Inside the Experimental Kitchen with Shola Olunloyo | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 517
June 17, 2021

Inside the Experimental Kitchen with Shola Olunloyo

Inside the Experimental Kitchen with Shola Olunloyo

We chat with research chef Shola Olunloyo about the cutting-edge culinary projects he undertakes at his experimental food laboratory, Studiokitchen. He tells us about mashing up tortellini and soup dumplings, how to make bread that tastes like a malted milkshake and why he looks to jazz musicians for culinary inspiration. Plus, New Zealand chef Monique Fiso teaches us about Maori cuisine, Dan Pashman shows us how to make better pasta salad, and we make Shrimp, Orzo and Zucchini with Ouzo and Mint.

This episode is brought to you by MasterClass.

Questions in this episode:

"Why can’t I find mutton anywhere?"

"My cooking question is about French toast. For my last batch, I used vanilla flavored soy milk and it was a game changer. I’m wondering what about the soy milk made it taste so good."

"I am a novice baker and have been really intimated by the numerous varieties of apples. Are there certain varieties that are best to bake with?"

"My son and I enjoy making crepes, and we've been using the same recipe for a while. It calls for mixing the flour, water, milk, eggs, and melted butter in a blender and then letting the batter sit at least 30 minutes. It works well, but cleaning the blender is extra work and the waiting period makes it hard to whip up crepes on weekday mornings. Are both of those steps necessary?"

"Most recipes that use whole chickens call for a 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken. But I now see whole chickens in the store that are 5 1/2 to 6 pounds! Does this skew the cooking time and the proportion of flavoring ingredients?"

SK Headshot

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Chef Shola Olunyolothinks of food and cooking just like jazz, jazz musicians built on the foundations of the musicians that came before them in order to create something new. Shola Olunyolo has done the very same thing to create his own food research lab, where he makes Japanese malted milk bread, pumpkin seed praline and Chinese steamed turnip cake.

Shola Olunyolo: You know, creativity has to have emotion as opposed to doing something that needs to be explained to be understood. That's what lacks in a lot of food today. If you have to explain it too much. It doesn't work.

CK: Also coming up, Dan Pashman reveals the secrets behind making a better pasta salad. But first, it's my interview with New Zealand chef Monique Fiso her restaurant Akai serves modern takes on Mauri recipes and ingredients. Monique, welcome Milk Street.

Monique Fiso: Thanks for having me.

CK: Pleasure. The name of your cookbook as well as your restaurant New Zealand, is Hiakai can you tell us what that title means and where it comes from?

MF: So, the name of the word hiakai means hungry in Maori. But also, you know, as a young chef, really hungry for knowledge about Maori culture and cuisine. So, it pretty much summed up everything that we were about.

CK: So, let's talk about you and cooking. You're not preparing food the way it would have been prepared 500 years ago, you're applying state of the art techniques, and using Maori ingredients, and melding the two traditions in really interesting ways.

MF: Yeah, we're trying to take endemic ingredients, and Maori culture and help pass that knowledge on to not just the chefs in the kitchen, but to the guests that come in, you know, because of colonization. And because modern history has been passed down early, and there was a period of almost trying to erase the culture, we should get a lot of people who are New Zealanders themselves, who come in, and they actually are quite disconnected from Maori culture, even though it's everywhere. So, they'll have the dining experience. And at the end, they'll go, I never knew that these items were edible. I feel like I've learned a lot about the culture in just one evening. And I think that's the payoff for us, when we have people who walk away with not just a full stomach, but a better understanding of Maori culture and cuisine.

CK: So, going back a few years, you met a guy called Joe McLeod. (Yes) Was he part of the he was he the guy who got got you started down this path?

MF: Yeah, basically, I started doing pop ups. And live, I reflect on those first few pop ups, I always think of them as really nice food with a sprinkling of Maoridom on them, like I didn't really get it yet. And I was. I just wanted to go deeper. And Joe McLeod was chef in the 60s 70s. And 80s, traveled the world. And actually, quite a phenomenal person. Yeah, for a young Maori male to go and work at the Ritz in the 70s is unheard of. So, I sent him an email and say that, you know, I really want to learn more about indigenous ingredients that I can cook with, are you able to help me and we just spent basically the rest of the summer going on bushwalks. And he taught me a whole lot. And he said to me, guys, I've been waiting a really long time for a young Mauri chef to come along and actually be interested in this stuff, because nobody seems to view it as being important. And so, I was like, well, I guess here I am.

CK: Let's talk about some of your recipes. You have some really unusual ingredients. The birds for example. Some of the birds you use can only be harvested by one tribe at a certain time of year. So, what are the three or four of the ingredients you have that are really particularly unusual in your cooking?

MF: At the moment we're working a lot more with the Manoao tree, which is this highlighter, orange color and gives off. It's almost like working with turmeric, quite a lot more earthy. And I do think people don't come a bit nuts when they see me jumping out of the bush with containers of tree back and orange hands, but it's one that I really enjoy working with. And it has this beautiful color and this beautiful earthy taste and lends itself well to both sweet and savory applications. Another quite unusual one is Mākaka which is the tender ends of the on the Bracken fern. And it has almost like a marzipan taste to it. And it only comes about for about six weeks out of the year. And when it does, we just try to collect as many as possible. And then

CK: How do you use it?

MF: At the moment what we're trying to make like an almond syrup with it for dessert. And another way we've used it as we've infused it into cream and made cheese with it so that we had like a slightly nutty like sort of ricotta going on. And we save that as a cheese course for a while which was, which was really cool. I like them. I also like eating raw as well but I think I might be the only one in that camp. And the TiTi birds which can only be harvested by one area is at the bottom of the South Island. I love working with those because they are so funky smelling and tasting there. They look like duck, but they taste like Anchovy. It almost feels like an honor privilege to work with those.

CK: I'm sure people make a big deal about fried grubs with gnocchi, etc. But seriously, you you you've eaten them raw; you think there ____ you like them. So just talk about cooking them and what they're like

MF: I I like them when they’re really really fresh because they are quite juicy. And just cooking them in a pan with a little bit of oil and a little bit of garlic is actually a really, really beautiful way to eat them. They're kind of like a slinky in a way that when you put them in the pan, they kind of expand out. And they're just they're just very juicy, crunchy and delicious. I think if you took away the word grub and just say that was a juicy crunchy delicious potato, then no one would think any different of it.

CK: So, the the ingredients that you've sourced for your restaurant, I assume now, there are other markets for them, they're starting to become maybe a bit more popular outside of your own restaurant?

MF: Yep, so a lot of the ingredients have started to make it into the mainstream. And there's one guy who has been supplying indigenous ingredients for for many years and has said that, as a result of Hiakai, he's seen his business was quadruple. And we've also seen a lot of restaurants open, highlighting indigenous ingredients, you know, incorporating different cultural aspects into the dining experience, which is amazing to have kind of led the way with with that. And saying that happened in such a short amount of time is really cool. And I think we'll look back at this and kind of maybe in 10 years, you'll see so many you're just kind of go oh, yeah, well, that's, of course, it's easy on the are these restaurants. But I think, you know, it didn't seem that obvious five years ago, and now it's, it's making its way to the mainstream.

CK: Monique, thank you so much. It's this has really been a pleasure and I knew so little about the food before we started now, I know a little bit. But it's fascinating. Thank you.

MF: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

CK: That was Monique Fiso her book is Hiakai, Modern Maori cuisine. Right now, my co-host Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions. Sara is the author of Home Cooking 101, also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.

Sara Moulton: So, Chris, before we move on and take a call. I just wanted to share something that I learned last week. That was really fun. I belong to this women's Connery group in New York, and we had a zoom cook-along with one of our members, Shelley Chapman who's from the Caribbean, and she's become vegan. And she made you know, salt fish. That's a traditional breakfast. Yeah, so she made her version of salt fish, and you'll never believe what she used because obviously it wasn't fish. She used canned hearts of palm. So that's odd right there, but then she grated them coarsely grated them. And you would think they wouldn't grate they do they grate very nicely. And then she cooked it down with you know, habanero, and a whole bunch of vegetables and then to make it taste like fish and I thought this was brilliant. She ground up some Nori it was I mean, I'm not a salt fish afficionado no pun intended, but it was amazing how perfect it was.

CK: So, were cooking along with her?

SM: Yeah, I did I did because I just figured you learn more if you cook along and then we did the double fried plantains you know the tostadas and that was really fun too. And I also learned that in between the fries if you soak you know there's it's double fried. You can soak the plantain in garlic and lime juice and then it absorbs that and makes it even more exciting, or it may even be before the first fry I have to go back and look at my notes. But I both learned about Caribbean cooking, but I also thought for people who are vegan. It's really nice when something just tastes that fresh and wonderful and also thinking that if you want to get a fishy taste without eating fish, just grind up some Nori. There you go.

CK: I think Nori is a seasoning ground up, we actually visited a restaurant in Portland, Maine. They do Nori ground up, like in a blender to make a powder of it. And they use it in a vinaigrette. Oh, and it is so good. I mean, just a little bit of it, you know, just a hint of it. Yeah, I think he actually toasted first and then he grinds it out. She did. Yeah, it's the best vinegar in the world. It just says a little hint of that. And it's very good. So, Sarah, we're not too old to learn something new tricks, right? (Yeah) Okay, let's take a call. Welcome to milk street Who's calling.

Caller: Hi, Jeff from Loveland, Ohio.

CK: How are you?

Caller: I am fine. I have a crazy question.

CK: We love crazy questions.

Caller: Why can’t I find mutton anywhere?

CK: Well, I'll tell you a story. In Vermont where I spent a lot of time after the Civil War and the like the 1870s and 80s there were more sheep than people. So there was a lot of mutton because the definition of mutton is like sheep that's over six months old. Yeah. So, it's just all sheep meat. I mean versus lamb, which is, you know, something that's younger and better. I'm not sure you'd find it preferable because it's much stronger. It's a very strong

Caller: Well, I hate to disagree, but I do. And I grew up eating game meat. We had grass fed cows. And I kept hearing how gamey mutton was and I thought, oh, that might taste like game. So, I found a place in Owensberg, Kentucky because they have barbecue joints down there. And they sold it to me, but that's the only place I could find it.

CK: Well, how was it?

Caller: Oh, it was delicious. It was greasy as heck. You'll be a little bit of a fat.

CK: But it's a lot stronger than lamb, right?

Caller: Oh, yeah.

CK: Wait, okay. Well, okay. I'm talking to a true believer. You're right. I mean, you're you're all in on this thing. Okay.

Caller: Yeah, I have driven for hours to get this stuff twice.

CK: Man, this is like, this is religion for you. Right?

Caller: I've done dumber stuff, trust me. (So have I) All of the butcher shops. I live more to Cincinnati, we've still got some real good butcher shops that actually still slaughter and they all said, yeah, we could get it until the day after, like, Oh, yeah, we can't get it. But all those lambs have got to come from somewhere.

SM: Well, no, but the thing is that mutton is older than lamb. So, if you raise lamb, you slaughter it, you know, quickly, you don't have to raise it as long it doesn't cost you as much money.

CK: And there's no market for mutton,

SM: Right, you know, early 1900s it was very, very popular in bars, you know, go and get mutton chops. Then then what happened, I think during the wars, people who were sort of forced to eat more mutton, and maybe got a little bit tired of it, so it wasn't in such vogue afterwards. And then also something else happened, which is wool was not in as much demand after you know, all those synthetic materials were invented.

CK: You just have to find somebody who raises lamb and just get them to leave one out for you till it's a little older. I mean, I'm serious. That's what I would do. And then then get the whole thing get a butchered and throw in the freezer right

Caller: I guess I'm going to have to do that. I thought I could go to a fair this year and say, all right, children with your lambs. What do you do with their mothers when they no longer produce? Although it makes me sound kind of creepy.

CK: I was going to say that's a really bad idea. Yeah, they're going to cart you off. I like the fact you like strong meat and you're not afraid of a little grease? Yeah.

Caller: All right. Thank you, guys, so much,

CK: Jeff. You've livened things up around here thank you

SM: Thank you. Thanks, Jeff.

Caller: I appreciate it.

SM: Bye bye. Welcome to milk Street, who is calling?

Caller: Bonjour sava? Hi, Christopher. How are you?

CK: I'm really good.

Caller: Thank you and you?

CK: Well, listening to your accent.

SM: We love it

CK slightly happier. Thank you.

SM: Bonjour

Caller: I'm Gabrielle. I'm calling from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. My cooking question is about French toast.

SM: Ok you should be the expert, Gabrielle. How can we help you?

Caller: Well, every other weekend, I make French toast from the local bakery. Last weekend, I was out of regular milk, so I used soy milk instead. To my surprise, the result was wonderful. It was golden, crispy. So I was wondering what happens if there was something chemical going on? And if other ingredients or types of milk could yield even better results?

SM: What kind of bread was it?

Caller: It was a sour dough loaf. It was vanilla flavored soy milk. So, I didn't add anything else other than the two eggs.

SM: Tell me why you liked it better?

Caller: When it's cooked in the cast iron pan. It was easier. It didn't burn. It was just only golden brown and crispy,

SM: Both times you use butter to cook it in?

Caller: Yes, a little bit.

CK: When you heat milk, it will caramelize and brown. If you heat, soy milk it’s not going to be affected the same way. So I think the soy milk will brown less readily than the sugars and other proteins and things in milk. I do think however, the type of bread also is critical. Do you use the same bread all the time?

Caller: I use stale bread, I buy the bread fresh, but then I put it in the fridge? Because I heard that stale is better

CK: It'll absorb more than liquid. So, the bread was exactly the same every time the only thing that changed was using soy milk instead of milk?

Caller: Exactly.

CK: Milk will brown more readily with heat and caramelized. So that's why the difference, you could simply cook it at lower heat and that'll solve that problem. I'll go in the opposite direction. I would soak your bread in half and half. You know, I found that it's stainless the bread is the type of bread and the amount of time you let it sit in the custard. If you really let it soak, and the bread is going to soak it up because it's slightly stale, and it's a substantial bread, then you get that really wonderful sort of crispy exterior and creamy interior. I used to cook it on an electric griddle and eventually got to the point I reduced the heat quite a lot. Because I wanted to cook it through properly without burning the outside and it did burn fairly quickly.

Caller: Okay, what kind of bread were you using?

CK: I used the typical, very dense white loaf, Hallah bread is also really good.

Caller: Okay, great. Thank you so much.

CK: Gabrielle. Take care.

Caller: Yes, thank you. Goodbye,

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. If you need help in the kitchen, give us a ring anytime. Our numbers 855-426-9843. That's 855- 426-9843. Or you can simply email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this Beverly from Venice, Florida. I'm a novice baker and I really appreciate the recipes and the step-by-step demo on your website. One thing that's catching me up sometimes, there's so many varieties of apples out there. Is there one variety that's better than another one?

CK: Ah, Oh, boy. Let me make some broad sweeping generalizations. Just about any variety that’s come about in the last 20 years I don't like because they're all sweet. And they've lost the tartness and even the savoriness of some classic Apple varieties. I just don't like their texture. I don't like their flavor. It's just much too sweet. They don't make good pies, etc. The two you can always find of course are the Macintosh which I think has actually very good flavor. It's not a baking Apple though and a Granny Smith, which is the most flavorless fruit in the history of fruit, but it doesn't break down when you bake it. I have in the past suggested you bake with half Granny's half Macs as a last-ditch crisis solution if you can't find good varieties, you'll get texture and flavor. I would go back to the Cortland's Braeburn actually, this fall in my co-op they had a bunch of old-fashioned Fridays Sheep's Nose, which looks like a sheep's nose. And one of those old varieties Cox Pippin, they're not super sweet. And they have spiciness to them. Winesap maybe, Macoun m-a-c-o-u-n which I love. Worst case scenario mix Grannies and Mac’s, but it's nothing like the old varieties. If you like interesting flavor. I mean, Sara, do you agree?

SM: 100% agree. If you you know have a local farmers market. Well actually in Florida, did they grow apples? I don't think so. So that's unfortunate. I try to find as he said some of the lesser known more are seasonal old fast varieties and I agree with you about the flavor of Macintosh especially straight up, but it really does fall apart. I mean in a pie if you have one part that holds its shape like a granny smith and then it's okay to have a Macintosh that falls apart. And Granny Smith it's so funny. It used to be the apple that would make you pucker because it was so so tart, but it has gotten very bland. I would say though, to always mix up a couple of different kinds of apples.

Caller: Okay, that should help.

CK: I was going to say, go to your local orchard and get some of the old varieties. Forget that. Sorry, stupid idea.

Caller: I mean, I do have a mango tree in my backyard and a grapefruit tree and an orange tree but no apple options here. Apples are one of my favorite. And I've just been not happy with how things been turning out but something I didn't think of as mixing different varieties together. So

CK: Yeah, well, our condolences but of course you can go to your backyard and things look better in your backyard then they do in mine right now.

SM: Mango, ooh I love mango.
Caller: Yes

CK: Thank you so much for calling and yeah, maybe we'll send you some Cortland’s and you can send us some mangoes. We’ll do a trade.

SM: We'll do a trade

CK: it’s a barter.

Caller: Wonderful trade. Alright, thank you so much

CK Bye. You’re listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next is my conversation with research chef Shola Olunyolo that and more after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Chef Shola Olunyolo. Shola welcome to Milk Street.

SO: Hello, thank you for having me.

CK: You grew up in England, Europe, West Africa, could just tell us a little bit about your childhood.

SO: I grew up in Nigeria and spent some time in England.

CK: You described Nigeria, Lagos as really being a fascinating place. Fashion designers, musicians, etc.

SO: Well, it's it's a very interesting dynamic city of commerce and culture. And it's, you know, it's kind of it's basically I call the Naples of West Africa, you know, traffic is a mess. There's food everywhere. Things just go like 24 seven. It's a very active community of artists, artisans, you know, that there's micro economies below the surface, like for example, people sell computers and then there's like a whole computer part industry that is like completely underground. So, you don't necessarily have to go to the Apple store at Lagos to get your stuff fixed.

CK: Save 50% and go to the guy down the road. Great.

SO: You save more than 50%.

CK: You sound like you know what you're talking about. Let's talk about you and your cooking career in the early 90s. You worked at and you said it was I think you said it was the best job you ever had. And you mentioned in part because it was so diverse. Why was Deux Cheminées so diverse?

SO: Well, it first of all, it was called Deux Cheminées, because the building had two chimneys. It was designed by a very famous American architect, Frank Furness. It's a really beautiful historic building. It was the private club and fall off here for Princeton University. And so, when we walk through the place you know, the the woodwork, the banisters, the ornate ceilings, the chandeliers, the library, which had to be the best cookbook library in the United States during his existence, was just an incredible resource for young cooks, not only from the concept of food, but also from a multidisciplinary approach to life and experiences. That's how I sort of see things like I think you should not just be a cook. You know, that's the problem with cook’s today's they just cook they play with food. That's it. Like they know nothing about history, literature music, architecture that helped to shape you know, ecology, nature and food, you know. So, it was a great experience in that sense. Now beyond all that Fritz was, you know, a Pennsylvania Dutch German, who was a, had a degree in microbiology and animal husbandry from the University of Pennsylvania. So, we're talking having access to a very great intellectual and Academic resource in your chef.

CK: This is an odd question. But I, there's this tension, I think, between people, especially here in the States, who, when they think about other countries, think about them in terms of their traditional food ways. But I find when I get off the plane and go somewhere, it's always much more interesting and vital and changing than what people think. Do you find yourself caught in that that, on one hand, people expect you maybe to do more traditional food, but with your studio kitchen, you're really on the cutting edge of, you know, pushing food forward?

SO: I mean, you're correct. Yes, there is that conflict, still in the minds of a lot of people. But I think that's only because of a very kind of a, you know, now focus, you know, it's a very myopic way to seafood. You know, I think it's possible for both to coexist, and I don't think that one should be in competition with the other just try and grow and see how it moves. You know, like music, for example, is the best analogy. In the American context for example, jazz, you know, you went to the 40s 50s, Bebop, Miles, Monk, Mingus. And then we started to get someone like Wynton Marsalis, you know, someone who was schooled in the traditional context, and then stuck with the traditional context, and went in was always like, offended by Miles Davis, his last few albums before he died. But Miles was more like, its still music, you know, no, art evolves without change, and evolution. I think that's how cooks should think you can, you can do both, you know, I can cook Nigerian food straight up, I can make a jollof rice just like you would have in West Africa. And you know what, if I feel like making it in a pie pan and use the chilies from Valencia, and shrimp from Palamos in the north of Spain, it's still jollof rice, Spanish people are now curious. I'm like, this is jollof caliente. You know, and be like, before you know it, we're having a conversation instead of starting the war, you know

CK: So, what is the studio kitchen? Could you explain and by the way, what is a research chef? And how do you make a living being a research chef,

SO: So let's do kitchen was just a, you know, when I left the restaurant industry in the mainstream science, and I wanted to develop further as a cook, you know, as as a as a black person in America, you know, the idea of going out to get like half a million bucks from a bunch of investors to do what I wanted to do was just not an option. So, as I said, it's possible to stay creative. You know, I had worked for some very high-profile people. And I felt I've had enough of just continuing to work, I wanted to hone in on the precise details of cooking in a research sense. So, I want to do some studies, I went to the Fat Duck in England, it wasn't so much fun, because it was just like, you go to this Michelin restaurants and you just kind of like, you know, pick hairs of grapefruit for like, two days.

CK: This Heston Blumenthal, you mean,

SO: Yeah, that's just not a negative about them. But stages were not for me, you just kind of like become like, an unpaid employee to, like, make a Michelin star have better food, you know? So, and I wasn't interested in that I wanted to learn. So, I came back home, and I said, you know what, I'm just going to start my own idea of like, what would be an utterly, you know, just like an artist would be a musician. And I call it the studio kitchen. And I knew I started with, just like, whatever funds I had, and I would supplement it by doing occasional pop ups for like, the intellectually culinary curious. And so, as you continue to grow, that became my opportunity to test ideas that were neither conforming to public demand, or trends in the industry. So, I could do a lot of interesting creative things. You know, eventually, as I grew, and Studio Kitchen grew, and my ability became known the consulting part then came in where someone's developing a concept and they need a chef to help them figure out the details.

CK: So, give us some examples of people who come to you with the studio kitchen, they have a problem you need they want you to solve, and how do you solve it?

SO: So, they're not necessarily just problems, but like projects. Like several years ago, for example, there's an entity in Philadelphia called Honey Grow. And the owner was fascinated with the idea of bringing healthier food to people and he wanted to basically coalesce to existing concepts stir fry, quick food and salads. And so, it's like bringing together like maybe like Sweet Green and like PayWave together, which makes sense. During the winter, you sell a lot of stir fry, summer salad a lot of salads. So, but they had no in no culinary knowledge, so they said we need a consultant who's also chef. So, I go through several stages of saying, well, I understand how to make a stiff I understand what kitchen equipment you need. And I understand you know how to train your cooks to make the food, so you become both directly a culinary advisor and trainer but also like almost like a little bit of an air traffic controller when you see like the pilots going the wrong way like no no over there.

CK: Wrong runway.

SO: Exactly. Right. So, but in between those things I do my more esoteric smaller things.

CK: I spent some time watching you cook on YouTube and other places. Just want to bring up a few recipes. Yes, the tortellini with jelly tomato water, that end up like soup dumplings, you know from like Taiwan. Could you just explain that because that was pretty cool?

SO: That idea came from challenging yourself to just reverse it and ideas and thought processes. So, tortellini in brodo. Pristine, precise tortellini and really good broth. It's one of the greatest dishes in the world, I think. Then I said, like, why don't we just make brodo and tortellini and people looked at me like I had two heads. And so, what I did was make like jellied tomato water and put in tortellini

CK: any the tomato water is clear

SO: It’s clear liquid. And so, we serve them and white bowls in front of people the tortellini were hot. They're like, where's the verdo? We're like, it's not as many people pick them up with spoons, they ate them. There was a gush warm, clear tomato liquid. Like I just had a tomato dish that has no visual relationship to tomato, tastes more tomatoey than anything I've ever eaten. So that's when I have time on my hands. And I feel like being a little bit of a trickster, but it's also extremely technically complicated.

CK: You did some other things. You you took Japanese milk bread and turn that into malted milk bread, which I kind of liked.

SO: Well, that's easy. You know, it's like, what's what's one of your greatest flavors when you grew up? A malted milkshake is delicious, you know, milk bread is basically you know, like butter and sugar stabilized with flour. So, one of the greatest flavor affinities is just transferred into an already delicious bread. And then it's just like, kind of eaten between, like a bread and a cookie or bread tastes like a cookie, you know, that is like a milkshake. A lot of context of flavor is formed in our childhood. And it's a lot of those childhood memories that make people still excited when they grew up. You know, creativity has to have emotion, as opposed to just self-serving and doing something that needs to be explained to be understood. That's what lacks in a lot of food today. If you have to explain too much. It doesn't work.

CK: So let's assume tomorrow, you completely lose your mind and decide to open a restaurant. If you were to do that get into the restaurant business again. What kind of restaurant would you do?

SO: I would do a restaurant that cooks with fire that cooks very simple food, but all of it with fire with charcoal or wood. There's this relationship between fire and wood that I've grown to love it's something that really inspired me to cook when I was a kid because when I lived in Africa, during big celebrations, we will cook in the backyard over like an outdoor stove. If you go to to Spain now Barcelona, Madrid and you go to this restaurant that also have food a la brasa chicken cooked and charcoal vegetables cooked on the planter. You know razor clams just like shaking over fire. The food's amazing. It's incredible. And it really brings food back to nature without adding extraneous processes or techniques at all. And what that allows you to do is just serve way better food for way less money and give the public a better experience and your cooks a better quality of life. In a rather than sitting on a pen in a French restaurant thrown in a New York Strip. went into the grass at certain points based in it for like another three minutes with a spoon and get carpal tunnel syndrome you know. Amazing foods simple fire.

CK: You're a really interesting guy because on one hand, you're making soup dumplings with jelly tomato water for fun. And the other hand, you know done, you know Florentine steak with a little arugula and parmesan. You like both ends of the spectrum, right

SO: Yeah, I think I think it's possible. That's what I said about ___. It's possible for all ends of the spectrum to exist and coexist in peace. Absolutely.

CK: Shola it's been it's been a great pleasure. pleasure having you on Milk Street. Thank you.

SO: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

CK: That was chef Shola Olunyolo. This is Milk Street Radio. It's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe, shrimp orzo and zucchini with ouzo and mint. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris.

CK: You know what's the wild this show I interview someone who paints a picture of a place that I really want to go. Marianna Leivaditaki from Crete. I interviewed her not too long ago, a chef, you know, a cookbook author. I think their family had a tavern on the water. Her father still there, a small boat fisherman. The ingredients just sound amazing, obviously a lot of seafood. But one of the recipes I talked with her about was essentially risotto, but she uses orzo instead of arborio rice, with a very similar method. I thought that was pretty cool.

LC: It is crisp, but it also makes a lot of sense. There's a lot of starch from that pasta and you can use that starch to your benefit to make kind of a creamy sauce like you would with a risotto. One thing she does to start though is make her own broth with shrimp shells. So, this orzo has shrimp in it, she takes the shells and roast them and then makes a broth from it. Our version simplifies it a little bit, we make that broth in the saucepan on the stovetop, and just really high heat and let those shrimp shells Brown, and that's going to add a lot of flavor to the broth.

CK: So yeah, it also as zucchini has ouzo and mint. One of my favorite herbs is the basic risotto method here.

LC: For the most part. Yeah, I mean, it goes a lot quicker. It's got a slightly higher heat than you would probably do risotto. So you make the broth and then sort of toast the orzo. Add the aromatics, and then cook those vegetables. There's tomatoes and zucchini, a little bit of fennel seed, which kind of plays off the flavor of the ouzo and then you add the broth a little at a time, just like you would with risotto

CK: The shrimp now you mentioned making a broth but are we throwing away the shrimp or are we going to add them to the risotto?

LC: We’re just going to have shrimp cocktail? No, of course, we're going to use shrimp in here as well. Those get added at the very end. We want to make sure those shrimp stay really nice and plump and tender.

CK: So, this is why I like it a 20-minute recipe, something like that.

LC: Yeah, really quick. And then the very, very end we have that ouzo, which has that sort of anise-y flavor, kind of like fennel, and some lemon zest and mint.

CK: So if you're tired with the same old risotto recipe, you can try shrimp orzo and zucchini with orzo and mint from Marianna in Crete. Thank you, Lynn.

LC: You're welcome, Chris. You can get this recipe for shrimp orzo and zucchini with ouzo and mint at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street radio coming up Dan Pashman teaches us how to make better pasta salad. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street radio. Right now. Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Bridget from Montpelier, Vermont.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: My son and I really like to make crepes and we've been doing it for a while. The recipe that we found on the internet works fine, but it has a couple of steps that make it kind of a pain one is that you make it in a blender. Then you have to clean the blender. And the other is it has to wait 30 minutes before you can make the crepes which makes it a little hard to you know do on a quick morning when you're hungry. I was wondering if both of those steps are necessary or adding anything to a crepe recipe.

SM: First of all, do you fill them, or do you just eat them straight up?

Caller: My son usually fills them with Nutella, maybe a banana, strawberries that kind of thing

SM: Oh yum. Well, there's two issues. I like to make it in a blender. It's just so easy, you throw it in, you hit the button, boom, you're done. You could certainly do it by hand, but it will take longer to get it somewhat smoother. I also like the resting period, I don't know if it's 100% necessary with such a wet batter to let the gluten relax, but I always give it a rest. And also, I think the flour sort of absorbs the liquid better, it becomes more smooth and more consistent texture. And also, the thing about when you blend it, it creates all these bubbles. And for me, I don't want the bubbles in my crepes you know, I want it to calm down and settle down and absorb the liquid. But at the end of the day, if you mixed it by hand and made them right away, I don't think it would be terrible. Let me just throw out something else that you can do, which is you could make the crepe batter. Let it rest make the crepes and then you can freeze them, you know already made. When I was going to cooking school, we learned how to make crepes. They said Oh, you can't stack them on top of each other because they'll stick but then one day, I just stacked them. And then I put them in the fridge. What makes them stick to each other is the butter that's in the recipe. And if you take them out at room temperature, just warm them up slightly they unstick. So, Chris what do you think?

CK: The only thing I have to add is I interviewed Jonathan Waxman a while back, you know Barbuda restaurant in New York, he said that his secret to crepes was adding more melted butter to the batter. So, he uses no butter or oil or anything in the crepe pan itself. (Oh, that's interesting) And I thought that was really something I never thought of.

SM: But would you make it in the blender, and would you insist that at rest?

CK: You know, I've always thought, and I've always said, going along with my motto always run but never in doubt that you should let it rest for 30 minutes. But I know lots of other people who said gluten development is not an issue here.

SM: So, do you think she could just mix it by hand and

CK: Yes. I don't think the batter's the hard part. I think getting it's the right pan and the right amount of heat. (Yeah) that's really the tricky part.

Caller: My son is pretty good at that part, then you're good.

CK: Then you're good. You're good to go.

SM: I'm just impressed with you two. So, you do you you know, including no blender and no resting let us know how that goes.

Caller: Ok we’ll give it a try

CK: Thanks. Bye. Take care. Bye. This is Milk Street radio, give us a call anytime our number is 855-426-9843. The number once again is 855-426-9843 or you can email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Karen Betts from Phoenix, Arizona.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: I have a question regarding olive oil and why we can use olive oil to cook in a high heat oven like say for 425 or 425 degrees. But we can't use it on the stovetop, we have to use like a higher smoke point oil.

CK: Very tricky question. And an excellent question I might add. First of all, regular, like refined olive oil actually has a pretty high smoke point of like 450. So you're extroversion Evo, olive oil is probably around 400 or so. The problem with that is when you heat olive oil, you lose a lot of the volatiles, right? So, a really premium olive oil or really should never be heated it will be used as a drizzle or written in salad dressing. So, I would never use a quality high quality olive oil and roasting vegetables or whatever, I would just use grapeseed oil or whatever sunflower oil it’s not going to really matter. But if you want to buy a less expensive, refined olive oil for cooking, that's fine. And the smoke point will be 450 you might want to keep an expensive bottle of olive oil for drizzling in salad dressings, etc. and less expensive for cooking even high heat roasting.

Caller: Gotcha. Okay, yeah, that makes that kind of makes sense. I didn't realize that the temperature was was that high of a smoke point. But yeah, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. And also, thanks so much for doing some shows. It's keeping me entertained, and I discovered you and I even subscribe to your magazine now. So I appreciate your time.

CK: Well, we try to be entertaining, but sometimes we some days are better than others. (Yeah, yeah. Anyway), so thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Caller: Okay, thank you.

SM: Okay, yeah, take care.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, my name is Sam. I'm calling you from Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a tip that I've learned the hard way. Read a recipe all the way through to the end before you decide to make it. I have not done this in the past and ended up finding out three quarters of the way through that it needs to marinate overnight in the Frederator. So quick tip, hard learned, but good to know. Thanks.

CK: By the way, if you'd like to share your own culinary hack or secret ingredient on milk street radio, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash radio tips. Next up, it's Dan Pashman. Dan How are you?

Dan Pashman: Hey Chris, how's it going?

CK: Good.

DP: I'm going say two words. I just want you to give me your immediate gut reaction. (Yeah) pasta salad.

CK: Oh my god. Yeah. Please don't. Does this have it's cold and has mayonnaise and little little chopped up olives in it or something?

DP: Yes. You had the right reaction, Chris, because I understand that that as many people's reaction, you know, pasta salad is kind of gloopy and gloppy and mushy. It usually comes to the summer cookout with the person who forgot they were supposed to bring some things they stopped at the supermarket and bought the cheapest prepackaged side they could find. Pasta salads not good. No. But I think that it's correlation, not causation. People are making bad pasta salads. But that does not mean that pasta salad itself is bad.

CK: That's deeply philosophical.

DP: Yes, I am here to try to convince you that pasta salad can be great.

CK: Okay. You never choose an easy thing to do. It's always heavy lifting. Go ahead.

DP: So alright, first of all, there's a couple of classic mistakes that people make with pasta salad. And most of the time you're going to see pasta salad in the warmer weather. And you said the key word you said mayonnaise. Keep the mayonnaise the heck away from your pasta salad. Why do you want mayonnaise, of pasta salad so that you can make before your company arrives or bring to a party? And that can sit out for several hours without degrading. And anything that's coated in mayonnaise is probably not going to check those boxes.

CK: Yes, well, so far, so good.

DP: Okay, you want your pasta salad to be light and acidic. I think that olives can be great, but you want some lemon juice, you want vinegar. You want bright, crisp flavors, not creamy, gooey, mushy flavors and textures. So that that can mean feta cheese, olives, capers, citrus, you know, there are a million different ways to get it in there. But you need tangy, tart, acidic, more so than creamy.

CK: Well, I guess there's a more fundamental issue here. I mean, this is this is almost theological that’s how far we’re going with this. Yeah, I mean, should pasta ever be served cold? Forget about the dressing, but but just as a culinary, you know, mountain to cross is that how do you feel about that?

DP: You make a great point, Chris. I think there's another problem with a lot of pasta salads. I don't think they should be served cold. They should be served room temperature.

CK: Okay

DP: Ideally, they will be made the day they're served. They will never be refrigerated because the refrigerator is going to dry out your pasta.

CK: Okay. All right

DP: The other thing is, you know, because you want the pasta salad to be able to sit for several hours, you need to under cook your pasta the way you would if you were going to be making a baked pasta dish. You're effectively saucing your pasta, and it's going to sit in its sauce for a couple of hours. It's sauce in this case its really more of a dressing but same concept. It's sitting in some kind of liquid that is going to continue to soak into the pasta.

CK: So that's a good point

DP: Undercook the pasta, dress it an hour or two in advance. Let that dressing soak into the pasta in a way that will get it up to the right level of cookingnes and also infuse it with flavor.

CK: I agree that's a good, good observation.

DP: Great. Now I'm going to bring it all home for you Chris. The last thing (there you go). Most people are using the wrong pasta shape. Okay, what's the most common shape you see in pasta, salads?

CK: Macaroni

DP: Macaroni, that's right. The other one that I see too often is if you see fusilli, if you see fusilli mean, first of all, I mean someone should just put fusilli out of its misery period. That's not a good shape. It does not cook evenly.

CK: I think that's the Italian consulate online too, calling you at this point.

DP: Yeah, but it's especially a bad shape for pasta salad because it has a very high surface area in relation to volume and as all those spirals so when it sits in any kind of dressing for an hour or two, it is going to disintegrate and indeed that's what usually happens with few silly macaroni also just too soft, it's too small, it can't stand up to the dressing. You want any kind of thick, meaty shape, that is easily forgettable you don't want something like thick and huge. I love a gemelli which is sort of two small tubes twisted together. A cover Toppy, something that will be thick and meaty but also small that can stand up to the dressing while still providing nice size bites.

CK: You know it sounds like you spent months in your basement in the lab. Just Adjusting dressing intake with different shapes. pastas, right.

DP: Yeah, I mean, look, that's, you're not you're not far off, Chris.

CK: You're a fun guy.

DP: But but I have made my case to you. Oh, wise one. Have I won you over? Do you, can you see a world where pasta salad could be good?

CK: Yeah, I admit that what you say makes sense. The only thing I'm a little concerned about is like, if you leave this pasta salad out for a couple hours, do you have to worry about food safety? Or is nothing in a pasta salad going to potentially cause a problem?

DP: I mean, I wouldn't put something in there that was especially perishable. But you know, most, first of all, if you put acid or vinegar on there, that will help. You might want to give it a stir now and again, it looks six hours might be a long time to leave it out. But you should be able to leave it out for a few hours, a little bit of crumbled cheese in their cheese should be fine at room temperature for several hours. Can you know I probably wouldn't put like, you know, sashimi in there but I think that most types of things that you would put in a salad, I think you'd be fine now.

CK: You can tell I'm getting old because I'm asking food safety questions. I just caught myself man that's a bad sign, like it's all over for me.

DP: Right Chris? Is this going give me Angina?

CK: Is this a digestion problem here? Dan Pashman, you've come up against one of the great issues in the culinary world, which is pasta salad, and I think you've made some good points. I will give it a try. Thank you.

DP: I'll count that as a win. Thanks, Chris.

CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of The Sportful Food podcast. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in to later want to binge listen every single episode, you can download milk street radio, on Apple podcast, Spotify, wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Sreet please go to 177 Milk Street .com there you can find all of our recipes take a free online cooking class or order her latest cookbook which is Tuesday Night's Mediterranean. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177 and Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories. And thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH executive producer Melissa Baldino. Senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producers Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky, production assistant, Amelia McGuire, and production help from Debby Paddock, Additional Editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at 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.

JULY 2021

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