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Fast, Easy Family Meals

This is a busy time of year for many families getting back into gear with school, after-school activities, and weekend sporting events.

So, the folks at public television's America's Test Kitchen have revised their classic cookbook and aimed it at folks who need quick, easy food that's also delicious.

"The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Revised Edition" focuses on great family meals, and has more than 1,200 recipes.

Chris Kimball, the book's editor, says the recipes are well-tested and perfect for any night of the week.

As usual, Kimball and his team at America's Test Kitchen have done all the hard work for you. They're relentless about testing recipes. They begin each recipe project with a blind tasting of recipes from other cookbooks, then develop their own approach, and continue tweaking the recipe until they're satisfied with the results.

Then they take an unusual final step: They use the wrong equipment or ingredients to see how much abuse the recipe can take. This is smart, because Kimball and his team understand that home cooks may use substitutes for certain ingredients or may not have the correct-sized pan or baking dish.

Kimball is editor in chief of Cook's Country magazine and Cook's Illustrated, and hosts America's Test Kitchen.

Kimball visited The Early Show Wednesday with three of his favorite recipes and offered tips on, among other things, how to buy shrimp.

According to the cookbook, virtually all shrimp sold today in supermarkets has been previously frozen, either in large blocks of ice or with a method known as "individually quick frozen," or "IQF," for short. Supermarkets simply defrost the shrimp before displaying them on ice at the fish counter, where they look as though they were freshly plucked from the sea.

As a general rule, the folks at America's Test Kitchen highly recommend buying bags of still-frozen, shell-on IQF shrimp and defrosting as needed at home. Since there is no telling how long "fresh" shrimp may have been kept on ice at the market, IQF shrimp also have a better flavor and texture than shrimp frozen in blocks.

But remember: If you're buying frozen shrimp in a bag, shrimp should be the only ingredient listed. Some packages will list some sodium-based preservatives, but the folks at America's Test Kitchen find these shrimp have a strange translucency.

To see Kimball's recipes, go to Page 2.


Pan-Seared Shrimp

These shrimp are quick-sautéed in a skillet, then the sauce is added off-heat and allowed to sit for about a minute as the shrimp finish cooking and the sauce permeates the shrimp.

Note: The chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are available in most supermarkets.

2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, then season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the sugar. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the shrimp to the pan in a single layer. Cook until the shrimp are curled and pink on both sides, about 2 minutes.
2. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and cover with foil. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and shrimp.
3. Off the heat, return all of the shrimp to the warm skillet. Add the butter, lemon juice, and parsley and toss to coat until the butter melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For Pan Seared Shrimp with Chipotle-Lime Glaze:

Omit the butter, lemon juice, and parsley.
Combine 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice ,
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 4 teaspoons brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons adobo sauce.

After returning all of the shrimp to the skillet in step 3, add the chipotle mixture and toss to combine.

Cream Biscuits

These are very simple, made with flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and heavy cream — NO butter or Crisco.

2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until the dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.

2. Pat the dough into a ¾-inch thick circle. Cut the biscuits into rounds using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or 8 wedges using a knife. Place the biscuits on the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse

This is an insanely easy recipe: Melt mini-marshmallows with milk and chocolate very low heat, cool, and fold in whipped cream. That's it.

4 cups mini marshmallows
3/4 cup whole milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Cook the marshmallows, milk, and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly, until melted and smooth, about 4 minutes.

2. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set inside a larger bowl of ice water. Let stand, whisking often, until cool and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Whip the cream and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Increase to high speed and continue to whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.

4. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, leaving just a few streaks. Spoon into wine glasses or goblets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set before serving, about 6 hours.

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