- now there's a pedant!

Jim


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Thanks hhireno, LOL.

lpink, I was riffing on your your use of the word 'pedantic'. It just caught my eye because of my son's recent joke sharing.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Am I the only one who was thinking who peels individual peas?

I wondered at that too. Don't you shell peas from the pod? Then, what, did they quick boil them and slip the skins off? Worlds tiniest peeler otherwise.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed listening to the interview. I enjoyed reading Cooks Illustrated but quit subscribing after several years. Many of the recipes were super complicated. I was one of their volunteer testers for a while. I dropped out of that. Very few of the recipes appealed to me.

I was also a volunteer shopper. They would send me a list of ingredients and I was supposed to determine if they could be found locally. I live in a town of 20,000. The closest city is over an hour away. I was amazed at how often I could find items on CI's list. They really do try to make sure that the ingredients are readily available.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

My pleasure! Thanks to Eileen for posting the link, I guess that's what happens when you're too tired to post! LOL

bbstx- How interesting that you were a tester and shopper for CI. I also subscribed for a year or so. While I found the articles and recipes interesting, they were often more involved than I was willing or had the time available.

Don't toss those old issues-- the other day on a "Tastemakers" tag sale website, they featured old issues of CI in a stack tied with turquoise colored ribbon. And the price was only $35! Now that really gave me a chuckle!


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I loved the joke Jessy. Really loved it! I'm the pedant! It's not my fault, years of teaching biology did it to me! I tell my students, many of whome are pre-med, "Are you going to tell your patients, 'Right leg, Left leg, hey, I amputated a leg, why are you being so picky?!" Well actually it's more likely to be, "Right artery, left ventricle, hey, I bypassed a blood vessel, why are you being so picky?!" Just ask Dana Carvey!

Now, to be more on topic, ya know I've tried a few Cook's Illustrated recipes, plus my mom gave me their "Cover and Bake" cookbook, and they just don't seem to ring my bell for some reason. I do enjoy watching the show though, and I do think they are a cut above most cooking shows and cookbooks. Being the wonk that I am, I just eat up all those detailed instructions!! Their tip about blotting canned pumpkin before adding it to baking recipes is also an excellent one. You spread it out on paper towels, which then soak up excess moisture and you can then just peel off the towels and have a pumpkin concentrate left behind.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I have the Cover and Bake cookbook, too. A gift. I'm just not much of a casserole maker.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I forgot all about straining canned pumpkin and that was obvious in my pumpkin hummus at Thanksgiving. It's normally a big hit but it was hardly touched. I think it was a combination of us being bored with it, since we've had it before, and it being too watery. I should write the idea directly on the canned pumpkin in the pantry so I don't forget the next time I use pumpkin.

I didn't have a chance to hear the interview when it was first on so I appreciate the reminder and the link here. I was surprised by Kimball's speaking voice. It sounded younger than I would have thought and, frankly, less pedantic!


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

('Cover and Bake' is wanted by 28 members on paperbackswap.com, just sayin'.... thanks to dedtired again for enabling me on that website, LOL)

Here is a link that might be useful: 'Cover and Bake' at paperbackswap


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I do not like to use canned cream soup for casseroles. I am interested in buying "Cover and Bake" and ask anyone who has the book if most of the recipes do used canned soup.
Thanks.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Mudlady: I'll look and report back.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Pumpkin pulp can also be drained from a colander over a bowl, or for large amounts, a pasta insert in a stock pot. Set in the fridge overnight and lots of liquid will come out.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I'm not staying at my house this week so I took a look at what Amazon reviewers have to say. The book does not use canned soups. Though the attached review may not sound all that positive, it does answer the question of ingredients, etc.

"I usually rave about Cooks Illustrated books because they are the best all-around cookbooks out there, but I have to rant a little about this one. The idea behind Cover and Bake is to improve on classic casseroles by getting rid of sub-par ingredients like cream of mushroom soup and pre-packaged bread crumbs, and simplifying cooking procedures so as to allow as much one-pot cooking as possible. The people at Cooks Illustrated make a lot of references to "Tuesday night dishes," i.e., main courses that can be prepared, cooked and served quickly and don't result in a lot of clean-up.

This, however, isn't that book. The dishes that look so quick and easy when you watch them on America's Test Kitchen aren't so quick and easy at home because they have someone else to pull the leaves off of enough fresh tarragon that they have 3 tablespoons ready and waiting when they start cooking their Chicken with Spring Vegetables. When at home you have to trim and cut the chicken, pull the leaves off of the tarragon and chop them, wash and cut leeks, carrots, and asparagus and measure out cream (rather a lot of it) and chicken broth as well as various spices, and make home-made bread crumbs in the food processor, it all adds up to several hours of preparation before the casserole even makes it into the oven, and along with the casserole dish itself, you end up with a dutch oven, food processor, cutting board, knife and several prep bowls to clean. You can make the basic dish in advance, but you still have to wait for the mixture to chill down before you can put it in the refrigerator, and you have to leave it out at room temperature for an hour before you can put it in the oven. Yes, it tastes much better than the chicken casserole you would make with precut pieces of chicken and cream of mushroom soup, but unless you make it on a weekened and have someone to take it out of the refrigerator for you before you get home from work, it's not a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

As mentioned by someone else, this also isn't healthy eating. Most of the dishes have cream or cheese, and vegetarian isn't a word the folks at Cooks Illustrated seem to have learned, although the dishes seem to have a lot of mushrooms. Even the side dishes aren't truly vegetarian as a lot of the recipes in the book use one form or another of pork for seasoning, or otherwise rely on cheese or cream. For a book called Cover and Bake, I certainly expected at least some recipes which make star use of grains, rice, beans and vegetables, which are nice to have even for meat eaters. Those also aren't here. These are basic beef, pork, chicken and fish with rice and/or potatoes and they are hearty dishes. The side dishes are basically rice dishes to serve with the meat.

Don't get me wrong -- the resulting food tastes good. But their "paella," for instance, bears no resemblence to paella. It's shrimp with tomatoes and rice and while it's quite tasty, for an expensive dish, it just isn't the star it ought to be. When you make a dish that calls for 1 1/2 pounds of extra large shrimp, which is going to run you at least $25, plus the costs of the other ingredients, the dish should be more than tasty -- it should be spectacular. No one is going to complain about this dish, but it's doubtful they are going to rave about it either.

On the plus side, everything is extremely easy to prepare, especially if you like making food that serves 4-6 people and makes use of 9"X13" baking dishes, dutch ovens, and large skillets. There are, as always, plenty of useful illustrations, and the instructions are easy to follow. I'll use this cookbook since I still like the idea of dishes I can make over the weekend and keep in the refrigerator for several weekday uses, but it's not going to replace Cooks Illustrated's New Best Recipe or The New Basics or other recipe collections I own. This is really for people who like chicken and rice, beef and potatoes and other combinations that classically go into casserole dishes with thick and creamy sauces. If that describes you, this book is probably a 5-star book for you. Otherwise, you may search hard for recipes that sound worth the trouble."

I tried to link and for some reason it keeps being rejected.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

I would gladly give away the "Cover and Bake" book but my mom gave it to me for a present and she does come to my house, and she does check! :)

My favorite quote from the above review is, "No one is going to complain about this dish, but it's doubtful they are going to rave about it either." That's kind of how I feel about all Cook's Illustrated recipes. But that's not a bad thing considering the way I usually cook, which is hit and miss!! Yeah, the hits are great, but a lot of spectacularly bad misses! Like this week's oatmeal buttermilk brick . . . I mean bread.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

mudlady, Robert St. John's book "Deep South Staples: or How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup" may be a good choice for you. I have the book. I made the homemade cream of mushroom, portioned it, and froze it for future use. It was so good! And I controlled the ingredients!

Here is a link that might be useful: Robert St. John's book at Amazon


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

My copy of "Cover and Bake" was also a gift. I will keep it as I have no other casserole type cookbook. It may be a handy resource at some point for a potluck. Maybe. I've not cracked the cover!

"Deep South Staples: or How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup" sounds interesting, I'll have to look at that.


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

My only quibble with CI is their claim that their recipe is "the best", and when they take [fill in the blank with your Grandmother's T&T-for-generations recipe that friends/family/neighbors beg for on their knees] and think it needs improving, LOL.

By the way... how much V8 in the minestrone? In place of the water and/or broth?


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

Interesting interview. I enjoy Cooks' Country and America's Test Kitchen. Like Alton Brown's Good Eats, I enjoy the way they explain some of the science of *why* things work or don't work. I like the presenters and the way they present things. Chris Kimball? Yeah, I'd like to smack him once or twice and IDK why! Just that geeky arrogant look I guess. Looking at him is the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. Few people affect me that way, but he does. And actually, he *seems* like a guy next door type that I'd like to know and could easily be friends. I usually listen rather than watch him. But the recipes on there I probably wouldn't make many of them. They tend to be rather labor intensive and I'm not sure it's worth all that hassle. But there's some occasionally that are intriguing. For instance the cooking french fries starting the potatoes in cold oil! Contradicts everything ever said and taught about deep frying but they claim it works and their rationale makes sense assuming it's true.

Alton Brown? Enjoy watching him but he does seem arrogant as a person. I really enjoyed his casserole show when the church ladies held his dog hostage.

I still wonder, do people actually EAT green bean casserole?

Here is a link that might be useful: Good Eats Casserole Over


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RE: Worth your time to listen!

As to how much V-8, I was just thinking of this today as I reheated some chili. I didn't have V-8 before I made it and I added a big splash as I reheated it, and it improved it very much, although it wasn't that bad to begin with. There's no magic amount of V-8, since it depends on what you are making. I buy it in the little 6 oz. cans and add it to homeade and reheated soups, beans and rice, etc. Basically just add a splash up to one full 6 oz. can, depending on how much liquid I have and need. I use the low sodium kind, since traditional V-8 is high in sodium.


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