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cooks illustrated

The Ultimate Brownies

Still not sure what to bring to your family’s Easter celebration?  Rest assure, that dark chocolaty square pictured above is always a safe bet. Nearly everyone loves a good brownie (especially the ones yielded from this recipe).

When I devour a brownie, I don’t want it to just be good. I want it to be great. The best. The kind where you can’t help but guiltlessly have yourself another one because they’re just that friggin’ delicious.

I’ve had a few of these types of brownies in my days (and more than a few that don’t quite meet these standards). But below, I unleash to you my friends the recipe for the BEST brownie I’ve ever tasted. As in so good that one bite might just spark a food orgasm in your mouth. Especially if you’re a sucker for chocolate like me.

The recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated, a godly magazine on the food frontier. Cook’s doesn’t just create recipes. They test* and trial and transform classic recipes into science experiments until they generate an outcome that’s nearly perfect.  And for me, these brownies are just that. Perfect.

*(Sometimes carrying out as many as 70 test runs!)

Irresistibly fudgy, rich, and oh-so deeply chocolaty, these brownies are worth every last bit of splurge. A crisp exterior gives way to the moistest, fudgiest brownies I’ve ever eaten with chunks of bittersweet chocolate scattered throughout. Chocolate sublime.

The brownies require a few extra steps, but by now I’m sure you know I’m going to tell you they’re worth it. Make sure to follow the cooling instructions, as hard as that may be!

Click here for recipe…

Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir Fry

With shrimp in the fridge and snow peas in the garden, I knew I wanted to make a stir fry.  Utilizing snow peas in stir-fries is classic, and probably my favorite way to cook them.  As I was perusing the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I conveniently came across a recipe for “stir-fried shrimp with snow peas and red bell pepper in hot and sour sauce”.  I immediately knew that that would be my dinner the following night.

I love cooking magazines, and along with Vegetarian Times, Cook’s Illustrated ranks among my top two favorites.  I even wrote a whole paper about the magazine for one of my college courses last year, which is when I found out that Cook’s Illustrated tests their recipes as many as 70 times in order to find just the right combination of ingredients before printing!  No wonder their recipes pretty much always turn out amazing, and this one was no different.

The key to shrimp is keeping it tender, something that’s certainly not always easy to do.  Cook’s recipe calls for a 30-minute marinade that employs the key ingredient of salt to help the robust flavors of garlic and ginger seep into the shrimp as well as to help the shrimp retain their juices while cooking in order to avoid making the them tough.  The result:  super tender shrimp and a dish that was far superior to those served in most restaurants.

With that I’ll leave you the slightly modified version of Cook Illustrated’s shrimp stir fry.

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Red Bell Pepper in Hot and Sour Sauce

(Serves 4)

-2 medium garlic cloves, 1 minced, 1 thinly sliced
-1 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
-1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
-3 Tbsp. canola oil
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. soy sauce
-3 Tbsp. sugar
-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
-1/2 Tbsp. Siracha
-1 Tbsp. dry sherry
-2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
-1 Tbsp. ketchup
-2 tsp. cornstarch
-1 large shallot, sliced thin (about 1/3 cup)
-1/2 pound snow peas
-1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch dice

1.  Combine minced garlic, ginger, 1 Tbsp. oil, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add shrimp, and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, Siracha, sherry, sesame oil, ketchup, and corn starch in a small bowl.  Combine sliced garlic with shallot in a second small bowl.

3.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add snow peas and bell pepper, and cook 4-5 minutes until vegetables begin to brown, stirring frequently.  Transfer veggies to a medium bowl.

4.  Add remaining Tbsp. oil in the now-empty skillet.  Add garlic-shallot mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.  Add shrimp, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequnetly, until shrimp are light pink on both sides (about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes).  Add soy sauce mixture to skillet; return to high heat and cook, stirring constantly until sauce is thickened and shrimp are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.  Return veggies to skillet, and toss to combine.  Serve alongside rice.