Reviewing America’s Test Kitchen’s Cookbooks and a Recipe for Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew

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Call me old-fashioned, but I still enjoy a hardcover book in hand to read while sitting on the sofa or refer to while cooking in the kitchen. It’s always been a thrill for me to purchase a new cookbook or receive one in the mail. That hasn’t changed since I was a kid when you could find me in the kitchen cooking and preparing new dishes. Even if I don’t have the time to devote to going through and reading a book page by page at the moment when it arrives, I will sit down and at least flip through every page to have a look at what’s inside.

That is what I did with each of these cookbooks when they arrived over the last several months. As a longtime subscriber and follower of Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, I was excited to see the recipes and food photos covering a wide variety of cuisines and styles of cooking. These two cookbooks feature ways to use fewer pots and pans in the kitchen and provide a new arsenal of chicken recipes at the ready since that protein seems to be the default meal for many of us when dinnertime comes around. After all, what’s better than a perfectly roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and green vegetables at the end of a long and stressful day? It’s pure comfort food at its best. And we’ve all needed a whole lot of comfort over the last year with the pandemic.

I have read through The Complete One Pot and The Chicken Bible and have prepared several recipes from each. The detail and thought put into every recipe and the information and suggestions throughout are very helpful for beginners as well as professional home cooks. The science and techniques behind the “why” are also great to know when you may need to make a substitute or slightly change a recipe. However, I always suggest following the recipe as it is, especially the first time preparing the dish. As written, these recipes are spot on. In this review, I will highlight two of my favorite meals from each.

The Complete One Pot

Who doesn’t want one less pot or pan to clean these days, especially when we’ve all been cooking and cleaning for what seems like a lifetime while in Covid-19 lockdown? While I enjoy elaborate dinners and a lot of fuss, I’m so over it until we can all entertain again, so anything to simplify the nightly dinnertime routine is a plus for me.

The Complete One Pot includes 400 meals that offer varying degrees of complexity and time commitment (so you can decide how much time you’re willing to invest that night). All of the dishes are prepared on a sheet pan, in a skillet or Dutch oven, or an Instant Pot or slow cooker. Some recipes also have a “Cook it Three Ways” option. These recipes offer different preparation methods (so you choose the Dutch oven, Instant Pot, or slow cooker). There are also instructions for pairing a recipe back to feed two or increasing the ingredients to feed a crowd.

“Make it Your Way” suggestions mix it up a bit by using substitutions for what you have on hand, adding additional proteins or veggies, and kicking it up a notch with specialty ingredients or finishing touches. The book has main dish recipes with everything from soups and stews to meat and seafood entrees, but there are also recipes for pasta dishes and even desserts. I made several excellent recipes from the book, all using different methods, but I chose to include the following two.

Classic Baked Ziti

Classic Baked Ziti is prepared in a Dutch oven and yields 4 to 6 servings. There are instructions to reduce the ingredients to serve 2 people and cook it in a skillet or increase the servings to 10 or 12 and bake it in a roasting pan, but I opted for the original recipe. I used Calibiri mozzarella and ricotta, Dei Fratelli tomato sauce, and Hunt’s diced tomatoes. This method and these ingredients produced a nice saucy consistency that wasn’t dry, like some baked ziti recipes. The leftovers were excellent, even after freezing and then reheating.

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes

My second favorite dish was ATK’s version of Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, which serves 4 people. As I mentioned earlier, a perfect roast chicken is a go-to of mine and checks all the boxes when it comes to comfort food. With this easy preparation baked in a skillet in the oven, you also have one side dish included; delicious roasted potatoes made crispy in the chicken drippings, so all you need to add is a green vegetable or salad. I used a large cast-iron skillet to cook everything in since it was the ideal size for this dish. The mixture of oil, lemon zest, fresh thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper rubbed beneath the skin nicely seasoned the bird. The end result was an incredibly moist and flavorful chicken and delicious crispy potatoes that finished browning in the oven.

The Chicken Bible

Winner, winner chicken dinner. Like many cooks out there, chicken is always a fallback when we don’t know what to cook, so I am all about ATK’s The Chicken Bible. This book features countless ways to prepare chicken from whole roasted birds to ground chicken in chili, spicy wings, or what seems to be everybody’s new favorite – boneless or bone-in chicken thighs. These recipes take you to destinations around the world with many internationally inspired dishes since chicken lends itself to other flavors so well. It’s also lower in fat and calories, making it an attractive choice for calorie-conscious cooks. Best of all, it’s readily available and, most of the time, reasonably priced.

I’ve probably cooked more chicken dishes than anything else in my life, so I’m always looking for something new that makes me go, “Wow, that was good,” and everything I tried in this book was impressive. However, I am picking two recipes to share, Braised Chicken with Leeks and Saffron and Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew.

Braised Chicken with Leeks and Saffron

I love a good braised chicken dish that combines perfectly browned chicken pieces with a  sauce that pairs well with a simple side dish of steamed rice, mashed potatoes, or roasted new potatoes. This recipe was one of those dishes. The flavors were excellent with the leeks, garlic, saffron, white wine, fresh thyme, and bay leaves flavoring the sauce. The yummy brown bits from braising the chicken also get whisked into the sauce, and then the chicken pieces are nestled into the pan (such as a Le Creuset braiser), covered, and then finished on the stovetop.

This type of preparation is perfect for warm days when you don’t want to heat the kitchen with a hot oven but are still craving comfort food and a guest-worthy dish. Once the chicken is cooked to the proper temperature, you remove it from the pan and keep it warm. Then the sauce reduces in the pan and is finished with fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors. I transferred everything to a serving platter and topped it with the fresh chopped parsley. It was one of those moments when we said, “Wow.” The chicken was moist and perfectly prepared, and the sauce complex and luscious. We made sure not to miss a bite with the rice.

Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew

I decided to put those popular boneless, skinless chicken thighs to the test on the next recipe and made a Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew, and it also did not disappoint. It had been a while since I used our new slow cooker, so I thought this would be an excellent recipe to give it a workout on a cold and rainy day. There is some prep work involved (such as sautéing the chicken thighs and pre-cooking the veggies), but it’s really worth the time investment. I have this Hamilton Beach crockpot that can go directly on the stovetop, so I only had one pan to do the initial cooking and sautéing. If you don’t have a model with a stovetop safe insert, you’ll need to use a skillet to do the cooking before putting all of the ingredients into the crockpot.

After the initial prep, the stew cooks for four to five hours (my chicken was tender at four hours), so you can decide to make this at noon and still have dinner on the table that evening. This homey-style stew was a bowl of pure comfort and the flavors much like a chicken pot pie (without the crust) with the creamy, rich sauce and hearty vegetables. The chicken thighs stayed moist and tender when shredded and added back into the savory sauce. I can imagine that white meat would not have been as tender, so the thighs worked well in this recipe. In the end, you finish the dish by adding in the frozen peas, and then it’s topped with fresh chopped parsley. The recipe makes 6 to 8 servings, so after one day of leftovers, I froze the remaining stew to enjoy on an evening when I didn’t want to cook. We just used one of the containers from the freezer last night and it was every bit as delicious as when it was first prepared.

I am impressed with all of the recipes in these two America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks that I have tried and I’m looking forward to making many more. I can highly recommend adding The Complete One Pot and The Chicken Bible to your cookbook collection.

I also have a few more of America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbooks that I will be reviewing soon.

The recipe I decided to share is from The Chicken Bible – Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Slow-Cooker Homey Chicken Stew

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 4 hours 31 minutes

Why This Recipe Works

To make a chicken stew in which the simple, pure flavor of a rich broth married with tender chicken and vegetables would shine through, we had to start by browning boneless, skinless thighs, which both gave them extra flavor and rendered some of their fat and juice (which later made their way into the slow cooker). We also sautéed aromatics with a little tomato paste, which added richness without a noticeable tomatoey presence. In early tests we discovered that our chunky potatoes as well as the sliced carrots were just not tender by the time the chicken had finished cooking. So we gave them a head start by briefly simmering them in the skillet with the aromatics, which ensured that we could have tender vegetables in our finished stew.


  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, divided
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided, plus extra as needed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 12 ounces red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2‑inch pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4‑inch thick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12‑inch skillet over medium-­high heat until just smoking. Cook half of chicken until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining chicken; transfer to slow cooker.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 2 cups broth and wine, ­scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Stir in potatoes and carrots and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables just begin to soften, about 10 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

3. Stir remaining 2 cups broth and bay leaves into slow cooker, cover, and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 5 hours on low.

4. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool
slightly, then pull apart into large chunks using 2 forks. Discard bay leaves.

5. Stir chicken and peas into stew and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust consistency with extra hot broth as needed. Stir in parsley and season with salt and ­pepper to taste. Serve.


Reprinted with permission from The Chicken Bible published by America's Test Kitchen

Note – All images are courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

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Disclosure – I partnered with America’s Test Kitchen to receive copies of these books to review. I was not compensated to write this post and the opinions expressed regarding the books and recipes are my own.



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