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Today we are traveling back in time with chef Sohla El-Waylly, host of “Ancient Recipes with Sohla.” We learn how to make Roman cheesecake, fish head aspic and Mary Todd Lincoln’s white almond cake. Plus, Maggie Hennessy breaks down the hottest trends in restaurant names, from animals to ampersands; Lynn Clark makes Korean spicy chilled noodles; and Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette dig into a slice of language pie.
Questions in this episode:
"Is it worth it to seek out an English cucumber or a Persian cucumber?"
"I love making savory strata but they end up grainy. How do I fix this?"
"I make risotto in my pressure cooker. It has been a no-fail recipe for me throughout several years, however using wine this last time, there was so much difficulty bringing it to low pressure. Do you think that it might be due to the introduction of alcohol?"
"Is there anything I can do to save an undercooked cake if I took it out of the oven a few hours or days ago?"
Photo Courtesy The History Channel
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. For chef and YouTube hosts Sohla El-Waylly, cooking ancient recipes has given her a whole new appreciation for the comforts of the modern kitchen.
Sohla El-Waylly: You know, I have a cast iron skillet and I can sear or something at the same time. It's like it's doing something and then bring it together. Personally, you know, I don't throw things into a pot and boil it all together because I don't have to.
CK: Coming up making dinner the old-fashioned way That’s Sohia El-Waylly but first, we're talking about a very current phenomenon between plus signs ampersands and wordy mouthfuls. You may have noticed a pattern in restaurant names over the last few years to guide us through the new the old and the just plain overdone and restaurant branding. I'm joined by Maggie Hennessy. She's the author of the Bon Appetit article, The Great Restaurant Name Vibe Shift. Maggie, welcome to Milk Street.
Maggie Hennessy: Thank you so much for having me.
CK: The subject is naming restaurants and how that's changed in the last few years. Let's go back to earlier times Gage & Tollner, Delmonico's, Tadich Grill, La Tulipe, you know, lots of personal names. Lots of simple concepts. But now we have a restaurant called Leave Rochelle Out of It. which I will now which is memorable. Right? Here's Looking at You, My name is Joe. Carthage Must Be Destroyed in Brooklyn. Okay, I guess that's a Roman restaurant. So, what's what's going on?
MH: Well, I think a few things are going on. Probably the most notable that I found through my reporting for this story was this idea that storytelling has become one of the biggest drivers of restaurant marketing. So, you know, a name of a restaurant, in some ways, holds the hopes and dreams of the owner. It's it's something personal, and it invites us in as the diner in a sense to claim part of that.
CK: It makes one wonder though, in the end, maybe the name really doesn't matter. You know, the name is for launching the restaurant, but over time, you know, a place like Le Bernardin, which I guess was named after a group of monks. No one knows what it means. It just It means really good seafood.
MH: Yes, yes. I you know, what I've been thinking a lot about lately is the French Laundry, which I think is another great example, right? Now, when you hear French Laundry, I think Thomas Keller, I think fine dining, French prefix, gorgeous stone building, you know, it's taken on a life of its own. It's transcended the name, which I think is the ultimate goal for a restaurant.
CK: But there's also this other. There's part of this that people are taking themselves a little bit too seriously. There's this amazing quote about the restaurant, Crane and Turtle. Here's what they wrote about it. In the case of Crane and Turtle, the value of that ampersand is that it sends I just love this, a signal to investors and potential diners. Here is a restaurant that will be chef driven, that will look cool and contemporary. That will speak in the culinary language of now. There's a word for that, which I won't say on the air, but I mean, it's like, really? I mean, the ampersand does all that heavy lifting does it really?
MH: Well. I guess it's funny because for me the plus sign did you know for 2010 just out of culinary school, just had her Alice Waters epiphany wanting to be taken seriously. Insufferably corresponding all of her email in lowercase. You know that in a way it was sort of like this is the type of hipster that I am. I guess like the ampersand it's funny because the the period of time you know, for me that this whole story started with with flour and water in San Francisco is it spoke to this kind of elemental self-effacing minimalism of the plate you know, that it's down to its barest elements flour and water and every detail speaks to that, you know, the naked wood tables, this very simple Italian but hyperlocal Bay Area food and wrapped into that is this like whole vibe, this, you know, like, it's, it's cool, we're going to play the music like a little too loud. We're going to have the lights a little too low. And, and for some reason, even the name itself for me, almost seemed to say everything that I wanted to project about myself at the time.
CK: But you bring up a good point though, which is really interesting, which is a great brand is consistent throughout every aspect of the brand. So, with flour and water, all lowercase is very basic. And if the tables are basic, and everything about the restaurant is of a piece, then maybe that naming convention works. (Yeah) But if you go to Leave Rochelle Out of It, I'm not quite sure what the tables are supposed to look like, you know. So, another convention you mentioned is the use of possessive first names, and especially women's names. Yeah. So, what do you think about that trend?
MH: Yeah, that that was an interesting one. The homage is to women. I think there are several things going on this idea of the the warmth and nostalgia of granny cooking, but it's also in a sense almost an explicit reaction against this idea of men as autours of restaurant genius, right? Like granny cooking didn't get the due it should. And the other piece of this nostalgia, the the Granny's Cooking. The first name possessive is it's a bit of a warm hug. In response to the past few years, we've had that have just, you know, been tough on many levels you pick, pick your disaster pick, you know,
CK: and then of course, they're the animal names The Spotted Pig, The Reluctant Frog, the Fox and Hound. English pubs have done that for hundreds of years, I guess right?
MH: Animals are always kind of around you know, like Compère Lapin Nina Compton's, New Orleans restaurant, the name Brother Rabbit, references this mischievous rabbit that was featured in the folktales. She grew up reading in St. Lucia. And so, when she was researching Louisiana history for the restaurant, she learned that that same folk tale was originally written in Creole French, so it connected you know, the native and adoptive homes. And she does that on the menu, too.
CK: Some restaurants want to connect you to the past and tradition. Other restaurants want to tell the story about the future, I guess.
MH: Yeah. And I was thinking about Milk Street and whether it was a torture for you to name Milk Street. And what if you had been on like Leatherman or Pearl Street? Because you are on Milk Street?
CK: Well, it gives you and this goes, I think to what you're talking about. It tells a story about a real, it's a real place. Yes. It really is I milk straight? Yeah. You know, and, and so it gives you a sense of being located somewhere in the world. It's not just all made up. And I think I think that's one thing we haven't talked about. I love the names that have, you know, it's like Old Mill Road, right? I mean, it describes something that's real is located somewhere in space and time. And some of these names, they actually relate to something real about the place in the restaurant, which I think is great, right?
MH: I do, too. You know, for example, there's this restaurant in Tampa, On Swan that's on Swan Street. And it actually means something.
CK: I love that that's a great name, isn't it on swan
MH: Come on, you know, it just feels elegant to say it, which I think that's part of the draw, too.
CK: So is there one restaurant you've come across that was, you know, really memorable, or really speaks to this trend of curious naming.
MH: One of the things I've kind of enjoyed us since I wrote this, now people will text me, you know, and say like, here's this one with the plus sign or this one ends in a period. I do remember several years ago at the height of this, you know, the ampersands and all that there was actually a wine bar in Chicago that opened called Ampersand It was sort of like, reaching satirical levels. You know,
CK: Maggie, it's been really fun.
MH: Yeah, what a joy. Yeah, thank you.
CK: I now have 50 ways not to name a restaurant thank you. That was food and drink journalist Maggie Hennessy, author of the Bon Appetit article, the great restaurant named Vibe Shift. Now, my co-host, Sara Moulton and I are ready to take on your calls. Sarah is of course the author of Home Cooking One on One. She also stars and Sara's Weeknight Meals on television.
Sara Moulton: Chris, before we get started here, I want to read you an email from a listener. A new fan named Maggie Cooper is just so sweet. So here goes. Ever since COVID began, I've been wanting to reach out to both of you. I keep trying to come up with cooking or baking questions. And this is always in the front of my head instead, I would not be able to call in because even writing this now I get very emotional. So, here's what I want to say to you both into your wonderful program. My daughter taught me about Milk Street right after COVID started. She had been an avid listener and I began listening then too I just want you to know that you guys saved me. I could not listen to any news could not handle more stress. And you're wonderful Milk Street podcasts seriously got me through and continues to get me through this very strange time. (That's nice). That's so you know what that reminds me. After September 11. I was doing a live call-in show on the Food Network and Food Network stopped all programming and people started reaching out and saying we want it. We need it, we need it please please put it back on. So, we did we came back on and then we got letters like this thank you so much people need food is such a unifier, you know, and through hard times, it really does get you through. Anyway. Thank you, Maggie. What a nice email.
CK: Maybe I should listen to this podcast. Get me through the hard times. That'll be good.
That's a very nice letter.
SM: Yeah, yeah okay, let's take a call.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Mary from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,
CK: Mary, how can we help you?
Caller: I've been seen a lot of recipes lately calling for English cucumbers and even Persian cucumbers. But I'm in a place that has a lot of good old fashioned American cucumbers. And the English cucumbers I've seen in the store are kind of unimpressive. And I've never even seen a Persian cucumber. So, my question is, is it worth it? To seek out a good English cucumber or even a Persian cucumber or can I just substitute the good old-fashioned cucumbers I already have on hand?
CK: Yeah, you can use those. I mean, the English cucumbers, not as thick. It tends to be longer; the skin is not as thick or bitter as a typical American cucumber. I do think that an English cucumber tends to have less water content. They're a little firmer, which I like. But no, you can certainly substitute it. You know, some people say you don't have to seed an English cucumber. I disagree. I think you should. But the seeds are smaller, you can get away with it with not seeing them. But now if you see an American cucumber, it's fine. Not a problem.
SM: Let me just define a few things. So, the English cucumber, also known as the quote, unquote seedless although it does have seeds is the long thin one that's been wrapped in plastic. That's how you find it. Because the skin is so thin that it tends to go bad faster. The Persian cucumbers are small, they're about six inches and pretty thin and also very thin skin and tender seeds. You can eat both the skin and the seeds you don't have to peel them. And they have the three of them are the most perishable. So, the real reason to go with an English or Persian and I put those two in the same categories is that they don't ever have that bitter taste that an American cucumber can have. In the American category. The one that I liked the most when you can find it, which is the one they use for dill pickles is the Kirby it looks like a dill pickle, you know, it's more bumpy. It's not got a smooth skin. You do have to peel them. They do have tougher seeds, but they're really yummy. But they're not around all that often. If you ever find yourself with a bitter cucumber, definitely salt it and let it sit.
Caller: Sounds like I need to find Persian cucumbers.
SM: They're fine, but they are very perishable. I mean, you have to go through them in like a week or less. So just understand that right.
Caller: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you so much.
SM: Okay. Thanks, Mary. Take care. All right, bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a hand in the kitchen, give us a call. 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Ann Blevins from Albany, New York.
SM: Hi, Ann. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I have these aspirational strata moves custardy which flavorful with all kinds of wonderful meat and vegetable textures and tastes and some anxious spice to bring it all together. But what I get is watery, grainy and bland. So, I just turned to you folks, for some counsel on how to finesse a really great strata.
SM: Well, tell us what you're doing to begin with. I mean, what are the ingredients besides eggs, vegetables and meat and bread?
Caller: Right, the bread. That's pretty much all of them. The bread is usually very, very dry. It's the plain like French or Italian bread cut up into pieces. Sometimes they'll post it the vegetables if it's spinach, then I know to squeeze all the water out it could be blistered asparagus, generally ham. And for spices something like romance, herbs, or dill sometimes or some nutmeg, in a glass pan, that butter really well. And then I pour the half in half and eggs and let that sit overnight. And then I've experimented a couple of times with different ways to bake and in a bad movie. Or like 250 for a while, or 350 and it still comes out with that big pool of water in the middle. And then like 24 hours later it's still edible, but it's just not very good.
SM: Is there any cheese in there?
Caller: Oh, yeah. Oh, sorry. I forgot cheese. Yes, it's fontina ___ something of a more dry or cheese. It's good for helping,
SM: Well, fontina and Jarlsberg should be fine. They are good melting cheeses. I wonder if you're overcooking it a bit. Are you following an actual ratio of ingredients from a cookbook? Or are you just sort of making it up? Making it up? Oh, well, I don't know the I in my head, I don't know the exact proportion of how much dairy product you know, milk or half and half to how many eggs to get the right texture. But that ratio is very important. So, I would look at a recipe to get a point of reference from a reliable source to eggs per cup. Does that sound like the ratio you're using are not so much, or you don't remember, you just sort of eyeball it.
Caller: I definitely eyeball maybe six eggs, and maybe a couple of half and half. But I feel almost like it's time to bump up the cream.
SM: Oh, absolutely. You know, either trust Chris. I don't know if I would or go research recipe and see if two eggs to one cup of half and half or heavy cream would be a good idea. Everything else sounds good. I mean, I think 350 would be fine. I think a lower temperature be fine as long as you don't overcook it, but I think you have the wrong ratio.
CK: Do you have an instant read thermometer?
Caller: I do.
CK: I would guess that if you took the temperature in the middle, you know, halfway down the middle of the middle of the middle. It should be about 155 I would think would be the right temperature sort of like cheesecake. If you overcook an egg mixture, you're going to push water out of liquid. Yeah. And so it sounds like as Sara said you're overcooking it. So, I would use an instant read thermometer. The center should not be fully set. It should be a little jiggly. If it's fully set, it's overcooked. So, it should be undercooked and there's a lot of additional cooking out of the oven because it don't forget you have a glass casserole quite a lot of ingredients cheese milk eggs, there's a lot of retained heat and a will continue cooking so just think about it is mostly cooking in the oven and finish cooking it on the counter
SM: and definitely up the dairy and down the eggs
CK: Definitely up the dairy.
SM: Yeah, and if you want to just really be creamy go for the cream
CK: Give that a shot but I think it's just as Sara said lack of dairy and overcooking.
SM: Okay, thanks so much.
CK: Take care
Caller: Thank you so much. Bye bye
SM: Bye bye.
CK: I loved that when you asked her if she was using a recipe No What are you kidding me, just making this up? Well good for her. Yeah
SM: We like that kind of independence.
CK: She's also she perseveres
SM: She does
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, eating through the ages with Sohla El Waylly, host of the History Channel's YouTube series, Ancient Recipes with Sohla that's coming up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball, Chef and internet personality Sohla El Waylly is unearthing meals from history on our YouTube show Ancient Recipes with Sohla the most ancient of all on nettle and barley pudding stuffed inside of a cow intestine.
Sohla El Waylly: We are going back further than we ever have before beyond ancient Rome, beyond Stonehenge, even beyond Ancient Egypt. Yes, we are going back 8000 years all the way to the stone age to recreate the oldest recipe ever. Well, maybe we think so. It's like really, really old. So, we're going to go with it.
CK: Sohla welcome to Milk Street.
SW: Hello. Thanks for having me.
CK: You know, you stole my idea. I for years, I wanted to do exactly what you're doing (really?) Well. I did a Fannie Farmer thing like 12 years ago where I cooked a whole bunch of recipes out of her book on a coal stove and it just got me really interested in how people used to cook because, you know, I'm so sick and tired. You're reading histories about kings and queens and armies. It's so much more interesting. And I think you'd agree to find out how people really lived, right?
SW: Yeah, it's also very interesting how so much is the same. I mean, technology in cooking has changed, for sure. But even if a recipe sounds really crazy on paper, when I make it and taste it, I'm like, oh, this tastes really familiar. This tastes like spanakopita. Or this tastes like a stew I've had, like, we all still like the same kind of delicious food.
CK: Well, I was going to ask to having done a little bit of this, you know, even in the 19th century, you're looking at ingredients. And one of your shows you, you mentioned that sugar used to come in cones, for example, or cream was different, or meat was different. So, the first issue for me is, how do you figure out really what they intended? Because you might not quite understand what they meant by an ingredient, or the ingredients change over time? How do you get close to what you think they meant by a recipe and in what the food was like?
SW: Well, it's actually a very long process to go from like, hey, we want to do this ancient recipe for druid soul cakes till when we actually make it. There's a lot of people involved. A lot of people do research. And the thing that's difficult with history is that the story is different depending on who it's coming from. Right? So, we really try and look at different authors to try and make sure that we get the translations as accurate as we can with the information that we have right now.
CK: Well, can you give me an example or two of situations where you weren't absolutely sure which way to go on a recipe?
SW: Well, we recently did the first biryani and that one, there were different stories depending on whether it was written about in the Middle East or written about in Persia, or we were looking at texts from India, South India, and North India. And everyone has a different story about where this dish came from. So, the goal is to try within the episode, try and weave in all of those narratives, which ultimately makes everybody angry. (Of course) but the fact is, there's no right or wrong with these kinds of things because it is so much about what perspective you're looking at this history from,
CK: Do you find that there is no easy answer a lot of the time, you just have to do your best that people have different opinions. But history is is less clear about things than people would hope.
SW: It definitely is. I think everybody wants there to be like one clear cut story. This is where biryani came from. But there's very few dishes out there. I would say there's no dishes out there, where it just comes from one place, and one person and one time, all food has moved across cultures, people move, and then they take their recipes with them. But the ingredients might be different. So, things are constantly evolving and changing. But that's why I think it's so fun because you can never stop researching one thing. But people hate it like the audience gets so mad. And I don't care because we do our best to do as much research as possible. And like, it's just it's a difficult thing. And I think that it's really fun that we try and present as many perspectives as possible.
CK: Are there some cooking techniques, you found in your research that people don't use as much today? For example, boiling, right? I mean, people stuffed things in stomachs and boiled them to make pudding is boiling something that you think is particularly useful and wonderful that people don't do much today? Are there any other techniques like that?
SW: Well, I think that a lot of food was cooked that way because you usually have one heat source right? Now we're lucky we got four burners and they can range anywhere from low to high and everywhere in between. So, I think that it was just more practical to put everything in a pot and cook it all together. But nowadays you know I have a cast iron skillet and I can sear or something at the same time. It's like doing something and then bring it together. Personally, you know, I don't throw things into a pot and boil it all together because I don't have to.
CK: Well, let me give you an example. A turn spit or a clock jack in front of fire, roasting meats with the drippings going down into potatoes or whatever you want to make below it. Some of those things. Actually, roasting me in front of a fire is a superior method of roasting meat instead of in an oven. Right? I mean, that would be one of my examples of things got worse, not better.
SW: Well, no i i absolutely love cooking in front of fire. Nothing compares. We actually made this ancient Roman cheesecake. So, we did Like a cheesecake showdown, there is an ancient Greek cheesecake versus an ancient Roman cheesecake. And one of these cheesecakes. It seems so simple. It was just a fresh cheese. Put inside of a testam which is a portable terracotta oven. So it's just it's almost like a an ancient Dutch oven and then you set it on top of coal's and they put coal's on top. The bottom was lined with bay leaves. And then you put this like just cheese flour mixture right on top. And you know going in, I was like this is going to be dry and bland and gross. But because of the flavor from the coals, those bay leaves kind of charred and infuse the whole thing with this smoky Bay flavor. And you got this nice variance of texture because it was hotter on the bottom. So it almost developed a crust. When you slice it. It was mind blowing. It looked just like a classic New York style cheesecake. But it was all because of the way it was cooked because of that ancient Roman oven, which they actually let me bring home and I use all the time now
CK: So were there one or two other recipes that you just found stellar. But were would be hard to replicate in a modern kitchen.
SW: Okay, so one of my favorite recipes that we've done is actually been Mary Todd Lincoln's white almond cake.
CK: Yeah, I saw you I watched you make that, and I love sponge cakes that look fabulous.
SW: It was so much work like grinding the nuts, whipping everything by hand. It was so delicious. Like kind of blew everyone's mind. We made two of those because, you know, there was a swap. And both were completely destroyed before we started shooting the next episode. So that's always a good sign. But I came home and made it with almond flour. And it is nowhere near as good.
CK: Well can I ask a question I found that a Fanny Farmer book, beat eight or 10 egg whites, and it said for like half an hour. And I think in the day, they just had these whisks made of, you know, sticks essentially bound together. How long did it take you to whip all those egg whites in that recipe?
SW: So, we had to turn off the cameras and we passed it around the crew so
CK: Okay so for a long time
SW: Every single grip, producer, director, everyone put in a few minutes with the whisk. I think it took us about like half an hour or so worth it and I feel like whipping it by hand slowly iinstead of on a machine you get this really dense, even texture on the meringue that you just can't get when you do it quickly on a stand mixer.
CK: So, so let's talk about you. You went to the CIA, the Culinary Institute. You've worked with Joe Bastianich at Del Posto. But you started out at the Outback Steakhouse, right?
SW: Well, okay, so I worked at almost every single chain restaurant, you can think of all of them Cheesecake Factory BJs. It's a deep dish, pizza and brewery in California, California Pizza Kitchen. They're all exactly the same. It's all a lot of like, pre-prepared stuff, and you're kind of assembling. But I was a hostess at the Cheesecake Factory and it it is probably one of the hardest jobs I've ever had to date.
CK: Why, why is that particularly hard?
SW: Well, the dining room is huge first of all, when I worked there, it was before we had like POS systems. So, all of the seating was done on this huge sheet of like laminated paper. And on top of that, there's families just like yelling at you all the time. I was just like deer in the headlights staring at this like seating chart and then trying really hard to make these people happy. It's an incredibly hard job.
CK: Yeah, I, I do have tremendous respect for people to do that, especially in the last couple of years. Anyway, apple pie, one of my favorite dishes of all time, the great test of a cook’s skill. You did a medieval version, and then you did sort of an applesauce Thomas Jefferson version. So, the one thing you said was that the applesauce version actually sliced okay, so could you just describe how that's made is so interesting.
SW: Oh, yeah. So that one, the apples were cut into pieces, and stewed together with the skins and the seeds. And then it got really, really soft and tender and pushed through fine mesh sleeve. And then that just got mixed with a little bit of sugar. It didn't have eggs, and yet it totally set up and I think it's because cooking it with the skins probably give it some more pectin. It was very aromatic and floral, which was really interesting. But actually, my favorite thing about that recipe was the crust, which was made similar to a flaky pie crust that you do today. You know, you take the butter rubber through, but instead of water bringing it all together, it was egg white, which I had never done before.
CK: Yeah, you mentioned that. I've never done that either. And so did it make it flakier. What did it do?
SW: It's incredible. It made it really crisp, really crunchy, and the cross was almost like waterproof. You know, sometimes you blind bake across and brush it with egg. It like instantly does that on its own. It was so crispy, so flaky. And I do like to add egg white into my pie crust now, you actually need kind of a lot of egg whites. But if I've got some around, I always put it in my pie crust now because I really do believe it. It makes a big difference really helps with the browning, which makes sense because egg whites are alkaline. And isn't that supposed to help with browning?
CK: Yes, that's why baking soda is often added to baked goods to make them brown better. Yeah. So, what was the hardest recipe to recreate for you? Either because the history was dubious or sketchy. Or the actual technique was hard.
SW: You know, it was hard. The aspic, we found a recipe that is one of the oldest
CK: Was this calves’ feet to make the gelatin.
SW: No, it was fish heads.
CK: Okay, that surprised me. How did that work out?
SW: According to the recipe, it was like 1000 fish heads used to make this aspic. And then all of the fish tongues and lips are suspended within it. The hardest part was that they made it with carp. And buying carp heads is especially difficult. So, we had to buy a whole case of carp and remove the heads ourself and then it was really hard to tell when it was done. And it was really hard to get those tongues and lips off while they stayed intact. Tongue, fish tongue and lips are really small like I've never really thought about a fish lip
CK: But what was the net result did it as well set up properly?
SW: So, in the video, you see 10 minutes you just like fish at aspect boom. But there was like so much that happened that you didn't see on camera. It was very stressful getting there. But we did it. We got there. And we all took a fish home.
CK: So, after doing so many episodes of this, has your cooking changed at all? I mean, do you now crave more lamb, you know, then because so many cultures serve lamb. You mix sweet and savory more than you used to, has any of this changed you in your your kitchen?
SW: You know, my cooking is always been really all over the place. Very diverse. So that hasn't changed. I think the one thing that's changed though, is that just the way I look at anything that anyone says is a fact. I just kind of i i like to dig deeper because everyone has a different story. And I think it's cool to find out all of them and like bring the story together.
CK: Sohla it's been a real pleasure. We both share a love of history and food. You do just a great job. And thanks so much for being with us here at Milk Street.
SW: Yeah, thanks for having me. This was fun.
CK: That was Sohla El Waylly. She's a chef and the host of the History Channel's YouTube series, ancient recipes with Sohla. Have you ever noticed that history chronicles the lives of the rich and powerful? Well, they were the only ones who had enough money to get a scribe to write down their stories, as well as their recipes. According to Epicurus, ancient Romans were dining on tuna, ostrich ragu, roast wild boar and Flamingo tongues. But most Romans eight much simpler fare. Roman soldiers carry their own wooden bowls to make a form of porridge. And Caesar ate the simple fare along with his troops. So someday I want to write a history of the common man, which will be a lot more interesting, I think, than the history of the rich and famous. At least Caesar had the good sense to eat mush, until he decided to become emperor and then of course, dine on Flamingo tongues. You know, something's never change. You're listening to Milk Street radio. Here's Lynn Clark with this week's recipe Korean spicy chilled noodles. Lynn how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well, Chris.
CK: You know, pasta salads are at the bottom of my food pyramid. Like below the bottom, but they're many cultures that have you know, cold noodles. So, let's take the Korean version the Korean spicy chilled noodles. How is it made? And why should it be part of my repertoire?
LC: Well, first of all, the problem with pasta salad, at least American pasta salad is it uses pasta, which is great for hot sauces because it really absorbs those sauces. Really bad when you're serving something cold that's going to sit out for a while because it continues to absorb the vinaigrette or the creamy dressing and makes the pasta itself really mushy. So, the difference here is that we're using an Asian noodle. So, these are soba noodles in Japan, there's so mian noodles in Korean. They're made with Asian flour, which has less protein and starch than an all-purpose flour would have, which means it doesn't absorb as well, which in this case is a good thing. So, because of that we want our dressing to have a ton of flavor. So, we're combining gochujang, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and kimchi juice. All of those are really kind of bold, powerful flavors, and they're going to add a lot of flavor to this otherwise just simple cold noodle salad. It's acidic, it's sweet, its spicy, savory, a really, really boldly flavored sauce.
CK: These noodles, you know, like a soba udon noodle cook and just like 2-3 minutes, fast
LC: So, two minutes really is all you need. They have a really nice kind of toothsome chew to them already. Then you drain them, cover them with some ice cubes, and then rinse it with cold water. You really want to make sure if there is any excess starch, you're rinsing that off otherwise the noodles will get gummy. Then we mix the noodles with the dressing top it with some sliced cucumber matchstick sized cucumbers, some scallions, sesame seeds, and those add a lot of crunch but they also add a little bit of cooling because this is pretty spicy.
CK: So, is this our first five-minute recipe?
LC: I think he might be right because we're really just whisking together some ingredients cooking noodles for two minutes, quickly chilling it you don't even have to necessarily put it in the refrigerator. And it's going to be so different than what you know as pasta salad.
CK: Sounds good. I'm doing this one tonight.
LC: You should. Perfect on a hot summer day for sure.
CK: Korean spicy chilled noodles. A 10-minute recipe big flavor and great on a summer evening. Thank you, Lynn
LC: You're welcome. You can get the recipe for Korean spicy chilled noodles at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up we're discussing the language of pie with our friends Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette from A Way with Words we'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball you're listening to Milk Street Radio. It's time to take a few more calls with Sara Moulton.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Laurie.
SM: Hi, Laure. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Swampscott MA.
SM: Okay, and how can we help you today?
Caller I have made risotto successfully throughout the 25 years I've owned my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. And the last time I made it, I decided to substitute one cup of the three and a half cups of vegetable stock with white wine. So, I did the same method, which is I cook shallots and olive oil first and I add my dried herbs and the arborio rice to coconut oil. I then add the stock and cook that until it begins to boil then I add cubed butternut squash over high heat I bring it to low pressure the first red ring on my pressure cooker and then I lower the heat just enough to maintain low pressure for seven minutes. Then I do the quick release method to release the steam. And then I unlock the cover. But this last time when I made it, it didn't go up to low pressure like it routinely does. So eventually what I had to do was increase the burner heat considerably. And then it advanced to the second red ring which I didn't want and that's some 15 psi. So, I didn't dare wait for the seven minutes, so I decided to immediately release the steam, so it came out sort of mushy, I wasn't sure what to expect from the wine. So, my question is, should I not cook with wine in the pressure cooker?
SM: Something struck me, which is when you add wine to risotto on top of the stove, you know, you brown the onions, you add the rice, you coat the rice, you add the wine and you simmer it till it's completely evaporated, the idea being the raw taste of the alcohol out of there, and then you start slowly adding the broth, right. So, you know, my main problem with your recipe would be that the wine wasn't cooked down. But I don't really know what chemistry happened that it didn't get to pressure. Chris, do you have any thoughts?
CK: Yes, I do three things. In Italy they cook risotto over fairly high heat, and they stir like crazy, but they do in like 10 or 15 minutes. It's done very quickly. Two. I agree about the wine, I would reduce the wine in a separate saucepan like a cup of wine, reduce it down to three or four tablespoons. And that's added as a flavoring. And you could put that into the pot at the beginning or at the end when you take the top off. Thirdly, I don't get the science of this. I'm with Sara because wines 12 to 15% alcohol, the percentage of alcohol among three and a half cups is tiny. It's like 3%. so alcohol and water will evaporate at different temperatures turn to steam that is I can’t understand one thing you said it was interesting that you said you finally turned up the heat and went up to the second ring, which was too high. So, it obviously went by the first ring, right? You were able to get it up to temperature,
Caller: Right. But it was just strange that when I went without the wine, I do it to the first red ring and I know how to control it so it doesn't go higher. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for it to go up in one ring. And it wouldn't. So that's when I increase the heat thinking something's wrong with this.
CK: Years ago, someone called the show. And they were cooking a goose or a duck or something. And they put a lot of wine in it with a covered container in the oven. And they opened the door and it exploded. And that's because the alcohol in the wine had turned into steam steam and ignited the upper element hidden united. So, the only thing I can say is it's the alcohol but it's such a small amount of alcohol with three and a half cups of liquid. I just can't imagine that would make the difference.
SM: Can I just first something out in the beginning part you do saute the onions in the pressure cooker, right?
SM: Why don't you keep it open, add the wine, reduce the wine down and then add the amount of broth that you normally would
Caller: You think I should put a cup in? I mean, do you think that amount is fine when I do it, like you say in the beginning
CK: But reduce it down to two or three tablespoons. And do it over gentle heat. You shouldn't boil the wine it should be more of a low simmer. And I would get away from alcohol on a pressure cooker is a basic concept. I kept thinking about that exploding duck.
Caller: Yeah, so yeah, I like your idea.
CK: Thank you, Laurie.
SM: Thanks, Laurie.
Caller: Okay. All right. Thank you. Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help with dinner, give us a call anytime. 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling.
Caller: This is Anne from Albany.
CK: How are you?
Caller: Great. Thank you so much for taking my call. Sure. My question is if I find out after I've taken a loaf cake or any kind of cake really out of the oven and let it cool and later cut into it and find that the inside isn't as completely done as it should be, which happened to me recently. Is there anything one can do to re cook the middle or try to salvage the cake.
CK: Now when you tested it to determine if it was cooked? Well, I'm still in the oven. What did you do use a skewer?
Caller: I did use a skewer end to my eyes it came out clean. You know some cakes; a few crumbs can clean to the skewer. I think that in this particular loaf cake, which was a blood orange olive oil cake from smitten kitchen. The skewer may have come up clean because it was so gooey on the inside that it wasn't even common sticking to it. So, I took it out of the oven even though I followed all of the directions and later I tried covering it with tin foil and putting it back in the oven and nothing changed about the inside it was still remained a gooey mess, not solid.
CK: I have a good tip for you which is using an instant read thermometer. I use that to determine when bread is done, cakes are done cheesecakes are done everything in addition to a skewer especially with an olive oil cake I put into the center halfway down. An instant read thermometer should read about 195- ish or something like that. And that's really a foolproof way to know when your cake is done. You should try it with that cake and make sure that's the right temperature but that's a really perfect way because you're right sometimes skewers go in like a chocolate cake for example. You want actually to have it come out with alot chocolate on it because you don't want to overcook chocolate. But every cake’s a little different, and it's really a rough system, I would use an instant read thermometer. And that's really the best way to do it.
SM: What kind of pan were you using?
Caller: A Nordic Ware loaf pan
CK: Nordic ware is good
SM: Yeah. So maybe your oven just wasn't quite as hot as you thought it was. Maybe it just needed a little longer. But you know the other thing I would say if its olive oil, blood orange, olive oil is oily so I could see the skewer coming out looking like it was clean even if it wasn't
CK: There’s a couple of things to look for. Are the sides of the loaf cake starting to come away slightly from the pan. Right, you should see that. And did you just press down on the top too, just press down at the top with your fingers or fork? And just make sure that you indentation doesn't stick that it'll bounce back?
SM: Yeah. Also, in terms of if it was undercooked, the only way to remedy that is to slice it and toast it. Because if it's like a day later and you decide to throw in the oven, there's no way that the center will be insulated by the already cooked sides and plus which at this point, you've got raw dough in there hanging out for 24 hours, not a good thing,
CK: Toast it and then put some ice cream on and serve it for dessert
SM: Or you could slice it, toast it and even freeze it after it's cooled at that point and then use it down the road in other recipes.
CK: Sounds delicious.
SM: It does. It's too bad. It didn't work out
CK: And never trust baking times by the way. Yeah, they're never right.
CK: On that cheerful note.
SM: All right.
Caller: Thanks so much for your wonderful advice. I love your show. Thank you. I'm really glad to benefit from your wisdom.
CK: Thanks so much. Take care.
SM: Bye. bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, this is Bill Schultz from Atlanta, Georgia and I have a tip. Your advice on how to roast eggplant was great. But there's one more tip that could be very helpful which is picking the right eggplant in the first place. I learned relatively recently that eggplants have a male and female version. And the female version not illogically has more eggs or little seeds, and you don't want that. So, the best thing to do before you cook your eggplant is pick the right one which is the male eggplant. And the way you can tell the difference is by looking at the rounded and with the belly button, and the male eggplants have little round belly buttons, and the female eggplants have more of a line down them. So, look for the little round belly button at the end of your eggplant and you'll have fewer seeds and more flesh and a better eggplant regardless of how you roast it. Thanks.
CK: By the way, if you'd like to share your own cooking tip right here on Milk Street Radio, go to 177 Milk street.com/radio tips This is Milk Street Radio right now let's chat with Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett from A Way with Words. Grant Martha what's up,
Martha Barnette: Chris? This week we're enjoying the aroma of pies. It's wafting through the English language. There are all these expressions involving pies. For example, pie chart.
CK: Oh, there you go.
MB: There you go. Yeah, it used to be called a circular graph. And of course, that's really handy for representing proportions. But in other languages, for example, in Spanish, it's sometimes called graphical de pizza. You can imagine what that is
CK: Oh, I like that, that's good.
Grant Barrett: Portuguese is similar also ____ de pizza.
MB: in German, it's a cake diagram, a kuchendiagramm. And the exception to all of these is French, as you might imagine, they go for cheese, they call it camembert
GB: All squidgy around the edges
CK: of French are never going to follow in anyone else's footsteps.
GB: And that's what we love about them.
MB: So, they put camembert in their PowerPoints.
GB: And so there are more than pie charts cooling on the window sills of the English language and one of them is the hotel pie. And this is a very rare term for a toothpick. Probably because hotels kind of cheap out on their meals. And so instead of the last thing you eat being a dessert like a pie, the last thing you eat is a sliver hotel pie. Also sometimes known as dining room lumber or dining room quill, or even timber sauce,
CK: I like dining room lumber. That's good.
MB: And of course, we have apple pie order which is when everything is as it should be organized and clean and put away.
GB: You know, and there is a prank you can pull. Did you ever go to summer camp Chris and have your bed short sheeted?
CK: I had many things happen to me. I think that actually happened to be at home once but no, not in summer camp
CK: My mother did it. Yeah. Your mother wants you to do that's a whole other episode
MB: I think it sure is
CK: it sure is
GB: For your therapist Well, there are other terms for short sheeting a bed and they are making it an apple pie bed or an apple turnover. And as you can imagine, like a turnover, it's because the sheet is folded over in the middle just like the dough would be folded over in the middle. So if anybody doesn't know what short sheeting is, because I don't know if people still do this is when the sheet is folded over. So, you stick your legs in, and you feel like a giant and adults pit because you can't really get into the bed completely. And then you're all crunched up at the top. And if somebody did that to you, you might punch them in the pie chopper. In other words, the mouth and that's old slang goes back more than 100 years. It's very similar and it's impoliteness to pie holing people
CK: Yes, pie hole I love the cake hole. That's what a great title that is.
MB: And then of course there's pie in the sky, which is an unrealistic idea or impossible goal. And that goes back to a song by a 19th century labor activist who was parroting hymns that offer the promise of help in the afterlife, you know, but nothing in the here and now. There's a there's a line in it that goes work and pray live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die.
CK: Yeah, yeah it's funny. You guys are so upbeat and once a while Martha just throws in one of these really dark things.
GB: It's true
CK: To see if I notice. Thanks, guys. Now I know pie in the sky, which I think is actually a wonderful thing to strive for. Thank you.
MB: Hashtag life goals.
GB Thank you, Chris.
CK: That was Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for this week's show. You can find all of our episodes on Apple podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music Milk Street Radio.com, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to know more about Milk Street, go to 177 Milk street.com. There you can download each week's recipe, watch our TV show, and learn about our magazine and latest cookbook. The World in a Skillet. We're on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street, on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock, additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is distributed by PRX