Late this past November, Public Media Distribution, PBS’ media distribution organization, released to audiences the 10th season of its long-running hit cooking series Cook’s Country on DVD. The two-disc set easily found its own spot on this critic’s list of 2017’s top new family box sets. For those who might still be asking why it would go on a list of best new family box sets, it’s because it is a wonderful way to bring families together for television viewing and to get families in whole excited about cooking. The 13-episode collection is everything that families have come to expect from the series too, beginning with its selection of recipes. Those recipes will be discussed shortly. The mid-show product segments collectively play their own important part in the season’s presentation and will be discussed later. Last but hardly least of note in this season’s presentation is that co-hosts Julia Davison and Bridget Lancaster really step up in their first season without now former host Christopher Kimball. Each noted element is key in its own way to this season’s whole. All things considered, they make the tenth season of Cook’s Country yet more proof of why this show is one of television’s top cooking shows.
Over the course of its now 10 seasons on television, PBS’ hit cooking series Cook’s Country has proven time and again to be among television’s top cooking series. America’s Test Kitchen, its companion series (and which also airs on PBS) is television’s other top series. A discussion on that series will be saved for another time. The focus for now is on Cook’s Country and its latest season — Season 10. The tenth season of Cook’s Country is, as with its predecessors, more proof of why this series is one of television’s top cooking series. That statement is supported in part through the dishes featured in this season. The dishes featured this season are almost as widespread as in past seasons. From pork, poultry and pasta to beef and some of the sweetest and most savory desserts and side dishes, this season offers plenty to leave viewers’ mouths watering. There is even a vegetarian dish that could be an entrée or side dish in the form of grilled broccoli with lemon and parmesan. Among the most interesting beef entrees (at least to this critic) are the grilled bourbon steaks. Yes, the marinade actually involves the use of bourbon. The So-Cal citrus braised pork tacos are the most intriguing of the season’s pork entrees while the pasta with sausage ragu definitely takes top pasta honors.
Those wanting something a little sweet will love the homemade (and easy to make) chocolate chip skillet cookie, Mississippi Mud Pie and homemade churros. Of course the Apple Pandowdy is a good fit for much of the nation right now. From one dish to the next, audiences will find especially pleasing is that once again, they are easy enough for the everyday person to make, and can be made any night (or even day) of the week and in each season, speaking of the apple pandowdies. As if that isn’t enough, the historical and educational content that has always accompanied each entrée is present once again. One of the most interesting educational facts to learn is the difference between spare ribs, baby back ribs and St. Louis style cut. Viewers learn in the segment focused on slow cooker style wet ribs that baby back ribs in fact come from the pig’s back, and in turn have less meat and more bone than spare rib cuts and st. louis cuts. The result is varying cook times, too. In regards to the whoopie pies, audiences learn a fun little history about whoopie pies becoming one American town’s official pie and the fallout that happened as a result. It’s a factoid that will leave viewers laughing.
If the dishes and everything connected to them is not enough for audiences, the fact that each and every dish’s recipe can be printed out should impress in its own right. Having that availability once again is a bonus in itself. It means that fans can home cooks can make the featured dishes on their own time without having to reference the episodes. It also means being able to have the recipes without having to subscribe to any magazine or buying any oversized cook book, but instead adding to their own free cookbooks. Paying one price for the possibility of having 26 more recipes is not a bad deal when one really thinks about it. Keeping everything noted in mind, it becomes clear why the dishes featured in this season are so important to its presentation. Collectively speaking, they are only one of the season’s most important elements. The product segments — taste testing and tech talk — play their own collectively important part to the season’s presentation.
The mid-show segments included in each episode are nothing new for Cook’s Country. They have been included in every one of the series’ previous seasons, and are just as interesting this season as in the series’ past runs. This time out, co-hosts Julia Davison and Bridget Lancaster, who are themselves veterans of the series, (this will be discussed later) get to compare different brands of dill pickle spears, different brands of salsa and even pre-popped popcorn along with much more in the taste test segments. When testing the pickles, Mt. Olive, which is quite the well-known brand, apparently took second to the Boar’s Head brand while Vlasic came in last. Newman’s Own salsa, another relatively well-known product name, lost out to Chi-Chi’s and home-made salsa while Cape Cod and Smart Choice bagged popcorn lost to Smartfood Delight bagged popcorn. It shows that sometimes it’s worth a little extra money to get quality while other times (as with Chi-Chi’s) one doesn’t have to break the bank with a product to get something tasty.
The tech talk segments include discussions of everything from thermometers to cook timers to even cast iron skillets, food processors and piping bags (the bags used to put icing on cakes, etc.). Whether with the food or the kitchen tech, audiences will be happy to see that once again, each segment is balanced in its final finding. Sometimes the more expensive items get the vote while at other times, the simpler, less expensive ones win the day (E.g. the Oxo push button cook timer, which costs only $20 and the Wilton piping kit, which cost only $30 versus its more expensive counterparts). Taking in the discussions on how the decisions were made — basis of affordability, simplicity, durability, etc. — makes for even more appreciation and validation for the choices and shows again that there is no bias to one product or another. It’s simple, but it gives the show and its personalities that much more credence. Keeping in mind everything noted in this section, it becomes clear why the season’s mid-show segments are just as important to its presentation as its featured dishes. They are still not the last of the season’s most important elements. Co-hosts Julia Davison and Bridget Lancaster play their own pivotal part to the season’s presentation, too.
Those who are familiar with Cook’s Country will recall that Davison and Lancaster have been associated with the series (and its companion series America’s Test Kitchen for a long time. The thing is that in the series’ previous years, they had been relegated to “assistant” host positions while now former host Christopher Kimball led the show. Now that they have taken over hosting duties together, both women appear on camera together on almost every episode, cooking the dishes together the whole time, too. Every now and then, they had guest chefs come in to help, but for the most part, the women take full charge of the show, and make it just as interesting with their educational and historical knowledge of the dishes as it was when Kimball headed the program. It never really did seem fair that Davison and Lancaster were relegated to supporting roles while Kimball was the show’s head since they really did the work and he essentially stood there and just talked. That being the case, this first outing for the pair as the show’s co-hosts proves successful and shows even more the series’ promise as it heads into its 11th season. When this is considered along with the clearly deep importance of the season’s featured dishes and mid-show segments, the whole of those elements shows without a doubt why Cook’s Country remains, in its 10th season, one of television’s top cooking series.
The 10th season of PBS’ hit cooking show Cook’s Country is an enjoyable 13-episode run that will appeal just as much to the most seasoned chefs as it will to everyday cooks looking to spice up their own home menus. That is proven in part through recipes that are fitting from one end of the year to the other and that will reach an equally wide range of tastes. The mid-show segments are just as enjoyable as ever, too with their range of food and kitchen tech products. Co-hosts Julia Davison and Bridget Lancaster both show their chops as the show’s heads in their first season leading the program. They’ve had plenty of time honing their presentation, too and it shows in every episode. Each noted element is important in its own right to the whole of this season. All things considered, they make Cook’s Country: Season 10 — again — more proof of why this series remains today one of television’s top cooking shows. More information on Cook’s Country is available online now along with all of the show’s latest news and more at:
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