ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bridget Lancaster grew up watching cooking shows on PBS.
Justin Wilson, Jeff Smith and Julia Child’s programs were beamed through her TV.
In turn, those chefs laid the foundation to Lancaster’s career.
Today, she is a host of “America’s Test Kitchen,” which airs on PBS. The series is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a TV special which airs at 10 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 28, on NMPBS.
Lancaster has also been involved with “America’s Test Kitchen” for the entire time.
“Memory and food are connected to the brain,” she says. “You can smell a food aroma and be transported back to your adolescence. We have 20 years under our belt now and have become a part of food history. We’re not just a contemporary food show. It’s more than that.”
“America’s Test Kitchen” is a 30-minute cooking program, which features test cooks filmed in real, working test kitchens.
Lancaster hosts alongside Julia Collin Davison, both who previously were among the rotation of test cooks.
According to the series description, the test cooks prepare recipes as they discuss what works, what doesn’t, and why, highlighting the rigorous recipe testing process at the core of the test kitchen’s mission.
Equipment expert Adam Ried, gadget critic Lisa McManus, and tasting expert Jack Bishop help viewers understand what to look for when buying gear and ingredients.
Lancaster says being able to continue the tradition of education and teaching people how to cook is the reason she continues to grow with the show.
She says over the years, the show’s food lineups have also changed.
“Season one, we did ‘American classics’ and they were the standards. Meatloaf, fried chicken and more,” she says. “We’re still covering those and it’s exciting to see how the lineup has evolved and how chefs are getting creative.”
Lancaster has been zipping across the country filming programming for the upcoming holidays.
With the weather getting cold, she’s been wanting to make the Ragu alla Bolognese, which is featured in the cookbook.
“There’s a need to hibernate when it gets cold,” she says. “Dishes like those are perfect. The star of the show has always been the food and the testing method. I’m hoping we get to feature the cast more as the show continues to grow. It’s great being part of something that influenced me while I was growing up.”
Ragu alla Bolognese
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 onion, chopped coarse
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
1 celery rib, chopped coarse
4 ounces pancetta, chopped fine
4 ounces mortadella, chopped
6 ounces chicken livers, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound 85% lean ground beef
¾ pound ground veal
¾ pound ground pork
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
1 pound pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta
Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: This recipe makes enough sauce to coat 2 pounds of pasta. Leftover sauce may be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to one month. Eight teaspoons of gelatin is equivalent to one (1-ounce) box of gelatin. If you can’t find ground veal, use an additional ¾ pound of ground beef.
1. Combine chicken broth and beef broth in bowl; sprinkle gelatin over top and set aside. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in food processor until finely chopped, about 10 pulses, scraping down bowl as needed; transfer to separate bowl. Pulse pancetta and mortadella in now-empty food processor until finely chopped, about 25 pulses, scraping down bowl as needed; transfer to second bowl. Process chicken livers in now-empty food processor until pureed, about 5 seconds; transfer to third bowl.
2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef, veal, and pork; cook, breaking up pieces with spoon, until all liquid has evaporated and meat begins to sizzle, 10 to 15 minutes. Add chopped pancetta mixture and sage; cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting heat to keep fond (browned, caramelized bits) from burning. Add chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until rust-colored and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3. Stir in wine, scraping pan with wooden spoon to loosen fond. Simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth mixture and return to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook at bare simmer until thickened (wooden spoon should leave trail when dragged through sauce), about 1½ hours.
4. Stir in pureed chicken livers, bring to boil, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.
5. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add half of sauce and cooking water to pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to serving bowl and serve, passing cheese separately.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen 20th Anniversary TV Show Cookbook