Category Archives: America’s Test Kitchen

Classic Pound Cake

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Pound cake is a classic.  Topped with fruit, chocolate, or cream it can make a simple yet satisfying dessert.  It can accompany a cup of tea as an afternoon snack or even work as a breakfast on the go.  Done right it isn’t overly sweet.

This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen has been repeatedly tested to get it right.  There are flavored versions that add lemon, orange, ginger, or even chocolate but my favorite is the version made with the fewest ingredients.  Butter, sugar, and milk combined with flour is all it takes.  Because there are so few ingredients, make sure the ones you use are of the best quality you can find.  Here in Europe butter has a higher fat content than butter in the United States resulting in a rich cake.  If you are stateside try to find a European butter (President is a brand sold in some U.S. markets).  The results will be worth it.

CLASSIC POUND CAKE

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  • Process the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a food processor until combined, about 10 seconds.
  • With the machine running, pour the melted butter through the feed tube in a steady stream.  The process should take about 30 seconds.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  • Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and whisk in.  Repeat twice more with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until most lumps are gone (do not over mix).
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake 50-60  minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then flip it onto a wire rack.  Turn the cake right side up and let cool to room temperature, about 3 hours.

Serves 8-10

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Lemony Chicken Piccata

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Chicken piccata is one of the few recipes that my entire family can agree on. Between the brightness of the lemons, the saltiness of the capers, and tender chicken filets, you just can’t go wrong.  Complex yet surprisingly easy to make, this can serve as both a quick weeknight dinner and a formal meal for guests.  The original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, but I’ve tweaked it over the years until it has been adapted into my current version.

When we were living in Norfolk I used to make large pans of the piccata to serve to all of the geographical bachelors living on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  (And let me tell you, those men could eat a lot of food).  Now I am more apt to cook up reasonable, family sized quantities and serve it along side a parmesan risotto and green vegetable smaller sit down dinners.  I usually make a double batch since the flavors mellow with re-heating and taste even better the next day.  If you want to spend time with your guests and avoid last-minute preparations, you can make it ahead of time then let it sit over low heat for several hours since the flavors will only intensify and the lemons will break down and become bite-tender.  The recipe produces a generous amount of sauce since I like to serve it over rice.  You can reduce the quantity by half and since have enough of its tasty goodness to satisfy all of your guests.  Oh, and this is a great dish to use up any extra lemons you might have in the kitchen.

LEMONY CHICKEN PICCATA

Serves 4

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground pepper

8 thin, boneless chicken breast cutlets

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups, low-sodium chicken broth

1 large lemon, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch moons

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons capers, rinsed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • Spread the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with the salt and pepper.  Dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of the cutlets and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add more oil to the skillet if needed and repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken.
  • Add the shallot and garlic to the oil left in the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the broth and lemon slices, deglazing the pan and scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, capers, and any accumulated chicken juice.  Return the chicken to the sauce. At this point the chicken can sit over low heat until ready to serve.
  • Immediately before serving stir in the butter, one piece at a time.  Turn off the heat, adjust the salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Popovers

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I love big, fluffy, and eggy popovers.  There is something innately elegant about this oh so simple treats.  Served in their simplest form with a dab of butter and a dollop of jam they are the perfect breakfast treat.  Or you can follow an old Maine tradition and eat popovers and chowder on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park.  In college I discovered Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts where oversized popovers were served as the foundation for hearty sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soup or salad or all on their own.  (When I was back in Amherst this past summer I went to Judie’s with the sole purpose of eating a popover).

I tend to forget how easy popovers are to make. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen only has six ingredients. Instead of using a blender I use a stick mixer which makes cleanup a breeze.  With a little prior planning (the batter needs to rest before baking) they are a snap to make.  If you want to serve them for breakfast you can even make the batter the night before and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.  If you do this there isn’t any excuse for not serving them for breakfast.

POPOVERS

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Blend the eggs and milk in a blender until smooth.  Add the flour, melted butter, and salt and continue to blend on high speed until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 1 minute. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While the batter is resting, measure 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into each cup of a popover pan.  Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place the pan in the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • After the batter has rested, pour it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.  Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and divide the batter evenly among the 6 cups in the pan.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door.
  • Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown all over, 15 to 18 minutes more.  Gently tip the popovers out onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving, about 2 minutes.
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