The Taco Chronicles: Javier Cabral Searches for the World's Best Tacos | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 433
November 6, 2020

The Taco Chronicles: Javier Cabral Searches for the World's Best Tacos

The Taco Chronicles: Javier Cabral Searches for the World's Best Tacos

This week, we’re talking carnitas, barbacoa and al pastor with Javier Cabral, associate producer for the Netflix documentary series “Taco Chronicles.” He describes some of the more unusual tacos he has encountered as a “taco scout,” how to eat a dozen tacos a day and the rise of the $15 gourmet taco. Plus, we get an in-depth look at the life and legacy of James Beard; Adam Gopnik walks us through creating his own whimsical dessert; and we whip up a delicious Danish Dream Cake.

This episode is brought to you by Master Class and King Arthur Baking.

Questions in this Episode:

"This summer I grew a cluster tomato called Juliet. It was delicious. It is around 2+ times the size of a grape tomato and obviously smaller than a roma. The frost etc. has arrived and obviously the vast majority of the numerous remaining tomatoes are not ripening. Here is the question - any suggestion as to how I might be able to make use of them?"

"Why is the jack-o-lantern type pumpkin maligned as a food source? It is packed with edible stuff, from seeds to flesh, and the flavor is delicate and nuanced. This leads to my follow-up questions. What cultures across the globe have specialized types of pumpkins and squashes used for various dishes? How do other cultures view the use of pumpkin for food vs. decoration?"

"Can you explain the different types/classes of olive oils and how to get good ones? What is cold pressed, extra virgin versus virgin etc.? What are the recommended applications for each? The olive oil industry is rife with stories of companies cutting the oils with other oils etc."

"I'm embarking on making a Salsa Macha from dried chilis, seeds, nuts, garlic (maybe) and olive oil. I need advice on making sure it's shelf-stable, preferably something that doesn't need to be refrigerated. I know that garlic-infused oil can be dangerous if left out or not acidified. Any recommendations on how to make this salsa in way that would allow me to safely keep it in the cabinet?"

"My question is about pork. I love pork tenderloin and pork chops and other pork dishes when they are fresh off the grill or out of the oven. But on day 2, I find that I don’t really enjoy the flavor of the meat reheated, as it has an almost metallic flavor. We have tried to reheat it different ways but it never is as good as it was originally. Are there any suggestions for enjoying pork on day 2?"

Milk Street Radio Javier Cabral

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street radio from PRX, I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we experienced a day in the life of Javier Cabral, he’s a tacos scout for Netflix's Taco Chronicles, Javier discusses what it's like to hit a tackle wall after eating a three taquerias before 7am. And he calls out the long-standing misconceptions about this staple food.

(clip) Javier Cabral: Something really interesting happens when you slip a tortilla under, you know, like let's say you have like two beautiful scallops. Right? And you serve that in a restaurant, people would be okay paying like $14 $15 you know, for two big jumbo scallops. But when you put it on a tortilla something switches and it's, I think people just have this double standard with tacos and they think that tacos should always be cheap.

CK: Also, coming up, we make a crunchy caramelized, coconut filled Danish dream cake. And Adam gopnik discusses his most recent kitchen creation. The first is my interview with writer John Birdsall about his most recent book, The Man Who ate too much the life of James Beard. JOHN, welcome to milk Street.

John Birdsall: Well, thank you very much. I'm delighted to be here.

CK: I've read quite a few things about Jim beard. I know him a little bit back in the late 70s 80s. But I think the man who ate too much really does the best job it's really goes into great detail and tells a lot of the story I didn't know. So thank you. One of the things you say is camp is where James’s charm resides alongside his power. Could you explain what that means?

JB: Yeah, you know, James's natural voice was really a camp voice, which you can see in his first, actually not his first book, hors d'oeuvres and canopies. But his next couple of books that he did for embarrows, and company, you know, gender roles at the time were very circumscribed, and James seems to sort of float above that. And so you can see, you know, a gay man in New York City who's just kind of writing in his natural voice, in a few cases, in his book, cook it outdoors, which is from 1941 even has a sort of playful, sly sexual innuendo when he's talking about garlic and saying that it's a real roughhouser, but like most roughhouser, it's kind of fun to have around for a while. So you can really see the the kind of power of his natural camp voice there.

CK: So let's start at the beginning. He was born in Oregon, 1903. Right. His father, he did not see as much. His mother was very key to him who were in a boarding house. And you mentioned I didn't know this, that his father actually had a separate family. Is that right?

JB: Yeah, his father had another sort of shadow family, another woman, and they had a child together. And it's something that I believe his mother knew about. But James didn't learn this until he was in his very early 20s.

CK: So the early days as a child in the summer, they go down to the coast., And he wrote about this and Delights and Prejudices, talking about the the oysters, they were fried his thing and foaming edging into brownness with a sense, so Richard would seem capable of tinting the era gold, so that really left a mark on him, right.

JB: Yeah, that was a huge influence. You know, James and his mother would tend to go to the coast, this kind of beautiful town called Gearheart. And it was really their time and their place to get away from James's father. And at the coast, James was able to get lost in the landscape, and also to begin his fascination with food and food that really expressed this intense level of pleasure that he really didn't know in his life in Portland.

CK: So James always wanted to be an opera singer, and then an actor. And could you describe his audition at the Royal Academy of Music, which did not go well?

JB: Yeah, it was a failure. He had a he had a mentor in Portland, Oregon, who saw something in James and so he arranged for James to have an audition in London, a singing audition. And so you know, he takes this this cheap steamer that's transporting apples from the Pacific Northwest to the UK. And then yes, gets to London, really bombs in his audition and of course, you know, isn't admitted to the school. And you know, so there he is. He's travelled for a month he's in London. He's facing failure. And so he sort of turned to food as a as a as a kind of last resort.

CK: But he did turn to food in a larger than life way. He had a brief 15 minute show on Friday nights. I love to eat sponsored by Borden. But he never made it on television. Then Julia Child comes along right and just you know, knocks everybody's socks off. So could you talk about that because I never could figure that out if you met him in person, or watch him teach a class. He was a ham. He could command an audience. He was enormously. You think telegenic, right. Yeah, because this force of personality, he was larger than life in every sense. And yet, on the little tiny screen, the television, he did not come across. Why do you think that he was not a successful TV personality?

JB: You know, I think it was difficult. You know, he, he started his show on NBC in 1946. It ran for a little more than a year. It was live television. I mean, that's something certainly that Julia didn't have to face later. And it drew a lot more on sort of theatrical prowess on being able to improvise, you know, all of the qualities that made him special is kind of hamminess didn't didn't really translate on the screen.

CK: As a personality. As a friend. He was very generous and down to earth, there was nothing really affected about him. He was theatrical, but it's nothing affected about him in some ways. And his food was also like American cookery was his great book, I think, you know, it was very down to earth and wasn't putting on airs. I think in American cookery. what's so wonderful as you can read between the lines, you know, he'll he'll give three versions of a recipe like she crab soup or something. And the way he writes it, you can tell which one he prefers. Yeah, without actually saying it. There's a lot of subterranean writing going on. And I think is writing in that book is, I think it's one of the great books, cookbooks, the 20th century.

JB: Yeah, I mean, it's, it sort of brings together you know, research. And also he kind of fuses that with with his own experience, you know, is he certainly wrote cookbooks, but his books are really, they really describe a certain way of living a certain way of life and approach to living. You know, he really, he really valued pleasure in food and pleasure around the table. Andrew Zimmern told me this great story, you know, Andrew Zimmern grew up in New York City, and his father, Robert was good friends with James Beard. And so when Andrew was was a teenager, his parents had separated and his father lived with his male partner in Greenwich Village, not far from where James Beard lived. And on Sundays, Andrews father would drag Andrew to Sunday brunch at Jim beards, every Sunday that James was in town, he would have this kind of informal drop in brunch that would kind of go on all day. And Andrew said, it was just all of James's friends, most of them gay, who would be sort of sitting around while James, you know, pulled like a magnificent roast of veal out of the oven, and a big copper pan. And it was just the sense that food was this social enabler, that it just was an excuse for people to get together and to enjoy each other's company. You know, because of James's life and sexuality. He didn't have blood family who he was connected with. But he had this large adopted family. And that that way of cooking to bring all of those people together in your life, is really what we value today about food. I mean, I think contemporary younger audiences can sort of recognize in James's struggle to live authentically, while being part of a wider culture that really didn't want him to do that. And that created kind of myths and pretended that, you know, he was just this sort of lifelong bachelor. You know, I think we understand James, much more through that lens. And I think it's a way into kind of appreciating his food and appreciating just this wonderful legacy of pleasure and experience based cooking that he really gave Americans.

CK: Well, thank you for bringing that back. And then for what a wonderful book, The Man Who ate too much. I mean, it really is so well researched and written.

JC: Thank you so much for having me.

CK: That was john Birdsall, author of the man who ate too much the life of James Beard. Right now, my co host, Sara Moulton, I will be answering your cooking question. Sara is of course the author of home cooking one on one, also star of Sara's weeknight meals on public television. So before we get to our call, Sara, I do have a question. Cooking always comes down to cleaning up, right. And you're a very organized person in the kitchen. You've worked in professional kitchens. Do you have a system for the cleanup? Do you have a way of making this easier?

Sara Moulton: Well, it's interesting, you should bring that up. two things. One is my dad always taught To get it into the sink and soak it. So I certainly do that. But really, more importantly, I have the husband, we made an agreement early on is probably why we've been married almost 39 years that I do the cooking and he does the cleaning. So it's just very simple. You know, he takes care of that half of it. But I will say this, I do try to clean as I go. When I say clean, I just mean if something's dirty, put it in the sink. If something needs to be put back in the fridge, do it. You know, don't wait till the end and you've got a million things on the counter and know where to work. So I do clean it psycho. That would be the most effective and honest answer here. Besides the husband,

CK: unfortunately, I shop cook and usually clean.

SM: Oh my goodness. You know, I

CK: don't mind after cooking for people. I actually like putting the radio on or whatever you want to call it and cleaning. It's not a problem.

SM: Wow.

CK: I make somebody a good assistant in the kitchen. Wow, very good. Okay, let's take a call. Welcome to milk street Who's calling?

Caller::Joe from Hoboken, New Jersey.

CK: How are you?

Caller: Okay,

CK: how can we help you?

Caller: First of all, let me say this, I'm a frugal person. I save all of my vegetable trimmings foam and plastic bag in the freezer. And when I have enough I make vegetable stock. I save all my chicken bones. And when I have enough I made chicken stock. So my question is related not to those. But to that frugality. I grow a tomato plant every year. This year, I switch to a different variety called Juliet, which is probably about twice the size of a grape tomato on about a quarter or a third the size of aroma and Italian. They were delicious and prolific, really pumped out the tomatoes. But before the season was over, I still have a ton of them on the vines. And I didn't get to them before the price came and killed them all. Okay, I'm trying to figure out how to take the green tomatoes and utilize them.

CK: Well, we have a long list of things we'll go back and forth. Pickle them, you can use vinegar, sugar, a little salt in a maybe even a little water in a 48 hour pickle. And that'll last you know, a few weeks in the refrigerator or make a jam with them just cook it down, ends up being a spread for sandwiches etc. Sara?

SM: I would cook them slowly, maybe with some garlic and olive oil in the oven until they sort of shriveled up and got concentrated and then you could even throw them in the freezer for future use. Or you could turn them into a green tomato salsa verede in terms of freezing, which I always think about because you have a lot, right. Yes, it's best to get the water out of a vegetable before you freeze it. So if you did make a green tomato sort of in place of a tomato, salsa Verity, I would saute it or cook it a bit before I froze it. Okay,

CK: I'd also make a chutney a green tomato chocolate. You can can that if you like I used to count a lot, and that'll keep essentially forever. Pressure cannon.

Caller: Okay. Okay, so you got a lot of choices there. Oh, we didn't mention fried green tomato.

SM: Yeah, but that's an obvious and it's a little bit harder with a smaller tomato very

Caller: That’s why I mentioned the size because I throw out a fried green tomatoes because the size is so small. I didn't think it would work.

SM: Well, you know, you could make sort of a pie though, or a galette. You know, in that case, I would have them in salt them and drain them a little bit before you ever throw them into the pie crust. Yeah, to get rid of the excess liquid.

Caller: Lot of ideas. So next year when I buy Juliet, I don't know what to do before the killer Frost comes and gets it

CK: Can I ask question though, because I've grown tomatoes for years. The smaller tomatoes usually do ripen beforethey start ripening in August..

Caller: Yeah.

CK: So when was the frost in October? And they hadn't ripened by October.

Caller: Oh no, I have eaten a lot of them because there was so many of them. I

CK: see. I see. I see. Okay, just make a quarter chutney.

Caller: The chutney sounds good. The pickling sounds good. The galet sounds good. So I’ll let you know what happens.

SM: Okay, thanks, Joe Thanks, Joe. Okay,

CK: take care.

Caller: Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

SM: Welcome to milk Street. Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is mera.

SM: Hai Mera. Where are you calling from?

Caller: I'm calling from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

SM: Oh, nice. How can we help you today?

Caller: I'm calling to ask a question about pumpkin. Why is the Halloween type Jacqueline turn pumpkin not considered a very valuable food source. Because my impression is that they were bred more for decoration than for flavor so they may not be as sweet as other squash. But I personally really like the more mild flavor of those large pumpkins, why are they not used more for things where a savory squash might be preferable? And then what kind of recipes Can I use to incorporate those kinds of pumpkins?

SM: The reason that I think they've been somewhat maligned just I wouldn't say it's just sugar content, I'd say it's flavor. They're just not as intensely flavored as some of the other squashes. And pumpkin is just another sort of version of winter squash. You know, other countries think these other ones that are not as intense are perfectly fine. So, you know, I think you should go ahead and cook with them. If you go online, you'll see every single country just about has recipes,

CK: you don't need that much pumpkin flesh, right? I mean, a winter squash or to like a butternut squash, for example, is going to be sufficient amount for most recipes. So having such a huge pumpkin. I mean, they're grown obviously, for size, I used to grow them. So I'm not sure you would need a huge pumpkin, it would just be too much.

SM: But if you wanted to, you could say roasted and then just throw the pulp the flesh into a food processor and then freeze it.

CK: But why not go to the store and buy a couple small winter squashes when you need them. And they're fresh and just cook with those She prefers the flavor of the big ones. Do you prefer the flavor? Or you're just thinking? Why not use them instead of throwing them out?

Caller: Yes, I've been asking myself that too. And it is both and I think at this point, since my family and friends know that I like them, they tend to pawn them off on me again. So I accept them.

CK: So well. They shouldn't listen to us. I mean, if you like them, and they're free, and people know that, like you adopt all these bumpkins. I agree with

SM: Sara, great. You could just cut them into cubes and roast them and then put the roasted cubes into the freezer to add later to stews or soups and curries or whatever.

CK: So you're going to continue using your pumpkins, right? Yes,

SM: of course you applaud that. Okay,

Caller: I Love the roasting suggestion. I appreciate that very much.

SM: Okay. All right. Have a good time with this. And thanks for calling. Take care.

Caller: Thank you so much. Bye, bye, bye.

CK: This is milk street radio. Give us a ring any time with your culinary mysteries at 85542698431 more time, the number is 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Mill Street. Welcome to Mill Street Who's calling?

Caller: Alright, this is Jocelyn calling from Bedford Massachusetts.

CK: So how can we help you?

Caller: I was curious about olive oils, there are numerous varieties. There's cold press, there's robust, white, extra virgin and I was wondering if you could demystify the terminology for me and then maybe recommend some weights on identifying so good bands to work with.

CK: I interviewed someone on the show years ago, and they said that if you think the drug business is nasty, just look into the because there's a lot of stuff hazelnut oils cut in sometimes, very often, the olives don't come from the country where they advertise it's from which isn't necessarily a problem. If you're cooking with olive oil, it doesn't really matter, because you're going to cook off all the volatiles anyway. So there's a number of things you could like grapeseed oil, sunflower oil are fine, it's not going to make a big difference. When it comes to making salad dressing or drizzling over the top of food to serve, then it does make a big difference. And then you buy the more expensive stuff. I like the oils that are yellow, not green. I like the oils that are unfiltered. I like the oils that are soft and buttery, not sharp at the back your throat. But any olive oil you buy should be cold pressed and it should be extraversion. If it's not those two things, it's not worth buying. And those are not much of a guarantee of quality. But it's sort of the minimum you'd want.

SM: Yeah, I would just throw in that extra virgin means that it's under a certain percent acidity, which is way under 1%. And cold press means it was the first oil to come off of the olives and the olives weren't damaged. The trouble is you can't get a guarantee really anymore, as Chris said, is like the drug business, there was this whole scandal in Italy and in Europe for all the reasons he said. And even though it might have said that it was from a certain region in Italy. It wasn't necessarily

CK: The labeling in this country. In Europe, they'll go into the store, they'll test olive oil for acidity, and they'll actually take it off the shelf if it doesn't meet the standards. In this country. There's no facility for having inspectors go in so they can say anything they want to label and that's why the lower quality olive oil often gets shipped here because it's not checked.

SM: In this country. A really good olive oil are the ones that come from California and are certified by the California olive oil counsel it will say there's literally a seal on it. One I like is simply called California olive oil.

CK: It's California Olive Ranch.

CK: That's it. The best olive oil in my mind I get from Lebanon, so

SM: well, and there's oil in Spain and Spain. But any rate for you right now I go to California. That's my advice. Yeah,it's for the good stuff.

Caller: I'm actually familiar with that brand. I know they have like, versions and things like that. Those be for different applications for like a salad dressing versus something that you would throw in. Ah, good or is it really just go with the cold pressed and extraversion?

CK: I would use their olive oil for finishing you look, I would buy grapeseed oil for cooking a high smoke point. It's

SM: totally neutral. Grape Or safflower sunflower, but grapes. It's my number one. The trouble is it's slightly pricier than the others, but it's a great oil.

CK: Hopefully that answers your question.

Caller: Thank you very nice.

SM: Thanks. Thanks, Jocelyn.

CK: You’re Listening to mainstream radio. Up next we'll hear from professional tacos scout Javier Cabral. all that and more after the break. This is mostly radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now it's my interview with Javier Cabral. He's the associate producer and also tacos scout for the Netflix documentary, Taco Chronicles. Javier Welcome to Milk Street.

JC: Thank you so much for having me, Chris.

CK: You say I've become the token taco writer. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is that a mixed blessing? What is that?

JC: Yeah, you know, I love food, right? I mean, when your passion is food you love you love all food. But I eventually realized that my background, you know, being like a son of Mexican immigrants who didn't really grew up with money. Actually, on the contrary, I didn't realize on my perspective with with food writing was a very unique one, because I was I didn't realize it at the time. But you know, food media can be a little bit privileged that can come from a more affluent background. And, you know, I didn't realize how there was a dearth of Latino food writers in the National Food scape. And so as I started to grow in my career, I started to realize that people were to hit me up, hey, like, we're the best tacos were the best tacos. And I think it's pretty common story that sometimes you take the food that you grew up with a little for granted. You know, I grew up, you know, eating tacos every day, every, you know, almost every meal time, I'll have tortillas so I didn't realize it. You know how special tacos were? And it you know, it took kind of like this reckoning of like, you know, me coming of age, missing? How formula can be to be like, Well, you know, yes, tacos are my food, and I know them inside out. So it's been a journey.

CK: So you're the tacos scout from the Netflix documentary series, the Taco Chronicles, which is beautifully done. So there's a line quoting from the first episode, theyal pastor episode, quote, it doesn't matter if you're drunk on champagne or beer. I'm always there for you. And that's, of course, spoken by a taco. So it's a $1 taco, right? That's sort of the tradition. These days. Of course, they're five or $10. Or even more. Is that is the world of tacos changing to become more upscale? Or is it just that the ingredients are getting more expensive or what's going on?

JC: something really interesting happens when you slip a tortilla under, you know, like, let's say you have like two beautiful scallops. Right? And you serve that in a restaurant, people would be okay paying like $14 $15 you know, for two big jumbo scallops. But when you put it on a tortilla something switches and it's, I think people just have this double standard with tacos and they think that tacos should always be cheap. Remember that that tacos are working class food. But at the same time, you know, tacos are becoming more pop cultural. You know, you're seeing young chefs that are like starting to infuse their tortillas with different flavors with different herbs and You know with that comes in in Spanish like tacos by author

CK: let's go through you know that first season of The taco Chronicles you take a different type each episode so can we just do tacos one on one here I could just breeze through the various types and just explain what they are

JC: yeah so if season one that was a barbacoa we focused the episode on the original barbacoa in Mexico which is in the state of Hidalgo and that is a underground Earth roasted Lamb you know that's with leaves that you fold over and you realize estate and is like this beautiful somewhere between smoked and roasted lamb flavor we also the duck was like canasta the the hotbed for that is Mexico City because it's that is the quintessential working class taco because you know you can get like six friends yes vessels which is like you know, it's really affordable. And then you know, the secret touch which I don't think many people knew this until we explored it in the episode is the way that these tacos are maintained warm because you know, they're actually sold and transported around the Mexico City and bike and bicycles and they add one whole liter or two liters of scalding hot vegetable oil all over it so it's just like this really unctuous rich, you know, greasy, but in the good way tacos. We have an episode, which you know, that almost needs no explanation of Buster being the shawarma style pork roasted vertically. The original that is actually a lamb schuurman taco from the some of the Lebanese immigrants that immigrated to Mexico.

CK: And what about the guisado that was the one that really interested me.

JC: Guisado, those are the wild card tacos because a guisado means just, you know, any kind of collection of meats. It can be chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, chilies, spices, garlic, onion, just stewed for a long time. And just until it's just all marries together and it's delicious. They're usually the sauciest taco is usually the most messy, because it's it's meant to be more of a wholesome homestyle cooked meal. That's not just like grilled meat on a tortilla. And again, Mexico City is known for this because it's the tacos that you that you can eat every day. You know, it's not like a special occasion taco.

CK: So let's pick a day. Any day when you're doing taco scouting, and let's start, you know, first thing in the morning in what did you do all day.

JC: So for the first season, while I was taco scouting, I would actually squeeze in my taco taste trips on extended weekends. So that means that sometimes I would only have 12 hours or 18 hours or 24 hours to complete all of my taco scouting. In one day, it would get really, really intense. I'll give you an example. When I was scouting for barbacoa, I was staying in Mexico City. And I would get up at 7am go try two or three places in the city. I would hop in a car speed my way to small towns across the valley go about maybe two or three hours away. So just after eating super gamey lamb like 8 am in Hidalgo you have more barbacoa so Okay, at this point, you're having probably like what seven tacos already, because you also have the tripod setup and see that is like the whole man, but it does like all the offals of lamb. So like kidneys, liver, heart, you know everything. That's you season it with with a dry chili mixture. And then you you cook it another organ. It's a super oprgany dish. It's really intense and hardcore. And then after this, we would hop back on the car and drive another three hours to get data for a final destination of more about Rockwall tacos, and more puntata So at that point, you know, you're like you're truly even like I said, you can love tacos but you you hit a brick you hit a brick wall pretty fast a taco wall, should I say 30 a wall. So that that goes to show you just how intense of an eating mission This is.

CK: You know know, everyone who says Gee, I wish I could be a restaurant critic or tacos scout. I think after listening to that they might they might be disabused of that as a career right that's it sounds pretty challenging. So you've spent a lot of time hunting down the best places different styles of tacos. What did tacos mean to you besides good eating?

JC: I think I can tacos are you know you celebrate with them. But also sometimes you know you have nothing else to eat so you tacos that's it's this unicorn of a food that can be eaten for breakfast lunch and dinner. It's associated with so many memories. For me tacos just signify good times and bad times and and also just how universal a dish can be.

CK: So when I was in Mexico City when I was cooking at home with a few people and one of them said oh yeah, we have taco nights you know we have like five or six different fillings and that's kind of surprised me I thought tacos were you had them to taquerias it stands or whatever. Our tacos really some of the people make At home, in Mexico, we're not.

JC: That's a question. And this is something that my wife and I always discuss. Because so it's when you grew up in Mexico, so I grew up here in the States, right? When you grow up in Mexico, you eat tacos everyday, but you don't really call them Tacos. You just just eat your food with tortillas, and you Fold the corner with a filling, but you don't you don't call to talk with you say like you're having, you know, food does the rest, which is like, you know, like a steak potatoes like dish. So yes, you do tacos at home, but I don't know many families that do like, taco Tuesdays at home, because taco taco Tuesdays every day for a lot of families.

CK: So your first step into food writing was emailing the famous Jonathan Gold in 11th grade. And you asked him for advice about becoming a food writer. And you eventually met him? Why did you do that? And what was his advice?

JC: Because I, I don't know, I, I love food. But I realized that my passion wasn't cooking, it was more, you know, thinking these critical thoughts sitting down at my computer and reflecting my, my views on them. So you know, him being like the, the go to guy in my, in my city for that? You know, so I grew up in the, in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, which is known primarily for its regional Chinese food. And he was writing about places that were like, right down the street from my high school, you know, and these things were like five or $6. And you know, and he would write these like 2000 word pieces on them. And I'm like, okay, I can actually go afford to go have this. But by him reinventing food writing or just making it Mickey, more universal, you know, making it more accessible to kids like me, you know, who's like a Mexican American kid who grew up in poverty, kind of, I don't know, I just, I just, I just I saw myself in him in a weird way. Because I was like, man, if this guy can do it, so can I. And, you know, luckily, he emailed back and ended up mentoring me and opened up a lot of doors for me. So you know, I hope he's, he's resting in peace. And, and, you know, he knows that my career definitely could not have been made possible without him.

CPK: Javier thank you so much for being on Mill Street. It's been a real pleasure.

JC: Thank you so much. It's a joy to talk to you.

CK: That was Javier Cabral. He's the associate producer of tacos scout for the Netflix documentary series. Taco Chronicles. He's also editor in chief of La tacos. You know, in Mexico City, the streets are alive with food from pork taco stands with every cut imaginable, to the famous chili Kili sandwich that includes fried chicken colored cheese and Mexican crema. street food in particular, the taco was really the great equalizer is Cooper all points out. But it's more than that it turns city streets into performance art, foods fried, steamed, grilled and griddle right in front of you. So streetfood turns the sidewalk into a stage. And that's why sidewalk cooking and dining is the best way to revitalize our cities. walk down the street and enjoy the hustle and bustle of humanity. It's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. Dana stream cake. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris.

CPK: You know I interviewed a Dean rezept A and she's married to Renee who runs no more. They run Nomad actually. And we talked about her cooking which was really interesting. And one of the things that's a classic she cake in Denmark is Danish dream cake. And it just sounded really intriguing. So you set out to make Danish dream cake

LC: we did. So the hallmark of a Danish dream cake is the topping. It's sort of a crackly, brown sugar, butter, coconut topping on a typical yellow cake, sometimes a butter cake. In our version, we modified it a little bit and actually took the butter out of the cake. It's really light and fluffy and balances sort of the sweetness of that topic. To do that, you really need to make sure to whip the eggs in the sugar until they're really pale and thick. And this takes probably about five minutes. That's what's gonna give us a lightness in this cake.

CK: And the texture is not like a typical New York Crumb Cake. It has a little bit not cheap, but it's got a little springiness to it right, exactly, it's

LC: sort of like a mix between butter cake and angel food cake texture.

CPK: So you just bake a cake and then throw a topping on it. How does that work?

LC: Well you bake the cake. While the cake is baking, we make a topping and we do that on the stovetop, it's milk brown sugar butter that gets boiled together until it's a little bit thickened. And then we add in unsweetened coconut and you really want to make sure you're using unsweetened coconut here otherwise it will get a little too sweet. When the cake comes on the oven while it's still warm. we top it with this topic. It's a little tricky because as I said this is a really light and delicate cake. So you want to start at the corners and sort of ease your way into the center with the topping.

CK: I actually made the recipe more than once and I thought that would be kind of hard to do, but I It's not hard to do. It also looks when it's finished. That said, it looks great.

LC: That's right. And there's one more really important step here. We want to get that topping even more caramelized. So we actually put it back in the oven under the broiler. So when you put this in the pan to start, you want to make sure you've got a broiler safe nine by 13 pan Pyrex baking dish wouldn't work here because it'll crack under the heat gets really nice and crackly on the top. When it comes out. We tented with foil, which is kind of a strange step. I'm sure you've probably never tented a cake with foil before. What it does is create sort of a little bit of a steamed silo in there. And that keeps the topping kind of crisp but not too brittle.

CK: Yeah, one of the things that's a hallmark is the top is crisp, but underneath it it's gooey, right so it's gooey crisp, and then the soft cake.

LC: It's perfect combination.

CK: That's why it's a dream cake. Exactly. When Thank you very much.

LC: You're welcome, Chris. You can get this recipe for Danish dream cake at 177 milkstreet com.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up. Adam Gopnik walks us through his own whimsical dessert. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to milk street radio. Right now. Sara Moulton, I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to milk Street, Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, Sara and Chris. This is Diana from Hollywood, California. Hi, Diana,

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: So my question is this, I'm trying to make a cell phone match up from dried chilies, seeds, nuts and garlic. And I've heard numerous times from both of you that garlic is not necessarily shelf stable and can be kind of dangerous if it's just like less than olive oil. And so I want to make a salsa matcha that has garlic in it and a shelf stable. I don't really know what to do. And I'm hoping you can give me some direction.

SM: Well, geez, it is problematic. Here's the thought and this is the crazy thought What about instead of fresh garlic using garlic powder. I think that might work. You know, the other thing is, you could of course make it and keep it in the fridge, but you're still gonna have the same problem. Ultimately, if it's in the fridge forever, you could also add some acid and some salt. I'm not sure how much you would need to preserve the situation.

CK: Well, you could also do what they do in Thailand with shallots and garlic, I think but they just fry it. And they use that as a garnish. So I would just take the clothes and fry them till they're deeply fried and crispy. And I think that would probably kill off anything that needs to be killed.

Caller: That's perfect. I have two sauces that I'm looking at. And they both have garlic and you know what they're fried. That was my question. Is that what I need to do? Okay,

SM: Well, that makes sense. Because that would remove the water. It also tastes better. Yeah, this is true. I'm not really a fan of garlic powder.

Caller: I started looking up citric acid and all kinds of things. And I thought this is way complicated for me. So trying to garlic is better.

CK: And make a whole bunch of one time and throw them on everything. And you're good to go.

Caller: Yeah, yeah. Delicious. Thank you for confirming I was really worried about botulism. And now I can just find my garlic.

SM: Fry away. Oh, can I tell you something fun? a fun way to slice garlic?

Caller: Absolutely.

SM: Chris is really gonna make fun of me. But the best tool for slicing garlic. Ready, Chris? Oh,

SM: Is a truffle slicer.

CK A truffle slicer. Oh, Lord. Yeah, I have four or five of those in my drawer.

Caller: I'm definitely gonna go get a truffle slicer. Thank you for that. Okay.

CK: All right. Thanks for calling.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you have any cooking quandaries please give us a call at 85542698431 more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at gmail street Welcome to the street Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, my name is Brooke Anderson.

CK: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Boston, Massachusetts.

CK: So how can we help you?

Caller: Well, I have a question about pork, in particular, leftover pork. I really enjoy eating pork fresh off the grill or straight out of the oven, tenderloin, Portland, Illinois, their pork chops, but I also like barbecue pulled pork or carnitas. And while I don't mind leftover pork when it was originally cooked in some sort of sauce, like a barbecue sauce. There is something about reheating lean cuts like pork roast or tenderloin that just always tastes off to me like a metallic flavor. And so I'm wondering if you have any recommendations for how to reheat pork?

CK: Well, you're right, and I agree with you. I mean, stews tastes better the second day, but a pork chop doesn't. My solution is take the pork chop or the tenderloin loin, I would slice it. You could serve it with beans like lentils and make a salad. You could do the true fajitas in the Veracruz fashion, which is they take very thin slice beef or pork and they cook it thoroughly then add it to a tomato pepper sauce. So you could add it to a sauce. So I would use the meat as a flavoring to something else. I mean, the reheating is not a problem. It's just the flavor. So we put it with something that's got a lot of flavor, put it into a taco whatever you want. But I would not just eat it by itself. That would be my circuitous answer, Sara.

SM: I was just gonna say the things that Chris mentioned, sound like a good idea. But I would cut up the pork, you know, you're talking about lean pork and saute it. Yeah, but cut it into smaller pieces and then throw into the things that Chris said but plus, say maybe like fried rice would be nice. And you'll get some carbonization or the my artifacts or you'll get some nice crust on the outside. I have a recipe where I take leftover chops, lamb pork steak, even, I cut the meat off the bone, cut it into chunks, throw it into a food processor, and pulse it. It ends up in pieces that are like the size of course hamburger. And then I combine that meat with breadcrumbs, usually fed cheese, fresh herbs, maybe an egg for binding, make it into burgers, and dip it again into breadcrumbs if you want to or panko and then saute it and the second time around when you add that other stuff to it. It's really darn good.

CPK That's actually a stunningly brilliant idea.

SM: Thank you, I thought so when I did it the first time Chris.

CK: You could do one other thing they do in Spain for tapas is they take chunks of pork tenderloin or loin, cover them with spices, let them sit a few minutes and then quickly quickly saute them in a skillet. And you could do that here or you could cut it into chunks. Cover with spices, let it sit 10 minutes and then very quickly just reheated in a skillet. And those spices, especially with smoked paprika will solve the problem of odd flavors in the meet.

Caller: Yeah. Oh, these are great solutions to something for years. I've thought like why do I not like this? But solve those problems.

CK: Every 10th call we come up with something good, right? Yeah,

SM: we do. We're very proud of ourselves

CK: You just got lucky. Winner. You're the winner. Thanks. Thanks.

Caller: Thank you.

CPK 43:46
This is milk street radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.

Listener: This is Maryann and here are five steps. If you're ever cooking salmon or chicken, you can just slap on some mayonnaise and that makes it hecka juicy, and my kids just devour that. Okay milk street See you soon.

CK: If you'd like to share your own culinary tip on street radio, please go to 177 milk street comm slash radio tips. Next up its regular contributor Adam Gopnik Adam How are you?

Adam Gopnik: I am pretty well Christopher How are you?

CK: I'm well I'm cooking. I assume you're probably cooking too.

AG: Not only am I cooking but I am inventing as I cook you know the pressures of our time have led me not just to the usual nightly dinner which I've been doing for years, but actually to adding in the nightly dessert which I have not been doing as regularly for years. But I have perfected my souffle if you can imagine it and more important than that. I have blazed a new area. I have pioneered a new frontier in the art of the putting that you're putting Fan Aren't you Christopher?

CK: I love putting that's why I love English desserts because they're pretty much all puddings

AG: they're nothing bad pudding really nothing but puddings for everything from Christmas pudding to spotted dick and beyond, but the kind of pudding I like best actually is two kinds. One is I love the classic American putting, you know, great rice puddings in terrific diners always delight me. But I also love the kind of ideal pudding of French gastronomic cuisine. And that is of course the cram Carmel. You know, cram Carmel beautiful baked custard with a caramel bass that you always struggle to get out of the little mold that you've put it in and never get out quite sufficiently

CK: know what well, the custard comes out, but but the caramel topping half of it stays inside the the ramekin, right.

AG: Yes, exactly. That could be a metaphor for life. Christopher right, the customer comes out. But half the Cattermole stays inside the rockin and when is that not true in our lives? But I set myself to create what I think of as a white knights putting now Do you remember the white knights putting and Alice Through the Looking Glass? No, I

CK: know it pretty well. I don't remember the putting that we did. Could you just go through the recipe

AG: for me? Absolutely. In fact be delighted to do you remember that the white knight who was always inventing things right? explained to Alice once that he had invented a pudding during the meet course to be served during the pudding course. And he told her that it began with blotting paper. And Allah said that wouldn't be very nice, I'm afraid. And then white knight said not very nice alone. But you've no idea what a difference it makes mixing it with other things such as gunpowder and sealing wax. And he goes on to explain that this was a pudding that was never actually made, though, hadn't been made, it would have been wonderful. And it was one of his greatest inventions and a lifetime of inventions. Well, my new pudding has been made. And it is my greatest invention. It threw me back the process of making it I will be honest with you to my childhood because when I was a kid, my sister Allison and I threw ourselves into the art of store bought packaged jello and pudding. And for one whole week when she was eight and I was seven, we took turns making on one day jello and on the next day putting and we decided that we would treat our parents on the Friday of that memorable week to a new invention melosh of jello and putting mix together. And I think you can probably imagine just how remarkable that desert colorful, right colored colorful and interesting of texture and mixture, the milk mingling with the with the gelatin and so on. And it was it was memorable. And it scared me off inventing new puddings for a lifetime. But I realized in the middle of this new crucible of cookery that I had two particular tastes that I really loved in putting one was of course the classic taste as I said, of the cram Carmel, but I equally loved the classic of coconut Flon of Cuban cuisine. And there was one more element in this mix that I'd always loved and at one point in my life made often with my daughter Olivia, and that was a wonderful Cardamom rice pudding that came actually from the the desert cookbook of that wonderful and now sadly closed restaurant Shatta Wale I didn't use the great deal of cracked Cardamom which to me is the always an irresistible spice. I've never had anything with Cardamom that was not delicious. So you can imagine the next step in this story, Christopher I set myself the task of making a Cardamom coconut cream caramel with unsweetened coconut milk substituting for the cream. And because I am a man of Baroque tastes and Rococo aspirations, I decided to add in cinnamon along with a Cartman in the caramel that I was making. I mixed it I put it in the oven. I covered my eyes. I took it out of its little water bath Half an hour later. And Christopher it was spectacular. It was the best dessert my wife tells me she has ever eaten. And I immediately dubbed it the five c Flon five c four cinnamon cardamon coconut cream caramel. And the five c font now has become the single thing in all of my creative experience that I am proud of stuff.

CK: You know if I may say this sounds suspiciously like you want my job. You want to be correct. You want to be a famous cook. And of course I've always wanted to be a famous writer, which will never happen. We don't know that. So maybe we just need to switch careers for a week.

AG: Right. Parents entered the you know, I wrote a comic book about crime that was the first published book I ever read was an imaginary you know, kind of French Bendis and a style thing about Coram king of cooks cook of kings. So yes, indeed I have always identified with Korean, but it's broadly true I think and I think that is one of the lessons If you leave writers alone long enough and don't let them go to bars and drink, they end up thinking that they're cooks. And certainly it's true and reverse. If you leave cooks alone long enough with a word processor, they will think that they are writers. And that is certainly true. I am far prouder of the five see Flon than I am of any one of the What is it now 12 books, two plays and six anthologies that I have sent out into the world.

CK: Well, there's an obvious question which is have you now with a five si Flon gotten this out of your system? And you're going to return to what you obviously are quite good at or is this going to egg you on to future culinary creations?

AG: Of course it's going to egg me Of course.

CK: Adam thank you and we need to make a date to cook together but you can cook your five see Flon I would be delighted to send you the recipe.

CK: That was Adam Gopnik, staff writer for The New Yorker. You know, Adam Gopnik wants to be a cook and I've always wanted to be a writer, which makes me wonder if Socrates really wanted to be a musician or maybe Rembrandt really yearn to try his hand in throwing pottery. And that's why Rod Stewart loves model trains and Courtney Love collects dolls and Alice Cooper plays golf, which goes to show the being in a doozy as the amateur is sometimes more fulfilling than being an expert. At least you have nowhere to go but up. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in to later one of binge listen every single episode you can download millstreet radio on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. To learn more about milk straight please go to 177 milk street comm there you can find all of our recipes. Take a free online cooking class or order our latest cookbook cook ish. 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 was produced by Milk Street in association with w GBH executive producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, co executive producer Annie Sinsabaugh, Associate Producer Jackie Noack, production assistant Sarah Clapp and production help from Debbie Paddock, senior audio engineer David Goodman, additional editing from Vicki Merrick Sydney Louis and Samantha Brown. An audio mixing from Jay Allison at Atlantic public media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by to Bob crew. Additional music by George Bernard egloff Christopher Kimball's milk street radio is distributed by P r x