By Freda Vickery from the October 2014 Edition
Just lately, because of an enforced immobility, I have finally had a chance of catching up with some magazines that I have had around for a while. I have always enjoyed magazines and my favorite time for reading them was in the evening when television was on. Don’t ask how I managed to watch TV and read, I guess it’s the same as knitting and reading a book. Multitasking was always with me before it was ‘the thing’ to do. I could always do in a couple of hours what it now takes me a week to do.
But, back to the subject at hand, Despite not allowing myself time to read my magazines, I had continued my habit of buying every cooking magazine as it reached the stand. I have a wealth of them to now read and enjoy as well as saliva over the recipes. In actual fact what I have discovered in myself is that as I am reading the recipes and instructions, I actually taste each ingredient addition as well as the end product. I then don’t always have to make it myself; I know what it is and what a trip it has been.
Over the years, I have gradually turned away from the old ‘Bon Appetit’ and ‘Taste of Home’ as I much prefer the newer editions such as ‘Food Network’ and ‘Rachel Ray.’ My current favorite by far is ‘Cook’s Illustrated.’ In this mini book, the writers and chefs, take a classical recipe that has been around for years and find the quickest, easiest and tastiest way of preparing it in a home kitchen. They get right down to the nitty-gritty and build the most authentic recipe possible in the least time. Food quality and flavor is not sacrificed as they seek the best way to make a recipe in a home environment. They experiment with different manufacturer’s ingredients, explain how they use the product, which ones didn’t work correctly and eventually tell which one gave them exactly the flavor and substance they were looking for.
I am absolutely entranced by some of the ways they change an old way of using an ingredient into a new way which is so much simpler and easy to follow. In reading through the diary of the day’s cooking, I honestly become so intrigued, I almost want to go back to school to learn all of the required equations.
For example, in making a Cassoulet, the famous French stew of pork and beans which normally takes three days to prepare, they describe the treatment of the beans for the dish. The beans normally preferred for use in this dish are the tarbais which is a very thin skinned bean with a creamy textured interior. As these are very expensive and difficult to get, the writer experimented with several beans and decided that the dried cannellini bean worked admirably. Now, the usual recipe calls for the beans to be soaked for 24 hours or at least overnight. How to cut this time down? In trying several methods the one finally chosen was soaking the beans in hot salted water brine for three hours, which gave the equivalent consistency of the original bean. Another major ingredient in this delightful stew is the French Toulouse sausage which, again, is not readily available. The best substitute (fully explained as to why) is the German Bratwurst sausage. On it goes, this ingredient not available or too expensive, so this one was found to give the same result.
They do the same with making Crab cakes. Ooh! I do have to make that. In yet another edition, they covered Tortilla Soup. the Perfect Flan, and Fajitas. In each case they take away the scary mystery surrounding the dish and explain what is the best way to prepare it and which are the best or worst ingredient brands that they found.
Sadly, ‘Cooks Illustrated’ is not easily available in Mexico but as it is not something which dates (and you will want forever anyway), it can be ordered at home and enjoyed at any time. They do also have an on-line edition and cooking classes. This latter I am going to have to explore a little more carefully.
The Magazine has a very plain cover and not the garish, sparkly, gleaming, colorful one usually found on the rack. I took me a little while to discover, and now that I have, my already over expanded magazine collection is going to a whole new level.