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Falcons are smart, fast and lethal––but they can also be a farm’s greatest defense against losing an entire harvest. Master falconer Alina Blankenship tells us about protecting fields of grapes and blueberries with her flock of highly-skilled birds, from the falcon that operates like a jet-fighter to the hawk that patrols crops like a bouncer. Plus, Kim Severson reports on Gen Z’s “milk shame” and what the dairy industry is trying to do about it; Alex Aïnouz pursues perfect creme brûlée; and we learn to make a vegetarian Carbonara where you won’t miss the meat.
Questions in this episode:
"Do you have any tips for making granola bars that keep their shape?"
"How do you incorporate fresh fruit into homemade ice cream without it getting icy?"
"Do you have recommendations for what to cook with inchelium red garlic?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. You know, it's time to harvest grapes in the Willamette Valley when the starlings arrive,
Alina Blankenship: The sky turns black. It's like you know, orcs of mordor
CK: These birds are a big problem for winemakers. An entire crop could be destroyed in less than a day. That's where Alina Blankenship and her team of Falcons come in.
AB: When I'm looking up at 20,000 starlings, I put up a Seikar that might be similar to my jet fighter, and then I pull out a Harris's Hawk, because the birds think that they can go stage in the tree line, and I'm able to bring him out and control the tree lines like a bouncer.
CK: Later on in the show, we'll meet the Falcons standing guard over our farms and vineyards. But first, we're waiting into a controversial topic. And that's milk. New York Times food correspondent Kim Severson joins me now to break down the state of the milk industry, including why Gen Z doesn't just drink less milk. They actually find it embarrassing.
Voices: Imagine you're on a date with someone on the first day and they order a glass of milk. Oh my god. Like I feel like that's very polarizing. Like that's like, you know, you're either going to like get married or you're know, it's never going be another date like that. That’s pretty good. Like, wait, it's just the waters though. If your a milk person once I went out to sushi, he ordered milk. One glass of white milk.
CK: Kim, welcome back to Milk Street.
Kim Severson: Hello, Chris Kimball.
CK: I guess I should start this by saying Got milk?
KS: Ha ha. You know, the very interesting part of the whole milk mustache thing that I learned reporting my story on milk is that that was melted ice cream on all those lips. (What?) Yeah, that's what they did melt that ice cream. That's how it stayed there. That's that I know, it kind of ruined it all for me,
CK: I'm going to stop drinking milk. So okay, the setup is that milk consumption has gone down a lot, since let's say World War Two from 45 gallons to 16. The milk industry still a 15 or $16 billion industry compared to two or three, four milk alternatives. But the milk industry is panicking because the younger generations don't consume much milk. So, what's going on.
KS: What's happening is milk is just not as appealing to 20 somethings they didn't grow up with it. This is a generation that was raised by people who often had some almond milk in their refrigerator, this sort of first generation of households to have alternatives. But really, they had a lot of other beverages to pick from. Somebody when I was doing the story said that water was actually the biggest competitor to milk. It's also a very environmental and animal rights sensitive group of people. So, there is a concern that the environmental impact of the cattle industry is bad. And climate change is huge on the mind of Gen Z, and also how the cows are treated animal welfare matters a lot. The other thing is there's a sense that plant-based milks are better for you and that regular milk is bad. And here's the sleeper I think that really changed things about milk. This generation grew up under Obama era nutritional standards, right. So that made all the milk in the cafeteria, no fat or very low fat. And then flavored milks were eliminated for a little while for a period in there. So, these kids didn't grow up with any sense of, of how great a good cold glass of milk can taste.
CK: Well, I think there's also on these TikTok’s there's a bunch of kids in elementary High School pouring out milk in their little containers, and thinking how gross it is. The concept of drinking milk is not only on sometimes unpopular with Gen Z, they have to do it in private. There's there's a shaming going on here.
KS: Right. Milk shame is real Chris. I interviewed a lot of college aged kids about this. And I found this group of young men who are going to Auburn, there's four of them who share an apartment, never have milk in the apartment. They don't eat it on cereal don't like milk, except for one guy who has to kind of sneak out to the convenience store and buy his containers of cold milk and people give him a hard time for it. But it's like I just like it.
CK: Well, one of the things I don't get though, I mean, I'm in milk. I actually research this. One cup of almond milk takes 25 gallons of water because almonds are famous for consuming water. So as usual, there are two sides to this because oat milk and almond milk consumed vastly more water than then cows would consume to produce their milk so it's not a black and white issue when it comes to the environment.
KS: Don't confuse this with facts, Chris. It’s so annoying.
CK: I'm sorry. I'm so old school.
KS: The other thing I think is interesting is it certainly large dairy operations do have an environmental impact that is beyond just water consumption. However, if you believe in protecting the environment, if you would support small dairies in which people can keep their land from development, they can graze their cows, they can produce good milk and have a life. I think supporting a small dairy or even something, you know, what a dairy Co-op, you know, like Organic Valley or, you know, Stonyfield or larger corporations that do buy from smaller farms, I think that's supporting the environment. But interestingly, I will say the milk industry has paid money to influencers, they've paid money to Minecrafter, or so people who play Minecraft online and millions of young people watch it to go to a dairy farm and invent little Minecraft dairy cows. And they've, you know, tried to push milk as kind of this, instead of got milk, it's going to need milk. So, the idea is that you're working out, you're going to need milk after that, like milk is the OG sports drink.
CK: So, I have another question. So, milk is a natural product, and hamburgers are, you know, beef. But now there's the Impossible Burger there. There are all these other versions, which are highly processed, right? Almond milk and other things. Some of them do have corn syrup or other things, some don't. But there's a lot of processing there. So why are we going from natural foods to processed to I guess, solve the problem of grazing cows? I mean, there's a, there's a moral issue here, and we end up with more processed food in our diets.
KS: Yeah, that's really the, I guess the flaw in the thinking about this. And I think you can make a decision about whether you want to consume animal products or not, for various reasons. But this phrase plant based, I think it has this resonance. If I buy this plant-based thing, I'm somehow helping myself feel better about the fact that the planet is warming. Now I have long maintained, we are never going to eat our way out of climate change. But I think people feel like if I take something plant based, I'm doing something for my health, and I'm doing something for the planet. And, you know, it's hard to think about all the things we have to think about. But if I can get this plant-based burger, then it's okay. Now again, I think this popularity of plant-based burgers is falling a little, I think those companies are having a little bit more difficulty because people did start to read the label, right? And if you look at some of the oat milk, if you just did oats and water, it's not that great, right. So, it has all these things in it. And again, there are some companies that just do almonds and water. Yes, no additives.
CK: But but some, some are not.
KS: It's really interesting it I think milk creeps into many, many areas of our culture, and it's very reflective of where we are right now.
CK: Well, I think that the real scam in all of this was low fat, right? (Oh, yeah). Was the whole issue about sugar versus fat. And, you know, as I always say, like, just eat a little bit less, but whole milk versus 2% milk, you know, 2% milk is like colored water. (Right) And nonfat milk is just just pour it down the drain.
KS: I think there were some misguided nutrition policies. Certainly, I don't think that America's children were getting obese because they were drinking too much whole milk. But we took that out of the schools, right. So, there are dairy farmers who really think that they've been demonized that milk has been demonized. And it's happening in New York City, you know, where we've got a vegan mayor who is trying to get rid of chocolate milk in schools, trying to get plant-based milks into schools. And here you have New York dairy farmers upstate who are hurting and are actually pushing legislators to try to make some laws that would force school systems to keep serving milk, which is an interesting approach.
CK: Last question, when it when a big industry like the milk industry, start spending 10s or hundreds of millions of dollars to get influencers to change the cultural landscape around their product. Does that ever work out well these days? Or is that going to be a fruitless endeavor do you think?
KS: It might work. I don't know the dairy industry has been spending a lot of money Got Milk worked. I think they're sure it's like a gamble. Right? They hit 11 one time and now they're trying to hit it again. So, I don't know if going to need milk is as effective, but we'll find out. I know I will continue to drink milk.
CK: Well, I've just decided during this conversation, I quit my job and become an influencer.
KS: You should, Chris,
CK: That’s my takeaway.
KS: But I want to point out Chris, you already are an influencer. Don't sell yourself short.
CK: Kim. Thank you so much. And I guess we're all gonna need milk. Thanks.
KS: Right well We're gonna need Milk Street, see what I did there?
CK: Nice. That was cool.
KS: Bye Chris
CK: That was Kim Severson her New York Times article is Got Milk, Not this Generation. Now it was time to answer some of your cooking questions that my co-host Sara Moulton. Sara's, of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television, also author of Home Cooking 101. Sara, how are you?
Sara Moulton: I'm good, Chris.
CK: So, before we take a call, so have you had the opportunity to cook with people outside of family who are in their 20s?
SM: Wow, not recently, I do find them rather scary.
CK: This is how we lose everybody who listens to the show under 40.
SM: No, no, I just mean, I'm assuming you mean no. I actually am thinking about family because my nieces and nephews are fabulous cooks. And you know, I've been learning from them. They just read and do far more than I ever do. So, I get a little nervous. I'm like, oh, dear, I might be caught up short here. They did this wonderful thing with the crispiest chicken thighs skin I'd ever had. And it involved I don't even remember what evolve cookies can slide down finishing it in the broiler. It was off the charts fantastic.
CK: This whole idea of you know, cooking’s dead, which
SM: Oh, there's no way. No. It's just complete nonsense.
CK: It's complete nonsense.
SM: I see young people being so excited about it. Really its fantastic
CK: I just have to say when you are all use the term young people. That's it's over.
SM: Wow. Hey, we’ve got to acknowledge we're no longer spring chickens.
CK: Did you ever think you're you are a hippie back in the 70s
SM: that I would be that person saying that thing.
CK: You'd be the person going?
SM: No, I didn't. But I'm still learning. I'm still having fun.
CK: What did I say back in 1969? Don't trust anybody over 30 (Oh, right) And then I got to be 30 and went like, Oh, dear.
SM: We have to keep adjusting?
CK: Don't trust under 30. Yeah. Anyway,
SM: Let's take a call.
CK: I do trust people under 30. Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Amy from Morrison, Colorado.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: Okay, I'd like to make my own granola bars. And I've tried a number of different recipes. But the problem is, I have yet to find one that will keep it in a bar shape. And it always disintegrates into just plain granola, and it might taste good. But that's not what I'm after. You know, the bars are made with six cups of fruits and nuts and they're really wholesome. So, I was hoping that you might have some ideas for how to hold my bars together. But something that's a little bit more in line with a healthy granola bar than melted marshmallows.
CK: Yeah, I think you're almost there. Lynn Clark, who works for us. Milk Street does this all the time, she puts the fruit the dried fruit in a food processor with a sugar and then she had some vegetable oil and she makes a paste out of that. That paste is what binds the other ingredients together. You need a binder of some kind. So, oil and sugar and dried fruit make a fabulous sticky paste. And then you can add the nuts and other things. She also chops the nuts pretty fine because big pieces of nuts can also make it fall apart. And finally, she suggested pressing the mixture into the baking pan pretty hard. So, you really mash it down. You can use parchment paper on top, so your hands don't stick. But those three things she says actually make a granola bar that is a bar and won’t fall apart. Sara do you have ?
SM: Well, I mean, not having ever made granola bars. That sounds very reasonable to me. But I had another thought I'm not sure this would work or not, which is to add some sort of nut paste like peanut butter or almond paste or tahini. And that might help as well.
CK: Tahini would be good.
SM: Yeah, just another thought
CK: With your recipe. What happens with the dried fruit just gets all mixed up in a bowl with a spatula or something.
Caller: Yeah, you mix in a big bowl. It's about a total of six cups of dried fruits and nuts, but they're not that well chopped. And then you melt butter and the marshmallows over the stove, a big Dutch oven and then you put the nuts and fruits in with cinnamon and you mix it all together. And I do press it hard into the pan. But gosh, when I whip it out and I try to cut them into bars, half of it just kind of disintegrates.
CK: Well try that you have all the ingredients just how you assemble them. Just make a piece first and then add the rest of the ingredients.
Caller: May I just ask for your suggestion on the proportions oil, sugar dried fruit. Any thoughts?
CK: I don't think you'd have to add a lot of sugar because dried fruit is very sweet. So, if you had three cups of dried fruit, I might use I'd say a third of a cup of sugar and a quarter cup oil. Yeah, that will be a good base. Also, the mixture in the bowl if it doesn't feel right, you can always adjust. The good thing about granola bars. It's not like making a souffle right now or Swiss meringue Nobody's going to fire you. They just be glad it's still going to taste good. Anyway, give that a shot.
SM: Okay, Amy, thank you.
Caller: Thanks so much.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio, give us a ring anytime. 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Jim from Bend, Oregon.
SM: How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, a couple of weeks ago, I made some homemade ice cream strawberry. And I used the Cuisinart recipe I've an ice cream maker at home, went to the farmers market got a pint of strawberries. They were just ripe how they should be very flavorful. Chop them up. Put them in the next year as I was turning on the machine. And the bass was great. But the strawberries themselves were like, tiny little iceberg when you bid through them was just like a popsicle. So, I'm wondering, there's some secret to putting fruit and ice cream and I know strawberries have a lot of water. That's why they were icy. But how do you do it so they don't taste like icicles
CK: Excellent question. They're like almost 100% water, they're like 90 something percent water. So, you basically had little ice cubes, Strawberry ice cubes and your ice cream. One way to deal with it was Stella Parks does this and her book is to cook the strawberries down with sugar and get a really pretty thick puree. And you swirl that into the ice cream just before you you freeze the ice cream and get it up to a certain texture and then add it in and finish it and then put it in the freezer. And that'll work out pretty well. The other thing that works well in ice cream is alcohol. So, you might cook the fruit down with some alcohol as well. And that alcohol will also soften it and make it not hard. But basically, cooking the strawberries you get rid of as much as water as possible. The sugar will help you with the freezing as well, alcohol. That's the short answer, Sara?
SM: Yeah, no, I agree 100%. You could just if you don't want to use the alcohols, you could also just cook them in a little bit of water with some sugar and the sugar lowers their freezing temperature and then cooking them to get rid of some of the water and then get that sugar into them, which will mean they don't freeze rock hard because of the sugar.
CK: I'll just add there's a restaurant in Venice, California and the chef did a book a few years ago, Jolena he used crumb fresh in with a milk or cream with a recipe. And for some strange reason, which I can't explain. You come up with this incredibly buttery, creamy texture to the ice cream. It does something about the freezing. I don't know why maybe it's the fat content. So, when next time you do ice cream, just take a cup of creme fraiche and substituted for a cup of whatever you're using other dairy and just give that a shot because you also get a much better texture overall.
Caller: So that's a great idea. You know, I want to share a secret to by the way, I take freeze dried fruit, and I put it in the food processor to turn into a powder. And then I add that to the base. And that really gives it a great flavor too.
SM: That's brilliant.
CK: We should have been calling you.
SM: Yeah, really
SM: Is there anything else you want to share with us? Now, we’ve got you on the line here.
CK: Maybe we should have three people. Yeah. Well, yeah, just cook it down and check out Stella Parks. She has a recipe for that. Yeah.
Caller: Sounds great, thanks.
CK: Yep. Bye.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Jacob from Cleveland, Ohio.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I recently got from someone's garden, some garlic they grew. And they said it's chilum red. I was curious if you guys knew anything about that had any ideas how to use it, maybe some recipes that would really, you know, highlight this really great looking garlic.
CK: Have you tasted it yet?
Caller: I haven't yet. No, I haven't broken into the bulbs. But they said I'll see you there enough to know that it's a mild, pungent taste with a medium level of spiciness. If that helps.
CK: And no, actually, I'm not familiar with it, I can give you a couple suggestions and turn it over to Sara. First of all, you have a lot of this garlic or just some.
Caller: I got four heads,
CK: Well, three things I would do I would cut off the top quarter thrown in a soup or stew cook it you know as long as it takes and then take it out and squeeze the bulb and that's a wonderful, soft, mild garlic you can stir back in. (2) I would crush some clothes PLM and just shove them in a sauce or olive oil at the beginning of a recipe and then take them out later so you get a nice garlic flavor but it's not overpowering, depending on how pungent these are. And my last suggestion is to slice garlic peel cloves, slice it and use that with the olive oil or whatever you're cooking with. That doesn't break down the cells as much and you get garlic flavor without any garlic aftertaste.
SM: So, you've got some really fresh stuff. It might even be the kind of garlic you could use in a Caesar salad dressing raw just a little bit, that would give you the clearest idea just for fun of what its real flavor is in the garlic world. So, I would do that I agree with Chris about the, since you got four whole heads, I would cut off the top of a head. Drizzle it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, wrap it in foil, put it in the oven and roast it like 375 until it's really, really soft. And then I would squeeze it out and just add it to all sorts of things. But after you roast it like that, you can also freeze it so that you have it down the road. And another thing when Chris was talking about slicing, the best way to slice garlic is if you should happen to own a truffle slicer, it's the best tool. It's like a mini mandolin. I often use it for garlic, and then I sauté it slowly and a fair amount of olive oil until it gets crispy, you know, barely golden, and then scoop it out with a slotted spoon and put it on paper towels and season it with a little salt. And there you have some yummy garlic chips. That'll also give you a really good idea of what it it's real flavor profile is. So that would be my suggestions. You're a lucky man to have fresh, fresh garlic.
CK: One other thing you do is a typical French vinaigrette sometimes you'll cut up shallots and put them in the vinegar and let them sit for 15 minutes before you add the oil etc. Do the same thing with slices of garlic and let that sit in vinegar for a bit. And use that as a basis for salad dressing too
SM: That would be nice, too. That was really nice.
Caller: Yeah, that's a lot of great ideas. Thank you so much.
CK: Let us know what this is like if it's different. I mean, fresh is better, of course. But whether it's spicy or whatever, yeah. Jacob, thank you so much. Take care.
Caller: Thank you.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up. Why you should think of Falcon for your bottle of Pinot Noir. That's coming up right after the break.
April Dodd: Hi, this is April Dodd for Milk Street. In 2024. Milk Street is excited to be leading culinary tours in partnership with culinary backstreets to destinations like Istanbul Oaxaca, Athens and Mexico City you can learn more at 177 Milk Street.com/tours.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. There are falcons circling overhead it Goschie farm in Oregon. These birds are hunters they're smart, lethal and can spy prey from a mile away. But right now, they're not here to kill and eat. Their owner Alena Blankenship wouldn't even allow it because today they have an important job to do. They're here to protect grapes.
Alina Blankenship: Agave, what are you thinking babe? That's agave. Agave of all my birds is the most fun. She's just a joy. Everything she does, wee wee I can jump to this perch we I can go there. Everything is over exaggerated, exuberant like a little child. So, my name is Alena Blankenship. I am a master Falconer and I work as an abatement falconer and so we're able to use these birds to protect things. We are at the Goschie farm in Silverton Oregon, amongst the beautiful Pinot grapes, Gayle can describe them better. I look off at this guy. Look, Alex down at the ground.
Gayle Goschie; Yeah, I'm Gayle Goschie. And I'm fourth generation farmer for a family here in Oregon. I have the pleasure of being able to manage the hops in the wine grapes. And when it comes time to be close to harvest of wine grapes, birds are a natural phenomenon that you can't avoid there damaging those berries in that cluster of grapes. And then that is leading to be able to open it up for mold and diseases, and it's not acceptable to be able to send a diseased partially eaten cluster to the winery. I mean, there could be losses of 5%, there could be losses of 20% there could be losses that that you wouldn't be able to harvest your vineyard. So that's when we need to call in the defenses of all of the ways that a farmer thinks that they might be able to control these swarms of birds. Falconry is the one that is continuously year after year, the one that successful.
AB: Thorn! the pine trees over there tend to have bird staging in them. So, we're going to head over there and clear some of those out. Huck! Come here little man.. so I'm trying to get his attention so we can bring him back over to us. So, I'm going to grab a tidbit. I’m going to raise my glove, Huck, there was 100% food if I cluck, I don't lie to him there's 100% food. It’s your buddy Gayle. Mr. Thornman
GG: It's not just a stunt. It's it's a skill on the bird’s part. And it's certainly a skill and on Alina’s part as well. A huge skill.
AB: Our growers want us to work as hard as they do. This is a demanding job. It's stressful. It's hard. It's rewarding, but there's a lot that goes into it.
GG: They're the most focused professionals I've met. They start to have this focus of like bird eyes in their own eyes. And it's it's it's very intense.
AB: It is a dangerous endeavor for Falconer and Falcon. And it is not for the faint of heart.
CK: Alina accepts these challenges head on the long days, the dangerous conditions. But 12 years ago, she didn't have any experience with birds. She just had a reputation for being fearless. Which is why one day a friend called her up.
AB: and says there's a bird up in her garage, okay, that's fine. I just simply have more nerve than she does. So, I go and I throw my coat over it and said, Well, I'm going to take in the bathroom, see if it's okay. And I'm in there a long time and when she comes in, I'm crouched down to what I now know to be a juvenile Cooper's Hawk sitting on my arm.
CK: While identifying the hawk Alina discovered falconry. For millennia, it's been a way to hunt for food. It was the sport of royalty in the Middle Ages and now farmers like Gayle are swearing by it. Alina joins us now to share more about her falcons. They also guard blueberry fields, cherry orchards and migrating salmon throughout the Pacific Northwest. Alina, welcome to Milk Street.
AB: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to do this.
CK: So, your business Sky Guardian helps to reduce the amount of crops lost to bird damage. So the real question is are a handful of falcons going to make a difference?
AB: Well, the crop loss would be catastrophic. Topography plays a huge component what it is around you time of year, are you on the migration path all of that factors into the crop loss by bird and one of our growers would not have a harvest. Because she has dairies on both sides of her her starling population number in the 10s to hundreds of 1000s it's like you know orcs of mortar. Like you know you guys can come in here because the sky turns black. She gets so many starlings and they're I think they become addicted to the sugars of the grapes. So, they're relentless and they come in like schools of fish. And what we are we are wings security guards. We use the birds of prey and take advantage of the natural predator prey relationship. The grower has few other strategies. Birds are protected in America so they cannot shoot them. And it's impractical to use a lot of the other strategies. For instance, they use air cannons. Well not only does nothing bad happen when an air cannon is deployed, something good happens. We tell our growers at the beginning of season you're not using anymore dinner bells because what happens is you only start using the air cannon when the fruits ripe so it starts bringing in the birds from neighboring areas to say hey, my fruits ripe come on over here. Why it matters is when you're in a blueberry crop for instance. The degree of bird damage determines whether that grower will be the fresh market the frozen or the process market. When they're in the frozen or the process market. They really have probably lost money that year. Same thing with cherries. If there's too much bird damage, they won't pick that acre because it doesn't become cost beneficial.
CK: But here's what I don't get. You said the birds are smart. They realize that the air cannons a dinner bell, so your birds, your falcons are not actually attacking or killing birds, correct? It's
AB: Correct, it’s a very good question I see coming
CK: And so, the birds are not stupid. So, they don't they figure out that this is all decorative at some point.
AB: There are ways that we protect against that. Number one, they are hardwired to be afraid of falcons, they can change their natural hardwire if I dropped you off in Africa, and I said hey Chris, don't you worry about that lion. You are as afraid of that lion on day 242 As you were on day one, because actually still has the desire and the methods to kill you. Our birds have lethal intent and lethal capability. But when we're doing abatement, we really don't want those lethal interactions. So, I need my birds to spend less calorically than the birds I'm chasing.
CK: Yeah, I was going to ask that because I think there'd be a balance of fear on one hand, and hunger on the other. So, if there's a bunch of right blueberries or grapes, you might take the risk to eat them, even if there's a falcon or Hawk flying around.
AB: Right. One of my, one of the things I love to see in blueberries is a bird come and steal blueberry and fly out of there. His fear shows me that I'm doing a good job.
CK: So, you have to spend a lot of time and a lot of weeks. I mean, like blueberries, they don't all ripen on the same week. I know. (Right) So you got to spend weeks and weeks and weeks at a particular farm, right?
AB: This might appall you but for something like blueberries where they're from region to pick so that in a blueberry crop that might be two months might be four months, seven days a week, dawn till dusk. And I generally start my morning walking around with a bird on the glove. And I walk the entire crop going this is my territory. I want the prey species to look at me and say falcon, I want them to see my dog and say falcon, I want them to see my car and say falcon. And they do so I try and use whatever force multipliers I can, from the get-go in the morning.
CK: I just wonder if birds was smart enough to evolve to the point they start feeding at night because you're not there at night.
AB: So, on one of our crops there was a filbert orchard adjacent at the south side of the crop. And it hosted finches. And with the finches goal was was to eat through the night. So, what I would do from eight o'clock to 10 o'clock at night, I had about 200-foot stretch that I would do two miles and back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Because they kept trying to send scouts. They kept looking for me not to be there so they could spend the night in the crop. I was so happy when that filbert orchard got taken out because I didn't have to be there at 10 o'clock at night, but I was unwilling to lose the crop for that.
CK: So, you get up early. We guess you load up your SUV with birds. And is that just 12 straight hours of this bird goes up that bird goes up? Is there a rhyme or reason to how the day is structured.
AB: I need the right golf club for the swing. So, when I'm looking up at 20,000 starlings, I put up a saker that might be similar to my jet fighter. But then I look at the next problem. And I put those away and I'll pull out something that's called an aplomado falcon. And she's able to go through the rows very quickly, just like those small birds that I'm chasing. And then I put her away and I'll pull out a Harris's Hawk, because the birds think that they can go stage in the tree line, and I'm able to bring him out and control the tree lines like a bouncer.
CK: How do you okay, you got to explain, train however you do it, each bird to perform a particular task well. Fly in between the rows heard 5000 starlings. What's that training process like?
AB: The process is called manning. We never call it taming because they're never tame. These guys are solitary creatures, we don't touch them extensively. Because in the wild, if something's touching them, it's generally eating them. Now, if you have a solitary creature that doesn't need you, and is rather offended by your mere presence, the only thing you can do is have transactions with it. When you're an apprentice falconer, for instance, you trap your first bird. So, you have a wild bird that was making a living out there in the wild for 2-3-4 or five months because we take a young one and you have to teach it. I know you hate me, but here I'm going to give you a good deal. So, we start feeding them and they go, oh, they're like teenagers and cats. They hate you so much. But like a teenager cat, you can give me food now and then get away from me.
CK: Let's talk about that. You know, I used to have horses for years and the relationship you'd have with a horse, of course deep it is. Yeah, it's very emotional. And it's very deep. And it's, it's a really interesting relationship.
AB: (I have horses. I'm familiar.
CK: But it's sort of sad to me that, you know, your whole business is based on these birds in a long term relationship. And it's, as you said, it's transactional.
AB: And I'm simplifying a little bit like human personalities, there's some scratching individuals. And then there's just marshmallows. Birds are the same way. There are some birds that we have more of a relationship with than others. And that goes to individual, but it also goes to species. A Harris hawk is unique. Remember, I told you these guys are solitary creatures. Harris hawks are from the desert deserts a pretty hard place to make a living. So, what a Harris Hawk is going to do, it's going to stand on top of the biggest saguaro cactus it can find. And then another Harris is going to stand on its back, and it's back, and it's back. And they're going to face the directions of the compass.
CK: That's amazing.
AB: And they're going to go boom, boom, boom, boom and hunt like flying wolf's,
CK: That's incredible.
AB: And we could talk for hours and hours about their unique physiology, when I teach a lot. And I teach about to the children about the superpowers of my birds, and we talked about pneumatic bones where these Falcons can breathe through their bones and the speeds that move faster than the flash.
CK: Wait, wait, wait what does that mean? Breath through their bones.
AB: I'm 1000 feet up in the air and I'm looking at that duck on that water and I don't want that duck. So as this bird is coming down and keeping an eye on this duck, it's corkscrewing like a bullet in the chamber it's exceeding terminal velocity at those speeds you would pass out. The bird’s nasal cavity is designed with a spiral to control the passage of air and a cone to prevent vacuuming. Our jet engines are designed after their Paragons nasal passage.
CK: So, when you got started with this, what were some of the things that I mean? I've been very surprised by this conversation. Are there one or two things that really surprised you shocked you about things they can do or cannot do?
AB: Well, the first thing I'll say what surprises me about being a falconer and any new Falconer. I'm like, well, you think you're capable human being, you become a falconer and you're a glittering idiot. But the cool thing about my job and then some of the things I've learned is that miracle of what they're capable of, and how exceptional they are. It never gets old. If I'm walking down the field and I put my hand up and a bird hits it from behind. I could do this all day long. I can do this all lifelong. And then as you see more and more of their capabilities, and you work more and more as a team, I've got a wild animal that considers me an okay, occasional decent human being team member. How cool is that? That I get to work with these guys and they're willing to work back with me.
CK: Alina, it's been it's been wonderful. This is just absolutely fascinating. Thank you.
AB: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
CK: That was Alina Blankenship. She runs Sky Guardian falconry. Earlier we also heard from Gayle Goschie, Goschie Farm in Silverton, Oregon, our field producer there was Joel Shupeck. Using Falcons to reduce vineyard loss is just one example of a very clever solution. Here are a few more of my favorites. Some elevators now come equipped with buttons you can push with your feet if your hands are full. A Dutch supermarket offers six brands of toilet paper in its restrooms, so you can test them for yourself in a very real-world setting. When dentist installed Where's Waldo puzzle the ceiling to keep patients occupied. No cash no problem. The dip jar is a credit card tip jar. So, Falcons to control grape loss well why not? Necessity is always the mother of invention This is Milk Street radio after the break Alex Ainouz shares the secrets to the perfect crème brulee at home. That's coming up I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's head into the kitchen with JM Hirsch to talk about this week's recipes. Zucchini carbonara JM how are you?
J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.
CK: You know, I was alive during the 1970s. And an adult I’d add. And the Moosewood Cookbook was sort of one of those first, you know, vegetarian cookbooks that did very well. And now we're about to talk about zucchini carbonara and I just have to say, it reminds me of like the, you know, the Broccoli Forest recipe from that book. Is that really, I mean, talk me into this. Why am I making carbonara with zucchini.
JM: You know, when I first heard about this dish when I was in Rome, all I could think of was your reaction to it, frankly, and I knew you would doubt it and you would doubt me, but you really actually can make a delicious carbonara with zucchini. So, as you know, traditional carbonara is pasta and egg black pepper, pecorino Romano cheese, guanciale or pancetta. And it's delicious. It's meaty. It's rich. It's a little heavy. It's delicious. Let's face it. This however, zucchini carbonara substitutes well zucchini for the guanciale, so it's making a vegetarian version of it. And what's really interesting, it sounds like a made-up vegetarian recipe, right? Something that you're trying to pull the wool over somebody or trick them into thinking that you know, cauliflower really is a pizza crust sort of thing. But actually, this has legit roots in cucina povera that you know, the make do with what you have cooking of Italy. And you know, when you don't have guanciale, what do you use what you use whatever you have in abundance, and they happen to have zucchini in abundance,
CK: Is there light light that famous book, like zucchini for guanciale? No, wait, hold on wait, wait with zucchini substituted for guanciale. How does that work? I mean, just the concept.
JM: So, it's all in how you cook it, it's going to come down to the fact that in order to replicate the kind of meaty robustness that you're losing when you take out the guanciale, is you have to really brown your zucchini now, okay, yeah. So, you're doing two things you're giving yet that kind of depth and that richness from being brown, but you're also crisping it so you're getting some of the texture that again, you would get with crisped guanciale, now are you going to take a bite of this and say to yourself, my goodness, this is just like regular carbonara no, of course not. But you are going to find that it's delicious, and it is robustly meaty in the way that zucchini can bid. You know, I'm not going, I'm not going to lie to you, I'm not going to tell you, you're going to think it's guanciale, but it is really delicious. And if you give that zucchini time to brown, it's going to deliver a ton of flavor, just like when Charlie would, I'll be a little bit differently, but it's still going to be a robust and savory flavor. The key though, is to get that really good browning and so when we make it we do the zucchini in batches, for example, in the skillet, so that it doesn't steam and it actually has a fighting chance to crisp really nicely and brown.
CK: Well. I mean, this is not the Impossible Burger burgers. This is addition its own right. I mean, if you have a pound that have zucchini, I think it's just a great dish on its own, regardless of your guanciale substitution, right.
JM: Absolutely. Yeah, this is again, this is something you make because you want zucchini and pasta, and it happens to have a richness that a lot of people compare to traditional carbonara. It really is quite good just on its own.
CK: One last question carbonara can get kind of gluey after two or three minutes after serving besides eating it as fast as you can. Do we have a culinary solution to that problem?
JM: Well, as always, one of the most important ingredients of any pasta dish is the pasta cooking water, of course, storing that in toward the end that's going to keep it nice and loose. And zucchini is adding some moisture as well which again, keeps it a little bit loose. It's just delicious. So, you're just going to have to eat it really fast if it starts to get gluey on you, but it won't.
CK: Like zucchini carbonara for carbonara but a recipe that is great in its own right JM. Thank you.
JM: Thank you. You can get the recipe for zucchini carbonara at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now it's time to check in with our Paris correspondent, Alex Ainouz. Alex, how are you in the City of Light?
Alex Ainouz: I'm great Chris. How are you?
CK: I'm good.
AA: I want to touch on a subject that is pretty important for us creme brulee. Is that a favorite dessert of yours?
CK: Yeah, I've had lots of cases where I've torched it in the sugar caught on fire.
AA: This is something that has happened to me either like setting the whole top on fire or not being able to turn it into a glassy, almost caramel, and not being able to create that cog that I need when you hit that top with the spoon, which I feel. I don't know about you, but I feel that's an integral part of the creme brulee experience. Right?
CK: Well, otherwise it would be creme caramel or something, right? I mean, it's, you're right, it's very hard. It's a good point, I don't think I've ever done it as well as I would get in a really good restaurant.
AA: I had it in a very good restaurant, actually, they say that it's possibly the very best restaurant for creme brulee here in Paris. And the crisp on top was very light, it was dedicate, it was still present. And so all this has led me to think that the cameral on top is like the most tricky part in making creme brulee, (I agree). Turns out it is not. I've been practicing my creme brulee in my studio after paying a visit to that restaurant. And getting the top right is pretty easy. The problem is lying underneath. The problem lies in the custard, and I think this is also something that I realized at the restaurant eating the creme brulee. I was just, you know, enjoying the crispiness of the caramel and then I realized I've got a very intense wave of vanilla hitting my face basically, the fact also that the texture of the custard underneath the caramel is, you know, set but barely, (right). It's just asking to fall apart.
CK: Right, It's very creamy and loose. Yeah.
AA: Exactly, so the flavor combined with the texture of that custard makes it in fact, the most complicated part of making crème brulee. First of all, to make a good custard I'm not usually very good with grams in general, but I can be okay with ratios. And I feel like the ratio that works the best for me is one part milk, five-part cream. So, it's pretty creamy. One part egg yolk, and one part sugar. Now you still have to infuse this with vanilla, because vanilla was also one of the things that really blew my mind at the restaurant. I went in the kitchen with the chef, I had the chance to do this. And he has shown me the beautiful pods he used that is absolutely crazy. I'm sure you must be familiar with, you know, premium, fresh, plump, vanilla pods but they are just on another level than the things we can get in grocery stores.
CK: Yeah, the stuff in the grocery store has been dried in the bottle for about 10 years. I once bought a box of the good stuff and they you know, they're just oh, they're moist and sticky and wonderful.
AA: And just touching them, you've got your fingers full of essential oils, basically. Well, the thing that I bought in the grocery store, yeah, it was dead. It was dry. It was just like, looking sad, to be honest. So, whatever I was doing, I wasn't extracting enough flavor. So, at some point, I thought well, what can I do with what I have? Maybe there's a better way to extract vanilla flavor than just dropping the pod along with the seeds in the milk with the cream and the other ingredient. Maybe there's something better. So, I started doing my research online, trying to see how industrials extract the vanilla flavor from vanilla pods and it turns out, they use alcohol. I just pull out a bottle of vodka from the cupboard. And I chopped my vanilla pod into little chunks, I made sure to scrape the seeds out, and I let all of that infuse in just just a touch of vodka overnight. The result was amazing. First of all, it extracts eventually and in a way more efficient way than just fat or just water. Because alcohol is really working his magic on it. And second, if you make a little more, you've got vanilla vodka on the side.
CK: So how many vanilla pods and how much vodka? Is there a basic recipe here,
AA: Let's say if I use a cup of milk, I would use two pods of vanilla. So, I use that liquid that vodka infused with vanilla, and I dropped it into the liquid custard, and I mixed it up. I did have in all honesty to do a few adjustments because like the alcohol had an impact on the fact that the custard sets.
CK: You need an extra egg yolk or something.
AA: Yeah, exactly. You need to add a bit more eggs exactly or to increase the cooking time a bit. But overall, this works amazingly it does add a little vodka flavor which I'm not against. I just feel like maybe if you want to use rum, it might be a little better suited in terms of flavor profile and then just vodka but the reason why I went for vodka is just it's the cleanest alcohol that was available to me.
CK: So, can we get back to the top for a second which you dismissed as being easy. So, are using white granulated sugar demerara, what kind of sugar do you use?
AA: So, you're right, I'm using demerara sugar, it just caramelizes better, and the color is nicer. You really want to go for it. So, at first, I was barely heating that thing up and allow it to melt. No, you want to be on the brim of this being burned just just before.
CK: And do you use a plumber's torch to use one of those expensive little gourmet torches?
AA: No. So, I use a plumber’s torch. (Yeah, of course) And I try not to turn it into oblivion. You want the top to be warm, but you want the bottom layer the custard to be cold. That's what I like in crème brulee. And I feel like over time after having done this recipe, I realized the key is not the top. But the key might not be the bottom either. I thought it was, but the key might just be the balance of the dish, getting the right balance between hot and cold and getting the right balance between sweet and not so sweet.
CK: Ah, you're a subtle guy Alex. always always investigated the subtleties. Well, there you have it the yin and yang of crème brulee. It is all about how they work together. Thank you Alex,
AA: Thank you so much.
CK: That was Alex Ainouz host of Just a French Guy Cooking on YouTube. That's it for today you can find all of our episodes at Milk Street radio.com or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about milk Street at 177 Milk Street.com. There you can become a member and get full access to every recipe, access to all live stream cooking classes, free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. You can also learn about our latest cookbook Milk Street Noodles. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimbell's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions. And thanks, as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street video is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer, Annie Sensabaugh. Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Associate Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Theme music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.