Here’s how you can make recipes from pros at the Culinary Institute of America
I had to try it for myself.
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As COVID-19 stretches on and I continue to eat every meal at home, I’ve grown a little bored of my typical rotation. However, constantly cooking a spectacular dish from a Masterclass course or an online recipe blog is just a different type of exhausting.
To try and strike a balance, I checked out DISH—the Culinary Institute of America’s cooking subscription. This membership program gives you access to recipes, cooking demonstration videos, archival cooking class footage, technique videos, a ‘recipe box,’ and more. You can pay for a yearly membership for $76.51 or a monthly subscription at $7.98 per month.
The Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) has been around since the 1940’s and is a well-known name in professional cooking. As it’s an educational institution, I figured it would offer great classes and a wide range of fail-proof recipes.
There’s a lot packed into this subscription. Some of the recipes I’m definitely going to make again. And while I can’t say I learned many new techniques, by the end of testing, my cooking confidence was higher and I was excited about how many new, easy recipes I’d discovered.
How we tested
There is so much to explore in this program, from recipes to classes to articles. So in order to test out the service, I dug around the site and looked through the various options. Did the recipes catch my eye? Did they seem fussy with a lot of uncommon ingredients? Were the videos engaging, or did I find myself switching to Netflix?
Ultimately, I picked a few recipes that had at least somewhat corresponding classes or articles. I watched the courses and read the posts, and then got to work testing the recipes. (Because there’s not always time to be so thorough, in a few cases I jumped right into testing the recipes to see if they would hold up without studying first.)
Many of the recipes themselves don’t go into much details on process or technique. However, I decided not to look up advice for cooking beyond the CIA site. This meant all of my success, or failure, was due to the DISH program itself.
Recipes we tested
After digging around to find a selection of recipes that included varying levels of difficulty and techniques, my final choices were as follows:
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (lunch)
- Potato Gnocchi with a Quick Fondue (dinner)
- Broccoli Rabe and Cannellini Beans (side dish)
- Churros (dessert)
- Panna cotta (bonus dessert)
This gave me a nice mix of meals that ran the gamut of meat, pasta, vegetables, and sweets.
Potato gnocchi with a quick fondue
This was a multi-part recipe, consisting of the gnocchi themselves and then the sauce. And while there was a ‘quick tips’ video I found about how to make gnocchi, it ultimately wasn’t that helpful. (Frankly, the longer videos of gnocchi demonstrations that were clearly archival footage from in-person classes weren’t the best either. I found them too slow and tedious to be useful for making a meal.)
I wanted more detailed instructions in the recipe itself. Notes about the steps and what the texture of the dough should be would have been helpful. Simply saying “add more flour until the dough is the right consistency” wasn’t ideal for someone who had never made gnocchi before. So while my little potato bites turned out tasty, they were also a bit strange looking and the leftovers tended to fall apart while boiling.
That said, the sauce recipe was easy to follow and worked well every time. Put together, the results were incredibly rich and decadent. A suburb, delicious dinner—though one that takes a fair bit of time given the gnocchi.
Broccoli rabe and cannellini beans
Given how rich the gnocchi with fondue sauce was, I was glad I opted to make a vegetable side dish. This one, a broccoli rabe with cannellini beans, was both easy and satisfying. I swapped out the bacon for red onions and followed the recipe without looking at any videos or classes.
While the broccoli rabe took much longer than anticipated to become tender (closer to 15 minutes than five or six), it was easy to check on and simply keep on the stove until done.
Grilled chicken caesar salad
Who doesn’t like a good caesar salad? I was excited to try a recipe that didn’t require egg yolks and heralded itself as an easy weekday meal. However, I found the final results were a bit too oily, and cooking the chicken as a single breast took longer than I wanted for a quick lunch.
That aside, making this a second time with a little less oil and the chicken pre-cut produced an easy, balanced, and delicious meal.
One way in which the DISH program really shines is in its breadth of recipes. I didn’t set out to make panna cotta, but I had some leftover milk and no way to use it before it went bad. So I poked around the website and found this recipe.
It was perfect. I admit I was skeptical of the amount of gelatin included, but I went for it anyway and was not disappointed. Not only did I use up my extra milk, but these delicious sweet treats had just enough wobble and made for a perfect summer snack.
The recipe was also incredibly simple, which made following it a breeze—particularly compared to some recipe blogs that feature someone’s life story before you can even get to the ingredients and cooking steps.
I love churros with a passion that I cannot articulate. Unfortunately, while this recipe technically worked, the results did not live up to even half my expectations on taste or consistency.
Making the dough was easy, even if I did want pictures and more detail about what consistency I was supposed to look for. But the final results were shockingly light and far too bubbly. There was no weight or chew to them at all. They also fell apart easily and mostly tasted of oil and air.
The recipe also lacked key details, such as what type of container to fry the churros in or how much oil to use. I found some answers in a different article on the site, and a lot of helpful information from a video about how to fry safely. But I did wish that the info was linked to or contained within the recipe itself.
Because of a thermometer mishap, I ended up using a pot that didn’t have a large enough base. This left me with small, misshapen logs. And if you’ve never tried frying anything before, how would you know?
Is a CIA subscription worth it?
My initial assessment of great classes and tired-and-true recipes wasn’t wrong. With the exception of the churros, everything I tested cooked up with relative ease and tasted good. That said, I ultimately found DISH overwhelming.
The archival cooking classes were long and sometimes slow, a hard sell when compared to quickly reading a recipe blog or watching a YouTube video at double speed. Their format was also not made for the Internet (the videos are simply in person courses that were filmed). And while the recipes tasted great, I almost always wanted more photos and explanation of the process than what was given, ideally without having to search for it separately.
So, is the DISH program worth it? I think that depends on how you’re using it. I loved having such simple recipes at my disposal and a place to save the ones I liked to come back to. However, I didn’t make as much use of the videos as I could have—and if you’re not diligent about setting aside time to do so, you might not either. They’re not spur of the moment, ready to cook dinner sorts of classes.
So if you’re tired of scouring recipe blogs and don’t mind clicking around to find the info you need, DISH might be a subscription for you. At around $75 a year or $8 a month, it’s certainly less than Masterclass (and about the same as a basic Netflix subscription).
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.