Today’s lunch packed for you by… Chris Kimball

Also known as the “Can I just eat with my hands?” edition. But more on that in a moment.

I’ve long admired Chris Kimball’s tenacity in the kitchen. Even if I’m unable to mimic it.

Chris is the man behind America’s Test Kitchen, which produces Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, as well as a variety of television shows spun off from them.

They have an impressive — some would say obsessive-compulsive — approach to recipe development. They test recipes 100 times or more to suss out the best and easiest way to get great results.

I wish I could be that exacting, but that doesn’t quite mesh with my morning lunch packing routine. Which is yet another reason I’m so happy Chris does that heavy lifting for me.

But Chris and Parker do have something in common. They both live in test kitchens. And that means there are always leftovers hanging around, waiting to be put to good use.

And that was the source of Chris’ offering for today’s lunch — leftover pho his test kitchen was developing.



It looks amazing to me. But I’m not sure all of it would fly with my little guy. Still, I knew there was something I could play with here. Noodles, beef, a splash of broth seemed like not just a fine lunch, but a fine way to use up leftovers.

So that’s where I started. Leftover pasta (in this case, udon noodles). Leftover steak, thinly sliced. A splash of beef broth. A splash of hot sauce — just enough to heighten the flavors, not enough to add any heat. A generous sprinkle of salt.

And this was the result… A lunch in less than 5 minutes.

Easy lunch box ideas: Leftover udon noodles tossed with leftover steak, a splash of beef broth, a touch of hot sauce and salt. Green grapes on the side. Http://

And though I didn’t need to pack it today — Parker doesn’t head back to school until Sept. 3 — this would pop into a thermos without trouble. And of course it would be easy enough to add veggies, assuming your kid was so inclined…

As soon as I set it down in front of him, Parker perked up, then said: “Well, how about if I just eat it with my hands?”

To be honest, I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. So there you go.



Oh, and for something a little different… My lunch. Despite writing this blog, I don’t tend to be all that creative when it comes to my own lunches. But today, the cherry tomatoes from the farm stand were just so sweet and delicious, I needed to do something special with them.

So I sliced them, tossed them on some foil with salt and a bit of oil, then grilled them. While they were still hot, I spooned some of the fig vinaigrette I mentioned yesterday over them, then added some of the steak that didn’t make it into Parker’s lunch. Delicious!


Meanwhile, I have once again managed to miscount, though this time I think I had originally miscounted the total number of books sent to me for the Buy Lunch, Get Dinner Free! giveaway.

The pile keeps going down, but there always seem to be more. Thirty more, to be precise. So head over to Amazon and preorder “Beating the Lunch Box Blues,” then forward your order confirmation to and I’ll send you a free copy of my last cookbook, “High Flavor, Low Labor.”

But all of the Rachael Ray cookbooks have been claimed, so thank you so much for all your support!

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9 Responses to “Today’s lunch packed for you by… Chris Kimball”

  1. Alice says:

    Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country are two of my favorite shows and magazines. I was so proud to have a recipe and essay about the dish appear in one of their cookbooks because they are so rigorous in their testing!


    • J.M Hirsch says:

      They really are an awesome bunch. My favorite line from Chris came about 12 years ago. I was vegan at the time and I challenged him and his test kitchen gang to perfect a vegan chocolate cake. I complained that too many were dry and crumbly. To which he responded: “That’s why god invented eggs!”

      • Sara says:

        Vegan foods have come a long, long way thanks to talented chefs (& home cooks) who test recipes all the time. You have to be careful with commercial vegan products though–just like with regular commercial products the ingredients can sneak up on you. I tried a vegan baked good once and they were amazing, better than regular the real version. Then I read the label & discovered they contained palm fruit oils–no wonder they were so good. Palm oils are the vegan equivalent of butter.

        Just as with sugar free products you have to read labels well. I read in an article that homemade is best & only purchase non-dairy, sugar, gluten products unless you have to.

        • Sara says:

          And just to give it to Chris eggs do play a large role in recipes especially baking. Though I’ve made eggless puddings and they turned out divine. It is truly amazing how dairy has a double effect–with it foods taste rich & moist. Without dairy foods taste more pure, less heavy. God does have a sense of humor in the food world!

  2. Both lunches look amazing. I need steak now.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Thanks! I hadn’t planned on having anything aside from a yogurt. But once I saw his steak and tasted the tomatoes, I couldn’t resist.

  3. Maiekke says:

    A little unsanitary to eat food with your hands!

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Ha! Well, I had him wash his hands well before lunch. Plus, he’s an 8-year-old boy. Dirt seems to cling to him regardless. If eating pasta and steak with his hands is the worst of his sins, I’ll be doing well.

      • Sara says:

        The noodles look like a lot fun! I agree there’s no easy way to eat them with standard utensils.