Not that I need to have any more cooking magazines come to my door, but a friend of ours recommended "Cook's Illustrated" to me as one of the best. As this person is a passionate homebrewer and cook, I respected his advice and sent away for my free issue.
Something that I've made an effort to do the last several months is to cook a full and special Sunday supper. I plan a main course with starch and vegetable that is slightly more elegant and time-consuming, hopefully with planned leftovers. I find that really taking the time to make things from scratch on Sundays gives me some relaxed down time (cooking is a zen activity to me) and lets me celebrate food with a meal that I prepared from scratch and gives me an opportunity to try new techniques that I would not do on a week night.
One of the reasons why I tend to cook out of my magazines is the seasonality - they feature recipes with food of that season, and it's just the most appealing. Cook's certainly does present recipes of the season, but they really focus on deconstructing and improving many classic recipes and optimizing techniques. That scientific method approach and style of writing is infinitely appealing to someone that has authored scientific papers before.
I tried several recipes from two of the three issues I now have (they sent me the December issue after I received January - strange). First, I went back to basics with sauteed mushrooms. What I love about their hints is that they don't require you to set heat so high in a pan that you smoke out your kitchen. It's ok to cook them longer to let liquids out and then commence with browning. The secret at the end? A splash of sherry or wine, quickly evaporated. That is now my go-to method to prep mushrooms for just about any recipe - concentrated flavors and intensity abound!
I also used their basic green bean recipe with similar success, but because Ice likes his green beans overcooked, I have to admit that I tend to prep toward a softer texture.
For our Special Sunday Supper (now a tradition), I chose two other recipes - Chicken Fricassee and Roasted Smashed Potatoes. The chicken was simple - sauteed chicken with a sauce of mushrooms and onions cooked and then sauced with chicken broth, thickened with flour and a mixture of sour cream and an egg yolk followed by a touch of tarragon. I have to say - the sour cream and egg yolk made the sauce silky - fabulous texture and the tarragon is just an amazing herb. If you haven't tried it, put it in a chicken dish - it's a mild herb that is almost floral. The taste was excellent - IceDaddy really gave it high compliments.
The potatoes are an interesting recipe. It is a take on a very classic French potato preparation using small new potatoes - I've seen similar recipes prepared by Jacques Pepin and Rachel Ray, so you know it's hit the mainstream! All other versions involve cooking the potatoes in water until tender on the stove, draining the water, smashing each potato flat like a pancake and then browning in the pan on the stovetop. Those results looked good, but perhaps not very crisp. This recipe sought to get perfectly cooked spuds, with intense crispness. Their secret: steaming the potatoes in a high heat oven, then smashing and seasoning with loads of olive oil and some herbs, then baking more in a searingly hot oven. YUM!
Paired together with some simple sauteed broccoli, it was a great meal. The best part is that I cooked the recipe for 4 portions of the chicken for planned leftovers. For that, I sliced the chicken into pieces and mixed with the sauce. I will serve that later this week with packaged long grain and wild rice cooked up with more sauteed mushrooms and onions and a side of those perfect green beans. With a meal that tasty, it's something that will make you want to come to the table to spend time with the family. A Smashing Sunday Supper!