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Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, hosts of “Good Mythical Morning,” extol the virtues of Twinkie Jell-O, order all the food off the Taco Bell menu through song and tell us what you’re not allowed to eat on YouTube. Plus, we discuss the current state of the restaurant industry with journalist Corey Mintz, Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette go nuts with their language lesson, and we learn how to make Crete’s anything-goes salad.
Questions in this episode:
"Do you have tips for how to use miso?"
"I'm following up about my crushed red chili flakes!"
"What's the best way to make gluten-free brownies?"
"Why should I score my bread, or not?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. On their online talk show, Good Mythical Morning Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neil are known for subjecting themselves to extreme taste tests of everything from deep fried lemons to frog ice cream. But they also give out practical food advice. For example, Link says skip Nobu and get sushi from the grocery store.
Link Neil: I mean, sometimes when you strip away all that pomp and circumstance, you discover that it's not worth the price.
Rhett McLaughlin: Well, especially if you're late. We've done this format a number of times, and not that I needed this to be confirmed. But Links palette is significantly less sophisticated than mine. So, this is something we all knew I'm more frugal. Yeah.
CK: We'll hear more from them later show. But first, I'm joined by reporter Corey Mintz to discuss the current state of the restaurant industry. He's the author of The Next Supper, the End of Restaurants as We Knew them and What Comes After. Corey, welcome to Milk Street.
Corey Mintz: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CK: Pleasure. So, we're talking about the end of restaurants as we knew them
CM: As we knew them.
CK: So, let's just discuss where we are there 700,000 restaurants in the states, the typical restaurant owner probably makes $45,000 a year, a third of all restaurants closed in their first year of operation. So, look, the basic economic formula just seems like it's a mess.
CM: That's always been a problem. But the unifying problem well, before the pandemic has been that there are too many restaurants for the number of people that we have, and they are all chasing the same dollar. And when I say there's too many restaurants, to be more specific, there are too many chains. If you or I open up our whatever restaurant like a 30- 40 place, when the large chain finds a piece of real estate, and they open a 200-seat restaurant, and they have ample parking, they just siphon all those customers away. And, you know, I trace this back to the sort of post Milton Friedman era of profit and growth at all costs. Because for the chains and the franchises that are publicly traded and have shareholders to respond to they need to generate constant growth and growth means new locations, and growing sales at those locations. So, it's always about consuming more of the market to the point where it's less and less feasible for an independent operator to open their own little dream restaurant.
CK: So, let's go back to the original question. So, in the last two generations, what are the key changes in the industry that have resulted in your statements that are the end of restaurants as we knew them?
CM: Sure. I mean, I think you've got on one side, we just discussed the constant need for growth within the chain sphere and the pressure that puts on everybody else, a key pressure that puts on everybody else is the pressure to drive prices, and therefore wages downward. And within the independent chef driven award chasing genre of restaurant, you've got a cultural shift that has trended to calamitous rate in the last few years in particular, but basically, you've got, you know, starting in the early 2000s, this food television inspired generation of young people deciding to go to cooking school, because they wanted to be chefs, because they saw it on TV as a sort of a very celebrated creative, middle class job. And then 2008, you've got the global recession in 2008 2009, which results in all these chefs from big fancy restaurants saying, well, I'm not going to be a partner here, because we have no customers, I'm going to open my own little 30 seat places. And we're going to play hip hop super loud and serve whatever we want and eat bone marrow. And it's going to be fun. And the sort of media narrative of, hey, chefs have been able to sort of democratized dining and present fine dining for a more reasonable price point because there's no tablecloths and high ceilings and expensive renovations. But part of what was really happening, the secret sauce in that sort of golden age of dining was chefs from high end, exporting the labor standards from high end dining into the mid-range of dining which met well, because I'm a great chef, I can get people to work a 14-hour day for eight or 10 hours of pay through various weird mechanisms of wage theft. And within a few years, I'm getting to my point. You've got that generation of young people who said they wanted to be chefs burning out because they realized that these are not middle class. jobs or careers, that these are working class jobs and not working class like a unionized car factory in the 60s, but working classes, and I can't pay my rent in the city where I live and work. And then the pandemic happened.
CK: So, okay, what what else is going on the restaurant industry that you've talked about ghost kitchens or cloud kitchens? That's a pretty interesting development.
CM: Yeah, it's a commercial kitchen space, usually with room for more than one business operating out of it at the same time. So, you know, multiple little kitchen stalls, say, like, 200 square feet each. And each one is potentially selling food from a restaurant that their actual brick and mortar that you can walk into is somewhere else, or they don't have a brick and mortar at all, or they have multiple virtual concepts operating out of the same kitchen.
CK: Now, you gave an example, which was really interesting about the cloud kitchen in Washington Boulevard, LA, could you just explain because they, they were servicing a bunch of different restaurants, but the menus were almost identical, just a little wording change, right?
CM: Yeah, I mean, it's, it's a good example of the sort of ghost slash virtual kitchen and some of the distinction. And when I was working on the book, I was looking at this example in LA, where you've got a kitchen, I don't know how many square feet but there's, you know, a dozen different restaurants operating out of it. And, and one, at least that I found the data on, you could see like five different menus for the same restaurant. And it was like a Thai restaurant and you could see the exact same wording for some chicken wing dish that was called 10 different things. Under one brand, it was marketed as crazy rich Asian foods, I gather, it's no longer called that it was probably called that for about six months after that movie came out, but they, they had like funny pun names, you know, bougie wings, I think was the name of the dish. And on another menu, it was called foo cat wigs or something like that. But you know, it's all about AB testing and seeing at what price point at what name? At what estimated time for delivery, does it get the most clicks? And that's, you know, that's what we're going to use to drive traffic. It's, you know, it's, it's saying the data is more valuable than anything else about this business.
CK: Finally, is there a model of a restaurant going forward where they're making like, a real money like a real business does. So, it's not just a function of, you know, open book management. It's a function of having enough cash flow, to take really take care of business, have enough money on hand to weather a storm, pay fair wages, etc. It's going to have to be a bigger flow of money coming in, right?
CM: Absolutely. Look, restaurants are not a monolith. But I'll give you an example from one area of the restaurant sector. And it does in the end have to do with saying we have to charge what our food is actually worth. Amanda Cohen in New York runs a restaurant called Dirt Candy. She eliminated tipping back in 2015. hasn't looked back, it hasn't changed. Something she did last summer she said I'm going to pay everyone $25 across the board and going up from there, right? In order to do that I'm raising prices period. I can't remember exactly how much she raised. But I checked in with her about six months later to see, you know, how's it going? She said, you know, everyone's very happy. And here's the most important part, we were operating at about maybe one 1.5% profit margin. And we're doing about 7%. Now, (Great) so her customers and again, that's this one restaurant, they obviously are not the same as the local Arby's or the local Thai restaurant. But the bottom line just throwing out one example is someone who said, Yeah, I'm going to have to raise prices, and everyone is raising prices period. Doesn't matter whether you're the Cheesecake Factory or Dirt Candy.
CK: Corey, thank you. It's been a pleasure. I see a ray of hope. So hopefully
CM: sometimes that I'm too cynical so I'm glad to hear you saw something hopeful and what we're talking about,
CK: Well, well, we all know and care about people who work in restaurants, and it should be a job that pays you fairly and is something you enjoy doing. So, Corey thank you so much.
CM: A pleasure.
CK: That was Corey Mintz. author of The Next Supper. Right now, it's time to take your questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking 101 and star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Sara, so you were trained in the French method, is there something you remember about that training that's really stuck with you that everybody should know?
Sara Moulton: Well, I guess the most joy general thing would be good habits. You know, you come into the kitchen, you put an apron, you put up your hair, you read the recipe several times before you ever start. You do your mis en place, and you work clean, and you clean as you go. And to me that's hands down the most important message right there.
CK: You know, Bill Buford, latest book, he trained for five years he worked in French restaurants. I think he thought it was going to be a yearlong thing, it was five years. He said it was so interesting, he said that a French chef knows how good you are, by the way, you stand in front of the cutting board.
CK: So how should you stand in front of a cutting board?
SM: I don't know. Now. I'm like getting all self-conscious about how do I stand in front of
CK: I thought that was such an interesting thing. A little tell, I think is how the arms replaced and how your bodies well squared up and
SM: all of that and also that your elbows not on the air. (Right) and you're using the knife properly. Bill worked in Lyon, which is one of my favorite
CK: and Jacque Pepin when he was 16.
SM: I know. And so, did Daniel Boulud is from Lyon. You know that so many great people. It's a wonderful food town.
CK: Anyway, all right. Let's take a call.
SM: Okay, welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Linda.
SM: Hi, Linda. First of all, where are you calling from?
Caller: I'm calling you from Scarborough, Maine.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I'm sort of miso curious.
SM: Miso curious, yes, I like that
CK: Very good I like that
Caller: I don't know how to cook with it. I don't know what to do with it. I bought some. I have red and white. And I don't know the difference between the two. So, I need some guidance.
SM: I know that Milk Street has a lot of recipes that incorporate me. So, in an interesting way. So, when you look at the magazine, or if you look online, you'll certainly will find many ideas there. But in general, just to summarize what miso brings to the table. And you're right, there's many different kinds. The basic one being the white miso, it brings umami and salt and sugar, which are related to the umami, you can add it to almost anything to add a little depth of flavor. I mean, traditionally, it's used in a lot of soups. But heck, you could combine it with mayo, and lather it on sandwiches. Oh, my heavens, I never thought about or with rice vinegar, and maybe some sesame oil to make a nice dressing. It's definitely a great glaze for fish. And for pork. You could combine it with some fruit preserves a little bit of vinegar and cook it down and put it on say pork tenderloin and roast it.
Caller: So maybe like a peach preserve apricot or something like that.
SM: Yeah, either one of those would be great with white miso, and then sauteed vegetables, you know, take a robust vegetable like broccoli. And certainly, mushrooms already have umami anyway and you had me so did that and you're like wow, so you know a little bit of butter the two of those do a happy dance. I guess I should throw this over to Chris because I know he has 500 ideas.
CK: First of all, let's back up. white miso is milder and more subtle than red miso so red miso is better with stronger meats and that sort of thing. Secondly, miso you should think about it more as a foundation. For example, I do a cooked pork, like a shoulder pork or shredded pork with miso and gochujang and maybe one other ingredient for like three or four hours is just to die for because that miso gives that umami base to it that creaminess, that depth of flavor, it's really adding depth of flavor. I agree with the butter
Caller: I don’t know how much to use
CK: I make it up,
Caller: I make it up, okay. I’m good at that.
CK: Just I would use you know, three or four tablespoons or something with a four- or five-pound pork roast, a couple tablespoons of gochujang. I had some frozen salmon actually and I thawed it out and I took mirin and Saki and white miso and made a marinade out of it and marinated for I think an hour or so and cooked that, boy was that. I mean marinades usually don't work but with the salmon and the miso, it completely transformed it. It got rid of any fishiness into it and made it really savory and deep. That's another great thing to do with it. Anytime you're going to make a stew or a soup, like if it's a big meat stew just add a little red miso to it if it's chicken or fish or vegetables, I use white miso so just add it as a base. It's a base it's sort of like concentrated chicken stock. It's really the same concept.
Caller: Yeah, okay,
CK: There's one other thing before we let you go (okay) we use miso in sweet things. So, you can use I know you can use miso in cookies and in baking etc. Miso really goes well with a white miso not red miso it adds just a little balance. You know, a lot of places in the world when they do sweets. There's a something savory with it. So, miso has a little undercurrent is savoriness which I think works really well
Caller: along the lines of salted caramel.
CK: Along lines of salted caramel which I'll put on any foodstuff yes. So, I think we've given you we up to 30 ideas now. Yeah, right.
Caller: Yeah, something like that.
CK: Anyway, thanks for calling. Thank you, Linda.
Caller: Thank you so much
CK: Bye. This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a bit of culinary inspiration, give us a call anytime that number is 855-426-9843 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Daniel from Virginia.
SM: Hi, Daniel. How can we help you today?
Caller: This is more of a follow up. Y'all had me on a short while ago to discuss making my own crushed red chili pepper and gave me some excellent advice. I'd love to tell you all in on what I've
been doing with that.
SM: Well, we'd love to hear that. Share.
Caller: The takeaway from that call, as I remember, it was y'all sort of urged me to I mean, I love crushed red pepper. I love chili flake. And I also love working with dried chilies. So, I was interested in sort of combining those two pursuits, that novel suggestion was that I move away from sort of trying to recreate what I usually get in the store. And instead, kind of experiment with far broader types of chilies that you can get, you know, in bulk, and do on your own. And so, I did that, and I have been really pleased with the results. Because you know, the thing that we're maybe not as familiar with here in the United States, as with other countries that use more chilies is that they have such a broad flavor profile, you know, you can have heat, but you can have sweeter and fruitier and you know, more chocolatey so, you know, the first thing I did was sort of sit down and figure out what I liked most about chilies, and I really enjoyed their depth of flavor. I like stuff more, kind of on a darker, maybe, you know more chocolaty side, I really enjoy crushed chili flakes with ancho chilies and picea chilies, I will also throw a few chilies, that are bold in there to really kind of amp up that side of things. I've sort of gotten together to sort of a house blend for us of chilies, that really sort of satisfies much more deeply and completely does something you might just buy off the shelf. So, it's been a really fun experience.
SM: And how did you make your chili flakes you didn't take the raw chilies and dry them you took the dried chilies and crushed them.
Caller: Right. So that has been sort of an adventure in and of itself. I get them from a local Hispanic market, and we have a Vitamix, but the ones who are drawback is of course, the Vitamix is so tall, that it can be tough to process everything kind of evenly all at once. The solution I found was our in-laws actually gave us I think it's called a magic bullet with this tiny little processor. And I have found that processing the chilies in a much smaller chamber takes about a fifth of the time and does it much more evenly.
CK: What does it look like?
Caller: It's probably closer to a food processor. It has a clear plastic chamber to put your ingredients in. You screw on the blade, basically, and then plug it into the base, which automatically turns it on. And it just works really well.
SM: Daniel, I do have a question there. What percentage of ancho to picea to chilies arbol do you do?
Caller: You know I do usually like a one-to-one ancho to picea. And then I might for a batch like that, you know, maybe I'll use two of each of those. And then maybe two to three arbol because they impart enough heat that I really find I only need two or three. It's kind of a nice kick.
CK: Well, you're about 10,000 miles ahead of the crushed red pepper flakes in the jar.
SM: I love chili flakes. I use them in everything.
CK: So, I'm going to have to give you a magic bullet for Christmas.
SM: Would you please? I'd love that.
CK: Good job, Daniel.
Caller: It makes great gifts as well. Yeah, if you chop up your own and give a little jar to somebody, it never fails to impress them. So that's another nice application.
SM: I love this idea, thank you
CK: It’s exciting, and it's a cheap gift.
Caller: Thank you all for your advice it really helped
CK: Daniel, thanks for calling.
Caller: Thank you so much.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, can you make Jell-O out of guacamole? Rhett and Link have the answer. That's coming up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. In 2009. Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neil arrived at a Taco Bell drive thru. Hi, how are you? Pretty good. How are you? They had spent a great deal of time rehearsing their order.
Rhett/ Link: I'll start with a taco soft like a clown. I want mine crunchy. I like a juicer chalupa
CK: That was a clip from Rhett and Links fast food folksong since that video went viral they've gone on to host the daily talk show Good Mythical Morning. In which they taste anything and everything including eyeball Jell-0.
RM: Nothing is sacred on this show. Even the windows to the soul can be put into Jell-O and eaten. That's right. eyeballs,
RM/LN: Eyeballs. Will it jell?
CK: Right now, they join me to talk about how food became part of their comedy. Rhett and Link welcome to Milk Street
Both: Hey, hey, thanks for having us.
CK: My, my idea of fun is watching a documentary on the fall of Constantinople in 1453. (Somebody's got to do it). Yeah, social media, in itself is a bit foreign and what you do is on the extreme edge of that, but you have 17 million followers, you've obviously struck this amazing nerve. So, explain this to me. What is going on here? Why does this work? It works. But why does it work from your point of view?
LN: Well, our story really starts back in first grade because that's where Rhett and I met. We're both held in from recess for writing nasty words on our desks. True story.
CK: What’s the nasty word to a first grader?
LN: Was pretty innocuous, like like cursing, like cursing, but it shouldn't be on a desk. (Okay) you know. So, while everyone else was outside at recess, we were inside in during our punishment, which was coloring pictures of mythical beasts, which that was the beginning of our friendship, and why our daily show is called Good Mythical Morning. Just because of that moment of punitive damages, so to speak,
RM: Fast forwarding from first grade to once we got out of college, and we're trying to figure out what we're going to do. So, we use our degree for a while civil engineering for me, and then industrial engineering for Link. And then after that, we actually went to work for the campus ministry that we have worked with. And that's actually where we kind of got involved in comedy. Now, since then, we've sort of publicly told the story of how we've left that world behind. That's a story in and of itself. But in that in kind of becoming comedians who were like talking to college students around the South, we're making comedy together, we're creating live comedy music together. We're putting that stuff on the internet. This is like early 2000s. And, you know, there was a precursor show to Good Mythical Morning, which was just the two of us sitting down in a car table. And literally taking the conversation that we had had on the way into work carpooling. Together, we would stop, say, hey, let's actually just have this conversation on camera for 10 or 15 minutes.
LN: So, our carpools became silent, and then we turn them into internet video’s
RM: Yeah, we did. We did not speak to each other until we got to the office, but just deciding to display our friendship in an authentic state and have a conversation that we would otherwise have if the camera wasn't on, was what people began to connect with
LN: The success of Good Mythical Morning I think does hinge on our friendship. (No, I agree). We'd like to cut up as they say we like to make each other laugh. And we always seek to learn something, but it's usually the dumbest things that we learn.
CK: You know, I watched a bunch of episodes on I'm sure they were from different years. But your hairstyles changed a lot. What's going on with your hair?
LN: You know we’re just trying to find ourselves
CK: Is that still an ongoing I mean activity or what
LN: I actually just kind of stopped cutting it right before the pandemic, then I just let it go. And then I started to talk to my wife about okay, well, you know, I don't know how long I'm going to keep this hair she said, well, you better not cut it because this is the best your hair has ever looked. I can't argue with that.
CK: So, let's go to the back. I mentioned your fast-food folks.
RM: So, hold on you don't want to talk about my hair. I got to talk about my hair.
CK: No, your your your hair changed even more. You had this sort of 50s game show. You were like a Mattel doll for a while there, come on
RM: Right? Right. Yeah, people thought it was a wig.
CK: Yeah, very much so. So fast food folk song. Okay. It was a great song. It was a great gimmick, you go up and sing your order in, which lasted three minutes. But you guys are really, you have great voices you were in a band, by the way, I went to check out your early band, and it said page not available. (Great) So I don't know, I guess you did that on purpose. That was a successful opera. Yeah, yeah. But you took that down a long time ago. But you guys are good singers. You really are.
LN: Thank you. I mean, when we started out on YouTube, musical comedy was our main thing. This was years before we started Good Mythical Morning. And so, we made music videos, all comedy songs. And then the fast-food folks on yeah, that was legitimately we we drove through the drive thru at the Taco Bell. And we had written this song where we basically ordered everything off the menu. Like I said, it took about three minutes. But the thing that we did not expect that to happen was the way the guy was the guy was following along, miraculously. And it was phenomenal how accurate he was to the point where we found out later, he got a promotion, and was recognized at the National Taco Bell convention for that performance. He was a hero
CK: Well, well, he got the whole the diced tomatoes part.
LN: Yeah, it was important. Remarkable.
CK: So over time, tasting food became a critical part of your show and your brand, of course, but what is it about tasting food that really makes great YouTube entertainment?
RM: Yeah, I think over the 10 plus years that we've done the show, I mean, it is worth mentioning. yeah, Good Mythical Morning has been going off for over a decade, we've got over 2200 episodes of the show and growing every single week. But you're right over the course of that 10 years, we started tasting more foods, we started inventing more foods, and the things that we were tasting either. They were dishes that never existed before, like a Doritos of five big mac sandwich, we've had a lot of gross things that we've tried as well like a beef bile cheesecake. So, I think there's a lot of entertainment value in the discovery of amazing new dishes. And just the seeing the repulsion of us being willing to try things that are obviously going to be nasty.
LN: And then there is you couple that with this wish fulfillment because you know, we're not just going to have a burger, we're going to take every burger from every fast-food place and compare them. But then you don't you know, most people don't didn't go the extra mile to create that experience for themselves because or they are going to you're going to go around and buy a burger from every place. No, just let these two idiots on the internet do it and kind of live vicariously through their experience.
CK: Are you guys pretending to be idiots sometimes, I mean, because let me just ask this. I mean, you know one of you chose with the tuna, sashimi chose Link you chose the Sam's choice and Rhett you chose the Nobu. Yeah. So really, I mean, Nobu versus Sam's choice, or, or did you really think Sam's choice was the best?
LN: Yeah, we have an episode format called Naked foods where, over the course of four rounds we'd be presented with in each round, four different plates of the same dish, one would be very expensive one would be like, sit down casual restaurant, one will be like a fast food restaurant and one would be like, just getting sushi from a grocery store getting ___ a from the frozen section. And of course, we are not told what they are. So hey, the frozen gills that can be really good. I mean, sometimes when you strip away all that pomp and circumstance, you discover that it's not worth the not worth the price.
RM: Well, especially if your Link. We've done this format a number of times, and not that I needed this to be confirmed. But Link’s palette is significantly less sophisticated than mine. This is something we all knew
LN: I'm more frugal
RM: Something that plays out on the internet on a regular basis
CK: Well, the Link doesn't ever have to go to Nobu, just go to Sam’s
RM: That's right, we can get this satisfied so easily.
CK: You've also done videos about flavor pairings that I guess are based on some sort of scientific matches. So coffee, the scientific match was carrots, white chocolate, I guess caviar is the scientifically paired one. But Rhett, you chose eel, oddly enough to go with white chocolate.
RM: You know, it's it's it's one of those situations sometimes where because you know, as you mentioned, those things those pairings are the fact that I paired the eel with the with the white chocolate is what you said. (Yeah, white chocolate). So, what course 2200 episodes I have since forgotten that I enjoy eel and white chocolate together now that you bring that up, I can, I can put myself back in that position where I'm tasting it in the moment. And I'm like, we are really trying to do a service. You know?
CK: Yeah, I think that's that's a really good point, because I remember the will it Jell-O episode, which I just loved. That was one of my favorites. You guys actually, I think with guacamole, you were saying, this is like someone took guacamole added, like five cups of water to it, and really watered it down. And you actually were trying to describe what guacamole Jell-O tastes like and you were taking it seriously. And I think the fact that you quote unquote, take it seriously, you are, really are trying, it has to be real on some level, right?
LN: Yeah, yeah, we're giving the view or the the experience vicariously through us. So, it's like, the more we can hurl ourselves into it. Without actually hurling that was probably not a good choice of words.
RM: You can't do that on YouTube anymore. Yeah.
CK: Now what you can throw up on YouTube?
RM: It’s funny that the standards for what you can do on YouTube have changed over the years and gotten more and more strict. I mean, there's been things that we were not able to get down that then you had to like spit into a bucket, which I guess is a form of vomiting. Can't do that anymore.
LN: Those are the good old days.
CK: Wait, wait, well, so wait a minute, you. So, what else is there that you can't do anymore?
RM: You can't eat things that are inedible, not edible. Like it like we did an episode where we were exploring strange food addictions that people have. And you know, there's people out there who are addicted to eating their own mattress. So, we decided to try to eat a mattress just to see, you know, give him the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't that doesn't fly on YouTube anymore.
CK: Jeez gosh. So, to go back to Jell-O. So, the two that you tried, I love jelly fish, the animal that most closely resembles jelly. (And right) I thought that's an interesting rationale. And then fish eyeballs. So, I guess neither of those you could actually eat.
RM: We've had we've tried so many fish eyeballs. I mean, I've tried to get fish eyeballs down dozens of times. I don't think I've ever successfully done it. But yeah, but that is kind of the approach with something like Will it Jell-O, you know, was where of course we take a bunch of different foods, and we try to make them into Jell-O. And so, we've got an incredible team, trying to figure out how do you make jelly fish into Jell-O. But they will create a couple of things that are good. And then we progressed to a place where very few people would probably enjoy it.
CK: Well, you started with Twinkies. Yeah, exactly. And then you ended up with fish eyeball. So I would say progression.
LN: Yeah, right. Twinkie Jell-O is actually amazing. And we maybe two of the only people on the planet who've ever eaten it.
CK: Well, my guess is the two of you are the only two people who know a lot of things. Yeah. Do you think as a call you guys’ entertainers if that's okay. Do you think there's a difference between being likable and being memorable? Are they the same thing?
RM: I think there's a big difference. I mean, some of some of the people I remember from my life, not very likable,
CK: but very memorable.
RM: Yeah, I mean, all you have to do to be memorable is to do something that sticks in your in your brain. Yeah, I do think that likability, in a lot of ways is is based on trust. We are who you see on camera. I mean, clearly, if we're having a horrible day, we're not going to act like we're sad on while we're sitting there eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream. But in a lot of ways, what you see is what you get. And that, you know, we are two guys who have known each other since 1984, who are best friends in real life, business partners who invite you into this experience every single day. And I think that there's a there's an authenticity and a trust there that then leads into likeability. And also, there's two of us. So, if you don't like one of us, maybe you like the other one.
LN: Yeah, I think what he's saying is that I'm likeable. And he's memorable.
CK: Yeah, I think that pretty much sums it right up there. Rhett and Link it's been, it's really been my, my deep pleasure. Thank you so much for being on the show.
RM: Thanks for having us.
LN: Yeah, this has been fun.
CK: That was Rhett McLaughlin, and Link Neil hosts of Good Mythical Morning. Their studio Mythical also operates Mythical Kitchen, and the packaged food review website Sports.com. You can also see them on the Food Network series Inside Eats. You know Rhett and Link or following a long tradition of eating strange foods? Finn's and Russians used to put frogs in milk to help preserve it. The Romans ate roasted mice that were fattened on acorns and of course fermented shark sandwich still a thing in Iceland. So is Eyeball Jell-O one of Rhett and Links recipes really all that surprising. Well, fisheyes are a culinary prize in China. One blogger writes, quote, a rush of fatty fish flavor is accompanied by a gelatinous spongy texture. Swallow too quickly and you'll miss the nuances. So, as they say, fisheyes are in the eye of the beholder. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. We're heading into the kitchen with JM Hirsch to learn this week's recipe Cretan salad, JM, how are you?
JM Hirsch: I'm doing great.
CK: So, you're at this restaurant on a mountain in Crete. I just want to say at the outset, this is one of those you know, farm to table with a farm is like nine feet from the table. So, were you sitting in the vegetable garden? Or were you sitting next to it?
JM: We were wandering through it. Literally, this vegetable garden just goes up and down the mountain side. And this is not your picture perfect English Garden. This is an anything goes sort of garden much like the salad itself. There are a million variations across Crete. It's called dakos. And the only way I can think of to barely do justice to what it is, is to say it's a combination of Italian Panzanella which bread and tomato salad with a Greek feta, tomato and olive salad. With and roll with me here, an American chef's salad from like the 70s.
JM: It is is just a crazy,
CK: you lost me, you lost me
JM: It is just a mix of ingredients. And I got to say it was one of the best things I ate in Crete. It's really just a mishmash where anything and everything goes. And somehow it always works. Now, the base of any proper dakos are rusks. They're made from barley flour, and closer to almost a croutons texture, you know. And what happens is those go generally at the bottom of the bowl, and then all these other ingredients, greens, roasted beets, fresh peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, fresh and sun-dried raisins, olives, roasted potatoes, grilled eggplant, you name it. All of this gets dumped on top of those rocks that soak up all of the juices from all those other ingredients. And then you throw in some red wine vinegar, which is kind of the base of the dressing. And then you throw on some of the cheese now they use mizithra, which is kind of a creamy, salty, goat's milk cheese, very similar to feta. And they throw that all together. And the result is it sweet, its savory, it's got sour notes, it's got bitter, it's salty, it's creamy, every bite is different, and really explodes in your mouth, like a million different ways.
CK: I just want to comment than when you get this excited about a recipe that had to be a lot of wine involved first, is that true?
JM: Of course, it's Greece. I mean, of course, there's a lot of wine involved. And you know, it makes everything taste better too but truthfully, even without the wine, this salad is just a riot of flavors and textures. And you know, and if your ingredients aren't like, perfect from Crete, it's forgiving, because there is so much going on. And I think that was kind of the secret to the success that you can use you know, your average grocery store purchases still getting amazingly interesting. And really satisfying salad out
CK: because you have feta, olives, the sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, right
JM: Exactly. And those are all big flavor ingredients. They really pull their weight in a salad like this.
CK: So, since we don't have rusks, so you're toasting making your own big croutons or what?
JM: Yeah, we basically we found that the easiest solution was to take kind of a hearty sourdough loaf, tear it up into chunks and toast that that was kind of the closest we were going to come to a rusk, and they work quite well in that case. And likewise, we don't have the local goat's milk cheese. And we found that feta is the closest way to replicate the kind of salty, savory and slightly creamy effect of the cheese in this salad, it breaks up. It's delicious. So wonderful.
CK: So, this is a recipe with a simple name, Cretan salad. But belies the complexity of the textures and the flavors. And now is probably your go to summer salary.
JM: Absolutely because anything goes and that's the way I like it best.
CK: JM thank you so much.
JM Thank you. You can get the recipe for Cretan salad at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Grant Barret and Martha Barnette go nuts. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to take a few more calls with my co-host, Sara
SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is John Muir calling from Harvard, Vermont.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I'm a teacher and a coach. And I like to make chocolate brownies for my classes in my teams. You know, kids like them, and they're relatively easy to make in large quantity. I'm gluten sensitive, so I make them gluten free also, I love to cook for a long time, but I'm not really a baker. And I don't have a good sense of how to tweak a baking recipe. But I have had some really good brownies in my day. So, I kind of know what I'm going for but I don't really have much idea about how to achieve it.
SM: When you say you know what you're going for it describe it to me, what is it tastes like? What's the texture?
Caller: it starts with a chocolate or chocolate not created equal, but it's kind of like this. Intensity, but not too intense, sweet, but not too sweet. And then there's that whole texture mouthfeel thing so it feels like wow, this is like something has come together here in this really specific way.
CK: If you ask somebody to talk about a brownie, they
SM: Wax poetically, it's like mystical at this point.
SM: I would try to find the best gluten free chocolate brownie you possibly could. And you know, try several versions, and just see what you like the best. I always recommend King Arthur Flour, because they really know what they're doing. As I recall, they also recommend superfine sugar which you can make yourself. You grind it up in a blender, regular granulated sugar because it dissolves better, and then you get a really nice fudgy brownie with a shiny top.
CK: I mean, it's chewiness essential to your divine inspiration for a brownie.
Caller: I would say not necessarily. But when you look up different recipes, you know, people are always throwing the word chewy and fudgy around. And I think it's kind of neither. You know,
SM: Okay we're getting back to that mystical place.
CK: Have you eaten a great gluten free brownie or made one?
Caller: I'm going to cite my most recent off the chart gluten free brownie experience. And it was by the Encore bakery, which is a relatively small cottage bakery in the Detroit, Michigan area.
CK: Okay, well, did you call them and ask them about their recipe? Which is what I would do?
Caller: I have not
CK: You know, it's amazing. If you call people up, just call them up or email them whatever, they're often willing to help you. Last question when you make your own gluten free brownies. Are you disappointed with them you're not achieving what you want?
Caller: The best ones I've made out of the mini batches, I'm not quite satisfied there either. So, I feel like if I'm going to keep doing this, I want to up my game.
CK: One thing I can suggest make the batter and let it sit for half an hour 45 minutes and sometimes because starches don't hydrate the same way you know gluten does, so you may end up getting a little more texture if you let it sit for a while.
CK: The problem with this is you're attempting to do something that's the most difficult thing to do, to take the gluten out is something that needs structure. And so, you can do a cakey brownie and you could do a soft, moist fudgy brownie but if you want a brownie that has a little bit too you have to get over the gluten hurdle here in beating the eggs a lot. That mixture with the sugar might also help as well, you know extend the period of time to develop a little structure, but I would call encore. And then King Arthur.
SM: Yeah. And let us know what happens. (Yeah) how it comes out.
CK: John, thank you.
Caller: I would love to I would love to it'd be a fun little adventure. I appreciate it.
CK: Thanks for calling.
Caller: Take care.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're having trouble in the kitchen, Sara and I are here to help give us a ring anytime that number is 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to MilK Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Zach in Queens, New York.
SM: Hi, Zack in Queens, New York. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I wanted to ask you, which is probably a simple question for you guys. But for me, I'm thinking about it. So, I'm a self-taught home baker, and I got into baking, making pizza dough. Now mostly, I'm baking loaf, white sandwich bread, but occasionally make baguettes, or sourdough Boulais. And my question is really about scoring. You know, why do I score or why shouldn't I?
SM: Well, when you put the, you know, you go through the whole process of making the bread and letting it rise and you know, blah, blah, blah. And then it's time to put it in the oven and you shaped it. And when you do put it in the oven, there's initial lift, and it's fast, and it's intense. And the weakest spot is the outside of the bread. And if you don't sort of give it a place to go, like to release to let the steam out to let the dough expand, it's going to do it wherever it wants to, you know, it sort of just willy nilly, you know, will explode here and there. It's like when you want to prevent a forest fire and you do a controlled burn. This is a controlled slash. And it's just very important to have a very sharp tool, like a sharp blade or you know, those lame’s you can buy from baking stores, and then it splits open where you want it to. That's really the reason to do it.
Caller: No, I feel like I lose a little bit of my rise like my dough deflates a touch after I cut it open. And then I take it off. And to me, I find that to be a little bit discouraging
CK: Because you're probably cutting it too deep. If you say that if you're scoring it before you put in the oven, you end up with less rise. That's probably because you just it's just should be like a quarter inch deep. It's a very shallow cut.
Caller: Oh, that might be my problem.
CK: I think that's your problem. If you're doing it like a half inch deep. That's probably why.
SM: How deep are you doing it?
Caller: Well, I've got a razor blade, and maybe I am doing it too deep. Because if it's only a quarter inch, maybe I am putting like a half inch or so. That might make sense.
CK: Zach, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for calling.
Caller: Thanks very much. I enjoyed talking with you and enjoy your day.
SM: Okay, you too. bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Right now, it's time for a language lesson with Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette, hosts of A Way with words. Grant and Martha, what's going on?
Grant Barnett: Not much Chris, we are feeling a little nutty today.
Martha Burnette: In fact, we're going nuts. We're going to talk about all kinds of nuts. And the etymology of nut for starters, you know, it comes from the Latin word nux, which is n u x. And the genitive form of that is Nucis. N-u-c-i-s which is the root of a whole lot of interesting words in English, for example, nucleus. And we also get the word nougat from that and Spanish in nuez, which means not in German nusse, which means nut
CK: The reason you guys are on the show, is when is when you say things like that's the genitive form. I mean, just going like there are people who still know the genitive form of Latin words, like there always be in England, right? People like you just give me hope.
GB: And then there's that really unusual word it just kind of one of those stuck words that nobody ever uses, but it shows up in all the Latin dictionaries for Nutcracker. I can't say this.
MB: Well in I guess in Latin, it would be Nuki Frank Gibson. Nussknacker brechen
CK: I don't think that's how Caesar said it.
GB: But I think I can hear the parts there the nut at the beginning and the Frank is like that related to the word break right, it's related to frangible and fragile and words like that. But what's interesting about it too, is that although this is a fancy word for Nutcracker, the ancient Roman playwright Plautus used it jokingly, to refer to a tooth so I guess you could tell your kids to you know, brush their Nucis_____
GB: I'd hate to think where the toothbrush would end up. I'm also thinking about Martha when we talk about nuts, chestnuts and castanets because castanets comes from the Spanish word for chestnut castana, but besides those clattering little clappers known as castanets that you hear in some Spanish music, another thing from Spain is horchata, that sweet white drink that you may get with your tacos. And although it's usually made with rice in the US, and Mexico in Spain, it may be made from tiger nuts and almonds, and a Latin America that may also make it with melon or gourd seeds. So, it's just interesting like these seeds keep showing up again and again. And tiger nuts I don't know if you're familiar with these, but they're actually a tuber from a Mediterranean plant, but it's just very interesting to me. We often find that things and common names, we call them nuts, but they're not nuts. Which reminds me there is another thing we call a nut Martha that isn't nut
MB: The coconut I love this etymological story. Even though the coconut isn't really a nut, it turns out that Spaniards and Portuguese people who encountered the product of the palm tree, thought that the you know how a coconut if you if you just hold it in your hand, it kind of looks like a little bowling ball. Well, the Spaniards and Portuguese when they were encountering the palm tree for the first time, pictured not a bowling ball, but a mischievous little grin, you know, like a grimace. And so, the word for that was koku or coco, which was a word for goblin. And so the coco nut became this. Yeah, it's a very picturesque etymology. That's why we call it coconut.
CK: I will never look at a coconut again. Thinking about a goblin face. I thank you so much.
MB: It'll be looking back at you, Chris.
CK: Here's looking at you, kid.
MB: Well, then there's nutmeg, the spice too, which, of course comes from the Latin nux. Muscato ultimately, which means muskie nut. You also see that in the German word for nutmeg, which is muskatnuss
GB: And you see Muscat and the names of grapes and wine. That same root meaning muskie,
CK: Guys, I think we've covered the great and long storied world of nuts. And, you know, hey, nuts are fun.
MB: Great to talk with you. Thanks for bringing us out of our show.
GB: Bye Chris
CK: That was Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for this week's show. You can find every single one of our episodes on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street Radio.com, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about all of us here at Milk Street at 177 Milk Street.com. There you can become a member and get full access to every recipe and access to our cooking classes and free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. 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 Clark, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX