Cover & Bake Hardcover – Sep 30 2004
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About the Author
Cook's Illustrated, Home of America's Test Kitchen producesthe very popular America's Test Kitchen Public Television series that is seen inboth the US and Canada by over 1 million viewers. Additionally, it is associatedwith Cooks Illustrated Magazine, a leading and highly respected foodpublication that is available throughout Canada.
Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen titles includingThe New Best Recipe - revised and expanded from the classic, The BestRecipe, which has sold over 350,000 copies, companions to the America's TestKitchen Public Television series, and many other bestselling and award-winningcookbooks such as Baking Illustrated, Cover and Bake and TheBest Kitchen Quick Tips.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As an avid home cook and having been associated with professional cooking, in one form or another, for over thirty years, I cannot recomend this cookbook (or any other in "The Best Recipe" series) too highly. Though my library contains well over 1,000 cookbooks, the cookbooks in "The Best Recipe" series are the ones I most highly recommend. I have by now cooked hundreds of recipes from the volumes in this series and have never met with any thing but absolute success. The instructions and testing information for each recipe are so thorough and detailed, that even in areas where you might differ on matters of purely subjective taste (degree of spiciness for example), you'll know precisely the adjustements that need to made without fear of jeapordizing the outcome of the recipe as a whole.
Anthony Bourdain, in his excellent, but rigorous and highly professional new French bistro cookbook, "Les Halles, recommends only three "Source Materials" as further reading. One by Joel Robuchon, another by Paul Bocuse, but also "The Best Recipe-Cook's Illustrated".
If you are interested in casseroles and other one pot dishes that are as easy to prepare as they can be, without compromising taste and having to resort to questionable and unneccessary prepackaged ingredients then do not hesitate to purchase this book. You will be well rewarded, not only because you'll have at your command the multi-tested best classic and neo-classic recipes possible, but also because of all the useful testing results for common supermarket items and kitchen equipment and appliances that you'll have at your disposal
I'm not going to repeat the praise offered by other reviewers; I concur with all of it. The reason why people should buy this book (or give as a gift) is because each and every recipe has detailed instructions for making these dishes ahead of time and refrigerating or freezing them. Most of the dishes can be frozen for at least one month, many for two or even three months. And, best of all, they taste great no matter when they eat them.
This cookbook has made my busy life simpler. I love to share good food with my friends and family, and Cover & Bake makes that easy to do. I have relied on recipes from Cook's Illustrated for years and now, when I'm at a time in my life where time is scarce, I can continue to produce great food in a short period of time.
Just a sampling of how I've been able to utilize this book:
1. Spend one day every month preparing 4-5 casseroles that go straight into the freezer.
2. Make one "fresh" casserole each week that is eaten right away.
3. Prepare the food for a party 2-3 days in advance so my final hours before the party are focused on cleaning up after my preschooler!
4. Share one casserole each week with elderly relatives; I can even make up individual sized portions easily.
5. Made a few casseroles for a friend's freezer while she was recuperating in the hospital.
6. Shared a few casseroles with a friend who was at home with her new baby.
This is a great cookbook to have, and great cookbook to give away. I am excited by it.
I am very happy with this cookbook. I have cooked from it several times a week since I received it 2 months ago. So far, I would like to make most of the recipes again. A few I didn't care for, but probably because they were not my tastes, not because they were bad recipes.
The techniques used in this cookbook are great and can be used in your own recipes. For example, they suggest to only partially cook raw chicken in your sauce, etc., as opposed to adding diced cooked chicken, like so many casserole recipes require. The chicken tastes so much better this way.
In addition to casserole recipes, there are great recipes for making meals all in one skillet, recipes for using in your slow cooker, and some great breakfast dishes. There is also a good chapter on side dishes.
Another feature I appreciate is the "planning ahead" that accompanies most recipes. It tells you exactly what can be done ahead, and how to adjust the cooking time if you do. This is something they rarely discuss in their magazine, and I am happy they tackled this, because it will be very helpful for entertaining.
There are recipes using meat, poultry and seafood. There are also quite a few good vegetarian recipes, like tamale pie, vegetable pot pie, sopa seca, plus side dishes and some of the breakfast casseroles. They say in the book that they made some of these recipes from scratch, and I believe it. There is some real creativity in here, while at the same time you are getting recipes for some old standards you would expect, like mac n' cheese and pot pies.
If you like casserole type dishes, and/or if you like Cook's Illustrated recipes, I highly recommend this book. It is a new favorite of mine.
This, however, isn't that book. The dishes that look so quick and easy when you watch them on America's Test Kitchen aren't so quick and easy at home because they have someone else to pull the leaves off of enough fresh tarragon that they have 3 tablespoons ready and waiting when they start cooking their Chicken with Spring Vegetables. When at home you have to trim and cut the chicken, pull the leaves off of the tarragon and chop them, wash and cut leeks, carrots, and asparagus and measure out cream (rather a lot of it) and chicken broth as well as various spices, and make home-made bread crumbs in the food processor, it all adds up to several hours of preparation before the casserole even makes it into the oven, and along with the casserole dish itself, you end up with a dutch oven, food processor, cutting board, knife and several prep bowls to clean. You can make the basic dish in advance, but you still have to wait for the mixture to chill down before you can put it in the refrigerator, and you have to leave it out at room temperature for an hour before you can put it in the oven. Yes, it tastes much better than the chicken casserole you would make with precut pieces of chicken and cream of mushroom soup, but unless you make it on a weekened and have someone to take it out of the refrigerator for you before you get home from work, it's not a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
As mentioned by someone else, this also isn't healthy eating. Most of the dishes have cream or cheese, and vegetarian isn't a word the folks at Cooks Illustrated seem to have learned, although the dishes seem to have a lot of mushrooms. Even the side dishes aren't truly vegetarian as a lot of the recipes in the book use one form or another of pork for seasoning, or otherwise rely on cheese or cream. For a book called Cover and Bake, I certainly expected at least some recipes which make star use of grains, rice, beans and vegetables, which are nice to have even for meat eaters. Those also aren't here. These are basic beef, pork, chicken and fish with rice and/or potatoes and they are hearty dishes. The side dishes are basically rice dishes to serve with the meat.
Don't get me wrong -- the resulting food tastes good. But their "paella," for instance, bears no resemblence to paella. It's shrimp with tomatoes and rice and while it's quite tasty, for an expensive dish, it just isn't the star it ought to be. When you make a dish that calls for 1 1/2 pounds of extra large shrimp, which is going to run you at least $25, plus the costs of the other ingredients, the dish should be more than tasty -- it should be spectacular. No one is going to complain about this dish, but it's doubtful they are going to rave about it either.
On the plus side, everything is extremely easy to prepare, especially if you like making food that serves 4-6 people and makes use of 9"X13" baking dishes, dutch ovens, and large skillets. There are, as always, plenty of useful illustrations, and the instructions are easy to follow. I'll use this cookbook since I still like the idea of dishes I can make over the weekend and keep in the refrigerator for several weekday uses, but it's not going to replace Cooks Illustrated's New Best Recipe or The New Basics or other recipe collections I own. This is really for people who like chicken and rice, beef and potatoes and other combinations that classically go into casserole dishes with thick and creamy sauces. If that describes you, this book is probably a 5-star book for you. Otherwise, you may search hard for recipes that sound worth the trouble.
This book is especially helpful, because it features one dish meals, but not casseroles that you throw together with a can of cream soup and bake for an hour. This is good tasting food! Each recipe features tips on when/if it can be frozen, or steps that can be done ahead.
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