Tag Archives: America’s Test Kitchen recipes

Pie Week: Black & White Coconut Tart

The Theme Weavers are ringing in the holidays with PIE WEEK. Wahoooooo! I love pie. Love, love, love it. It’s my favorite of all of the Food Groups – Pie, Bacon, Cheese, Chocolate & Booze. If only we could all be in one room so we could face plant into all the glorious pies to be featured this week, it would be a dream come true. Also dreamy, this gorgeous Black & White Coconut Tart.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Banners

It starts with Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses’ pie dough recipe, pre-baked into the perfect vessel. Then it gets a schmear of hot fudge sauce (it’s okay… just breathe) and a luscious layer of coconut cream. Finally, it’s crowned with glorious mounds of whipped cream and toasted coconut. Have I mentioned that I love pie?

Let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start. Pie dough. When I say this one is easy, I’m not joking. Made in the food processor, it’s ready in a flash and flawless every single time. It’s the only recipe I use.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Kirsten's Pie Dough

For this tart, I chose to use a vintage 8″ square baking tin I found while antiquing with Kirsten last May. Using the pan reminds me of her and proves two points – 1. food = love and 2. blogging friends are real (and are lots of fun).

Black & White Coconut Tart - Fitting Dough to Pan

One of my favorite pie tools – a pizza cutter. I love a good sharp edge when working with pie dough. There’s no better example of that than this next shot, where I decide to make a fancy braided edge for my tart. Curse you, Pinterest!

Black & White Coconut Tart - Braid Collage

Did I just hear you say “Whatever!”? Oooo… I’m gonna… Ha! Not really. Truth is, this trick is not as complicated as it looks. I found the key is pinching the ends together and pressing them into the countertop to anchor the strands. From there, it’s just a regular braid. When you’re done, pinch the other ends together to seal the deal, then apply it to the tart with a little egg white as glue.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Egg Wash Glue

Once applied, press gently to make sure it’s stuck, then pop then entire thing into the freezer for half an hour. Why? Because a frozen pie shell bakes much better than a room-temperature pie shell. More flaky layers; less shrinkage. After 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, line it with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from falling into the pan while it bakes. My tip: cut two paper strips to create a sling instead of trying to fold parchment into the corners. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Before (L) and after (R) - the beans keep the dough in place.

Before baking (L) and after (R) – the beans keep the dough in place.

Bake in a hot oven until it’s a light golden brown, then allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes with the beans still in place. After 15 minutes, you can lift out the beans and allow the tart shell to cool completely. If you plan to put your dried beans back in the pantry for soup later, be sure to let them cool completely before you seal them into a container. If you don’t, they’ll create steam in the container which will cause them to mold later.

While my tart shell was chilling, I made a batch of coconut custard from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I chose this filling because it used coconut milk for extra flavor, which was a good call – it’s dreamy. Cooked on the stove, it comes together quickly. The hardest part is resisting the urge to eat it while it cools. Once it’s done and slightly cooled, the trick is to cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t get that tough pudding skin layer on top. Two words that should never be used together – pudding & skin.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Coconut Custard

So now you have a baked & cooled tart shell and a cooled custard. What’s next? Assembly! First up is a layer of your favorite fudge sauce, then a thick layer of coconut custard, and finally a piped dome of whipped cream sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut. Licking the spatula is highly recommended.

Black & White Custard Tart - Filling Collage

Days like this make me happy to be one of those people who plays with their food. This one was fun to put together. Have you ever made anything that turned out so perfectly you thought, “Man, I hate to cut this!” Yeah, me neither.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - A Slice

NANABREAD’S BLACK & WHITE COCONUT TART:

One recipe of No Excuses Pie Dough (use half, freeze half for later)
One batch of America’s Test Kitchen Coconut Cream Pie custard:

  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar (divided in half)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold & diced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

One batch of stabilized whipped cream topping:

  • one pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon instant vanilla pudding powder

One cup of your favorite hot fudge sauce (at room temperature)
One cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

To make the pie shell:
Roll the pie dough out and place in a lightly sprayed pie or tart pan. Flute or attach a decorative edge, then freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, line the pie shell with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until the edge is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool 15-20 minutes, then lift out the paper & beans and allow it to cool completely.

To make the custard:
In a heavy saucepan, bring the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of sugar and salt to a gentle bubble, stirring often. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot custard into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Once combined, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pan of custard and whisk to combine. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the custard begins to thicken. Whisk in the vanilla extract and turn off the heat. Move to a cold burner and allow it to cool for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow it to cool, covered, until it comes to room temperature.

To make the whipped cream topping:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk on high until the cream just begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the instant vanilla pudding powder and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Scrape into a piping bag with a large star tip and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the tart:
Spread a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer of your favorite hot fudge sauce into the tart shell, spreading it an even layer. Gently spoon the coconut custard onto the fudge sauce layer and spread it into an even layer. Top with whipped cream and shaved coconut and chill until ready to serve. Makes four large servings or six smaller ones, if baked in an 8″ x 8″ square pan as seen above. Keep refrigerated.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - My Slice

Before you face plant into that last shot, be sure and check out these Theme Weavers and their crusted contributions to Pie Week:

Monday, Nov. 18:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Mile High Apple Pie
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Cranberry Cherry Ricotta Pie
Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks – Coconut Cream Pie
Katie @ The Hill Country Cook – New Mexico Apple Pie

Tropical Tuesday, Nov. 19:
Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Pineapple Pie
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya Pie
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Black & White Coconut Tart (that’s me!)

Wednesday, Nov. 20:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Chocolate Cream Pie
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Maple Sweet Potato with Swiss Meringue

Thursday, Nov. 21:
Shanna @ Pineapple and Coconut – Boozy Pumpkin Eggnog Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Sweet Potato Tartlets
Christina @ Buffy and George – Deep Dish Apple Pie

Friday, Nov. 22:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Sweet Potato Pie
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World – Refrigerator Pumpkin Porter Chocolate Pie with Toasted Pumpkin Porter Marshmallow “Meringue”
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Mini Butternut Squash Glazed Pie Stacks with Marshmallow Frosting

Saturday, Nov. 23:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Biscoff Pie with Whiskey Mallow Fluff
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Berry Cherry Pie
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Persimmon & Pear Brandy Pie with Vanilla Bean Crumble

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Cookie Week: Turtle Thumbprints

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumprints - Drizzled
It’s Cookie Week! That’s great news if you’re a cookie lover; even better news if you’re a supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer. This year, my blogging friends and I will again be baking to support this very worthy cause. For each cookie baked, sold, exchanged, or gifted Glad will donate $1 (up to $100,000). In addition, OXO (one of my favorite brands) has initiated the “OXO Matching Gift Program” and will match all proceeds from registered bake sales as part of their $100,000 pledge to Cookies for Kids Cancer. I’ve loved these brands for years, but I love them even more for their unwavering commitment to ending pediatric cancer. I’m sending a big thank you and hug to OXO & Glad.

And now on to the cookies! I chose Turtle Thumbprint Cookies this year. Risky, since I’ve never made them before, but when I saw them on Pinterest, I couldn’t resist. It’s one of my favorite flavor combinations – chocolate, caramel & toasted nuts. I love turtles – whether in cookie, brownie or ninja form. These are no exception. It all starts with a rich, truffle-like dark chocolate dough.

Dark Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies:
(adapted from The Kitchen is my Playground, and America’s Test Kitchen)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s ‘Special Dark’ cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted Land O’ Lakes butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated + 1 extra egg white
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
1 jar of dulce de leche caramel, for filling
6 ounces of chocolate chips, for drizzling

For the cookie dough:
Combine the flour, cocoa & salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk, milk & vanilla; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and blend in the flour/cocoa mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour). Once firm, scoop 1 tablespoon of dough into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball. Continue until all the dough has been rolled into balls.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Tumbprints - Perfectly Shaped Dough Balls

To assemble the thumbprint cookies:
Whisk both egg whites until frothy. Place the chopped pecans in a separate bowl and keep nearby. Using a fork, lower each cookie ball into the egg whites, rolling to make sure they’re completely coated.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Finish Prep

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Egg White Wash

Remove from the egg wash and immediately drop it into the bowl of nuts. Roll or toss until the dough ball is completely coated in nuts.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Pecan Coating

That last photo reminds me of “Where’s Waldo?” Can your find the cookie? Here’s an example of a perfectly coated cookie ball:

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - A Perfectly Coated Ball

Place the cookies 2″ apart onto cookie sheets (I recommend using a silicone mat or parchment). Using your finger or a round wooden spoon handle, press a divot into the top of each cookie. The bigger the divot, the more caramel it holds.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - A Perfect Divot

Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven. You want them to just be done. Bake too long, and they’ll start to split and crack around the outside edges which will wreak havoc when you try to fill them with caramel. And we don’t want that. When they’re cooled to room temperature, grab your favorite dulce de leche caramel. I’m using this jar of unholy goodness sent to me by my friend Kat at Tenaciously Yours. It’s sea salt caramel from Trader Joe’s and it’s divine. Ima need a new jar soon. Or two. Or twelve.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Trader Joe Caramel

Spoon just enough caramel into each cookie to fill the divot without running over the top. They get really messy when they run over the top.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumprints - Oh Sweet Caramel Goodness

Now grab your favorite milk chocolate and melt it; whisking until smooth. I like to scrape it into a plastic zip-style Glad bag so I can drizzle quickly and easily (plus it makes clean-up a snap). Just twist the baggie to press the chocolate into one corner, then snip the tip and drizzle like a pro. If you want to get all fancy-pants, you can top these with a toasted pecan. I tried it, but I’m not sure I like having my view of that sea salt caramel blocked. Caramel is meant to be seen.

Cookie Week '12 -  Finished Turtle Thumbprints

Notes from my personal experience with this recipe:
1. The dough balls (uncoated) can be made and frozen in advance in airtight freezer bags. Just thaw before coating with egg wash & nuts and baking.

2. The recipe called for regular cocoa, but I’m a dark chocolate lover so I substituted the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa and it rocked.

2. Almonds can be substituted for pecans. And if you’re a Snickers fan, I’m betting peanuts would be pretty tasty, too.

3. The original recipe (as seen on Pinterest) called for using 14 wrapped soft caramel candies, melted down with 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. I chose the jar of sea salt caramel because I had it on hand and it’s delicious.

4. This recipe says it makes approximately 30 cookies. I tripled the recipe for a holiday cookie exchange and it worked perfectly. It made exactly 90 cookies. You’ve got to love truth in advertising.

Speaking of truth in advertising, are you familiar with the OXO brand? They make some of my favorite kitchen gadgets – including my digital scale, measuring & cooking utensils, mandolin, etc. Their Good Grips utensils are my ‘go to’ products. I love them, and that’s the truth. Last week, this box of goodies arrived via the OXO Blogger Outreach Program. It contains two OXO items that came in handy for cookie baking. Perfect timing!

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Box of Love

The box included the OXO “Be A Good Cookie” spatula and the cutest set of miniature measuring cups I’ve ever seen. First, check out this spatula.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Good Cookie Spatula

Proceeds from the sale of OXO Good Cookie spatulas help support Cookies for Kids Cancer and the good work they do. If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for the cooks/bakers in your family, this is perfect. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You know what else would make a great stocking stuffer? These adorable and highly useful miniature measuring cups. I just can’t get over these. And did I mention they nest? Love, love, love them!

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Mini Measuring Cups

Stay tuned for updates all week long as other Cookie Week bakers share their holiday favorites. For instance, Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic kicked off our Cookie Week shenanigans yesterday with decorated shortbread cookies and a King Arthur Flour giveaway. You’ll want to check out that giveaway!

Other Cookie Week bloggers will include Megan at Country Cleaver, Kat at Tenaciously Yours, Mads at La Petite Pancake, Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World, Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama, and Madeline at Munching in the Mitten.

And if you’re baking for your friends & family and would like to join our alliance to fight pediatric cancer, drop me a comment with your cookie count and we’ll include it in our total number. Help Glad & OXO and bakers everywhere support Cookies for Kids Cancer – one sweet treat at a time.

Cookies for Kids Cancer Button

Monday: Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Decorated Shortbread & King Arthur Flour Giveaway

Tuesday: Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Honey-Glazed Lemon Yogurt Cookies

Wednesday: Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Chocolate Chunkers & Megan @ Country Cleaver – Homemade Mint Oreos & Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Maple Bacon Sugar Cookies

Thursday: Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Sesame Plum Thumbprints & Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Colossal Cookies

Friday: Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Brown Sugar Toffee Cookies & Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Gingersnaps

Saturday: Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Salted Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies & Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Egg Nog Logs

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Recipe Review: ATK’s Chewy, Fudgy Triple-Chocolate Brownies

Triple Chocolate (Mint) Brownies from America's Test Kitchen

I love recipes from America’s Test Kitchen. You know what I love the most? That they do all the work for you. They pick a recipe, research the heck out of it, find what works best (and what doesn’t) and then explain it all in easy to understand instructions. When you make an ATK recipe, you know it’s going to work out every single time. This weekend, I tried the Chewy, Fudgy Triple-Chocolate Brownies from their Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Cookbook. What a book! It contains all of the recipes featured on their show from 2001 to 2011. It’s a 10-year anniversary gift to ATK lovers everywhere. Don’t have it yet? Well, you should. It’s a keeper.

Of course, you know me. I can’t make anything exactly as written. It’s my unspoken rule, except that I speak openly about it. My tweak – I added a bag of Andes Chocolate-Mint baking pieces. The colorful green striped variety. And I make no apologies for it. Sometimes a girl needs mint in her chocolate.

Here’s how it’s done:
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick (8 ounces) butter, unsalted
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (8.25 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 bag of Andes Mint baking pieces (my addition)

Adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 350F. Line an 8″ square baking pan with foil (sling-style so they’re easy to lift out) and spray lightly with PAM or other non-stick spray.

In a heatproof bowl, place chopped chocolate and butter into a double boiler or in the microwave in 1 minute intervals until melted and smooth. Whisk to remove any lumps. Whisk in the cocoa powder and beat to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently stir in the flour (and mint baking pieces) until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and shake gently to distribute, or use a spatula to spread the batter evenly out to the corners.

Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Baking time will be approximately 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack to room temperature (about 2 hours). Lift the brownies from the pan using the foil sling. Cut into 1″ squares and serve. NOTE: these are really dense and very rich; 1″ squares is a really good size for these!

Remaining brownies can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days OR you could chop some of them into 1/4″ to 1/2″ chunks and do what we did – make Chocolate Mint Brownie Chunk Ice Cream. No, I’m not kidding. I’ll prove it:

TCP's Chocolate Mint Brownie Chunk Ice Cream

The Complete Package is the master of ice cream in our house. Christine, our evil but effective Cuisinart ice cream maker, is his baby. He plays her like an instrument. Using his favorite knock-off recipe for Ben & Jerry’s sweet cream ice cream base, he added mint extract and a few drops of green food color to make this pastel peppermint concoction. And it was good. Really, really good.

So, there you have it. Yet another America’s Test Kitchen recipe that came out exactly as advertised. Tweaked into a minty pair of lovely treats by yours truly, because I just can’t seem to stop myself. And I’m okay with that.

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Recipe Review: ATK’s Chicken Marsala


I am locked in a perpetual search for new main dish recipes. This weekend, I decided to take on Chicken Marsala from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. There’s a lot of good stuff in that cookbook, and I’m a big fan of their work. I’m also a big fan of mushrooms stewed in wine, so it was a no-brainer. This recipe makes 4 servings. Here’s how it all went down.

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 ounces of pancetta, finely minced
8 ounces of button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of sweet Marsala wine (see note below)
1 1/2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 tablespoons of minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
Spaghetti, linguine or other pasta, cooked

Start by pre-heating your oven to 300F. You’ll want to keep your chicken cutlets warm while you’re making the sauce.

To prepare the chicken, slice each breast in half horizontally to make two thinner cutlets. If one end is thicker, pound the thick end to make chicken cutlet uniformly thin. Once the chicken is halved and pounded, season each cutlet with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour to coat. In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil and cook the chicken until golden brown on each side. Place the cooked cutlets in an oven-proof pan, cover lightly with foil and place them in the hot oven to stay warm.

Using the same oil that is already in the skillet, cook the pancetta and sliced mushrooms until they are a deep, gorgeous brown and the pancetta is crispy. Note: I did not mince my pancetta, and I came to regret it. The larger pieces really distracted from the desired texture of the sauce. Don’t be like me. Mince your pancetta into tiny little tidbits. You’ll thank me for it later.


When the pancetta and mushrooms are a gorgeous golden brown, make a well in the center and throw in the garlic and tomato paste. Brown for a few seconds, or until you really start to smell the garlic. Stir together with the mushrooms and pancetta and add the Marsala wine (as soon as you read the following note).


NOTE ON SWEET MARSALA VERSUS DRY MARSALA WINE: The ATK Cookbook clearly says to use sweet Marsala wine. The little Italian man at the liquor store said to use dry Marsala wine. I bought both, thinking I might blend the two. Instead, I convinced myself to use the sweet Marsala, as stated in the cookbook. Big mistake, in my opinion. The final sauce was… well, too sweet. Not at all like the savory Marsala sauce I order in restaurants. Next time, I’m sticking with the little Italian man and using the dry Marsala. As he so wisely stated, “You use the sweet Marsala for tiramisu; you use the dry for marsala in sauces for meat.” Lesson learned? Never argue with an authentic Italian when you’re making Italian food. That seems so clear to me now.

Okay, so once you’ve decided to skip the sweet for the dry Marsala, pour the wine into the pan with the mushrooms. Keeping the heat at medium-high, allow the sauce to cook down until it is reduced by at least half and the wine takes on a syrupy texture. This will take a few minutes, so stir it occasionally and keep an eye on it. Once it’s reduced, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the cold butter, one piece at a time, whisking it in before adding the next piece. Add the minced parsley and stir it in; add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve over the cooked pasta of your choice. I also recommend a nice salad and a warm, crusty baguette. And if you have a lovely bottle of Italian red on hand, well that’s just frosting on the cupcake.

Final Thoughts: this recipe is worth making, with a few minor adjustments. I feel strongly that dry Marsala is the better choice here. And because I like the smooth texture of a Marsala sauce that really showcases the mushrooms, I think I will fry the pancetta and remove it from the pan next time so it will flavor the mushrooms, but not be incorporated in the final sauce. I’m looking forward to trying this again with the dry Marsala, possibly on a grilled sirloin. If you love mushrooms in wine, this one is worthy of a shot at your dinner table. Mangia!

NanaBread's Chicken Marsala courtesy of America's Test Kitchen

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Behold the power of cheese!

Homemade American Cheese - recipe by America's Test Kitchen

I made cheese yesterday. Well, not from scratch exactly, but I did make cheese. American cheese. Good ol’ ooey gooey grilled cheese-style American cheese. I was compelled to do it when I saw an internet feed from America’s Test Kitchen promising to show me how to make homemade American cheese with no additives or preservatives (except for what may be in the block of Colby you start with). Seriously? For realz? Needless to say, I was in. All in.

The Complete Package and I love a melty grilled cheese sandwich. And since I started with a good quality all natural cheese, I’m feeling pretty content about making my own preservative-free cheese. I don’t know about you, but I find that exciting. Especially when homemade American cheese leads to homemade grilled cheese sandwiches toasted on a griddle with real butter. Excited yet? Well, I am. I’m practically drooling.

Here’s the rundown on what you’ll need:
One 2-cup mini-loaf pan lined with plastic wrap
Twelve (12) ounces of grated Colby cheese
Unflavored gelatin, combined with little water
Dry milk powder, salt & cream of tartar
Whole milk
A food processor & a rubber spatula
Approximately 20 minutes of your time

In a nutshell, you grate the Colby cheese on the ‘small hole’ side of your box grater and throw it in the food processor with the milk powder, salt & cream of tartar. You bloom the gelatin in a little water then add it to boiling milk, whisking until the gelatin dissolves. Then you start your food processor and slowly pour the milk/gelatin mixture into the cheese mixture, blending for at least one minute until the cheese mixture is smooth, creamy and a little glossy.

Grate it, blend it, mold it & fridge it. Easy peasy cheesy.

Then you simply scrape it into your prepared mini-loaf pan, pressing it to remove air bubbles and smoothing out the top. You then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge to set up (for 3 hours up to overnight).

I don't want to freak you out, but you're destined for sandwich greatness, my friend.

That’s it. It couldn’t be easier. And it only took about 20 minutes from start to finish, including lining the pan, making the cheese and washing the dishes. I’m impressed. I tell ya’ – the folks at America’s Test Kitchen know what they’re doing. I’m just grateful they are willing to share their knowledge with the rest of us. For the link to the actual recipe, click here. Handy tip: have some bread & butter on hand because you’re going to want to make a grilled cheese sandwich as soon as this is ready. I like mine with a steamy mug of tomato soup. Mmmm…

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TCP Cooks: Flank Steak Sandwiches with Soy-Ginger Mayonnaise

TCP's Steak Sandwiches with Soy-Ginger Mayo - No one can eat just one!

This sandwich has become a Complete Package signature dish. He’s made it so often, family and friends consider it a trademark TCP creation. But the truth is the recipe came from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (2001, Boston Common Press). Once he tried it, we were hooked. The recipe may sound less than dazzling at first glance, but it’s packed with tremendous flavor. It’s hard to describe, except to say that everyone who’s ever tried it loves it. Last week, when Mom and two of my sisters were here, TCP broke out the flank steak sandwiches, and they fell in love. They’re that good. The key is a good flank steak and the soy-ginger mayonnaise. If you’re not a ginger fan, don’t worry. Mom isn’t either, but she loved these sandwiches. All I can say is “try them…you’ll like them!”

First, mix up the Soy-Ginger Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup of Hellman’s Mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip, Hellman’s – TCP insists)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, smashed to a paste
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. You can make this up to one day in advance, and it really tastes best if you make it early so all the flavors come together.

For the sandwiches, you’ll need:
1 1/2 pounds of flank steak, trimmed of fat & patted dry
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
Salt & Pepper, to your own taste
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (if you use a skillet)
1 baguette of French bread (use a good soft one)
The soy-ginger mayonnaise (made in advance)
1/2 of a small purple onion, sliced paper thin
2-3 cups of arugula, washed, stemmed & dried

Season your flank steak with garlic salt, salt & pepper. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, heat it to blazing hot first, add the oil and then add your flank steak. If you’re using an outdoor grill, you can skip the oil and just season it first. Either way, cook your flank steak over high heat until the outside is seared and the inside is medium-rare. Remove from the heat and allow it to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. If you have a piece of foil handy, throw it over the steak to keep it warm. While the steak is resting, prep the rest of the sandwich.

Slice your baguette in half lengthwise and toast each half on the grill or in a dry skillet or griddle until lightly toasted. Spread each half liberally with soy-ginger mayonnaise. Cutting across the grain and on a bias (45 degree angle), thinly slice your flank steak and place it on the bottom half of the baguette. Top the steak with purple onion and arugula and put the lid on it. Gently press the sandwich to bring it all together, then slice into 4″ to 6″ segments and serve immediately.

We could talk about side dishes for this meal, but the truth is I never remember what we had with these sandwiches. Pickles? Chips? Maybe. I really couldn’t tell you. They’re so good, everything else becomes a blur. And really, you don’t need anything except a handful of napkins and something cold to wash them down with. Enjoy! And thanks for making these for the girls, honey. You da’ man!

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