Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekend Cooking

I have been missing in action again this week. This week has been a bad week for our dogs. Our older dog has a nasty bladder infection and is also having trouble getting around. 24 hours later our other dog was in surgery as we suspected he may have had something in his intestines. He did not but his gall bladder was found to be full and not working. He has been up and down here at home the past few days and we are not too sure what is causing his issues although we suspect his seizure medication may be the cause. He is a very sick pooch! Not much reading has been done here this week. I tried but nothing is sticking with me right now as I am worried. I did however, try a menu out of this cookbook since I am stuck at home with sick dogs. It was a nice distraction.

The America's Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook: Your Guide to Hosting Stress-Free Dinner Parties and Holiday Feasts

Hardcover: 344 pages
Publisher: Boston Common Press (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1933615907
ISBN-13: 978-1933615905

When you're entertaining, there's no room for failure--you want your food to deliver on taste and presentation--yet you want the recipes to be approachable enough so that you can enjoy the party, too. Menu planning is hard even for very experienced cooks, but with The America's Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook, we have taken the guesswork out of entertaining. The recipes are built and tested so that they complement each other, and all the logistics have been sorted out. You don't need to worry about oven space or temperature issues--we've done all that for you. And to keep the process stress-free, make-ahead instructions are built into individual recipes as well as each menu's game plan. Want to host a fall dinner party but don't want to get up at the crack of dawn? Try our Rustic Fall Pork Dinner. Simple ham and cheese palmiers made with puff pastry are a sure-to-impress starter, while the main course is an easy but elegant entree and side combo you can make on a sheet pan: roast pork loin with sweet potatoes and cilantro sauce. Tired of stressing out over Thanksgiving? Follow our timelines from start to finish and you'll be sipping a glass of wine along with your guests while the bird roasts. Want to bring the party outdoors? Try our Beat-the-Heat Grilled Shrimp Dinner or Dinner from the Garden. And themed menus like our Tapas Party, Pizza Night, Mexican Fiesta, and more are both fun and manageable. Stumped by appetizers but tired of serving crackers and cheese? You'll find plenty of options here, like our Simple Caramelized Onion Tart with Fig Jam, Blue Cheese, and Prosciutto (store bought pizza dough makes this a snap). Or our contemporary take on smoked salmon canapes that features an easy creme fraiche dip, potato chips, and sliced smoked salmon. Organized around the seasons with menus that serve eight, plus a special holiday and for-a-crowd chapter, The America's Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook takes all the guesswork out of putting together flavorful and practical menus. Packed with tips that will help you shop and budget your time, this book is a must-have for anyone who likes to entertain.

My Thoughts

This is a beautiful book as well as helpful by America's Test Kitchen. The beginning of the book lists items you may need for a well stocked kitchen. They explain how the kitchen items are used. They have a section on quick tips that make your food preparation easier. Also there is an emergency substitution list which is wonderful for the items you may have forgotten to pick up at the store. The rest of the book is full of menus divided up by the season. Each menu includes at least one picture which I find extremely helpful in a cookbook. Each recipe includes a small paragraph on why the recipe works. I love the little explanations. They are both helpful and informative.

My daughter and I chose a Fall menu, Farmhouse Chicken Dinner. We chose this one as we thought it was one of the easier menus in the book. Our menu consisted of Rustic Breaded Chicken with Brussels Sprouts, Honeyed Goat Cheese with Spice Walnuts and Figs, Herbed Barley Pilaf, and Autumn Pear Crumble. We found the chicken, the goat cheese and the pear crumble to be delicious and fairly easy to prepare. We had to substitute apples for the figs in the goat cheese recipe which was a suggestion made by the cookbook if figs were not available. We thought the pilaf could have been more flavorful if chicken stock had been used in the cooking process instead of water. The chicken was soaked in a brine which I had never done before and was very tender and juicy! I will be using that recipe again! The recipes in the menu were a nice compliment to each other.

I am not a beginner cook. I would say I am a everyday household cook. The menu took us all afternoon to prepare, a good 5 hours. The recipes all have several steps. There are some things that could be done a day ahead of time which they have been kind enough to point out in the book. I do wish there had been a timeline in the book telling me what I should be working on and in what order. The recipes are just listed and not necessarily in the order of how you should prepare them. At one point I had two things in the oven and needed to put a third item in there at a different temperature. The recipes were lovely but if I had been making this for a dinner party, I would have missed all the fun. These are recipes that will keep you in the kitchen. They are very involved. There are many other recipes I wish to try out of this cookbook but I don't think I would tackle a full menu again. I was exhausted after making a full menu.

I enjoyed many of the recipes in this book and all the helpful tips. If you love being in the kitchen for hours on end, you may like this cookbook. I think this is a cookbook for the serious entertainer or advanced home chef.

I received this book for review which in no way influenced this review

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.
Weekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love. Be sure to check out all the yummy cooking posts on Beth's blog.


  1. Sorry to hear about your dogs. Hope they're better soon.

    Looks like a good cookbook to have handy!

  2. Poor dogs. :( So sorry to hear of your troubles.

    As for the America's Test Kitchen book. I love their recipes for the most part but I do disagree agree with them sometimes (for example, we don't like their pizza dough). It's a shame that their menu book doesn't give you a time line. On the other hand, It's great to know that the recipes were for the most part successes.

  3. So sorry to hear about your sick dog.

    This sounds like a helpful book to daring but cooks who are in need of some hand holding. I enjoyed your review. Thanks.

  4. How sad about the poor doggies...hope they are both feeling better soon.

    One of the things I look for in recipes is the approximation of time of preparation -- I just like to sort of know what I'm getting into before I start. The absence of that info here would bother me I'm afraid.

  5. That is a big menu to tackle! I have never tried a chicken soaked in brine either, but it sounds delicious.

  6. Sorry about your pups. Hope they are doing better!
    Good idea to cook to distract you,sounds like a nice book!

  7. I'm sorry to hear about your dog. Our dog is almost 16 and has some rough days too. It's so sad to see your dogs age.

  8. I appreciate your review of this book. I'm a fan of Cook's Illustrated/ATK and was wondering about this book. I like most of their recipes but I agree they should have worked on the time sequences with their menus.

  9. Hope your dogs get better quick (they are like our babies).

    I'm glad u got a copy of ATK Cookbook --it was awesome wasn't it?


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