I basically credit Cook’s Illustrated (by America’s Test Kitchen) with teaching me to cook. I had no idea what was possible in my kitchen until I started reading that magazine, and later subscribing to the web site. Important notes about the magazine/recipe site:
- It’s not free. BUT that’s ok because…
- There are no advertisements (YAY!) and…
- The recipes are all tested and re-tested and quite delicious. It’s a far cry from sifting through junk and more junk and millions of reader reviews on free recipe sites in search of the occasional diamond in the rough.
Even though I find it a lot easier to browse though CooksIllustrated.com than a lot of other recipe sites, thousands of recipes can still be overwhelming. So, after about ten years of subscribing, here are my tried and true Top 17 Favorite Cooks Illustrated Recipes (I don’t know why there are 17; I started with a Top 10 and this is where I ended). These are the recipes I use week in and week out with my family, and hubby and our four young kids are no easy critics.
- Chicken Tikka Masala – I would pay the price of a year’s subscription just to get this one recipe. I stopped going to Indian restaurants after I mastered this, because the restaurants weren’t as good.
- Beef Tacos – Kick those little packets of taco seasoning for good! It’s easier than you think, and worth it.
- Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce – Again, canned enchilada sauce? No where near as good as this.
- Beef and Cheese Empanadas – Are you seeing a trend here? Yes, we like Mexican food. And these little pockets of delicious meat and cheese in a flaky crispy dough are as good as it gets.
- Tinga (Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas) – Ummm, yep, more Mexican food. But it’s pork this time! And this recipe is so easy… you can do it! We usually eat it over soft corn cakes instead of the tostadas.
- Samosas with Meat Filling – Back to Indian food! Have you ever had a Hot Pocket? This is like that, except it’s delicious authentic food, not a weird food impostor from the microwave (a.k.a. a weird oven impostor). So really it’s nothing like a Hot Pocket.
- Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs – No spaghetti for us, but try these meatballs and sauce with a side of fresh ricotta cheese and a green salad. Perfection. Stop buying jarred spaghetti sauce full of weird sugars! (Shout out to Colombo’s on Cape Cod – we first had meatballs with ricotta there and it was a revelation.)
- Coconut Red Curry Sauce over Sauteed White Fish Fillets - If you need a 20 minute meal with flavor that will blow you away, this is it.
- Beef Kebabs (both Southwestern and with Asian Flavors) – Kebabs are so great for the summer grill! Both of these marinades are worthwhile and offer lots of options for combining the meet with various fruits and veggies.
- Silky Butternut Squash Soup – One of the only soups my husband will eat. Toast a piece of sourdough bread with a generous spread of butter and have the perfect winter lunch.
- Falafel – We lived in New Haven for a while, and in the food world, New Haven is known for two things: pizza and falafel. I have never and likely will never match their pizza, but this falafel is wicked close.
- Restaurant Style Hummus – Stop paying a fortune for prepared hummus from the store. This is easy and delicious and great with all kinds of veggies! My kids love it.
- Rosemary Focaccia – We don’t each much bread now except the occasional sourdough, but when I was making a lot of bread, this was hands down my favorite. Don’t be scared by the time frame. Good bread is worth it.
- Best Crab Cakes – Crab is often prohibitively expensive, so we make these with wild caught white fish, sauteed with the aromatics until *just* barely cooked through so that it flakes apart, and use that in place of the crab. This is my kids’ favorite Meatless Fridays meal. And since the binder is an ingenious shrimp mousse, it’s very easy to make grain free.
- Chinese Orange Chicken – Chinese done right! We love this.
- Flourless Chocolate Cake – Everyone who has ever tried this cake wants the recipe. If you need a gluten free or grain free dessert that all eaters regardless of diet will fall in love with, this is it.
- Spiced Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting - After one bite, a friend asked me to make this for his wedding cake.
Ok, I know by now you’ve clicked on a couple links and are yelling at me that you can’t see the recipes without a subscription. I already admitted that this site is not free. BUT the subscription price for a year is less than one average cook book and you can save and/or print as many recipes as you want. PLUS you can get all of these recipes with a FREE 2-week trial. And if you already subscribe but weren’t sure where to start, well, now you know. Enjoy!
If you are a Cook’s Illustrated fan and have any favorites I’ve left out, please let me know what they are!
Thanks. : )
Obligatory Side Note: I have no affiliation with Cook’s Illustrated at all. They have no idea I or this blog exist. I just like their recipes.