"Chocolate cake in the kitchen for tasting." Every few hours a little note like that goes flashing across all the computers in the Food Section. Whereupon all of us dutifully get up from our desks and traipse into the Test Kitchen, forks in hand.
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
In the course of a year, we test and taste hundreds of dishes. We stand around the island in the center of our kitchen, arguing the merits of the food in front of us. What follows are recipes for the ten dishes we liked the best.
Despite the considerable differences in our tastes, there turned out to be remarkable consensus on this list. These are dishes we'd gladly serve to friends. We think you'll like them, too.
This is just about the best apple pie any of us has ever tasted.
APPLES AND CREAM
(From Wonderful Parties,
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut in thin wedges
Cinnamon Pastry Shell
Combine sour cream, egg, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt in large bowl. Add apples and mix well. Turn into Cinnamon Pastry Shell. Cover crimped edges lightly with foil. Bake at 450 degrees 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove pie from oven. Stir apple filling, gently but thoroughly. Remove foil around edges. Spoon Streusel Topping evenly on top. Return to oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Makes 1 (10-inch) pie.
Cinnamon Pastry Shell
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in mixer bowl. Cut in butter until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle in cold water, 1 tablespoon at time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl.
Gather into ball. On lightly floured board, roll pastry 2 inches larger than inverted 10-inch pie plate. Ease into pie plate and crimp edges decoratively.
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts.
It takes a lot of work to turn 12 pounds of short ribs into one tiny terrine. But a few of us thought that this recipe of Michel Richard's was the best dish that came out of our Test Kitchen all year.
SHORT RIB TERRINE
12 pounds lean short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs thyme
2 quarts chicken stock
Assorted steamed vegetables
Season short ribs to taste with salt and pepper. Place in 8- to 10-quart roasting pan. Scatter celery, carrots, garlic, onion, tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme over ribs. Make second layer of ribs if necessary. Pour in chicken stock to cover ingredients. Place over high heat and bring to boil. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees 3 hours.
Cool cooked ribs just enough to handle. Remove bones, fat and gristle from short ribs, leaving meaty portions in 1 piece. Line 8x4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting wrap extend over edges. Place hot meat pieces lengthwise in pan as close together as possible. Layer until pan is filled. Fold plastic wrap over meat to cover.
Place second 8x4-inch loaf pan on top, pressing down firmly to remove any air pockets. Pour off excess fat or juices. Place weight in top loaf pan and chill until firm.
Remove top pan, unwrap surface of terrine and invert pan onto work surface. Lift off loaf pan and plastic wrap. Cut terrine into 1/2-inch slices. Place on oven-proof serving plates and reheat until warm, sprinkling little coarse salt over each slice. Accompany with steamed vegetables and spoonful of Herb Vinaigrette. Terrine may also be served cold. Makes 12 servings.
1 or 2 shallots, minced
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped chives
Combine shallots, egg yolk, mustard and vinegar in bowl. Blend in olive oil. Fold in chives. Cover and set aside until needed. Makes about 2/3 cup.
Basically, Piemonte's bagna cauda is a "hot bath" of olive oil, anchovies and plenty of garlic in a terra cotta pot warmed over embers (or a chafing-dish arrangement) in the center of the table. This recipe, from wine maker Giacomo Bologna, uses a whopping pound of garlic for every liter of extra-virgin olive oil.
At the end, when only a little sauce is left in the bagna cauda pot, it's usual to break an egg into the pot for each person, and let it cook very slowly.
BAGNA CAUDA WITH