Padma Lakshmi in Search of America | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

Episode 419
April 16, 2021
Originally aired on June 26, 2020

Padma Lakshmi in Search of America

Padma Lakshmi in Search of America

Padma Lakshmi shares stories about her childhood in India, her time in Spain and her new show, “Taste the Nation.” Plus, we get a crash course on Parisian cocktail culture from David Lebovitz; we present a new take on the cheeseburger; and Bianca Bosker teaches us about the history and evolution of wine reviews.


“I was making beans for years and doing the overnight soak and dumping the water, and the reason I thought I was doing all of this was to mitigate flatulence. Then, somebody gave me a vegetarian cookbook and in their recipe for pot beans, they said to just throw the dried beans into a pot with epazote and other things, and when I made the beans that way, I found out there was no flatulence. Have you ever used this technique?”

“I was taught that cold oil goes into a hot pan when cooking. This helps create a natural non-stick reaction. Some Milk Street recipes/techniques call for oil going into a cold pan. When and why is the need for the pan to be hot or cold when adding oil during cooking?”

“My cheese sauce for mac and cheese always seems to break or become grainy in texture. How can I fix that?”

“Lots of recipes for roasting skin-on poultry tell you to use a baking sheet as opposed to, say, a roasting pan. My mom always worries that I'm going to splatter fat all over her oven, but I foolishly go ahead with what the recipe says. My question is, why do recipes call for a sheet if fat splatter is inevitable? Or is it preventable, even with a sheet, and am I doing something wrong?”

“My mom and I recently got a bread maker, and we’ve been using the recipes that came with the machine. So far, the bread we made has been good, but I’ve noticed that the bread dries out very fast despite our efforts to cover it in foil, plastic, and store it in Tupperware. I’ve been reading that adding potato flour to a bread recipe will keep it softer longer, but how much do I add per cup of flour?”

Milk Street Radio Padma Lakshmi

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Padma Lakshmi has had a fascinating career model TV show host and author. Today we discuss her childhood and her latest TV series Taste the Nation. She also answers the question, can you have it all?

Padma Lakshmi: You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once. I mean, I often don't have time for an adult personal life. You know, I have to be mindful and say, okay, when was the last time I just went to have a glass of wine with my friends or went to dinner not for an event, or for work, or for a parent teacher thing, but actually for something that was purely for pleasure.

CK: Also, coming up, we present a new take on the cheeseburger by introducing creamy Taleggio. And later Bianca Bosker takes us through the history and evolution of wine reviews. But first, David Leibovitz discusses how to drink like the French. David, welcome back to Milk Street.

David Leibovitz: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be here.

CK: So, your latest book is about drinking French. And it covers among other things, Aperitif, the French have a very different meaning associated with that word. What is aperitif? It's not just a cocktail.

DL: Well, aperitif it's the time of day between when you're done working, and when you're going to have dinner. It's kind of a transition time. You know, the word comes from the Latin, you know, to open up, and it's sort of meant to open up your appetite for dinner. But in France, also, people eat late.

CK: The alcohol though, these cocktails aperitif are not supposed to be like a sturdy American cocktail with two or three ounces of alcohol. So just describe what they're for and what they're like.

DL: Well, a lot of the aperitifs that we that we associate with France, such as Dubonnet, Lillet, they originally were health tonics, they had quinine in them, which one one distiller told me goes with that was the CBD of the 1890s was quinine, and everybody wanted quinine. They used to have much higher alcohol content, and then they lowered the alcohol down, so they were more drinkable. You put ice cubes in them, and so forth. And I think some of that might have been modeled after pasties. When that became popular, everyone was sort of leisurely drinking this drink and adding water to this class, over the course of several hours.

CK: You talk about cafes a lot, and you say I often refer to cafes as the living rooms of Paris. Everyone's welcome to gather there, whether you're spent the night sweeping the streets or working in the streets. How does that play into this whole story about drinking and aperitifs?

DL: Well, people, it's hard to underestimate the importance of a French Cafe to a French person. You know, I was, I was in Italy a few years ago, and I was like, where are all the cafes, and there are cafes, but it's not like Paris where there's like five on every block, I'm just wandering every corner on French people are so into being convivial with their friends, meeting their friends, and they use cafes, not just somewhere to get a drink. But it's really somewhere to spend time it's sort of like your home away from home.

CK: Well, we've spoken about this before, but you talk a lot about the French are really good at doing nothing in particular, but really enjoying the moment and that plays into your whole book Drinking French, right?

DL: Yes, yes. I am somebody that always has to be doing something. And I really had to dial down my, you know, my own expectations of my ability to just, you know, turn off and just sit somewhere and be, d’etre, you say in French, the verb to be. And I've ever met, you know, it's taken me a couple of years, actually. I mean, I can do it. I can go to a cafe and do nothing. But it's hard. You know, I usually have to bring a book with me, or I still have to bring my laptop. But the French are very you go to cafes, and someone's just sitting there for like three hours. And they're thinking about stuff, which is something that I aspire to.

CK: Let's talk about specific drinks you right? I marveled at the barrels of wine left in the open Mediterranean air to intentionally oxidize before became vermouth. I didn't know. vermouth is oxidized wine. I thought it was wine or alcohol flavored with herbs and some other things.

DL: You know, all these things were same to me. They were all a lot of discoveries. You know, I always thought like I know vermouth. It's a, it's a wine, you know, fortified or aromatized wine with herbs and spices in it. And then I went I went down to Marseillan when Noilly Prat vermouth is made, and they have you know, 1000 barrels outside and they said, Yes, that's the flavor of our vermouth. You know, the wine used to come from Spain on boats and it got oxidized and we want to keep that going. So, learning about what makes all these things different and interesting, such as oxidizing wine intentionally for a year in the open air to give it a little saltiness and age.

CK: Well, certainly the point in my life where I think a little saltiness and age is pretty, pretty good thing. I'm all for that.

DL: Yes, I'm making my living being salty and aged at this point.

CK: You and me both. You also mentioned a drink, which you'd like called A Long Hello. Could you talk about that? Because that really appealed to me.

DL: I love the name that was invented by a bar man called Damon Boelte who has a bar really great bar in Brooklyn called Grand Army. And he came up with this cocktail, which has calvados in it apple brandy from Normandy, and then elderflower liqueur. And then you top the glass off of champagne, and a little nutmeg. And what's interesting about the French is they often say oh, you should never defile wine or champagne, like do not put ice in it do not. There are all these rules. And then there's all these drinks like the kir, the bicicleta that use champagne as a base, you know, and they you add stuff to it. It's interesting, because years ago, I went to a champagne dinner with the owner of the most prestigious champagne house. And he said to me, you're better off putting an ice cube in a glass of champagne than drinking a warm glass of champagne.

CK: So, what's the difference between entertaining in France versus entertaining here in the States?

DL: Okay, well, I actually read an article once for expats, about how to get used to going to a French party, because Americans are usually boisterous and lively and are moving around and meeting people and having fun. Whereas the French are more into discussions. So, it's a different sort of atmosphere. I always often joke like I've never been to an American dinner party where English grammar has come up as a point of discussion and debate. And I think every French dinner party I've been to someone has brought up something about the French language. People like to say oh, you know, you use the past participle of etre and it should be the imperfect. But my partner's French and he told me he goes you need to smile more. Oh, everyone else tells you like don't smile in Paris because they'll they'll know you're American. I was like, I'm trying to look more French. He's like, you need to smile more.

CK: David Leibovitz has outdone the French. I like that. David it's been a real pleasure. Thank you for coming back to Milk Street

DL: Yes, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And next time I see you. I think we should have a cocktail

CK: or an aperitif.

DL: Yes.

CK: Thanks, David.

DL: Bye bye, Chris.

CK: That was David Leibovitz. his new book is called Drinking French the iconic cocktails, aperitifs and cafe traditions of France with 160 recipes. Right now, my cohost, Sara Moulton and I will be answering your toughest culinary questions. Sara is the author of Home Cooking 101, also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Sara, how are you?

Sara Moulton: I'm great, Chris. And I think it's time to get to the phones.

CK: Open up the lines. Let's go.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, it's Judy McClintock from Arden, Delaware.

SM: Hi, Judy, how can we help you today?

Caller: Well, it's about beans. And I know that a lot of people bring up beans often. So, I hope you aren't too bored with this subject. But I was making beans for years and doing the soak the overnight soak and then dumping the water, which I always thought was part of it. And the reason I thought I was doing all this was to mitigate the rather socially unacceptable flatulence. Yeah, okay, there you go flatulence, that comes along with it. And it seemed to work, you know, pretty well. Then somebody gave me a vegetarian cookbook of Mexican food. And in their recipe for pot beans, they said to just throw the dry beans into a pot with epazote de and other things, onions and so on. And when I made the beans that way, because I thought well, it doesn't say soak. It doesn't say anything about it. I found out there was no flatulence. And I've tried this out on other friends, and it absolutely works. And I was just wondering if you guys ever used it or knew about it.

CK: I was actually in Mexico City this year earlier and we cooked pot beans with a guy called Eduardo Garcia, who has a restaurant in Mexico City. And he did soak his beans though for 24 hours first. (Okay) then he cooked them in plenty of water for two and a half hours and they were fairly fresh beans. They were a few months old. I don't know why it took that long to cook them, but it did. Use the epazote as well. So, I think epazote is just the go to addition to beans. And I've heard that that's true that helps with digestion. I think the soaking is always a good idea because the beans end up creamier and more evenly cooked, especially with the beans, you get the supermarket around here in the States. In Mexico, you're probably getting fresher beans and a totally different variety. So, soaking for at least overnight is critical for that. (Okay) and I will also put a little salt in the water too, because adding that salt just helps to flavor them as well.

Caller: The salt will not make them tough because that's

SM: no that's a wife’s tale.

Caller: That's a misnomer. Okay.

CK: But the epazote is something that it’s common.

Caller: Okay. Well, I did find that it seems to work, but maybe I should also go back to the soaking just to make sure.

SM: Well, I don't think that soaking affects the flatulence. I think the soaking makes them cook more evenly. I agree with Chris. But maybe the epazote helps the flatulence so why not?

CK: I think we should undertake a national flatulence survey, uusing epazote in the control and then not using epazote and the other group group A and B. We'll see. We’ll have to survey people afterwards and see. But I think you're right. I think epazote is a good thing if you can get it. Thank you, Judy.

SM: Thank you.

Caller: Thank you so much. Take care.

SM: Bye bye.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Rob Sapp.

CK: How are you? And where are you calling from?

Caller: I'm calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan?

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: I was recently going through the spice kitchen online class with Milk Street. and on the lesson for blooming spices. He mentioned put cold oil in a pan. I had always been taught or thought the hardest rule was always cold oil in a hot pan. How do you know or What's the reason? When do you determine when you would put cold oil in a hot pan and cold oil in a cold pan?

CK: It's a great question. First of all, you would never put cold oil in a hot pan, you always put cold oil in a cold pan, then you have two choices, you could heat up the oil until it gets really hot, just before it starts to smoke. And then add the food. And that would be if your sautéing meats for example or other things. The other choice is to put cold oil in a cold pan and then put the food in right away onions, for example, or garlic. I'd like to start cold and cook them gently. So, if you want to get a good brown and quickly, you don't want the food like a steak to just sit in a cold pan, you'd heat up the pan and the oil is a great way to determine when the pan is right for sautéing. Because it'll start to shimmer, you'll see a few wisps of smoke. So, it's a good way of determining the temperature of the pan. That's why we do it that way.

SM: I actually agree with Chris, you know the problem with garlic. If you started in a hot pan, it browns too quickly. So and then it gets bitter. Whereas if you start it in a cold pan, it's almost like you're sucking the flavor out of it more flavor out of it. Chris, but did you want to address the spice issue?

CK: Yeah, I mean, you know, for example, if you have whole spices, or even chili flakes, you would put that into not super-hot oil, but warm oil for a couple of minutes. And then you would infuse the oil with a spice. Or if you're starting a curry or something else, you put whole spices in oil. And I know we start with cold oil, and then warm it up again, it's to extract the flavor. Occasionally, you could fry whole spices fry them in super-hot oil. I guess you could do that too. It just depends on the recipe.

Caller: But again, the garlic is so temperamental, and it can burn and ruins so quickly. Why do we want to throw the garlic in so early instead of maybe later in the dish?

CK: We don't know the garlic usually goes in after the onions or what else is cooked. I think two quick things before we go. One is crushed garlic cloves, in my experience is a much better way to go because they're not going to burn. You don't have to mince the garlic to start with. So, in almost all cases, that's what I use. Secondly, you should think about something I discovered in Mexico year ago, making a sofrito and adding a towards the end of the dish. We were cooking beans and the chef put in the sofrito at the end and I said why did you do they say well, if you cook the sofrito on a super stew for two hours, you're going to lose all the fresh flavor. So the next time you do something like that, think about like a braise, make a sofrito, onions, peppers, chilies, whatever you use, and then add it near the end of cooking to keep that fresh flavor. It's a really great technique.

Caller: Yeah, it just makes so much more sense. Yeah, yeah,

CK: I was like one of those moments I go like why I've been doing this the wrong way all these years. So anyway, thanks for calling and try that yeah

Caller: Absolutely. Thank you

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you have a question, please give us a ring at 855-426-98431 more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: Kimberly.

SM: Hi, Kimberly, where are you calling from?

Caller: Philly.

SM: How can we help you?

Caller: Whenever I make mac and cheese, which is a basic recipe for whatever reason, mine always comes out gritty, or like the cheese breaks and I've tried everything, like, take it off the heat. Different kinds of cheeses. Can't seem to do it.

SM: Let's start with the recipe. You start with a basic bechamel cream sauce.

Caller: Yes

SM: You make a roux, flour, butter, and then you add heated milk to it.

Caller: Right

SM: And then you simmer it for a bit right till it reaches its full thickening capacity.

Caller: Right, so it's basically like the thickness of what like condensed soup.

SM: Right Okay. So, then you take it off the heat and you add your grated cheese. What kind of grated cheese do you add?

Caller: So, I like to mix, you know your cheddar, Monterey jack because it melts really well. From what I'm told.

SM: Yes, no, no, this is true.

Caller: Sometimes for holidays I like gruyere,

SM: You grate it yourself. You don’t buy the pre-grated

Caller: no

SM: Okay, and you coarsely grate it and you add it in and you stir it off till it melts, and then what happens?

Caller: I put in the macaroni, and then when I go to taste it, it tastes gritty.

CK: Are these cheeses like the cheddar? Is this an aged cheddar?

Caller: Basically, Cabot like the block.

CK: Some Cabot is, you know, relatively young. And they also have longer age. Is this like the cloth block, which is fairly aged?

Caller: Yeah, no, this is your run of the mill in the plastic shrink wrap.

CK: Okay, are they dry? Like if you cut a piece off, or is it very soft?

Caller: They're soft yeah, yeah.

SM: Well, wait a second. We're missing half of the equation here. Talk about the pasta.

Caller: I usually use a brand called Luigi or the elbow macaroni.

SM: Um hm and how do you cook it?

Caller: I usually cook it for about seven minutes.

SM: In plenty of boiling salted water?

Caller: I usually don't measure it. Maybe I'm not using enough water.

SM: Well, pasta starchy.

CK: The more starch in the water, the better. What's happening usually, if cheese starts to clump is the protein is separated with fat. And then if the protein gets together and starts clumping together, you get that grittiness. So, starch is good. The less water used to cook the pasta the better. Oh, okay. Did you ever do this with just Monterey jack and not the other two?

Caller: No.

CK: I just wonder if one of the other cheeses, maybe the Gruuyere but I would think probably the cheddar of its but you said it's creamy and soft. I would just try all Monterrey Jack as a test. Then I would add one of the other cheeses in, then try it with just the other cheese and see if one of the cheeses is a problem. Yeah, I think you're going to have to do a control here.

SM: I think Chris's suggestion is a good one. And my guess would be the culprit is although my favorite cheese really is the cheddar.

CK: Yeah, there's nothing wrong with your cooking method. It sounds fine.

SM: Yeah, it does

Caller: That's a good idea. I'm going to try that. Thank you.

CK: All right, give that a shot. All right.

Caller: Thank you so much.

CK: Thanks, Kimberly.

SM: Thank you

CK: Thank you for listening to Milk Street radio. Up next we'll hear from author and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, about her new TV show, Taste the Nation that in more in just a moment.

Support for Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio comes from Opinel knives made in the French Alps in 1890 Opinel. Opinel pocketknives and kitchen tools for people who love good food, good design and good adventures. Learn more at Opinel dash

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Padma Lakshmi, who's hosted Top Chef since 2006. Her latest TV show Tastes the Nation is a 10-episode series on Hulu, where Lakshmi travels around the country to discover the breadth of American cuisine. Padma Welcome to Milk Street

PL: Thank you, Chris, happy to be here.

CK: Before we get to your new series, Taste the Nation, I thought we go back to the very beginning, just to get a better sense of, of you. You said your parents divorced when you were two and your mother came to the United States. Was being divorced then in India and your part of India, very difficult for a woman in terms of career, it was difficult for a woman period, not just her career?

PL: It was just, you know, you had this invisible scarlet letter on your chest, especially We are from South India, and South India tends to be a little bit more conservative than say, you know, cities like Delhi. So, it would have been very hard for my mother being a single parent, but also just being able to work and not being harassed. And, you know, it was very, very taboo. It just wasn't done.

CK: So, you end up in California, and you said in high school, you you sort of changed your name. And you say, because you've been bullied for your name, your Indian name and heritage.

PL: Yeah, I mean, I just wanted to fit in I think, you know, I don't think it was specifically my name, I think it was everything. And my name kind of symbolized that. You know, I think people didn't know what to make of me or kids and, and you do have an enormous amount of diversity in California. But they don't often completely intermingle. At least they didn't at my high school.

CK: So, then you end up in Spain, which was very different. You get discovered you become a model. You said, all I understood was that in Spain, I was a woman beautiful and confident. But back home, I was a young girl, again, uneasy with herself. So, you found something in Spain, you you did not find in the United States.

PL: Yeah, it's really interesting, because, you know, when I was in Madrid, everybody was Spanish and fair skinned, mostly. And so I in a way stuck out. But I felt like my difference was something valuable and something cool. And I think that for the first time in my life, I really felt confident, because my looks were complimented. And you know, I just didn't feel like that gawky girl with the scar on her arm and the long skinny neck. All of a sudden, that long, skinny neck was like, wow, look at how, how beautiful and long her neck is. You know, I didn't change but the perception that the community I was in changed, and I'm very glad that I went to Europe, because it did wonders for my confidence. It allowed me to make a living that I don't think I would have made had I stayed in the States.

CK: Are there things about those early years in India, you miss or about the culture or family life that just These are not things that exist here?

PL: I, you know, I, I do miss my childhood in India, because it was the last time that I felt like I really lived in the moment. And that, you know, a bowl of rice and curry was just the utmost thing. And I do miss the immediacy of life in India, you know, my, my grandmother did not get a fridge until she was 30. And she kind of didn't know what to do with it, except store ice water in it, that every meal was cooked fresh. There was no such thing as the leftovers. You know, we had eight to 10 mouths to feed, and we had a two-burner stove. And so, a lot went on in that kitchen. And I kind of missed this ever-evolving rolling meal. Just saying okay, well, we've got this, we'll make that, and we'll do this. You're always thinking about food in real time.

CK: So, in your new show, Taste the Nation, you're in search of the meaning of American food, right?

PL: Yeah, I think American food like its population is an ever-evolving thing. And for the last, you know, three some years, we've seen a lot of vilification of immigrants, and to me that is deeply unfortunate for a plethora of reasons. But first and foremost, because it is really to me what makes America so interesting and so powerful as a culture. You know, the things that we think of as all American like hotdogs, hamburgers, apple pie, are not at all American. And were brought here you know, in the case of hotdogs and hamburgers by German immigrants and beer. I mean, what's more American than beer? You know, but so are tacos and so, you know, so is Pad Thai. I just wanted to say like, who gets to decide who gets to be American, and who gets to decide what American food is, because a lot of times you also see this new American cuisine moniker and new American cuisine, to me is just a pseudonym, for established chefs making the French dominated cuisine they always have but being able to add turmeric and siracha and Judo chipotle in into sneak that into their meatloaf or whatever. And suddenly, it's new American cuisine. But human beings have done that all of our history. And I don't think it's a bad thing. I just think we should be clear eyed about it.

CK: One of the shows you visited Chinatown in San Francisco.

PL: Yeah, I live very close to Chinatown in New York, but I'd never been to Chinatown in San Francisco. So that was a new experience for me. And there are different layers of Chinatown. So, there's still a lot of these lovely, older people but then there's the new guard. And they're, you know, they're Chinese Americans who have grown up here, eating peanut butter, going to baseball games, having all of the experiences that are quintessentially American, but you know, those people are actually coming back to Chinatown, because they grew up going there on Saturday, with their families. You know, I remember being dragged to Jackson Heights. I mean, we lived in Jackson Heights, but then we moved to Manhattan. But I remember being dragged back on the weekends to buy all our groceries and stuff. And, and you know, just have an experience with people speaking the same language. But I mean, in India, that's not entirely true, because we have 100 languages. But there is a commonality. You know, in India, people will always say I'm Bengali, I'm Punjabi within the community, but outside the community, they'll say, I'm Indian. And so you know, your circle gets wider as your need demands. So, you know, if you you are craving Indian culture, then you reach for any Indian, you can find.

CK: I didn't see this one segment, but I guess he wrote it with the Wienermobile in Milwaukee. Makes me think you had this great quote, maybe about modeling. I'm not sure you said you're doing something so vapid, you're not using your brain. And then you say yeah, but you're so lucky to be doing what most people would kill to do. So just be thankful. So, I guess in everyone's career, you know, there times I've done it to where you just go, really? What am I doing? And then, and then other times you go, you know, you're so lucky to be? Yeah, I've been so lucky to spend my life in food. You've been so lucky to do what you've done. But you always have those two things going on at the same time. Right?

PL: Absolutely. Because by the way, you you know, I would like to say, you know, I'm a serious food person, and I'm a writer, but I'm also somebody who has to keep people from turning the channel. And I'm very conscious of that fact. What was absurd about that segment is that I'm in this Wienermobile rattling around like a pebble in a tin can. But inside that Wienermobile I am having the deepest, most fascinating conversation with a historian who gives you a roadmap to German history in Milwaukee. And I was like, you know, the just the juxtaposition of these two things. Am I going to be able to use this material but I was so consumed with talking to her that I didn't care and then there's a point where we actually sing the Oscar Meyer song, which I remember because of the 70s and 80s commercials
Speaking of interesting people, Michael Twitty was on one of your shows, author of The Cooking Gene. What do you make of Michael Twitty?

PL: I was introduced to Michael through his writing, I literally saw his book on the desk of an associate in my office. And I just picked it up out of curiosity and read a couple pages and I was hooked. I mean, there are a lot of people who also deal with this right? There's Toni Tipton-Martin with The Jemima Code. He's not the only one. But it was the first time that somebody really took African American food and culture and but mostly food and gave it a history that reached farther than just our shores of the Atlantic. And that I think was a gift. You know, it's it's not the same at all. But for instance, I grew up without a father. I never knew my biological father because my parents divorced so young, and it always left a void in me. There's always this insecurity of Who am I and grounding yourself in who you are, not only with your parents, not only with your great grandparents, but in your culture and your history and your lineage and your geography, you know that we're how that geography plays into who you are and what you eat, and how you talk is is really something that everybody should have. And I think, Michael, did that for you know, for whoever is interested to read it.

CK: You speak five languages, you done a bunch of TV shows, written cookbooks, written a memoir and a model. This notion of being able to have it all you have a daughter, and you once wrote, in 10 years, I'm not going to look back and say, Oh, look at all these beautiful projects I've done. I'm going to say, was I there for my daughter, Krishna? Can you have it all? Or have you decided that that's just a silly notion?

PL: You can have it all, you just can't have it all at once. I mean, I often don't have time for an adult personal life, you know, I have to be mindful and say, okay, when was the last time I just went to have a glass of wine with my friends or went to dinner, not for an event, or for work, or for a parent teacher thing, but actually for something that was purely for pleasure. But what I can say is that I am with Krishna more than most full-time working women. And so, I'm very lucky in that respect that I have the resources to make that possible. I think, you know, I became a mother quite late. You know, I had Krishna when I was 39. And if if I think if I had had a child earlier in my career, it wouldn't have been as easy. And so, I think it's also you have to make time for what's important. And you have to understand that you won't be able to have everything because of that. And I've just sort of made peace with that.

CK: Padma, it's been a pleasure. All the best, and congratulations on Taste the Nation as well.

PL: It was wonderful to talk to you again, Chris.

CK: That was Padma Lakshmi. Her new TV series on Hulu was called Taste the Nation. American cookery is being celebrated high and low from north to south from low country to high country. But that wasn't always the case. Isadora Duncan once said, America knows nothing of food, love or art. And Fran Leibovitz also added, if you're going to America, bring your own food. With all due respect to Miss Leibovitz, if you come to America now, please bring your appetite instead. And by the way, we're not so bad at love and art either. It's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe garlic rosemary burgers with Taleggio sauce.
Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm good, Chris.

CK: You know, once in a while you come across a recipe in a cookbook that's so simple. You just have to rush home to make it. And that's true of a recipe from a guy called Ignacio Mattos cookbook is called Estella. And he has a recipe for a sauce cheese sauce that he puts on a steak. It's heavy cream and taleggio. That's it, heavy cream and taleggio. No bechamel, no flour, butter, etc. it was so simple. And it was delicious. So, we decided maybe we would take that concept and apply it to something else.

LC: That's right. It seems like the perfect combination with a burger. So that's how we're going to do it here. It's sort of like grown up Cheez Whiz.

CK: That's a good way of saying it not not very romantic, but it's true.

LC: So Taleggio is an Italian cheese. It's great for this because it has a ton of flavor, but it's a soft cheese, so it really does melt very well. So, like you said, super simple. We heat up some cream, we had cubes of Taleggio take it off the heat, cover it and just let it sit there and the cheese melts from the residual heat of the pot.

CK: So that's it, it's a burger with a great cheese sauce.

LC: Actually, no Ignacio basted his steak with fish sauce when he makes it and so we kind of like the idea of that for our burger. So, what we did instead was used Worcestershire sauce, which has some similar flavor profiles to fish sauce in that it has a lot of salt has that umami that you love. And we made a little bit of a basting sauce with that with garlic and rosemary. Some of that goes in with the burger. The rest gets kind of brushed on as we cook it. It's done in a cast iron skillet.

CK: Okay, so from here on in is just business as usual cheap supermarket bun.

LC: No, actually you want to use a sturdier bun here. Usually, we like a potato roll with a burger, but in this case, we want a Kaiser roll or brioche roll something a little bit hearty and the assembly is really important here. You want to put the sauce on the bun rather than put it on the burger. If you put it on the burger just slides right off. So, both sides of the bun gets the sauce, you put the burger in the middle and it's Cheez Whiz for grownups.

CK: I have to say this is the best burger I ever ae. It's delicious. So, thanks to Ignacio Mattos. We have the garlic rosemary burgers with taleggio sauce. Thank you, Lynn.

LC: You're welcome, Chris. You can get this recipe for garlic Rosemary burgers with taleggio sauce at 177 Milk street com.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up. Bianca Bosker teaches us about the history of wine reviews. We'll be right back.

Support for Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio comes from Instant Pot, the pressure cooker that steamed salty, slow cooks, bakes cakes and so much more. Definitely not your grandmother's pressure cooker. Go to Instant for details.

CK: I'm Christopher Kimball. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now. Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your culinary questions.

SM: Welcome to milk street Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Eva from Falls Church, Virginia.

SM: Hi, Eva, how can we help you today?

Caller: I basically have a question about cooking poultry. I really like to cook skin on poultry, which my mom doesn't. A lot of recipes. You know what I'm going to like crispy skin. They say use the baking sheet. And so whenever I want to do that my mom gets worried that's going to splatter all over the oven. She wants me to use like a deeper pan or something with a lid. But then I don't do that because you know, I'm worried that it won't get crispy. And then I make a huge mess in the oven and stuff splatters everywhere. This happened spatchcocking the turkey, this happened with making wings at the Super Bowl. So, I just want to know, am I doing something wrong by using just a baking sheet like high heat with oiled meat? Or could it be that the recipe isn't taking cleanup into account?

SM: Well, it's sort of a combination of all of the above. I mean, your instinct is right. You don't want high sides because you want crispy chicken. And I'm there with you. And also, the skin will keep it more moist. It's rimmed sheet pans, right?

Caller: Yeah, yeah, like rimed cookie sheets

SM: Maybe it's something to keep in mind to keep the chicken pieces more towards the center of the sheet pan not touching because you need the air to circulate. And you could even put another pan underneath to catch the fat, so it doesn't go into the oven. I don't know. Chris, you’ve got any thoughts here?

CK: Oh, yeah, I totally disagree. It's my turn to disagree with you. I can't wait. First of all, it's a half baking sheet. But the edge should be about an inch high, not like a quarter inch high and then I'll make a big difference. Secondly, every Sunday, I put a rack on one of those have baking sheets. I spatchcock chicken to take the backbone out and flatten it. I put this spice rub I'd make on it and salt and cook it 375 for 50 minutes or whatever the time is. And it comes out great, evenly cooked and there's no splattering. So spatchcocking using a rim pan with an inch rim should solve that problem a turkey forget it. The other thing you might think about is what's in the pan. I was just talking to Vivian Howard actually from North Carolina, she does something interesting. She puts rice and water on the half baking sheet and then puts the chicken on a rack over it. So as the rice cooks, it absorbs the liquid fat from the chicken which makes fabulous rice. That would solve the problem of flare ups smoke and also give you some fabulous roasted vegetables or rice or whatever you want. So, you know to solution spatchcock. Make sure you have a rim that's an inch high and then put something underneath the rack.

Caller: Okay, yeah, because I think my cookie sheets only about half an inch.

CK: Yeah, that's the problem. Now if you put stuff underneath it, cooling racks not going to be high enough you probably would have to use more of a roasting rack or a cooling rack that sits up high above the baking sheet.

Caller: So, it's not just that spilling over. Sometimes it's just like splattering from the sheet. So, in that case, you know, the vegetables underneath might not work as well, but just a higher rim

CK: will use a higher rim and put a little water on the bottom. I mean, not too much, because you don't want a really humid environment. But yeah, I think that's the easiest solution, spatchcock rack, sheet and a little bit of water.

Caller: Alright, thank you so much.

CK: Yeah. Thanks for calling.

SM: Thanks for calling.

Caller: All right, have a good day.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you find yourself stumped in the kitchen, please give us a ring 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Maria Davis.

SM: Where are you calling from?

Caller: I am calling from Gilbert, Arizona.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: My mom and I got a Cuisinart bread maker in March. And we've been testing it out using the recipes that came with the machine. So far, the bread we made has been good. Some of the recipes seem to require more liquid than it calls for. But I've noticed that the bread dries out very fast despite our efforts to cover it and foil, plastic and storage and Tupperware. I've been reading that adding potato flour to a bread recipe will keep it softer longer. But how much do I add per cup of flour?

SM: When you say it's not soft? like regular store-bought bread? What do you want it to be like?

Caller: It's just a bit coarser and of course, it dries out much faster.

SM: And it's a regular white flour dough that you're making?

Caller: It depends.

SM: And you're using it for sandwiches

Caller: Sandwiches, French toast depends on our purposes,

CK: Can I ask a question, why are you using a bread machine?

Caller: My mom is getting on. She can't knead for long periods of time. So, the bread machine kneads for us.

CK: I do have a couple suggestions. I found that if you use the bread machine to knead the dough, but then took it out of the machine and shaped it and let it rise and then baked it off in an oven, I got a much better result the crust was much better. So that would be one thing you could try. Second is I think it's about a tablespoon of starch to a cup of flour. So, if you want to try that potato starch trick, you could do that. The other is I think it's about how the dough when it's cooked gelatinizes so it holds in moisture. So, I wonder if in an oven, it might do a better job of that than it would because the nature of the bread machine in terms of how it bakes is quite different. So that's why I would try the use it as a kneader kneading machine. But then bake it off in an oven, you might get better results. I know you get a better crust, but you might get a you know a softer bread that doesn't get hard as quickly.

SM: You could also but here's the thing, this is not using the bread machine, you could make the no knead bread, which is so simple. You know, you combine all the ingredients and then you let it ferment overnight and then you know basically you throw it in but it that has a serious crust. I like a crust and it sounds like you prefer more of the sandwich bread.

Caller: It depends, I love big crusty bread when it comes to soup. But when it comes to sandwiches, it's really hard to cut and to to chew so soft crust for sandwiches and big crust for soup.

CK: There's nothing worse than two huge slices of crusty European rustic bread where the filling gets lost. So I like the Dagwood you know the soft, soft white bread with tons of filling. That's my kind of sandwich. But you're right when it comes to soup or stew you really want the European style so

SM: yeah,

CK: well anyway, give that a shot. Knead in the machine, bake off in the oven and see what happens.

SM: Yeah. That sounds like a plan

CK: Our pleasure. Thank you.

SM: Okay, thanks for calling. Bye. Bye.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, this is Jeremy Moore from Florida. And here's my tip. I never have to use the entire can of tomato paste. So, whenever I'm using a cannon open it up to take what's left by tablespoons. freeze it on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then I pop it into a zip box and keep those in the freezer for when I need them in the future.

CK: If you'd like to share your own culinary hack or secret ingredient, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash Radio tips. Next up its journalist Bianca Bosker. Bianca how are you?

Bianca Bosker; I'm doing well. How are you?

CK: What's on your mind this week?

BB: Wine reviews. I want to talk about the evolution of wine reviews. Are you a wine review? reader? Are you familiar with the canon at all?

CK: I'm a little familiar. And I've looked at them and decided that all reviews are within about five percentage points. So, I basically stopped looking at them. But you know, a lot more than I do since you have been in that business.

BB: Well, what I found really surprising was that although we've been drinking and making wine for something like 9000 years, we've really only started talking about wine pretty recently. You know, of course, we've written about wine and how to make it all of that. But this whole idea of talking about the singed juniper and warm gnash, and sweet tobacco aromas, that's actually pretty new. So, if you go back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who were some of the early oenophiles, writing about wine, what I do love actually, is that these early reviews were, in fact, in some ways, more utilitarian than our current wine reviews because they weren't just about flavor, but about how the wines made you feel. Some of these early reviews would talk about, for example, a wine that makes you a little less drunk. Another one that gives you a really bad hangover. Pliny the Elder talked about the wines from Pompei as being productive of headache, which often lasts so long as the sixth hour of the next day. And also, another wine that was the favorite of Emperor's that. Apparently, he says that these Emperor's love it because they have learned, and I quote, from actual experience, that there is no danger of indigestion and flatulence resulting from the use of this liquor. But it wasn't until really, in the 18th and 19th centuries that people started to wax poetic about wines. And what happened was wine drinking went from being sort of, you know, wine was the thing that you drank because water had bacteria and might kill you to being something much more refined. And of course, once it became more refined, people wanted to talk about how much they did it. People talked about wines as though they were gossiping about their friends, wines could be very manly, they could be noble. They could be elegant, naive, harmonious, presumptuous, mellow, they could have great distinction and breed. But there were two big changes to wine reviewing that took place in the 70s. Are you ready?

CK: and this probably came from American writers, I would assume?

BB: You are right, it came on both counts from Americans. Yes. So, one of them had to do with the rise of Robert Parker, Robert Parker, who has been incredibly influential or pioneering this 100 points systems that I think some people argue really lose a lot of the nuance in tasting. The second big thing that happened was this attempt by scientists at the University of California Davis to move away from the sort of frivolous language as they saw it of wines being elegant or harmonious and talk about wine using these objective descriptors. Things like orange peel, right, lemon, apple, this was pioneered by a woman named Anne Noble, who came up with the wine aroma wheel. And she when she gave people, these wine descriptors, really reference things that were no more exotic than what you might find at the supermarket. And these were things that any person could smell and reference and get to know. I mean, Fruit Loops was on her list.

CK: Well, can I just stop you for a second? I mean, wine is infinitely complex and changing, right? So, every year, the vintage is different than the prior year. And then effort to make sense of it all is really impossible for the average consumer. So here we have this incredibly complex way of discussing a product that is so complicated, there's so many choices. My question is, what good does it really do?

BB: I think that's a great question. I mean, I would argue that it's not impossible to kind of wrap your mind around wine. Anyone can do it. But I do think that oftentimes, the language around wine, the wine industry does make it feel like you have to trust these experts to tell you what to think. And, you know, when you think about how reviewers score their wines, they might sit down and taste 20 to 100 wines in a sitting. It's very different from the way you and I drink our wines.

CK: Well, if I may make a suggestion, you know, wine is like cooking, right? I mean, you want to be a good cook. Maybe you start with a dozen recipes, you get to know them well, right? And then you slowly expand your repertoire. You don't start with 1000 recipes or 5000. Same with wine. I mean, right you take a dozen bottles of wine, you get to know them well, and maybe you slowly branch out from there. But I think the problem is, it's an infinite number of choices. I mean, most French people I know, they just drink what they like. They don't view it as an art. They view it as a necessity. Really, that's the difference.

BB: Right? Well, I, I think that certainly wine reviews can have their place. But I do also think that if we acknowledge that they're subjective, there's something really empowering about that. Part of the limitations of wine reviews is they do tend to focus on sort of the big hits. And what's so exciting about this moment that we're in is that there's this explosion of wines coming from outside the classic regions from Slovenia from Croatia, from Georgia from Texas is even making wine I mean, I'm not necessarily standing behind the quality of all of it, but it's harder to find wine reviewers that are combing the sort of b sides if you will.

CK: Bianca Bosker you can go with lemon peel, and jamy and leather. I'll take this wine won’t give you indigestion, That's the one I'm going to buy. Thank you. That was journalist Bianca Bosker.

That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in too late or want to binge listen every single episode, you can download Milk Street Radio on Apple podcast Spotify, wherever you find your podcasts. To learn more about Milk Street please go to 177 Milk Street com there you can find all of our recipes taken online cooking class for free, or order our latest cookbook, Milk Street Fast and slow, Instant Pot Cooking at the Speed You Need. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always, for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio was produced by Milk Street in association with GBH executive producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, co-executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Associate Producer Jackie Novak, production assistant Sarah Clapp and production help from Debby Paddock. Senior audio engineer David Goodman, additional editing from Vicki Merrick, Sidney Lewis and Samantha brown and audio mixing from Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Theme Music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Bernard Egloff Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX