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On this Fourth of July, baker Stacey Fong shares highlights from her 50 States/50 Pies project, which includes odes to Nevada’s all-you-can-eat buffets, West Virginia’s pizza rolls and Tennessee icon Dolly Parton. Plus, live-fire cooking expert Genevieve Taylor reveals showstopping tips for your backyard barbecues; Dan Pashman debates the finer points of ketchup and mustard; and we dress up charred pineapple with spiced honey and coconut ice cream.
Questions in this episode:
"I’m making 35-40 corn pies for my daughter’s wedding. I was wondering about the best way to bind the pie?"
"Every time I walk down the jam jar aisle at the grocery store, I wonder to myself, hey, what's the difference between all these products? What makes a jam? What makes it preserve? What makes it compote? And how are they different from one another? And then I also want to know which one of these might be best to make at home?"
"Why do my chocolate truffles taste different the next day?"
"What’s the best way to make stuffing for stuffed grape leaves so they stay firm?"
"I decided to make a vegetarian version of my soup. But I’m really struggling to figure out when to use a plant-based meat and when to make a different kind of substitution."
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Baker Stacey Mei Yan created 50 different pie recipes, one from each state. The Nevada pie was a riff on an all you can eat casino buffet.
Stacey Mei Yan Fong: You start with shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, Alaskan crab legs, then you have prime rib and mashed potatoes on one side. And then ice cream sundae, cheesecake, fruit tart and chocolate mousse on the other side.
CK: And Stacey thinks that a Tennessee pie should include biscuits and gravy and also look like Dolly Parton.
SF: I knew that I had to make a portrait of her out of pie crust. Because I knew that in pie crust, I could capture the most wonderful volume of her hair because you know the higher the hair the closer to God.
CK: Later on in the show, Stacey shares more of her state pies but first is my interview with Genevieve Taylor. She's a live fire cooking expert and author of the cookbook Seer. Genevieve welcome to Milk Street
Genevieve Taylor: Hello, it's lovely to be here.
CK: Let's get this idea of cooking over gas out of the way quickly. Since most people in the US anyway cook on a gas grill. Do you find that okay, or are you totally obsessed with wood or charcoal?
GT: Well, you know gas is obviously okay you can get great results cooking on gas, but I am a bit addicted to the fire. So, I much prefer charcoal and wood.
CK: You know I've I have a grill that sort of an Argentinian grill that is designed for wood. And I find that what as you said charcoal gets much hotter. (Yeah) I find cooking over wood it'd be very difficult. You have to burn it down, we get calls. Coals are not as hot.
GT: I also have an Argentinian grill. And for me, I find it works best with a combination of wood and charcoal. So, the thing about charcoal is it burns two to three times hotter than wood. And it's very even consistent then, whereas word is very much a living product. And every log is slightly different to the next log so it's quite variable. So, the charcoal kind of helps to even out those inconsistencies.
CK: So, let's talk about heat level. A friend of mine, Meathead Goldwyn (yes) he has this great rule of thumb, he says the thicker the meat, the lower the cooking temperature, the thinner the meat, the higher the heat. Is that a rule you you agree with?
GT: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. And I would add to that and say think about the work that that muscle has done on the animal when it was alive. So, the more work the muscle did, so shoulders, for example, necks, the longer and slower you need to cook it, the less work it did. So, tenderloin muscles along the back for example, the hotter and faster you can cook it. So, it's all about what that muscle did when it was alive, essentially for me.
CK: So dry brining, wet brining. You seem to prefer dry brining or kosher? (Yeah). So, tell me why it works and why one would use just salt versus a brine.
GT: For sure. So, I definitely prefer dry brining salt. Sodium chloride is a magical little molecule. And it very, very quickly, if you sprinkle it over the surface of your meat, it draws out a little bit of liquid from in the meat. So, all meat is about 70 75% water regardless of what species it comes from. And the goal of good meat cookery is to keep that 70 75% of water in the meat and not lose it. So, the wonderful thing about dry brining is it breaks the chemical bonds between the individual meat fibers. So, when that meat hits your grill, those protein fibers are physically incapable of contracting up and squeezing out the moisture. They just can't because you've broken the chemical bonds, so more of the moisture in the steak stays in the steak, you don't lose it. And that's why dry brining makes a juicier end result.
CK: So, give me some rules here. So, we talked about some of them. But what are the things people get wrong? And what what are a few simple rules they should take away from this to get it right.
GT: Okay, I think my number one thing is to really, really care about the source of the charcoal you use. So good quality charcoal is 95% pure carbon, which is a completely inert element. Good charcoal should have no smell, no taste, no flavor, make no smoke, and that for me is important. You know with really good pure charcoal 95% pure carbon I can get a little bit cooking on it in five minutes, which is I reckon half half the time you could take to light up a gas barbecue, you know, it's really quick. So, your fuel really is your number one ingredient, that would be my absolute top tip. And then don't use too much fuel. Just put the charcoal in one area because that's how you create heat zones, temperature zones. And that's how you, the cook, have control of the temperature that you're cooking at. You know, if you put charcoal all over the base of your grill, you've just got absolutely hot burning, you know, and that's when you get that dreaded burn on the outside and raw in the middle scenario that we're kind of all familiar with.
CK: So, okay, here's what everyone does on the weekends, they have a chicken, right? Maybe they spatchcock it, which I think is the best way to grill it anyway. Or you have chicken parts, and everybody messes it up. It's just you know, it's a train wreck. So, what's your advice for cooking chicken on the grill,
GT: So, chicken on the grill, one of my favorite things to cook, but I would never consider cooking any kind of chicken be it parts or a whole spatchcock one or whatever over a direct heat it's way better with chicken to cook it indirectly that is away from the fire and shut the lid of your barbecue and utilize all those hot air convection currents. Chicken is always better to my mind cooked more gently over a lower heat with the lid down.
CK: So, I love your recipe for bavette I think that's French for flank steak, you know, fillet that you opened it up you stuff that was sausage and parmesan, I think prosciutto you know, where do you get the idea for that? Because it's such a great idea.
GT: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, it just struck me that it would be all those lovely Italian flavors just sort of rolled up in one nice, big joint that you can then slice and share. So the idea for it was was a celebratory thing, you know, like I had some friends around for lunch and I wanted to present something lovely in the middle of the table that we carved at the table and oh, it was the middle of summer when I made that recipe first and all the tomatoes were delicious and ripe and it just felt like a really sort of lovely summery celebration dish.
CK: So here in the states of course on the Fourth of July everyone's grilling hotdogs and hamburgers. Ah, so in England are their sort of go to foods you might cook for outdoor parties.
GT: Sausages, I'd say that's pretty much what everybody does is grab a packet of sausages from the supermarket and burns them.
CK: What are a couple of things most people would not think of grilling or barbecuing that you do.
GT: I don't know I mean that you know my book Seer is all about meat my new book but um, but I cook practically everything so I love showing people when they come to my fire school classes that we make Yorkshire puddings, you know, we make cakes, we make chocolate brownies, and of course you can make these things in your kitchen and and there probably is no real reason for making a brownie on a barbecue if you've got a perfectly good oven in your kitchen, but I guess the point is that you can and actually, sometimes it's nice to be outside more than it's nice to be inside. So, for me it's just about using the heat making anything.
CK: Genevieve thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
GT: Oh, it's been really lovely to talk to you. Thank you, Christopher.
CK: That was Genevieve Taylor live fire cooking teacher and also author of the cookbook Seared the Ultimate Guide to Barbecuing Meat. Next up, it's time to take calls with my co-host Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television also, author of the book Home Cooking One on One
Sara Moulton: Chris what are your summertime big family backyard go to dishes?
CK: I hate summer
SM: No you don’t
CK: I actually hate summer. Everybody in my family hates summer. No, I'm definitely late fall, leaden skies, cold wind winter person
SM: A depressed individual.
CK: No, no, it's because cooking that's when you do so much more indoor cooking.
SM: You don't, then you're not a fan of grilling and
CK: I do grill a lot actually.
SM: Well, was there anything that absolutely makes you so happy to cook on the grill?
CK: You know, one of the things I did recently that I really love. I just grilled some shallots, onions, a bunch of peppers and tomatoes and they just made a you know, a dip with some olive oil. That was just really phenomenal
SM: That sounds yummy.
CK: Yeah, well some herbs fresh herbs. And that's something you know; a lot of people say when you're finished grilling the meat. You still have fuel left, just you know put a bunch of vegetables on and cook those too and then you have that for another meal.
SM: Nice idea.
CK: Charred eggplant is just
SM: a killer yeah
CK: Yeah. So, I guess that would be my answer. Charred eggplant.
CK: And a small crowd.
SM: There we go. A small crowd.
CK: Just a few people.
SM: Okay, and lots of beer
CK: and a cloudy cold day. Yes.
SM: All righty. Let's take a call. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Jane Ruth from Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
SM: Hi, Jane. How can we help you?
Caller: I am catering my daughter's wedding.
SM: Ooh, you brave woman, oh my god. Oh my god.
Caller: I know
CK: Wait, wait how many people are coming to this wedding?
SM: Oh, my goodness. Oh, Chris, we better control ourselves when we hear the question.
CK: I think we need to give her some
SM Yeah, intervention anyway, ask us your question,
Caller: Part of the menu that I plan to have. It's going to be outdoors, of course under a big tent. And one of the items is a corn pie, because that's pretty traditional in our community. And here's my question. I mean, I probably have to make 35 to 40 corn pies,
CK: Corn pie, like a hand pie? Or is it a full pie?
Caller: A full pie
CK: What's in it besides corn obviously,
Caller: When I've made it in the past, I usually just get fresh corn, shuck the corn, put it in a bowl, and then I mix it with some green onions, salt, and pepper. Dot it with butter, pour a little milk or cream on it, and just make that sort of whole corn-mish and then put it into the pie crust and bake it. I was wondering about a little bit of cream cheese to bind the pie or will the shucked corn, give enough thickener to it that I don't have to use that maybe
SM: I think the idea of the cream cheese is splendid. But if you want the corn to be the thickener, I would advise you to puree some of it and throw it in the food processor to release more of the starch.
Caller: Okay. My other question is baking them. I already went and made all of the crust I have like 60 some crust in my freezer. And then we rented a large, cooler with racks. I thought I could cool them, put them in there. And then the next morning, bring them out, heat them up before the wedding,
SM: I would do a test run, you know. So, I would do a smaller batch of filling just to get sort of the proportions to see if all of this works. So, make a batch for like, I don't know four pies, and then figure out how much filling measured by cup-age you're going to put in each pie. Maybe eat one right away, put some in the fridge you know reheat the next day the way you thought or even just do two pies.
Caller: That's a good idea.
CK: Can I ask a question is this pie usually served warm or is it served at room temperature like an apple pie.
Caller: It's usually served warm and actually, we also rented a warmer oven with racks so
CK: so there you go
Caller: So once they're hot, like we can bake them and put them in there to hold them. But uh, you know, I don't want to do that too far in advance too, because I don't want them to dry out either.
CK: I don't like warmed up pies. I think the crust gets greasy and it's not my favorite thing in the world. So I wonder if this warmer or hot box or whatever it is. You can just put the pies in there. Forget the oven and forget the oven and just warm them up very gently and hold them. I wouldn't leave them in the warmers for hours. Yeah, I would warm it up ahead of time. I would definitely test it out, though.
SM: Test it both for the mixture of the filling and also for how it does
CK: You might want to test it like an hour warm or half an hour or two hours and see what happens over time. If it dries out. Yeah. Just think of all those years you can say to your daughter. Remember I made you 60 pies for your wedding
SM: Yeah, yeah,
CK That's going to be worth a lot.
SM: Yeah, you're going to get some mileage
Caller: That’s money in the bank.
CK: That is money in the bank. You can hold that over her for years and years and years.
Caller: I really appreciate your suggestion.
Caller: Thank you so much.
CK: Take care.
Caller: All right. Bye now.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Vlad Pick calling
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: Well, I've wanted to get your perspective on a couple of things. Every time I walked down the jam jar aisle at the grocery store, I wonder to myself, hey, what's the difference between all these products? What makes a jam? What makes it preserve? What makes it compote? And how are they different from one another? And then I also want to know which one of these might be best to make at home.
CK: Okay, well, jelly is fruit juice, right? It sets up, jam has some fruit in it that's chopped up usually, preserves have bigger pieces of fruit in it. This is just all you know how much fruits in with a mixture. Marmalade is usually citrus, and it's got the rinds of orange or grapefruit or lemon or whatever in it. That's really the difference. I would say a jam is probably the best. I've made a lot of it over the years and a couple tips and I'll let Sara talk. You should make small batches. I find when you double or triple batches, it's very hard to get a good accurate temperature reading because you have to get the temperature just to the right point. So usually, four cups at a time or something small, at least to get started. And secondly, I years ago I bought a full copper pot, and it's used on top of the stove for making jams. And I know it sounds stupid, but it really made a big difference because it conducts heat so well. It's all about getting everything in that pot at the right temperature at the right time. That's the difference. And I would give jam a shot but do small batches to start. One last thing. Most old-fashioned recipes have too much sugar in them. I cut the sugar sometimes in half. And then I can them and then I put them in the fridge. And they last quite a long time. So, I'd also think about sugar content, even though it is a preservative. Some of them are so sweet. You know, you just can't taste the fruit.
Caller: What's your take on using an artificial setting engine like gelatin or pectin or something like that?
CK: Yeah, usually, you use a pectin. And there are two kinds. There's one that's a low sugar pectin, that comes in like pink box, I think. And if you're going to do lower sugar jams, or jellies or whatever, you need that one
SM: Vlad, I had a question for you, though, when you said which one would be a good one to make at home. It's this because you want to make jams or jellies and preserve them to give to friends or you know, be able to put in a cupboard or whatever.
Caller: We have a big mulberry tree in our yard. And it gives off an impressive amount of fruit every late summer. And we've made jam a couple times with it, but it never seems to last too long on the shelf. And then I wonder, you know, could I be doing something else with those mulberries is there may be a different preparation that I should think about?
SM: Oh, well, that's a whole different question. I mean, I'm sure they're beautifully frozen,
CK: Yes, just freeze them.
SM: You could also puree them with some sugar and some acid and you know, freeze it like a sauce. A mulberry sauce that you could put on ice cream. I only say freeze again. You could you know, process it or probably if you put in enough sugar and acid it would keep in the fridge pretty indefinitely
CK: Or put in a large glass jar with lots of alcohol.
SM: Oh, yeah, now you're talking now you're talking yeah. I think really freezing it would be fine.
CK: It's like blueberries freeze really well
SM: Yeah. And then they say when you use them. We'll see if Chris agrees with this. You just use them from the frozen state. You know, you don't defrost them because they become a wet mess. They hold their shape better if you use them, you know in a muffin or, you know, one of those quick breads. So those are some other ideas.
Caller: I’ll think about canning them, but I’ll really think about freezing them.
SM: Yeah, do that
CK: just for you and freeze them and double bag them. That's the easiest.
Caller: Well, I appreciate the encouragement. Yep.
CK: Yep. Thanks for calling
SM: Okay. Thank you.
Caller: Thank you both.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a hand in the kitchen, give us a call any time our number is 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling? Yes.
Caller: Yes, hi, my name is Ari. How are you?
SM: How are you?
SM: Where are you calling from?
Caller: I'm calling from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
SM: Oh, very close. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I often make chocolate truffles, chocolate truffles, bonbons. People have different names. But no chocolate with the ganache (ganache inside). Yeah, I'm rather famous for them among my friend’s circles. But I was wondering when you're going to get the ganache. I like to use different flavorings sometimes often alcohols like cognac or bourbon, maybe even like lemon zest or something. And I noticed that when I make it often the next day, it tastes different than the day I've made it. And I was wondering, Is that like a stew that ages, like, why would it taste different than next day than the day I've made it? And how can I predict what's going to taste like, so that when I make it, I kind of have an idea of what flavor I’m going to end up with
SM: Well, there's probably a couple things here. When you make it and you taste it, I assume you make the ganache, and you add the flavorings and then you roll it correct into balls. (yes) Okay. And you tasted at that point, right? So, at that point, it's at room temperature.
Caller: Yes. But even when I chill it, if I wait a couple of days, it still changes the flavor.
SM: Of course, well, that is the point the temperature is different.
CK: But do you bring it back to room temperature before you eat it? The second or third day?
Caller: I've experimented with a temperature that changes at two but but just the aging in a few days, no matter the temperature changes.
SM: So, you're saying you take it out of the refrigerator, let them come back to room temperature? Taste them again. And they taste different?
SM: Okay. Well, I would also say two other things. I hope they're well covered in the fridge. So they didn't pick up any other flavors, because that's really, really important. And then the other thing would be I tend to agree with you, you especially you have something like zest with oil in there, it's going to permeate even more. I could see it becoming stronger in flavor.
Caller: So, is there anyone predict what flavors are going to become more prominent?
SM: I think just make them frequently and take notes.
CK: So, but it's a good it's an, it's a good scientific question. I think you're absolutely right, even if you eat them at the same temperature. As they sit like you're right, like a stew changes in temperature, it gets much more complex. So, can I ask a question so after two or three days, are certain flavors more prominent? Is it a duller flavor overall where things are a little bit moderated or is there a no consistency and what you find later on
Caller: Well, I think some flavors are more complex. For instance, the times when about a cognac right? Much better a couple of days later.
CK: Are there any things that are sharper, like lemon zest that come out?
Caller: That's hard to pinpoint different flavors sometimes. It feels like acidity does come out a little bit more, I'd say maybe
CK: Yeah, I don't know. The only thing I can think of is that the alcohol some of it dissipates over time. You have a more subtle flavor. But that's a good question. Actually. I don't really know the answer. I think I have to call my science guy.
SM: Good question, though.
CK: Excellent question.
SM: Very, very good question.
CK: Good one.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: All right. Thank you very much
CK: Thank you for calling.
SM: All right.
Caller: Have a good one.
SM: You too. Bye bye.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio up next up a pie road trip across America. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my conversation with Stacey Mei Yan Fong. She's the creator of the 50 Pies 50 states project. While applying for her Green Card Stacey dedicated herself to baking a pie inspired by each and every state in America. Stacey, welcome to Milk Street.
SF: Thank you so much. I am so happy to be here. I'm really really excited.
CK: Your project is 50 Pies 50 States, which incredibly involves a different recipe for every state. But the thing that was so interesting is each of these pies was brought to someone in their state, right?
SF: It was dedicated to someone that I knew from that state or someone that like spent a lot of time in that state. Because this project was really about like a love letter to America, and also giving back to my friends because they've given so much to me over the years that I've lived here. And yeah, it was my love letter to this country. And I love letter to them through food one slice at a time I show them how much I love them.
CK: But you spent a lot of time this is not like you know, a three-week project you spent weeks on sometimes on on an individual pie. So, I've just have to ask the question was this this came to you in a dream. This was I mean you really motivated to do this thing, right?
SF: I really love a challenge for myself, I really like to push the boundaries. And like, before I moved to the States, pie for me was always a savory thing. The only sweet pie I'd really eaten before I moved here was an apple pie. And then when I moved here, I was like, oh my gosh, there's like icebox pies and strawberry rhubarb pie. Oh my god, the first time I had a strawberry rhubarb pie, I thought my head was going to fall off. I thought it was so delicious. So, I was like, okay, I am going to make America my home. The best way for me to learn about America would be through food. And there is no food, I think that is more American than pie. And I was like, you know what, it'd be fun to bake different pies that are like very specific to each state. And when I set off to make each state's pie, I wanted to do the state with as much justice as I could. I'm not saying this is like the be all end all state pie. I'm saying like this is my interpretation of my experiences in that state or with the person in that state in pie form. So yeah, it's like my pie road trip through the states.
CK: So, let's say you pick a state like Kansas, okay, you just go to Kansas and drive around you have friends in every state you start with, I mean, how would you pick a state, research it and and figure out a pie.
SF: So, I would talk to a person that I knew from that state and I would kind of like ask them like what is something foodwise that really stuck out to them. And then I would just like deep dive into the internet. So, like, it takes me about like two weeks to decide what I'm going to do. Because you know at the end of the day, the pie is kind of a blank canvas and pies the limits so like I can go whichever way I choose. I feel like one that I knew right off the bat at was West Virginia, because one of my best friends from college Jeffrey, he's from West Virginia. And one of my earliest memories of our friendship, when I found out he was from West Virginia was him telling me about pepperoni rolls, which are these eastern rolls with like a log of pepperoni in it. And I grew up eating something similar from Asian bakeries with like a hot dog at it. And so, I was like, that's so cool that like, you know, there's a little bit of crossover. So, I ended up making like a stuffed crust pie, ala like, you know, a Pizza Hut. So, in the end, it ended up being a pepperoni roll crust pie with like a hot cheese and marinara sauce center.
CK: Look, I get it if you made, you know, an apple pie with cheese from Vermont or something, which you did. But some of these are, I mean, the Nevada pie. You want to just talk about this? Because I mean, this shows something about Nevada, but it says a lot more about you too. I mean, this was crazy, right?
SF: Yeah. So, for Nevada, I was like kind of stumped. And I kind of thought about like anytime that I had been to Nevada, I've mostly been to Las Vegas with my dad, because he worked in the hotel industry. And I had never seen an all you can eat buffet anywhere else besides in America. And that's something that's like very, like, ingrained in Las Vegas is culture. So, I looked up every single hotel that's on the Las Vegas Strip, I looked at their all you can eat buffet menus. And then I made like a spreadsheet of the common denominators between each of the menus. And I'll kind of take you on like a small pie slice tasting menu through an all you can eat buffet. And so, if you start with a shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, Alaskan crab legs, then you have prime rib mashed potatoes on one side. And then ice cream sundae, cheesecake, fruit tart, and chocolate mousse on the sweet side. And so I have this cast iron skillet, that's you're making cornbread and like the little triangles, and I was like, oh my god, this is like the perfect size. And not so different from the way those you know, hot dishes hold all the contents in a buffet. So, it was kind of like a nod to all of that, too.
CK: So, some I mean, that's kind of extreme. But you talked about Vermont, which is obviously my state. You said this is amazing. There's a law on the books from 1999, not 1899 1999 that requires that proprietors of apple pie make a quote, good faith effort to serve it with ice cream, cold milk or a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of half an ounce. How did you figure out there was a law on the books for that?
SF: So, what's so funny is a lot of state foods and fruit are like laws that kids in elementary school learn about how to get a bill into law. And so, like that's how Alabama State fruit became the Blackberry, or how Florida got the key lime. Like it's so interesting. And I think the thing that I've learned the most through doing this project is how passionate everybody is about the state that they come from. Like I learned about Vermont, and I learned about eating cheese with apple pie from my buddy Pete. He told me that his grandpa always used to say a pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze. And I love that so much. So, when I got to Vermont, it was kind of like an ode to my buddy Pete’s grandpa
CK: A kiss, okay, that's a new one on me. But I know I'm going to use that.
SF: Yeah, use it, use it
CK: Minnesota. So, you managed to turn corn dogs into a pie, I guess.
SF: Yeah. So, my old design director, Rebecca, she is from Minnesota. And every year she goes to the state fair. And I wanted to take all of Rebecca's most favorite things about the Minnesota State Fair and make it into one pie. So, it ended up being a corndog casserole pie or hot dish with savory funnel cakes on the top because those are two of the stars of any state fair, not just Minnesota. Also, I've never met a corndog I didn't like
CK: That's there and there's a t shirt for you. So, in New York, you made I have to get my head around this whole thing. 150 mini apple pies with coffee cake crumble you write I had to go big or go home. Why did you feel you had to go big in this case and make 150 pies?
SF: So, New York is my home. This is where I live right now. I've actually been here now for 12 years, which is kind of crazy to me in 2020 I celebrated my 10th year in New York so a full decade. And when I got to the New York pie, I knew I couldn't just make one pie I, I really wanted to like celebrate my life here and celebrate all the friendships that I have in the city and all the relationships I've made, whether it's like at my yoga studio, or at the tattoo shop I go to or my favorite provision store ___foods, like I wanted to, like give back to the city that's given so much to me. And when I thought about New York, you know, it's the Big Apple, it had to be at an apple pie. But I was like, something that I really remember when coming here it was like eating an Entenmann’s coffee cake for the first time. And I want to mimic that like thick crumble on top of the apple pie. And I think the best part about the New York pie is I threw a really big party at a beer hall for all of my friends. And like seeing them all in one space, all eating pie together. And pie that I made was one of the most special times in my life in America so far.
CK: Behind all of this, or underneath all this, you refer to this as a love letter to America, you were born in Singapore grew up in Indonesia, in Hong Kong. Is there something obviously something about America, this reflected in this project? That expresses why you love America so much? I mean, you seem thrilled. What is it? It's thrilling to you about this experience, but also about America.
SF: It's honestly, it's my friends, like I love my friends so much. And I feel like in Chinese culture, you don't really tell anybody that like you love them. The way people show affection is through food and giving food. And when I wanted to tell my friends that I love them, I would make them food, whether it was pie or something else or dinner. I've also probably watched too many, Nancy Meyer and Nora Ephron movies. So, I feel like a romantic grand gesture is just the best thing ever. But I love America so much because of the relationships and the friendships that I've made here. And this country tests my love for this country a lot. But like, at the end of the day, for all of its shortcomings, a lot of the people here and the passion, they have to fight for a better future in America. keeps me wanting to stay here.
CK: So, you also love some iconic people from America, Bruce Springsteen, but you also have a crush on Dolly Parton, I guess.
SF: Oh, my gosh, I love Dolly Parton would be honestly the understatement of the century. She's someone that's been like a guiding light in my life ever since I was little. And so, for Tennessee, I had to make the pie biscuits and gravy, because I know that that's her favorite breakfast. And I knew that I had to make a portrait of her out of pie crust. So, I did, because I knew that in pie crusts, I could capture the most wonderful volume of her hair. Because you know, the higher the hair, the closer to God. And like if you're ever sad, or don't feel like getting out of bed, if you just listen to Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Dolly Parton. You're going to get right up, and you're going to like, pour yourself a cup of ambition, you're going to drink it really fast, and you're going to get your day started. And like, everything will be okay.
CK: I met her once briefly. She is in fact, (oh my god) exactly yeah, I'm dropping names right and left her. She is exactly what you think. And I think she does represent what, you know, a lot of people love about America, right?
SF: 100% I never thought that I would ever get the chance to see her live. And when she went on tour again, I paid an exorbitant amount of money for tickets, but that's fine. And me and my friends chucking Kelsey went and saw her at Forest Hill Stadium in Queens. And I cried most of the time, let's be honest, because I was like, so overwhelmed with joy. But another thing that was so beautiful about the Dolly Parton concert was all the different people that come together that love Dolly Parton. She's just incredible. And she's amazing. And she does represent everything that people love about America. She is like the personification of that and so yeah, I feel like my love of this country and what I feel like this country could be is buried deep inside the heart of Dolly Parton.
CK: Maybe you need to change that saying the higher the pie the closer to God.
SF: I know I got a pile those meringues up got to really
CK: Yeah, you’ve got to really ramp it up there, Stacy. It's been it's really been fun. Thank you so much.
SF: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. This is an absolute pleasure I can say
CK: That was Stacey Mei Yan Fong her 50 Pies 50 States cookbook will be out next Fourth of July. This is MilK Street Radio coming up Dan Pashman and I argue about condiments that's coming up in just a moment. This is Milk Street Radio right now it's time to chat with Sam Fore about this week's recipe charred pineapple with spiced honey and coconut ice cream. Sam, how are you?
Sam Fore: You know, it's a beautiful day, Chris, I have no complaints.
CK: Well, I have a complaint. You know, a good friend of mine is a big griller, and he keeps trying to get me to grill fruit
SF: You haven't been grilling fruit?
CK: I've tried it, I sort of think life's too short to grow fruit. I get too many of the things on my to do list. But I have to say the once or twice I did it, it was actually pretty good. So, you've been playing around with pineapple, either broiled or grilled. And you think you've found a way to do this and a simple recipe.
SF: You know, high heat and pineapple make for a beautiful thing. And it's this sort of charred caramelized crust that you get on the fruit. But you still have that super tender, juicy bite to it, it doesn't get dried out. And so, introducing high heat, whether it be a grill or through an oven can be a really good way to bring out the sweetness and the intensity of your fruit.
CK: Well, the other thing is it doesn't lose his texture right some fruits just sort of collapse.
SF: See it generally I don't love cooked fruit because it just loses all of the things that make it fruit
CK: Identity crisis
SF: I yeah, it has it has a fruit identity crisis, that pineapple might not be able to do any wrong with me at this point.
CK: So either under the broiler on the grill what’s the deal, what’s the recipe.
SF: I like to broil mine because usually I've been cooking all day and I just forgot to make dessert. This one comes together so quickly. I just throw my pineapple in the broiler for about 10 minutes, and I rotate them maybe halfway through and it gets a lovely brown sort of crust around the edges of it and I've even used the pre-cord store bought pineapple for this and it's come out really really well.
CK: So, and this just gets like a topping or something or what?
SF: I put ice cream on top, but I have been making this lovely lovely, kind of spicy kind of sweet syrup topping. I've been whisking up honey and a little bit of red chili flake, some nutmeg and then freshly grated ginger which is like fresh and punchy and spicy and bright. And so, I like to use that as a topping on my pineapple creations.
CK: So, you get a little heat and a little bite from the ginger.
SF: Okay it doesn't become overwhelmingly spicy. It's just a really nice bright zip and after you get all of the flavors together with the pineapple and the melty ice cream, you could use coconut ice cream here you could use vanilla, it really makes a beautiful sort of collective taste, if you will.
CK: So, to answer my question about whether grilling or broiling fruit is worth it. Your answer is charred pineapple with spiced honey and vanilla or coconut ice cream. 15 minutes sounds like a great last minute dessert. Thank you, Sam.
SF: Thank you for having me. You can get the recipe for charred pineapple with spiced honey and coconut ice cream at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: I'm Christopher Kimball you're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Sara and I will answer a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Adrian calling from Tampa, Florida.
SM: Hi, Adrian. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I make my own stuffed grape leaves. And when I bought them or I have them in restaurants, the rice always kind of stays firm in grape leaves in mind the rice seems to just fall out when you eat it.
SM: What kind of rice are you using? And are you cooking it ahead of time par cooking, what are you doing?
Caller: I'm partially cooking it and I've used long grained rice. I've used sushi rice, and nothing seems to work.
SM: Have you tried arborio?
CK: Yeah, I think Sarah's onto it a medium grain rice is probably better than a long grain.
Caller: The recipes that I use always call for after you stuffed grape leaves to put them in a broth. And I'm wondering if that is just way too much. I've tried under cooking the rice and doing this but it hasn't really worked.
CK: If you're going to steam it or cook it in liquid like a broth. I wonder if you could just not cook the rice at all (Yeah) And then it doesn't take that long to cook rice. How long are you cooking it in the liquid?
Caller: The directions say like for 45 minutes
SM: Yeah, why don't you start with raw rice
CK: just use raw rice.
Caller: The thing is, if I start with raw rice, and then I overstuff any of the grape leaves, they pop,
SM: Don't over stuff then I would say err on adding less rice,
CK: I would use medium grain. And I would try not cooking the rice at a time. When you stuffed the grape leaves is the rice dry and separate grains or is it sticky?
Caller: It's on the sticky sites.
CK: Okay, so you stuffed the grape leaves with sticky rice. You cook them forever in this broth, and they come out dry and the rice just falls out of the grape leaves as you eat them.
Caller: The rice isn't dry, but it just you know when you take a bite, the rice just kind of falls out.
CK: The other possibility is you add a binder right to the rice.
Caller: That's what I was wondering
SM: I wouldn't do that. recipes that I've seen start with uncooked rice. And they do cook for 45 minutes. And you just have to not overstuff, you know the leaves.
CK: Well, try with raw rice, try medium gray rice, it none of those work. Just try some kind of a binder. You could whisk up a couple eggs and just that egg as a binder that would definitely do it.
SM: You know what, Adrian I really love to know how this all turns out. So can you get back to us when you figure something out?
Caller: You bet.
CK: Take care.
SM: Thanks so much.
Caller: Thank you very much.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you have a cooking question, give us a call anytime. 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 Kate from Muncie, Indiana.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I have a small business here where I make soup and bread. Every week I have different flavor pairings. And I had enough interest that I decided to start making a vegetarian version every time we make it. But I'm really struggling to figure out when to use plant-based meat and when to make a different type of substitution. For example, I found that a plant-based sausage in a lasagna is really good. But a plant-based bacon or ham is really hard to find that works well in a soup without getting broken down and just wondered if there was any kind of rule to follow as far as figuring out substitutions like that.
CK: Well, replacing meat with something that has the texture of meat is a relatively fruitless proposition. So, I would just avoid a one for one replacement of a plant-based meat for meat. That being said, however, there are lots of ways to get meaty flavor in a soup or stew, right I mean, tomato paste, the brown in a skillet is great. A miso works great mushrooms etc. Shio koji? Do you know what that is? (No) it's a liquid. It's umami in a bottle. It's absolutely amazing. I would try to get enhanced flavor. You know, charring browning deeply roasting all those things get you flavor. It's hard to get the texture of ___(I agree). Let me put another way. Most of the people in the world eat mostly vegetarian diet, right, because meats expensive. So, they have come up with fabulous ways to cook vegetables without trying to substitute for meat. And that's what I would look to.
SM: I mean, what I would do is just have different soups and then label the ones that have no meat in them as you know, whatever vegan or vegetarian. Because believe me, if you're vegetarian, you're probably not going to miss the meat. But I did have a couple of other thoughts besides that, I mean, in the mushroom department, which Chris already mentioned, in particular, portabellas and shitake’s. If you're trying to get smoke in there, just use smoked paprika. The stuff you get from bacon or ham you can get from it's not the same but it's still pretty good. And a couple other thoughts is tofu. When you take tofu and you freeze it and then you take it out the freezer and you press it between paper towels, you remove a lot of the liquid so that then when you go and sauté it you can sauté it in something flavorful or with some umami ingredients marinated soy sauce right or miso. So, then you could add that at the end Don't cook it in the soup so it gets soggy all over again added as sort of the afterthought. And then I was also thinking about halloumi, which is this Greek cheese that they bake. And it's so yummy yet it holds its shape.
CK: One thing we did in the office last week, we were playing around with some appliances like it was an indoor smoker. We smoked portobello’s and made a smoked portobello burger.
SM: That's a great idea
CK: and a little coleslaw in it
SM: Stovetop smokers. You just get the little wood chips. I have one I forgot about it.
CK: We started this call saying never tried to substitute now we're going into smoked portobellos and tofu
SM: Well, no, but we're not saying meat that isn’t meat,
CK: Katie. I hope that was helpful and not confusing.
Caller: Thank you. It was.
CK: Thanks for calling.
Caller: I appreciate it. Bye.
CK: Next up a few words of wisdom from Dan Pashman. Dan, how are you?
Dan Pashman: Hey, Chris. I'm good. Happy July 4th.
CK: Thank you. It's one of those holidays I don't really look forward to, but I actually love it when it shows up.
DP: Okay, well, fortunately, it's named after the date that it is so it can never surprise you. And it's time for summer barbecues and cookouts. And that means it's time to pick your condiment. There's a continental divide in this country, Chris
CK: Oh no
DP: You must take a stand ketchup or mustard.
CK: You're the only person I know who takes something that everybody loves, like July 4th, and turn it into a war.
DP: Well, I mean that some people might argue that's fitting but anyway, ketchup versus mustard. Come on, Chris.
CK: Well, hotdogs is mustard and burgers is ketchup. Oh, I mean, I'm bifurcated on that issue.
DP: Actually, Chris turns out it’s a trick question. I would argue that the best answer is both both.
CK: Both? Both on both.
DP: I'm here. I'm here to argue
CK: You're in deep water
DP: in favor of mixing ketchup and mustard. You don't have to decide,
CK: Okay, I'm going to listen. Why is that?
DP: Well, mustard is bitter. Ketchup is sweet together, they're greater than the sum of their parts. And you get all the flavors, and a lot of the classic burger condiments are you know, ketchup, mustard, mayo mixed together. At Shake Shack, they supposedly puree pickles into their shack sauce which I think works extremely well. You know, you want a little bit of everything in whatever you're putting on your hotdog or burger and ketchup and mustard is the quickest easiest without pulling out a blender to get a lot of different flavors together on your plate.
CK: Well, first of all, on a burger anything goes. So, I often do put everything on a burger. And that's fine with me because I think ground beef, you know, it's a neutral meat, you know that it goes with anything. That being said, sir, when you get to the hot dog, I think mustard and juicy pork really do go together particularly well. I don't want sugar on my hot dog. But on a burger. It's fine.
DP: That's fair. I mean look the way that I like to do it is I don't squirt either of them on directly on to anything because you put ketchup and mustard on top of a burger. The bun is going to turn soggy. If they're a little bit cold. They're going to chill the burger and congeal the cheese. What I like to do is you squirt the ketchup and the mustard onto your plate. And for me, I like Colman's mustard, I'm on a big Colman's English mustard kick. It's very spicy. It's got a sort of horseradish type of a spice. It's got a little sweetness and it also has a little bit of like grainy texture. So, I like 60% Ketchup, 40% Colman's mustard, mix them together on the plate and then you dip your hotdog or your burger on a per bite basis into that side condiment.
DP: Yes, that is the way it's done.
CK: What do you do, you're dipping it?
DP: Yes. That's far superior that that eliminates soggy bread. It allows you to regulate your condiment usage on a per bite basis. If you want to bite without condiment or more condiment, you have that freedom. It gives you control as an eater.
CK: So here you are. Yeah, you're standing outside in someone's backyard. Maybe yours. You have a double paper plate, right? Yeah, you've got a burger in one hand and you're constantly dipping it into a pile of mixed condiments on the plate.
DP: Yes, that is exactly right.
CK: And image that will never leave me.
DP: There's actually a video on Instagram that just went viral recently of a guy at Yankee Stadium, dipping his hot dog into his cup of beer.
CK: Yes, Now, that's cool.
DP: Wow, that’s Chris
CK: That is cool.
DP: You must you seem like you're on a mission to lose all credibility today, aren't you dipping you?
CK: Dipping a hot dog at the stadium in beer is at a different level entirely than dipping a hamburger in little tiny dips in your pile of 60 40 ketchup
DP: So, what you're saying is if you're going to be crazy, go go full crazy.
CK: Here's the underlying problem. Okay. The whole point of July 4 and eating finger food hand food is not delicacy. It is not perfection. I mean, this is about being casual and somehow, you've regimented, what should be a simple proposition into something that has too much science and too much technique in it.
DP: Once you get the hang of it, it really isn't that hard. Often times, there is a table to sit at. But let's say it's standing. Let's say there's just a big picnic table put out and someone's just putting piles of burgers and hotdogs there. And there's paper plates, and there's condiments. There's probably plastic utensils. So, you pick up a plate, you squirt your ketchup and mustard on you take a fork or a knife, you mix them together, you put your burger in your hotdog on the plate, you can hold the plate in one hand, pick up the food with the other and dip as you eat. You get full control; you get your condiment ratio in order and correct. Everything is fantastic. Happy July 4th.
CK: So, someone comes up to me, we're at the same party and he says, Hey, do you know who that guy is? Who's dipping his burger in the condiments? And what do you think I'm going to say? I have no idea. Okay, well, I take your point and for the burger. I think that mix is actually interesting. The hot dog. Not so sure. But I give you credit for thinking this through deeply.
DP: That's what I do. Chris, for better or worse.
CK: July 4 philosopher Dan Pashman. Thank you.
DP: Thanks, Chris. Take care.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of The Sportful food podcast. That's it for today. You know, in the last few years, we've produced over 200 episodes of Milk Street radio. You can find them all on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street Radio.com, or wherever you find your podcasts. To explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer, visit us at 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes, watch our TV show, learn about our magazine and latest cookbook, The World in a Skillet. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions. And thanks, as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer, Annie Sinsabaugh, senior editor Melissa Allison. Producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock, a digital editing by Sydney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX