Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Recipes from America's Test Kitchen

This weekend a kind friend loaned me her DVDs she purchased from America's Test Kitchen, the PBS show that airs on Saturdays at noon. The test kitchen does dozens of tests on recipes to find the best methods and ingredients for a dish. It's put on by the founders of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

What was interesting was that many recipes fit my eating plan because when you get back to nature, everything seems to taste better and work better.

Many of the recipes called for some kind of fat, and what was discovered is that fats such as those found in certain kinds of meat, butter and dairy were often the best. For example, making scrambled eggs with some half and half rather than 2 percent milk keeps the protein molecules in the eggs from compressing too much and leaching all the liquid, thus making dry eggs. I use one tablespoon of half and half to every two eggs. The difference is amazing!

They also made a meatloaf recipe using all beef and a little gelatin instead of mixing veal and pork with it. The veal and pork make the consistency of the meatloaf softer so you aren't just eating a large hamburger. Here's the basic recipe for the meatloaf, although it is better explained on the Web site (you have to become a member to see the recipes).

1 lb. ground sirloin
1 lb ground chuck
3 oz. of grated Monterrey Jack cheese (put in freezer for 10 minutes before using)
2 small onions minced
1 stalk of celery minced
21 crushed saltine crackers (these provide best consistency, but I used dried sourdough bread crumbs)
1/2 tsp. powdered gelatin (they used Knox)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 eggs
1 TB butter
1 clove garlic crushed
2 TB dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
2 TB tomato juice
1 TB soy sauce
2 TB parsley
1 TB dijon mustard
salt andpepper to taste

First, you put tinfoil on a cookie sheet, then put a rack on like you might use for cookies to let air circulate and fat run out. On top of that, make a 6-inchx10-inch tinfoil pad with holes poked in with skewer. You'll put your meatloaf on that so it doesn't become enmeshed in rack. Spray a little olive oil or butter on it to keep meatloaf from sticking (I didn't do this and it didn't stick anyway).

Saute onions and celery in 1 TB of butter until they are soft. Add garlic, thyme, tomato juice and paprika after they are almost done. Let cool.

Put chicken broth and eggs in a bowl. Bloom the gelatin in it by sprinkling it over the top. When it looks like wrinkly skin, wisk it all together.

Mix all ingredients together until it starts to form a loaf. Scoop it out and form it on the tinfoil pad. Use a spatula wetted under the faucet to smooth the sides and top. Put it in a 375-degree oven on the center rack for about an hour or until it's 135-degrees inside. About half-way through cooking, make a glaze of 1/2 cup catsup, cider vinegar, brown sugar and dijon mustard with a little hot sauce then spread 1/2 of it on meatloaf when there's about 15 minutes left to cook. Add the rest when it is done and put it under the broiler for a little bit to brown it up.

Really pretty and yummy meatloaf. It sounds complicated, but it goes quickly.


  1. I actually have their cookbook: "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook." My foodie-snob friend Stephanie recommended it, saying she's never made anything from it that didn't turn out great. So far, it's true. I think I could close my eyes and flip through the pages, randomly choosing a recipe, and be confident to make it for the first time for a dinner party.

    In general, I think the recipes lean toward comfort food (high fat/high calorie)...and LOTS of recipes involve meat. But overall it's a great cookbook.

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