Blog reader Mary Beth Hunt, testing recipes in her Nebraska kitchen.
For those of you who are recipe-testing for the book, you know it's a lot of work. (I wrote a blog post last year called Recipe Testing 101 that gives a good overview.) We sent each tester a menu of 4-5 recipes, with themes like "Winter Comfort Food" or "Gluten-Free Brunch" or "Light & Summery" to make it easy to host a meal afterward. My fanastic editor Lauren is overseeing the recipe-testing process (corresponding with the testers, keeping track of all the notes, etc.), and I can't think of a better person for a job. In fact, without Lauren, this book would probably not be out until next year. (Not kidding!) Each recipe in the book is being tested by 3 different testers (in different cities and regions), so we can compile all of the notes and make sure the recipes really and truly work.
One of my high school buddies Courtney DeLozier, from Nashville, TN, tested these spicy cocktail nuts; her husband Jarod snapped pictures!
The recipe-testing process is really scientific – as the testers will tell you! – and Lauren sent everyone a detailed guide to follow, giving instructions on how to measure everything, what to look for at each step of the cooking process, plus lots of questions like 'How easy was this?' 'Would you make this again?' 'How many lemons did you need to get 1/4 cup of juice?' etc. Ultimately, we want to know: does this recipe work exactly as written? The testers prepare each dish, take copious notes, and photos, and send everything back to us. Lauren and I then discuss the notes, decide what needs to change in each recipe, and go from there. Sometimes, if there are too many issues with a recipe, I retest it myself and make adjustments. Here are a few pictures of some of the dishes that have been tested...
Shortbreads (for strawberry shortcakes!) tested by my good friend Christy Tenhaeff, in Rochester, NY.
Blog reader Erika Croonenberghs, from Denver, CO, made the lamb ragu and pappardelle.
Jaqueline Anderson, from Arlington VA, tested my spelt pizza with ricotta and spicy greens.
Crostini with goat cheese and fig-olive tapenade, made by tester Mary Beth Hunt.
Several testers have written blog posts about the experience (here and here) and lots have hosted dinner and brunch parties, like the ones below. It has been SO fun seeing everyone's creativity: look at these beautiful table settings (some people even created little menus!) and the pretty food styling! But most of all, I just love seeing people spending time with each other around the table. It's what this book is all about, and I couldn't be happier to have so many of you already embracing this. Thank you!!!
My cousin Alice (Baird) Walter tested recipes and hosted this beautiful brunch in Louisville, Kentucky.
Recipe-tester Mary Beth Hunt hosted a French Bistro dinner (with her tested recipes) in Blair, Nebraska.
Blog reader Erika Croonenberghs prepared a "Winter Comfort Food" menu (mid-summer!) for her family in Denver, CO.
My good friend Rachel Newhouse created a "Spring Dinner Party" menu in Chicago.
P.S. If you're a tester, I'd love to hear what your favorite thing about the testing process was (and/or the hardest)! Feel free to comment below.
P.S.S. My sincere apologies if you wanted to test and didn't get the chance - we got such an overwhelming response, we simply couldn't use everybody who wrote. But please stay in touch...there will definitely be future projects!
(Opening collage photo credits, clockwise from L-R: 1 and 7 by Robert Cornelius; 2 and 3 by Gail Hardie; 4 and 8 by Megan Hartford; 5 by Christy Tenhaeff; 6 by Rachel Newhouse.)