Cooks Illustrated: American Classics

Or, the Cooks Illustrated Gets Fussy issue. Yes, I know–Cooks Illustrated is always a little fussy. It’s their thing, and I love them for it. But this is serious.

Page 49 is devoted to making the perfect pitcher of iced tea. Page 17 agonizes over the difficulties of the grilled cheese sandwich. I am pleased that quesadillas find a place as an American classic, on page 16. Appropriately, that faces the grilled cheese sandwiches; I made my share of both as a child, and since. Classic beef fajitas, a slightly more complicated preparation, gets two pages. But really, are these things that hard to make?

Maybe they are. The quesadillas article notes that “Some cookbooks suggest passing the tortillas over the flame of a gas burner to lightly char and soften them. This idea worked, but it … demanded close attention to keep the tortillas from going up in flames.” Of course it demands close attention! It takes about 10 seconds–I certainly hope your attention doesn’t wander in that amount of time. And, traditionally, you don’t “pass” them over the flame-you set each one on the burner, turning it with your fingers. Easy. You can turn the flame off while you flip, if you have soft skin–but that pushes the bounds of authenticity.

I also noted that while the quesadillas and beef fajitas write-ups both insist that good flour tortillas are key to the recipe, they say nothing about how to prepare your own.

3 Responses to “Cooks Illustrated: American Classics”

  1. September 16, 2010 at 12:14

    I used to have s subscription to this magazine until I worked as a pastry chef in a restaurant; my first job in a commercial kitchen and I realized that the recipes were too fussy and not all that great. Still fun to read if you are in the analytical type of frame of mind

  2. September 16, 2010 at 13:58

    Huh. I haven’t done my quesadillas over the open flame, but it sounds like a good idea to me. However, with an almost-toddler underfoot whenever I’m cooking, it’s pretty important for me to have methods that allow me to take my attention away from the stove. Caramel, for example, is just not something I could make most of the time.

    • September 17, 2010 at 08:46

      They recommend warming the tortillas before starting the quesadillas, to make sure that the cheese melts before the tortillas burns when you’re doing the finished product. Like I said, fussy. But for other applications, the open burner technique is exactly how my family warmed tortillas.

      Baby + caramel = no. Baby + open-flame-tortillas = I’ve seen it done. But warming them in a pan, or in the microwave, works too.

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