Christopher Kimball: Hi, this is Christopher Kimball. Thanks for downloading this week's podcast. You can go to our website 177milkstreet.com to stream our television show, get our recipes or take our free online cooking classes. Enjoy the show.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we're talking with chef Jamie Oliver about the value of hard work, his unusual quarantine hobby and also the biggest threat to public health.
Jamie Oliver [clip]: A big slice of cake is one of the most honest things in the food industry right now. Like a big slice of cake has never pretended to be something it's not. But at the same time if I take you down your typical supermarket, I can go dude, look at these pasta sauces. Like there's no need for them to have all that sugar in a simple source.
CK: Also, coming up with chocolate hazelnut cream cake makes us rethink cake baking techniques. And Dan Pashman, and I go head to head on s’mores. But first my interview with Nick Hall about his quest for the most unusual potato chip flavors.
CK: Nick, welcome to Milk Street.
Nick Hall: Thank you for having me.
CPK: Chicken and waffles, grilled cheese and ketchup, cappuccino, blueberry, whiskey and haggis. What are these flavors?
NH: I think that really is the most interesting question is what are these flavors? Because when I think about novelty potato chip flavors, it's not just that they're this discrete thing, a potato chip that tastes like a crispy taco. It's rather the idea that we're trying to grab this big thing and make it very small. So that when I reach into this foil bag and pull out a little round disc of potato, I don't just get a snack, I get my entire life history with that food. All of the joys, all of the experiences all the times I've eaten it, and really capturing that big of a thing in that small of a package, to me is the magic of novelty potato chips.
CK: 100 years ago, they weren't selling whiskey and haggis potato chips. How did this whole world of flavorings synthetic chemicals, oil, spices, etc.––how did this get started? Was their technology breakthroughs that made this possible?
NH: Yeah, you know, according to Nadia Berenstein writing for the Atlantic, MSG was kind of the grandfather of novelty potato chip flavors. And then gas chromatography and gas spectroscopy in the 50s and 60s, exploded the entire idea. They started isolating chemical components like pyrazines, which are really interesting, because they grab just a ridiculously wide variety of flavors. You can get vegetal notes from them, nutty flavors, smoky flavors, they even make potato chips taste more like potatoes. So they're using these chemical derivatives to enhance flavors and a host of ways.
CK: Let's talk about some of the flavors used a lot. How do they come up with vinegar? Is that a whole bunch of different chemicals? Is there something specific about doing vinegar, they actually use, you know, some sort of vinegar that's been concentrated?
NH: Some flavors lean more on natural substances rather than derived substances. And from what I understand vinegar is one of those flavors that's relatively easy to deploy as an actual flavor on its own. And that varies from component to component. So you might find a cheese powder that involves cheese, but also involves chemical enhancers to make the flavor pop more.
CK: Diacetyl. I know, that's part of butter flavoring. One source of the diacetyl tell is like in the natural gas industry or something, you know, it’s found in paint thinner. And I mean, it's, it's like a petroleum byproduct of some kind. Is that right?
NH: Yeah, I think that's true. My dad used to joke about how all flavors are just chemically introduced to foods, from factories off the New Jersey Turnpike. And there's definitely some truth to that.
CK: Now, what about people who listen to this going like, well, why would I want to eat anything that's full of chemicals? And the flip side of that is, you know, everything's chemicals, right? Natural vanilla has chemicals in it.
NH: I think it's kind of a semantic argument. There's no flavor you experience that's not chemically derived in some sense, which is how they get to the point of being able to make these artificial and synthetic chemicals for flavorings in the first place is by analysis of the actual organic compounds and molecules.
CK: So let's take one of the flavors you're very happy with: crispy taco flavor. You say it does everything a novelty potato chip flavor should do. You're, you’re on the bandwagon. Could you just describe what goes into that?
NH: It's a combination of things. It's both the actual sensory recall, but also capturing that sort of nostalgic experience and the personal history with the food and the crispy taco flavor in particular does both of those things extremely well. It's this almost school cafeteria, Taco Tuesday, middle America sort of taco flavor. And what I found almost magical about that flavor was the manner in which the flavors came across in an experiential way. So the first flavor you get is that sort of stale corn flavor, the crispy hardshell that's been sitting in plastic in the grocery store, before being reheated in the oven. Then this savory beefy-ness, but not really beef, it's sort of a melange of spice and fat, then you get a little richness from cheese. And then right at the very end, almost as more of an aroma than a flavor, you get this oxidized, shredded Iceberg lettuce that's been sitting in a bag for awhile. And the specificity of that flavor when it came across was like, oh wow, yeah, that is every single crispy taco I ate in elementary school cafeterias in the 80s and 90s to a tee.
CK: You're sort of saying that it doesn't have to taste good. It just has to taste familiar. You're ringing emotional memory resonators here.
NH: I think it's both of those things at once. If it just tasted bad, that wouldn't quite do it. Definitely. It's–it's queuing up those memories and attaching that flavor experience to something that is personal to you. But also somehow in a way, universal.
CK: I assume the different places in the country in the world. You know, someone likes shrimp flavor, and someone likes beef flavor. I assume there are regional preferences, so when they design these things, they have to be careful to target different demographics.
NH: Absolutely. You also see in Asia in particular, a lot of sweeter concepts. Lays just released in China, for example, a milk tea flavored potato chip.
CK: You know, one thing I've noticed is now, of course at Milk Street, we look around the world for new ingredients to us, but something like gochujang which is not new at all in South Korea––you see go to chunk potato chips. Is that also a trend that ingredients that are very popular in other countries are getting put into the bag here in the United States?
NH: Yeah, absolutely. I think we're definitely leaning more in a direction where we are embracing that broader concept of global cuisines. Even in potato chips.
CK: One of the ones you mentioned for chips or mint. Like who wants to mint potato chips? I'm sorry that I do and or blueberry for that matter. I just don't get that.
NH: For me anything fruity, sweet or dessert seems like an odd mix. Mint in particular, yeah, that one that's not gonna do it for me personally.
CK: Why did you get interested in this in the first place? Were you somebody who was out buying wasabi ginger chips, or you just happened to notice the trend and wanted to dig deep?
NH: I happened to notice the trend. And to be honest, the first bag that I really kind of chased was the biscuits and gravy flavor. Biscuits and gravy happens to be one of my favorite foods on the planet. I think it's a near perfect food. And I wanted to experience it in chip form. And from there it kind of steamrolled. You know, I found it interesting, conceptually sort of the high low concept at play. I think it's not just flavor chemists in laboratories making potato chips that are doing this sort of bait and switch, this illusory thing with food. But it's been a part of high end astronomy for a long time, where world renowned chefs are playing with flavor and playing with the concept of expectation and reality and taking one thing and making it into another in ways that shock and delight. And I found it interesting that you see that at restaurants like Alinea in Chicago with Grant Achatz. And you also see it in the potato chip aisle.
CK: Nick, it's been a pleasure having you on Milk Street. I'm not sure I'm going to rush out and get a whiskey and haggis bag of chips anytime soon. But I might try the biscuits and gravy. Thank you so much.
NH: Thanks for having me.
CK: That was food writer Nick Hall. His article for Serious Eats is called “The Alchemy of Novelty Potato Chip Flavors.” 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 101 and as you know the star of “Sara's Weeknight Meals” on public television.
SM: Chris, before we take a call, I have a question for you. How do you feel about eggnog?
CK: My opinion of eggnog is when I drink it, I love it. But I never think about drinking it. Like this one time there's a party here in Boston every year and they have this great eggnog with a secret recipe, which is absolutely fabulous and I have large glass and––and then I don't think about it for 364 days until the next year.
SM: As it should be, you know, seasonal is the best way to eat and drink.
CK: We should write a book about that, you know, 365 things you don't think about until they happen. So I love eggnog, but I don't think about it.
CK: Let's take your call. Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Parker. I'm from San Antonio, Texas.
SM: Beautiful town. How can we help you today?
Caller: I just had a question about kind of maybe like the etymology of a couple of these words. Basically between dressing and stuffing. Growing up I have a great aunt you know, who lives in New Orleans and she always made us an oyster dressing for you know, a turkey and everything like that. It looks like just your typical turkey stuffing just maybe a bit more moist and very flavorful. I think it does have actual oysters in it. But my, my other aunt, she’d always make her turkey stuffing. And to me as a kid, I always thought that like, eh, you know, it really wasn't much different, just probably the naming. But I ended up telling some of my coworkers about my great aunt's awesome oyster dressing. And they're like, what, what's oyster dressing, that sounds gross. Now, I guess we're not really understanding that it was more of like––kind of like a stuffing type of thing. Like we know, I didn't get it, and all that. So I was wondering if it's like a regional word, or if it's actually a different type of dish, or, you know, kind of like what the difference is?
SM: Well, there's two ways of looking at it. One––it is regional. I mean, the northerners refer to it as stuffing, southerners as dressing. And the other way to look at it is stuffing is what you actually put inside of the bird and dressing is maybe what you serve on the side. However, sometimes people call stuffing that they serve on the side stuffing, particularly in the north. And I don't know what they do in the south. You know, I don't think they ever used that word stuffing.
CK: I think I need to drink. I’m confused already.
SM: But definitely you're right. It does have oysters in there. Chris, and I both know about it. Right? We're New Englanders. But your aunt in New Orleans. So did she put it in the bird or on the side of the bird? And it was delicious. You say?
Caller: Oh, yeah, I do. Remember, I think the dressing being served on the side. Right? All the stuffing that my mom was making my aunt would make? Yeah, it would be made in the bird.
CK: You know, the bird doesn't hold much stuffing. So I mean, if you're like stuffing that the problem is you have to make an additional amount in a pan in the oven to serve the family and make people happy and so some of the stuffing goes into the bird, but some of the stuffing is dressing.
SM: Yes. Right.
CK: So yeah, I think that the short answer is it doesn't matter. Nothing is dressing addressing stuffing. The existential question is should you ever cook an oyster?
SM: Well, according to Parker, it's delicious.
Caller: Oh, yeah, I liked it a lot more than the other one. And I'm not sure exactly. If it was just you know, maybe oyster brine or if it did have a little bit oyster, but to me, it just added a bit of this saltiness to it. Made it a lot more flavorful. I think it could also be that matter and stuffing was just not as exciting.
SM: Possibly you need to get that recipe.
Caller: I do. I do.
SM: You must.
CK: But I know someone who passed many years ago, she gave me a fake version of her favorite custard pie recipe.
SM: Because she didn't want you to be able to have it. She took it with her to to the grave.
CK: She was thrilled she went to the grave with a secret.
SM: How ornery is that.
CK: I loved her but she was ornery. Yeah. All right, Parker. Thank you for calling.
SM: Yes. All right.
Caller: Thanks. Take care.
Sara: Bye. Bye. Hi welcome to Mill Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, I'm Hank from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
SM: Hi, Hank, how can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I have a technical question here regarding baking and chemistry.
Caller: Since I was a little boy, back in 1966, my mother taught me how to make Jewish apple cake. Perfected it about 10 years ago, by using a variety of apples, sweet to tart, and wondered one thing about the constant ingredient. What does the third cup of orange juice do in the Jewish apple cake recipe?
SM: You're not saying there's three cups total of orange juice, you mean one of the cups of liquids?
Caller: Third cup, a third cup.
SM: Okay, got it. I was like, whoa.
CK: The first two are for flavor.
SM: It sounds like you're already doing something real smart with varying the kinds of apples both in terms of their flavor profile and also in terms of their acidity. But even you know, given the variety of apples you have in there apples need two things. They need sugar and also acid to point them up. So my guess would be that part of what the orange juice is doing besides just adding its nice orange flavor is adding that acid that you need.
CK: It would be like adding lemon juice.
SM: Yeah, like lemon juice, and why not add orange juice? I think that's a great idea. Okay, Chris?
CK: Well, if you ask 10 food scientists, they'll give you 12 answers but they'll probably tell you that acid in baking denatures proteins which means you have a softer crumb to the final dish. I'm not sure it makes a particularly big difference. You have butter and flour I assume.
Caller: Three cups of flour, one or two cups of vegetable oil I don’t have in front of me. To the third cup of orange juice baking powder, right. As far as butter’s concerned, I will only use salted butter for buttering the pan.
CK: And do you think the cake is particularly tender? Or is it just because of the flavor you're asking about the orange juice.
Caller: I like the way it tastes and especially when I have the variety of applesauce, tarts, semi tarts, semi sweet and sweet. And I always make heavy art cast iron bundt pan. My question ultimately is what's the chemistry of the orange juice?
CK: I think Sara is right. I think the orange juice is just an acid, which is good with apples. You're doing everything right, as Sara said, by picking a variety of apples. I don't like any of the new varieties. The sweet ones, I don't think hold up.
SM: They're bland.
CK: They don't have any depth of flavor. They're not acidic. The answer, the chemistry is acid, the nature is proteins which ostensibly would produce a more tender crop. However, with three cups of flour and lots of vegetable oil. The oil is going to coat the flour and you're not going to have a tenderness problem. That’s why carrot cake, for example, is so tender because it has oil on it. So I don't think the orange juice is doing anything for you in terms of texture. I think it's purely flavor. Yeah, that's my take.
Caller: Yeah, it's may only be one cup. I forget it again, I don't have in front of me.
CK: The oil is going to coat the gluten in the flour. And you're not going to get much gluten development, which means like carrot cake or any well based cake, you'll have a very tender cake. So it's just flavor. Yeah.
Caller: Okay. Thank you for your input. Yeah, appreciate.
SM: Thanks for calling.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you have a question, call us at 85542698431 more time and slowly 8554 to 69843 or email us at email@example.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Rich from Medford, Massachusetts.
SM: H Rich, how can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I am calling because I was hoping to get some advice about making Christmas cookies in advance. Best ways to preserve them, whether it's freezing dough or freezing the finished product. And also the other caveat is I'm working with a three and a half year old on these. So having good stopping points would be helpful.
SM: Your sous chef. Well, you can freeze cookies either baked or raw. I would opt for raw myself. What you do, depending on the batter, you know, if they're the slice and bake, you leave them you know in a roll. And then you just leave them in the fridge for about an hour to soften slightly before you slice them and bake them. If they're more of a batter you scoop them out into balls or whatever shape you want them and then freeze them on a sheet pan and then throw them into a bag or a container and just take out as many as you want and bake them. I preferred using the dough just because I think it's fresher. But you can also bake them and then just make sure you wrap them really well so that they don't get freezer burn. And then the other thing is, when you take them out of the freezer, don't leave them, you know, all covered up because they'll give off liquid and that will make them soggy.
CK: Well, let's talk about the three and a half year old, which is the most important part of this. So is the objective to I mean, what is he or she going to do? Cut out cookies and shapes? Is that what their role is here?
Caller: Yeah, so he just is always interested in helping because he has a little tower that goes up to counter height. Sometimes it's just watching, but he always has like at least some little job to do. We've in the past on some no bake cookies, kind of chocolate ball types. You know, I let them put the sprinkles on top. So even small acts like that he likes but he just likes to be in the kitchen helping. But his attention span is, of course limited.
CK: Very short. Well, I have a two and a half year old, I say two things. Be careful of those hot baking sheets. I like to make pancakes with my son on Saturday morning. And I'd let him flip them while I'm holding him. And he once got a little too close to the pan. You got a lot of baking sheets with cookies. So be careful. The other thing is I would freeze dough and then thaw it and then roll it out and let him cut the shapes out because that would be great. That would be absolutely the most fun. In fact, I'm going to do that next weekend myself. So that's what I would do. Freeze a ball of cookie dough, roll it out after it’s thawed and then let him cut them out because then he's not dealing with hot pans. And it's more fun than just placing the slice.
SM: I think, I think you're right, cuz then he could pick the cutters and then he has to press down.
CK: And he'll do three of them and get bored. But you know, you're good for like two minutes, right? Something like Yeah, right. Yeah, that sounds great.
SM: Yeah, that's what I would do. Yeah. And that's what he's gonna do. So thank you for that great suggestion, Richard.
Caller: No, that's great.
SM: All right. Take care. Thank you very much. Thanks for calling.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, it's Jamie Oliver. Right after the break.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now it's my interview with chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver. Jamie, welcome to Milk Street.
Jamie Oliver: Good to be here. Thank you very much.
CK: It's a pleasure. The New York Times referred to you as a grafter, a term that I had to look up, not common here in the States, which means someone who works hard. Your dad Trevor famously used to say people died in bed, meaning you should spend less time in bed and more working. And the famous story about the garden hose through the window to wake you up. You've been obviously very successful. Is hard work at the top of the pyramid of things you think are important in life?
JO: I think it kind of expresses grit, determination, and I think in some respects, life, in many ways is a bit of a numbers game, right? I mean, look at the hours in a working day, like when I started out as an 18 year old, it was typical to do 100 hours a week. 80 hours was very, very common. And then, you know, fast forward 10, 15 years ago, EU regulations, 46 hour week. So you could absolutely say 46 hour week has proven that you can have a nice work life balance, and it's much healthier for you and your family. But you can also say yeah, and you can spend 10 years learning what you could have done in five. Do you know what I mean? So like grafting to me. I mean, I'm 45 now. So I'm trying to graft less. You know, in the last year, I've stopped getting to work at five in the morning. And now I turn up at seven. That's two hours extra sleep. It’s amazing. Like, I'd forgotten how good sleep was. You know, life is a bit of a numbers game, right?
CK: So tell me about the restaurant business. You know, I know a lot of people, creative people, musicians, architects, chefs, they get into a business because they love the creative part. And then they realize actually running a business becomes paramount. What do you think makes a successful restaurateur besides the fact you know how to cook and your creative in the kitchen? Does the business part of a takeover at some point?
JO: Yeah I think I think it can. And I think it does. And I think there's a few ways you can cut the cake. The question is, what do you want? And what do you want to express? If it's one restaurant, which is your sole focus that is going to be an institution and then you've got a pretty good chance of a) making it special b) making it work, even if you're pretty bad at stuff like you can finesse and finesse and just keep going and but you might want to have multiple restaurants that might be because you want to share your vision or your love or your philosophy, it might be because you want to make more money, it might be both, then that's much harder. But there's not much difference between five restaurants and 100 to be honest, because it then becomes about leadership and culture in a different way. So you know, I feel like I've had the best and I feel like I've had the worst of it because I lost all my restaurants. I mean, it lit the restaurant business, small or big is always metaphorically like a bucket with holes. There ain't no one in this world working with a with a sealed bucket, like everyone's got a hole or two or three. So it's always about minimizing the holes. I mean, if you don't care about food, I'm sure you can make a fortune. But all I can see at the moment is everyone that cares is getting not just beaten up, but like, kicked in the head and like they're having such a tough time. So I think as a person that was born into the food industry, I feel like in a quite a visceral way that the good guys are unfairly being treated the same as the ones that couldn't give s***.
CK: I'm gonna change topics.
JO: Please do.
CK: I just watched your very old but wonderful music video with your band Scarlet Division, the song Sundown. You are really a good drummer. Do you still do it? Or maybe during COVID you've been holed up in your basement whacking away at the drums?
JO: Yeah, no, funny enough. I did it from 11 to 23. And it pretty much kept me out of trouble. But I started back up in lockdown. And then I started experimenting with recording and then started actually writing some music. And since January I've written about 13 tracks and I've been using them on the on the TV shows and they're decent, you know, and I guess most importantly, for me, it's been like my version of mental health. It's been my way to switch off. It's used a different part of my brain, kind of made me feel nostalgic, a bit more like a teenager than a 45 year old or five kids. So I'm not sure if you call that a midlife crisis or whatever, but I think you know, it's good to try and use different parts of your brain, I think.
CK: We're gonna actually talk about food, your new book 7 Ways, seven ways to cook a bunch of sort of core ingredients. So, here's what's interesting to me. You have vindaloo or poke from Hawaii or butter chicken from Mumbai. But you really have one foot firmly planted in what I would call pub food or classic English food, sausage and mash, beef and Guinesss, smoked haddock, toad in the hole, toasties. It's really interesting, the way you've made those things, you know, strange bedfellows kind of work side by side, it seems to work. How do you put those things together?
JO: Every book I write has a very clear, objective and emotion. And I kind of split them into two categories, I either write a book for the audience, or I write a book for myself. I think this book is definitely written for the audience. And I've approached this book in a very different way than any book I've ever written in 20 years. So this was the first book that I've ever written solely based on data of what most people buy most weeks in their supermarket shop. So my theory was like, if I can write creative recipes around stuff I know you've probably bought already, or probably got in your fridge right now, then I might have a good chance of inspiring you to cook it. And then basically, the 18 chapters in this book are some of those fundamental, most common things. And then I start writing these recipes, to your point that surf around the world. So yeah, I'm, I'm not too proud to not enjoy a toastie,a good cheese toastie is a thing of joy. And you can throw a few noodle dishes in there and pass the dishes. But also, you know, toad in the hole always makes my foreign friends giggle. Like, what the hell is that? They just thank you for it not being spotted dick, you know, and it's like, but I think you know, like, the global food audience. They're pretty well versed these days, I've seen quite a lot, they've probably tasted quite a lot. They certainly know a lot more than the average person 20 years ago when I kicked off as “The Naked Chef.
CK: So just putting, I've always said, people ask me about our recipes. You know, when are we going to put nutrition information? I said, the day I die. How do you feel about that? I feel like if you're cooking at home, do you really need to know? I mean, you know what went into it? Right?
JO: Yeah, I get you. And I and I feel what you're saying. About six years ago, I spent two years traveling around the world to places where people live the longest. And it was a real labor of love for me and a pleasure to go to those places and look at those different communities. And about seven years ago, I went back to I mean, having done really badly at school, I went back to university and trained as a nutritionist, which I have to say, was the most incredible empowering thing as a, as a chef, learning to be a nutritionist is incredibly empowering. Because if you're just a regular member of the public training to be a nutritionist, and you can't cook, that's tough. But if you're a chef training to be a nutritionist, and learning about what we do know about nutrition, and what it can offer, and how you can tell bullsh*tters, and how you can look at validity of data and look at who's lying and who typically lies and who's always lying. Like these are really powerful things to learn. And then you start to learn that good nutrition is about what you can have, not what you can't have. So therefore, I will definitely put nutrition up there for the people that do care. And the people that are using some of those signals to help them go a positive direction with their weekly shop and their weekly cooking. Also, I'm like Mr. Mainstream, you know, the days of being cutting edge, cool, niche, like, I wish I was trendy, and I wish I was like edgy, and I wish I was doing like little crazy Netflix specials, but I am absolutely, like I'm Mr. Mainstream. You know, like, part of nutrition can be about saying, yeah, look, it's amazing. But in that one side dish, you've had a week's worth of saturated fat. And if you want to tell everyone how to die young then crack on. If you were to say what's the most dangerous thing in public health in the next 50 years, I would say definitely one of them is billions of rubbish recipes that are free, that are unhealthy and don't work. A big slice of cake is one of the most honest things in the food industry right now. Like a big slice of cake has never lied to you. It's never pretended to be something it's not like you know if you eat three slices of cake, you know, that ain't gonna sit well. But at the same time if I take you down like your typical supermarket, I can go Dude, look at these pasta sources like they're all flashing red, like there's no need for them to have all that sugar in a simple sauce. Look at this breakfast cereal aisle like it's not the cereal aisle, it's the cake aisle. It’s cake pretending to be cereal.
CK: You've, you give back a lot. You're famous for that. The 15 Restaurant, “Jamie's School Dinners,” the 2030 project. Was that something that was always part of what you wanted to do with your life?
JO: Not really, I mean, I didn't really grow up doing anything particularly nice for anyone. I didn't grow up being particularly philanthropic or charitable. But “The Naked Chef” was such a culinary bomb. You know, it kind of changed everything. It looked different. It sounded different, it felt different. It went around the world quicker than you can imagine. And I was only a baby really, like I was just trying to work it all out. I was I was super enthusiastic. I had been cooking quite a long time, even at that stage. But I was kind of in shock. And then with the job of being in the public eye and making programs and documentaries, of course, like that's not normal. So I get to meet amazing people and farmers and producers and scientists. And when you get to see lots of stuff and whether it's inspiring or just the truth. Like when you see injustice, and things that are unfair. I mean, I think the public expects me––they want me to have a voice for them. And they tell me that quite clearly. But I mean, some of the best things I've ever done, I've hated, like school dinners was 18 months of hell. And they didn't want me there. The kids didn't want me there. Even the parents didn't want me there. Half the head teachers didn't want me there. And then the minute it was broadcast the concept of change, and making change across a school or 56 schools in that particular experiment. It wasn't until the moment the first newspaper reviewed the show and said it was important stories, like all of a sudden as soon as it's printed in the paper. Everyone was like oh, yes, brilliant. Yes, yes, yes, yes. So like, all of those campaigns that I've done, and giving back, as you said, is really bumpy. But, you know, there's a long list of stuff to be done.
CK: Jamie, thanks so much for your time. It's been a real pleasure chatting with you on Milk Street. Thanks.
JO: Thank you so much for having me.
CK: That was Jamie Oliver. His latest cookbook is 7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week. It's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake. Lynn, how are you?
LC: I'm great, Chris.
CK: Okay, time for a tirade––frostings. You know, making cakes, I love making cakes. But the frosting is always a problem, right because it's a whipped cream frosting, it doesn't last that long. Egg white frosting don't last that long. I don't really like buttercream frosting per se.
CK: There's too much butter. Sorry. So that's where these things fall down. The cake’s great, but the frosting is meh.I recently interviewed a guy called Dominique Ansel. He wrote a book called “Everyone Can Bake.” And he came up with this notion of fillings slash frostings where you use a little gelatin to set up the frosting, which is really a game changer for me because it gives you great texture and it sticks around for a while. That was the notion of rethinking the frosting and the filling.
LC: Well, this is the perfect idea for you because it's sort of mix and match. That's kind of his concept is, you know, learn a few cakes, learn a few fillings, learn a few frostings and then you can mix and match and you've got this huge repertoire of possible cakes to make. The one that we really liked was a particular filling he actually uses to make his eclairs the filling for eclairs. It's a white chocolate ganache. So you make a ganache by melting white chocolate with some heavy cream. In his version, he adds a little bit of honey and mascarpone cheese, which I think is really nice here because white chocolate has a tendency to be very sweet. So it balances that really nicely. You refrigerate that, then you whip it up. And some people use that as a frosting but it's really light and kind of gets destroyed in between two layers. So we add a little bit of gelatin to it. Now this is not going to make it gelatinous. It just adds a little bit of structure so it holds up really nicely in between two layers of cake.
CK: And what's the cake. Is this a chocolate cake or hazelnut cake?
LC: So in this case, it's a chocolate cake. Really simple, just cocoa a little bit of buttermilk. When it comes out of the oven, we cut the cake into two layers and we brush the cake with a simple syrup which has a little bit of espresso powder in it. Coffee and espresso really bring out the flavor of chocolate. This simple syrup makes the cake really nice and moist and keeps the exterior crumb from drying out.
CK: So we have the cake we have the filling is the frosting version of the filling or something totally different. This is my favorite kind of cake making where you take one thing and you make it two things. So you take that white chocolate ganache, half of it becomes the frosting on top of the cake. And to the other half we add some Nutella, so that becomes the chocolate hazelnut filling for the cake. So you've got a cake layer, that chocolate hazelnut filling, another cake layer, and then that white chocolate ganache on the top. We sprinkle the top with some chopped hazelnuts. It's not only delicious, but it's a beautiful cake on a table. Because it's exposed you can see those layers. It's just a real showstopper.
CL: You don't have to mess around trying to get the sides of the cake frosting, which is the one thing that takes an hour and a half.
LC: My favorite kind of frosting.
CK: You end up eating half the frosting by the time you're doing it. So we need to thank Dominique Ansel for a whole new way to think about fillings and frostings. The marscapone is really nice to ganache, but then adding the gelatin so it holds its texture and not frosting the side of the cake which also makes life so much easier. So chocolate hazelnut cream cake. This is so good. Thank you Lynn.
LC: You're welcome Chris. You can find this recipe and all our recipes at 177milkstreet.com.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up, Dan Pashman on how s'mores are overrated and what to do about it. We'll be right back.
CK: I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, Sara and I will answer a few more of your cooking questions. Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Les from Cape Cod.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I hope you can explain a mystery about a missing ingredient. Starting back in March, things began to disappear from supermarket shelves. One of the things that I was unable to buy in our local markets was chicken livers. The problem was solved in the last week or 10 days when they suddenly are back in our two local supermarket chains. But for the better part of, I don't know, seven or eight months, they weren't to be found anywhere now. It seems to me that many, many chickens were slaughtered during this time period. I'm wondering where the livers went?
SM: Well, I think what happened, a couple of things. First of all, there was probably more of a demand. Perhaps it was that, that it just seemed like oh, this is something that I can afford. The other thing is remember a lot of food processing plants, meat processing plants, had surges of the Coronavirus and probably had to cut back on production. So perhaps we're not slaughtering as many chickens. I don't know, Chris, you got any theories?
CK: I mean, I remember March and April, it was hard to get chickens and there was, you know, one per customer, you couldn't buy three in the supermarket wherever you went. But since April or May, there's been no problem getting chickens.
Caller: No, the chickens came back quite quickly.
CK: The chickens came back after 60 days or so. But the livers didn't. So it's not a chicken supply problem. It's like where the livers go? Look, if you're not used to cooking chicken liver, I don't think you're going to start cooking them because of financial reasons. So I think you make a good point the chickens came back. But without their livers they went somewhere else. I don't know the answer to that. I think it's a great question.
Caller: I don't know whether the bean counters and the supermarket chains decided that they wanted to devote the shelf space to something that had more profit in it.
SM: That is very likely. Yeah.
CK: That’s a much better answer. I mean, that's right. So paper towels took the place of the chicken livers slot.
Caller: That's a good point.
CK: Or toilet paper or some cheap cut of meat the people were making pot roast out of. Yeah, I think that's, you know what, I think that's exactly right.
SM: Well, you might want to go back to your supermarket and there must be somebody in charge in the meat department and ask them.
Caller: I asked several people.
SM: And they had no idea.
Caller: No, they were as mystified as I was.
CK: You know what? We're going to go figure this out. I'm going to go make some phone calls. Because this is really, I don't know why I find this fascinating.
SM: Well, you're gonna have to put it into the magazine so we all can find out.
CK: I think it's a cover story, right? Excellent question. We need to get the answer.
Caller: While you're at it, check out what's happened to the oven cleaner.
SM: Oh, why what's happened?
Caller: The oven cleaner. It's gone. disappeared.
CK: You know why? Because everyone's at home and they're redoing their kitchens. They're keeping their kitchens clean. That I get. Maybe they've been roasting chicken livers and made a mess. Les thanks so much. Great question. Take care.
SM: Thank you.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio, give us a call anytime. 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
SM: Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: This is John from Colebrook, Connecticut.
SM: Hi John, how can we help you today?
Caller: I like lean proteins. So turkey certainly fits that bill, but to me, it's one of the blandest things you could possibly cook. But when I look up turkey recipes, it just seems to be the same boring thing. Any idea I can spice up turkey a little bit?
SM: One thing to do is to spatchcock it, take out the backbone and flatten it, sit on it, and then do some interesting spices under the skin and then you can grill it and that's pretty yummy. Hands down the best turkey I ever had was deep fried.
Caller: My new favorite recipes from the magazine is the chicken vindaloo. Can you do that kind of stuff with turkey?
SM: Oh, of course you can. Turkey would braise beautifully. Chris is like dying to talk now because he never roasts a whole turkey. Chris, go.
CK: Look turkey is bland. No matter what you do. Yeah, I mean, yeah, you can use the turkey meat and do butter chicken, for example, right from Mumbai or chicken vindaloo or something like that. But we were talking about 12 to 20 pounds of bird here. I would braise it and then I would do a sauce or finish it somehow in a sauce.
Caller: Yeah, I sometimes buy they call it the hotel cut or the turkey which is I guess just the breasts on both sides and cuts the legs and stuff off and then I'll just roasted on it doesn't have any flavor. But I love chicken, such a similar bird.
CK: Let me make a suggestion. I talked to a guy in Minneapolis, Hmong. Every dish they think of has four parts. It has a hot sauce. It has vegetable, it has something anxious and fatty and it has rice. The rice is there to be sort of the foundation of the dish. If you think of turkey as the bland foundation of the dish, and then you have something spicy, you have something unxious, you have other things with it or on it, it’'s not about changing the turkey. It's about what you put with the turkey.
SM: I'm going to throw in one last thing I found a recipe in an old Italian cookbook. I adapted it and used it with a whole chicken. Separate the skin from the meat and then I made a mixture of grated zucchini that you salt and squeeze and saute with some onions and then you combine it with some ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese and herbs and lots of garlic and you stuffed it under the skin. You roast the chicken partially covered for a fair amount of time and then uncover it to brown in the end. And that stuffing really makes the skin brown and also acts as an insulation between the skin and the white meat, since you talked about just cooking turkey breast. It is so delicious.
Caller: Sounds wonderful.
CK: Other thing you can do is use za’atar.
Caller: I bought some but I haven't used it yet.
CK: Okay, there we go salt and zaatar. And just rub it on the spatchcock bird and roast it like 375 or 325, whatever you want, and you get this wonderful flavor on the outside. It looks great as well. You can get the beautiful skin and you can get a great flavor on the skin. So that's just a two second solution.
Caller: I’ll give some of those things a try. Thanks so much and ave a wonderful holiday and enjoy the show so much.
SM: Thanks a lot for calling you john. Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for some culinary wisdom from our listeners.
Listener: Hi, this is Audrey Kovack from Beverly Hills, California. And my tip is how to make your French onion soup just a little bit better. I take half the onions and I julienne them and the other half of the onions I dice. When I do this, the diced onions melt and create great body in the soup. And the juliennes add terrific texture and they both add flavor. So there's my tip. I hope you enjoy it.
CK: If you'd like to share your own cooking tip, please go to 177milkstreet.com/radiotips.
CK: Next up its regular contributor Dan Pashman. Dan, how are you?
Dan Pashman: I'm doing okay, Chris, has been spending a lot of time outdoors. I think like a lot of folks, you know, trying to stay safe, take the right precautions. And so my family and I have been spending a lot of time in our backyard and our neighbor's backyard around fire pits. And I think it's having an effect on the way people are eating.
CK: You're going back to some primitive form of cooking over fire or hamburgers.
DP: Both I mean, I mean, we had our first ever weenie roast. But I also, you know, anecdotally, I'd like to say there's been a 37% increase in s'mores consumption this winter.
CK: Oh, yeah, that's, you know, in our family, too. We spend Saturday nights we do spend time around fire and there are lots of s’mores. Of course, in my case with our kids, he doesn't get past the marshmallow. I don't know what you call a s’mores without the chocolate and the graham cracker, but that's what we get.
DP: So Chris, walk me through your s'mores technique.
CK: Well, as I said, the technique is to is to buy a bag of marshmallows and get a large stick. But there is a technique to the marshmallow. Everyone thinks you should put it near a flame, which of course is absolutely incorrect. You need to get embers. It's like any kind of roasting over fire.
DP: See Chris, this is where our divergent personalities are really clear, Chris, because I bet you're the kind of person who like sits patiently, holds the marshmallow many inches from the flame. And then like 45 minutes later, you have like, yeah, have a sous-vided marshmallow.
CK: No, it has to be––yes! I mean, you have the different surfaces, they have to be very dark brown. They have to bubble but not turn black.
DP: Oh my god.
CK: It's almost to the point where the outer casing almost can come off in a piece, right? I mean that that's the ultimate example.
DP: It is but you want to know the best way to get the outer casing to come off in a piece?
CK: Just burn it.
DP: Exactly! Light the whole thing on fire. I can get that result in 18 seconds.
CK: The Pashman method.
DPL I like a burnt marshmallow. I have no patience for the slow roasting technique. But I have to say, Chris, that I believe that s'mores are not that great. I think that the romance of the campfire and the happy memories we may connect to s'mores have blinded us to reality.
CK: Oh, you've just gone over the edge. Yeah, chocolate, graham crackers and half burned marshmallows. It's a lovely thing.
DP: The biggest problem with s'mores is the graham crackers. Graham crackers are a terrible sandwich base. They are brittle. So you bite into them and they shatter.
CK: This is, I see, we're going back to what is the sandwich right? So now you're focused on whether graham crackers actually work as a sandwich medium, which is you have a good point.
DP: Thank you, graham crackers are also I mean like I love a graham cracker pie crust when you add butter and sugar. But a plain old graham cracker is just bland by design. They were invented by the Reverend Sylvester Graham to suppress sexual urges andI think that they work fine on that front. So I'd like to share with you Chris, some techniques that I've come up with that I think will improve the s’more. Okay, the first one I call the inverted smore. This is one graham cracker in the center, roasted marshmallow on either side, pieces of chocolate on top and bottom. What this does is it gets you the crunch of the graham cracker, but the gooeyness of the marshmallow holds it together when it shatters. It also means that the chocolate and marshmallow land on your tongue which accentuates those flavors. It puts the graham cracker in the backseat as a role player where it belongs.
CK: Well, this is called a cold weather s’mores because in July, the chocolate as being right thing right on your finger is not ideal.
DP: This is–we're outside in the cold weather.
CK: Yes. All right.
DP: The other one I got is called a mini s'mores pie. You've seen the mini graham cracker pie crusts. You take those, put one or two roast marshmallow in there. Maybe put the chocolate in first and hold the graham cracker pie crust over the fire so the chocolate melts down a bit, softens. Then you put your roasted marshmallow on top and now you have a mini s'mores pie.
CK: Now do these little pie crust come in little tins?
DP: You can buy I mean you can buy them in the supermarket or if you want it to like go out and get a mini pie crust mold. You could do them artistically. I'm sure.
CK: No, no, no, I'm not gonna do it, no. Is the mad scientist finished with s’mores?
DP: Oh, I'm not I have one more s’mores innovation for you. Get rid of the graham cracker entirely. Replace it with let's say like a chewy chocolate chip cookie that won't shatter. Replace the chocolate with peanut butter cups. Add a strip of bacon. There are a million things that you can do around the campfire to take your s'mores experience to a new level of deliciousness.
CK: Yeah, you lost me with that. Well, Dan Pashman, thank you. Thank you for reinventing s'mores. two out of the three are home runs. And I'll I'll leave you to the chocolate chip cookie and the bacon but each to his own. Thank you, Dan.
DP: I'll take it Chris stay warm.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of the Sporkful podcast. You know, Dan and I agree on almost everything, including whether a hot dog is actually a sandwich. But we do disagree about s'mores. Dan says they are a deeply flawed culinary concept and I respond by saying that s'mores is, well, not a recipe. It's an event. All parents know that s'mores are about the campfire, hunting for roasting sticks in the dark and sticky fingers gently pulling apart a blackened and bubbly hot marshmallow. In other words, it's like everything else in life. It's how you get there that really matters.
CK: If you tune in later or just want to listen again, you can download and subscribe to Milk Street Radio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177milkstreet.com. There, you can download each week's recipe, watch the latest season of our television show, or order our latest cookbook Cookish. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177milkstreet. We'll be back next week and thanks, as always, for listening.
Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street, in association with GBH
Executive Producer: Melissa Baldino
Senior Audio Editor: Melissa Allison
Executive Producer: Tanya Ott
Associate Producer: Jackie Noack
Production Assistant: Sarah Clapp
Production Help: Debby Paddock
Additional Editing: Sydney 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 the Public Radio Exchange