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Sam Fore, the chef behind the pop-up Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, tells us about the similarities between Sri Lankan and Southern cuisine. Plus, Analiese Gregory teaches us how to hunt and forage in the wilds of Tasmania, Dan Pashman tells us about his mission to create a new pasta shape, and we learn how to make the Portuguese Sponge Cake known as pão de ló.
Questions in this episode:
"I have been making Greek yogurt at home and don’t know what to do with the whey left over after draining the yogurt. Do you have any suggestions?"
"I have three chestnut trees and they produce way more chestnuts than my family can eat. I know it is often used in French pastries, but I don’t know where to start. Any ideas?"
"I’m a nutritionist who goes around the country teaching kids about healthy eating. So I wanted to ask you: What are some great ways to get kids to love vegetables?"
"I have several almost ripe avocados that I simply cannot finish on my own and would love to somehow preserve them. In the past, I've read that freezing them whole or in pieces would ruin the texture of it when thawed. I've also read that it can be mashed with lemon juice and then frozen to preserve it. Are there any good ways to preserve an avocado?"
"I have tried making black eyed peas and rice and the peas always come out overcooked and with an unpleasant taste. Please help!"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Sam Fore the chef and owner of Tuk Tuk Bites has gone from a home cook to having her recipes featured on the cover of Food and Wine. Sam's food marries the unique flavors of Sri Lanka with her southern upbringing
Sam Fore: I like to put people together to find you know a common ground and I like to put foods together to find a common ground. I'm just someone who wants to bring all of the good stuff from all over into the same place
CK: Also coming up we learn a recipe for Portuguese sponge cake known as pal dillo and Dan Pashman tells us about his three year journey to create a whole new pasta shape but first it's my interview with Annalise Gregory from a two year road trip with their parents in Australia to top notch restaurant gigs in both London and Paris. Analiese likes to move around today she's found a home in Tasmania and is taken up diving for sea urchins floundering and also hunting for wallabies her cookbook how wild things are details her adventurous life and the recipes that she cooks at the bottom of the world. Annalise welcome to Milk Street
Analiese Gregory: Thanks very much
CK: You have one of the most interesting resumes of anybody who's been on the show and we'll get to wallaby hunting later but when you were a kid you say that your family drove around Australia for two years could you explain what that really means
AG: Yes, so one day they just packed up from New Zealand and moved to Australia and then got a caravan and we just drove around Australia i did school of distance which you would send away from each post office and then they would send it to the next post office that you're going to be at i spent a lot of time shoeless in the outback trying to play with kangaroos
CK: Does that is that worked out well for you i mean they're dangerous right on some level?
AG: I think I would just go out and like sit with them and watch all the animals feed but I was pretty wild
CK: So, you lived in Paris you've worked in I think eight different restaurants in a fairly short amount of time. is it the learning in the adventure of learning how to do something that's exciting and then once you master it you'd like to move on to something else or is that just the nature of the restaurant business people do move around a lot?
AG: Yeah, I love novelty i love learning things and so then as soon as i kind of wasn't get itchy feet i suppose it was you know work and lifestyle based that wanting to move on and constantly have new things like new cafes new restaurants new language
CK: And you said I'm a chef because of my anxiety what does that mean
AG: I suppose in the beginning I I just found the kitchen like a really inclusive calming place to be and i really enjoy working with my hands like i can work in the kitchen for a whole day and not speak to anyone which most people find strange but it's because I just kind of get into a zone with cooking it's a really nice feeling to be able to create something and it's really satisfying for me
CK: So, London, Paris, Morocco, Tasmania the change the Tasmania was just to do something totally different?
AG: Kind of but it was also a return to the lifestyle that i had in countryside France like I really wanted to go back to that zipping around and like foraging and my afternoon breaks being able to hike on the weekends and just you know like walk up a mountain with the cheese and the loaf of bread and just I'd know be in nature there was the kind of beauty to life there that i missed moving back to the city afterwards and so it was about trying to recreate that in rural Australia
CK: So, tell us about Tasmania. I once interviewed someone who walked across it almost died doing it and it sounded quite wild you could just describe it a little bit?
AG: I live very far south so if I drive to the southern coast from my house you're looking out straight towards Antarctica there's no more land masses between you and Antarctica and sometimes in winter you can feel that it feels like the breeze come straight off and straight over here and there's parts of it like the southwest that you know you can go for five days with no roads just like walking in or you have to fly in and a tiny plane that feel like I don't know one of the last great undiscovered ecosystems
CK: So, you're obviously you've been at the cutting edge of chefdom and now you're cooking in an old farmhouse in Tasmania. Does your cooking change a lot you have a whole different approach to cooking in the last year or so or you're continuing on with the same kinds of foods you've always cooked?
AG: Oh no my cooking’s hugely different my cooking now is a lot more inspired by just what's around at the moment it's coming into autumn and there's heaps of wild blackberries and so the things I do like this week will be wild blackberry jam. Shrubs it's a lot more based around preservation and things because of the climate of Tasmania like winters really cold and there's not a lot around. So, say if I go and pick a bunch of wild mushrooms, I'll make a bunch into xo sauce or dehydrate heaps for like stocks and things in the future. I'll pickle some or ferment some last year I made like a wild mushroom soy sauce. So, kind of every everything I can think of, essentially, and then I keep note of the ones that I like and then I'll do them again year after year and leave the others behind you
CK: And you also go, I guess spearfishing. You do some other things you go hunting could just talk about that.
AG: I guess. So quite often, I've just found a new dive spot. So, I like free dive just from the shore for abalone and sea urchin.
CK: And and Wallabies describe what they look like. You were told as serving raw wallaby was not going to work out too well for you. But actually, it's one of your signature dishes I think
AG: That's weird how that turned out. They're like small kangaroos. They're really cute.
CK: And the idea of, of serving raw wallaby came from a dish you've done somewhere else before or how did you get to that?
AG: They are wild animals so it's a really lean meat. And sometimes with meats that are lean personally, I don't love them cooked, so yeah, the first thing that came to mind to do was kind of like a tartare.
CK: And what else do you put into it?
AG: I've done many different versions. So, I'm with like fermented tacky mushrooms and with pepper berry and essentially just kind of amp up the flavor, like try and make it as tasty as humanly possible, because I found that that's always a good way to win people over is trying new things.
CK: Okay, now I'm going to ask for personal advice. You ready for this? (Okay) Okay, so you your career might have very different I keep doing the same thing year in year out that I'll move around very much. You've had the opposite. Going back to when you were seven years old. Is there something that you'd want to tell me based upon how you've lived your life you think is interesting, or advice I ought to take seriously? I know that's a big ask.
AG: Oh, that's a huge ask. And the only thing I've really thought about a lot recently is that I spent a lot of years and like mid-time of my career feeling like I wasn't really getting anywhere. And just like I know, agonizing over like which path to take and what to do. And moving to Tasmania was a really scary prospect for me. But (um) my thing is that I don't like to be envious or jealous of other people. So whenever I find myself feeling that way, I break it down. And I might want to look maybe you should just go do that. As opposed to like watching other people cook in Tasmania and being envious of what they get to do. Just just go do it.
CK: Annalise it's been, it's just really been a great pleasure having you here on Milk Street. Thank you.
AG: You're so welcome.
CK: That was Annalise Gregory. She's the author of How Wild Things Are Cooking, Fishing and Hunting at the Bottom of the World. Now it's time for my cohost, Sara Moulton, I'd answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking 101 and also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. So, Sara, before we take some calls, I do have a question for you.
Sara Moulton: Okay
CK: You've been married a while
CK: When it comes to foods are the things like your significant other, are there things like he just will not eat or things that are just like absolutely the top of his I love this list, like special foods.
SM: Oh, both Oh, my goodness, how much time do we have? The first question things he will not eat or does not like, and this is a problem. He does not like sweet in his savory. And so many cuisines around the world involve mix some form or other of sugar. And it's an important element. So that eliminates so many cuisines. I mean, he hasn't like coconut milk. You know, he's like coconuts for dessert. So that is a real problem. Other than that, he's omnivorous. He is a carnivore. He loves lamb. He loves duck. You know, we tried a lot of that. You know, we've also tried a lot of vegetables. Anything with cheese, pasta, he doesn't complain. He doesn't ask too many questions. He just so glad I cook for him.
CK: You guys are in pretty good shape.
SM: We are
CK: Okay. Let's take calls. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: My name is Trisha I live in Keeseville. New York.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I have been making Greek yogurt at home. And I am not quite sure what to do with the whey that I get when I drain the yogurt.
CK: Well, you should probably sit on tuffet right.
Caller: Yes, and be a Little Miss Muffat
CK: This an acidic whey, right?
Caller: It is. It is.
CK: The only thing I know is sometimes people add it to breads you know or even pancakes quick breads if you want a little bit of sourness to it I think you can do lots of other things with it but that's the thing i probably would do Sara?
SM: I think you could use it sort of in the places you would use lemon all right recipes that needed to pick me up little acid and many recipes do you know they're just plain flat so instead of squeezing in some lemon add a little bit of that but you could also probably use it in recipes like when you're making quote unquote homemade ricotta and you heat up milk and I usually a little bit of heavy cream to about 100 I think it's 180 degrees and then you add some acid and it curdles you know that's how you make the little curds you could probably use the whey leftover from this yogurt to do that (okay) and that might add a nice flavor you could maybe also use it in place of the buttermilk when you make homemade creme fraiche I don't think you're ever going to be able to go through a lot of it but you could use some of it
Caller: I have been adding it to soup
SM: Yeah, I could see that in cabbage soup you know sweet and sour cabbage maybe you could use it in that
Caller: I can also put it on my blueberries
CK: Oh there you go excellent
Caller: I was really you know considering baking aspects how i would use it
CK: If you go to King Arthur flour go to their website, I'm sure they cover this topic for baking bread
SM: i would think
CK: tell you exactly what the proportions would be
Caller: All right thank you
CK: thanks Trish
SM: Yes thanks for calling
CK: Take care
SM: Take care bye
Caller: Bye bye
CK: Don't you like it when people call who are doing things even crazier than we do in the kitchen I mean
SM: Well, it makes me feel like a complete slacker
CK: Yes, me too
SM: Here I think I'm a cook gosh some of the people who call in they are amazing
CK: When I'm making my own Greek yogurt comma. I know really moving on welcome to Milk Street who's calling
Caller: Hi my name is Jen from Meridian, Idaho
SM: Hi Jen how can we help you?
Caller: Hi I have a few chestnut trees and much as I love to just roast them, I'm kind of looking for something else to do with them this year I tried to make a chestnut cream and I love putting it on toast or in yogurt but I also don't know what to do with it I know it's used in my pastries but I'm not sure where to start?
SM: Wow I love them straight up roasted I agree with you what it's also good going for it is it's so creamy when it's very well cooked and then pureed. Years ago, I developed a chocolate truffle recipe using the chestnut puree as the base and it was really pretty darn good so I'm sure there's recipes on the internet for chestnut truffles you know chocolate truffles (okay)I did a crostata you know that's sort of an open faced pie you know you roll out the dough there at the filling the middle and sort of turn in the sides. I did one with butternut squash chestnut and gruyere that I thought was oh wow pretty darn good you know a classic of course is with pork you know like when you add it to a stuffing with Italian sausage, but also roast pork and chestnuts are yummy so there's a few ideas Chris?
CK: Geez how am I going to what am I going to say
SM: I'm a fan you know it doesn't always work that way
CK: I mean the only thing if you're going to have a big roast which people do sometimes in the winter you know you could put chestnuts in the roasting pan and roast them along with a roast if you want to do something simple that's probably what I would do and I think with pork obviously it's perfect like if you're going to braise pork for example for a long time in the oven chestnuts would be great with that I just think of them almost as like you know small potatoes you're cooking along with a roast of the braise okay that's how I would think about it
Caller: That sounds delicious i definitely have to try that next year
CK: Also, you know in Italy they have essentially a prune jam that they serve with cheese I think creme _____a chestnut cream could also probably be used with a cheese course my guess is that would be delicious too
Caller: oh wow
CK: I'm just trying to outdo Sara by doing something fancy
Caller: That sounds wonderful I can't wait to try all those things.
CK: take care
SM: thanks for calling
Caller: thank you bye bye
CK: This is Milk Street Radio Sara, and I are ready to take your calls just give us a ring anytime that number is 855-426-98431 more time 854-426-9843 or please email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Barbara Storper
CK: How can we help you
Caller: I'm a nutritionist and I actually go around the country trying to turn kids onto healthy eating and i thought wouldn't it be great to ask you what are some great ways to get kids to love vegetables
CK: Oh man that's not fair
Caller: I mean I've been doing this for 40 years with live theater shows with food Like, it's a real problem, as you probably know, kids are really not getting the vegetables that they need.
CK: Well, I have six kids, I can't say that anything I've done has been particularly helpful. The only thing I finally got to is I don't make you know, it's just one meal for everybody. And if you don't want to eat it, have a piece of fruit. Obviously, you can pick vegetable preparations that are slightly sweeter, use a guest streak, you know, which is a sauce which might have a little bit of sweet and sour in it. You can roast like sweet potatoes, roasted, even cut into slabs are great. But I think it's about finding big umami flavors, right? I mean, create vegetable dishes with a lot of roasting going on. Some charring, maybe something on top, that has, as I said, sweet and sour. Just to get big flavors into vegetables. I would say that's the best thing I've done. And that seems to work. Okay, Sara, what about you?
SM: Well, I was going to say, you know, for starters, if there's a little bit like what you just suggested that there's some way you could get the kids involved, coming up with dips and then you know, with the crudity, but also having them pick out a vegetable a week. And you know, then you go back and cook with that, and then they sort of own it more. You know, another approach would be to start with a sweeter vegetable like artichokes and asparagus, they're naturally sweet. Of course, carrots and sweet potatoes are too, but so is eggplant, zucchini, you know, maybe roast them and then maybe sprinkle some toasted breadcrumbs on top to finish, maybe even with a little bit of parmesan in it. I mean, there's spiralizers now, but years ago, I just took a regular peeler and peeled the carrot. And then took those peels and made a pasta dish very quickly, with some chicken broth, and it comes out really sweet and nice. And you can put other things in there as well. You know, you could do that with broccoli stems, too.
CK: There's one other thing, Jose Andres, the chef, his mother would just essentially boil a bunch of vegetables, put them on a platter with olive oil on top, the salt. And that was sort of always there on the table. That might be something that just is always part of what you're serving is not a bad idea, either. But I like Sara suggestions, good ideas. The only thing I would end on is I wouldn't talk to kids about eating vegetables. That's it's something that we're assuming they don't want to do.
Caller: Exactly. Yeah,
CK: I agree. Look at it this way. If you go around the world, you find three and four-year-old’s eating the food of their family, which in most places in the world does include a lot of vegetables, right. But most people aren't eating hamburgers all the time.
Caller: Yes, well, thank you so much.
CK: Well, thank you for calling.
CK: Take care.
Caller: Bye bye.
CK: Your listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, I'm chatting with Sam Fore the chef and owner of Tuck Tuck Bites. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Sam Fore her pop-up Tuck Tuck Bites marry Sri Lankan food with Southern classics such as curry leaf flavored fried chicken. Sam, welcome to Milk Street. Hi,
Sam Fore: Hi, thanks for having me.
CK: So, Sri Lanka, could you give me just a quick history and talk to me about the different ethnic groups there? I mean, let's just start with the basics.
SF: So, it's an island off the coast of India, the south eastern coast. And it's really interesting because it was a central point for so many trade routes over the years. And so over centuries, there would be more and more influences brought in from all over the place. So, you know, you had the Portuguese and they brought in cooking with chilies and then you have, you know, travelers from East Asia. You have folks that are getting spices as you have the English that are coming in and kind of, you know, imposing rule for a bit
CK: as they're want to do,
SF: As as they do, you know, but there are primarily about four ethnic groups. You have the Sinhalese the Muslim population, the Tamil population, and then there's some small indigenous populations. So, if you think about somewhere the size of West Virginia, and you've got a whole variety of everything that you can grow and everything that you can imagine seafood wise, but it's it's the use of lime and coconut and fish. And they use something called malted fish there that brings the sense of umami to everything that they cook. I mean, it's it's a fascinating food scene there.
CK: So, what about you? How did you get started in cooking? How did that all begin?
SF: You know, I'm still kind of trying to figure that out myself. It's been a very, very strange culinary journey. For me. I actually started out as a web developer, I was doing high end restaurant websites in Boston when I lived up there, and just kind of got into the restaurant scene that way. I was cooking with my mom those days. And I would bring up whatever I would make with her and they're like, Oh, this is great. He should bring some more up next time. And I'm like, okay, you know, that's great. I feel really excited that these chefs are super excited about my food. And one of the chefs called Edward Lee, when I first started this little pop up behind Arcadian bar in Lexington. And he said, she makes really good food, you should go check her out. And then I got invited to do a guest dinner at 610 Magnolia, and everything just kind of changed. It suddenly became this successful little pop up that could and you know, I've been able to go all over the place because of it. But at its core, it really started as a way to get people out of my house because my brunches would get raided. we'd invite nine people in like, 34 some odd people would show up, it was absurd.
CK: That's the best reason ever for starting a pop up to get people out of my bloody kitchen,
SF: Get out of my house.
CK: And Ridley's, really, he's a really interesting guy. I like the fact that he encourages so many other people to do pop ups and other things, right?
SF: Yeah, everyone's really been such a huge force. For me. It's unheard of to me that someone would be so open and so willing to, you know, let a newbie in his spin absolute absolutely wonderful.
CK: In a recent interview, you talked about the traditions of Southern Cooking the southern table being similar to Sri Lankan culture and table. So, what do they have in common?
SF: Well, I mean, everything that we were getting through Africa, through the African trade routes from okra and vegetables along those lines, made their way to Sri Lanka as they made their way to the American South. And I don't see a lot of difference per se, in a stew versus a curry. I think it's just all in the building blocks and how you make it. But there's also cooking around so many other traditions, especially births and deaths, and cooking becomes the community factor. And so, I think of Southern cuisine a lot in that way in that people typically cook these large batches to feed to break bread together. So
CK: So, there are two trends, right? I mean, there's the notion of providing cultural context for food, (right) which I think makes food more interesting because you learn about the people in the culture and why things are done a certain way. And then then you have cultural mashups. Right? You have, you know, Mumbai meets New Orleans, on the other side. So, the fried chicken and waffles has, you know, curry spice on it. So, it seems like the food world is full of both of these things going full steam. Are these just separate things that will never pass in the night you know? Or are they somehow linked together in some way?
SF: I do think that they're linked together. I really do. I think that a lot of what's driving these changes in food is going to be the first generation of the immigrants of the 70s that came over, there were a large number of immigrants that came through in the 70s on medical visas. And so that's what the majority of the Sri Lankan community in the United States was. And so, through that the availability of ingredients is not as easy back in the 70s and the 80s. You can't you know, Amazon's from Korea leave straight to your house. So, there was a lot of making do and from that making do came some signature dishes of like, you know, the okra and tomatoes that I do are so similar to that of a southern table. It's just stronger with cumin and cayenne. And so, I like to see how much is changing, because I think that these first gen kids are going to be the ones who are just pushing for change. That said, it doesn't really take away from the origins of it, I don't think. Now, when I do a lot of my food, I do it as a traditional application. So, for example, with my shrimp and grits, I do a traditional temperature curry. It's a straight up Sri Lankan recipe. carry that my mother taught me but when I do the grits, I prepare it like you would a dish called carry both so in celebrations in Sri Lanka there's a rice dish that is just layered with tons of coconut milk and I just turned that into the grit base and it tastes very similar but it's different in that you know texture and presentation
CK: So, let's take a couple dishes you mentioned shrimp and grits what about you obviously have a famous southern fried chicken, so everyone knows how to make I guess fried chicken sort of
SF: Everyone has a fried chicken
CK: Everyone has a fried chicken in almost every culture yeah so how do you do it and how is it particularly Sri Lankan?
SF: I decided to marry my upbringing and my culture, so I was raised in the south born in Kentucky raised in North Carolina and I developed quite an affinity for buttermilk. I like buttermilk biscuits I like buttermilk brined to pretty much anything and that is not something that they get in Sri Lanka a lot of the acidity is brought about by either lime juice or just plain white vinegar so i use the buttermilk as my brine but i use every single spice i would put into a typical chicken curry so I ground them all up throw them in the buttermilk and then let that penetrate the chicken and I wanted to keep it as crispy as possible so i also use some starches that are a little bit more common there I'll use rice flour instead of regular flour and then a little bit of curry leaf in the batter and dredge as well so it's a marriage really you know a little bit of curry leaf in the salt that hits the fried chicken to a little bit of the lime that'll hit it at the end to bring that brightness those are two very big hallmarks of Sri Lankan cuisine but a buttermilk brined chicken is a very southern thing to have i want people to have a reference point I want people to be brave enough to try something that you know maybe they've never had a curry this or a curry that or they've had a negative experience with a spicy food that they thought was too much I want to be able to introduce people to those things in a gradual manner so that they can really understand both where I'm coming from and how it relates to where I am
CK: So, it's Tuesday or Wednesday it's five o'clock you have a need to put dinner on the table could you just talk to me about how you think about that process using some of the tenets of Sri Lankan cooking
SF: My typical dinner in a Sri Lankan household any dinner in a Sri Lankan household is going to be rice and a number of curries but for me if I'm looking and it's five o'clock I've got a couple of hours before I need to have dinner on the table I'm going to plan out you know one or two proteins and then three to four vegetables and that's I think how it's different it's not like putting everything into one dish it's here's your way to make your perfect bite and that's how I like to think about it you know I realized that kale and coconut go beautifully together with curried beet which also goes beautifully over a super spicy black pork curry and you find these flavor combinations that really make sense so
CK: You’re talking about three to four vegetables, two kinds of curry I mean you cook
SF: I cook
CK: I mean you really cook, right?
SF: I cook a lot it's not uncommon for you know for a brunch or for a dinner party i'll be cooking for about four hours to five hours beforehand it's like a lot of indecision when you can't decide what to eat you just eat everything
CK: Or if you can't decide what to cook you just cook everything too. So I guess too so you grew up with two traditions obviously what was the first time you went to Sri Lanka?
SF: I was II think it was 14 we were staying there for three months and I was terrified I was worried that I was going to get spaced out and then I started to understand how to dial things down so I could get used to them from that point it really just became almost like an adventure of trying to taste all the things because I arrived with two things of American cereal so like I was worried that I was not going to like breakfast and I think I left most of that there you know I adapted fairly quickly and a lot of my strongest food memories are actually from those trips early on
CK: When you got there for the first time did it feel at all like home, or you just felt like this is a totally different universe and i have nothing in common with this place
SF: For me I'd never had an experience where I walked into a room and everyone looked like me so it was jarring for a second but they can still tell you apart there's something that I've been taught and been told about called the diaspora blues and it's the feeling of you're never quite home here but you're definitely not home there and you know if you stick out you definitely stick out a bit but as I've gotten older and as I've gotten more accustomed and attuned to the traditions you can't tell the difference as much anymore
CK: Are there things about Sri Lankan culture when you go back that you really wish you could bring back with you?
SF: When I think about the elements of Sri Lankan culture that i would like to see here I think back to maybe the second or third time I went and when I came back I was sitting in my house with my mom and my dad and i just said I'm terribly lonely because our families like to be together constantly to the point that sometimes it's to the detriment but usually it works itself out and that's the kind of thing that i think about with my childhood where you know i was hiding behind my auntie's and watching them cook those are the moments that I think of it I don't really see a lot of that here it's it's it's cooking for necessity but there it's it's a labor of love and you can really feel it there is a satisfaction for me that comes from eating Sri Lankan cuisine where I feel like I can feel the heart in it and I miss that when I'm not there I really do
CK: So, you're a cook, you're a chef, you do pop ups, you're a cultural ambassador, you're a writer cookbook author the thing that drives all this for you is introducing people to new flavors?
SF: I like to I like to network I like to put people together to find you know a common ground and I like to put foods together to find a common ground. I'm just someone who wants to bring all of the good stuff from all over into the same place so maybe that's my job I don't know I haven't quite figured out what my job is in all of this I just keep cooking
CK: Sam what a pleasure having you on Milk Street today
SF: Thank you so much
CK: That was Sam Fore she's the chef and owner of Tuck Tuck Bites. You're listening to Milk Street Radio it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe Portuguese sponge cake also known as pao de lo. Lynn how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well Chris
CK: Portugal is famous for many foods you know clams and sausages all sorts of things but some of the desserts the eggy deserts are really wonderful little individual sort of egg custard tarts for example but they also have a cake and it's a it's like a angel food or sponge cake but also as a custardy layer to it as well so we decided you know this is something that we had not made here but it's a little tricky to get just the right texture right
LC: It is so traditionally pao de lo which is the cakes name was just three ingredients it's sugar flour and tons and tons of eggs and it varies depending on where you go in Portugal some places it is a true sponge cake baked all the way through in other places it's so runny in the center and custardy that you have to actually eat it with a spoon our version is sort of in the middle we have a really nice sponge and then on the center it has this little layer of custard. It's a really unusual cake we've never had it before it looks really interesting it rises really high and then you take it out and it falls it almost looks like a crumpled up piece of paper on top of the cake and we had a fair amount of trouble getting that perfect texture and so we found a recipe from a chef who is from Lisbon his name is Nuno Mendez he too had a little bit of trouble recreating this himself and so he added some olive oil to the cake
CK: and that was actually the secret ingredient it not only does it really tastes good by the way when the kitchen was working on this i made the make it like 15 times so I could have it every day for two weeks it was so good as you but it also fix the texture problem right
LC: It did because the tricky part of the cake is you know baking it just enough so that you have that custard in the center but the edges of the cake aren't overbaked adding that olive oil added some fat to the cake and a lot of moisture so it kept it really nice and tender
CK: and one other thing we added some coarse salt on the end which was the olive oil and yeah so the sugar really that just made it just a fabulous cake
LC: it's like something i think most people haven't seen yet and it has such an interesting look to it too I think it's just such a cool cake it can be a little tricky to tell when it's done as most cakes that are kind of soft in the middle are our recommendation is to test it just about two inches from the edge with a toothpick
CK: Lynn thank you Portuguese sponge cake, a one layer sponge cake with a custardy layer under the crust it's it's now probably my top favorite dessert. Thank you
LC: You're welcome Chris. You can have this recipe for Portuguese sponge cake at Milk Street Radio.com.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who’s calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Sandra. I'm calling from Albany, New York.
CK: How can we help you in the kitchen?
Caller: A few weeks ago, my family gave me a whole bunch of avocados just because they were on sale. And I didn't know what to do with them how to preserve them. So, I looked it up and the way I understood to preserve them was slice them in half and then put some lemon juice and freeze them. There seemed to be no way to save the texture those. So, no matter what happened, we just kind of like mush for what I understood. And I never done that before. And I just didn't really want to eat mushy gross avocado’s. So, I was wondering if you know of any other alternative way to preserve, you know,
CK: I've tested some of these plastic devices, they're supposed to extend the refrigerator life of your avocado, and they don't really help that much. Okay, the problem is, if you freeze avocado, because there's so much water content, the crystals will destroy the texture as you just said. So that's not going to be great. You definitely want to get the skin off and get the pit out. You probably do want to cover it with lemon juice or oil or something to help with that. Depends on what you want, if you want a really great avocado experience it’s not coming out of the freezer that way, but obviously, if it's a couple of days, actually, I would just put it in the cold as part of your refrigerator for a couple of days. That'll extend it a little bit. Okay, right, Sara?
SM: Yeah, how many avocados did you get?
SM: I would immediately put four of them in the fridge. Okay, they do continue to ripen in the fridge and it will slow them down significantly. I definitely would never freeze an avocado because it's half texture, half flavor and you just lose the texture. What I did in the past is when I cut them open, I brush them with oil or brush in with lemon juice, or but you'd have to keep changing it put a wet paper towel on top because it's all about oxidation. Then I read about this really cool thing. I swear it worked. You take your half an avocado that you've cut open, you put it in a closed container. And then you put a cut wedge of onion in there. So, it's cut side up, skin side down. Loosen the bowl. Yeah, but a tight bowl. Not a lot of air. I put on the plastic wrap. I left it overnight in the fridge. The next morning. It looked great. And it didn't turn brown. And it didn't pick up the flavor of the onion.
Caller: Interesting. I’d never heard of that
SM: Well, when I read this, you know was something online because I was getting desperate because I had suddenly you know, too many avocados, it said it had something to do with the sulfur in the onion. I don't know, but it worked. So
CK: Well that was pretty cool the onion I'd have to say that's
SM: Yeah, try it. I swear. No, I just about I did a happy dance. I was so excited.
Caller: Okay, great. Yeah, I'll definitely try that out. Thank you so much.
CK: Thanks, Sandra.
SM: Thank you, Sandra. Take care
Caller: You too. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help with dinner, give us a call the number is 855-426-9431 more time and slowly 855-426-9431 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi this is Julie.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I am calling about black-eyed peas. I have always had trouble making these. They just don't seem to come out right. I don't have any trouble cooking any other kinds of beans or legumes, but for some reason black eyed peas just seem to tip over into overcooked very quickly. So, I have some really nice heirloom black eyed peas here in my pantry, I'd really like to do right by them. So, I'm calling for advice.
CK: Are you soaking them overnight or are you just cooking them like lentils in boiling water?
Caller: I do soak them in a few quarts of water. It just seems like I can never quite catch them.
CK: Is the water salted?
Caller: Yes, I do put a spoonful of salt.
CK: I think the ratio is two tablespoons of kosher salt or the one tablespoon of table salt per two quarts of water I think is the number. So, you do that overnight, drain them and then simmer them in water till they're done.
Caller: Right. But they seem to get over done very quickly.
CK: How quickly you're talking about 25 minutes?
Caller: Well, I usually don't check. That's the thing I find that I don't check to for maybe 40 minutes. And the thing about them is that when they're overcooked, it's almost like there's an off taste. They actually are kind of unpleasant to eat, and I've had to throw the whole batch out, which is depressing.
CK: These are supermarket beans?
Caller: Yeah, I do feel like our supermarket has a good turnover. But then again, how do you really know?
CK: That could be the problem. I know that for years, I bought beans from the supermarket and had mixed results. I think if you go online and get really good stuff, I think that'll make all the difference. You know, I used to have black eyed peas and rice on New Year's Day. I've never had that problem. So, I think it must be the beans because you're doing everything right. I mean, Sara?
SM: The only thing I would say is in Julie implicated herself that Julie, you have to pay more attention, right? actually literally set a timer and make yourself go check them. But I agree with Chris, you'll probably have better luck with I don't know if Rancho Gordo actually makes.
Caller: Those are the ones that I have waiting to cook. It was the first time that I seen them. Yeah. So, I was thinking I'll make the investment. I just want to make sure that I don't screw it up the way that I have in the past.
SM: I have one last piece of advice if those don't turn out the way you want or you continue to have a problem. Not that Chris and I don't have all the answers to everything at every time for every reason. But you might want to reach out directly to Rancho Gordo.
Caller: Yeah, that's a good idea. Well, thank you this. super helpful. I'm looking forward to giving you a shot.
SM: All right, Julie.
CPK Thanks, Julie.
Caller: Thanks again. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, my name is Alicia and Asheville and I have a tip for all you garlic lovers out there. I like to cook up a bunch of garlic in some butter and olive oil and then add a little salt, pepper and fresh parsley. And then I toss all of that in a jar in the fridge and when it firms up, it turns into a beautifully spreadable garlicky paste that goes great on a slice of French bread to make some quick garlic bread. Or you can just pop a little spoonful of that paste right into a soup or stew that you're making or even mac and cheese. Basically, you name it that garlicky paste will make it better. Happy cooking. I hope you enjoy my tip.
CK: By the way, if you'd like to share your own cooking tip on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash radio tips. Next up its regular contributor Dan Pashman. Dan, how are you?
Dan Pashman: I'm doing well, Chris, I'm doing well. I have been eating a lot of pasta lately. And I'm here to tell you that spaghetti stinks.
CK: Oh, come on. You just know I love spaghetti.
DP: Come on, do you?
CK: Yeah, I like spaghetti
DP: You know we eat so much spaghetti because it was romanticism attached to it. It's It's a classic shape. But is it really, really that good? It's round on the outside that gives it low surface area in relation to volume. I mean sauce doesn't adhere to it well, it means less of it contact to your teeth when you bite it. It just kind of blah. So, there's other shapes out there that are doing a lot more to earn your admiration
CK: Dan, you’ve forgotten a key iconic cultural moment, which is Lady in the Tramp, one of my favorite early Disney movies. And when they go to the Italian restaurant and fall in love over a big platter of spaghetti.
DP: Yeah, what I took from that scene is that spaghetti is a pasta shaped it's only fit for dogs.
C: Yeah, okay, so so where do we go from here?
DP: Well, so not only do I think spaghetti stinks, but I think there's a lot of other pasta shapes out there even ones that I generally like that have fundamental flaws. And that is why I have set out to invent a new pasta shape. And not only invent it theoretically I've been trying to actually get it made and actually sell it.
CK: Well there first of all, there are I think 1000s of shapes. So, I mean, no matter what you come up with someone in the 11th century probably thought of it right. I mean,
DP: Look, there's a lot of obscure shapes out there. I've been working on this for three years. And we tell the story of this quest in a five-part series on this Forkful podcast we're calling Mission Impastable, of course, but in that series, I talked with Maureen fans who translated the Encyclopedia of pasta, which is, for my purposes, basically, the Bible. And she says that there are actually only about 350 pasta shapes that were catalogued for that book. But there's 350 shapes with about 1200 names, because a lot of times, basically the same shape, but one town or one region calls it something different. So, when I heard that I was like, only 350 shapes, there's got to be room for innovation there.
CK: So, I've got to stop you though. You did this. This is a checklist you have multiple choice, fame, fortune, or just intellectual doggedness and curiosity.
DP: Mostly the third, I mean, it was I would break the third into two categories. So, there's the surface thing of like, I think that a lot of pasta shapes have issues, and I would love to see if I could do better. But then I think there was there was also the deeper motivation was, you know, I've never really made anything. I'm not a chef. I don't have a restaurant. I don't have a cookbook. This pasta project feels like the test of every food opinion I've ever had.
CK: So so okay, you don't like spaghetti, what is it you do like about certain shapes?
DP: So, I should tell you, Chris, I have identified in my research three criteria by which I believe all pasta shapes should be judged. Number one fork ability, how easy is it to get the shape on your fork and keep it there. Number two, sauce ability, how readily to sauce adhere to the shape. And number three, tooth sink ability. How satisfying is it to sink your teeth into it. So, like fork ability, you know, like a lot of big tubes, like a rigatoni’s, they're too fat of a tube a spring off the fork. Right then you got your your spaghetti, but also linguini, fettuccine, they're too smooth on the outside sauce does not adhere to them while they have low sauce ability. And then to sink ability to get angel hair goes from zero to mush as you put it in the water. Other shapes a few silly bow ties, wagon wheels, they don't cook evenly, you get crunchy parts and mushy parts. And even a shape that I generally like like pappardelle the wide flat one right very too Sinnkable but hard to get on the fork in a great bite and kind of a one note song.
CK: So so, where did you go with this?
DP: Well, so I start off eating a lot of pasta, seeing what I like and what I don't like. And then you know, there's the journey of of conceiving the shape. And then there's the journey of getting it made, which requires first getting a die made a dye, essentially the mold for the shape. I it takes me quite a while to attract down the only die designer still working today in America, pasta dye designer. It's a highly specialized skill, there's been a lot of consolidation. So, getting to him takes a long time. And a lot of my early concepts get rejected because they're not physically possible.
CK: The extrusion process is limiting in some way.
DP: That's right, so so you remember the playdough factory, you push the dough like that star shaped disk yooou push the dough through
CK: I didn't throw it out.
DP: Right, right. Whenever you're getting cranky at work, they just give you the playdough factory. So, you got the star shaped disc, you put the dough through the disc, you get a star shape. Pasta works basically the same way. So, you have you have a disc and that's the dye and it is designed to make a certain shape, but the dough is only passing through that dye for a split second. And in that split second the shape is made. And you can't do certain things at once. Like if you want ruffles and a tube, like one thing crushes the other thing, you can't do them all in that split second that the dough is passing through the dye.
CK: So, this is not a limitless project there are limitations
DP: That's right. And I felt very strongly, you know, I look I could have like 3d printed a pasta shape that just would have looked amazing on Instagram. But I really did not want to do that I didn't want a gimmick I didn't want them that was created for social media success. I wanted a legitimately great pasta shape that would be great to eat. And so, for that reason I was using traditional methods because I wanted a high-quality product that would be new and different but also would scratch the nostalgia comfort food niche that I think we want pasta to scratch for us.
CK: And you could sell 1000s of pounds of it and retire
DP: look if that's what happens. I'm not going to complain.
CK: So what did you end up with? What what is the perfect shape?
DP: Well, I hesitate to use the word perfect, but I do think that the final shape maximizes fork ability, sauce ability and tooth sink ability like no shape that's come before. It's called cascatelli which is a variation on the Italian word for little waterfalls. And it's it's basically I started off with Mafalda. If you know, malfalda, like imagine like a long flat fettuccine with ruffles down the sides. Then we took those ruffles and sliced them off the sides and moved them underneath so they're almost like the legs of a chain. Ended up we couldn't do long shapes we couldn't short snake at the the flat part with the two table legs, the ruffles sticking out from the bottom. And then on the top you you have a bump a half tube. And so, it curves it has this half tube that gathers sauce, the ruffles gather sauce and the ruffles also add a pleasing mouthfeel. And then what I'm especially excited about is the spot where the ruffle strip hits the main strip where they connect it's perpendicular. It's a right angle. And if you think about it, there are almost no pasta shapes out there with right angles where two pasta walls intersect. And what that does, it creates almost like an eye beam. It creates resistance to the bite from all directions. And it creates a subtle distinction in cookedness. So that spot where they intersect cooks a little less than the edges of the ruffles would cook a little softer. And that's playing with fire. Because if the disparity is too great to get uneven cooking, but I think we got it where it's like just a slight difference. So, you get different textural experiences, different mouthfeel different different experiences and different bites. And that that's very exciting to me.
CK: Yeah, I was going to say it sounds like you haven't been getting out much. But of course, none of us have been getting out much. That's right. At least you use your time wisely. No, it's true. So so in closing, it's called cast cascatelli Is that right?
DP: Cascatelli that's right. It's a short shape. It's not like any other shape. Yeah. And I'm very excited about it.
CK: There we have it. Dan Pashman, the inventor of cascatelli. Great job Dan.
DP: Thanks, Chris. I kind of like the sound of that.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, you can hear about his quest to create a new pasta shape on the Sportful podcast. If you tune into later just want to listen again. You can download and subscribe to Milk Street radio, on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com there you can download each week's recipe, watch the latest season of our television show or order our latest cookbook Cookish. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball Milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio was produced by Milk Street in association with GBH. Executive Producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison. Producers Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky, production help by Debby Paddock. Additional editing Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison at 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