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July 8, 2022
Eat, Travel, Love: Matt Goulding Reveals the Culinary Secrets of Spain
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Matt Goulding, author of “Grape, Olive, Pig,” tastes the original paella, finds out-of-the-way Spanish eateries, falls in love and recounts his one meal at El Bulli. Plus, J. Kenji López-Alt double-fries chicken; we travel to Paris for gnocchi; and Mark Bittman talks about “Dinner for Everyone.”
Questions in This Episode:
“You guys are always advocating for fresh spices, but fresh spices aren’t always easy to come by. So I’m wondering what’s the best way to deal with old spices or am I obligated to get new spices every year?”
“I tried to make a key lime tart. Sadly, I have to be gluten and dairy free, so I made a gluten-free tart crust, which worked beautifully. The filling was another story. What did I do wrong?”
“A good friend of mine has a lousy sense of smell (admittedly) and as a result, eats a lot of fast food, probably for the salt, fats and embedded sugar. So I wondered, is there any way to improve one’s sense of smell or taste, or is that biologically impossible? Or cooking tips you can share that will help my friend enjoy good foods more?”
“I had a question about using the starchy pasta water and incorporating it into a sauce for the dish. I’ve done this before and obviously it yields great creamy and thick results. Often times I try to use whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta as the regular stuff sometimes disagrees with me. Does using gluten-free pasta affect the starch content of the water for being able to use it for sauces?”
This episode is brought to you by Ferguson and Butcher Box.
Christophe Kimball: Hi, this is Christopher Kimball and Thanks for downloading this week's podcast. You can get more familiar straight by following us on Instagram at 177 Milk Street. There you can find free recipes cooking tips videos from our world travel plus much more. That's Instagram at 177 Milk Street. Now please enjoy the show. This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. today I'm chatting with Matt Goulding, author of Grape, Olive, Pig Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture, we discuss why he hasn't left Barcelona since his layover there almost a decade ago. 45 course meals at El Bulli and the charm of local Spanish sayings.
Matt Goulding: The Spaniards have more of these sorts of idiomatic expressions than any culture that I've ever heard and there's new ones trotted out all the time. It's like when I talked about doing something and leaving something out my wife would be like that's like es como un huevo sin sal, like an egg without salt or como un beso sin bigote it's like a kiss without a mustache. Wait, what does this mean? Like being kissed by somebody without a mustache and that's the bad thing?
CK: Also coming up J Kenji Lopez Alt on the science of the perfect fried chicken are tips for easy potato and gnocchi at home. And now it's my interview with food journalist Mark Bittman. His new book is called Dinner for Everyone 100 Iconic Dishes Made Three Ways Easy, Vegan, or Perfect for Company. Mark, welcome to Milk Street.
Mark Bittman: Yeah, great to be here. Chris, nice to talk with you as always.
CK: We've known each other from some time in the 80s. Right?
MB: Yeah, I would guess 86 - 87 something in there.
CK: So, you've done a lot of stuff. I mean, someone wants to ascribe you is the ultimate utility infielder because you've done everything in food. Columnist. I love that.
MB: I love that.
CK: Well, I think it's, I think I think you're better than that. But that's a pretty good description. New York Times, of course, you've done a bunch of TV stuff. You've written 20 books. I think your first book was Fish, right? Wasn’t your first book,
MB: it was. Fish was the first one.
CK: Let's talk about your new book Dinner for Everyone. So, you you have three versions of a recipe, Bolognese a, sort of whatever meat you have on hand, sort of the throw together easy version, you do a Ratatouille, a vegan version of Bolognese, and then you do the serious one with veal and pork shoulder. So just explain the concept of the book to me.
MB: Yeah, I mean, it is an attempt to say not as much how to cook as what to cook, because I think a lot of people that is their question is what do I do. And I guess I should back up a little. The fundamental idea is, it's 100 iconic recipes, each done three ways fast vegan, and sort of all out, pull out all the stops. So, the first version of every recipe is a weeknight version that can be done quickly and easily without much trouble. The second answer is the question of what do I do when I want to cook more plant-based meals. And so, you know, a third of these recipes are straight out vegan for people who are looking for ways to include more vegan recipes in their repertoire. And then the third is really going back to where you and I started, actually which is fancy weekend, all out cooking, I want to make something that's going to blow people's minds, and I don't care how long it's going to take. And so, each of these 100 sort of umbrellas or concepts or iconic recipes, has all three of those versions.
CK: Vegan before six o'clock a few years ago, you came out with a book about that. You wanted to tell us about the concept? And do you still adhere to that? Or was that a momentary fancy?
MB: No, it's actually been 10 years or closer to 12. I started doing that in 2007. And the idea was, for me at the time was the same kind of thing. How do I get more plant-based meals into my diet, and I'm, I'm a person who only does things if there are rules I mean, I like breaking rules, but I like making them also and I couldn't really figure out a way to kind of reign in my diet and because there were so many opportunities to overeat and to eat rich food and to eat really well-cooked food. And I just wanted to have sort of a simpler, more plant-based approach, but not entirely. So, I made up this rule, which was that I was going to eat like a maniacal, strict vegan between the time I woke up and dinner time and then I was going to do whatever the hell I wanted to and I started doing that. And lo and behold, I lost weight, my cholesterol numbers went down, my blood sugar numbers went down, et cetera, et cetera. And it really worked and and I enjoyed it. And I actually have stayed with it. I am not as fanatic or religious about it as I was back then. But for most days, I am vegan until six. Yeah.
CK: You have a TED Talk What's wrong with what we eat? And you're proselytizing about we eat too much meat? There's factory farming. We don't treat animals very well, that was how many 10 billion animals killed a year just in America, I think, for food you mentioned. And so, here's my question. I'm thinking, I'm in the audience watching you going, like, is this message going to change my life? Do you think that message works? In terms of changing how people eat? Or do you think we need to find a different way to change people's habits?
MB: From a personal point of view? For many people, it's easy enough, or it's let's say, it's practical to change their diets. And to say, we do eat too much meat, we do eat too much, highly processed food, I'm going to change that. That isn't practical for everyone. And the interests of the food industry are of course, in getting us to eat the mass-produced food. That's basically I'm the present. So, the question really is, how do we change the environment that tempts us all the time to be eating highly processed food to be eating, it really is 10 billion animals a year to think we have a right or almost almost a duty to eat me two or three times a day. What do we do to change that scenario, because it's not, you know, it's not sustainable resources are limited, the amount of stress we can put on the environment is limited. There's, there's got to be a way to make agriculture more sustainable. And as Wendell Berry has famously said, eating is an agricultural act. And it's, it starts with what we're growing, it starts with what we're producing. And it starts with what people are selling, you can only eat what's out there to eat, not everybody is going to be growing their own food or being shopping all the time. So, in a way, it's a question of availability.
CK: How hard is it to transition from being the recipe guy cookbook guy to the food politics guy on the Op Ed page in New York Times?
MB: It was a natural transition for me, I was super passionate about it, I made a case for it. I think I was ready for it. And it worked. So, you know, it's it's kind of the, I think there are two things about my career that I am really proud of, and that I am not modest about, and one is How to Cook Everything, which really was and is a kind of contemporary standard for basic cookbooks. And the second is being the first person to write seriously about food on the opinion page of a major paper. So those, you know, that was, I can't ask for more than that really.
CK: What advice would you give me right now that you can mention on radio?
MB: I mean, I, you know, I think that your expansion into sort of more international food is really admirable and really terrific. I think everybody ought to be talking about where food comes from, how it's grown, and so on. It's just not as simple as it used to be. And I mean, it probably wasn't simple, then. We just weren't smart enough to see it. But now we can see that that where food comes from, how it's produced, how it's sold, and so on, are really really important aspects of, of how we eat and you know, the more you talk about that, the better.
CK: Mark Bittman this is a conversation we should have more frequently.
MB: Well, I would love that, Chris. Always fun.
CK: That was Mark Bittman. His new book is entitled Dinner for Everyone. Milk Street Radio is available anytime, anywhere. As a podcast. You can subscribe on Apple podcasts, radio public, or wherever you get your podcast. It's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television, also author of Home Cooking 101. Sara your look bright eyed and bushy tailed you ready
Sara Moulton: I am Chris. I'm so ready. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: My name is Peter.
SM: Hi, Peter. How can we help you?
Caller: You guys are always advocating for fresh spices. But fresh spices aren't always easy to come by. So I'm just kind of wondering whether I should for throw my best before 2015 clove ___ or what's the best way to deal with old spices? Or am I obligated to get new spices every year?
CK: Well, if you have spices where you open the bottle jar tin, then you don't get a very strong aroma, you should throw them out. And the reason is, they don't really cost that much. And the difference between really good cumin and old cumin, or whatever cinnamon is night and day. So (right) you're not saving a lot of money here by keeping your old spices. I don't necessarily subscribe though, to the theory of spices only last six months. First of all, you don't know how long the spices have been in the jar, or 10 to begin with. And if you open the top and it's very strong, then I would say it's fine.
SM: And also, color is some somewhat of an indication of how old it is. So, if you have a paprika or Cayenne that's like brown, it's not so fresh,
Caller: right? (Yeah) Would jars work better for preserving things then, like I don’t know, McCormick, and a lot of them come in little tins
CK: You want to have a cool dark place to store them, light's not good. And as long as it's seals, well, that's fine. I mean, the other thing we haven't talked about is not all spices are created equal. So, if you get a jar of cumin, for example, or Caraway or whatever, from one place, it might be not nearly as good as from another source. So, it's really worth it to spend a little extra money getting good spices, Penzey’s. You know, p-e-n-z-e-y sell spices online. We sell spices, lots of other people do. Get good quality spices, it's not just a question of whether they're fresh. It's what you're starting
SM: and get them in small amount in small amounts. Yeah,
Caller: Yeah, I know. It's just sometimes if you read about a recipe and you think, oh, I could make that. You know that caraway is two years old. I wonder whether if you had whole seeds or whole beans or just grinding them up on the spot?
CK: Yes. Excellent point, you're much better off buying whole as much as possible. A lot of people in the world actually will make their own spice mix every month, but you could keep whole cumin or coriander. And when you want to use it just toast it, that is put it in a skillet
SM: and grind it up
CK: until it starts to smell toasty. and grind it up in a little coffee grinder you keep for that purpose.
Caller: You should toast it before you toasted before you grind it?
CK: Yeah, you toast it before you grind it. It will help yeah
Caller: I mean, I enjoy using mortar and pestle. Kind of fun to do but
CK: Mortar and pestle is great. That's better. You get a better result than a coffee grinder. But yeah, toast them for a couple minutes till they're toasty smelling and then put them in a mortar and pestle.
CK: It'll enhance your cooking you'll go from you know, good to great pretty quickly if you just have freshly ground spices. Yeah, Peter don't save your money on spices. Put out that 30 40 bucks every year and you're you're cooking it will be much better. So, take care
SM: Okay, thanks Peter thanks for calling
Caller: Thank you very much.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
CK: Hi, where are you calling from?
Caller: From Los Angeles.
Caller: I have a question about freezing yeast, though. I've been reading a lot of different conflicting things. And I'm wondering, did you just make a yeast recipe as is and then freeze it or do you need to double the yeast? Or do you need to not use warm water? What do you suggest?
CK: Well, the question is, do you freeze it before you proof it the first time or after right?
Caller: Right, that's the other thing
SM: Generally, I've heard that you proof it once and then you shape it and then you freeze it
Caller: With the same amount of use that the recipe calls for?
SM: I usually increase it slightly.
CK: I think I'd increase it by 20% or so if you're going to let it stay in the freezer more than a couple of days.
CK: I think there's one other thing and make sure your freezer is at zero. You know I had a freezer once it was around 10 degrees because I had so much stuff in it. You want this thing to freeze fast. If it freezes too slowly. You get big ice crystals, which creates all sorts of problems.
Caller: Right. All right. I'm going to try it out.
CK: Yeah, let us know what happens.
Caller: Yeah, let you know how it goes.
CK: Okay, thanks, Ashley.
Caller: Thank you
SM: Take care. Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. if you have a question or if you just want to tell us what you think. Please give us a ring 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street radio.com Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Alice Luton at Paoli, Indiana. How are you? I'm great. I'm very happy to get some help from you guys.
CK: Well, we'll try anyway. So, what's your question?
Caller: Well, like you I don't like cooking with cake mixes. I have a couple of recipes that call for cake mixes with pudding. in the mix, and I'd like to be able to make those from scratch. How do you do that?
SM: Wow, that is such a large question.
CK: Give me an example of the recipe you're talking about. Let's start with that.
Caller: Okay the one I really want is called delicate pear cake with caramel sauce, and it requires a white cake mix with pudding in the mix. You mix it with a can of pears and light syrup, you have to puree the pears. And then you add oil and egg whites and some of the pear liquid from the can. And then you bake it in a tube pan. And then of course, it's iced with sweetened whipped cream. And then there's a caramel sauce, it’s just really delicious. And I don't want to use a mix that has all these chemicals in it.
CK: One thing I do know about cake mixes, they do an excellent job with texture. And my guess is in this case, it's very helpful because you're dealing with something that's fairly heavy, the pears and the liquid. So, if you're not going to use a cake mix, you're going to have to come up with a homemade cake mix that's going to be equally good at that. Let's go to the pears again.
Caller: It's just a 15 ounce can of pear halves in light syrup drain appears first and you reserve a third a cup of the liquid. And then you puree the pears. And then you add that puree along with that reserved light syrup to the cake mix. And then you add oil and egg whites.
SM: You could poach your own pears, so you could do that part of it homemade. And then you've got at least that part you've controlled the ingredients. I have a question though. When you say there’s, a pudding added, what do you mean exactly?
Caller: Well, most of it's just chemicals. I mean words I can't even pronounce.
CK: What it is, is a riff on a put a cake.
SM: It's just marketing.
CK: I would go to Rose Birnbaums Cake Bible
SM: I agree.
CK: And she has a recipe which she does reverse creaming that as she beats the softened butter in with the flour is the first step, which gives you really great texture, and I would use her recipe as the base. That's what I would do.
SM: I think that's an excellent idea. Use her recipe. The pureed pears will make it wonderfully moist also
CK: I think the pear liquids a little dicey. That's the one part I would worry about. But I would just add the pears. Leave it at that.
Caller: What's the book?
CK: The Cake Bible. Look at her book and see if she has a recipe for something like this already
CK: That's the other thing I would do.
SM: Yeah, she might,
CK: She might have something similar. And then you could just use her recipe, which is probably a better idea. Yeah, give that a shot.
Caller: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.
CK: Okay thanks Alice
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Carolyn from Atlanta.
SM: Hi, Carolyn from Atlanta. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I had a question. I've got a friend who has a really, really bad sense of smell. And I think it contributes to his bad eating habits as far as going for salty and fatty, fast food. But I was just wondering is, if you know, since a lot of people say that the sense of smell and taste are so closely related, is there any way for somebody to have their sense of smell improved?
SM: Oh, boy, I think that's a question for a doctor.
CK: I think the answer is no, at least as far as we know. But I think the question is how to enhance the flavor of foods so that they can enjoy food more,
SM: Right, it sounds like they're reaching for a lot of sugar and salt, because that's all they can taste. And there's other ingredients, you know, like the kinds of things that we would recommend to somebody on a low salt diet like acid, you know, citrus or chilies.
CK: One thing I've found, given this advice a lot is if you're making a soup or stew or something like that, something you can adjust right before serving. There are things you can add in the last 30 seconds that will significantly up the ante, people don't add enough salt, I mean, the difference between the right amount of salt and the wrong amount is the difference between good flavor and no flavor. Garlic at the end or grated ginger at the end, a little vinegar is really good
SM: Lemon juice,
CK: Tons of fresh herbs or lemon juice at the end is really good. And the best tip is to take some oil, just grapeseed oil or sunflower oil, whatever you want. And take like a half a teaspoon of a very strong spice, like a pepper of some kind, for example, or even cumin, and infuse the oil for two or three minutes with the spice on top of the stove over medium low heat. Once you can smell it, you can drizzle that oil on top of the food before serving.
CK: And you could do that on a steak or on a mashed potato. You could do anything vegetables, soups, stew. So, a little thing added at the end, especially in infused oil, which is two minutes of work. You can really do a great job.
SM: Or whip something up
CK: I think we've said all we probably can
SM: Some of us have said quite a lot
CK: Some of us have overstayed their welcome. Carolyn, I'll let you go. Thanks for calling.
Caller: Okay. Thank you.
SM: All right.
Caller: I enjoy your show. Thank you. Bye
SM: Bye bye
CK: I got excited?
SM: I know.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Josh from Foxborough, Massachusetts.
CK: What can we do for you?
Caller: Yes, so my question was actually regarding pasta and the water that you use for cooking and baking sauces from it. Kind of something I like to use. I know that water has a lot of starch that can help make a good like thick, creamy sauce. But I was wondering if that starch content varies by different types of pasta. I know sometimes I like to use whole wheat or gluten free.
CK: How much water are you using to cook let's say a pound of pasta, are you reducing the water amount to get more starch as a percentage in the liquid?
Caller: That's actually a good point. I've never really done that I kind of just eyeball the water.
CK: Well, I interviewed a guy, a French guy cooks. He has this YouTube channel. And he does a cacio y pepe recipe which, as you know is just cheese, pasta water and black pepper. And it's a very hard recipe to do to get the liquid to thicken, but not sort of coagulate. He cooks the pasta in a skillet with very little water, like water to cover almost. And that way there's a huge amount of starch in the water. Then he separately takes the pasta out and reduces that liquid down and then uses that as the base. So, it's not just a function of the kind of pasta is the function of how much water we're using. So, in general, we use a lot less water than you think you need. That will give you a higher percentage of starch. The other solution is we did this with our cacio y pepe is separate from cooking the pasta, we cook some water he did some water with cornstarch and made a slurry with grated cheese. You don't have to use the cheese, but the point is we created a cornstarch slurry and put that in with a pasta in the skillet to finish with some of the pasta water
SM: So, you took some water like cold water with the cornstarch whisked it together
CK: for half of water some corn starch, grated cheese pensively two teaspoons cornstarch
SM: and whisked it very well and added it to the hot liquid
CK: and then when you finish cooking the pasta, you put it in a skillet, we added some of the cooking water and some of that water and then you have a nice slurry
SM: You can control it. Yeah, I mean, I would think Josh this is something you're going to have to play around with depending on what kind of pasta you use
Caller: with most gluten free I imagine it's kind of like rice pasta
SM: Right, I think you just need to experiment
CK: Well, if you just cook the pasta and much less water than you think you need. That'll solve the problem
SM: That too
Caller: Less water is definitely a great idea. I don't know why I've actually never thought of that
SM: Well because we've all been taught you know the old Italian way a huge pot of boiling salted water
CK: but you know why?
SM: To get rid of the starch to begin with
CK: I was in a hill town and in Italy 20 years ago watching them cook pasta and I went I said we'll just like two gallons of water in this thing they cook 500 portions of pasta in that water. So over time the starch content of water is extremely high interesting. It's not like they make one panel the pasta making hundreds
SM: but even so all the Italian cookbook authors you know of yester year would say a huge pot of water so that's why you're doing it Josh, but you know, sometimes we break rules
CK: and go to YouTube and look up I think French Guy Cooking and look up his cacio y Pepe recipe. It's worth looking at.
SM: That sounds like fun and good. Me too. I'm going to do it,
CK: Josh. Thanks Well, Okay give it a shot
Caller: Well, thank you guys.
CK: Yeah. Pleasure.
SM: Thank you.
CK: I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, my interview with Matt Goulding, author of Grape, Olive, Pig Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture. We'll be right back. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm Christopher Kimball. Today, it's my interview with Matt Goulding. He's a co-founder of Roads and Kingdoms. Also, the author of Grape, Olive, Pig Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture. Matt Goulding, welcome to Milk Street
Matt Goulding: Hey, Chris, thanks for having me on.
CK: Can you just set the book up for us? You've started out exploring Spain as a student you came back to study you were trying to go to Italy got sidetracked. So, what what's your history with Spain?
MG: Yeah, I mean, yeah, that's kind of the least the beginning of it, the short version of it. But I came back in 2010. I was kind of burnt out from living in New York and was looking to find a quiet corner of Italy to write a book in, fall in love with an Italian, you know, a very original idea for a young American writer. But I stopped living in Barcelona and I met a lovely young Catalan woman who, who kept me where I was, so I'd never actually left Barcelona and I've been there ever since.
CK: And if you could tell the story about you had this was an unrequited but you had a love affair with her that was one way street for some time. Was and you recount in the book sort of the moment when the two of you actually got together. What was that moment?
MG: Well, you know, it was exactly like you said it was I think unrequited as probably the appropriate word went back and forth for quite some time. And I, I came back and had brought a couple of white truffles from Italy over with me and tried everything I possibly could to kind of convince this young woman that I was serious about her and about living in Spain, and still wasn't quite enough. And so, it wasn't actually until Thanksgiving night, right, I’d invited a bunch a bunch of European friends over cooked a turkey. And at the end of the night, everyone had kind of wandered home. And she came back and helped me with the dishes.
CK: I guess. It really was, if someone shows up at two in the morning to help you with the dishes. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm so that's pretty serious, right?
MG: That seems like love, and it certainly did at the time. And here we are eight years later, still married very happy. So, I think it I think it worked out.
CK: So you spent a lot of time in Italy and Spain. And Italy, obviously is very good at self-marketing. (right) But but you say something very smart. You say Spain does not sell itself, well, that's the expression. So how would you, silly question, how would you compare the sort of the food world the food experience in Spain versus Italy? If that's something, you could actually do?
MG: No, it's not a silly question at all. I mean, it's something that's that's constantly, I think, on the minds of the Spaniards in particular, because they feel like they've been overlooked internationally, sort of the brand Spain has never been nearly as strong as brand Italy. And what we're talking about here is not you know, the splashy Michelin starred restaurant, Spain is very well known for that. Now, we're talking more about the core ingredients that make up its Mediterranean palate. So, we're talking about cured meat products, talking about olive oils, talking about cheeses and vegetables, fish. From that standpoint, Spain is every bit the culinary powerhouse that Italy or France is. And I would argue in most instances, or at least a number of them quite a bit better. I mean, I don't know about you but for me, I don't think there's any better protein expression in the world than that of an acorn fed Jamón Ibérico. Very cool,
CK: Right? And then that ham, I didn't realize this is actually hung for three or four years, is that right?
MG: They can take it all the way up to five for some of these, some of these fattier pigs that have the meat of your hind legs, I mean, so we're talking about serious dedication and extraordinary craftsmanship. And above all, the pigs themselves are just treated really well. They live really well and they finished it last, you know, three or four months eating nothing but acorns and so that gives them this extraordinary marbling in the fat itself is is really sweet, really sort of deep flavored fat that gives Jamón Ibérico that really special, really special flavor, which, you know, I always say to the, to the ire of Italians, but you eat a piece of Jamón Ibérico and prosciutto tastes like bologna next to it.
CK: I can't imagine that would upset the Italians.
MG: Yeah, they don't they don't seem to mind at all. No, I mean, if it is I met a prosciutto Baron in Emilia-Romagna, in Bologna, when I was working on a book over there, and his argument to me was, you know what, prosciutto is much better than Jamón Ibérico. Jamón Ibérico is it's too hammy. It's too intense. And you're saying to me, you're faulting a product for tasting too much like itself? That's where you have to go to if you want to try to compare yourself to a product that good.
CK: You went to El Bulli once the number one restaurant world while it was still around. Could you tell us a little bit about that I read in your book, it started I can't believe is it started as a roadside grill and miniature golf course. Is that right?
MG: That's right. And that's how it was for 20 or 30 years. It was owned by a German family who has started a miniature golf course in that area. And they wanted to feed the beach goers. And so, they had they did hotdogs and, and hamburgers and a lot of very casual kind of coastal food. And, you know, it wasn't until a French chef came along and kind of began to elevate it into a more serious restaurant. And then finally, of course, the young Feran Adria showed up there when he was about 20 years old, not really quite sure what he was doing in the kitchen, but immediately began to set out to redefine the shape of Modernist Cuisine entirely.
CK: And you have a great quote from him. He said, I'm not in the business of giving pleasure. I'm in the business of producing emotion.
MG: Right. I mean, it's, it's, it's it's always been something that I find really challenging about sort of the avant garde movement of the upper echelons of Spanish cuisine, which is to say, deliciousness isn't always at the forefront of this chef's quest. Now Feran would dispute that and say, well, I always cared about you know, always start with things that are absolutely delicious, first and foremost, but, you know, ultimately, I think that what he did and what many people continue to do in that country is really look for ways to redefine the structure, the impact the delivery system of food, deconstructing dishes and reconstructing them in ways that it's not just really interesting, but it's intellectually challenging, you know, sitting through a three and a half or four hour 45 course meal at El Bulli yeah, your full at the end of it. But more than anything, your brain hurts.
CK: Well could you give me an example of two things, something you ate at El Bulli, which is not necessarily the thing you've liked the most to taste but the most challenging, and then give us the opposite a dish that you just still remember today.
MG: I mean, they do they do these sequences, you know, they built Feran love to build meals around for three or four course sequences, which would focus on a single ingredient. And they would basically be little mini essays or odes to that ingredient. And so, you know, there was a heavy game sequence where I think it was partridge and pigeon. But in your, you know, you eat like a ravioli with its innards, drank with a glass of its blood, followed by a parfait made with another off cut of it. And, you know, in individual plates they are, I think they're, they're tasty, either, in some cases, delicious. But together, this four- or five-part sequences, is really sort of challenging you to sort of recognize the diversity and the potential of a single ingredient. On the other side of just sort of pure pleasure, there was a dish I think about all the time still, and it was basically it was an olive oil chip, they used, I think, maltodextrin to solidify olive oil into basically a sort of a Crystaline shard, like, looks basically like a piece of glass. Or inside of these two thin pieces of olive oil glass, there was the greatest first press olive oil that you've ever tasted with a few big crystals of coarse salt, you just crunch through this thing. And, you know, the the hair on my arm stands up to this day, as I'm describing this to you, because it recalls so much emotion that I felt the first time and the only time that I ever had that dish.
CK: I was going to say, it makes my lentil rice fried onion supper seem a little pedestrian. So, but you know, we just do what we can do in the kitchen. You're, well, the term travel writers probably a bit anemic to describe what you do, because you really live it. But you must be challenged all the time. On one hand, wanting to give your reader the inside scoop and talk about amazing places you went. On the other hand, having zero interest in letting people know about where some of these places are, because it's the classic case of ruining a place through publicity or ruining a place for you. So you can you won't be able to go back. I assume you do withhold occasionally some of the, your favorite places, right? I mean, come on, be honest,
MG: More now than ever, you know, Barcelona is now the third most visited city in all of Europe. There are very few untouched corners of that city, in particular in the restaurant world. And so, of course, you go to the places that you've learned to love and suddenly the secrets got out. And you have to stand in line behind a world of tourists who are going to be there for 24 hours. And so, you know, along the way more than ever, you realize that having a handful of those places, makes your experience as a local citizen there much more livable. In fact, I wrote an essay. Last year at some point it was sort of my my life in Spain told through 10 dishes and the first nine were dishes that you know, I identified I named the restaurant and their importance. It was sort of an essay put together bite by bite and then the 10th dish, where some classic croquetas does and some Spanish style meatballs from a very humble little ____, sort of a classic little Spanish bar that I left unnamed. And sure enough, you put it out there and someone saw what I thought was a very sort of clever and hidden image. It didn't reveal the place and within like 20 minutes of it being out on Twitter. Everybody in Spain had identified it and it was blasted out the name of this place and now you go there, and you can't you know, you got to fight with people to get in the door.
CK: So, you got a lot of really nice thank you notes from the locals in town.
MG: Yeah, tons of people loved it so much
CK: Really appreciate it. Let's talk about paella simply because we have to Jose Andres, I think you spent some time with him. told me a long time ago that the real paella a is very thin. It's a very thin layer of rice. It's all about the crust at the bottom right Is that a fair explanation?
MG: That's exactly right. Jose, Jose knows well, I've eaten a lot of rice with him over the years. And he's absolutely right the thinner the paella, the better. A single layer of rice or two layers of rice is what you're looking for, that allows you to absorb all of that stock. Also, to get that nice ___which is that crusty part on the bottom of the pan. And in terms of seafood versus you know, versus meat, the traditional one the very traditional paella from from Valencia the first one is is made with, with chicken and rabbit and snails. That's kind of Trinity there. But the thing about paella is, you know, it's it's so obviously the national dish of Spain, you see it everywhere. But really what Spain is great at is this wide variety of Spanish rice dishes, which I think is one of the great undiscovered culinary treasures of the country, if not the world, you have these things like soupy rice's are called out arroz caldoso or arroz melosa, which is sort of a Spanish version of risotto, which is sort of the midpoint between the dry paella and the soupy lobster and crab and shrimp prices they serve there. The point being is that they are extraordinarily good at making these deeply flavored, hugely satisfying rice dishes. And that's, that's what people should be looking for. When they travel over to Spain.
CK: There was a quote, a little saying, stood out for me. In your book, a kitchen without rice is like a pretty girl with one eye. That kind of stopped me. I didn't really expect the last part of that. Are there other expressions you've come across in Spain that are sort of like that are a little odd and unexpected?
MG: The Spanish have more of these sort of idiomatic expressions than any culture that I've ever heard? And there's new ones trotted out all the time. It's like just thinking offhand right now like when I talk about doing something and leaving something out my wife would be like that's like es como un huevo sin sal it's like an egg without salt. Or como un beso sin bigote It's like a kiss without a mustache. Like what does this mean? Like being kissed by somebody without a mustache, and that's the bad thing. There's a lot of, there's a lot of food baked into the colloquialisms of Spain. And this is a bit of a of a more intense expression, but I'll give it to you in Spanish is going to make ______, it's a kind of almost like a, it's almost a swear word saying like, dammit. But what it really means is like, I will, I will go to the bathroom in your milk. Which is one of the very most common expressions in Spain so common that when I actually translated from my wife, she's like, I never really thought about it like that. Yeah, that is really weird, huh?
CK: So, so what does that tell you about the Spanish and the Spanish culture? Because obviously, it's a little different than how you grew up, does it? Does it make you fall in love with them even more because they view life through sort of a different lens?
MG: Entirely. I mean, people who, who constantly understand life through the vessel of food are the people who I want to be near a culture that is as dedicated to eating well, drinking Well, spending time and rallying around the table. As you know, you can have a lunch or a dinner that lasts for four or five hours at your friend's house. I'm not just talking about elaborate feasts at Michelin starred restaurants, but a Saturday with your buddies could mean you know, cooking a couple of different races and sitting at a table for four hours and like that's the culture that I want to be a part of.
CK: Well, me too. For all of our listeners, your job is to enjoy it for us.
MG: Come on over Chris, there’s plenty of room
CK: Done. Check that one off. Matt, thank you so much for being on Milk Street.
MG: So great talking to you. Thanks for having me on.
c That was Matt Goulding. His book is called Grape,Olive, Pig Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture. A kiss without a moustache is like an egg without salt says something about the Spanish but I'm not quite sure what that might be. Other kissing quotes that make a little more sense are Tis a secret told to the mouth instead of the ear? Or kissing is the means of getting to people so close together they cannot see anything wrong with each other. But the best lines about kissing were spoken by Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls. I don't know how to kiss or I would kiss you. Where did the noses go? But any discussion of kissing has to end with these lyrics from Casa Blanca. You must remember this a kiss is still a kiss as time goes by. Right now, I'm heading into the kitchen and illustrate to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe potato gnocchi. Lynn how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris.
CK: You know I was in Paris. Rest recently don't say anything. We were doing a story on the new Paris because about 10. Up until 10 years ago, a lot of Parisian restaurants run by Parisian chefs were a little behind the times. But that's not true now Now things have really changed. And there's a place called Robert, which is near the canal, the 10th or 11th. And one of the most interesting things is this guy. The cook there is cooking pasta, Italian food. And the one of the simplest dishes he made was gnocchi, which of course, we've all had. But it was really astounding, it was incredibly light, it was delicious. So, I came back the next day, and he gave me a lesson. And he does it quite differently than what I had known. So, we brought the recipe of you back here, and you guys perfected it for Milk Street. So, so what were the keys about this gnocchi?
LC: So, there are four key things to follow when you're making this recipe, potato gnocchi is a great recipe to have because it's possible you can make it home without any special equipment also doesn't have that many ingredients. But what you do need to do is kind of follow the rules. And there are sort of four key things you want to make sure you're doing. The first is using the right potato. So, this is a russet potato, it's higher in starch content than, say, a Yukon gold. So, it's going to be drier. And really dry potatoes are what is going to make that really cloud like texture that you like so much. So, to further that point number two is to really dry out the potatoes. So, we boil them, and then we put them in a pot and cook them over the heat for a few minutes, just to dry them out a little bit. You'll see there's a film on the bottom of the pan. That's how you know when they're dry, then let them cool to room temperature before you continue making the dough.
CK: I think he did it, he boiled them and then put them in and often but it's same thing,
LC: Same thing, it takes a little bit of a little bit less time to do it on the stovetop, we take our potatoes all the way through and then finish them there. So, the third thing here, and that was a super important point that he brought up, which was to weigh the potatoes. So, after your potatoes are cooked, instead of scooping out a volume measurement, you actually want to weigh them because the proportion of ingredients of potato to flour to egg was really critical to get that cloudy texture. You want to rice the potatoes when you mash them rather than using a potato masher that makes them kind of dense. So, the fourth thing here is sort of our own Milk Street secret. And this is kind of a failsafe for the home cook. So, if you didn't weigh your ingredients like we told you to. Or if your weights are a little bit off, this will keep it nice and light and that's adding a half a teaspoon of baking powder. So that's a leavener that's going to really lighten it and kind of just make sure that you're getting that texture that we're looking for here
CK: Otherwise known as a cheat in the world of recipe development
LC: I’d like to call it a secret or a tip but yes
CK: And then you shape them the usual way or
LC: You can shape them you can shape them using a board if you have one or a fork works just as well, you make a log exactly cut them into pieces and shape them on your back tines of a fork, just as easy as using a board. The key here is though, when after you boil the pasta, you want to let it sit for about 15 minutes, that's going to firm up the little potato dumplings so that when you sauce it the sauce is going to coat the outside rather than kind of get into the inside. It's kind of the opposite of making other pasta. So, you want to just make sure that it stays on the outside because otherwise you're going to make that pasta kind of dense.
CK: When he made them for me, I ate them in about 30 seconds but that's because I wasn't going to wait the 15 minutes. So, so these are relatively easy to make at home, right?
LC: Very easy to make at home surprisingly
CK: Lynn thank you so gnocchi you can make it home from a recipe from a hot Paris restaurant that’s so un-Milk Street to do hot stuff
LC: Paris Italian
CK: Paris Italian. Thank you very much.
LC: You can get this recipe for potato gnocchi at 177 Milk Street.com.
CK: You'll listening to Milk Street Radio coming up J Kenji Lopez Alt shares his tips for better fried chicken that's coming up in just a moment this is Milk Street Radio. I'm Christopher Kimball right now it's time for this week's cooking tip. So, here's a common problem in the kitchen if you have a big pot of hot soup or stew and you need to cool it down before putting it in the fridge. How do you do that quickly? Well, here's our favorite technique of milk stream. Fill a large plastic bottle three quarters full of water and freeze it. When you're ready to cool down your soup or stew place the frozen bottle with a cap screw down of course into liquid while it sits on the counter pretty quickly. it'll cool down and then you can put it right into the fridge. For more culinary tips, please visit us at 177 Milk street.com Next up its food science writer Are J Kenji Lopez Alt. Kenji, how are you?
J Kenji Lopez Alt: I’m good, how you doing?
CK: Good How you been spending your time lately? I assume you've been doing something in the world of science and food.
JKA: I've recently actually I've been working on the fried chicken from a restaurant. So, a lot of frying and a lot of reading and a lot of tests.
CK: Well, you and I, in our past have done quite a lot of fried chicken testing, is there something new in the world of fried chicken?
JKA: Well, so we're using a couple techniques here that I think are interesting. The first one is double frying. So basically, like cooking the chicken all the way through one day, chilling it and then refrying it the second day. And what happens is that the first time you fry the chicken, the skin and the crust, the breading are sort of all dehydrating browning and getting crispy, there's still a sort of a ton of moisture in that layer right by where the skin is sort of underneath the main part of the breading. But between the breading and the flesh, like if you have freshly fried chicken, there's a little layer of breading that is usually still a little bit moist. Chickens sort of sets after the first fry, it can start to get soggy pretty fast. So, what happens with the double frying is that you dehydrate it, get it crispy. And then as it sits overnight, that little layer of moisture that was still trapped in there kind of migrates and spreads out around the breading, so your breading ends up very soggy. But then when you rephrase it, you end up driving even more moisture off, so your reading comes out kind of extra crispy, while the chicken inside stays nice and juicy. And then we're also using a little trick, which I'm sure you remember, where we take some of the buttermilk mixture from the brine and sort of work it into the dredging with our fingertips to make it sort of clumpy before you even add the chicken to it so that you get a lot more surface texture.
CK: Right. I do remember that. Yeah. I have a question. I remember someone telling me that when you double fry French fries, it's the cooling off period where the oil is absorbed. And if you only single fry French fries, like in the Robichaud method, which he started room temperature oil, there's less oil absorbed, right? Does this double fry method mean there's more oil absorbed? Or is chicken and French fries? Just two totally different things?
JKA: Well, you know when when you're when you're frying foods, and you put food into the fryer, and you see bubbles coming out those bubbles are water vapor. And essentially any space where there used to be water in the food that's a new area where oil can move in. So generally, yes, there is a correlation between the amount of oil and a food and how crisply it has been fried. Yeah, there's this misconception that if something is very crispy, it's not absorbing much oil, which is actually incorrect. You know, when you fry foods properly, they don't taste greasy. But it's because of the feeling of greasiness that you get in your mouth is not just oil on its own, but sort of a combination of oil and moisture and kind of slick breading and all these things combined end up feeling greasy in your mouth. But if you have something that's perfectly crisply fried, even if there's a lot of oil in it, it's not going to taste greasy, because there's nothing there's no like water in that mixture to really sort of give you that CK: That's interesting.
JKA: Yeah. So, you know, I think if you look at research papers that I mean, there's a ton of research has been done on this and pretty much across the board. Like the higher temperature you fry something at and the more water you drive off, the more oil it's going to absorb in the end, even if it doesn't necessarily taste greasy.
CK: So, this is all about the perception of crispiness in fried chicken and you're saying by diminishing the amount of water or liquid on the surface, which comes out overnight. You drive that off and you get a much crispier chicken skin or coating, which gives you the impression of obviously a much better chicken and a less oily product.
CK: So, if you want to do this at home, could you just give us a quick run through
JKA: So honestly, I mean the double frying technique it'll work with basically any fried chicken recipe. In fact, I have a theory that in almost any city in the world if there is a Popeyes there then Popeyes serves the best fried chicken in that city. Anyhow you can take leftover fried chicken any recipe you want. Or you can go to Popeyes KFC wherever get your fried chicken wherever let it sit in your fridge overnight and then the second day, heat up oil to around three to 350 degrees. I use peanut oil and just drop it in there and let it fry for about two and a half minutes or so turning it a couple times. And it'll be better than it was the first day. Just earlier this week we had some takeout fried calamari. I thought well if it works that chicken maybe we can try it here, so I tried the next day also double frying the leftover fried calamari. And what I did was I actually ended up incorporating it into like a Chinese style salt and pepper. Stir fried garlic and chilies and scallions and white pepper and salt. So basically, just took that leftover fried calamari refried it and peanut oil and just like the chicken it comes out sort of extra crispy and even better the next day.
CK: That's a great tip. And actually, even worse on the radio. You don't have to see it. Yeah, Kenji. Thanks very much the second day refried for two or three minutes to 350 and it comes out better than it was initially, Kenji. Thank you.
JKA: You're welcome.
CK: That was J Kenji Lopez Alt. He's the chief culinary advisor for Serious Eats also author of the book, The Food Lab. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned into later, just want to listen again. You can download Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcast Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please don't forget to subscribe to the show. That way you'll get every episode downloaded to your phone each week. If you want to learn more about Milk Street, please visit us at 177 Milk Street.com. And there you can find each week's recipe. Subscribe to our magazine, watch the new season of our television show, or order our latest cookbook Milk Street Tuesday Nights. We're also on Facebook at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with WGBH executive producer Melissa Baldino. Senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producer Annie Sensabaugh, Associate Producer Jackie Novak, production assistant Stephanie Cohn and production help from Debby Paddock. Senior audio engineer Douglas Sugars, additional editing from Vicki Merrick Sidney Lewis and Hayley Fager, an 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