No potluck dinner or church supper would be complete without Baked Ziti or Tuna Noodle Casserole. But are these dishes ever as good as they sound? More often than not, the noodles are dry and crunchy, the sauce lackluster, and the overall dish, well, passable at best. And while everyone loves the idea of a one-dish meal that is made ahead and pulled hot and browned from the oven, the reality is often disappointing.
With Cover & Bake, the editors of Cooks Illustrated set out to revive the venerable casserole. This kind of cooking is uniquely American, and many recipes have deep roots in regional traditions. From Turkey Tetrazzini and Chicken Divan to Crab Imperial and Hoppin John, casseroles represent the ingenuity and practicality of the American cook. But over the last 50 years, many of these classics have taken a turn for the worse as busy home cooks, pressed for time, turned to sorry shortcuts like processed foods to make things easier. For Cover & Bake, the editors tested new versions of old standbys and in the -process have re-imagined the art of the one-dish meal to meet the demands of todays cook.
Here you will find classic assemble-and-bake casseroles like Macaroni and Cheese and Creamy Chicken and Rice as well as innovative dishes like Mediterranean Chicken Bake and Polenta Casserole with Italian Sausage. The key to making these recipes work, apart from using the freshest of ingredients, is to use high heat and shallow baking dishes that allow you to put already cooked ingredients into a hot oven for a short period of time so that their flavors can meld without overcooking. Weve experimented with techniques that allow you to cook everything in just one pot whenever possible, avoiding the need for hours of preparation and cleanup just to get a casserole in the oven. And nearly every recipe can be made ahead, allowing home cooks to serve these wholesome dishes on a busy weeknight.
Looking beyond what most people consider to be a casserole, the editors offer an original take on the subject with inventive skillet "casseroles" (Skillet Lasagna and Beef Stroganoff), slow-cooker meals that are really worth serving (Curried Chicken with Potatoes and Peas), pot pies with multiple topping options (many of which can be made ahead), oven braises and stews that cook in a slow oven for hours so that you wont have to stand over a hot stove, and breakfast and brunch dishes that can be assembled the night before, allowing you to relax along with your guests. For every type of one-dish meal, we have given you practical tips and techniques along with step-by-step illustrations that make the process easier. For instance, in the slow-cooker chapter, there is a detailed guide to using slow cookers effectively based on our extensive testing, along with specific tips, such as how to arrange vegetables around the edge of the slow cooker so that they will cook all the way through.
In addition, this book contains all the relevant tastings and testings conducted in Americas Test Kitchen. Learn which baking dish is our hands-down favorite. Are all storage containers created the same? Want to know which slow cooker has the best combination of features? Weve done thorough research into each of these topics (and more) and recommend specific kitchen items (yes, we name brands) that deliver superior results. In Cover & Bake, you will learn which brand of chicken broth tastes best, how to buy canned tomatoes that taste almost as good as fresh, and how to choose among myriad brands of rice, pasta, and noodles when youre in the supermarket. Starting with the right ingredients and the best possible equipment makes all the difference, so we have made sure to give you the information you need to be successful in the kitchen.
Cover & Bake is packed with more than 200 recipes for one-dish meals for everyday cooking. These practical recipes will allow you to get dinner on the table with a minimum of fuss while still serving up a fresh-tasting meal.
Founded in 1980, Cooks Illustrated magazine is renowned for its near-obsessive dedication to finding the best methods of American home cooking. The editors of Cooks are also the authors of a best-selling series of cookbooks (The Best Recipe Series) and a series of companion books to the Americas Test Kitchen public television show (which reaches 2.4 million viewers per episode). Filmed in Americas Test Kitchen (a 2,500-square-foot test kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts), the show features the editors, test cooks, equipment testers, science experts, and food tasters from the magazines staff.