Put a bowl of creamy, crumb-topped mac n' cheese on the cover of any book and I am oath-bound to pick it up. But this isn't just any mac n' cheese. This is a mac n' cheese makeover — a lighter version developed by those exacting and perfectionist cooks over at America's Test Kitchen, and it's just one of over 175 comfort food recipes they tweaked and remodeled. Half the fat and still deserving of the Test Kitchen's stamp of tasty approval? I'm in.
• Who wrote it: America's Test Kitchen
• Who published it: America's Test Kitchen
• Number of recipes: 175+
• Recipes for right now: Drive-Through Cheeseburgers, Thin-Crust Pizza, New England Clam Chowder, Pork and Hominy Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, Meat and Cheese Lasagna, Everyday Macaroni and Cheese, Spaghetti Carbonara, Scalloped Potatoes, Cinnamon Rolls, Fudgy Brownies, Pecan Bars
• Other highlights: You will find no "silly substitutions" in this book, as Chris Kimball calls them in his introduction. No applesauce or black beans where they don't belong. Thank goodness. However, you will find yogurt and whole milk where heavy cream was used before, oven-baking instead of deep-frying, and lean cuts in place of full-fat cuts. The cooks also use tricks to help ensure a fantastic lower-fat dish, like adding umami-rich ingredients to deepen flavors and using just a little butter or few slices of bacon in ways that mimic the flavor of richer dishes.
The one "cheat" the Test Kitchen cooks allow themselves is the use of low-fat substitutes like low-fat cream cheese, non-fat sour cream, and light cheese. However, these ingredients come with the reassurance that the cooks have tested each product thoroughly — checking the meltability of part-skim cheddar and the texture of neaufchatel — to guarantee a dish that doesn't taste artificial. Where a low-fat product didn't work, they found a different solution.
I appreciate the explanations that come with each recipe, which explain exactly why a certain ingredient is used or how flavor is achieved. This helps me know what to expect and understand crucial aspects of the recipe.
The Test Kitchen's goal was to reduce the fat and calories in each dish by a third, and the before and after data is presented with each recipe. This is a significant decrease, but when you're starting out with a recipe that is already high-fat and high-calorie, even cutting a third of the fat and calories still leaves you with a fairly rich dish. So while these recipes are definitely lighter and lower-fat, they are not necessarily low-fat. This isn't a criticism of the book — more of an FYI so you know what to expect with this book.
• Who would enjoy this book? Home cooks looking for some lighter alternatives to favorite comfort food dishes.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Comfort Food Makeovers by America's Test Kitchen
• Visit the author's website: America's Test Kitchen
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emma Christensen)