Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hell's Meals on Wheels

I have trouble boiling water without it turning into a major international incident. Ask my last two roommates. I have twice fused a boiled dry kettle to the heating element on the stove top. Bread is often reduced to char even with the toaster set on low just because I am present in the room. My oven took out a restraining order against me for good reason. I hate cooking - mainly because I'm not any good at it. Well... not any good when compared to my mother, who is my plumb line for the edible. I don't know why I can't set my standard a little lower, because I know I am never going to live up to it as my mum is a unbelievably good cook and baker.

If I'm going to bother investing the time and the money in order to produce food that doesn't simply come out of a bag, box, or can, then I want to make certain it's going to be edible. I turn to America's Test Kitchen.

Were I to pick a single cooking show to watch on television it would have to be ATK. No, it's not as action packed as Iron Chef, it isn't as campy as Good Eats, and its hosts/chefs don't look like they stepped off a runway in Paris.

FYI, you should never trust a skinny chef.

There are some fairly witty and cutting remarks flying between the host, Cook's Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball, and the variety of chefs/scientists/quality control experts. All of the dialogue is ad-libbed because they are just that comfortable with each other. I like the sense of camaraderie between them. It feels like they're letting you into their exclusive cookery club where all the cool kids wear bow ties and aprons.

There's a LOT of science involved in the testing, retesting, and trial and error of the recipes in the America's Test Kitchen before they reach the stage of perfection necessary to air. It's more like a kitchen/ laboratory. You can rest assured when a recipe has made it into an ATK magazine or cookbook that it is going to be good... as long as you follow the recipe exactly. Because using a pound of chicken vs. a pound-point-five can make a huge difference in the outcome.

I found that out with my own brand of trial and error. And error. And error.

This week I prepared their Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice out of their Light and Healthy 2011 magazine. It was delicious. It was so delicious in fact that I wondered about its "light and healthy" claim. The only issue I had with the end result was the level of spiciness, but that's my personal preference and easily remedied with the judicious application of the world's greatest condiment - sriracha.

I cooked it in a cast iron dutch oven. Why does everything taste better when it's cooked in cast iron?

It's kinda purty, too.

Out of a possible ten toques (white puffy chef's hat) this recipe gets an eight both for ease of preparation and taste.


= 8


  1. I've never seen ATK, my favorite is Alton Brown! And quite trying to tell people that you are such a bad cook, I've had your food twice now and both times it was FANTASTIC!
    Oh, that reminds me, I know that this was quite some time ago, but do you remember how you made that pot pie thing that one time? I had pot pie the other night and it was only okay, but it got me thinking about yours and I was just curious if you still had the recipe.

  2. Mine was better?? REALLY??! You are so nice to say so! Even if you're lying. I'm OK with that. :))

    You know, BookBabes have asked me more than once for the recipe and I keep forgetting to give it. It's not like I'm trying to be all Colonel Sanders and keep it a supa-secret or anything. You will be shocked at how easy it is. I will dig out the info for you this weekend, I swear. Maybe I will even make it tonight in order to have a good reheatable dish for the Read-A-Thon.