Friday, March 16, 2007

Recipe Testers Needed

When I saw that headline on, I felt duty calling. It was my responsibility as an American to test these recipes – for my country and for my fellow countrymen. Well, maybe I’m over exaggerating a bit. After all, we’re talking about America’s Test Kitchen, not actually the old U S of A. But, still, this was an intriguing offer and so I signed up. And then I waited. And waited. I started to get paranoid that maybe I didn’t make the cut. Maybe they’d done their homework and found out some of my deep, dark culinary secrets. Or maybe I was just being impatient.

Finally! I received my call to duty – an email with my first test recipe: Apple Galette. The email arrives with links to the recipe, any additional instructions and to the survey itself. You can preview the questions that they will ask you when you view the recipe. They only gave me a week for my first assignment, but I completed my task. And not five days later – another recipe! This time it was Ricotta Gnocchi.

So what are the benefits? First off, this is a great way to force myself to cook different things that I may not normally try on my own. And, I feel like my feedback contributes to a better end product that will eventually be in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine or on the PBS television show America’s Test Kitchen. And it’s good clean fun.

I can’t post any of the recipes – they’re top secret until publication! But if you’re interested in becoming a Recipe Tester yourself, I can give you that information:

Recipe Testers Needed
If you’re interested in joining a select group who help test our recipes before they appear in print, let us know? Click here to register.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Review | Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

There’s really no explanation or photo necessary – you already know that it was good. How could it not be? But let me explain. Chris and I went to Uncommon Ground this past Saturday before heading to a concert at the Metro. We had heard good things. Years ago, it was a simple coffeehouse that hosted local artists’ shows. Now, it’s an expanded, full-service restaurant, bar and, of course, still serving great brunch and coffee. I ordered the Brown Sugar & Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop with Butternut Squash and Pecan Stuffing. Delicious. And Chris ordered the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions and Mashed Potatoes. Now, don’t misunderstand me – my pork chop was awesome. But, luckily, I didn’t try any of Chris’s while we were there (I was too enamored with my pork chop). But if I had, I would have had one of those “damn, I wish I had ordered that” moments and then sullenly finished my mediocre pork chop all the while pining for the meatloaf. But, alas, Chris wasn’t in the sharing mood that night and it wasn’t until he heated up his leftovers (yes – they give you TWO pieces of bacon-wrapped meatloaf!) that I got a whiff of the heavenly smell and asked for a bite. After that, I can’t wait to go back. And next time, I’m getting myself some meatloaf.

Uncommon Ground
1214 W. Grace (Cross Street: Clark)
(773) 929-3680

Friday, March 2, 2007

Review | Pairings with Andrea

On a recent episode of Pairings with Andrea, Andrea Immer-Robinson – the first woman ever chosen Best Sommelier in the United States and one of only 14 women in the world who have been appointed Master Sommelier by the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers – paired one of my favorite types of wine with an easy and tasty menu. She whipped up a meal of cold sesame noodles, coconut milk & curry shrimp soup and steamed vegetables with rice wine vinaigrette and paired them with a California Sauvignon Blanc. I decided to test drive the menu and see how it fared. First off, I couldn’t get my hands on the recommended wine (Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc), but the friendly folks at Sam’s Wine & Spirits suggested a suitable substitution: Beckmen Vineyards Estate Sauvignon Blanc. As for the menu, I felt that three dishes would be too much food for just myself and Chris, so I chose to make the sesame noodles and soup.

The verdict: the recipes were very simple and easy to prepare. Most of the ingredients are items that you can keep on hand in your pantry or freezer – canned tomatoes, frozen shrimp, lime, cilantro, peanut butter, coconut milk, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, spaghetti and chicken broth. I prepared both dishes – from start to finish – in under an hour. So how did they pair with the wine? Perfectly. The Sauvignon Blanc was a wonderful complement to the acidity of the lime juice, the richness and sweetness of the peanut butter and the herbal notes of the cilantro. I would definitely make the cold sesame noodles again. And tomorrow, I might try the steamed vegetables to serve with the leftover soup.

Pairings is a great show if you’re just starting to learn about wine (like me). She has a very casual approach, is obviously very knowledgeable and qualified, but manages to make wine fun and approachable. And even if you’re a wine connoisseur, I think you will still find her show to be informative and a great source of ideas.

Andrea Immer-Robinson’s website
Recipes: Pairings with Andrea “Asian Cuisine”
Sam’s Wines & Spirits

The two things that I didn’t like about the soup were the tails on the shrimp (easily taken care of by buying shrimp without tails next time) and the chunks of tomatoes (I used a can of diced tomatoes). So, before I reheated the soup, I took out the shrimp and removed their tails. Then I used an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot and added back the shrimp. I also mixed in a tablespoon of fish sauce which I think brought another nice dimension to the soup. I prefer the leftover, reheated (and retooled) soup over the original version.