Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Recipe: Herb Butter

From The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, 2011, page 380,  in the recipe for "Steak Frites" and appearing in Cook's Illustrated in January 2007. Prepared for dinner on Sunday, August 26, 2012. 
Makes ¼ cup, enough for 2 one-pound rib-eye steaks and 2 large baked potatoes.


 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ shallot
fresh parsley
fresh chives
1 garlic clove
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. Remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften at room temperature.
  2. Mince the shallot and garlic.
  3. Mince the fresh parsley and fresh cloves, making 1 tablespoon of each.
  4. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Minced shallots, garlic, chives, and parsley and mixed with softened butter, some salt, and pepper.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Recipe: Skillet Apple Pie

Based on a September 2008 recipe for from Cook's IllustratedPrepared for dinner on October 28, 2012. Serves 6.

  • This recipe is based on apple pandowdy. You can think of it as a simple version of apple pie with just a single crust on top of the fruit.
  • The Cook's Illustrated recipe recommends using a combination of sweet crisp apples like Golden Delicious and tart crisp apples like Cortland or Empire.
  • Partially cooking the apples before baking develops a rich flavor, shortens baking time, and ensures the apples are cooked through when the crust is done.


5 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3-4 tablespoons ice water
½ cup apple cider
⅓ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2½ pounds apples

1 egg white
2 teaspoons sugar


  1. Chill the shortening.
  2. Cut the butter into ¼ inch pieces and chill.
  3. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine.
  4. Add the chilled shortening and pulse, approximately ten 1-second pulses, until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand.
  5. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse, approximately ten 1-second pulses, until the mixture has the texture of coarse crumbs and the largest pieces of butter are pea sized.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of ice water.
  7. With a rubber spatula, fold the dough to mix in the water then press down with the spatula blade until the dough comes together. You may add up to 1 additional tablespoon of ice water if the dough doesn't come together at first.
  8. Flatten the dough into a four-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to two days. If it is refrigerated for more than an hour or so you may need to let it warm at room temperature until malleable before rolling it out.
  1. With a rack in the upper-middle position, heat oven to 500°.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the apple cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon.
  3. Peel and core the apples and cut them into ½-inch thick wedges.
  4. Over medium-high, heat the butter in an oven-proof 12″ skillet until the foaming subsides.
  5. Add the apple wedges and cook for about five minutes, stirring several times, until the apples just start to caramelize.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and add the apple cider mixture. Stir to coat all of the apples and set aside to cool slightly.
Assemble and bake
  1. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into an 11″ circle.
  2. Place the dough on top of the apple mixture in the skillet; it is convenient to use your rolling plan to transfer the dough, just fold it over the pin and unroll it on top of the skillet.
  3. Beat the egg white and brush it over the dough.
  4. Sprinkle the dough with the sugar.
  5. Use a sharp knife and gently cut the dough into six pieces.
  6. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the apples are tender, about 20 minutes
  7. Let cool for 15 minutes then serve.
In a food processor make pie dough: pulse chilled shortening with flour, sugar, and salt then add butter and pulse. Transfer to a large bowl, add ice water, then flatten into a disk and refrigerate.

Whisk together apple cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon.
Peel apples and cut into ½-inch wedges.
Cook apples in butter until they just start to caramelize then off heat add the apple cider mixture.
Roll pie dough into an 11″ circle.
Cover apple mixture with the crust, brush on egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, cut the crust into 6 pieces, and bake.

Recipe: Shepherd's Pie

Based on a November 2012 recipe from Cook's IllustratedPrepared for dinner on October 28, 2012

  • The original Cook's Illustrated recipe has 4 steps of instructions. My recipe has 34. It's basically the same procedure but I prefer each step to provide instructions to do just one thing. I also move some instructions from the Ingredients list to the Instructions list. For example, instead of specifying a chopped onion in the list of Ingredients I'll just specify an onion then, at the appropriate point, have an instruction to peel and chop it.


1½ pounds 93% lean ground beef
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
2½ pounds russet potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup milk
1 large egg yolk
8 scallions
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion
4 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Madeira or ruby port
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cups beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots
2 teaspoons cornstarch



  1. In a large bowl, use your hands to thoroughly mix the ground beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and baking soda then set the beef mixture aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Peel potatoes, cut them into 1-inch pieces, and place in a sauce pan with water to cover and 1 tablespoon table salt.
  3. Bring the potatoes to a boil then simmer over medium-low heat until they are soft enough so the tip of a paring knife meets no resistance when inserted into a potato, about 8 minutes. 
  4. Melt the butter.
  5. Thinly slice the green part of the scallions, discarding the white part.
  6. Whisk together the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl.
  7. Drain the potatoes then return the sauce pan to the stove over low heat to remove any surface moisture from the potatoes.
  8. Mash or rice the potatoes.
  9. Stir the melted butter into the potatoes.
  10. Stir the the milk/egg yolk mixture into the potatoes.
  11. Stir the sliced scallion greens into the potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and set aside.
  12. Peel and chop the onion.
  13. Trim and chop the mushrooms.
  14. Peel and press (or mince) the garlic.
  15. Peel and chop the carrots.
  16. In a broiler-safe 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.
  17. Add mushrooms, onion, ½ teaspoon table salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften and brown bits form on the bottom of the pan.
  18. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir and cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom of the pan is dark brown.
  19. De-glaze the pan with the Madeira or port, scraping the bottom to loosen all of the brown bits, about 1 minute.
  20. Add the flour, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  21. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf, and carrots; bring to a boil scraping up any brown bits.
  22. Reduce the heat, add the ground beef in 2-inch chunks, and adjust heat to simmer gently.
  23. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes
  24. Using two forks, break up the chunks of ground beef.
  25. Cover and simmer until the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  26. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water.
  27. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds.
  28. Remove skillet from the heat, remove the thyme stems and bay leaf, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  29. Heat the broiler with a rack set five inches from the broiler element.
  30. Put the mashed potatoes in a zipper-lock bag and cut off a corner of the bag to create a 1-inch opening.
  31. Pipe the potatoes evenly over the filling in the skillet then smooth them with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula.
  32. Use the tines of a fork to make ridges in the potato topping.
  33. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet then broil until the potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 10-15 minutes.
  34. Cool for 10 minutes then serve.
Mix together ground beef, water, salt, pepper, baking soda.

Make mashed potatoes, adding sliced scallion greens, butter, milk, egg yolk, salt, and pepper.
Prepare the ingredients for the filling: chopped onion, chopped carrot, fresh thyme, bay leaf, pressed garlic, chopped mushroom, cornstarch slurry, tomato paste, wine, flour, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce.
Cook onions and mushrooms in oil with salt and pepper, then add garlic and tomato paste and cook.

Deglaze with wine, add broth, flour, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaf, and carrot.

Bring to a boil then simmer.

Add ground beef mixture in two-inch chunks, simmer 5 minutes, break up the beef, and simmer another 5 minutes until the beef is cooked through.

Cover with mashed potatoes and use the tines of a fork to make ridges in the potatoes.

Broil until the potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recipe: Quick Beef and Bean Chili

Based on a  recipe for "Beef and Bean Chili" from  The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook, 2012, p. 53. Prepared for dinner on February 10, 2013. Serves 6.

  • The Cookbook estimates 45 minutes for this recipe, it took me a little longer.
  • You can adjust the cayenne from 0 up to ½ teaspoon to suit your taste.
  • The tomato/bean paste in step 4 thickens the chili thus reducing the simmering time.
  • Be sure to use fresh spices, especially the chili powder. The Test Kitchen prefers Spice Island Chili Powder.


2 15-ounce cans kidney beans
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1½ pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 cup beef broth


  1. Rinse and drain the kidney beans.
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  3. Peel and press the garlic through a garlic press.
  4. In a food processor, process 1½ cups beans and one can of tomatoes for about 10 seconds to form a coarse paste.
  5. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering.
  6. Add the ground beef and onions. Break up the beef with a spoon and cook until no pink remains, about 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, cayenne, and ½ teaspoon table salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute
  8. Stir in broth, bean/tomato paste, remaining beans and tomatoes.
  9. Simmer for 20 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Rinse and drain kidney beans.

Process some of the beans and tomatoes, forming a coarse paste.
Prepare the remaining ingredients: beef broth, onion, garlic, chili powder, cayenne, sugar, salt, cumin, and ground beef.
Cook the onion and ground beef until no pink remains.
Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, salt, and cayenne and cook about 1 minute.
Add the beans, tomatoes, and bean/tomato paste.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Recipe: All-purpose Cornbread

Based on a January 2005 recipe from Cook's Illustrated, also in Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, 2011, p. 579. Prepared for dinner on December 30, 2012. Serves 6-12.


¾ cup frozen corn
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs


  1. Thaw corn.
  2. Melt butter and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Heat oven to 400° with a rack in the middle position.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In a food processor or blender, process the brown sugar, corn, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds.
  6. Add eggs and process until well combined, about 5 more seconds.
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients then add the buttermilk mixture.
  8. With a spatula, gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just barely combined.
  9. Add cooled melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened.
  10. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with baking spray.
  11. Pour the batter into the backing dish and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  12. Bake until the center is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes.
  13. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes
  14. Place a large plate on top of the baking dish and carefully invert it to remove the corn bread from the baking dish.
  15. Carefully turn the bread right side up and cool for 10 more minutes.
  16. Serve warm with butter and honey.
Thaw the corn.
Whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Blend together brown sugar, buttermilk, and corn then blend in the eggs.

Gently fold the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, then fold in melted butter.

In a greased 8x8 baking dish, bake at 400° until deep golden brown.