Free Coffee at McDonald's

Attention everybody! Due to slow sales (and not to mention its declining stock price...stock ticker symbol MCD), McDonald's, America's favorite fast food chain, plans to offer free coffee to customers. I guess sales of Big Macs, their iconic burger, have been down with more Americans wanting to eat healthier and with healthier options more readily available.

Free Coffee at McDonald's
Free Coffee at McDonald's
McDonald's plans to give away free coffee during the breakfast hours which usually ends around 10:30 am starting today thru September 29. You can definitely get your caffeine fix for free everyday for 2 weeks! Now the coffee at McDonald's may not be as good as Seattle's very own Starbucks or Peet's coffee, but you definitely can't go wrong when it's free and you need that one cup of joe that will get you started in the morning. Who doesn't like the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning? It sure smells better when it doesn't cost anything! Although people think of burgers and fries when it comes to McDonald's as opposed to coffee, McDonald's coffee has actually improved in the last twenty years when they used to come in those small white Styrofoam cups. So the next time you go to McDonald's for an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, do yourself a favor and order a free McCafe to go with it. Get it now while it lasts!

Secret to Getting More at Chipotle Mexican Grill

When I'm in the mood for quick, fast food type unauthentic Mexican food, I don't go to Taco Bell nor Baja Fresh. No, I tend to go to everyone's favorite un-Mexican Mexican restaurant for Americanized tacos and burritos. Here's the backstory to Chipotle: Chipotle Mexican Grill which was founded in Denver, CO in 1993 (somehow the Mile High City just doesn't scream Tex Mex the way a more Southwestern locale would). Anyway, the word "chipotle" means smoked chili. The company is worth approximately 19 billion dollars and in fact McDonald's once held a majority stake in the company. Chipotle uses approximately 97,000 pounds of avocados a day which translates to a whole lot of guacamole. Now here comes the fun part.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill
What I have to tell you can give you more food for the same price which could potentially mean more savings for you. In Chipotle, you can order a vegetarian, carnitas (Mexican pulled pork), steak (carne asada), barbacoa, or grilled chicken burrito (a) or a burrito bowl (b) for the same price (see below). The primary difference is that a burrito bowl does not include a flour tortilla as its vessel to hold food the way a regular burrito does. As its name indicates, it uses a bowl.

Chipotle Chicken Burrito
(a) Your standard burrito at Chipotle

Steak Burrito Bowl from Chipotle
(b) The burrito bowl at Chipotle
Okay, now here comes some math. The average weight of a chipotle burrito is .634 pounds whereas the average weight of a burrito bowl is 1.082 pounds with all else being constant (ie same proteins, toppings, etc in both the burrito and burrito bowl). You don't have to be a math major to see that 1.082 pounds of Mexican goodness is better than .634 pounds for the same price. This is huge since ordering a burrito bowl gives you at least 70% more food, and this is already taking into account the lack of tortilla in the burrito bowl too! This difference in weight is probably due to the fact that a burrito has a limited amount of space for its contents in the flour tortilla. So next time when you're feeling really hungry and have a hankering for some fake Mexican food, order a burrito bowl instead of a regular burrito to get more bang for your buck. Also, don't be afraid to ask for something on the side whether it's the salsa, sour cream, cheese, or guacamole. They're always willing to accommodate your request by putting a condiment in a small container for you. That and even though the line may be long, the Chipotle employees do a really good job moving the line along in a very efficient way. On a personal note, my standard burrito bowl configuration is the grilled chicken burrito bowl with brown rice (instead of the cilantro lime white rice), black beans (instead of pinto beans), extra fajita vegetables (onions and green peppers - they don't normally offer this to you but don't be afraid to ask), both mild tomato and medium tomatillo-green chili salsas (sometimes the hot tomatillo-red chili salsa on the side), cheese, sour cream, corn, and romaine lettuce. I do like guacamole, but I don't like having to pay extra for it. If I'm not terribly hungry, I would often just eat half of the bowl and save the other half for another meal which makes it out to be no more than $4 per meal.

Fun Food Fact: National Chicken Wing Day

It was this day in (July 29) back in 1968 when the very first chicken wing was served and that is why today is National Chicken Wing Day. The story goes that Anchor Bar owner Teressa Bellissimo decided to fry up some chicken wings with some butter and hot sauce when her son and his college friends wanted a late night snack after a night of drinking. Because they were in the city of Buffalo, NY, the name buffalo wings stuck and that's when the almighty buffalo wing was born. I guess that's why chicken buffalo wings are a common staple and appetizer found in many bars and restaurants across America. Buffalo wings are definitely great when paired with a nice, tall glass of your favorite beer - lagers, stouts, ambers, ales, etc. If it weren't for Mrs. Bellissimo, we wouldn't have a Wingstop or a Buffalo Wild Wings. If you love buffalo wings like I do, then you should check out America's Test Kitchen's recipe for some good buffalo wings! Keep this date in mind when football season kicks off. Many people in the United States are sure to consume many wings when watching NFL or college football games.

July 29: National Chicken Wing Day
July 29: National Chicken Wing Day

Fun Food Fact: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

Does anyone know what day (June 12) it is today? It's National Peanut Butter Cookie Day! Yes, that's right, peanut butter cookies, the blue collar workhorse, of cookies has its own day and it's today. Peanut butter cookies will almost always have that distinct criss cross pattern made by a fork on top of each cookie. You ever wonder why that is? And no, it's not a Twitter hash tag. I'm pretty sure peanut butter cookies predates any form of social media for you folks born in the 21st century. The reason why you would make that pattern on a peanut butter cookie is because the dough for peanut butter cookies is quite dense such that it does not spread easily in the oven during the baking process unlike a chocolate chip cookie for example. To fix this, someone decided to press down on the cookies using a fork before baking in order to flatten the cookie and help it spread, and that was when history in baking was made.

June 12: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
June 12: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

Grill It! with Bobby Flay: Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)

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Korean Style Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)
Korean Style Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)
Now that the weather is warmer, now is the perfect time to be outside and being outside means we can do some grilling as mentioned in my previous post regarding some bbq pork spareribs. Instead of your typical grilling of, say, steaks, burgers, or pork spareribs, I decided to go with something a little more exotic with a Korean flair. I decided to grill up some Korean-style barbecued beef short ribs which is more commonly known as kalbi and sometimes referred to as Hawaiian short ribs (you can order these at any L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurant). On Bobby Flay's show, Grill It! (not to be confused with Bobby Flay's other bbq shows like BBQ Addiction and Boy Meets Grill), on the Food Network he has a guest named Judiaann Woo (episode: Short Ribs). She shows Bobby Flay (the one and only Boy Wonder at the grill) and us how to make kalbi. You can see from the video below that it's not that difficult to make. It's very easy to prepare and easy to grill up, and everyone seems to enjoy these ribs every time I make them.

Flanken Cut Korean Short Ribs from the Asian Market
Flanken Cut Beef Short Ribs purchased from the Asian Market.

Beef Short Ribs for Kalbi
Beef Short Ribs for Kalbi
To make kalbi it is absolutely crucial that you have the right cut of beef. You can't get just your normal run of the mill beef short ribs. You have to get beef chuck flanken-style ribs (also called LA ribs) which contain the rib bones and are cut lengthwise such that you get a cross section of several ribs in each slice as opposed to the English cut where it is sliced between each bone which is what we're more accustomed to. Each slice is about a quarter to a half inch thick and about 8 to 10 inches in length, and they are usually prepared by braising or cooking in liquid. You can usually find this cut of meat in a Korean or Asian market like Ranch 99 (sometimes my local Safeway would actually have it); otherwise, you can probably ask your local butcher to cut it in this fashion.

Thin Slices of Flanken Beef Short Ribs
Thin Slices of Beef Short Ribs cut Flanken Style

Beef Short Ribs in English Cut
Beef Short Ribs in English Cut Fashion
The recipe provided has pretty much all the ingredients that you would expect from a marinade for kalbi: brown sugar, soy sauce, etc. I did add a few more ingredients after I consulted my friend who makes kalbi all the time and who is Korean, so making these ribs are in her blood. What she does is that she adds sesame seeds to the marinade. Not only that, but she toasts the sesame seeds on a skillet and crushes them in a mortar and pestle. Toasting the sesame seeds and crushing them in a mortar and pestle releases more of the natural flavor and aroma of the seeds. What I like to do is to toast additional sesame seeds to set aside and garnish the short ribs along with the green onions once the ribs are done and ready for plating.

Untoasted Sesame Seeds
Untoasted Sesame Seeds

Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing your kalbi.
Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing your kalbi. Note the darker color of the toasted sesame seeds.
My friend also recommends using a kiwi if you don't happen to have an Asian pear. The reason why she uses a kiwi (or Asian pear) in this recipe is not only that it adds a certain level of sweetness, but it also acts as a tenderizer to soften up the meat. Definitely mash up the kiwi to form a paste or use a food processor to puree it when incorporating it into the marinade. Short ribs in itself is an inexpensive piece of meat, but making kalbi is very forgiving in that you can grill it up and it won't be tough after marinating for several hours. Also, when chopping the onion for the marinade, definitely chop the onion finely (or run it through the food processor as well). I find that the smaller the onion pieces, the more flavor is imparted into the meat.

Because these short ribs are quite thin, it doesn't take long for them to fully cook so be sure to not overcook them, yet you also don't want them to be rare. Even though they can get overdone quickly, these short ribs are, as mentioned earlier, rather forgiving. Sometimes you like to get a nice carmelized char on the surface because the burnt edges of the meat give you an added flavor which you can easily attain when grilling over an open flame. I first tried this recipe in our stove top grill, but I would imagine it would be just as good if you did this on an outdoor grill (your standard Weber kettle grill would do just fine). Because these ribs are very easy to prepare and cook, it's an ideal dish to bring for picnics, camping, and even tailgating at football games.

Marinating your kalbi for a few hours
Marinating your kalbi for a few hours.

FlavorFool's Notes

- I like to add toasted and crushed (in a mortar and pestle) sesame seeds to the marinade.
- Save some uncrushed toasted sesame seeds to go along with the green onions as garnish.
- I like to use a kiwi if I don't have an Asian pear available. The kiwi or pear adds a little bit of sweetness to what is otherwise a savory dish.

Kalbi - Korean Barbecued Beef Short Ribs
Grill It! with Bobby Flay - season 1, episode 7, Short Ribs
4 to 6 servings as a main course

5 lbs Korean (flanken) style beef short ribs
1 cup brown sugar, packed
.25 cup mirin (rice wine)
.5 cup water
1 cup soy sauce [I used low sodium because that's what I had]
1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated [I sometimes use a kiwi, mashed]
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
4 tbsp minced garlic
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tbsp crushed plus 1 tsp uncrushed toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

1. Toast sesame seeds on a skillet until golden in color and fragrant. Crush 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle and set aside.

2. Sprinkle brown sugar over beef and mix well to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients [including the crushed sesame seeds]. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag or container. Add marinade, press out excess air from bags, and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

3. Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions [and the teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds], if desired. Serve whole pieces as a main course or cut into smaller pieces, using kitchen shears, for a starter or party nibble.


Video: Judiaann Woo shows Bobby Flay how to make Korean beef short ribs called kalbi

Fun Food Fact - Green Peas

Green peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. They originally came from India, but now are grown all over. Green peas are low in calories, but are loaded with protein. They are also a great source of folic acid which helps keep cells young and vitamin K which keeps bones strong. Green peas help lower bad cholesterol and even fight cavities. So take advantage of a little green peas for some big health benefits.

Healthy Green Peas
Green Peas: Healthy and Good for You

America's Test Kitchen: Memphis Style BBQ Spareribs

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America's Test Kitchen Memphis Barbecued Ribs sliced
America's Test Kitchen Memphis Barbecued Ribs sliced
Now that winter is over and the weather gets warmer, we can go back and start cooking outside once again. When it comes to cooking outside, we automatically think of outdoor grilling and smoking in our very own backyard, the standard activity for Labor Day weekend for many Americans (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day seem to be the prime bbq'ing days). Hosting barbecues are often fun and easy to pull off especially when the food is plenty good. Ribs are a common staple in these barbecue events that everyone seems to love. There are many kinds of ribs in varying recipes: there are pork ribs, beef ribs, Korean short ribs (called Kalbi), but I particularly like the Memphis style barbecue spareribs recipe from the America's Test Kitchen episode Grilled Pork Chops and Ribs (season 11, episode 21) because you don't need a high-priced smoker. Some of these specialty smokers can be quite expensive (ie the green egg) when all you need is one of those kettle grills (most likely made from Weber). It seems like every household has one of these Weber grills. I know someone who has had his Weber grill for over 30 years and the design hasn't really changed all that much after all these years. And if you're wondering, the difference between spareribs and baby back ribs are that spare ribs are longer and come from the front of the pig's ribcage.

Dry Rub for America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs
Dry Rub for America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs
The reason why you can just use your Weber grill to smoke these ribs instead of a high priced smoker is that the whole point of smoking something is to cook something low and slow. A high-priced smoker makes it easier to control the temperature and to prevent it from getting too hot and overcooking your meat. When you cook something low and slow, it allows the collagen to break down and liquefy into gelatin which then gets absorbed by the meat. The meat, in turn, is tender and juicy. It takes time for collagen to turn into gelatin. When the temperature is too high, the meat just gets overcooked while the collagen never gets a chance to liquefy. You can turn your run of the mill Weber kettle grill into a smoker by following the proper setup outlined by America's Test Kitchen. Before seeing the exact way America's Test Kitchen does it, I would normally just dump some charcoal into the kettle grill and fire it up. This, of course, would make the grill too hot and give us tough meat. I say the most important part of this recipe is not the ingredients used, but setting up your grill the right way. The water in the pan serves 2 purposes. As mentioned in the ATK episode for ribs, the water makes the rib meat moist. Also, the water absorbs the heat emanating from the charcoal briquettes which is common for smokers because this prevents your smoker/grill from getting too hot which is what you don't want when slow cooking meat.

Just added dry rub on your ribs
Just added dry rub on your ribs.
One thing the America's Test Kitchen video for Memphis ribs fails to do is to remove the membrane of the ribs. For some reason, in the video they just leave it on there which I highly discourage. The membrane is a thin skin-like layer on the bone side of the ribs. No amount of slow smoking on low will ever break this membrane done. You can easily look up ways to remove this membrane, but be sure to do so before you apply the dry rub. You definitely don't want this membrane on your ribs while it's smoking on the grill because it'll act as a layer shielding out the flavors of the rub and smoke that should be going to the meat. Not only that, but you certainly don't want to be biting into it once the ribs are done, so please make your life easier by removing this.

When you remove the ribs from the oven, your ribs should have a nice crisp bark on the outside while still being moist and tender on the inside due to the long smoking process on low heat. The bark on the surface and the juicy inside give a nice contrast to your ribs. No one likes tough ribs or any tough meat for that matter. In general it is quite easy to overcook meat, but luckily if you follow the steps from America's Test Kitchen you can achieve tender fall off the bone ribs for your outdoor party. If you don't have an oven (ie if you're camping, picnicking, or tailgating at a football game), don't worry. This recipe still works in the absence of an oven. Just continue smoking on the grill instead until your ribs reach the desired temperature.

America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs ready to be sliced and eaten
Memphis Style BBQ Ribs ready to be sliced and eaten.

FlavorFool's Notes

- You don't need an expensive smoker to make this recipe. All you need is a regular Weber kettle grill and an oven.
- I like to use smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika because I like the additional smokiness of the smoked paprika better.
- Be sure to remember to remove the membrane of the ribs before applying the dry rub. Look up how to remove it if you don't know how.

Memphis-Syle Barbecued Spareribs on a Charcoal Grill
America's Test Kitchen - season 11, episode 21, Grilled Pork Chops and Ribs
Serves 4-6

Rub
2 tbsp light brown sugar [dark brown sugar is fine if you don't have light sugar]
2 tbsp sweet paprika [I prefer to use smoked paprika, but sweet paprika is fine]
1.5 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp table salt
.5 tsp dried thyme
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp cayenne pepper (see note)
2 tsp chili powder

Ribs
.5 cup wood chips [use hickory and not mesquite wood chips]
2 racks St. Louis-style spareribs, 2.5-3 lbs each
3 tbsp apple cider vineger
.5 cup apple juice

Instructions

1. Combine the dry rub ingredients in a ball. Place the racks on a rimmed baking sheet; firs, remove the thin membrane on the bottom side of the ribs and sprinkle the rub on both sides of each rack, rubbing and pressing to adhere. Set the racks aside while preparing the grill.

2. Soak the wood chips in water for 30 mins and drain. Combine the vineger and apple juice in a bowl; set aside. Open the top and bottom vents halfway and arrange 15 unlit charcoal briquettes evenly on one side of the grill. Place a 9x13in disposable aluminum pan filled with 1 inch of water on the other side of the grill. Light a large chimney starter filled one-third with charcoal (about 33 briquettes) and allow to burn until the coals are half coated with a thin layer of ash, about 15 min. Empty the coals into the grill on top of the unlit briquettes to cover half of the grill. Sprinkle the soaked wood chips over the coals. Set the cooking grate over the coals, cover the grill, and heat the grate until hot, about 5 min. Use a grill brush to scrape the cooking grate clean.

3. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the grate over the water pan. Cover the grill, positioning the top vent over the ribs to draw smoke through the grill. Cook the ribs 45 min, adjusting the vents to keep the temperature inside the grill around 250-275 degrees. Flip the ribs meat side up, turn 180 degrees, and switch their positions so that the rack that was nearest the fire is on the outside. Brush each rack with 2 tbsp of the apple juice mixture; cover the grill and cook another 45 min. About 15 mins before removing the ribs from the grill, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.

4. Transfer the ribs, meat side up, to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; pour 1.5 cups water into the bottom of the baking sheet. Brush the top of each rack with 2 tbsp more apple juice mixture; roast 1 hr. Brush the ribs with remaining apple juice mixture and continue to roast until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone and the thickest part of the roast registers 195-200 degrees on a food thermometer. Transfer the ribs to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 min. Cut the ribs between the bones to separate and serve.


Video: Bridget Lancaster shows Chris Kimball how to properly make traditional Memphis style Barbecue Ribs on America's Test Kitchen

Fun Food Fact - Caesar Salad

There are a lot of salads out there. Pasta salad. Fruit salad. Coleslaw. Garden salad. Tuna salad. Egg salad. But my favorite all time salad is the Caesar salad. Caesar salad was invented by an Italian man named Caesar in Mexico in 1924. It was not named after Julius Caesar which is a common misconception today. The original Caesar salad did not use anchovies even though the anchovy is a main ingredient in today's Caesar salad along with croutons and parmesan cheese. The original Caesar salad also used whole leaves of baby romaine lettuce and was not chopped up into smaller pieces like it is today, so that the whole leaf can be held by the stem and was, thus, eaten by hand. I, of course, have never seen it done where you used your hands to eat a Caesar salad or any salad for that matter, but I'm sure someone out there has tried it.

Caesar salad at a restaurant or at home
A typical Caesar salad you would see at home or at a restaurant

America's Test Kitchen: Broiled Salmon with Mustard Crisp Dilled Crust

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America's Test Kitchen Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Dilled Crust
America's Test Kitchen Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Dilled Crust
I love seafood. I know some people hate it, but I don't. Despite my love of seafood, salmon is not one of my favorite fishes. Why? Because salmon tends to dry out quickly and easily whereas other fishes tend to be more forgiving and maintain its moisture throughout the cooking process. One thing I learned, however, from the America's Test Kitchen episode Salmon Three Ways (season 1, episode 6) is that you want to under cook the salmon (video below). I've always thought that salmon had to be fully cooked unless it was sushi. This was always difficult for me to do, but this was not the case for this recipe since the cooking time is only 9 to 11 minutes (great for dinner in the middle of the week). 11 minutes for me seemed completely done mainly because my salmon was smaller than the recipe called for weight in at only 1.38 pounds. You want it just a tad undercooked since it'll still go under the broiler for a minute longer. Depending on the size of the salmon fillet, 1 or 2 quick minutes can mean the difference between an overly dry salmon and a perfectly cooked salmon with juices and all.

Sockey salmon from Trader Joe's
Sockey salmon from Trader Joe's
Be aware that when you apply the mustard and potato chip mixture and then crank up the oven to broil, keep a close eye on your salmon. The first time I made this salmon, I made the mistake of walking away from the oven just for a few seconds and before I knew it, the crust had burnt pieces. I was lucky though. I was able to salvage the fish by removing the top layer of burnt pieces and the layer underneath remained nice and toasted still. There was still enough unburnt crust underneath to cover the fish. The amount of time in broil mode will not exceed more than a minute. At the end of the day you still want the middle of the fish to be a bit undercooked and opaque because it'll continue to cook once it's out of the oven.

Seasoning with salt and pepper for your herb-crusted salmon
Salmon seasoned with salt and pepper before adding the mustard, potato chip, and herb crust.
Now there are a wide array of ways to prepare your salmon. You can have pan-seared salmon, grilled salmon, smoked salmon, barbecued salmon, oven roasted salmon, and even water-poached salmon. The beauty of this recipe though lies in the ingredients used. This dish does not need a whole lot of ingredients. Some of these ingredients include breadcrumbs, mustard, and dill, a common pairing for salmon. Then, it also uses potato chips!? Did I just say potato chips? Yes, indeed. That's one reason why I like this. I love snacks and I'm a sucker for chips. That being the case, the potato chips give a nice crunch and subtle saltiness to it. I would've never thought to use potato chips as a crust, but it works! The crust gives you an extra layer of flavor in addition to its crunchy texture. You can use any plain potato chips like Lays or Ruffles, but I prefer the Kettle Chips' Sea Salt flavor. Kettle chips are what I normally get as a snack for my household, and I find that Kettle chips taste better and is of a higher quality than Lays or Ruffles. Then you have the dill and mustard. Dill is to salmon what peanut butter is to jelly. It's ok to use plenty of dill here, but I thought 3 tablespoons of mustard was a little too much so I just used 2 tablespoons which gave me just enough of the mustard flavor to complement the dill and salmon but didn't overpower it. The salmon itself was a sockeye salmon that I got from Trader Joe's, and you could use either a farm raised or wild salmon. It was about 1.38 pounds and came in a vacuum sealed bag. It did have a few bones that you had to remove. When you run your fingers along the edge of the fillet, you'll feel the bones protruding from the fish.

salmon crust: potato chips, dill, toasted breadcrumbs
The crust to be added to your salmon: a mixture of potato chips, dill, toasted breadcrumbs
I served this dish with Ina Garten's (from the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa) roasted asparagus and a plain long grain (jasmine) rice, but you could use any vegetable and starch combination as sides for a complete meal for you and your family.

Broiled salmon meal with asparagus and white rice
Broiled salmon meal with asparagus and white rice.

FlavorFool's Notes

- Use Sea Salt Kettle Chips and Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.
- Run your fingers along the edge of the fillet to find any bones to be removed.
- Depending on the size of your fillet, adjust the amount of time in the oven since you don't want your salmon to overcook and dry out.
- When your salmon is under the broiler, keep an eye on it to make sure the dill/mustard crust doesn't get burned.
- I cut the mustard from 3 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons.

Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Dilled Crust
America's Test Kitchen - season 1, episode 6, Salmon Three Ways
Serves 8-10

If you prefer to cook a smaller 2 lb fillet, ask to have it cut from the thick center of the fillet, not the thin tail end, and begin checking doneness a minute earlier.

Ingredients
1 whole side salmon fillet, about 3.5 lbs, white belly fat trimmed
4 oz plain potato chips, crushed into rough 1/8 in pieces (about 1 cup) [I like Kettle Chips Sea Salt since it's what I normally get to snack on anyway]
3 slices white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
1 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp Dijon mustard [I use 2 tbsp Grey Poupon mustard]
6 tbsp chopped fresh dill
pepper and salt

Instructions

1. Adjust one oven rack to the top position (about 3 in from the heat source) and the second rack to the upper-position; heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Pulse the bread in a food processor to fairly even 1/4 in. pieces about the size of Grape-Nuts cereal (about 1 cup), about ten pulses. Spread the crumbs evenly on a rimmed baking sheet; toast on the lower rack, shaking the pan once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, 4-5 min. Toss the dill, crushed potato chips, and bread crumbs together in a bowl and set aside.

3. Change the oven setting to broil. Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil 6 in. longer than the fillet. Fold the foil lengthwise in thirds and place lengthwise on a rimmed baking sheet; position the salmon lengthwise on the foil, allowing the excess foil to overhang the baking sheet. Rub the fillet evenly with the olive oil; sprinkle with pepper and salt. Broil the salmon on the upper rack until the surface is spotty brown and the outer half inch of the thick end is opaque when gently flaked with a paring knife, 9-11 min. [11 mins seemed to overcook the fish while 9-10 minutes seemed more appropriate]. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, spread the fish evenly with the Dijon mustard, and press the bread-crumb mixture onto the fish. Return the baking sheet to the lower oven rack and continue broiling until the crust is deep golden brown, about 1 min. longer.

4. Grasping the ends of the foil sling, lift the salmon, sling and all, onto a platter. Slide on offset spatula under the thick end. Grasp the foil, press the spatula against the foil, and slide it under the fish down to the thin end, loosening the entire side of fish. Grasp the foil again, hold the spatula perpendicular to the fish to stabilize it, and pull the foil out from under the fish. Wipe the platter clean with a damp paper towel. Serve salmon immediately. [All I do from this step is lift the sling/salmon and place them on the serving tray with the foil when serving to family (they don't mind the presentation)]


Video: Julia Collin Davison shows Chris Kimball how to make Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Dilled Crust on America's Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen: Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies for Valentine's Day

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America's Test Kitchen Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
Chocolate Chip Cookie Made from Scratch
When people think of cookies, they think of chocolate chip cookies, the king of cookies. They don't think of peanut butter cookies, they don't think of oatmeal cookies, and they certainly don't think of gingerbread cookies. It's all about the chocolate chip cookie and rightfully so. Even the good old chocolate chip cookie has many variations. Small cookies, large cookies, thin and crispy cookies, those with nuts, those without nuts, dark chocolate chips, etc., but my personal favorite is the thick and chewy chocolate chip cookie. People automatically think of Mrs. Fields cookies when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. Double Tree Hotel also makes a good chocolate chip cookie as well, but classic recipes for chocolate chip cookies include the classic Nestle Tollhouse (the original chocolate chip cookie), Alton Brown's The Chewy Recipe, the New York Times recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and the Neiman Marcus recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

I know everyone has their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I'm not going to say that one is better than the other. In fact, there are just so many good recipes for chocolate chip cookies that it's nearly impossible to determine which one is the best. I personally like the thick and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe from America's Test Kitchen (season 1, episode 10: Cookie Jar Classics) which is surprisingly similar to Jaay Dunlap's Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe which appeared on JustBaking.net in November of 2006. With Valentine's Day about a week away, you can bake a batch of these thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies for your significant other. I know that's what I'd do for her. You can put them in a nice tin, tie a red ribbon or bow around it, and give it to her after your date night. I doubt shaping them into heart shaped cookies will work, so just shape them the way you normally would.

Enjoy your freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with a glass of milk
Enjoy your freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with a glass of milk.
Baking chocolate chip cookies for your special someone is perfect for Valentine's Day because everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn't like a good chocolate chip cookie? If you're baking these cookies for your wife or girlfriend, then she'll appreciate your putting the time and effort into making a batch of homemade cookies just for her. She'll definitely feel special for the amount of work put into it. If you intend to make cookies for your husband or boyfriend, then that's great since the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Chocolate has always been synonymous with romance. It's a win/win situation for everybody and this small gesture can go a long way to show how much you care. Just don't get the frozen pre-made dough even the Tollhouse one isn't very good (see picture below). Not only did it spread out, thin, and over bake under identical conditions, it had an artificial taste that did not taste too good. You can't really tell from the picture below, but the Tollhouse cookie was very flat leading to a thinner cookie (as if no leavening agent was added) than the America's Test Kitchen Thick and Chewy cookie (which remained nice and puffy) even though both had the same amount of dough, shaped the same way, and baked in the oven at the same temperature for the same amount of time.

ATK Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie versus Nestle Tollhouse frozen dough
ATK Thick and Chewy (L) and Tollhouse frozen dough (R) baked under the same conditions.

Now I've been baking for awhile now and I've made banana nut bread, apple turnovers, blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, focaccia bread, lemon bars, and chocolate cake, but I've never made cookies. Making the cookie dough is probably the easiest dough you'll ever have to make - you just mix everything together using a stand mixer. Sometimes I like to use 1 cup of bread flour and 1 cup of AP flour because the extra protein found in bread flour helps to develop more gluten which would make for an even chewier cookie. Experiment between using different ratios of all purpose and bread flour and see the differences and determine which works best for you.

use a stand or hand mixer to mix your cookie dough
Use a stand or hand mixer to mix your cookie dough.

chocolate chip cookie dough should be thick
Your cookie dough should be very thick in texture.

When you add the chocolate chips, don't mix it too much using the mixer. The mixer paddle will break up some of the chips, so just use the mixer for only a few seconds when incorporating the chocolate chips and mix the rest by hand. I also like adding a cup to a 2 cups of chopped walnuts to the cookie dough. The nuts tempers the sweetness from the sugar and chocolate chips.

I use a #16 (2.75 oz) scoop from Sur La Table (they have various sizes of scoops) and I level it off meaning that I only use enough cookie dough per cookie that would fit inside the actual ice cream scoop - nothing more. What you have is a half sphere of dough. I then shape it into a sphere. Most people at this point would place the ball of dough on the cookie sheet, but I don't. I squish the dough ball so that I have a disk of dough about a half inch thick (this method usually produces 2 dozen cookies that are about 3 inches in diameter from this recipe). What you get is a better shaped cookie that is consistently thick and even throughout the cookie. I find that cookies that come from a dough ball tend to be very "mound like" - very thick in the center and quite thin at the edges which causes uneven cooking in the oven.

Use an ice cream scoop for uniform size cookies.

ATK Thick and Chewy Dough Ball
Most people form dough balls to make cookies.

ATK Thick and Chewy Dough Disk
But I prefer forming dough disks instead of balls when making chocolate chip cookies.

Sometimes, I'll make the dough a day before baking and leave it in the refrigerator overnight (or sometimes anywhere from 24-36 hours) because a chilled dough will prevent a cookie from thinning out too much. That and it allows the flavors of the dough to come together and develop a more complex flavor profile. I also like using a pizza pan to bake the cookies because pizza pans tend to be very thin and heat up quickly. If you're using a thick baking sheet, it will take forever for the bottom and inside of the cookie to bake such that the top will be overdone before the center and bottom gets done.

Chocolate Chip Cookies fresh out of the oven and being cooled
Chocolate Chip Cookies hot out of the oven and being cooled.

Now I know it's very tempting to eat a cookie right out of the oven, but I implore you to avoid doing so. You have to let it cool. The reasons are twofold: first, the cookie will break apart. You have to allow the cookie to set which it will do in time. But even more importantly, you have to let it cool down to really enjoy your cookie. This sounds rather counter intuitive since it tastes the best when warm and fresh out of the oven right? Yes they do, BUT.......all chocolate chip cookies do - even the awful ones. When you eat a cookie right out of the oven, it's almost as if your taste buds are biased. The true test of the flavor of a chocolate chip cookie comes when it is cool. A really good cookie will still taste good when not warm. And a REALLY good chocolate chip cookie will still taste good a day after it's baked.

FlavorFool's Notes

- Use Guittard or Ghirardelli (Guittard is better) semisweet chocolate chips. Please don't use M&M's...I cringe every time I see a chocolate chip cookie with M&M's instead of chocolate chips.
- Use a #2 scoop to portion out your dough and shape them into disks instead of spheres.
- A cup to 2 cups of chopped walnuts is optional and is added along with the flour.
- I use 1 tablespoon of vanilla instead of 2 teaspoons.
- I use dark brown sugar instead of light. Dark brown sugar gives a greater depth of flavor than light brown sugar and supposedly it makes for a chewier cookie.
- Use a thin cookie sheet. Don't use anything too thick since it'll take longer to heat up and for your cookies to properly bake.
- Enjoy these cookies with a tall glass of milk or perhaps coffee with dessert.

Chocolate Chip cookie is best eaten fresh out of the oven
Cook up some romance on Valentine's Day with these chocolate chip cookies...Enjoy!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
America's Test Kitchen - season 1, episode 10, Cookie Jar Favorites
Makes a dozen and a half (18) large cookies

Ingredients
2 cups plus 2 tbsp (10 2/3 oz) unbleached all purpose flour [I sometimes use 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup AP flour]
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled [melted butter makes your cookie moist and prevents it from drying out]
2 tsp vanilla extract [I increase the vanilla to 1 tbsp]
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1 cup packed (7 oz) light or dark brown sugar [I use dark]
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1.5 cups (9 oz) semisweet chocolate chips [I use Guittard or Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips]
[optional: 1-2 cups chopped walnuts]

Instructions

1. Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the baking soda, salt, and flour in a bowl and set aside. [I sift these ingredients]

3. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the (melted) butter and sugars at medium speed until smooth, about 1 min. Add the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk and beat on medium to low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beater as needed with a rubber spatula. Add the dry ingredients (and chopped walnuts) and mix on low until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until just incorporated.

4. Divide the dough into 18 portions, each about half a cup, and roll them between your hands into balls. Holding one dough ball with your fingers, pull the dough apart into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with the jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough's uneven surface. Place the cookies on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2.5 inches apart.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the edges start to harden but the centers are puffy and still soft, 15-18 mins [every oven is different but it took me 18 mins], switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Allow the cookies to cool.


Video: America's Test Kitchen version of a Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie