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Oct 29, 11:10 AM EDT

Going inside Tyler Florence's 'Test Kitchen'


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If you think of Tyler Florence as the cook next door, the guy you can count on for classics like burgers and onion rings, you may be surprised by his latest effort, "Tyler Florence: Inside the Test Kitchen."

This time, Florence is switching things up from down home to high tech in a book that stands out from the crowd with its notebook-style binding and iPad-generated photos. The burger? It's still there, but now it's served on "instant bread" buns made with iSi siphons, specialty kitchen equipment, that in this case are used to inject carbon dioxide directly into the batter. The onion ring, meanwhile, has mind-melded with a french fry for something Florence calls a "fronion."

We asked Florence to explain just what a fronion is and share a few more insights into his test kitchen.

AP: You're known for traditional, comfort food, but in this book you whip out the high-tech tools. Is this a new direction for you?

Florence: I've always been a passionate, wildly curious cook. The platforms that you have seen me in before are just the tip of the iceberg of my range, not only as a cook, but as an award-winning restaurant owner, an inventor, a cookbook writer and also a parent. My early career crafted as the guy next door is only part of the picture, one that is very black and white in scope. Our new position is to go deep and challenge conventional cooking that in a lot of ways intimidates home enthusiasts. Inventing a bread that doesn't require yeast to rise was one of our discoveries this year, and the process is way easier than baking bread. Modern kitchen tools like an iSi siphon are going to seem as common place as a microwave.

AP: What went into the making of this book?

Florence: We had four people working on the book almost full time and the book took a year and a half to make. So if I had to do the math on that, it would be 13,140 hours. It was supposed to be released last year, but we just weren't ready yet. I've never spent this long writing a book, even my first book back in 2001. The content speaks for itself. I feel it's my best, most personal book.

AP: Was it tough reinventing so many familiar dishes?

Florence: Some days we wanted to give up because what we wanted in a certain recipe began to feel impossible. Or going through the complete cooking process, which in some cases took hours, only to find out we could have made it better at the beginning felt frustrating. But every time we got so close to nailing a certain texture or technique that we were inventing, it was enough to keep pushing. I've never had a better time with my staff making something that felt this important.

AP: You really went all out on Thanksgiving, from the cranberry loaf to the spatchcocked turkey with the stuffing tucked under the skin. What inspired you?

Florence: The funny thing is that entire chapter was a last minute add-in. We felt that looking at most of the completed manuscript, we needed about 10 more great, iconic recipes. It happened to be last November, so we just jumped into Thanksgiving. My Instagram feed blew up as we were posting pictures. If someone picks up the book for one recipe alone, it's the turkey. I think it's a real game changer.

AP: And, finally, the "fronion." Talk us through the team's process in solving the french fry/onion ring dilemma by coming up with an onion ring inside a french fry.

Florence: We made onion rings for a week. They were ... I wouldn't say boring, but everything we had certainly tasted before. One day we got take out lunch from a burger place and I grabbed a french fry and an onion ring and tasted both and that started it all. We liquefied french fries into an amazing onion ring batter and created the "fronion" it's a French fry crusted onion ring. You've got to see it to believe it. Mind blowing.

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Online:

http://tylerflorencetestkitchen.wordpress.com/

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SUPER-FAST ROAST TURKEY

"The Thanksgiving turkey is the centerpiece of the meal, but despite its being cooked every year for generations, it still causes anxiety. The annual conundrum? Getting a flavorful turkey that also looks good - and the rest of dinner - on the table before the grandparents fall asleep," Tyler Florence writes in his new cookbook, "Inside the Test Kitchen."

"The first thing we realized was that stuffing the turkey only makes things harder: if you stuff your turkey, you create a very dense material for heat to travel through, and by the time the stuffing is hot in the center, the breast meat of the turkey is totally overcooked. Instead, we piped the stuffing between the skin and the breast. That way, you still get flavorful stuffing while protecting the breast.

"We also spatchcocked the turkey. Before you turn and run, let me tell you that it shaved off an hour and 15 minutes of cooking time from the standard Butterball turkey instructions."

Start to finish: 2 hours 15 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 12

One 10-pound turkey

1 recipe stuffing (see below), in a piping bag or zip-close plastic bag with a corner snipped off

Grapeseed or vegetable oil, as needed

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

1 bunch fresh sage

1 bunch fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Remove the heart and giblets from the turkey and reserve; discard the liver. Flip the turkey upside down so the breast is on the cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone so the bone can be removed. Pull the bone out of the turkey and reserve. Gently but firmly open up the bird a little (you can flatten it if you'd like) and set it on the board with the skin side up.

Insert your fingers gently between the skin and breast meat, separating them while keeping the skin attached. You want to create a pocket for the stuffing without tearing the skin.

Pipe the stuffing underneath the skin of the bird, creating an even layer of it between the meat and the skin. Rub grapeseed or vegetable oil over the skin, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Do the same to the underside of the bird.

Place a large rack in a roasting pan or sheet pan, and put the whole sprigs of herbs on top of the rack. Put the turkey skin side up on top of the herbs. Sandwiching the herbs between the rack and the turkey will prevent them from burning. Put the turkey in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

At this point, the skin should be golden brown and the meat should be 135 F. To take the temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, staying away from hitting the bone.

Tent the turkey with foil and continue to roast until the temperature reaches 160 F in the leg, about another 30 minutes. (The internal temperature will continue to rise as it rests.) Remove the turkey and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories; 210 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 24 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 245 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 63 g protein; 760 mg sodium.

(Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence's "Inside the Test Kitchen," Clarkson Potter, 2014)

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TEST KITCHEN STUFFING

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Makes enough to stuff 1 turkey

4 cups sourdough bread torn into 1-inch pieces, without the crusts

2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil

1/2 pound sage breakfast sausage, crumbled

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

5 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2/3 cup chicken stock

1 egg

Heat the oven to 375 F. Toast the bread on a sheet pan in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sausage and let it brown. After it's nice and golden on one side, stir to get color all over. Add the carrots, celery and onion, followed by the sage and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally to keep the cooking even. Season with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are aromatic and tender, add the chicken stock and mix to loosen any brown bites from the bottom of the pan. Add the toasted bread and mix well. Transfer the stuffing to a food processor. Process until fairly smooth, adding the egg while pureeing. Transfer the stuffing to a piping bag (or a large zip-close plastic bag with a corner snipped off). Use as directed above.

(Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence's "Inside the Test Kitchen," Clarkson Potter, 2014)

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Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke-Michelle

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