From Publishers Weekly
In an ongoing effort to bring readers the flakiest pie crusts and the most tender of meat loafs, the mad scientists at Cook's Illustrated subject recipes to endless tests in order to find out exactly how much cream the perfect corn chowder requires or how much salt the perfect veal roast needs. In this cookbook, they turn their attention to light versions of their favorite recipes, using the same trial-and-error method to devise healthier finished products. The recipes in this book are middle-American classics such as Chicken Pot Pie, Crab Cakes and Spaghetti and Meatballs. For the most part, these dishes taste as luxurious as their full-fat siblings-the pot pie is tender and creamy, the crab cakes are dense with lump crabmeat and the spaghetti and meatballs are hard to stop eating. Even desserts are terrific, although the authors confess they found it impossible to come up with light versions of apple crisp or yellow cake that would meet Cook's Illustrated standards, so those recipes were omitted. Still, their efforts were well-rewarded with rich Peanut Butter Cookies and moist Chocolate Sheet Cake. They even worked their miracles on Cheesecake, testing 28 recipes before coming up with a silken, light version as addictive as the real thing.
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From the Inside Flap
A light recipe you make only once isnt very helpful. Tofu lasagna and brownies made with prune puree might sound interesting, but one taste and youll likely go back to your favorite high-fat recipe. Eating sensibly is a more reasonable plan. But night after night of plain broiled chicken breasts and steamed brown rice is not very appealing either. No wonder most cooks stick with the recipes they knowthat work and taste greatfat and calories be damned. At Americas Test Kitchen, we think food should taste good. Otherwise, whats the point? Before starting this book, our goal was simple: Develop lighter recipes that wed actually want to serve in our homes. We readily admit that we are not experts on diet or health, but our test kitchen knows how to make good food. After testing thousands of recipes, heres what we learned. A lot of "light" recipes are shockingly bad. Gimmicks (like cookies so small theyre gone in a single bite), odd ingredients (many nonfat dairy products are so awful they will ruin otherwise decent recipes), and flawed techniques (chicken sautéed in cooking spray scorches easily) are the rule, not the exception. In general, we found that successful light cooking often requires new cooking methods in order to produce workable recipes that anyone would want to make more than once. Do you like the flavor and crunch of fried foods, such as eggplant Parmesan and fried chicken, but not all the fat and calories? We came up with a novel method for putting a crisp coating on foods: First, toast the bread crumbs in a bit of oil in a hot skillet before using them to coat the food; second, bake the breaded food on a wire rack set over a baking sheet so that it becomes crisp all over. Using this technique, we removed half the fat from these recipes without compromising their crispy, crunchy appeal. How do restaurant chefs make sauces taste so good? Butter and cream are the easy answers. But we found that when napping a seared chicken cutlet in a sauce you can make something almost as good by replacing the butter with light cream cheese and the cream with milk. Sounds suspicious, but our tasters had a hard time telling the difference between the original and our lightened version. Desserts presented the biggest challenge for our test kitchen. We werent willing to settle for some facsimile of cheesecake or to forgo the richness of a traditional brownie or chocolate Bundt cake. For us to deem a recipe successful, it had to come close to the real deal. In fact, after developing many of these recipes, we organized a tasting in which we pitted our recipes against full-fat versions and other low-fat versions. The result? Some of our most experienced tasters thought our light versions were full fat. In our chocolate desserts, we found ways to cut the fat by replacing some of the chocolate with cocoa powder (which has very little fat) and then blooming the cocoa in hot water to release its full flavor. To make our creamy, silky New York cheesecake (pictured on the front cover), we used a combination of yogurt cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and light cream cheese and fooled everyone on our tasting panel. But we did have some failures. Our attempts to remove substantial amounts of fat from pie crust failed. Sometimes there is just no substitute for butter. Rather than offering a disappointing light recipe for pie crust, weve simply left this recipe out of the book. In such cases, our philosophy is, make the real thing or do without. In The Best Light Recipe, youll be able to chart our progress, recipe by recipe, as we describe everything we tried and explain what worked and what didnt. Core technique boxes such as "Sweat Vegetables and Slash Fat" and "Give It Some Juice, and Reduce" will give you ideas for cooking healthier for a lifetime, while no-nonsense ingredient boxes give you the lowdown on that confusing array of low-fat, no-fat, and "lite" products, from "reduced-fat" mayonnaise to "light" peanut butter to "fat-free" cheddar cheese. Best of all, this book gives you 300 foolproof light recipes that wont let you down. Whether you want to eat light from time to time, or every day, you neednt skimp on flavor ever again.
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 Illustrated 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 2.9 million viewers per episode). Filmed in Americas Test Kitchen (a 2,500-square-foot test kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts), the show features editors, test cooks, equipment testers, science experts, and food tasters from the magazines staff.