Test Kitchen

Our virtual test kitchen is a place where we invite you to experiment, taste, think, swoon — in short, to play with your food. All of our own kitchen experiments and research are located right here so you can see what we’ve been up to. In our perfect universe, the whole world would be one giant kitchen, so we’re trying to get as close to that ideal as possible. Here’s what we’ve got for you:

DINNER PARTIES & ENTERTAINING: Perhaps our crown jewel — and the source of our Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home cookbook. Here we’ve put together the dinner party menus AND wine pairings for you. From there you can riff, play and dazzle your guests with everything from brunch to a fall harvest dinner.

HOW-TO: Wondering how to cook a lobster? Sharpen your knives? De-bone a fish? Find our quick tips here.

INGREDIENT PROFILES: We’re geeky about ingredients, so here you can find all of our Test Kitchen Dossiers. Wondering what to do with fennel? Squash? Truffles? Find the history, cooking properties and recipe ideas here.

RECIPES: We’ve built up quite a collection of recipes over the years (we’ve been here a while), so we invite you to play with our ideas — and create a few riffs of your own.

And in case you just want to browse, here are our most recent posts:

Post image for The Charm of Chocolate

Chocolate, rich and creamy, is the quintessential indulgent food. It’s perfect in almost every form, one of the most versatile ingredients, and we’re addicted to its unique taste and smell. We crave it in the summer as a smooth ice cream and as a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a frosty winter night.

Beyond the archetypical Hershey bar, chocolate comes in many forms. While I do admit to having a weakness for the occasional popular candy bars, their waxy textures hold nothing to the silky richness of high-end, high-cocoa-content chocolate. Most chocolates indicate a percentage, which is the sum of its cacao fat (called cocoa butter in the United States) and its cacao solids. A higher percentage = higher cocoa content; in other words, high percentage chocolate has a lower percentage of sugar and the chocolate will have a less sweet, more bitter and deeper flavor. For example, the average milk chocolate is usually 30 – 40% and dark chocolate ranges from 50 – 70% and higher. 50 – 60% is about average, 60 – 70% is dark and slightly bitter, while 70% and higher is very bitter, as it is closest to chocolate in its most natural state (100% with no added sugar). In substituting chocolates, only ones with like percentages should be used, as the final result will definitely have a different taste and texture.

Percentages of chocolate also vary in their distinguishing properties. For example, if you break a piece of chocolate in half, darker chocolates will create a sharper snap, while milks and whites will be softer. White chocolate will also smell more like vanilla, while milk chocolate will have a delicate chocolate aroma, and dark chocolates will have a stronger, bitter scent. Finally, because they contain more cocoa butter, lower percentage chocolates will also melt faster.

Chocolate marries well with so many different flavors: nuts, fruits, pepper and spices, savory meats, caramel, red wine, liquors, and, the Test Kitchen’s other ingredient of the month, coffee; and it’s when we introduce other flavors that chocolate’s strength is enhanced and heightened. Coffee and chocolate make a wonderful pairing because they’re both strong flavors that play well off each other.

But chocolate is more than just a food; there is no other ingredient that has attained such an esteemed status in history, connoting symbolic significance in many different cultures. So it will come as no surprise that chocolate, both as a savory and a sweet seasoning, reigns as a popular ingredient in main dishes, sides, desserts, and drinks, and as an indulgent treat on its own. Perhaps it’s the satisfyingly silkiness or the sweetness that lures me, but I can never resist an offering of chocolate in any form. Included in this week’s Test Kitchen are recipes that showcase chocolate in a variety of sweet degrees.


Luscious Thai Curry Chocolate Truffles
Cardamom Hot Chocolate
Mocha Pudding with Espresso Crème


Port Wine: Any Port in a Storm

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Also known as Vinho do Porto or Porto, this typically sweet wine is one of our favorite ways to end a meal.

Poached Pears with Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

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Here we pair chocolate with a poached pear, which has a sweet fruitiness and a hint of citrus from the lemon and wine poaching liquid.

Turkey Preparations

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There are as many ways to roast a turkey as there are grandmothers to teach us their cooking secrets.

Southwestern Thanksgiving Menu

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If you are hosting the Thanksgiving festivities this year, perhaps you’re feeling the need for a little twist on tradition.

Turkey Gumbo

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Wondering what to do with the leftovers? This gumbo uses dark meat turkey instead of the traditional sausage and shrimp.

Apples: A Seductive Fruit

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In recent years you may have begun to take apples for granted; since they are available year-round in supermarkets, apples have lost their connection to a season.

Stone Fruit: Drupey Drawers of Goodness

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Beyond coloring our landscapes with clusters of elegant blooms, stone fruit trees produce sweet and utterly juicy treats. ‘Tis the season for stone fruit celebration, and our test kitchen is overflowing with all kinds of color.

Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Chickpeas and Honeyed Sauce

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This simple and rustic dish uses honey to sweeten the sauce and bring together the dish.

Chestnuts: The Taste of December

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Take an afternoon by the fire with some warm chestnuts and a spot of brandy. Go ahead, it’s the holidays.

Mulling Things Over

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The soothing fragrance of cinnamon and its mulling companions is the perfect match for red wine — and holidays.