You can find lightened versions of feel-good favorites like mac and cheese, fried chicken, and fudgy brownies anywhere you can find recipes: books, magazines, and all over the Internet. But be honest: Have you ever made one of these so-called makeovers more than once? At America’s Test Kitchen, we test recipes over and over—long after the other guys have thrown in the towel. Simply put, good enough doesn’t cut it with us. In Comfort Food Makeovers, we redesigned the dishes you crave from the ground up, so you can enjoy them again and again. Popular restaurant dishes like loaded nachos and velvety cheesecake from the Factory (you know which one) have been reengineered, too. Fat has been cut in half—or more—and calories have been reduced by at least one-third in almost every recipe. But just because we trimmed the fat and calories doesn’t mean we sacrificed good taste or resorted to teeny portions. How did we do it? We started with the worst offender of high-fat cooking techniques: deep frying. To revamp mozzarella sticks, eggplant Parmesan, and fried shrimp, we nixed the fryer and turned to the oven instead. Dunking these foods in egg whites and coating them with panko and a thin sheen of vegetable oil spray before baking gave us the same golden, ultra-crisp exterior. Steaming egg rolls, then uncovering the pan so moisture could evaporate, made them light and crispy—not heavy and greasy like takeout.
We also ramped up the flavor of our lightened dishes by turning to some well-chosen powerhouse ingredients. Trading ground turkey for the ground beef in our Bolognese sauce was an easy way to cut fat, but to boost its savory richness, we added dried porcini mushrooms, an anchovy, and a bit of pancetta. Rather than loading up our shrimp scampi with lots of butter like so many restaurants do, we reached for light cream cheese, which imparted a rich, silky texture but with far fewer calories.
Most light desserts are worth skipping. Not ours. Just a spoonful of chocolate syrup made our brownies super-fudgy but added surprisingly few calories and no fat. Honey Nut Cheerios (who knew?!) stood in for a portion of the nuts in our lighter, yet ultra-nutty, pecan bars. And “special occasion” desserts like tiramisù are no longer off-limits. Feel free to dig into our luscious lightened version—we swapped out high-fat mascarpone for a lightly sweetened mix of light cottage cheese, yogurt, and cream cheese whipped together in a food processor.
With Comfort Food Makeovers, you’ll be able to enjoy the dishes you love more often. We guarantee it.