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March 16, 2023
Originally aired on March 13, 2020
Like Carrots for Meat: The Irish Food Revolution with Chef Jp McMahon
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We go beyond soda bread and shepherd's pie to discover the new Irish cooking with chef Jp McMahon. We discuss why the Irish ate very little seafood, how leftover cake was turned into a new dessert, the joys of frying with animal fat and the best way to cook any vegetable. Plus, we chat with Dan Pashman about the perfect ice cube; we discover the magic of crispy pasta; and the New Yorker’s Burkhard Bilger asks: Can babies learn to love vegetables?
Questions in this episode:
"Is there an easier way to make hollandaise and how long does it keep for?"
"I used rye bread instead of flour to thicken my soup but it turned the dish an unappetizing color. Is there something I can do in the cooking process to improve the soup's appearance?"
"Can you help me determine what the middle layer to my great grandmother's peach cobbler recipe might be?"
"I can't eat peppers anymore. Are there other ways to bring heat to my dishes?"
"How long can you let an enriched dough rise before it spoils?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Kitchen from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we're going beyond soda bread and shepherd's pie to learn about the new Irish cooking was chef JP McMahon, we discussed the joys of frying with animal fat. The best way to cook any vegetable and McMahon's fight against overcooked meat.
JP McMahon: I find turning down the lights and just serving it medium rare and just making sure people can't see the color because I generally find roughly about 70% of the people will will if you blindfold them, they would admit to being nicer, rare or medium rare that it was be well but it's just I think it's it's your eyes that are tricking you.
CK: Also coming up Dan Pashman and I explore the art and science of ice cubes, and we make a crispy pasta from Apulia. But first is my interview with Burkhard Bilger about his article Can Babies Learn to Love Vegetables, Burkhard welcome to Milk Street.
Burkhard Bilger: It's good to be here.
CK: Your article in The New Yorker, Can Babies Learn to Love Vegetables is really about something else as well, which is to figure out what babies want. So (right) what have we done as a culture to research the concept of what let's say a one- or two-year-old really wants to eat?
BB: I mean, there's been research at every level, I think, you know, there's been studies of, you know, how babies react to sugar, for instance. And that's shown that babies want kind of insane concentrations of sugar. And then there have been studies that have looked at what's the difference between what a baby wants when a mother will eat certain vegetables during pregnancy or during nursing, and babies who don't have that in their, their mother's diet. And they did it with Irish babies. There's a famous study where mothers who ate garlic mashed potatoes when they were pregnant. And like nine years later, they tested these children of mothers who hadn't done that. And mothers who had and children from others who had eaten garlic mashed potatoes were more likely to like the taste of garlic. Because, you know, garlic isn't usually that prevalent in the Irish diet. So, you could kind of control for that a bit. So yeah, that's been shown very clearly.
CK: Now, another point you make, is that what a baby likes or doesn't like the first time you offer them something isn't necessarily determinative of what they may like, if you keep on offering it to them. Could you explain that?
BB: Yeah, that's, I mean, it's an interesting passage in a baby's life early on, when they're up to two years old, they'll, you know, sometimes kind of shake their head if they're offered something, but if you give it to them again, they'll just go out and eat it. And then later on, there's this period from say, two to four, where in evolutionary terms, they would have been crawling around in whatever the savannah environment or the jungle and they're putting things in their mouth, and it kind of makes evolutionary sense to, to have a lot more discriminating function when it comes to food. And at that age, they tend to spit things out and, and become much more picky about what they eat. But then they kind of come back around to being more open minded as you go. And I think the mistake that study after study has shown is that parents when they're feeding kids just aren't persistent enough that a kid will will, you know, will spit out tomato you give them or spit out the carrot that you give them. And after the third or fourth time or fifth time, you're like, okay, well, my kid just doesn't like tomatoes or doesn't like carrots. And the truth is that, you know, these famous studies at Penn State by Leanne Birch, she was a wonderful child psychologist and child nutrition expert, and she found that it took 10 to 12 exposures on average for kids to learn to like a new substance.
CK: So you went to an African market in Portland, Maine, and discovered that the kids were eating garlicky things that my kids would never eat. But that's because they were raised with homemade baby foods that were not bought in the supermarket.
BB: Yeah, if you want the best possible diet for your kid, it's going to be a question of making it yourself, giving it to them on a consistent basis, making sure it's varied. I think that's all true. Of course, that hits against a wall of a lot of people don't have time for that kind of home cooking. And you know, this large scale study that Gerber funds every few years, and this may sound suspect, but I think it's been vetted pretty well, has found that, you know, the American diet is so bad and the kind of food that often gets given to kids is so bad on average, you know, like a quarter of kids don't get vegetables on any given day and, and the most common vegetable lady is French fries. So that compared to that, kids raised on commercial baby food, on average actually get a healthier diet than the average American kid who doesn't get commercial baby food. So, we're in this kind of, we're in such a bad spot, nutritionally that you know, absolutely. Making your own food for your babies is the best thing you can do. But if you don't have time in big commercial baby may not be such a bad alternative.
CK: So, if you're like most parents, you don't have a lot of extra time and you're not cooking from scratch to feed them. What's your advice?
BB: Well, I think the ideal thing is there's also this kind of new movement, which seems to have had a lot of success of self-weaning, where you're basically giving kids more whole foods to gnaw on and kind of more adult food that you can mash up on their plate that come from your plate, I think there's a lot of that, that that can be really successful. If you are a parent, you know, rather than making bespoke baby foods with your baby bullet blender, you know, in a lot of ways, the ideal thing to do is to make sure you're eating a healthy diet yourself and eating home foods as much as possible. And then just giving your kids some of that, and then use baby food, commercial baby food as a supplement.
CK: So, is there a point of no return in a kid's life where they've established their tastes, preferences? Is it game over or is there any way back?
BB: No, I don't think it's game over at all. I mean, I keep thinking about the craft brewing revolution in this country where we went from as a country drinking Bud and, and Miller Lite. And then suddenly, 20 years later, you know, the most popular beers around are IPAs, which are high, high hops content, very bitter beers. And, you know, these are all people who started drinking those things, when they're in their 20s probably, you know, started to shift over into IPAs, and they learn to love those things. So, I think that plasticity in our tastes is, is there and continues for the rest of our lives basically,
CK: You also mentioned, you know, the parents like to get their kids all wound up and the kind of diets they like, chia seeds, it's this and the other thing carob Is any of that stuff potentially harmful, or that's just silly.
BB: I don't know if any given ingredient in those hip, new baby foods I've seen is dangerous. I do think there's this weird thing that's happened throughout the history of baby food, where whatever anxieties we have about food or ever any hopes for our own diets, we then impose on them. And so, you, you know, you have in the early 19th century, when there's this idea about purity in baby food, they're only giving them white substances, milk and, and white gruel. And then in the 50s, when we're enamored with industrial causation and high tech, we're suddenly giving them all canned foods. And then in the 70s, we decided, oh, no, it's all has to be homemade. And, you know, and some of those are, some of those trends are better than others. But in every era, we're crystallizing whatever the food trends are, and then imposing them on these children.
CK: In all of this research, what really stood out to you is being incredible, different, surprising, etc.
BB: I mean, one of the things that that I had not expected was that so much of the culture of commercial baby food comes out of the military. You know, the kind of canning technology or freeze-drying technology or the new pouches that are everywhere.
CK: Those incredible expensive yogurt pouches you mean?
BB: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. When those came out of field rations, you know, and one of the things I had when I was at the combat Feeding Unit was this food that's made for spy plane pilots. And those guys have to be in in helmets that are completely airtight, and so they can't really eat with a fork and knife. So, the only way they can eat is to take a pouch of this basically baby food for adults stick the nozzle in the equivalent of a cigarette lighter socket on a dashboard and heats up the pouch, and then they stick it in their home, and they squeeze the stuff into their helmets. And I thought wow, that's amazing, but and then it gave me some to taste, and I was expecting something like Plumpy'Nut something that would be this most basic nutritious gruel. And in fact, it wasn't, I mean, they had really, they had, you know, macaroni and cheese with truffle oil, and they had tortilla soup and talking to those people. At the lab. They said, look, this isn't us just having fun with food. This is we guess we've always known this, but it's reinforced that the thought that food is psychological and its comfort, you need something that evokes these sense memories so that that dimension of food that it's even present in things like combat food, and baby food was really surprising and kind of gratifying to me.
CK: Burkhard thank you so much for being on Milk Street
BB: Good to be here.
CK: That was Burkhard Bilger. His article for The New Yorker was called Can babies Learn to Love Vegetables? Right now, my co-host Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking 101, also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.
Sara Moulton: Chris before we get going with the calls, I have a personal question myself.
CK: About you oh about me. Okay go ahead.
SM: So, typical evening done at work done at milk straight going home not going out. What happens when you get home?
CK: There are two young kids there waiting for me at the door. They have to have dinner. And you make it. Sometimes I make it sometimes my wife makes it. I rarely eat much dinner because at the kitchen, at Milk Street I'm just eating constantly, which means I
SM: You and the wife don't sit down and dine.
CK: Oh, no. If you have a one- and three-year-old
SM: A cocktail?
CK: We don't have time to sit down have cocktails.
SM: Oh, dear, this is very sad.
CK: No, its bath, pajamas, play time, bed, and then I have half an hour before I completely collapse, which might be a cocktail time once in a while.
SM: Okay. Okay
CK: And what do you do?
SM: What do I do? Well, I don't go to an office. My home is my office. So, I could work all day long every day. So, I've been trying to work on that, because that's not healthy.
CK: You actually get to cook dinner.
SM: I do. I do. Every night at 6:30 I start cooking dinner, I have a glass of wine at six o'clock, I have a glass of wine that lasts me till we sit down to dinner at 7:30. And the husband likes to watch various news things while I cook. We sit down and dine at 7:30
CK: We need to switch.
CK: You need to come over to do childcare and I'll go cook dinner for your husband.
SM: Well, I’d love to. You know I could take a few little humans. I you know, I've been waiting for some grandchildren. It should happen sometime.
CK: Okay, I'm just so depressed now, time to open the phone lines. Welcome to Milk Street who’s calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Hannah from Twin Falls, Idaho.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: Well, I have a bit of a Benedict conundrum. I'm recently engaged. And over the years, my fiancé and I have kind of developed a tradition of Sunday brunch. He loves Eggs Benedict, it's his favorite meal in the whole world. My problem is I hate it. So, I always end up with extra Hollandaise. And the whole process itself is kind of hard. I was hoping you guys maybe have some tips or tricks to make it easier. And I also wanted to know how long I could keep Hollandaise.
CK: Well, you can make them in blenders or using an immersion blender instead of the traditional stovetop, French method. Right?
SM: Absolutely. And you can’t keep it all that long. Throw it into a thermos and it will stay warm for quite awhile but you don't want to use it the next day. So just make a small batch. But in terms of poaching the eggs. I learned this from a cute Australian chef I had on my show years ago. And what he would do is take a straight sided skillet and fill it with water three, four inches and bring it up to a boil right and meanwhile he would have broken the eggs into little you know ramekins. So, he brings it up to a boil. He turns off the heat, dump in the eggs you put on the lid, you leave it takes three four minutes till they solidify. And then you take them out with a slotted spoon, and you can store them overnight.
CK: Put them in a container covered with water.
SM: Right with a little bit of water. Yep. And then the next day just bring up some water to you know, a boil, turn it off and just dip them in till they're warm and then you're ready to go.
CK: Sara, did you say cute?
SM: He was so cute.
CK: Well okay, now this explains why she liked the method. I've tried every method because I make poached eggs once a week. The best way to make them it's metal. It has a hooked top on it. It has two little containers for the eggs. You put half an inch of water in the pot. It clips onto the side of the pot. You break an egg and each one you can put two sets of two and if you want and put the top on. I also spray with nonstick spray. It's the simplest thing in the world. It comes out perfectly every time. You know the classic method.
SM: You have to buy a gadget then
CK: They cost five bucks.
SM: Where do you buy them Chris and what are they called
CK: Just look at egg poacher that is like 10 bucks and it solves all your egg poaching.
SM: It takes up more room in your cupboard.
CK: Well, you could call this cute guy over and he could do it that way too
SM: My method is like no extra pots or pans.
CK: But the overnight thing is actually brilliant.
SM: Yeah, do it the day before.
CK: That's a great tip.
SM: Thank you for that. Okay.
CK: All right. All right,
Caller: I think between the Hollandaise and the egg method, I can keep the tradition going.
SM: All right.
Caller: Thank you so much
CK: Thanks for calling.
SM: Thanks, Hannah.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hey, this is Mike from Richmond, Virginia.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: So, a little while ago, I was making the creamy mushroom soup out of the Food Lab cookbook. And I'm a baker. So, I often have odds and ends have different loads lying around and I had some rye bread that was kind of starting to turn and I figured, oh, I think I might be able to thicken the soup up with the rye bread instead of just putting flour in like the recipe calls. And it worked out extremely well. It tasted very good, except the color came out like wet concrete. It was incredibly unappealing to look at. tasted great, but whenever I was getting leftovers out of the fridge, I had to consciously remind myself that this is actually food, and it tastes good. So, my question was, is there anything I could have done during cooking it to change the color to be a little more palatable?
CK: Well, I'll take a totally different tack back, I would cube the rye bread and toss it with some oil, olive oil and salt. And I would take a big skillet and for five or six, seven minutes, toast the bread in the skillet. And just use that as a topping for the soup. So, you get the flavor of the rye, it’s thickens the flour, you get the wonderful texture of the just the texture is fabulous. You could throw some herbs in too, salt, of course, and then you get the texture you get the flavor of the bread, and you don't muck up the color of soup. That would be my quickie suggestion. I mean, Sara.
SM: So, what I would suggest in terms of making it look better besides what Chris said that sounded yummy, is just a really nice garnish, like a whole bunch of shallots or onions that you caramelize completely, and then put those on top with some beautiful shredded fresh herbs. Because it's amazing. You put a bright garnish on it, you don't notice that it looks like cement otherwise, so I would you know, try to get creative in that department.
CK: I like my idea better.
SM: I like your idea better, but he still has to still has to thicken the soup
CK: or just eat by candlelight.
SM: Well, that's a good point too
CK: One candle. Not two.
SM: There you go. There you go.
CK: But I think that's a great idea is using up I mean, if you look at old cookbooks, there's so many recipes were still bread is the first step because they had a lot of it and that's why they had bread crumbs. They made puddings out of it and etc. etc.
SM: Put it in salads.
CK: They put it in cakes, they do all sorts of things. So good for you for using it up instead of throwing it out. Yeah, great.
SM: Yes absolutely.
SM: All right, Mike.
CK: Mike, give it a shot.
Caller: Yeah, thank you so much.
CK: Okay, take care.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are ready to take your culinary calls. Give us a ring at 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?
Caller: This is Jennifer Hansford.
SM: Jennifer, where are you calling from?
Caller: I'm in Kansas City.
SM: And how can we help you today?
Caller: I have a strange question. And I've been chasing the answer for quite some time. My great grandmother used to make a peach cobbler she called a cobbler. I'm not sure what you would call it. But there was a layer in that dish that my sister and I have been struggling for years to figure out what it's made of or how she made it. It was amazing. And it was very firm like firmer than a custard. But white. And she put it in the oven, said have the pizzas on the bottom, this layer probably three quarters to an inch thick. And then some like oatmeal kind of crumbled on the top. And I cannot figure it out
CK: Did the topping drip down among the peaches in the bottom as well or was it just a separate layer on top.
Caller: It was a separate layer on top. But for the most part, the white layer was pretty much white all the way through, and it tasted of peaches, but it was not. It was over the peaches.
CK: My first thought is whatever it is, it has to be a very thick batter. You know, it has to be like a really more than a cake batter, right? Because otherwise, it's just going to immediately go right down to the peaches and end up mixing with them.
Caller: It doesn’t even taste cakey it very similar to like a firm custard.
CK: Well, you know, there is Blanc Mange, which is actually it's originally an Arab dish, but Fanny Farmer made it hers, it’s a cornstarch pudding. And I wonder if that's made with some flour in it to thicken it up. It is a very plain ends up sort of as a pudding layer. And that was very popular. And a lot of old cookbooks use Blanc Mange, maybe it's a combination of peaches and Blanc Mange
SM: That makes sense
Caller: and you could put in the oven, right?
CK: Yep. The only problem with a Blanc Mange is the cornstarch thickened pudding needs to be at 185. And if it's too hot, it breaks down and it's a little tricky. So maybe it's just a flour-based pudding it is a flour essentially a milk or whatever with flavorings and beat until fairly thick. Could you give us a little more hint about the texture?
Caller: Yeah, it's not like a cake at all. It's like a dense custard. You still cut through it with your spoon. And it was like pretty stark white.
CK: There’s no eggs in it because it's all white. And it's flour, corn starch.
Caller: Right and it holds its shape. You know what I mean?
CK: That's really, actually that sounds delicious. I have some old Fanny Farmer cookbooks from the 1900s or so I bet if I looked in there there. I bet there's something or one of those Settlement cookbooks there’s probably a recipe anyway. Fascinating. I think we need to go test this out. And I need a big bowl of it.
CK: Jennifer thank you. Yeah, I can start in some historical wormhole for this dessert. It sounds great. Thank you.
Caller: Great. Thank you.
CK: Okay, thanks
SM: bye bye.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, we hear from Chef JP McMahon about the history and future of Irish cooking. That's coming up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Chef JP McMahon, who owns and operates three restaurants in Galway, Ireland. His new book is called The Irish cookbook, JP, welcome to Milk Street.
JP McMahon: Hi, how are you?
CK: Good. Let's do a little history. One of the things you brought up in the book that was so interesting is that seafood obviously was important initially in Irish cooking, but in later centuries, it wasn't. And so why was why was sea food sort of left off the menu for such a long time.
JPM: I think one of the one of the primary reasons the first kind of turning away from the sea is probably when we began to farm and there was a certain consistency about that. I also think people didn't have access to the sea in the way that we have now. So, a lot of fishing would have been very coastal. I also think as well, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the attitude towards fish was a fish was seen as I suppose as a as a fasting food when you weren't eating meat. And it was I suppose it was relegated to below meat and even myself growing up, there wasn't too much emphasis put on fish in the way that the Spanish or the Italians, the French celebrate fish, and I think we've we have a very different attitude towards fish now. And of course, it's still changing and it's, you will still meet so many people in Ireland that don't eat shellfish don't eat oysters or mussels, and we produce so many of them. And that's something I suppose that I wanted to try and change with the book.
CK: So, Gur cake, two layers of pastry filled with leftover cake. Could you tell me about that, because that's not something I've ever heard about.
JPM: Yeah. And in Ireland I never liked it growing up, my father always ate. And I was always looking at this kind of black cake in between two slices of pastry, wondering what it was and it was very spiced. And then when I researched it a bit, I realized that was kind of Dublin phenomenon where bakers would use their leftover cakes and almost kind of make a new cake. So put it into a new mix, and then put it between two sheets of pastry and bake it again. The word gurr is broadly from like gurrier, which is sort of what my granddad used to call, call us when we were when we were messin if you're a kind of young lads who are up to mischief are gurrers urchins in the in the street and that and so this cake is it's very much associated with Dublin and it was a way of minimizing waste where we're so conscious nowadays of food waste. In the past, I suppose there was no such thing as food waste because you had to use up what you had because you actually didn't have enough food and it's only now that we have too much food that we produce waste whereas in the past stuff got recycled and even when you look at shepherd's pie or the cottage pie, a lot of that was produced the following day when you had stuff leftover and when you had your your meat so that you cooked it again in a gravy and then you topped it with something and baked it again in the oven. It was a way of getting more mileage out of the food that you had.
CK: Venison, the tenderloin, the backstrap is easy cook at high heat quickly. But you have a recipe for venison like here. Do you have any thoughts about that? Because venison is so lean and so so how do you deal with that?
JPM: I would treat venison like I would treat lamb. Like you are going to cook as low and slow but you're not going to cook it for as long as you would cook say a leg of beef or a shoulder of pork. But it's again it's something that with the leg of venison, you can cook that medium rare and so having having a thermometer I think it's the most the most important thing and it's not about knowing intuitively when something is ready for me it's always about putting it and checking the temperature with it with a probe and knowing what point do I need to cook it too. Do I want to cook it that rare medium or to want to cook it well? Because there is you There's even a different range of wells and for a lot of people, when they think of well on meat, they think of like carbonized, very dry meat. And I know plenty of people in Ireland that enjoy their meat like that. And then they kind of say, well, it needs more sauce and they're going well, it needs more sauce is moisture, and just because you've removed the moisture from the cooking process, so it is that there's always that battle within.
CK: Yep, same thing here, especially in New England. Every year we do an ox roast, which is just a heifer. And if you cook it rare, medium rare, nobody eats it, it has to be No, no hint of pink anywhere in the meat.
JPM: I find turning down the lights, and just serving at medium rare and just making sure people can't see the color. Because I generally find roughly about 70% of the people will will if you blindfold them, they would admit to they've been nicer, rare or medium rare than it will be well, but it's just I think it's it's your eyes that are tricking you. And that's what you need to do. You don't need a blindfold everyone, turn down the lights, have a few candles, slice it, pour a bit of sauce over it and say that yeah, we did cook it well, I just always just lie to it. To my family, it's I just say it's well cooked. Even if it's rare, I'd say it's well. So, then they just kind of feel more at ease.
CK: Skillet carrots with butter and stock. That also caught my eye is just a really good basic way of thinking about cooking a vegetable.
JPM: Yeah, and again, it's one of those things that when we think about cooking vegetables, we always think about dropping them in the largest amount of water and boiling them. And that's pretty much how I was raised, it was just like boil your vegetables. And then everyone doesn't like them, you're going why doesn't anyone like the vegetables because you boil them in water and then serve them. And I think we need to give vegetables a little bit more love and possibly to treat them the way we treat meat. And when we were cooked meat, we pan fry it and we put it with butter, and you base it and you cook it slowly. And one of the ways that we do carrots in the restaurant is cooking them really slowly in butter, maybe a small bit of water. But like all of the nutrients and all the flavor remains in that small amount of liquid. And so just trying to get people to appreciate and it's something that's probably been sidelined in Irish cooking vegetables were the kind of additional optional thing and they were just kind of cooked in no particular way. And they take a long time to grow. And there's a lot of vegetable growers that we work with that spend a long time picking different varieties and growing them for flavor. And you really got to put the maximum amount of love into them.
CK: And finally, one of my favorites, these are onions roasted whole in pork fat and thyme I just really fell in love with that one.
JPM: Yeah, we forget. But pre modernization or pre industrialization, most things that were fried, were fried in beef, pork, or lamb fat, and it has an amazing flavor. And it's something that we've just forgotten about, we just you we would never think of frying a vegetable now in beef fat, or lamb fat or chicken fat. And what happens to the vegetable is, is you get this flavor from the fat in on top of the vegetable. And so, I like to try and encourage people to really think about like the fat because now we use a neutral oil that tastes of nothing, which again is fine for a whole lot of things. But using animal fat, it's a really nice thing to do. And I think roasting an onion whole and cooking it really slowly so that the sugars get released and it gets sweet, and the bitterness goes away. It just takes a bit of time and giving yourself more time to cook things I think is I suppose one of the aims of the book as well.
CK: So, if you were to go back in time in Irish history, was there a time when you think the food would have been most extraordinary?
JPM: Oh, I suppose the romantic in me would say I want to go back to the very, very beginning. That kind of Mesolithic period where people have just arrived. There's loads of wild game. There's lots of wild plants, the things that I love about Irish food now. But like I think I need period in the first farmers as well growing barley bringing cows into the country. I think it would all predate the written word if I had to pick a time, but I suppose romantically I think that's it's a it's a great time to think about because we can learn so much from that now, when we think about the local food movement and trying to support ourselves as a country. But for me taken an oyster out of the sea and putting a bit of seaweed on it and eating it is for me what encapsulates Irish food now, but it's also what encapsulated Irish food 10,000 years ago.
CK: Do you ever wonder whether society is headed in the direction you would like, or whether you're feel abandoned, but by by all of the trends in culture, which are going away from the things you hold dear?
JPM: Yeah, I think I think if I if I was more naive, I'd probably be happier because I don't think it is going that way. I think there is a certain section of society that does want the local food movement. I think it's difficult with a growing population to see how we can all just grow food locally and be happy because we need more food all the time and then we rely on imports. Even the potato which is a good place to to end like we Ireland is associated so much with a potato, it's been in Ireland 300 years, we don't even grow enough cradles in Ireland anymore to feed ourselves. Like we think we imported 72,000 tons last year. And so, it's kind of ironic that we're still associated with it because we don't, we don't grow enough to feed ourselves anymore. And that's for me, that's a tragedy as well, because there is no money in it because it's cheaper to get potatoes from certain parts of Europe or the Middle East than it is actually to grow a potato in Ireland. And that's why when you lose things, particularly different varieties and different traditions, about where potatoes would have grown and what varieties people would have grown and there are some great contemporary potato growers in Ireland growing some really different varieties. And I think hopefully those people will learn will shine a new light on on Irish food.
CK: JP it's been a great pleasure having you on Milk Street thanks.
JPM: Thank you so much. Great talking to you.
CK: That was JP McMahon, chef, and author of The Irish Cookbook. It's time to head into the kitchen and Millstreet to chat with JM Hirsch about this week's recipe. Crispy pasta with chickpeas, lemon and parsley. JM how are you?
J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.
CK: So, you've been wandering the world you were in Apulia not too long ago. (Yes) And you came across a recipe for crispy pasta. Let me just say, I'm not a big fan of crispy pasta. I like my pasta. I don't even like it al dente, I like it cooked. But this one you say is a winner.
JM: This isn't just crispy pasta. This is pasta fried in olive oil. Now I have your attention. So, I found this restaurant in Leche which is of course in the heel of the Italian boot. And this woman brings me into the kitchen, and she starts cooking pasta and she throws it in a vat of olive oil, like boiling olive oil. And all of a sudden it's bubbling and it's fizzing and it's sizzling. And she yanks it out and throws it on the counter. And then she proceeds with the recipe. And I couldn't imagine what she was going to do, I mean to me it looked like wonton strips. I assumed it was going to be a garnish that maybe you crush over the finished dish. But in fact, it wasn't. So, this is a dish of texture and contrast. So, you have two varieties of pasta. One of the pastas has been fried crisp in olive oil, the other has been boiled up as you would expect in water, then they're combined, and they're combined with tender chickpeas. There's a lot of starch involved in all three of those ingredients. And when they combine, they create a really creamy sauce that bastes the whole thing.
CK: So, is this pasta with sauce or is this more of a soup? There's not a broth here, right?
JM: It is well, it's kind of in the middle. It's pasta crisp and tender with chickpeas and the combination of the starchy waters from all of that create their own sauce, of course adding a little bit of olive oil.
CK: So, the fried pasta is a little bit like chicharrones in Mexico. Yes, it's there for the crispiness.
JM: Exactly what you're getting some savoriness to it, some saltiness to it, because you're frying and then the olive oil and then you're combining that with traditionally cooked boiled pasta, and then again, you're combining that with the chickpeas. We added a little bit of lemon juice and parsley to brighten it up. Add some freshness to it in our version, but the overall effect is creamy, rich textured.
CK: One question. A vat of boiling oil is not something to do at home. So how did you how did you substitute for that?
JM: We were able to do it in just a shallow pan with just a little bit of oil. We did not need the vat that my cook needed.
CK: So maybe you've changed my mind you went to Apulia, came back with a crispy pasta with chickpeas, lemon, and parsley. But it also has some fully cooked pasta too.
JM: It does indeed.
CK: A nod to my palate. Thank you, JM.
JM: Thank you. You can find this recipe and all our recipes at 177 Milk Street.com.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up. We chat with Dan Pashman about the ideal ice cube. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Laura.
SM: Hi Laura. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
SM: Okey doke. How can we help you today?
Caller: My relationship with food has become pretty complicated. I used to be omnivorous, but now I can't eat peppers, or dairy. I've worked my way around dairy. There's lots of vegan stuff going around so that's fine, but peppers are a catastrophe. Including jalapenos, Siracha, pepper, any of their cousins.
SM: Oh, no.
Caller: Yeah, well, you know, it could be much worse. But I'm looking for something to spice up a chili or tomato sauce so my children will continue to eat with me. I understand there's some Indian spices that work and are not in that capsaicin family but haven't really been able to do a lot of research on it with any confidence.
SM: I mean, there's other things that are spicy, which would not affect you thinking about what would go nice and chili obviously garlic, but you probably already got that in there. Fresh horseradish. peppercorns. Even though chilies are spicy, peppercorns are a different kind of spicy, and that would be helpful there. Another thing that's enormously spicy is Coleman's mustard, that dry mustard they use Have you ever had that? (No) Sometimes it's mixed with water and it's a paste and you might find it in a Chinese restaurant. It's incendiary, really hot and it's really yummy. There’s also wasabi although I don't think wasabi belongs in a chili. I don't know. What do you think Chris?
SM: I think peppercorns,
CK: I would do two things I would come up with a spice blend. A lot of people in the world households have their own family blend. Cumin works well in chili, coriander, ginger. There's lots of kinds of pepper corns, other than just black pepper, the warm spices cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, so I would come up with a spice blend that isn't going to bother you and use that as sort of an all-purpose blend in your cooking and that's what a lot of people do.
CK: The second thing I would do is do a seasoned salt and make your own salt and throw in some of those spices. You could even throw in some of the dry mustard powder if you want to. So, a seasoned salt and a spice blend. And those two things are just used in a lot of your recipes. Not just chili, stews, soups, etc. It's really an easy way to do it. You might actually have more than one spice blend, you could also buy za’atar which is a spice you know Ras el hanout there's a lot of Berbere. There’re some things out there, although I think that does include chilies. Unfortunately
SM: Yeah, it might
CK: Spice blends is really the way to go. And seasoned salts would really make your cooking better, I think
Caller: Thank you for that because the whole reason to do it at home is that the chili relatives are hidden in that little word spices and ingredients list by hummus in the market and stuff like that. So, you got to be careful,
SM: Very vigilant yeah. Do check out the Colman's mustard.
CK: That's a good idea
Caller: I will I know a lot of mustard has when you read the ingredients list that has peppers, so you have to do that but you're just talking about dry mustard
SM: It’s a pure dry but not any dry mustard, not a regular dry mustard, Coleman's
CK: I'd also go to a place like Penzeys spices, and they carry lots of different peppercorns. Pepper obviously has heat, but they're white pepper corns. One of my editors was in Cambodia recently, and this sort of long peppercorns has a lot of different flavors to them. And that would give you heat and flavor. So, I would look at those too.
Caller: Yeah. Great. Thank you.
CK: Yep. All right. Thanks, Laura.
SM: Okay, Laura.
Caller: Thank you. Bye,
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. To chat with Sara and me on air, just call 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Nancy, from San Diego.
SM: And how can we help you today?
Caller: Hi, well, I'm calling because my family likes to make these rolls that are called orange bow knot roll. And they're in enriched dough. They're made with milk and eggs and butter. They have to rise the first time and then you punch them down and let them rise again. And then you roll them out. And then they have to rise again. And my sister and I always disagree about how long you can leave an enriched dough out and let it rise without spoiling. So that's really my question is when you're approaching the two-hour window of rising time. Are you ever in jeopardy of having it spoil?
SM: Well, I know that the government says and it's an easy number to remember the two hours is sort of the danger zone for anything left at room temperature but that's sort of a place to start. It's not a hard and fast rule and I know that a lot of stretch the truth. I mean, when you think about it, all sorts of people should die at Thanksgiving, they have their meal at two or four, and then it stays there till you know 10 o'clock at night on the counter, and then they go back and revisit it, they don't wrap it up and put it away. They go back and have seconds hours later. You know, if you said six hours, you know, maybe I’d feel differently, but two hours, I think you're fine. You know, if you're really concerned, I mean, the biggest issue there would be the eggs. And so, if you wanted to, you can use pasteurized eggs that might help a little bit.
CK: But might I interject that you're then going to put this in a 400 degree oven. So that's true. So, I mean, this is a difference between leaving something out that's been cooked. And eating it six hours later, where if there's bacteria doubles every 20 minutes, which gets you into big trouble pretty quickly. But you're going to throw this in the oven. So, if bacteria growing, it's going to get killed. And most of the time, that's fine. Secondly, every bakery in the world is letting their rich bread rise for hours. So, I would say the odds of this being problematic (are very slim.) Well, I have to call my lawyer now. But yeah, I would not be worrying about this because you're going to put in a hot oven so that's going to take care of the problem, maybe like the classic case is like potato salad. Right? It's the potatoes actually, it's not the mayonnaise,
SM: It's not the mayonnaise because mayonnaise is industrial mayonnaise has tons of I mean, supermarket it has tons of additives in it.
CK: So, it that sits out for hours, but you're not throwing that in an oven before you eat it. Right. So it's the oven that's going to be really be the thing that solves a problem here. Yeah.
CK: I grew up in a household with the butter was kept on the counter temperature all the time all the time.
SM: And the French keep their eggs out. Not that I would but you know,
CK: We used to have a very large family now it's small but maybe that's maybe that has something to do with the butter. Yeah, but anyway, I don't think this is a big
SM: I wouldn’t worry.
Caller: Well, good. I'll stop worrying.
CK: Yeah, okay and ust enjoy the rolls.
SM: All right, Nancy.
CK: Take care.
Caller: Thank you so much.
SM: All righty. Bye. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, my name is Sharon. And here's my tip. To make your raw celery last longer in the refrigerator, wrap it in aluminum foil before storing it. I found that it lasts up to two to three weeks longer. Thanks. Bye.
CK: If you'd like to share your own culinary tip or secret ingredient on Milk Street Radio, please visit 177 Milk Street.com/radio tips. Next up, it's the unpredictable Dan Pashman. Dan Pashman how are you?
Dan Pashman: Good, Chris, how you doing?
CK: I'm ready for you to rock my world as usual.
DP: Well, that was the perfect segway because we're talking today about rocks, by which I mean ice cubes.
CK: Well, there's a lot to say about ice cubes actually,
DP: I knew you were the guy to have this conversation with.
CK: I think from a molecular point of view, it's extremely complex.
DP: I love that.
CK: So, this is going to be a very interesting segment.
DP: So when you let's start off just like a straight drink, you're just having straight liquor in a glass. Do you like it with ice sometimes, and if so what type of ice?
CK: Other than unblended Scotch where unless you drink it neat, they'll throw you out of the bar. I like lots of ice. And I don't like little tiny ice cubes because they melt too fast. I don't like the one huge ice cube because it never melts. So, I like fairly large cubes and five or six of them. So, it melts slowly. And I also shake even an old fashioned I shake all of my drinks before I serve them. I like them really cold. And I don't want them to melt too fast. It was a great the Savoy Cocktail book from 1925. The guy at the American Bar said drink a cocktail cold and drink it fast. So that's my that's my rule.
DP: Yeah, I'm with you. 100%. And don't let those old timers at the pub stop you from drinking your Scotch the way you want it. Chris, aren't you, aren't you? I don't we reach a certain age. We don't care what anyone else thinks.
CK: Well, that's true. But there was a British pub in Manchester, Vermont. And I once ordered GlenDronach on the rocks. And he looked at me he said, you can either leave now or I'll serve it neat. Which would you prefer? So ever since that time, and my confidence was deeply shaken right?
DP: Yeah, I mean, I don't know that seems a bit lacking in hospitality but I am here to absolve you of that moment Chris and to tell you that it's okay to put ice whenever you want it and but I as I expected, Chris, you are someone who puts a lot of thought into the size and shape and really surface area to volume ratio is what we're talking about when we're talking about ice. And when I learned that when Mrs. Dana taught me that term in AP Bio in junior year of high school. I thought I would never use it in life and in food it turns out to be one of the most important concepts there is, right? Like the ratio between the surface area the area outside of any food or ice in relation to the volume, how much stuff it takes to fill it up. So, the lowest surface area to volume ratio shape is a sphere. So, one sphere, a ball of ice actually has the least amount of surface area exposed to the surrounding liquid in relation to interior ice. Yes. But I don't like the giant ball of ice because I feel like it rolls down the inside of the glass. When you tip the glass back the ball rolls and hits you in the face. Yeah, and then we do so nicely the cube like the one giant cube, a Rubik's cube. And I agree that that one melts too slowly, and also sometimes hits me in the face.
CK: Yeah. And there's also I think there is something magical about a number of cubes, you know, five or six in a glass. And every time you drink it, they move slightly. And there is a noise to that. And a pleasure, the liquid in those cubes is just one of those little things. I think that's part of enjoying a cocktail.
DP: I think that is so right, Chris, we are really on the same page today.
CK: How rare.
DP: Like is the sound of the ice, there's a tactile pleasure holding the glass and swirling it and feeling that clinks on your fingertips. Yep. It's so much a part of a cocktail, and that the one giant cube robs us of that part of the experience.
CK: Now I do have to get to the last part, though, my father-in-law, who also enjoys an old fashioned my favorite drink, II will take him an hour to finish his drink. And you know, halfway into this process, half the ice is melted. And now he has a watered-down cocktail. I think the maximum amount of time to drink a cocktail has to be well under 10 minutes, because the nature of the cocktail changes radically pretty quickly once everything starts to melt. And once you have all that water in the cocktail, you've lost the perfect balance, right?
DP: Yeah, I mean, I think that I would probably put myself somewhere between you and your father in law. I mean, you and I seem to agree that our ideal is to have several mid-sized ice cubes, maybe call them one inch on each face cubes, I to me some watering down is nice, because you know, when I drink a cocktail, especially when it's my first cocktail of the day, I kind of want the first couple of sips to be strong, full flavored. And also, I want to feel the effects of the alcohol quickly. But then I kind of like I hit the buzzer level in the flavor sensation level that I want to be at. And then I want to kind of just ride that plateau. And then it's modest sipping for a little while to kind of just maintain that that's the hallmark of good buzz management is that you are going to get to the point that you feel good at and then stay there without going higher or lower.
CK: No, well, we were totally simpatico until about a minute ago. Here's why you're dead wrong. You're dead wrong. Because if you care about making a cocktail, that first sip has to be perfect. So, from that moment on, it's going to become less and less perfect.
DP: Yeah, I mean, look, if you're shaking it, you're already watering it down a little bit. But I agree with you I love a shake and drink. I also love the froth that it creates.
CK: But I do understand the point about the the even level buzz but I just think every sip of a good cocktail should be as perfect as possible. I don't want to start to the hot side of perfect and then up on the low side by the time you're done. That's all.
DP: So, we can disagree on that we agree on the ideal size, the ideal surface area to volume ratio of ice cubes for cocktails and I think for a lot of drinks, frankly. But I'm curious Chris, is there ever situation any kind of beverage alcoholic or nonalcoholic? Where you like a lot of very small ice cubes like crushed ice?
CK: Yeah, Mint Julep. I think it must have six ounces of bourbon in it, but that would be my one exception probably.
DP: And also, I feel like if maybe if it's a very hot day
CK: Yes. I’ve got a question for you. (Yes) Do you put a soggy napkin around the bottom of your cocktail glass as you walk around and sip?
DP: No, I don't. I don't want to I don't like the napkin. Give me a real coaster. Great. But otherwise? No, the napkin just turns to shreds. I usually remove it right away.
CK: Well, it's just a you know, it's a cultural thing. I just want to know which camp you're in. That's the this is all old line, New England cocktail hour. (Okay) And so you obviously are not part of that, which is good. That's a good thing.
DP: So which one are you?
CK: Oh, I don't put napkins around it. No, I drink my cocktail so fast. I don't need to
DP: Right. Wait. So, there are people in New England who like if they had a cocktail and they were walking around, they would like take a napkin, put it underneath the glass
CK: They put a cocktail napkin underneath their old-fashioned glass, and they quote on quote
DP: Is it like their hand needs a coaster so it doesn't leave a ring on it.
CK: Well, they they're nursing their cocktail (I see). Now this reminds me of my great Aunt Dorothy who used to come to her family gatherings and bring her own grapefruit juice. And it turns out it was mostly gin but she nursed her grapefruit juice for a couple hours and she had a cocktail napkin underneath it,
DP: Man, Aunt Dorothy just loves that grapefruit juice.
CK: She did. My mother took me aside years later and explained to me what was actually going on. Well, actually this time we pretty much agreed on the cocktail.
DP: Yeah, this was nice.
CK: You're a little slower at the back end of the cocktail experience, but I think we're agreed on the ice cube Dan Pashman, ice cubes and cocktails. Thank you very much.
DP: Thanks, Chris. Happy drinking
CK: You too. That was Dan Pashman, host of the Sportful Food podcast. Dan Pashman points out that ice cubes come in many shapes and from a molecular point of view, there are at least 18 different types. When ice is subjected to high pressure, the arrangement of the molecule’s changes producing different properties. Solid water, otherwise known as amorphous water, is the most common variety found in outer space. There is also hyper quenched, glassy water, square ice, tetragonal, ice and rhombohedral ice. At extreme temperatures, scientists even predict that ice becomes a metal. So, the next time you order a cocktail and ice, you might want to think about it. It's complicated. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in to later want to binge listen every single episode, you can download Milk Street radio on Apple podcast Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. To learn more about Milk Street, please visit us at 177 Milk street.com. There you can find our recipes, browse our online store or order our latest cookbook, The New Rules Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always, for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with WGBH executive producer Melissa Baldino. Senior audio editor Melissa Allison, co-executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Associate Producer Jackie Novak, production assistant Sarah Clapp and production help from Debby Paddock, Senior audio engineer David Goodman, additional editing from Vicki Merrick Sidney Lewis and Samantha Brown, and audio mixing from Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.