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We chat with Phil Rosenthal, creator of “Somebody Feed Phil,” about egg creams in Japan, mold at Noma and his most memorable scene from “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Plus, Irina Georgescu gives us a lesson in Romanian baking, from delicious snack pies to her favorite ingredient—fermented dairy. We also make Colombian Cheese Puffs, and Alex Aïnouz is on a mission to cut an onion in 20 seconds or less.
Questions in this episode:
Why isn't turkey more popular on menus in the United States?
What's a good replacement for a silicone spatula?
What's the best way to keep a kitchen clean while cooking?
Can you help me with my pumpkin and banana quick breads?
Photo credit: Richard Rosenthal.
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today, Irina Georgescu gives us a lesson in Romanian baking, from delicious snack pies to her favorite ingredient fermented dairy
Irina Georgescu: it is actually used as an ingredient in a dough, all these elements that are incredibly delicious, and also, they bring a bit of savoriness to the bakes, so possibly you don't need to use necessarily more salt, because you already have a tiny element in it.
CK: That's coming up later in the show. First up is Phil Rosenthal, creator of the long running sitcom. Everybody Loves Raymond. For the last few years, Phil has eaten all over the world on his Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil, he recently released a cookbook. Somebody Feed Phil the Book, Untold Stories Behind the Scenes Photos and Favorite Recipes. Phil, welcome to Milk Street.
Phil Rosenthal: Thank you. Nice to be on Milk Street.
CK: You’ve got a voice for radio?
PR: I do. I usually hear I've got the face for radio.
CK: So, on a more serious note, you had family members who survived the Holocaust actually.
PR: Wow, you got serious right away Chris.
CK: You know, that's that's the kind of guy I am. (Okay, go ahead) Well, you you talked about your grandfather, your mother's side who went to Auschwitz? You said he stayed alive because he invented things that were useful to the Nazis like lice powder and bug spray.
PR: That's right. He was kind of incredible. I never met him but I am named after him. He survived the worst concentration camps in the world. And even after the war started the restitution program, right, which the government of Germany has to pay Jews to this day if their businesses were stolen. So that's something good that came out of that.
CK: You say now, turning to brighter topics. Yeah. You said my mother was very funny. And then you write, but there were things that they just didn't understand about American culture. So, what were some of the things they didn't understand?
PR: Well, they came from Germany, I'm the first person in my family born in America, first generation, and my mother love the opera, and the fine arts. So, they didn't like the popular TV shows, they didn't like the popular music, they didn't like the fast food that I was in love with as a child. They didn't love any of this stuff. And it was a little hard. I remember, all the kids were getting these new Stingray bikes for their 10th birthdays. So, I asked my parents, could I have a stingray bike for my 10th birthday? And my mother said, do you know what I got for my 10th birthday? And then I had to listen to her tell me about what life was like during the Holocaust, right? Which might be a little much for a 10-year-old who only wants the bike and doesn't want to hear the story.
CK: That was a long way from a request for a bike. If we could, right yeah. So okay, let's move on to the food somebody feed Phil. So, you know, I've seen a lot of food shows and I've been on a lot of food shows. This show seems to have quite a different premise. There's no competition. (Nope) Nobody's yelling and screaming.
PR: I don't like the food competitions. Yeah, I don't. I'm not a big fan. It's not entertainment. To me, I consider food, an art form. And the people who make food artists, I don't believe that you can pit two artists against each other and see who's the better artist. It doesn't make sense to me. I get it. I know why they're popular. It's just not for me.
CK: If you ever had extraordinarily unexpected moments, good or bad that, you know, the kind of took you by surprise.
PR: So, we did a show in Tokyo. And I was having a meal with a family. And the specialty of their family restaurant was eels. I had eels two or three different ways. And I had an interpreter. And so, it's a tiny bit stilted that way. And the scene really wasn't clicking that well, just because of this culture clash and lack of common language. So, there was a little break in the action. And just as they're setting up the shot, I say to the dad, so what do you do for fun? And he says that every Wednesday night, the family has champagne night. And I said, what's that? And he said, I collect champagne. And every Wednesday I break out a bottle of champagne. And we have that and I say oh that's very nice. In my house. We You have a cream night, right? Just as a little joke. And do you know what an egg cream is?
CK: Yes, I do.
PR: So, they did not. And I turned to the crew and I said, oh my God, I wish I could make these people egg creams right now. And they said, Phil, we're not in the jungle, we're in Tokyo, there's a convenience store across the street. And all you need to make a egg cream, which doesn't have egg or cream is some milk, some chocolate syrup, and some club soda or sparkling water. And so, they bring it and I make this family egg creams. And to watch their reactions to this thing as it foams up. Right? There's this chemical reaction, when the seltzer hits the milk, you know, it makes a foam like like a head on a beer. And to see their faces. I mean, it was so delightful. And we were such a lesson in that moment. You think you have nothing to offer? I’m in Tokyo, which has, you know, 1000s of years of history and culture and food, what do they need from me? But don't you know, they didn't know what an egg cream was. And I could show them that. It was the most exciting, funny, delightful scene. I can't think of another one that tops it, actually.
CK: So, a few years later on somebody feed Phil, you go to Noma, obviously, one of the most highly rated restaurants in the world. And you know, I just want to know, what was that like?
PR: Yes, we filmed in Copenhagen. And the menu, which changes every season was mold. They were going to feature mold. They have a fermentation lab, and they have to experiments with mold. Now, on the surface, that sounds disgusting. But when you realize that, that's what blue cheese is, that's what a lot of stuff is, you know, these are artists, slash scientists slash brilliant chefs. So, I'm in I'm going to taste it.
CK: How was the moldy asparagus that was completely white. It was like
PR: there was a white cheese on the asparagus. If you didn't use the word mold, you'd say this was a cheese sauce.
CK: What did you learn about TV or about entertainment from doing Everybody Loves Raymond was were there things you learned over the course of that? That really have affected you now?
PR: Now first, how to tell a story. beginning middle end. And the other most important thing was specificity. The more specific you are, it turns out, the more universal your story becomes. And that was
CK: Can you give me an example of that.
PR Yes. In the pilot episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, I needed to demonstrate how crazy raised parents were going to be. And so, I borrowed from a chapter of my own life where I gave my parents as a gift for holiday. Fruit of the month fruit.
CK: I like this story, yeah
PR: So, I gave that to them. And they reacted as if I had sent them a box of plutonium.
TV clip: I wanted to talk to you about Deborah's birthday. Oh, my God, talking about birthdays. Your birthday gift to me finally came this morning. Did you know you sent me a box of pears, a place called Fruit of the Month, right? That's right. How are they? Oh, they're very nice pears. But there's so many of them. There are over a dozen pears. What am I supposed to do with all those pears? Well, I think you’re supposed to eat them mom. Myself? You, you and dad and Robert. How many pears can Robert eat. Look I appreciate the thought Raymond I mean, but please don't ever send us any more food again. Okay. Thanks Well, another box is coming next month. What! More pears? No, no it's a different fruit every month, every month. Yes, yes. That's why they call it fruit of the Month Club. It's a club?
Oh my god, what am I going to do with all this fruit? Well, most people like it ma, you share it share with all your friends. Which friends? I don’t know, Lee and Stan. Lee and Stan buy their own fruit. Give it away, oh ma, why are you doing this to me? I can’t talk there’s too much fruit in the house”
CK: I love that. I love that sentence. I can't talk anymore there's too much fruit.
PR: I did. I thought I was demonstrating how crazy Ray’s parents were going to be. But what I didn't realize was that your parents are crazy, too. And it may not be about fruit of the month. But your family has the equivalent of that. Yes. And so, I've tried to take all those elements that I learned about from making a sitcom and now they're in somebody feed Phil they're now in the service of everything else. I love in life besides show business, which is family, friends, food, travel, and laughs
CK: Phil, it's it's been. It's really been fun. It's been a great pleasure. Thank you for being on the show for me as well.
PR: Thank you Chris.
CK: That was Phil Rosenthal. His new book is called Somebody Feed Phil the Book. Now it's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. also, author of Home Cooking 101. Hi Sara.
Sara Moulton: Hello, Chris,
CK: Do you want to take the first call?
SM: Yes. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Steve Moreno.
SM: Hi, Steve, where are you calling from?
Caller: Cleveland, Ohio.
SM: And how can we help you today?
Caller: I heard this segment on the radio and I thought there's somebody who might be able to answer my question. I'm thinking at least here in the United States turkey is readily available, competitively priced with other proteins. Do you have any ideas on why it hasn't become an ingredient on the menus of ethnic restaurants here? I mean, I can't recall ever seeing turkey tetrazzini teriyaki turkey, turkey shwarma. So on.
SM: Well, it's interesting. You should bring that up. First of all, Turkey Tetrazzini is a big hit using leftovers after Thanksgiving. So yeah, turkey tetrazzini has made it but you're right about the rest of them. Turkey is consumed actually around the world. It's actually very popular in in Israel. As a matter of fact, they eat twice as much turkey as we do. (Okay) first of all, they have turkey pastrami. But it's the main meat that's used in their version of shwarma. It certainly is in Italy. But you're right. Why isn't it used? More in that version? Say for example, here? I don't know.
Caller: I would think turkey mole would be very nice.
SM: I think Turkey mole actually exists
CK: Yeah. Well, Mexico uses a lot of turkey. I mean, Turkey is very common in Mexico.
SM: I think what you're saying though, Steve just corrected. So, we know what you're looking for? Is it consumed elsewhere in the world? Or why isn't it consumed in ethnic cuisine in the United States?
Caller: The second one, why don't ethnic restaurants in the United States seem to have it on their menus?
CK: Well, it may be something as dumb and simple as the turkey industry is geared towards that one special day. And the demand is just not there. I mean, I think most Americans rarely eat turkey, except in a sandwich. Yeah, well, that's true. Or ground turkey occasionally. But I just don't think the supply is there. I know that when we've been testing recipes for turkey, because everybody in our business has to test turkey recipes for Thanksgiving in May, six months before they've had, it's hard to find anything but a frozen bird. And so maybe it's just supply or maybe Americans don't think about eating turkey, except one day a year. Maybe it's just not something that's sells on the menu. Well,
SM: Well than it's the turkey board and you know, if they have enough supply, then you need to do something about marketing it and making it more sexy and make it seem like you know the yet protein you know,
CK: They should hire a marketing guru to figure out how to get us out of turkey sandwiches and turkey at thanksgiving. You're right. That's true.
SM: They need a new marketing director
CK: It's a very good question, though. I think this question is particularly apt because in many cultures, Turkey is already present. Right. So why when it comes here is it turned into something else?
SM: A special occasion thing
CK Excellent question.
Caller: Why thank you.
CK: Well, I think the answer is a commercial problem. Yeah. Anyway, thanks for calling. Yes.
SM: Yes, thanks, Steve.
Caller: All right, my pleasure.
CK: Take care.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help with dinner, give us a call anytime that number 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Jody. I'm calling from Columbus, Ohio. I have a question today about silicone spatulas
Caller: I'm an avid gardener I love to cook I grow a lot of my own produce and like to preserve and pickle it. I also like to make my own Mayonnaise salad dressings, yogurt. And so, I have a menagerie of mason jars in my refrigerator. And when it gets to the end of the jar, I love to use a silicone spatula to scrape out every little morsel that I can. Unfortunately, we adopted a kitten and she has this syndrome that makes her anxious and she likes to chew on silicone and has eaten many spatulas and ended up at the vet many times. And so, we now are living with no silicone spatulas.
CK: You get absolutely first prize for the most interesting kitchen problem. The cat who eats silicone spatulas. This is called real life and the kitchen, right the stuff we all deal with. Well, I I think they used to make specials out of rubber at one time instead of silicone. So, I think you can still maybe find those. What I use flexible
Caller: Not as flexible though, so they no,
CK: No, they're not. There are lots of small companies who make these gorgeous wooden spatulas and spoons and things. And they would actually get into the bottom of a jar and do a really great job of getting stuff out. Some of them are very thin, and they look like long rectangular scoopers.
Caller: My husband actually went to World Market and bought me a collection of wooden spatulas. Yeah, and I actually have them in the car to return them. But maybe I should get them out and try them because I just looked at them. And same as the rubber was just like, they're just not going to do it. But I can try.
CK: You can get long spoons with very small bowls at the end with long handles. I have one other question. There's no way you can put the silicone specials somewhere. The cat can't get them. I know. That's a stupid question.
Caller: So, the problem is, I don't always wash the things right after I use them and put them in the drawer so reality happens. And she's like a drug addict. If it's out. She is on it.
CK: I’d just like to comment that I know how irritating that is. When you have a problem and someone says, well just do this. And you go like, Yeah, but that's not how life works.
Caller: Exactly. Yes, thank you.
SM: I'm wondering if a small offset metal spatula might be a good tool because they're flexible. And they have a little bend in them. Jody, do you know what those look like?
Caller: Yes. And I've been meaning to get one anyway.
SM: They're really great. I love them, even if you don't use it for this purpose. And then finally, we have this thing in my family that we love. We call it a baby giant knife. I have no idea where that came from, but it's essentially a butter spreader. So, it's a flat knife. It's metal that's wider at the end than where it attaches to the handle. And it does an amazing job and it really gets in the jar nicely too
Caller: Well, I'm so excited because now I have a list of things to try because I just went to you know, there's no solution to this and have been living in pain. So, I'm going to try all these and try to record all of my responses and at least share them with my family. We'd like to hear
SM: We'd like to hear back actually share them with us too.
CK: That was the most interesting call so far this year. I have to say.
SM: I agree.
Caller: it was so fun to talk to you guys.
SM: Do report back we’d love to know if anything works. So let us know.
Caller: Okay, thanks so much
CK: Up next lesson in Romanian baking with Irina Georgescu that's right after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball right now I'm joined by Romanian food writer and cooking instructor, Irina Georgescu. Her latest book is called Tava, Eastern European Baking from Romania and Beyond. Irina, welcome to Milk Street.
CK: Thanks so much for having me. I was in Romania in 1971. I actually spent some time in Bucharest was followed around by the secret police everywhere I went. But can we do a little history because I didn't realize how complicated it is. And the fact there all sorts of different cultures. So just give us a short, you know, 60 second description of Romania because it has very different sections and very different cultural backgrounds.
IG: Yes, of course. It has, as you said, very diverse background. And if you look at the map, you can imagine the Carpathian Mountains, they just divided the country perhaps into two main sections, and Transylvania on one part of the mountains was for centuries under the Habsburg Empire. I, later on the Austro-Hungarian empire, and if you cross the mountains in the other direction, you had the Ottoman Empire. So, I think in a nutshell, this tells you a lot about what happened in Romania from this historic point of view.
CK: So, after World War Two Romania was under a communist regime than the 70s and 80s, it was a dictatorship. So, the question is, you know, did that affect the cooking what was going on in the kitchens?
IG: I think, at the beginning, perhaps not, but then later on, you know, the 70s. And the 80s were really, really bad. We didn't have access to main staple ingredients, you know, everything was rationed. We had to queue to get our weekly rations, or, you know, for to have oil and butter and flour. And, you know, we possibly never thought of baking cake, you know, and like with eggs and milk and all of these ingredients at the same time, because we didn't have them and also affected, let's say, professional pastry chefs. I mean, in pastry shops, you weren't necessarily able to get very good quality cakes, for instance, because you didn't, they didn't have access to the staple ingredients. So very often, for instance, instead of putting cocoa powder in butter, you just made a very dark sugar syrup and brushed with that different cakes to kind of get the color of cocoa powder or something.
CK: But you grew up at that time. And so, you experienced that firsthand, you wrote that you had an uncle in Transylvania, who would raise a pig for your family every year. So, you always had meat for the winter. So, is that what you experienced during that time?
IG: Yes, absolutely. And coming back from school for instance, if I knew that someone was queuing to get something, I was right there in the queue. And then Mom would know that she should look for me somewhere around the shops or something to find me queuing for something, whatever that was meat or butter or something. Usually meat but you know, so, yes, we had our grand our uncle in Transylvania used to read a pig for us. And that pig actually fed us for you know us to feed us for six months almost.
CK: So, let's talk about your latest book Tava. What does it mean and what is it about?
IG: Tava means tray in Romanian baking tray where you can put in the oven and bake a cake or a serving tray where you can serve. You know when we have guests, we bring that configures out and the jams and the cakes and the Turkish coffee and we put them all on a tray. So, in a way looking at that tray, looking at the bakes on that tray. By looking at that you can tell the story and the history of the of the whole country and of the cuisine. And this is what I wanted to do in my book, to bring everything in one book on one tray basically. Everything that we bake in Romania, whether it is a little German or a little a little Armenian or a little Jewish. All these dishes, even if they are so diverse, they come together in one cuisine.
CK: A few ingredient notes a lot of fermented dairy gets used. You have very unique apples very different than what we have Gala, Fiji in our markets. And you also have walnuts, I guess are used a lot anything else in the ingredient list that's unique to Romania or may be a little different than an American cook would expect?
IG: Well, I think that the fermented dairy is an important element that you mentioned and is not only served as a filling, or as something next to a certain dish. It is actually used as an ingredient in a dough. So even like sour cream or creme fraiche or sort of yogurt, kefir, but also clotted cream which I know is not fermented, but it kind of gives you all these elements that are used in a dough or in in a cake batter to make a very soft crumb to make they're incredibly delicious. And also, they bring a bit of savoriness to the bakes. So possibly you don't need to use necessarily more salt in bakes because you already have a tangy element in it. So, I think this is quite interesting in how we bake in Romania because we use this type of fermented dairy quite a lot.
CK: Let's talk about pies because you have a very unique way of making pies. You have two layers of dough but ones on the bottom ones on the top and they're not enclosed. It's just the top layer and a bottom layer which sounds like a really interesting idea.
IG: It is it's called placinte. It's an old Latin word for for a pie flat pies. So, you can see from the origin of the word you can see the origin of the dish which very often happens in Romania. And this play cinta is made pretty much in the same way like it used to be made in ancient times it’s just one layer of dough at the bottom and then any fillings in the middle and another layer on top. And being such an old recipe, and so iconic it’s also it has had improvements or little additions over time. As you can imagine, over centuries, we've just added something or made it in a different way. So, there are 1000s of recipes for a placinte. But the main, the most iconic two placinte are the apple placinte into apple pie and bryndza placinte cheese pie, but sweet. So, the cheese is sweetened well with honey or sugar, but we're also with dried fruit we sultanas and you bake them, you bake them like that. And they are usually served as a snack. Cold so they don't come with ice cream. They don't come with vanilla sauce, they don't come with anything else. Pies, whether savory or sweet in Romania, they are served cold as a snack.
CK: So, you cook it in a baking pan or casserole and then cut it into squares and serve it that way.
IG: Yes, it needs to be rectangular or square baking tin, and you allow it to cool with a towel on top. And when it's cold, you cut it and then you put some icing sugar on top if you like. And you eat it like that.
CK: You have a recipe which I just have to ask about. It's called lifted skirts cheese curd pies. Why is that called that title.
IG: Because of the way you fold the pies. In a traditional Romanian costume for women, very often you have a sort of apron over the skirt. And that apron is very nicely decorated. And sometimes it's quite heavy, and quite stiff, you can't move in something like that. But it was traditional to wear it. So, women used to get a one of the corners and tuck the corners on under their belt just to lift the skirt basically to lift the apron. So, they can get a bit more movement so they can move more freely a little bit. So, because of that how you fold the corners, we named the pie after the whole thing. So, Paul in blue, this is the name of the pie, folded skirts, folded aprons comes from this this way of wearing the apron basically.
CK: So as a baker in the Romanian tradition, are there a couple of things you do or Romanians do in the kitchen that we don't do here that you think are interesting, better? Something that we should add to repertoire? In other words, if I sat down with your book, are there a couple of recipes in that book, are things you'd say, look, he really needs to know how to do this, because it'll completely change the way you think about cooking.
IG: I think that if you look at the very, very traditional recipes, there is a very interesting way of baking and very quick as well. So, you don't have to spend a lot of time doing things. So, I think that if you take the book, and you want to try the first Romanian recipe, I would go for the apple pie or the curd cheese pie. One of my, our iconic recipes, but throughout the book, there is also something interesting. I mean, look at the rice pudding I have in there. I serve it with the vanilla sauce. I mean, that is not the usual way to serve it. And it's inspired by the way we used to have a certain dish called rice pudding served with apricots like that. So, at some point, they look all of them look familiar. And then you look and there is an element that is not very familiar to how you would serve a certain dish like this rice pudding.
CK: I think you had a rice pudding with a wine sauce too, right?
IG: Yes, that one is the it has vanilla as well. So, the wine sauce with the Shodo which is along the lines of a Sauvignon or____ you know in Italian, but we call it wine wine sauce, because obviously has wine in it.
CK: So, it's rice pudding for grownups.
IG: Yes. But you serve it chilled. I mean, if you serve it chilled, then it's also rice pudding for summer. It doesn't have to be rice pudding only for for autumn and winter so.
CK: So, in the 90s when the fall of Soviet Russia, did things revert back to what they were like when you did have all these ingredients, or was sort of a new cuisine evolved over that time in the last 30 years.
IG: I think that everyone embraced the new freedom and also the global world the globalized world. And a lot of us went to just buy a panettone, rather than making our own ___ for Christmas, you know what I mean? And also, you know, having access to all sorts of sweets from all over the world, I think we were keen to experiment and keen to, to adapt to the modern times. So later on, perhaps, in like 10 years, you know, after that, we kind of realized that we needed to go back to our traditions and go back to our roots and rediscover the villages. And even in those villages, the people there to rediscover their own traditions. During the communist regime, they were not able for how many years more than 60 years in total, we were not able to, to practice their own artisan skills. You know, the cheese makers forgot how to make a cheese the pie makers forgot how to make a pie and so on. So now we are on a path of rediscovery of looking through perhaps old books or recipe family recipes and going back to the way we used to bake and it's also a search for identity. So yes, some things changed after the fall of the communist regime, and also are changing even now because we we need to go and to retrieve and rediscover everything that we lost in 60 years.
CK: Irina thank you so much. I love your book Tava and I can't wait to start baking. Thank you
IG: Thank you so much.
CK: That was a Irina Georgescu her new book is called Tava: Eastern European Baking from Romania and Beyond. In 1971, I took a train south from Budapest to the town of Serbia, Romania, with a college friend. We were in search of the burial place of Frank Baron von Frankenstein, who had been executed by Vlad Dracula, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler back in the 15th century. This strange and wild rumor much to my delight was actually true. We found his crypt in a local church. You know, back then I thought of Romania as Transylvania, the breeding ground for vampires and really bad B movies from the 60s. But when viewed through the lens of food, Romania tells a very different story. The Romanian kitchen reflects Jewish, Turkish, French, Italian, Saxon, even Hungarian influences, Plum pies Swabian, poppy seed questions Linzer tart strudels Merengues and gingerbread. When we travel churches and other architecture do reflect history, but the kitchen is where it comes to life in the present. Who said history has to be a thing of the past? You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's chat with Sam Fore about this week's recipe. Colombian cheese puffs. Sam, how are you doing?
Sam Fore: Doing well Chris, it's great to talk to you.
CK: Nothing like a cheese puff,
SF: I love a cheese puff
CK: Rumpole of the Bailey, one of my favorite old BBC series. His wife she who must be obeyed. According to Horace Rumpole always brought little cheese puffs, you know, to the conferences and the little parties they had. And so, when we came across these Colombian cheese puffs, it reminded me of something sort of classic, except these are so much better. They're puffy, but they also have a little chew to them. So, what are they made of and how do we do it?
SF: Well, you know that a recipe succeeds in the Milk Street kitchens when there's nothing left on the testing table. And this is one of those recipes that disappears real real quick, and part of it is its simplicity. It really is it's three cheeses and our dry ingredients. So, we've got low fat cottage cheese, we've got salty cotija cheese, and we've got some shredded Oaxacan cheese and the big thing to remember when making these is that you're going to use these low-fat cheeses because a full fat cheese would make it go flat. And what we love about the ___ is the chewiness the texture the almost like sinful pillowy bite to it.
CK: So, we got the cheese down but I assume there's obviously flour so what kind of flour is used?
SF: We used arepa flour, a masa arepa which is just precooked and fine ground. It doesn't have any, you know, alkalinization like a normal masa harena or it's not like cornmeal when it's not precooked. It allows it to cook very, very quickly, which lends itself to its lighter sort of airy lite texture
CK: and mixed with bread flour, two course
SF: and a little bit of tapioca just for the chewiness
CK: So, you have bread flour, three kinds of cheese including cottage cheese, masa arepa. And it's really, it's an unusual recipe, but it's great.
SF: It's not intimidating because it's very easy dough to make. It's not something that needs to sit or rise. It doesn't need anything to make it beautiful and delicious.
CK: Sam, thank you a Colombian cheese puff. Three different kinds of cheese but curiously light, fluffy, a little hint of chew. really outstanding. Thank you.
SF: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it. You can get the recipe for Colombian cheese puffs at Milk Street radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street radio. Coming up Alex Ainoux is on a quest to cut an onion in 20 seconds or less. That's right up after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, my co-host, Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Jennifer.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I recently listened to one of your podcasts and you spoke about Julia Child. What a great chef she is. And everybody knows a good cook keeps that tidy kitchen and workspace and that got my attention. How do you do that?
CK: First of all, if my wife listens to me answering this, she's going to kill me because she doesn't think I'm an expert on this particular topic. I assume your kitchen is already designed and there's you're working with what you have. Right?
Caller: I am and honestly, I have a new nicely designed kitchen. Okay, and my husband still is behind me every split second picking up scooping up trying to help me keep tidy.
CK: The first thing I would do, I don't know, if you have a basement in your house, I would divide your kitchen ingredients and equipment between your kitchen and some other place. A lot of the stuff I don't use very much because downstairs. And so that's really helpful. If you have the room.
Caller: I do
CK: You then get all this stuff you don't use you know like the Bundt pan you use twice a year goes downstairs, the waffle iron all that stuff. The first thing I do in cooking is to go through the ingredient list. Get everything out on the counter. Get everything prepped have prep bowls, look at the recipe, if the onions and the shallots and the something else or going into the recipe at the same time, put them all the same bowls so you don't have separate bowls for all of them. Measure out the spices, the flour, everything, get it all prepped, put all the ingredients away. And then clean your kitchen before you start cooking. Everything's measured. Everything's in the right bowls. Do that. And then as you go as they're like things are in the oven or they're in a skillet or whatever. Then finish cleaning up as you go. Don't leave it till the end. Sara is nodding
SM: No, no, I think that's all very reasonable. Jennifer, I wanted to ask you a few questions. So when your husband's hovering behind you and it's you've been accused of making a horrible mess. Tell me what kind of recipe are you making and what happens?
Caller: I'm often trying a new recipe. I love your new sheet pan recipes. So things like that that you know are one pot or one dish.
SM: Okay, so one pot meal there shouldn't be a lot of dishes. So, what is the mess on the counter? I'm trying to get you to think about what that mess is.
Caller: It's the onion and the peppers and the shallots the remains packages. He definitely throws it away if I've left it there 10 seconds and he's around
CK: Your husband sounds like my father- in-law. He stands behind me as I cook because he likes everything orderly. He has actually thrown out my prep more than once because it was a bowl of onions. Yeah gone.
SM: So, a couple of things. You want to have first of all a garbage bowl on the counter. It's a free for all so if you take off the onion skin, if you have the ribs and the seeds from the pepper it goes right in there. I agree with Chris 100% either have all your prepped items in different bowls or what you can do. Let's say you have several different vegetables that are going to go into a dish. Take a small rimmed sheet pan and just line them up, you know, put all the peppers in one place on the sheet pan, put all the onions and other place on the sheet pan, put the minced garlic another place on the sheet pan. That way you don't have three different little prep bowls for them.
CK: Two other quick suggestions, I put my cutting board to the left of my sink. So instead of using a bowl, I sweep the detritus, the stuff I don't want right into the sink. And so, my sink is my garbage bowl, which is much bigger than the garbage bowl. And then when it gets full of stuff, I'll take it and either throw it out or put it down to disposal. Two, I love Chinese cleavers because they're like dough scrapers that you can clean up a surface with a big cleaver. Instead of having to go get a dough scraper or something else. A cleaver will do that job for you.
SM: Right. And in my case, I would use a giant version of a bench scraper which is called a cake lifter. You know what it is is just a matter of being conscious about it.
CK: Prep then cook.
SM: Yeah, preparation is everything.
CK: It's boring, but it's true.
Caller: Yeah, it is true. And just what did you say about clean up and then start cooking. That's a great idea.
SM: Yeah, no, absolutely.
Caller: Thanks, you guys I really appreciate it. All right. Bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a little extra help in the kitchen, give us a call 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, I'm Karina calling from Titusville, Pennsylvania.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: So, I have a question about baking quick breads. In particular, when I make pumpkin and banana bread, every time I make a loaf of one, my bread is cooked through around the edges. But the top middle portion is completely raw. I don't want to keep baking it. So, I just take it out and then scoop out all the underbaked portion. But that's really sad. So, I need to know what I'm doing wrong when
CK: Wait a minute, so you take it out and you scoop out the center?
Caller: Well, because the because I know that the sides are cooked. And I don't want to keep baking it and overbake the sides.
CK: Well, that's one solution. I have to say. I have two questions. What temperature are you using in the oven 353 375?
Caller: for the pumpkin bread recipe it is 350 and the banana bread recipe I use is 325
CK: Okay, and what kind of pan dark color light colored?
Caller: Like a gold nonstick pan
CK: Let's put pumpkin aside for a second. Pumpkins more difficult. But with a banana bread. I don't quite understand why that's not working. How many bananas you have three four bananas in there.
CK: That's about right, I guess
SM: Wait a second, Chris. There’re bananas that are huge and there's bananas that are tiny. Three bananas is no good. You have to have cups of banana puree.
CK: The problem is this. She has two different recipes. She has a pumpkin bread recipe and and banana bread recipe. The fact that both of them end up with the same problem they both end up under Cook, then the obvious answer is your ovens too hot, I would reduce the oven Okay, by at least 25 degrees by 50 degrees, because you're over cooking the outside before the inside is done. And if you have two totally different recipes both have the same problem. It's really got to be oven heat and the light-colored pan is right. Because a darker pan would tend to overcook the outside before the inside is done. Now, Sara, I will turn this show over to you.
SM: I think you need a different recipe. Let's start with a banana bread because it's silly to say three bananas. You know how they differ (Yeah) I would find one that gives you volume. And as you know the banana breads better with a really, really ripe banana. Ask for the pumpkin tell me what kind of pumpkin puree do you use?
Caller: I actually roast and puree and freeze my own pumpkins. Oh, if it calls for 15 ounces, I still weigh out my 15 ounces, but probably not really the same
SM: It’s going to be much more watery than what you find in a can. You’re just using the big old sugar pumpkins?
Caller: Most of the time I get the blue Hubbard pumpkins.
SM: Either you could cook down the puree but that's like a Vesuvius situation where you could be wearing some of it, you know over a low burner to try to dry it out and reduce some of the water. There's some way you could figure out how to do that. Without killing yourself. That would be great. It's just not the same density
CK: There’s a rule in life. The simplest answer is usually the best. (Yes) your ovens too hot. But you know I agree try a different banana bread recipe.
Caller: I will
CK: We will call you back.
Caller: Thank you so much.
CK: It’s great to talk to you
SM: Alright Karina
CK: That sounds great.
Caller: Thank you.
Caller: Bye bye.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Next up let's check in with our Paris correspondent, Alex Ainoux. Alex, what's up in Paris this week?
Alex Ainouz: Always good in Paris apart from one thing, I was cutting onions the other day. And I was looking at my speed, and it feels like I'm stagnating. It feels like I'm not growing anymore. It feels like it feels like I might not be the cook, they advertise on YouTube. The problem is, I usually take about 30 seconds to turn an onion into chopped pieces. Now you think about all the onions I have to cook for all the recipes that I make. I'm wasting a lot of time by not being faster.
CK: I know what's going on. You're entering a midlife crisis and self-doubt is creeping in between your ears.
AA: You see through me like glass,
CK: You got to be careful. This is bad. You got to stop this stuff right now.
AA: Anyway, it's too late. I already went the journey. So, I tried to improve this onion cutting speed. (Okay) well, bad news. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get lower than 25 seconds. Now. I had this lightning, I thought about a book I read recently written by James Clear, and the book is called Atomic Habits. I don't know if you're familiar with that.
CK: No, I’ve not
AA: Yeah. So, it's an amazing book that tells people about the one-person principle like small changes makes for powerful changes in life. But in there, there is a very specific chapter about the British coach called Dave Brailsford, who, in the past, turned the British bike team from absolute loser into absolute winners, by just doing super, super small changes to their lifestyle, their training.
CK: So, in other words, he got them to chop an onion in 15 seconds. And that's how they won.
AA: Not yet. It goes like this, if you if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1%. Right, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together. I thought that's amazing. And that is exactly what I'm going to try to apply to cutting an onion faster. So, I did what he did with the bikes and the __ dynamic suits and the new tires. But for cook so I changed the knife that I use for sharper one, a longer one a Japanese blade, I was already faster. I was just doing this. I got rid of some unnecessary move. You know, when you're cutting an onion, you do a series of overlays on top and vertical cuts. But I feel like when you do the horizontal cut, I don't feel like it's helping so much
CK: You know what, it’s interesting because I gave up on the horizontal cut about two years ago, because onions are layered already. And it does it increases the speed tremendously. You’re right
AA: I think so it's like it doesn't make no difference our home cook so I got rid of this. Then I swept my flimsy cutting board for like a big butcher block, which is not moving anywhere. So, there was more stability. And then I put an apron on because when I've got an apron on it feels like I'm, I'm down for business. All this got me faster, but it didn't get me like, really, really fast. I couldn't get for example, below 20 seconds, I feel like I was still hitting a wall. And then I remember that story of the British coach. He did the expected the bikes, the suits the tires, but he also did the unexpected. I love that story. He said, I'm going to buy each member of that team, a memory foam pillow so you guys can sleep better. And if you sleep better, you're going to be faster on bikes. Then he did a benchmark on all the massage gels for recovering faster. He went into some details that may seem stupid, but when you add them all together these tiny little details made a difference. So, I thought, okay, I'm game I'm going to do this. The first move that I did, I went to an optician down the road, and I said can you clean my glasses with your ultrasonic bath, they've got a special bath that cleans the glasses like crystal clear. So, they did that. And with super clear glasses, I thought I'm going to be faster because I'm going to see things better. Then I borrowed from a friend of mine was a musician, a metronome and I started practicing the rhythm at which I should be cutting an onion if I want to be below 20 seconds. And another thing that I did, I took that big butcher block that I use for stability and that has been helping me a lot and then I removed the tiny hobbit feet that are located underneath that bar. The reason is when I'm using the blade and I'm cutting onions you know like Chinese chef like pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, I want that blade to bounce back. I don't want the energy to be wasted. So, I got rid of these. Then I did something that shouldn't be taken lightly. And I would never advise somebody to do this. But I'm still a chef so I did this in a very careful way. But I trained with a blindfold on. I had obviously, you know, a glove to protect my hand, so don't worry
CK: So, a blindfold. Okay, good.
AA: The idea was to try and not rely too much on my eyes, I need to feel this. Instead of watch this. I also use an industrial fan that I pointed at my workstation to get rid of the onion fumes that were making me cry. I took all this and I was able to go below 20 seconds. My end time was 19 seconds. 59. And I thought that's crazy. I shaved off 10 seconds in one day. It just shows that progress, especially in the kitchen can be tiny, but it's it's still matters. It's still substantial. I feel.
CK: But here's the question. Alex, Are you happier in the kitchen?
AA: I will never be happy.
CC: Okay. That’s what I thought
AA: I'm faster, but I'm still not satisfied.
CK: Alex Ainouz from 30 seconds to 19. Maybe it's a new world record. Thank you very much.
AA: Thank you so much, man.
CK: That was YouTube host Alex Ainouz. He's also the author of Just a French Guy Cooking. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. To explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer. Please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes. Watch our television show and learn about our latest cookbook. Cook What You Have Make a Meal Out of Almost Anything. 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 cooking questions and thanks as always, for listening.
Christopher Campbell's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co- founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clark, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff.. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is distributed by PRX