Ample Bites is a long-time reader and follower of Cook's Illustrated. This publication, which can also be followed on their Facebook fan page, offers a variety of recipes, cooking tips, information about ingredients, and reviews of cooking products and equipment.
Many of the CI recipes focus on best cooking practices for classic dishes like fried chicken, prime rib roast, lasagna, baked goods, and oven-roasted halibut, to name a few. CI’s recipes are well-written, easy to follow, and, from Ample Bites’ experience, yield outstanding results.
A regular feature in Cook’s Illustrated is a section called Quick Tips. These tips are provided by readers. Readers whose tips are published receive a complimentary 1-year subscription to the magazine.
My favorite from the current, April 2012 CI Quick Tips, was submitted by Peter Walker of Bellingham, Washington. He shares the use of parchment paper to wrap panini-style sandwiches before placing them on the panini press (or George Foreman-style sandwich grill). Wrapping the sandwich allows the heat of the press to cook the sandwich without the juices and cheese drippings leaking out. This technique makes the clean-up of the press virtually unnecessary.
Other Quick Tips used regularly in the Ample Bites kitchen are the placement of a folded dish towel under a cutting board to eliminate any rocking or sliding of the board and storing the remaining section of a tomato cut-side down on a piece of plastic wrap to preserve for use up to a day or two later.
The April 2012 Cook’s Illustrated also features an ingredient section titled Shrimp 101: How to buy, prep and cook juicy, tender shrimp. This two-page feature shares all of the basics of buying and preparation in easy to understand descriptions and illustrations.
The buy/prep page explains the sometimes confusing terms of count-per-pound (Jumbo 16/20, Extra-large 21/25, Large 26/30, Medium 41/50, Small 51/60) and recommends the 21/25 size for most applications. The other valuable topics discussed in this article are the sources of the shrimp (US Gulf of Mexico, Asia, and South America), as well as, the freezing and defrosting techniques including the importance of buying IQF, individually quick-frozen, shrimp. The basics of thawing and deveining are also explained very clearly.
The cooking page describes the four “foolproof” methods of pan searing, grilling, poaching and stir-frying. If you have a copy of this article it is one to clip and save for ready-reference any time you are cooking shrimp.
For valuable tips, reliable recipes and understandable information about food products and equipment, Ample Bites highly recommends Cook’s Illustrated.