Inside Mexico with Pati Jinich | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 532
December 3, 2021

Inside Mexico with Pati Jinich

Inside Mexico with Pati Jinich

Pati Jinich is on a quest to show people what Mexico looks like and tastes like. She breaks down the common denominators of Mexican cuisine, tells us why she lives and dies for her blender and reveals her favorite recipes for chicken soup. Plus, writer Brandon Cook gives us a language lesson on drinking toasts from around the world, Alex Aïnouz has an epiphany about homemade pasta, and we bake up an ultra-easy Swedish “Sticky” Chocolate Cake.

This episode is brought to you by This Is Fine Cheese.

Questions in this episode:

"I love the cauliflower pizza at my local pizzeria and have tried to make that kind of crust at home. It’s never turned out crisp enough. How can I improve my recipe?"

"I’ve had a sous vide for a couple of years and have cooked a leg of lamb with it a number of times. It always tastes fine, but the texture is awful. What am I doing wrong?"

"In college, I worked in the salad department at an old school restaurant on Route 66 where I spent a lot of time stemming spinach. I never see any salad recipes calling for this, so is this a matter of personal preference or is it a worthwhile step?"

"I have a beautiful herd of dairy cows and their milk is so wonderful. I’ve made great mozzarella, but was wondering if you had any recommendations for hard cheeses I should attempt."

"Lately, I’ve been making cakes, quick breads and muffins, but find that the recipes I use are far too sweet and heavy for my liking. I’ve taken some liberties, like reducing the amount of sugar and fat, adding another egg or using a cultured dairy product. I just play around, but I’d like to know how low I can go when it comes to sugar and fat."

Jinich portrait Butow

Chris Kimball: This is most your radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Pati Jinish has hosted Pati's Mexican Table for the last decade in an effort to present the full range of Mexican food. Today she tells us about some of Mexico's lesser-known culinary traditions, including seared white beans and sweet lime chicken soup. She also explains why a pressure cooker accident felt like a rite of passage.

Pati Jinich: So many homes have pressure cookers in Mexico, but all of them have more than one accident story. You know, like I got a pressure cooker when I got married. In like the second or third time that I used it I was making pinto beans in the exploded me it took me weeks to clean that up. And I never ever wanted to use a pressure cooker ever again.

CK: Later on in the show, we whip up a perfectly gooey Swedish sticky chocolate cake. And Alex Ainouz argues that store bought pasta is sometimes better than homemade. But first it's my interview with Brandon Cook. In his book Cheers he offers up toasts and 80 languages from Latin to Tagalog to the fictional languages of JRR Tolkien. Brandon, welcome to Milk Street.

Brandon Cook: Well, thank you so much, Chris. I'm very happy to be here.

CK: So, we both like JRR Tolkien. But you, you got in pretty deep, because you wanted to write a fantasy novel as a teenager, and actually began studying ancient Babylonian to use as a base for your project

BC: I did. Yeah. And I have to correct you there. I actually wrote two when I was a teenager. But absolutely, yeah, with Tolkien. I had been reading his Hobbit when I was younger. And I just saw all of his language stuff that he had been doing. And I thought that looks like fun, I could do something like that. So that was my very first foray into language learning. And it was maybe a little ambitious for a sixth grader to try to pick up ancient Babylonian.

CK: So, let's talk about toasts. The one that I thought was most common, but most interesting was clinking of glasses. And you had different stories about the possible origins of this.

BC: Yeah, and I think probably the most famous is this. I don't know, maybe a legend or a myth more than reality but the story goes that back in the day, all of these Anglo Saxons were kind of paranoid about being poisoned. And so, what they would do is before a drink, they would toast the glasses together in the hope that the wine from their glasses or their drinking horns would spill out, and therefore poison everybody, so that people would be dissuaded from wanting to poison them. But there's a couple more stories as well. And one of the other ones would go that around Christmas time, there would always be like a surplus of devils around, and that the people, they would clink their glasses, because this would kind of echo the sound of clinking bells from the church. So that would scare the demons off. And then the one that I found really interesting was this one about all five senses. And that when you are drinking wine, you have the feel of the glass, and then you have the smell of the wine, and you have the taste of the wine. And then you also put the clink in there to have the sound as well.

CK: So, let's just do some some quickies here in terms of how other people toast in different places.

BC: All right, well, there's all sorts of toasts from everywhere you go, I spend a lot of time in China so, you can start there. And your Chinese word for toast is ganbai which literally means empty glass. So, someone will raise their glass, everybody says ganbai, then you chug your glass. If you go north, however, you're going to find in Japanese, they're going to say kanpai, also dry glass. But the toasting culture is quite different. Because it's so important for these cultures to show extreme respect to your guests that when you kanpai you're going to be clinking glasses, but your host is probably going to lower her glass a little bit lower than the brim of your glass, which is a sign to show respect. So, the proper move will be for you to the lower your glass a little bit below her glass to show her respect there. And then what she's going to do then is going to lower her glass a little bit more.

CK: So, where does this end, I ask?

BC: On the ground, probably, but there is a way to curtail it. And it is that when she's trying to lower her glass again, you go ahead and sneak in the kanpai before she can lower anymore and you sneak it in with a clink. And that tells them that okay, it's done. We've honored quite enough.

CK: How about Prosit? This one through me is from the Latin. So, explain that.

BC: Yeah, so stands for my Latin, meaning proceed, like kind of good things. And there's a famous Oktoberfest Diddy that’s sung in Bavaria and a Bavarian dialect of German that goes Ein prosit ein prosit Der Gemütlichkeit, and they're actually using the word prosit kind of in the same sense that a Latin speaker would have used proceed 2000 years ago, but the Germans also say prosit. And they always looked eye to eye, when they say it,

CK: Well, well, I, since I have relatives who are from Austria. Every time there's a toast in with my in-laws, it's augen schau, right, yeah. augen meaning eye schau look. And so, you have to look at someone in the eyes. If you don't, you're in big trouble. But you actually said it's worse trouble than I thought.

BC: Yeah, I had to actually learn this the hard way. I was actually living in Australia with a host mother. And I was maybe about 19 years old, she was giving me a toast and reminded me augen schau, and I asked her why. And she gently warned me that it was seven years bad sex if I didn't. So I was very careful then on to make sure I got the eyes, right.

CK: My in laws were kind enough not to mention that. Well, this next one just reinforces my feeling that Russians have a more literary culture than most of us. You said there, the tradition is a Toastmaster begins to toast. It evolves into an anecdote, which then has a moral. And so in other words, it's a much more elaborate approach to the toast.

BC: Yeah, the Russian toast is kind of like a giant tangent from your drunk uncle. Kind of gilded and yeah, there is a moral. There's a whole story to it. But you have a word that's vashe zdorov'ye which is to health in Russian. But if you ever say that to a Russian, they'll kind of gently correct you and be like, yeah, that's it. But that's not the whole story. So, I actually I lived in Russia for about a year a little over a year and had a lot of experiences where we would sit down and have a few drinks and my friend gets up and he would say, brucea, my my friends, Romania, yes, toast. And then he started talking about his uncle from like, so many generations ago always told him do something or other. And by the time he finished the toast, we all kind of forgot what the original point of the toast even was.

CK: So, anything else that we should carry away from this discussion that I can use at my next cocktail party?

BC: Well, I was talking with some of my Nigerian friends, and part of their culture would say this word, ____ and that's kind of like Thanksgiving, it's kind of like a blessing or more like you're wishing these good things on you.

CK: So how about an Elvish?

BC: Well, which Elvish do you mean?

CK: Oh, I don’t know, are there are different elvish languages?

BC: There are there are yeah, that's amazing. Tolkien designed two forms of Elvish. And there is an elvish called qualia, which is like high elvish like your Latin, your Sanskrit of elvish Yeah, yeah get your differences, man, this is important stuff. And he has another one called Sindarin which is like your more demotic elvish kind of what you like your street elvish but the word I know is ____and I just assume that it means elvish cheers.

CK: Well, now I I can enjoy more cocktails because I can toast longer in different languages. Brandon, thank you so much for being on Milk Street

BC Thank you Chris. It was such a pleasure to be here.

CK: That was Brandon Cook his book is Cheers Around the World in 80 Toasts. Now it's time for my co-host Sara Moulton and I to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking One on Onealso star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Sara, glad to see you.

Sara Moulton: Thank you, Chris.

CK: You know, I recently interviewed Stanley Tucci, and we talked obviously about Big Night, right? His breakthrough movie. And the last five minutes that movie is you remember, he's making eggs. And there's almost no talking, which is one of my favorite scenes in any movie. At the beginning of the scene, people are far apart and as the scene evolves, people get closer and closer. And finally, he's sitting next to someone, and he puts his arm around them, and its sort of this coming together and this acceptance of what's happened in the rest of the movie. But the question is the eggs and he referred to it as a frittata. And he was essentially making scrambled eggs. And I said isn't a frittata thicker, and it goes into an oven etc. and he said no there is another type of frittata which is essentially eggs scrambled in a skillet. And it's not baked. It's just done it essentially scrambled eggs with maybe some flavorings. I never heard of a frittata being anything other than a thicker, essentially omelet that's finished in the oven, right?

SM: No, I'm baffled. frankly,

CK: He looked like he was really a good cook in that scene. It was quite impressive. So, I guess there's more than one fritatta.

SM: Wow. That’s news to me

CK: There you go. Let's take some calls. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Karen

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: A while back, our local pizzeria made cauliflower pizza for us. And my husband was raving about it. So, I thought maybe I'll make some cauliflower pizza, make it at home and it'll be a lot cheaper. The cauliflower pizza that they make at the pizzeria is nice and crisp, I tried twice. The first time, there was a considerable amount of water still left in the cauliflower after I cooked it. But the second time around, it came out very nice. I put it in the pan. And my husband was like, it's not crisp enough. So, I thought, you know, what could I do to make it more crisp. And then I thought maybe what they do the pizzeria is they use a gluten free flour, and they mix it in with the cauliflower rice.

CK: So, the thing about pizza, that I think that's so appealing is that you have a variety of different textures. The bottom of the crust is different than the inside of the crust. I think the problem is in a professional oven. I don't know if its wood fired or not, but you're getting up to 900,000 degrees. And I think you probably need that amount of heat to really dry that crust out and make it crispy. My guess is if you have a 500-degree oven at home, you just don't have enough heat me Sara, do you agree?

SM: Well, you know what I did want to ask, so you have the rice cauliflower. Right? And what else did you combine it with before you smooshed it out?

Caller: Right, I put a egg in it. Parmesan. Little salt and pepper. I think that's it.

SM: Okay. And what temperature did you do it at?

Caller: I think it was about 450

SM: I was even going to suggest something else which is to cook it at a lower temperature for a longer time. So, it dried out more. Chris, do you have anything else to add?

CK: Yeah, go and get real pizza. Sorry. I just I did the whole idea of cauliflower pizza is just so I'm not on board. Sorry.

SM: Well, it's very I listen. I absolutely adore roasted cauliflower.

CK: I love cauliflower, I like eggplant. But I'm not going to make a pizza out of eggplant either. Anyway, so

SM: Well. Karen, if you feel like I'm trying,

Voice: I’m with you Chris.

CK: Hey, good. Hey, who was that? That was

Caller: That was my husband.

CK: Good for him.

Caller’s husband: You can't beat just a nice, just regular cheese pizza.

CK: Okay, let's just agree. Life is too short when you find something you like, stick to it.

SM: Well, thank you, Karen and husband. Thank you.

Caller: Thank you. Thank you so much

CK: Thanks, guys.

SM: Bye bye. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is George Linhardt, we’re here from Jackson, Wyoming and we're here visiting in Boston.

SM: Oh, Chris's neck of the woods. So how can we help you?

Caller: I've had a sous vide for a couple of years. I've been relatively successful with poultry, and some pork items and vegetables. I have tried it a number of times with a leg of lamb, boneless, and I've had poor consistency results. I've tried dry rubs. I've tried a wet marinade before I put it into the sous vide. The sous vide is usually 130 degrees for 24 hours, and it comes out tasting fine, but the consistency of firm cans dog food. That's rough. I do finish it under the broiler to try to get across on it. But the consistency, fresh or the next day is still unpalatable. I don't know what I'm doing wrong

SM: Well, I'm not a big sous vide maven, but I am somewhat familiar with a recipe that J Kenji Lopez Alt did. I think the problem is that you're cooking it way too long in the sous vide. Chris, do you agree

CK: Yeah. I would say no more than five or six hours, but it depends, of course, how its boned out and how it's tied. And how thick it is. But I would say you know, a fourth that time something or six hours, maybe

Caller: Okay,

CK: Four to six something

Caller: Recipes I got we're off the net. And they all had you know, for four to five pounds. boneless leg of lamb that period of time. I'm concerned about overcooking animals, so concerned about not looking at long enough and getting sick.

SM: Right

CK: First of all, let's just say that if you leave something between 80 and 140, that's the temperature zone that's a danger zone. So, since you're cooking this to, you said 130 or something, but you're letting it sit under 140 degrees for a very long time. So, I would say the sooner you get out of that sous vide the better in terms of safety. Now you're not taking much risk with a leg of lamb, but I would say six hours. The other way to do it, which is how I do steak is put it in a low oven to 225 to 250 oven, bring it up to 100 degrees internal. And then finish it on a grill or a pan or a very hot oven or broiler.

Caller: I do cook my steaks just as you say. And, you know, maybe the sous vide, he would just be bagged for legs of lamb. I don't have a problem with that either.

CK: All you want to do is bring up that internal temperature evenly. And there's also a little science, it's almost like your turbo aging the meat. When you get around 85-90 95 degrees. You let it sit there for a while. It really does add flavor, you can taste it in a blind taste test.

Caller: Can I ask one other questions in the same line of a sous vide (sure) Should the meats always be fraud, or can they be put in frozen?

CK: I would have them thawed

SM: I would too

CK: the time you're going to spend in the sous vide is going to be a really long time.

SM: Right

CK: You really don't want things like meat sitting in that dangerous danger zone for a long time

SM: danger zone

Caller: Okay. Thank you very much. And I look forward to maybe coming back to one of your in-person classes in the future

CK: Well, at least stop by the office we’re on Milk Street

Caller: I know where you are

CK: It would be nice to see you.

Caller: Thank you both. Yeah, take care.

SM: Thank you.

CK: Thanks, George. Bye,

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help with dinner, just give us a ring anytime that number of course is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling? Hi,

Caller: Hi, this is Beth from Brookfield, Illinois.

SM: Hi, Beth, how can we help you today?

Caller: In college, I worked in the salad department of an old school like route 66 restaurants. One of my duties there was stemming bags and bags of finished for salads for the salad bar. So since then, I've always done spinach. But I noticed that this is something that's never mentioned in recipes in salads at at restaurants, it's not stemmed. So, is this something that's a personal preference? Or is there a reason to stem or not to stem spinach besides just saving time

SM: To stem or not to stem? I think what has changed is most of the salads that you find are baby spinach these days. It's really there's no right or wrong way. It's a matter of personal preference. I mean, the stems are perfectly edible. What I would do if I got a big bag of spinach at home is I would take off the stems, because I don't like chewing on them. But then I chop them up and add them to whatever else I was eating chopped up, because then they'd be you know, in smaller pieces. But let's see what Chris has to say

CK: Well, it's like parsley, right? I mean, some parsley stems are small and fragile and tender. And other ones are, you know, you could build a hut out of them because they'd stand up to the elements. I think your right baby spinach’s not a problem just depends how thick they are. And how you cook them too. if it's raw salad, obviously, you're going to want to stem. But if you're going to steam them or something, then it's not really a problem. So, but let me just ask you a question. Now this is a Route 66 style restaurant or was it actually on route 66?

Caller: So, it was actually on Route 66 so we got a lot of different business and we had kind of your traditional dining room, there was a coffee shop, there was a bar, and then they would always have a big salad bar.

CK: So, what was the name of the place?

Caller: It's called the Tropics. And it’s in Lincoln, Illinois.

SM: Really, that’s real cool

CK: that's tropics. And were there tropical drinks, too?

Caller: There was an outside there was a big sign that had a palm tree and they played you know, kind of like Hawaiian style music.

CK: I love this. So, did you really look back fondly at that time?

Caller: When I do see different things about route 66 It brings up the good times I spent in the hot kitchen every summer while I was in college, you know, working my way through.

CK: That sounds really cool

SM: It must have been a fun experience. I worked in an all-night Greek diner, including on the graveyard shift on Saturday night when all the crazy people would come in. I had to wear a dayglo orange uniform and nurses’ shoes. And I have to say it was one of my most fun jobs and it was grueling. So Beth I hear you. Sometimes those…

CK: what was the fun part? The orange costume?

SM: No, it was just the characters who came in it was the camaraderie it was really the camaraderie, you know, because we get slammed in there. All these strange people would come in and we had to bond together you know,

CK: it’s like MASH

SM: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

CK: Beth, thank you for taking us down memory lane.

SM: Yes.

Caller: Thank you for answering my question. Okay. All right by

CK: Sure, take care bye

SM: bye

CK: This poor woman calls up asking about spinach stems and we're talking about Route 66

SM: and we’re off on a tangent

CK: Your orange dayglow Hello, Greek diner episode.

SM Yes. Oh, God, it was wild.

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next is my conversation with Pati Jinich. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on public television. In her latest book Treasures of the Mexican Table, she shares recipes for local specialties, that remain mostly unknown outside of Mexico. Pati, welcome to Milk Street.

PJ: Thank you so much, Chris. I'm delighted to be on Milk Street with you.

CK: So, let me start with a weird question because I, I think you wrote about this at some point, someone once said to you, I think earlier in your public television career, that you don't look Mexican or look Mexican enough, which I was just kind of like gob smacked to me. So, what does that mean?

PJ: I know, and you are starting with one of the best questions and one that actually partially led me to switch careers. I don't know if I've told you these before, Chris. But I was trained as a political analyst, and I worked on themes that had to do with strengthening democratic institutions and civic culture in the ties between the US and Mexico. And then I switched careers. And I thought, hey, I want to explore our cultures through food. Because what does Mexican taste like? What does Mexican look like? Right? So, it's funny, because I've gotten the two things like you sound too much like a Mexican, because I have the thick, heavy accent from having, you know, been born and raised in Mexico. And then I also get you don't look like Mexican. And that has just opened the door for me to say, let me show you what Mexican is. And not only to people north of the border port, but to people south of the border too if there's something that I've learned is how little Mexicans know about ourselves.

CK: Well, I wanted to ask about that. Because when people talk about Mexican food, I mean, there's no way you could possibly define it. It depends where you're talking about. Right?

PJ: So, when you're talking about Mexican food, first of all, I think it's very important to recognize that Mexican cuisine is one of them. Other cuisines, I mean, always include some kind of beans, some kinds of chilies, always tomato in tatotillo, you're always on you're always herbs. And then of course, the corn masa, our contract to jazz in one way or another. And then there's a level of intermarriage between the different in very diverse native Mexican cuisines, and its intermarriage with Spain, you know, because Mexico was a colony of Spain for over 300 years. So, we have these incredibly rich, delicious make of people in Mexico that people don't know about Syrians, Lebanese, Asians, Africans, Caribbean’s, Jews and all of them have left America in Mexico, or what's more, Mexico has found a way to embrace them in make their things very Mexican. So, you know, as a Mexican, even if you're from a region and you taste food from another, you can taste the art even though I don't know these that well, because it's not from my region. It tastes like Mexico.

CK: I mean, I was in LA recently, and I did a taco crawl and I tasted tacos that I you know, I've never in my life tasted, are we just, I mean, you're not scratching the surface, but are most of us just starting to scratch the surface here?

PJ: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, Chris, we are all even the Mexicans that have devoted our lives to do this. So in talking about that, cause, I mean, you could have a taco Tuesday be an everyday taco and for 100 years, not repeat the same Tacko even if I live, you know, 100 years, he will not be enough time because every time I go back to share or explore a region that are have dedicated years to, I find that there's new things to give you an example. A when we went to film in Oaxaca, I was like four years ago, when I was telling the team that came with me. They're all American. In I kept saying, just look at the colors in Oaxaca. They're unreal. You've never seen such blue. You've never seen such red. You've never seen such yellow. And I was talking to someone from there. And they were telling me yes. Like you're not crazy Pati, like it's the combination of the air and the wave, the sun heats that space up the country, that the colors seems so intense, in connecting to the wonderful question that you asked me before about just scratching the surface. You know, when I first started, I really wanted to share what I knew and what I missed. And now I am most excited about learning along with my audience. And it's that exploring together and finding out together and saying, hey, I didn't know these, I didn't know this.

CK: Well, I totally agree with you. I can't watch my old shows because I realized how little I knew when I when I stepped off the plane. The only thing that's a comfort to me is that I've realized that no matter where you go in the world, the food changes from household to household, almost not even village to village. So, I don't think anybody no matter where they live really knows the full extent of their own country's cooking. So, everyone’s learning all the time. And so, let's talk about techniques for a second. Here's some things I've noticed. And I see pressure cookers used a lot. Is the pressure cooker, something that's common throughout Mexico or just in certain places or what?

PJ: This is a great question. And I'm laughing because the pressure cooker is the one thing that you are sure to get on your wedding night. You know, pressure cookers are a huge deal in Mexico. And the funny thing is that so many homes have pressure cookers and use them but all of them have more than one accident story. You know, like I got a pressure cooker when I got married in like the second or third time that I use that I was making pinto beans in the exploded and it took me weeks to clean that up. And I never ever wanted to use a pressure cooker ever again. But yeah, it's very common to have meat be cooked in one or another kind of broth. And then from there, you make a sauce and with a sauce. You see some that broth and you make a risotto.

CK: Yeah, I just found that a lot of people were cooking the meat. And then as you said, finishing it with a sauce was interesting. I was cooking with someone a couple years ago, and he made a sofrito but added at the end of cooking with the beans instead of at the beginning. (Yeah) Is that Is that something that's just something he thought up? Because I thought it was brilliant?

PJ: No, that happens to

CK: Okay, well, that's such a smart idea. How come the rest of us haven't figured this out?

PJ: You know, I think it's very common to do the base for the beans where you will do the onions, one chile or another tomato, tomatillo, or sometimes even one meat like bacon or actually so and then at the already cooked beans. But as I was exploring for my new cookbook, I found these bean dishes that are seared. So, to give you an example in Kampuchea there's these large white bean dish where the beans are cooked just until tender. And then they're seared with scallions and ground pumpkin seeds. You would think it's kind of Italian or Spanish or something. But it turns out that it is very ancient in Mexico or another example that I was also very surprised was these green bean dish where the green beans are cooked in fresh corn sauce. So, you you know like I live and die for my blender. And I think we can say that about most Mexicans

CK: Can I just say every kitchen I've ever been in Mexico had a blender and use it for everything, right?

PJ: Everything and we have it on the countertop, and we never put it away like wherever you find an electrical outlet no matter where you are in Mexico. The first thing that we leave is not a TV but a blender.

CK: So, let's talk about a recipe that every culture almost every culture has chicken soup because it tells you a lot about the culture you have one with chickpeas which sounded fabulous.

PJ: it’s so good as the Caldo de pollo yes, I think you're like asking me the best ever questions, because just by focusing on chicken soup in Mexico tells you so very much. You can find so many homes that start the week making caldo de pollo because we’re going to use that chicken for doing tons of other things and tacos, enchiladas, tortillas etc. But then with that soup depending on the region, you know Mexicans we love dressing things up. I think that is one of the characteristics of Mexican cooking. No matter where you are in the world, like we love to dress our food up with garnishes with sauces. And so you were talking about the caldo de pollo the broth is flavored with a little bit of chipotle, and then it has some vegetables and chickpeas and then you dress it up. You can add diced avocado, cilantro, onion. But then you get a version of sopa de pollo that people die for in the Yucatan that it's called sopa de lima. And there they use lima, which is that sweet lime, which is that very ugly looking citrus that looks like it's just dirty on the outside. And it has these incredibly perfumed taste, but then again, it goes garnished with something crunchy with tortilla strips. So, I think one big thing about chicken soup in Mexico is that it can go from the really simple just chicken broth where it's typical you have a cold or don't feel well, it was like the very dressed up sopa de pollo

CK: Cheese and shrimp. Now I know some cultures put cheese with shellfish. I know you do occasionally. You want to tell me why it's great. Because I have this thing about cheese and shellfish.

PJ: I mean, I yeah, I will fight for that.

CK: I thought you would.

PJ: I will fight for that one

CK: Okay

PJ: Tell me what do you have against cheeses shrimp together so that I can prove you wrong?

CK: It was probably a terrible culinary experience early in my childhood. So maybe that's it's maybe it's highly personal. We’ll, we'll just stop with the shrimp

PJ: Wait, (okay) wait, let me tell you let me let me okay, so one of the best ever shrimp tacos that goes that I've ever eaten are called tacos ramos in there from a man his name is Tanya Contreras in what he does is he makes these chili ____ which is a sauce that's very rich in tomato and some chili, in oregano, that simple. And he just sears the shrimp with a lot of butter, and salt and pepper, just until they're crisp and brown on the outside. And then he throws some tortillas on the griddle. He covers the tortillas with a tomato chili __salsa until that sauce becomes kind of crusty in barbecue-y he adds mounds of melty cheese, and the cheese starts melting onto a tortilla it oozes out of the tortilla and creates a _____ and then he adds the plump shrimp with that sauce and then he makes that double stack of that.

CK: You know, you know Pati, I just have to say I didn't have a chance. You just you just took the cheese and shrimp and and just hit a homerun okay that okay, I yield. Pati thank you so much. You convinced me to put cheese on my shrimp and many other things. And thank you just so much for being on the show.

PJ: I hope we do it again soon. Thank you.

CK: That was TV host Pati Jinich. Her book is Treasures of the Mexican Table. Pati Jinich is often told that she does not look Mexican. Well, that's because Mexico is a big place. While Oaxaca and Porta Vallarta have little in common in terms of what's for dinner. And Mexico City with 9 million inhabitants offers everything from pork tacos to triple cream cheesecake and sourdough pizza. Mexico, like most other countries is not really a place. It's a collection of households. Every family has its own culinary history and also its own welcoming table. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. Swedish sticky chocolate cake. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm doing well Chris

CK: I made lots of chocolate cakes. I've never made a Swedish sticky chocolate cake. Why is it sticky? And why is it Swedish?

LC: Well, you're going to want to make this cake because right now this is my favorite dessert to make. It's super simple. It's like a giant molten chocolate cake so it's sticky because the center of the cake is kind of gooey, almost like a molten chocolate cake. And the edges are kind of brownie like. What's great about it, it's super simple to make. It's just whisking together some ingredients, and it's probably stuff you already have in your pantry.

CK: So, this is essentially a one bowl cake. I mean, you don't have to cream butter or anything.

LC: That's right, super simple, we made a couple of tweaks to what would be a traditional Swedish sticky chocolate cake, we brown the butter, so we get a little bit of complexity and some sort of caramel notes to the flavor. You whisk in some cocoa, brown sugar instead of white. Then whisk in eggs, flour and some chocolate chips, put it in a nine-inch springform pan and put it in the oven.

CK: So is the texture, sticky, what's the meaning of the word sticky

LC: So, I would say it really more means gooey. So, on the inside of the cake, it has kind of, I wouldn't say it's runny, but more like a gooey texture, kind of like a molten chocolate cake not quite as runny. And because of that really particular texture, it's a little bit tricky to get the baking just perfect. So, where you would normally bake this in Sweden, you would put it in the oven at a really high heat and bake it for just a short period of time, we actually found the opposite was a little bit better. So we lower the temperature to 325 and let it bake for about 30 minutes. And you want to bake this until the cake just springs back around the edges. This is not a cake where you want to poke a toothpick in the center because if it's dry, you've completely ruined the cake.

CK: Well, I think that's true. I mean, just to riff on chocolate cakes and when they're done. I think chocolate cakes are done when they're not totally dry. Because the more you cook chocolate, the more flavor actually ends up in the air not in the cake?

LC: That's right.

CK: That's right. I think under baking chocolate cakes, quote unquote, is always a good idea.

LC: Especially important here.

CK: You said test the edges not the center.

LC: Exactly.

CK Which tells you a lot. Lynn thank you so much Swedish sticky chocolate cake one bowl, half an hour. Sounds great. Thank you.

LC: You're welcome. You can get this recipe for Swedish sticky chocolate cake at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up Alex Ainouz rethinks homemade pasta. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and 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 Roseman in Santa fields, Massachusetts.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: I have a beautiful small herd of dairy cows. And the milk is so really wonderful. And I've made the things that you make you know the mozzarella, the ricotta, but I'm wondering what you would recommend for attempting maybe some hard cheeses. And I don't have a cheese cave and it's a little intimidating to think this is a three-month process and I want to do it right.

CK: Well, a lot of my neighbors in Vermont have taken to cheese making when you get into aged cheese's I know it's a little tricky, but I know all my friends who've done this have started small and they've had a lot of success.

Caller: I have a dream of making Manchego but I know that was sheep's milk. And I think I can substitute a really creamy cow milk.

CK: So, these are jerseys. What else do you have?

Caller: I just had a Guernsey cow present two days ago. And boy if you really want to taste milk, try Guernsey milk it is just so phenomenal. It's like drinking liquid ice cream.

CK: There's all sorts of groups of people and associations in New England. And the people I found are extremely helpful. So, I would just go find somebody who's done this and spend some time with them.

SM: That is exactly what I was going to say. I mean, people I know who became cheesemakers, that's how they did it is they went and apprenticed or spent some time and I believe there's a Massachusetts cheese guild.

Caller: Yes. I had that thought and the nuns at the Abbey in Bethlehem. St. Regis have done some of this. And they actually traveled to France to learn about it. And I thought I might spend some time there.

SM: Ooh why not? Yeah, definitely go to France and learn.

Caller: Okay,

SM: Learn there.

CK: Sara just perked up.

SM: I’ll come with you. Yeah, why not?

Caller: Can you help milk my cows while I'm gone? I would love to have you

CK: I've milked cows for years and years as a kid I grew up milking cows and I got my ticket punched already. I’m done

SM: But maybe you can get some young people in who want to learn about taking care of cows. You know, there's that's always a possibility. Bridget, I hope you make it to France and please let us know.

Caller: I will try.

CK: Okay,

Caller: Thanks so much for your help, okay. Thank you bye bye

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're in a cooking rut, give us a call 855-426-9843 one more time 855- 426 -9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Kathy from Western Ohio.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: My question is regarding some baking I've been doing. I've been making mostly cakes quick breads and muffins. And I find that the recipes I use are far too sweet and heavy for my liking. So, I take a number of liberties including reducing the amount of sugar and fat I'll add an extra egg I'll use some cultured dairy products like yogurt or Kieffer with the milk. For example, I recently made a dozen blueberry muffins and I use a third cup of sugar, two eggs, two tablespoons butter, two tablespoons vegetable oil and about a third cup of tea for in the liquid. And I've done that with other products as well. They rise well. They're light, they're moist, and they have a nice crumb. I just kind of play around going by look and feel that I'd like to know how low can I go? What's the minimum amount of sugar and fat I can use and still get good results?

CK: First of all, you're right. Most traditional recipes are much too sweet. Two: I think a muffin because it's relatively small, you don't have a big structural problem like it would with a nine-inch cake pan. So, if you're going to pull this stunt, the best way to do it is with something small because the structure problem is not as big. Three: sugar is hygroscopic, which means that attracts moisture, which means as you reduce sugar, it means that over time, that cake will end up being a little drier. Right. (Right). And four now the hard part is how much sugar. You could always reduce the sugar by 25% or so and probably be okay. You might even get down to 50%. I would start with 25 and then go from there. But it sounds like you are Intrepid, which is great. I mean, the other thing I can do is suggest Joanne Chang, she's from Boston now she started something called Flour, a bunch of bakeries in the Boston area. They're fabulous. And I think she wrote a book called Baking with Less Sugar. Okay, she's, you know, a Harvard graduate who's also a baker. So she's got some street cred from both sides of the street. Baking with sugar is a book you might want to pick up, Sara?

SM: You know, it sounds almost like you don't need us because you're doing your own experiment. You're doing it over and over again and tweaking and figuring it out and your instincts seem very good. So, I'd say just keep doing what you're doing.

Caller: The only thing that makes me nervous is when I read about how with baking, you just have to be so exacting, and I'm not being very exacting.

SM: I presume you're keeping track of everything you do, and what exactly you're adjusting and how many tablespoons or teaspoons or cups or whatever. So as long as you're keeping track, and you're liking the results. You're doing great. I'm impressed

CK: You could probably teach us something so yeah, good for you. Oh, yeah, about

SM: Keep it up. Keep it up.

CK: Thanks, Kathy.

Caller: All right. Well, thank you very much.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Next up its French food scientist, Alex Ainouz. Alex, how are you and what's up in Paris?

Alex Ainouz: All good in Paris. But recently I've been facing a new problem. It feels like I'm always talking about my problems with you but it's doing me good. So, I'm going to keep doing that.

CK: I haven't changed my rates.

AA: Okay, so my poem is about carbonara pasta.

CK: Yeah, yeah.

AA: I mean, I mean, that's a crowd pleaser, right. Everybody loves a good carbonara (um) So I’m all for having my kids discovering genuine Italian dishes. But it turns out that on weeknights, it's complicated. So, my kid would just go like, is this like an Italian dish? And I would just ____ because I can't lie to him, I say it's not a carbonara.

CK: Well, I was just going to say, just just say, yeah,

AA: I can't say yeah, I can't do this because my kid is exactly like me. And he said, oh, are you sure dad? that and then I would just say, okay, so it's not a real carbonara. This is a carbonara-ish.

CK: So, we're not going to end up with pasta with scrambled eggs and cheese, are we?

AA: No, no, no I wouldn't do that. This is the line I wouldn't cross. Okay, so instead of Italian cheese, I go French cheese. Instead of, you know, the right premium pasta. I go for any random pasta shape, like basic dried pasta from the supermarkets. And probably a few other blasphemies for Italian, I would say, but for me, I'm fine with it. Because I know what carbonara is. I mean, I think I do and that's exactly my point. Recently, I was in my studio, and I thought maybe I should start practicing the real carbonara dish one more time, just to make my mind clear. So, to carbonara is basically some sort of creamy eggy, cheesy pasta with pepper and bacon bits more or less. And for pasta, well, you have different options but in this case, I thought, well, since I want to pay justice, I'm going to go homemade pasta. So, you fry up some warm shallot bits that’s the pork__ bacon. Then on the side, you mix up some pecorino cheese with a bit of parmesan cheese with a whole egg. And then you cut in the pepper, and you add a bit of pasta water in there as well, to have the pasta in water in boiling water. I mean, cook them until they're almost done. And then you basically dump the pasta inside the frying pan with the bacon. And you also dump in the sauce that you made the creamy cheesy sauce. And that happens off the heat. Because you don't want to scramble eggs. You mix that up, and you get beautiful, nicely silky coated pasta with crispy caramelized bacon bits. That's the theory. But things didn't go that way. It looked great. And I started tasting it. Nothing. How is it possible? Like when I say nothing I meant? I'm not getting you know, the thrill that I usually get when I do carbonara why is that I take another bite. You know what I think the dish that I just made? I have to say it's a little boring. Why is it a little boring? I use the best of the best ingredients I could find. And then I was just you know, sitting in my studio looking at all this with the packet of flour in one hand, the one that I used to make homemade pasta. How can you do better than this? And then on the other hand, I had just for the video, the packet of pasta of supermarket pasta, the one that I use sometimes on a weeknight. And I realized that one of the packets says pastor __ granite ____, that's the basic supermarket dried pasta. But the flour that I've got, in the other hand, said farina the granite tinaro

CK: what does tinaro mean?

AA: Exactly. So, the flour that I use is basically tender wheat. The other one on the other hand, the dry pasta, they're made with hard wheat with durum wheat that's what Italian called grana Douro. And so, I started doing a few Google searches. And I realized, I mean, they are almost completely different species with completely different characteristics. One of them is yellow, way higher in protein, the other one is lighter and lower and protein they react different to cooking. And obviously, most of the pasta in this world, the one that we can buy in grocery store, there are being made with durum wheat with with grana durum with hard wheat, which is by the way on Wikipedia called simply pastor wheat. And then I realized oh, man, so that's why I had no emulsions.

CK: Can I just say that an American would never say if they tasted something. I had no emotion.

AA: What would you say then?

CK: It tastes bad. There is no flavor. You're going like I had no emotion. I just wanted to point that out just for the record

AA: I mean, I was tasting it. And you know, usually in a good dish usually you either have a game of texture, or acid versus sweetness or saltiness or something. And in this one, there was nothing going on. And the problem was coming from the pasta, I would have never thought that me making homemade pasta would be the problem. I thought it would be the plus where it turns out when you're making pasta yourself using classic flour of farina and eggs, you will never be able to achieve the toothsomeness firmness of the durum wheat pasta, you will never be able to get al dente pasta.

CK: And that's why most Italians buy dried pasta.

AA: Exactly. And I thought there was, you know, a scale of one being better than the other. It turns out, that's not the case. One is simply different than the other. I mean, I love homemade pasta, but they have a purpose on their own, they should be used when you're not looking for structure in a pasta dish. If you're looking for bounce for bite for toothiness, then by all means go for dried pasta, the one that we find in supermarket, maybe don't go for the lower shelf, maybe go for something good. But that's just funny for me to see that once in my culinary journey homemade is not really better than the thing I found in supermarket.

CK: Alex so so now you're going to go out there and be a spokesperson for the local supermarket right. That's the next thing.

AA: I can’t do that.

CK: Forget this homemade stuff. Just go buy at the market, Alex, for once you do what everyone else does, which is you bought it at the store. Alex, thank you.

AA: Thank you so much.

CK: That was YouTube host Alex Ainouz. He's also author of Just a French Guy Cooking. 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 Street, please go to 177 Milk There you can find all of our recipes. Take a free online cooking class or order our latest cookbook, Milk Street Vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 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. Theme music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX