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Notes from the Test Kitchen

Not All Recipes Get the CHOW Approval

People always tell me how great my job is because I get to eat all day. But too much of anything is a bad thing—particularly if that thing, well, tastes bad. After primping and preening the likes of our Grape and Grappa Focaccia for its moment in the photo studio, the food team dug into the third (or maybe fourth) test of a sweet potato spoon bread. We’ve been experimenting with different types of sweet potatoes, grinds of cornmeal, and cooking times, hoping to get it right after this latest round of testing. And I thought we had, until Amy and I tasted the spoon bread.

It took a minute to register, but after looking at each other, we both ran to the trash can to spit it out. Even after all of the recipe testing, the spoon bread was still a tasteless, neon-colored mush. It was clear that neither the sweet potato nor CHOW would be better off for it. So, just as often as we’re working to give you new recipes that are fun, reliable, and tasty, we’re also getting rid of the underachievers.

Welcome to Test Kitchen Notes

With the CHOW visual refresh, we decided to give a voice to the CHOW test kitchen so you can see what we’re up to on a daily basis. We’re a staff of four in a relatively small space, but we get a lot done. When it comes to CHOW recipes, we’re the team that makes them happen: from research, testing, styling the food for photographs, and a million other odd jobs.

Take what we’ve been up to this week: Two of our team members are out at the moment, so it’s just Amy and me gearing up for cold-weather food. Amy ran around town looking for plates, linens, and other bits and bobs for our fast-approaching holiday menus, traveling nearly 100 miles in one day to find the perfect plate for our Thanksgiving photo shoot. You’ll have to weigh in when the menu is up in November.

I worked with our staff photographer to get pictures of our fall-produce-focused recipes, like chayote stew and squash salad. Chef Anita Lo, of Annisa and Bar Q, stopped by to film a few CHOW Tips in the kitchen, and muse on the fact that the female and male chayote look so different—the exterior of the male is spiky, while the female is smooth. Meanwhile, an advance copy of A Day at elBulli just arrived, and as I’m always intrigued by that genre of cooking, I’ve got to peruse it a bit.