Have you ever seen America’s Test Kitchen on public television? If you have, then you may already know about this little gem of a food periodical. Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines both come from the same test kitchen where the cooking show is filmed. I haven’t read Cook’s Country but I am a devotee of Cook’s Illustrated. The magazine comes every two months and is full of amazing recipes, tips on technique, food selection, kitchen gadgets, tools and more. The cooks and writers test and retest recipes until they have found the perfect technique, timing and ingredients for each step along the way. They even have science editors on staff so they can explain the how and why of each part of the process.
I read the magazine and each recipe cover to cover when it arrives, on the couch. Not in the kitchen and not on my way to the grocery store. Its worthwhile even if I don’t plan to make the recipes anytime soon. Each issue is teeming with useful information. In fact, when my gift (thanks Ma & Pa) subscription ran out, I decided I couldn’t renew it until I had made two recipes from every magazine I already have in the apartment because I mostly just read them for the educational value. Plus my collection also includes some older issues that my father let me borrow en masse and I haven’t read them all twice yet. Each one merits a minimum of two reads. The reason I haven’t made very many of the recipes is not that the recipes are difficult to follow. On the contrary, they are really detailed and instructive, these guys really think of everything. I don’t get around to following recipes as often as I could because I’m busy making up my own, based on what’s already in my fridge and pantry. But there are so many recipes in Cook’s Illustrated I want to get around to making! When I feel like following a recipe, I can just grab the appropriate month (September & October for example) and peruse it until I find something delicious to try. The hard part is narrowing the choices down. And anytime I’ve used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, it’s a winner and I end up making it again and again.
Every issue has this beautiful artwork on the back, (thus, Illustrated) of multiple varieties of the some type of fruit or vegetable or edible animal. See September & October, 2011, below. Squash! For some reason I find these are my favorite part. I would love to someday wallpaper a kitchen nook with these pictures. I know it’s be kind of busy but when I try to select a few to frame, I can never decide….
Beside the aesthetic value, if you’ve ever stood in the produce section of your grocery store staring at a sea of root vegetables trying to glean which bulbous knob is celery root, or holding a sweet potato in one hand and a yam in the other but not sure which is which, the answer is probably on the back of an issue. I’ve gotten squash happy at the farmer’s market and come home with 8 different types of squash and realized I know the name of exactly one. Ok. You get the picture. Cook’s Illustrated is awesome.