"America's Test Kitchen" Favorites

If you're searching for foolproof recipes, the ones from America's Test Kitchen" may well be your best bet.

The popular Public Broadcasting show's staffers test each recipe multiple times, with many variations, and deal with all the mistakes, so you don't have to.

The show's host, Chris Kimball, doubles as editor in chief of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

On The Early Show Thursday, Kimball prepared some of his favorite recipes from "Test Kitchen Favorites," the latest companion cookbook to "America's Test Kitchen."

The book features the most popular recipes from the test kitchen. Staffers don't just try and compare recipes. They also taste-test frequent ingredients such as olive oils and vinegars, and even test equipment, to spare you from spending $1,000 on the perfect knife or blender!

The goal of all the testing: to make your life in the kitchen easier.

The book also gives an inside look at the workings of the real 2,500 square foot kitchen. located in Boston.



The goal: to boost the flavor of tender, but mild filet mignon with a crunchy peppercorn crust — without the stinging heat that usually accompanies it.

The problem with most recipes for this dish: The pepper is too spicy and overwhelming for the mild meat; the peppercorns don't stay on the meat very well.

The solutions:

1. Kimball and his team discovered that, when you smash the peppercorns (note: NOT grind), you are able to release the essential oils. You don't want to grind the peppercorns. That makes it too fine.
2. Then, gently simmering the peppercorns with oil helps tame the "raw" bite and harsh heat.
3. Adding salt to the cooked peppercorns after they have cooled helps draw out the beefy flavor of the steaks.
4. To resolve the problem of peppercorns not adhering to the steak: Rub the paste all over the meat, then press down gently with plastic wrap.

5 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked
5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 center-cut filet mignons, 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, 7 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

Heat the peppercorns and 5 tablespoons of the oil in a small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at a bare simmer, swirling the pan occassionally, until the pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the mixture is at room temperature, add the salt and stir to combine. Rub the steaks with the pepper mixture, thoroughly coating the top and bottom of each steak with the peppercorns. Cover the steaks with plastic wrap and press gently to make sure the peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving the steaks, until a dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the steaks and cook until well browned on the second side, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the steaks to the hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer the steaks to a wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minute before serving.

For more of Kimball's recipes, go to Page 2.