Hello, and welcome to the Bon App Recap, a column dedicated to analyzing every YouTube video that’s come out of the Bon Appétit test kitchen in the last seven days. We’ll talk about what’s good, and what’s, well, not so good.
We’re all in love with the BA test kitchen, and (almost) everyone who works in it, but let’s be honest, the kitchen over at the One World Trade Center churns out a hell of a lot of content. And while 87 percent of the videos will cure your hangover, or at least provide you company while you nurse it and try to recover on your couch, 13 percent really just seem to be there to fill whatever content schedule Adam Rapoport has them working under. (Yes, these numbers are scientific and also yes I made them up!)
Today we’ll be covering everything they’ve posted from January 24 until today, and if I’m being honest, this was a rough week in the test kitchen! We’ve got some fan favorites like Claire Saffitz and Brad Leone, but even a successful and pretty much stress-free Gourmet Makes (who even knew that was possible?) doesn’t make up for (another) 25 minute video of Amiel Stanek eating eggs. It just doesn’t!
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get into it. We’ll start from least to most recent, which unfortunately means the best will be gone soonest because the week opened with...
What is there to say about Claire Saffitz that hasn’t already been said? Her particular brand of self-depreciation coupled with her unparalleled talent have made her the very-sung hero of the BA test kitchen, and inspired possibly my favorite hashtag of all time #IWDFCFTBATK (I Would Die For Claire From The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen).
For those who share similar feelings, this episode is a real treat. It opens with her testing traditional Ben & Jerry’s flavors (she doesn’t like Half Baked, which I do think is bizarre), before eventually making fun of Adam Rapoport, which I do support, primarily because I don’t trust him and think he’s shady, which are unsubstantiated feelings I can’t explain. While doing some research Claire eventually discovers that Ben & Jerry’s core ice cream pints DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE A CORE! which should have been headline news, before deciding, valiant as she is, that her version will have a true core, despite B&J’s lies.
From there the episode goes off without a hitch, which is a real departure from the torture Claire typically suffers. She makes eight flavors instead of the four she set out to in the beginning. “It’s not a testament to my skill or knowledge” she says after such a successful mission. You’ve gotta give yourself a little credit Claire!
If I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve never been a big fan of this Reverse Engineering series, where Chris Morocco, whom I do love, has two days to perfectly recreate a dish that he can taste, touch, and smell, but never see. Sure, he’s the “super taster” and “super smeller” of the test kitchen, but was this really the best show we could give him? I guess so, because it’s what we’ve got.
This time, he has two days to recreate Roy Choi’s carne asada tacos, and I’m upset on Chris’s behalf from the beginning. Sure, the ingredients seem easy enough: skirt steak, corn tortillas, salsa verde, and onion and cilantro as garnish. But not only does Chris have to discern those ingredients blindfolded, he then has to recreate both the marinate and salsa verde from scratch! The salsa has eighteen ingredients alone (the marinade has sixteen).
At one point in the episode Chris says, “I’ve considered alcohol” to which I said, “honestly, same” back to him out loud. As it turns out he was talking about for the marinade and not as way to ease the pain of this challenge. In the end, Chris ends up with a final score of 89%, even though he missed over half the ingredients, to which I say, just don’t give him a literally impossible challenge if you’re going to curve his score in the end anyway? (He got an extra 5 points for throwing a tortilla in a pan.)
If I’m being honest this episode really deserves a 3/5, but in the spirit of the curve I’m giving it a 4 because of ample onscreen time for Alex Delany, whom I would marry tomorrow if asked.
I think the real strength of this episode, which is part of the series in which Andy Baraghani explores various cuisines and the restaurants around New York City that specialize in them, lies more in the guest than in the host. Rawia Bishara, cookbook author and owner of Palestinian restaurant Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, is a real treat to watch and learn from. She walks Andy though three classic Palestinian dishes: fattoush, makloubeh, and knafeh, while also explaining various techniques and seasonings (I had no idea that zaatar was both an herb and a spice blend and then often the spice blend doesn’t actually contain the herb?). He then returns to the test kitchen to try and recreate them on his own.
While there’s not a lot happening after Andy returns to the test kitchen, except him trying to adapt one of Bishara’s recipes and not getting it quite right, like at all, the episode did bless me with one of my favorite quotes from BA thus far. While Bishara is explaining why so many dishes are cooked in a pot or pan and then inverted to be served she says, “We always think a bottom is better than the top.” And, as a firm believer in bottom rights, I say, same!
It’s Alive, Brad Leone makes dry-aged steak: 3.5/5 Would Bon
“It’s Alive” started out as a relatively interesting series, wherein Brad Leone attempts to showcase various ways to prepare “alive” foods (think a lot of fermentation and pickling or dehydrating). As it’s gone one, some episodes have been a little more of a stretch than others, but Brad learning to make dry-aged steak feels like a fun return to form.
It’s got everything I think my dad would care to hear about, which is why I don’t know if it resonated with me as strongly as it might have, but there’s still some good stuff there. He goes to visit a dude who takes him into a meat locker and then he picks out a steak to sit in a different locker for a long time and age before cooking. Then two other dudes come to the test kitchen and they recreate the same process there but with a mini fridge.
They use a lot of big words in talking about meat that I don’t intend to look up, but I do want to congratulate myself not laughing once as they had a minute-long conversation about hung meat. I kind of lost focus there at the end, but to be fair I think most of “It’s Alive” is about Brad losing focus and then making jokes with the cameraman, so I don’t think I missed out on too much.
Amiel Stanek examines 12 types of eggs and how to cook them: 2/5 Would Bon
I admire Amiel Stanek’s stamina, I also admire his dedication to a monochromatic personal style that primarily revolves around the royal blue French workers wear. I do not admire this video, nor do I care to watch it ever again.
Amiel breaks down a lot of egg science, which is all fine and well, but he literally just did a video called “Every Way to Cook an Egg” like two weeks ago, and this really feels like over kill. We get a lot of closeup shots of his hands playing around in raw eggs, which is absolutely and entirely upsetting to watch. Then we have to listen to him narrate his experience of eating them, complete with mouth sounds, even though you know the eating and the narrating are taking place at separate times. 10/10 for sound design, but also, why?
He also messes around with fish roe, lobster row, and snail eggs, for reasons unbeknownst to me, or probably anybody else who isn’t him. I’m sure there’s a corner of the ASMR community that’s really into this content, but it’s a no from me dog.