Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a giant tri-ply, heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel skillet, gazing into the vast, shiny basin before you. The foam soles of your shoes, like a good kitchen towel, are packed with tiny air pockets that insulate your feet from the searing-hot metal. Waves of radiant heat bathe your face. But you can’t turn away. You are witnessing the death of an emulsion: A knob of butter lands with a slide, collapses into a puddle, and then reanimates as a noisy nest of bubbles. As the bubbles burst and subside you smell hazelnuts, toffee, maybe popcorn.
I dream about being that close to food and cooking. As a little kid at my grandmother’s kitchen table in rural Maine, that meant removing my shirt before taking a fork to the wild blueberry pie. (Less material to get in the way.) Many years later at the Culinary Institute of America, it meant poring over Harold McGee’s food science tome On Food and Cooking (2004) in search of a kind of x-ray vision for food. In professional kitchens in Boston and New York, it meant watching, making mistakes, and repeating. And almost a decade ago my need for an intimate connection to food meant coveting and landing my dream job: test cook, Cook’s Illustrated. With this issue I start a new chapter in my proximity to cooking. It is with intense excitement and a humble heart that I take the helm of a magazine that I’ve loved from the first time my mom handed me a dog-eared copy.
I don’t know you personally, but I just have this hunch that if you’re holding the 150th issue of Cook’s Illustrated and you’re reading my words, you also dream of being closer. You want more information and depth, not less. You’re prone to asking “why?” and not just “how?” And you’re not a foodie.
You’re a cook.
Perhaps you’re here because you tried Andrea Geary’s Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies (March/April 2012) and realized that they made you just as happy as they did your 8-year-old (maybe happier?). Maybe you obsess over Quick Tips and Kitchen Notes (guilty!) because you take pleasure in refining your knowledge and skills in the kitchen. Or perhaps you’ve been part of the in-crowd since the early days and fell for Cook’s Illustrated when you made Jack Bishop’s Classic Bolognese Sauce (January/February 1999). Whatever the reason, it’s good to have you.
OK. That’s enough talk. We’ve got a lot of work to do for our next issue, and you’ve got some new recipes to try. Oh, and if while you’re cooking through this issue something comes up (questions, comments, concerns), don’t hesitate to reach out.