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Recipe Spotlight

Lan Lam’s Favorite Recipes: Gravy, Cake, and Challah

After 10 years developing recipes, this test kitchen veteran couldn’t choose just one.

Published Nov. 22, 2021.

My Favorite Recipe is a new column where we ask America's Test Kitchen cooks, cast members, and luminaries about the recipes they can't stop cooking.


As a new member of America’s Test Kitchen’s digital team, I was given the opportunity to ask some of my colleagues what their favorite recipes are. First up on my list: Lan Lam, senior editor of Cook’s Illustrated and cast member of America’s Test Kitchen.

Lan has been in the test kitchen for more than a decade and has developed some of our most popular recipes. So perhaps unsurprisingly, she couldn’t choose just one favorite. Here are her three favorites, all at the top of her list for different reasons.

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Hey Lan, what’s your favorite recipe?

Lan Lam:
Oh, wow. I find different recipes satisfying for different reasons. There are some that I'm super proud of because they're really smart. I feel weird bragging, but . . .

Please do! You’ve earned it. 

Well, there's something very satisfying about using the entirety of a piece of food. When I was cooking in restaurants, nose-to-tail cooking was a thing, and you didn't throw out any scraps if you could manage it. One of my favorite recipes where I got to really apply that was Our Favorite Turkey Gravy

In most meats, the flavor is carried by the fat. When making gravy without turkey stock or juices from the bird, I realized you can get a ton of turkey flavor from the fat and skin that you would normally throw away anyway. So don't throw it away! Save it and make this delicious-tasting gravy a couple days in advance, because you can pull all that junk off before the turkey's even fully thawed. It's going to taste perfect. It's one less thing to deal with Thanksgiving Day, and you're not wasting anything. It's a great feeling.

And just in time for the holidays! Does your inspiration come from ingredients?

Sometimes I just happened to really love eating whatever it was I made. 

I worked on a recipe for a Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake, and the components made it hard to do. Making caramel is tricky. A four-layer cake is tricky. I stress-ate so much of that cake during recipe development. At no point did I feel bad, and it could have continued. I would have been perfectly happy eating more chocolate cake like that every day for weeks. I don't think I could do that anymore. It's probably good that it was early on in my career.

The challenge is finding and streamlining something really hard. When I can achieve that, it’s great.

Do you recommend any other user-friendly recipes?

I also did a challah recipe. We were trying to create a dough that a beginner make and if they messed up, could unbraid and try again without ruining the dough. It was tricky but fun to do, and so satisfying to get something so gorgeous on your first try. And hearing from folks who were not bakers talk about how they could turn out a loaf that impressed their friends was even better.

Our Favorite Turkey Gravy

Use turkey scraps to prepare a flavorful gravy in advance.  
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Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake

Three layers of thick, not-too-sweet, spreadable caramel filling between layers of deep, dark, moist chocolate cake.   
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Braided Round Challah

Make beginner-friendly challah with a moist but malleable dough.  
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