Thursday, March 1, 2012

Testing a Test Kitchen recipe

February 26, 2012
Meatier Meatloaf
Baked potatoes
Three Wishes Cabernet Sauvignon

A few years ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook's Illustrated. All recipes are tested by a panel of home cooks before they get published in the magazine. I receive a new recipe to test about once a month. After preparing the recipe it takes only a few minutes to complete a short on-line survey. To help me complete the survey I take notes in the kitchen which I refer to when answering the questions and providing comments. There is no obligation to test every recipe that they send, so I decide which ones to test based on the recipe, the ingredients required, how much time I have, etc.

Last week I received a test recipe for "Meatier Meatloaf". That sounded good to me, it wasn't too time consuming to make, and the ingredients were readily available, so I ditched my original plan to try a new recipe for cassoulet in order to try this new recipe for meatloaf.

Frankly, I don't think I did a very good job as a tester as I strayed further from the recipe than I should have. For example, it called for 1 pound of ground pork and 1 pound of ground beef. The prepackaged ground pork at the supermarket is 1.2 pounds (I hate it that they add the extra 0.2 pounds just to boost their sales) so I used 1.2 pounds of ground pork and 0.8 pounds of ground beef. (The ground beef package was 1.8 pounds, we'll use the other pound in tacos.) It called for dried porcini mushrooms, I used dried chanterelles (because that's what the store had). Perhaps the biggest issue was not letting the meatloaf rest after it came out of the oven. I got a late start late fixing dinner and it wasn't ready until 8 PM (it took about 2 hours to prepare and bake the meatloaf) and by then I was too hungry to wait another 20 minutes.

The side dishes were easy to pick. Since potatoes bake for the same length of time at the same temperature as meatloaf they are a common accompaniment. They're better than potatoes backed in the microwave, especially the crispy skin that you only get in the oven, so you need to take advantage of the situation when it arises. And peas are our go-to vegetable ... always frozen, never canned.

I had intended to make bananas foster for dessert, but by the time dinner was done, so was I, and this interesting dessert will have to wait for another day, probably soon.

Diane and I enjoyed the meatloaf and this dinner, late though it was. So what did I report on the survey? I made a number of comments but two were most important. First, I thought that the meatloaf was good, but if there are recipes for meatloaf that is just as good but which take less effort. Second, meatloaf is comfort food because of the memories that it evokes, because it is familiar. The tangy mustard glaze, though good, evoked no memories for me as I am used to meat loaf being served with a ketchup-based glaze. It was thus less comforting than it might have been.

We had the French Silk Chocolate pie as dessert three more times during the week. It was kept covered in the refrigerator and didn't seem to suffer from the passage of time, it remained good and the crust didn't absorb an appreciable amount of liquid over the course of 5 days or so before it was gone.

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