Tag Archives: cook’s illustrated

Thai-style Chicken with Basil

Thai-style Chicken with Basil

I’m working on my spice tolerance and this is one of those dishes that helps me with it. If I make it too spicy, I’ll chug a beer down with it, but that won’t stop me from continuing to eat it. It’s that good.

This recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated. They say that they’ve kept this version relatively mild, but I find it too spicy to use all the chiles. I should also mention that I find some types of gum too spicy to handle so take that into consideration when making this dish.


2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
6 green or red Thai chiles , stemmed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. Process 1 cup basil leaves, garlic, and chiles in food processor until finely chopped, 6 to 10 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Transfer 1 tablespoon basil mixture to small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet. Do not wash food processor bowl.

2. Pulse chicken and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into -approximate 1/4-inch pieces, six to eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes.

3. Stir shallots and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat (mixture should start to sizzle after about 11/2 minutes; if it doesn’t, adjust heat accordingly), stirring constantly, until garlic and shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with potato masher or rubber spatula, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds.

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More Best Recipes: Review

I only recently became a Cook’s Illustrated fan. It just looked too intimidating for me. After buying one of their magazines I’ve been a fan of them. They let you know exactly what they’re trying to achieve and if something is too fussy, they’ll find a workaround for it. So while recipes might not taste as mind blowing as possible, the trade off is less effort and time. Great for when you don’t want to be chained to the stove all day long. And the taste is still really good.

More Best Recipes is a follow up to The New Best Recipe. The original has many more recipes and this is meant to compliment it. There are also two sections that are new: make ahead cooking and cooking for two.

I really like the recipes in this book and many are already being in regular rotation. The only recipe that I wouldn’t make again is the stir-fried portabello mushrooms. I have a pretty low sodium tolerance and with all the salt heavy products in it, we just couldn’t finish the dish and had to throw it out. This book also converted me into liking no knead bread. The added beer and easier handling techniques really improved the original recipe. The olive and parmesan no knead bread? Fantastic.

Olive and parmesan no knead bread

I also tried out the ciabatta bread. It’s formulated so that it doesn’t end up being so flat so you can split it in half for a sandwich.


The flavour was good and the dough was easy to handle where most ciabatta dough is a sticky mess. The only problem with this bread is that it disappears so fast!

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Almost No Knead Bread

Almost No Knead Bread

When I bought my dutch oven, I really wanted it for no knead bread. In the end I used it for many things except for making no knead bread. I made the bread once. Confession: I wasn’t sold on the no knead bread craze. It ended up being way too chewy for me and staled so quickly I gave some to my dog and made the rest into breadcrumbs. My dog wasn’t too fond of it either — after he had a piece he drank his entire bowl of water.

So when I saw the Cook’s Illustrated almost no knead bread version I made it. And then made it again. And will make it again really soon, maybe tomorrow. This is all within a week by the way. I’ve consumed more carbs than normal and it’s all this bread’s fault.

Almost No Knead Bread

What makes this bread so spectacular? 3 things: vinegar, beer, and a teeny tiny bit of kneading (10-15 times). The bread is good for 2 days, but is still excellent toasted after that. Really, the bread doesn’t last much longer than 2 days. I also appreciate this recipe’s ease of getting the dough into the dutch oven. Previously, you had a very wet dough and had to flour the crap out of tea towels to prevent the dough from sticking. Then, you flipped it into the hot dutch oven. It was a terrible mess. This version you let it rise in a skillet with parchment and then you lift the parchment with the dough on it and place it into the dutch oven. Less mess.

I’ve tried this with Canadian unbleached and bleached flour. I found that unbleached provides a much chewier bread than with bleached and I preferred the latter. Try both and see what works for you. Cook’s Illustrated also offers a few variations on it such as olive, rosemary, and parmesan, a rye bread and a whole wheat version. I can see myself doing a roasted garlic no knead bread — yum.

How does it compare to other breads I’ve made? I’m not about to abandon my bread making process, not kneading isn’t a top priority for me as I have a stand mixer, but it’s nice to have a simple recipe that you can get creative with and throw together in a minute. If you didn’t like the original no knead bread, you really should try this one.

You can find the recipe here.

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