Five Takeaways from the Episode
1. Alcatra Means “Rump” in Portuguese: While beef rump (or round) is traditionally used in alcatra recipes, we found that long-cut, boneless shanks actually worked best because they allowed us to make a stew with larger chunks of beef, which made for a more tender, juicier stew.
2. The Reason You Cry When You Cut Onions: When you rupture the cells inside an onion, an enzyme called alliinase is released. The alliinase reacts with a compound to form propanethial-s-oxide, also known as PSO (this is what makes your eyes tear up when you slice onions). When you cook the onions for a long time, the PSO slowly converts to a meaty-tasting compound that is water soluble. This adds even more meaty depth to our stew.
3. The Many Problems with Store-Bought Pesto: Some brands leave too many key ingredients out of their pesto (What is pesto without garlic?!); some brands add too many unnecessary ingredients (including citric acid and lactic acid); and some brands replace key ingredients, like pine nuts, with non-traditional ingredients, like cashews. Despite this pesto minefield, we still found one that was head and shoulders above the rest.
4. Be Sure to Rinse Quinoa Before You Cook It: You’ll be able to find pre-washed quinoa at most grocery stores, but if you can’t, you’re going to want to rinse your quinoa under the tap. Quinoa is coated with a chemical compound called saponin—if you don’t rinse it away, you’ll have a bitter bite on your hands.
5. Quick Queso Fresco Substitution: Can’t find queso fresco at the grocery store? Not to worry—you can swap in some feta in its place.
Quote of the Week: “It’s hopelessly weak and puny.” —gadget expert Lisa McManus on the Norpro Salad Dressing Sauce Mixer
Can't wait for next week's episode? Get your fill with our past episode recaps and cast interviews:
What was your favorite part of this episode of America’s Test Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!