Sure, you can watch plenty of food throwdowns or smackdowns, or whatever cute WrestleMania term you want to use, on television. But if you want a real cooking challenge, you might tune into Slate, which is currently hosting a recipe "showdown" between none other than Cook's Illustrated and Food 52. Billed as a "fight between highly trained experts and passionate amateurs, between stern Yankee precision and Brooklyn bobo spontaneity," the contest pits Christopher Kimball's scrupulous America's Test Kitchen approach against the virtual test kitchen of Food 52, a cooking site run by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs that is currently in the process of generating a cookbook built from recipes tested by a community of on-line home cooks.
Readers are invited to test and judge the recipes themselves, comparing two recipes each from Cook's Illustrated and Food 52. Go to Slate to find the recipes, two for pork shoulder and two for sugar cookies. The idea is that all of us at home can cook and sample, and thus collectively judge which approach works better. Of course this is hardly a controlled test, which is perhaps part of the problem in the first place.
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You can vote on the recipes at Slate's website until May 17th. Said Kimball, "I am willing to put my money, and my reputation, where my big mouth is. I offer a challenge to any supporter of the WIKI or similar concept to jump in and go head to head with our test kitchen." Okay then. No word on whether Bobby Flay has signed up to participate in the showdown. It's difficult to imagine him at home baking and primly comparing two sugar cookie recipes, but then what do we know.