Monday, March 07, 2005

Cook's Country Magazine from Cook's Illustrated

As a subscriber to Cook's Illustrated, I received a complimentary copy of the charter issue of Cook's Country, Cook's latest endeavor. A prolific publisher of countless cookbooks with a pilgrim-like hunt for the "perfect recipe," Cook's Country comes with promise.

"Many of us at Cook's Illustrated ... grew up in the country and have a great fondness ... for country food ...," says publisher Christopher Kimble, "that we felt it was time to start a magazine about what we love most: Country folk and country food."

So far, this city-boy turned country dweller likes what he sees. Cook's Country is a tabloid-sized magazine with plenty of easy-to-follow recipes, vibrant photographs that invite you to the table and how-to sidebars that educate.

My decade-long association with Cook's has taught me that they love cast iron. Many contemporary cooking magazines fall into the cast-iron-is-too-heavy trap. While Cook's will insert the you-must-take-care-of-cast-iron caveat, it's refreshing to read a magazine that recognizes cast iron's benefits -- like durability, suburb heat-transfer qualities and the best cost per pound ratio of any cookware out there.

Cook's Country charter issue has a jalapeƱo cornbread that's baked in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, which can be baked in a 10-inch camp oven. From skillet-based recipes (no-fuss green beans on page 17) to baked desserts and casseroles (recipe contest winning Italian potato cake and creamy potato casserole), Cook's Country has a lot to offer.

Many recipes are easily converted to outdoor delicacies. Two slow-cooker recipes on pages 10 and 11 (country-style pot roast with gravy and Southwestern pot roast) come complete with leftover-use ideas. These recipes can be cooked in a Dutch oven or slow cooker (yes, that's the generic term for the Rival Crock-Pot®).

But what caught my eye the most was the "Everyone should have ..." sidebar on page 29. A Dutch oven, of course. A brief description of the pot (a "lidded casserole") and its history (chuckwagon cooks and early Americans used them), Cook's recommends the 7- to 8-quart size.

My overall impression? I'm impressed. I say subscribe. It costs $19.95 for six issues each year.

Cook's Country makes a great companion to Cook's Illustrated. If you're leery of Cook's Illustrated's sometimes overbearing hunt for the perfect recipe, Cook's Country will give you your cake and let you eat it too. You get quality recipes without the heavy reading.

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