From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
It’s hot and dry with brief interludes of crashing thunderstorms. We are relatively well-off compared with the Midwest, however. A friend of mine just drove east from Colorado and said that between the droughts and fires, it was a frightening journey. So our thoughts and good wishes go out to all the farmers and others affected by drought.
We just had our annual Old Home Day parade and carnival, put on by our local all-volunteer fire department. Emily made a chocolate garden cake with radishes and other vegetables sprouting out of the chocolate “dirt.” Unfortunately, on the way to the parade, she and her brother had a fight and the garden cake looked as though a herd of cows had gotten into it. Well, it still tasted good!
Every year the parade has a theme, and this year it was “Vermont Strong.” Our neighbor Jed and his wife made 8-foot-high boxes of Wheaties, Barilla elbow macaroni, and Campbell’s tomato soup and a carton of milk. There was a girl, Axel’s granddaughter, on a unicycle; clowns; people dressed as cows with giant rubber udders; walking dragons; old cars; a pickup dressed up as a garden; a haunted house float; a woman from West Hoosick who made her horse march sideways; bands; old tractors; fire trucks from all the nearby towns; and a Dalmatian wearing a fire hat. (Click here to see photos of the parade and the carnival.)
After the parade, we had maple milkshakes and great fries and played Dunk the Dope and Win a Cake (bet 25 cents to win a homemade cake). We tried throwing Ping-Pong balls at floating bowls but, well, they just bounced around. The band played an old Eric Clapton song and an older couple got out on the dirt dance floor and did the chicken wing.
This fall, we are offering three new cookbooks. The one I am most excited about is the America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook (you can get your copy at 30% off—just $24.50). It’s a big, family-friendly five-ring-binder cookbook with more than a thousand photos of finished dishes and step-by-step instructions. We offer more than 750 recipes that can be made, including preparation time, in 45 minutes or less, and you don’t even have to be a whiz in the kitchen. In addition, we have included 175 recipes that can be made in 25 minutes or less—that’s real cooking and preparation time. (We invited dozens of typical home cooks into our kitchen to try out our recipes while we kept a keen eye on the clock.)
One of my favorite features in the book is Putting Ingredients to Work, in which we take a simple item—cream cheese, for example—and then provide five quick and easy recipes for it. We have also come up with some all-new ideas, including using a microwave to create an almost-instant appetizer of Baked Brie with Honey and Herbs. Instead of doing the usual poaching and chilling, make an all-new quick recipe called Broiled Shrimp Cocktail. Or turn to the pressure cooker and make a perfectly cooked, moist turkey breast with homemade gravy in well under an hour. For dessert, we found a way to make Individual Chocolate Fudge Cakes by using ramekins and then, to create a fudgy center, simply pressing a square of chocolate into each cake before baking. Finally, for a really quick but impressive dessert, you can make our Apple Strudel Bake by throwing apples into a baking dish, microwaving them to soften, and then sprinkling with torn pieces of phyllo before baking. That’s strudel in seconds (well, in a fraction of the time)!
For your copy at 30% off the cover price, just click here. This is one cookbook that will get almost daily use.
We start filming the fifth season of Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen next month, which means that we are busy with all the details that have to be preplanned, from lunches, food shopping, and lighting to travel arrangements, Wi-Fi, and hotel rooms. Our house band, Chris Kimball and the Phenomenals, has to brush up our repertoire for the wrap party; we need to arrange for parking at the church across the road; and after-hours activities, from swimming in the marble quarry to taking trips to the local bar in the next town to watch Red Sox games, are already being penciled into schedules.
Caroline, my 22-year-old, just made a batch of raspberry wine that is slowly turning into raspberry vinegar. (I left the top off the bottle so it wouldn’t explode.) She has also been making delicious goat’s-milk yogurt (from raw goat’s milk) since she has been helping our goat-raising neighbors, Brad and Donna, with milkings. I just made an odd but delicious new recipe from Cook’s Country called Magic Chocolate Flan Cake. Pour warm caramel sauce into the bottom of a Bundt pan, then a chocolate cake mixture, and finally add a flan mixture that includes some cream cheese. It bakes for more than an hour, during which the flan magically settles on the bottom and the chocolate cake rises to the top. When unmolded, you have a caramel sauce on top of flan with a chocolate cake base. (The recipe will appear in the December/January issue of Cook’s Country.)
Tom and Nancy’s garden has been a big success—no floods and no tomato blight. Lots of tomato sauce has already been canned, green beans have been frozen, and even a few hills of potatoes have been dug up for dinner. (One hill yielded almost 4 pounds.) Tom has seen a few bucks this summer, including a spike horn, a four-pointer, and a six- or eight-pointer—he was too far away to count. Next month, we survey the woods, find the deer trails, and start putting up our stands for hunting season. And there are turkey flocks all around—we’ve never seen so many birds before.
I leave you with an old saying about city people moving to the country: “In the old days, we used to eat in the house and go to the bathroom in the yard. These new city folks do it just the opposite.”