notes from the test kitchen

hope y’all had a great weekend. mine was wonderful, and as to be expected in any successful weekend for me, filled with lots of good food and tinkering in the kitchen. i often think my dream job would be working at america’s test kitchen. i like the idea of working with a recipe until you get it “just so.” since i’m really bad at keeping notes (i have a tendency to jot things down on the first slip of paper within reach, which means that i have mounds of post-its everywhere, in no coherent order), i figure i’d just post it all here. that way it’s easier for me to find and remember what i did before and it will be like having my own personal test kitchen. (hopefully this will become a regular feature on this space.)

here’s the breakdown:

*friday*
i came straight home...
the recipe: spinach manicotti (spinach filling recipe from the joy of cooking, had some leftover from the crazy ravioli making venture) with red sauce
comments/mods: the red sauce was my usual thrown together affair, enhanced with a generous bundle of fresh herbs from anna and thinned out a good deal with some homemade chicken stock. thinning out the sauce is key as the manicotti tends to soak up a lot of sauce as it’s baking. also, i topped the whole affair in shredded queso fresco instead of mozzarella. (it was raining on friday night, i had to work a little late, and i was too lazy to go to the store.) it didn’t quite have the nice melt of mozzarella but it was a fine substitution.

*saturday*
chicken pho
the recipe: cheater pho from the splendid table’s how to eat supper
comments/mods: the recipe calls for 2 servings but i halved the recipe to make a single serving. i had some thai basil, lime, and cilantro on hand from cooking earlier in the week, but sadly no bean sprouts. i’d also made some chicken stock earlier in the week so i used that instead of the canned broth as the recipe called for. (since i used homemade broth, which i don’t salt, i had to add a lot more salt than the recipe suggests.) i also used shredded chicken (from the broth making venture) instead of beef.

conclusion: for me, beef and bean sprouts are KEY and this recipe is all about getting the textures just right. the broth was spot on. (lynn’s technique of roasting the ginger/garlic/onion/spices before adding them to the broth is so clever!) but the shredded chicken didn’t bring much to the party and my noodles didn’t soften up quite as i’d hoped. (the recipe suggests soaking them in really hot tap water but i did that for much longer than called for and still found the noodles were too toothy for my tastes. next time i might just boil them.) i suspect that this will become a staple recipe for me over the winter when i’m craving something warm and substantial.

oreos!
the recipe: smitten kitchen’s homemade oreos
comments/mods: this was the recipe i was most excited to try this weekend, especially after my recent success with the homemade twix bar. the recipe is great as is but i have a few thoughts.

the recipe gives a range in the amount of sugar to use for the cookie. i used the lower amount (1 cup). i think this was just right because the frosting is so sweet. making the cookie be any sweeter and i think it would just be overpowering. i used dark cocoa (hershey’s extra dark special)…i’m not sure that changed the taste but it made the cookie look more oreo-like. being somewhat lazy, i used my food processor to make the batter instead of my stand mixer. i was also a bit distracted when i was making the frosting so i may or may not have used more than 2 cups of powdered sugar. in any case, i just added sugar until the frosting had a pretty stiff consistency, much like actual oreo frosting.

*sunday*
YIP 365.140: sunday supper
the recipe: real simple’s chicken pot pie
comments/mods: i’ve been dreaming of this dinner ever since i saw val’s version. a few mods to the recipe. i used america’s test kitchen foolproof pie dough recipe. (the dough is very moist and a bit hard to work with so it didn’t crimp as well or look as nice as other pie doughs i’ve worked with. the trade-off is that the dough is super light and flaky and browns beautifully.) i’ve had really bad luck making my own pie doughs, so i usually buy the pre-made stuff. this recipe may have helped me overcome my fears. i also used my own shredded chicken instead of rotisserie (again, leftover from the stock making venture), omitted the mushrooms (am sure they would’ve been tasty but i didn’t have any on hand), and added some cut fresh green beans and parsley for color. finally, i used a mix of chicken stock (again, what i had on hand) and cream (about 1 1/2 cup stock + 1/2 cup cream) instead of 2 cups of milk as the recipe calls for. the finished sauce was a bit runnier than i might have liked (not sure if this is because i made some substitutions) but the pie was so delicious and comforting i embarrassingly ate two servings.

so there you have it.  a full weekend of cooking three extremely comforting dinners.  the unifying tie between them being a vat of homemade chicken stock i’d made earlier in the week.  (a little bit of work up front that yields lots of great meals and benefits down the road.)

and in a sad bit of food-related news, i was disappointed to read this morning that conde nast will be closing down gourmet magazine.  i don’t know what’s wrong with the publishing world, but they seem to only be closing down magazines that i enjoy reading.  (domino is another one that comes to mind.)  conde nast, if you shut down the new yorker, i will lose my mind!

ok…next up, the weekend review of crafting.  (told you this weekend was awesome…and productive!)

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10 responses to “notes from the test kitchen

  1. I miss Domino too. I think with the net everyone has trouble with advertising.

    I’m with you on the beef and sprouts.

  2. I can’t believe Gourmet is gone. I’m flying through “My Life in France” and I’m seriously mailing it to you when I’m done. You will really connect with Julia Child.

  3. i think we should start our own test kitchen! between a lawyer and a scientist, we should be A-OK, right??? 😉

  4. Your food adventure looks amazing. Yummy!
    Sigh, it makes me wish I had the time and energy to play in the kitchen as often as I would like.

  5. your post makes me SO hungry. everything looks delicious!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and entering my giveaway! I’ll be doing more!

  6. pricklypearbloom

    hey! I like your blog. 🙂 would you mind sending me that recipe for pie crust? I’d really appreciate it!

  7. wow…this is totalllllly making me hungry! I am licking my screen after looking at your home made twix bar post….and i’m trying to lose some weight here. Drooooooool~

  8. by the way, love reading your blog – this is going on my blog roll list!

  9. another mag with an early death: martha’s blueprint. print is going outta fashion like no other. sad, huh?

    my gawd woman, i don’t know how you do it w/ a full days of work. you go girl!

  10. between the oreos and the chicken pot pie, i am drooling despite having just had dinner (a very nice dinner at that 🙂 ) what a fabulous weekend of food!

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