I had the great fortune of being invited to the launch of the Cook’s Illustrated Coobook last month. The reception was held at the company’s Boston-area office. Attendees were greeted at an unmarked door (above the door is the number of the building, but no sign indicating that this is the home of America’s Test Kitchen), and shown inside to the second-storey space.
Past the reception area and book-lined walls of the library, we were offered beverages, then walked toward the large test kitchen area. This corridor contains equipment racks on one side, and a walk-in refrigerator on the other. Steph Yiu, ATK’s New Media Strategist (follow the tweets at @TestKitchen), pointed out the “Wall of Awesome!,” a continuously updated bulletin board covered with reader-submitted photos of recipes they’ve made from ATK cookbooks, television show, and websites.
What could be better than actually being in the ATK space? Eating food that was prepared there! We sampled Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Scallions (p. 542), Weeknight Spanikopita (p. 303), Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip, assorted crudite, cheese and crackers, and a fabulous shrimp cocktail. Sweet treats included Chocolate Pots de Crème (p. 778) and Pecan Bars.
Christopher Kimball spoke to the group, addressing the three questions he is most often asked – What’s your favorite meal? New England boiled dinner. Do you always wear a bow tie? I don’t recall the answer to this … but I’ve never seen him without one! Why don’t the recipes contain nutritional information? The recipes are about the best overall – taste, texture, presentation; not counting calories. Their Light & Healthy editions do contain nutritional information.
It was great fun to mix and mingle with ATK staff and test cooks – aside from Christopher Kimball, cast members Julia Collin-Davison and Becky Hays were there – as well as food bloggers, reps from print media, and bookstore staff. What a party … and what a cookbook!
The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine is a huge (almost 900 pages) reference with a format that will be familiar to readers of their magazines and cookbooks. Aside from 2,000 recipes (2,000 recipes!), it has the signature “why this recipe works” explanations (which not only give us a greater understanding, but help to build confidence), Test Kitchen Tips (“The importance of resting meat,” “Matching pasta shapes with sauce,” etc.), and sidebars with line drawings that walk the cook through procedures such as slicing chicken breasts into cutlets and assembling spring rolls.
The cookbook is divided into 23 chapters, covering everything from appetizers to desserts; there’s a complete index of recipes and main ingredients (an 80-page index!), and a conversion chart. Endpapers are a collage of the beautiful iconic color illustrations that grace the back cover Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook is a complete reference of technique and recipes to take you from family meals to dinner for company.
As we left the launch party, each guest was given a handy Test Kitchen tote containing the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, the Menu Cookbook (stay tuned, as I plan our Christmas dinner), and a frame-worthy poster of the cookbook cover. Take a look at how Christopher Kimball signed the books – note the bow tie stamp!
Can’t get enough food-related posts? Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking round-up. You may find recipes, cookbook reviews, kitchen tips, mystery gadgets …