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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
What is the secret to a really good vegetable stock? How can you make a good chicken stock in under an hour? What makes the difference between a so-so beef stew and a great one? Luckily for us, the editors of Cook's Illustrated have tackled the mysteries of soups and stews, and done all the heavy lifting. As a result, all we need to do is read and cook.
En route to the perfect recipes, they have simmered more than 6,000 pots of stew and soup, test-driven 23 chicken noodle soups, 40 corn chowders, and 65 beef stews to find the absolute best in methods, ingredients, and equipment. More than 225 recipes and 200 illustrations are the result.
The book is divided into four sections: basic equipment and homemade stocks; soups (chicken meat, seafood, vegetables, or pasta and beans); stews (meat, chicken, seafood, vegetable, chilis, gumbos, curries); and accompaniments like rustic country bread, mashed potatoes, rice, and cornbread.
In an essay preceding each recipe, the editors explain the methods they tried while developing the recipe. So we know now that the best vegetable stock comes from adding four kinds of alliums (onions, shallots, leeks, and garlic) and sautéing the vegetables until lightly caramelized before adding any water; that adding Parmesan cheese rind to water makes the best stock base for minestrone; and that the key to a good chicken stock is sautéing the chicken parts first.
Along the way, the editors share a lot of useful tricks, like freezing stocks in muffin trays, then storing the blocks of frozen stock in plastic bags, or cutting a butternut squash by placing a cleaver on the back of the squash and driving it in with a mallet. There are taste tests of canned chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, and canned beans, as well as illustrated step-by-step drawings of truly handy techniques, such as how to remove the meat from steamed lobsters. (Ginger Curwen)