Cookbook Review: Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

The ultimate comprehensive cooking primer for the beginner and expert alike.

With the holidays coming, everybody has several people on their list that are impossible to gift. Not this year. You can finish early. Just buy several of these babies and give your inner Santa a rest.

Nobody else does the excellent job of testing and “the science” of cooking that CI does. I have been a fan for many years of all their variations: America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated.  They are always logical, well presented and sound if somewhat fussy at times. Who else will test the same recipe 20 times? They are a national treasure.

Cook’s Illustrated has produced many wonderful cookbooks. I own many of them but if you must get just one, this is it. With 2000 recipes from the last 20 years of Cooks Illustrated all beginning with “Why This Recipe Works” , it gets you in the spirit to cook. If you want to roast a chicken, you have…. I lost count but pages and pages of choices. With those classic black and white drawings, you get just the information you need. No photos here but just solid reliable information.

Start with a Table of Contents in the front that is actually useful. It lists all the recipes with their variations and page number. As is usual with CI, the names of the recipes actually tells you what it is. I hate the cookbooks that gives fancy names to everything that means nothing. The Index is equally useful as is usual for CI.

This is not new material and if you have all the back issues and other cookbooks, I’ll almost sure you have all these recipes. Now I dare you to find them and get them organize in a logical and useful manor. I can’t.

Warning: if you or your receiving cook must have color pictures with the recipes, this book is not for you. If you want utility and a book that will still be used in 30 years, this is your book. I declare this an instant classic.

For about $26 you get 4 pounds and 928 pages and it’s all great. A wonderful bargain.


Notes: I got mine as a present. No review copy here.

Apple Cinnamon Scones

It’s apple season and what could start your day better than an apple-cinnamon scone. One apple with a little work and you’re the hero of breakfast. Easy and quick.


Rating

A very nice scone

Notes: I chopped the apples about a quarter of an inch. My wife felt they should be a little bigger so the recipe reflects that. I’m ok either way. With scones just like biscuits, do not over mix. When adding the wet to the dry, stop as soon as it is all incorporated.

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees convection and prep baking pan with parchment paper. Peal and chop one medium apple (this is a Johnamac) into 3/8 inch pieces.

 Chop 6 tablespoons of butter into small bits.

Place 2 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt and 1 t cinnamon into a mixing bowl and mix well. Add the butter and “cut in” with a large fork.

 Add one egg to 1/2 cup milk and beat well.

 Add the egg/milk to the dry and mix until all is incorporated. Do not over mix. Add the apple and mix gently.

 Place on floured surface and form into a 7 inch disk. Cut into 8 wedges.

Mix 2 T sugar and 1 t cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well.

 Place wedges on prepared cooking sheet. Coat with a brushing of milk.

Top gernerously with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Place in the preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Apple Cinnamon Scones
by October-29-2011

It’s apple season and what could start your day better than an apple-cinnamon scone. One apple with a little work and you’re the hero of breakfast.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium apple pealed and chopped
  • 6 T butter
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk

Topping

  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • a small amount milk to brush top
Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees convection and prep baking pan with parchment paper. Peal and chop one medium apple into 3/8 inch pieces.2) Chop 6 tablespoons of butter into small bits.3) Place 2 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt and 1 t cinnamon into a mixing bowl and mix well. Add the butter and “cut in” with a large fork. 4) Add one egg to 1/2 cup milk and beat well.5) Add the egg/milk to the dry and mix until all is incorporated. Do not over mix. Add the apple and mix gently.6) Place on floured surface and form into a 7 inch disk. Cut into 8 wedges.7) Mix 2 T sugar and 1 t cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well.8) Place wedges on prepared cooking sheet. Coat with a brushing of milk.9) Top gernerously with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.10) Place in the preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Details

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 scones

Updated

October 5 2012

DrDan

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Simple Everyday Roast Chicken with Gravy

This is very close to that “ideal” recipe of just throw something in the oven and have it come out great. Based on a Cooks Illustrated recipe called Weeknight Roast Chicken. I took the technique and added some of my 7:2:1 garlic season and got a recipe you can do on a weeknight or for Sunday dinner for the family.


The general idea is to preheat an over with a skillet to 450, prep the chicken with some oil (I used butter) and salt/pepper (I added some garlic also) and then putting the chicken in the hot pan so the dark meat will cook more being in direct contact with the skillet. Also the pan will keep the liquid from evaporating completely for a pan sauce or in my case gravy. Cook until breast temp of 120 and then turn off the over and let it continue to cook in the hot oven. It really works well.

Rating

This will become a fav in this household.

Notes: This CI recipe called for a 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken. Mine was 5 pounds so a little bigger. Mine took 35 minutes to reach the “turn off the oven” point vs their 20-25.  CI always likes a pan sauce. I love grave and used the accumulated liquid to make a tasty grave.

 Spray an oven safe pan with PAM. Place in oven and preheat to 450 convection.

 Clean chicken under running water include inside.

 Pat dry, tie legs together with butcher twine and tuck wings under.

 Rub surface with 1 T butter. I use a baggie here.

Sprinkle with seasoning. I’m using my 7:2:1 mix here but just salt and pepper would be OK.

Transfer to your preheated pan.

Let roast until breast temp is 120 and thigh is 135. For my 5 lb. bird that was 35 minutes. For a 4 lb. bird this would be more like 25 minutes.

 Turn OFF oven and let set in hot oven until breast temp is 160 and thigh is 175. About 25 minutes.

Move chicken to a plate and pour any liquid in the chicken cavienty into the pan.

In a Tupperware gravy shaker combine 3/8 cup AP flour with equal amount of  cup cold water and shake until combines. You should be able to use a whisk and bowl if you don’t have this.

Over high heat, bring the dripping to a hard boil. If you didn’t have enough liquid, add some chicken broth. I had about 3/4 cup of liquid to start and didn’t need more volume. Slowly add the water/flour mixture while stirring continuously. In about 2-3 minutes, the mixture will thicken. Add salt to taste.

Simple Everyday Roast Chicken with Gravy
by October-22-2011

This is very close to that “ideal” recipe of just throw something in the oven and have it come out great. Based on a Cooks Illustrated recipe called Weeknight Roast Chicken. I took the technique and added some of my 7:2:1 garlic season and got a recipe you can do on a weeknight or for Sunday dinner for the family.
Ingredients
  • 1 about 4-5 lb. Whole chicken
  • 1 T Butter
  • to taste 7:2:1 or 7:2:2 seasoning
  • 3/8 cup AP flour
  • to taste salt
Instructions
1) Spray an oven safe pan with PAM. Place in oven and preheat to 450 convection.2) Clean chicken under running water include inside. Pat dry, tie legs together with butcher twine and tuck wings under.3) Rub surface with 1 T butter. Sprinkle with seasoning. I’m using my 7:2:1 mix here but just salt and pepper would be OK.4) Transfer to your preheated pan.Let roast until breast temp is 120 and thigh is 135. For my 5 lb. bird that was 35 minutes. For a 4 lb. bird this would be more like 25 minutes.5) Turn OFF oven and let set in hot oven until breast temp is 160 and thigh is 175. About 25 minutes. Move chicken to a plate and pour any liquid in the chicken cavienty into the pan. 6) In a Tupperware gravy shaker combine 3/8 cup AP flour with equal amount of cup cold water and shake until combines. You should be able to use a whisk and bowl if you don’t have this.7) Over high heat, bring the dripping to a hard boil. If you didn’t have enough liquid, add some chicken broth. I had about 3/4 cup of liquid to start and didn’t need more volume. Slowly add the water/flour mixture while stirring continuously. In about 2-3 minutes, the mixture will thicken. Add salt to taste.
Details

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 whole chicken

Updated

October 22 2011

DrDan