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Our Thanksgiving special is here! Jet Tila returns to take your calls, Dan Pashman constructs the ultimate plate, Rossi Anastopoulo reveals the secret history of pie in America, our Milk Street culinary team gives mashed potatoes a makeover, and we hear what Jacques Pépin, Carla Hall, Dorie Greenspan, and more friends are looking forward to on Thanksgiving Day. Plus, we share the shocking story of a turkey that antagonized an entire city.
Questions in this episode:
"My roast turkey technique uses high heat and cooks in 45 minutes. Why doesn't everyone do that?"
"What's a good gravy recipe to pair with my smoked turkey?"
"Can you give me some inspiration for side dishes that aren't potatoes?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX and I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today it's our Thanksgiving special. We've got the entire menu covered. Dan Pashman has a strategy for sides.
Dan Pashman: To me the mashed potatoes are the structural backbone of the Thanksgiving plate.
CK: For dessert, we’re unearthing the secret history of pie, featuring Hollywood self-proclaimed pie king.
Voice: Because they ate so much pie, he said, I have a good complexion and marvelous digestion. And as
CK: And as for turkey, we'll hear how one wild bird through an entire city into chaos.
Voice: It's very unclear what made him snap, but he definitely snapped.
CK: All that is coming up later in the show. But first, I'm joined by Jet Tila. Jet and I had such a great time taking your calls last year that we invited him back. Jet Tila is a chef cookbook author and Food Network personality. His latest book is 101 Thai Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die. Jet, thanks for joining us, once again for Thanksgiving on Milk Street
Jet Tila: Hey, Chris, always an honor. Thanks so much for having me.
CK: You know, every year for at least 20 years, I've made a different turkey recipe. Start high end low start low and high, braise it. Deep fry it, barbecue it, you know, turn it three times said the Lord's Prayer. Stood on my head, played a couple of Grateful Dead tunes came back to the kitchen. So, I think I've probably cooked a turkey almost every possible way.
JT: Because you've cooked so many birds, though. If someone's more on the novice side is there one more bullet proof than the other technique?
CK: Yeah, the best way I think is to braise which means I take the dark meat and put that in the big roasting pan with you know all sorts of sofrito and, and stock etc. Tons of leeks leeks are great and gravy. Yeah, then I put the breasts on top. So, the breasts get cooked. First, I take them out. Because the dark meat, you know, this 165 to 170 does not work with dark meat. You want to cook the heck out of those because there's nothing worse than a gnarly, stringy leg. So, I think separating the breast from the dark meat, so the dark meat gets braised a long time the white meat comes off first. That's the safest way. Then I strain the liquid and reduce it down to make gravy and the flavor of that gravy because it's got the meat cooked in it. The vegetables, the leeks, cetera. It's great.
JT: All right, so What time am I coming over?
CK: And anytime, man you can come and you don't have to bring anything, either.
JT: All right.
CK: Okay, let's take a call.
JT: Alright, man, let's do it.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hey, this is Premis from Wilmington, Delaware.
CK: How are you?
Caller: I'm doing very well.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: Every year I host Thanksgiving dinner for our family and friends 25 to 30 people, so we make three turkeys and one Tofurky. I've heard about this method that I've been using for several years called high heat method. So, I've been turning the oven on to sometimes 450 or 500 degrees.
CK: I just want to know I'm getting nervous now. So go ahead
Caller: So, I put the turkey in a regular basting pot with a rack in it. And I put about two inches of water. And so, the water is almost touching the bird in the rack. And I put it in for like 45 minutes. And then I just do temperature checks. It works out perfectly. The bird comes out really, really well.
CK: Wait, wait, wait it cooks in 45 minutes?
Caller: It cooks in 45 minutes.
CK: How big is the bird?
Caller: It's above 15. Usually, it's about 18.
JT: Wait, and you heard spatchcock that you're saying a whole bird cooks in 45 minutes?
Caller: The whole bird cooks in 45 minutes. Yeah, I heard about this method, and I just can't find any like reference to it on the internet or anything else.
CK: This sounds like something out of quantum mechanics or something where yeah, time and temperature are affected by gravity or something. I don't know. That doesn't. You just blew my mind. I can't imagine it would be done. Really? I know. I can see if you're reheating a ham, it might work. You have a raw turkey, is it brined? Is it a brined turkey?
Caller: Nope, nope. Just a regular turkey it's unfrozen no stuffing or anything and its breast up, but it's not tended at all. It's a convection oven too. So, there's you know there's a fan going on.
CK: Yeah, yeah. but that’s not going to
JT: But 45 minutes
CK: it doesn't turn 45 minutes into two hours. I'm never speechless but I'm close.
JT: I don't think there have been two dudes that have cooked more turkeys than Chris and I together and I mean, even if you spatch a bird or cut it in half or butterflied it I can't see the center of the breast of the deepest part of the thigh cooking through all the way, man. So, look, I've never done it. I don't know scientifically how it can be. I think you've jumped into the future.
CK: This is like an episode of The Twilight Zone, right? I mean,
Caller: Well, I’ve been doing it for probably the last five or six years.
CK: I do like a regular chicken in a 425 and spatchcocked. And it takes close to an hour to get done. You're talking about it, you know, 14-pound bird three times bigger. You sure you're not using a pizza oven or something?
Caller: I use an instant read thermometer to check it. I've never gone over an hour.
CK: You got me stumped. I'm going to actually ask the kitchen to try this because
JT: You got us. You win.
CK: Man, you got us. We're going to test this and call you back. How about that?
JT: There you go.
Caller: I appreciate that follow up. That'd be great.
CK: All right. Thanks for calling.
JT: All right, man. Be well.
Caller: Thank you. It's a pleasure. Bye bye
JT: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?
Caller: This is Shirley from Birmingham, Alabama.
JT: How can we help you today?
Caller: Every year we smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving. And I make kind of plain gravy. But it doesn't really do much to complement the smoked turkey. I also make cranberry sauce which goes well with it. But you know for Thanksgiving, you just kind of want the gravy. So, what would you do to complement the smoked turkey?
CK: You could go back to Mastering the Art of French Cooking and do a quick you know pan sauce, white wine-based mounts and butter in it use sage, rosemary, strong herbs will go really well with smoked turkey. And you can do that in 10 minutes on top of the stove. You know little stock, little white wine. And that's what I would do and just make it quick and simple. Jet.
JT: Yeah, hey, Shirly. I probably the biggest gravy snob that I know. Anyway, so here's here's a few tips for you right for making fantastic gravy. In one it's really roasting the matter, right. And sometimes that can be I buy like a few pounds of chicken wings, I'll split them. And if you're running the smoker a few weeks before anyway, that's when I want you to smoke either chicken bones, chicken, if you can, I usually grab a cheap, like a 10 pounder, that's usually on sale of a turkey. I'll cut it into bits. But here's the important part, we got to get mir pa so you got to get celery, carrots and onions. You got to mix it into that those turkey or chicken pieces and you got to brown them. That's the only way you're going to get the most out of gravy. So either going to smoke them or I like to roast them at about 454 to 35 degrees until they are charred, not burned, but very, very charred. And then I make my stock out of that, add some herbs to that reduce it a bit. And again, I make all this ahead of time or separately because I know if you're smoking regularly, I would smoke a couple of either legs, smoke some, you know, a carcass, smoke some wings, and then make stock of all that because that's when you need a bump up that intense flavor that you're getting from the bird. I put a little bit of cream in my gravy. And then I also add a just a little bit of soy sauce. And those are all little flavor bumps that are going to help really match that gravy to your outstanding turkey.
CK: There's also I know matcha you know the salsa? Yeah, salsa matcha from Mexico, which is nuts and chilies and stuff that would be ideal for smoke turkey only takes 10 minutes you just throw it together food processor, essentially man cook it a little bit but salsa matcha is phenomenal. I can just eat it out of a bowl. And we definitely go with smoked turkey. So, try that.
JT: Chris you're getting my brain going because now when I go to mole anyway, that's a whole other thing, moles with smoked turkey sounds really good too. Hope that helps Shirley
CK: Only 23 ingredients and takes five hours but
JT: You buy it you buy it you find a good store and you buy that one
CK: Thanks for calling. We appreciate it.
Caller: Thank you
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need help in the kitchen this holiday season, give us a ring anytime our number 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
JT: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Amy and I live in Michigan.
JT: So how can we help you with thanksgiving?
Caller: I have a problem with side dishes especially healthy or what I would call the non-potato based side dishes. Once I'm done with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing, I just can't figure out what to make that's not a potato. I tried making salad one year, but it was so unmemorable that I left it in the fridge and didn't notice it till I was putting away leftovers. So, I'm looking for some things that are easy to make probably stovetop, can sit or be served at room temperature and are more memorable that I'm not going to leave it in the fridge and forget about the entire meal.
CK: Okay, three things kale. We do what kale salad, we sort of massage the kale, which sounds weird, but it works with smoked almonds. And that's really good. I think charring vegetables in a cast iron skillet like broccoli, or charred Brussels sprouts are great. You can charm on top of the stove and do a quick, whatever dressing you like. Those would be three ideas for me, Jet?
JT: Hey, Amy. I'm so carved out by the middle of Thanksgiving that I need roughage and I need fiber to balance me out. I'm a practical cook. And I don't want people to go out and get crazy things. But I tend to look at the things we already have. So usually, we use Brussels and instead of roasting them or, you know, cooking the life out of them, I do a shaved Brussel sprouts salad, right and you shave them really thin, you can use a machine to do that. A little bit of cheese, cracked almonds, and just make a really light vinaigrette. We can make one up right now champagne vinegar, maybe a little bit of olive oil, maybe a splash of balsamic so things that are bright, but using some of the greens and other thing is, like Chris said, roasted vegetables is such an opportunity. And yes, I'm trying to get out of carby. So, you know, I do think about kale I think about going back to broccoli, because you know the ovens always tied up your kitchens pretty, you know destroyed, I do a very quick stir fry. I mean the items that we already talked about, like cauliflower, celery, carrots, and one ingredient that every kitchen needs is oyster sauce. If and if you don't want to do the Asian thing, you can just do simple salt, pepper, olive oil, and then do a little bit of drizzle of like a balsamic or something that's a little sweet. So those are some of the ideas that are non-carby.
Caller: For the ones besides stir fry. Do you dress that with a dressing at the same time? Or do you wait till right before you serve it?
JT: Yeah, so for Brussels, because they're so durable, I would dress it ahead of time so, it's one less thing you need to worry about. Another thing you can do too, is put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, put all of the ingredients layer it I do with my Brussels, my cheese, some herbs, some nuts, because of the dressings on the bottom of the acids not going to permeate. So, once you get to the table, you could do a very quick toss. It's a little chefy you can kind of you know, get that chefy moment and I like to load things in the bowl. And then right when I serve them, I bring them together.
CK: One tip is most people overdressed their salads. So, use half as much dressing as you think you need. And toss it for a minute may not like 10 seconds because it takes a while to coat everything with a dressing. And you'll find out the more you toss it the less you need. So, you can always add more later. But once you've overdressed something it's it's a bridge too far you can't get back.
JT: And Chris nailed it. And then last tip for vegetables is season your vegetables. Dressing is a flavoring, but salt and pepper bring out the flavor of the actual greens.
Caller: Got it. These are great. This is going to save me from forgotten salad or green bean casserole. You know these are terrific.
CK: Amy, thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Caller: Thank you so much. It's been an honor. I appreciate it.
JT: Thanks so much.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio coming up. Dan Pashman constructs the ultimate Thanksgiving plate that's up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. We're continuing our celebration of Thanksgiving with some culinary inspiration from Dan Pashman. Dan how are you?
Dan Pashman: I'm getting ready for the big day Chris Thanksgivings coming, you got to have a strategy.
CK: So, what is the obstacle you're trying to overcome in thanksgiving? What's the strategy all about? Well,
DP: I mean, look, at most Thanksgiving tables, there's a lot of different foods on offer. And I think that sometimes people, they just kind of go down the buffet and they start scooping willy nilly, and they're not thinking about how they're putting the foods on their plate, and how they're composing bites and bringing the food to their mouths.
CK: I'm ready. I'm ready.
DP: So, the first thing is mashed potatoes, I love mashed potatoes, but they're also incredibly effective as a mortar to hold together different types of foods on the same bite. They're also very good at creating seals and walls on your plate to prevent gravy or other sauces from intermixing in ways that you don't want them to intermix. To me, the mashed potatoes are the structural backbone of the Thanksgiving plate.
CK: I have to admit I've never thought of it that way. Like dmz between North and South Korea, is that what you’re saying?
DP: Exactly, you know, look good, good fences make good neighbors.
CK: Here's my problem. I realized every Thanksgiving The only things I really want to eat are Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce. Stuffing depends if someone's doing really something nutso with a stuffing this here, but those are the four things that gives they they go together, right? Right. The problem is, how do you integrate the roasted broccoli? How do you integrate the salad? It seems difficult. Once you get beyond those four things.
DP: It's a very valid concern, Chris, and I want you to know that I'm here for you. I think that people get very hung up on like, okay, I have an empty plate, and I'm going to fill it for the first time at this Thanksgiving dinner. And I need to get some of everything on this plate. And they end up with this ridiculous mound of all these things running into each other crashing into each other things touching that you might not want to have combining. And I just I think that you should put less pressure on yourself to get everything on the first plate. And then maybe you have an entirely different second plate that doesn't replicate anything from the first plate.
CK: You know, the worst thing you could ever do on Thanksgiving, when someone says what can I bring? And you say, you can bring the salad? That that's like the death knell you know, nobody ever is going to touch the salad at Thanksgiving. It's like, you're going to bring that bowl home, you might as well leave the plastic wrap on it, because it's just no one's going to go for the salad who's going to eat salad with all the other stuff.
DP: Yeah, it's just you know, there's a lot of things you could start the meal with, if you don't want to go straight to the entree course. But like, it's supposed to be a celebration built largely around food. And I don't know how excited people get to eat salad.
CK: The other way to look at Thanksgiving is it's about the cooking. And then it's about the pies. But the other stuff, like the meal in between is kind of a rite of passage to get to the desserts. That's sometimes how I feel about it.
DP: Yeah, look, certainly and I'm a big proponent to another part of my eating strategy and hosting strategies that between the dinner and the desserts, there should be a long break.
CK: That's a good point.
DP: I don't need eight pies 15 minutes after I finished eating the turkey. Alright, so to me, you want to finish dinner when it's still light out. And you want to go for a walk after the main meal, watch some TV watch some football, you go for a walk, you let the kids stretch their legs. And then you come back to the table in the evening. And then it's time for dessert. And then you might actually be a tiny bit hungry at that point.
CK: You know, back a long time ago before you were born. We always had the percolator pause, because we used to make coffee in a percolator back in the day. So, you finished with the meal. There'll be cleaning up all the dishes will be done. The kitchen would be spotless. And you put the percolator on you get that little noise going. But but but I like the idea of sort of cleaning up and relaxing and then then you can reset the table with desserts when things are in order.
DP: Exactly. And then you can enjoy the desserts. Yes, I agree with you that the desserts are a huge part of Thanksgiving and and you want to enjoy them. You want your guests to enjoy them. And so, you got to give, I would say two-hour break between dinner. And ideally, if you can work in a walk there, it makes a big difference in how you're going to feel that's a huge part of the eating strategy.
CK: So how are you going to cook your turkey this year?
DP: I have gotten simpler and simpler as the years have gone on. I do spatchcock with a dry brine (me too) so it cooks faster, you get crispy skin, it's incredibly flavorful. I like to put it on a rack and then I put usually like I'll put stock and vegetables and a little white wine in the bottom of the pan so that as the turkey juices melt they end up in that bottom of the pan and then that liquid becomes like my secret sauce that's going to become gravy. It's going to go into the stuffing it's going to infuse the entire meal.
CK: Excellent answer.
DP: Wow, I passed?
CK: You and I finally have something in common. After all these years. so, one last question. So, is there something about Thanksgiving you never been able to solve that just bugs you about the meal?
DP: Oh, that's a good question. I mean, I will admit that I still, you know, it's still at times stressful to cook for a whole bunch of people. I would love to make it through the entire day without at any point feeling like stressed about serving dinner to 16 people. Maybe that's too much to ask. But that's, that's the one thing I'm missing. You have any advice for me?
CK: Yeah, I do. I actually, I now have reduced my output of choices substantially. And I I'll do potato, you know, the mashed potatoes, the gravy. I do a stuffing I do my own soda bread, whole wheat, sourdough bread, which is great. The turkey and I might do one or con my wife into doing one vegetable. That's it done. And I've just gotten rid of all those other things I found in strange cookbooks, you know, over the years, that a year marked for Thanksgiving. So, I have reduced the number of recipes I'm cooking.
DP: I think that's smart. And I think that also helps address the initial concern that we set out with which is, you know, how do you compose the ideal bites? How do you arrange things on your plate? Quality over quantity. And I think that as an eater, when you approach a Thanksgiving buffet, you should not feel obligated to try everything. You know, if you only want the classics, if you only want turkey stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and then just eat those things,
CK: Except when other people bring some of the dishes. Then you're doomed.
DP: Right. There's the whole sort of like, oh, you have to try Aunt Velma’s You know, roast cauliflower. And then yeah, you got to take a couple bites because you don't want to insult Aunt Velma
CK: Definitely. That's about it. Dan, thank you so much. So, create a demilitarized zone down the center of your plate with mashed potatoes to separate one side from the other. Helpful advice as always, Happy Thanksgiving.
DP: Thanks, Chris you too.
CK: That was Dan Pashman, host of the Sportful Podcast. This is MilK Street Radio. I'm Christopher Kimball. You know we roast turkeys we pardon turkeys we put Turkey stickers on our kids homework. But more recently, turkeys have turned the table. Now we're the ones who are endangered. And we're back at 530 now with an Angry Bird running a fowl.
Newsclip: look at historic trending in our area. Some people in an Ocean County New Jersey neighborhood say they're scared to leave their home sometimes because of turkeys all over the place.
Now I am no turkey expert, but this specific Turkey seems pretty bold people in Woburn tell us these wild birds have no fear. They are all over the place or massive amount of turkeys out here gets on the back of my husband's truck and follows me it rode to Chipotle with me one time, no peck at your tires. And they also won't let you out of your car. It's scary.
CK: From New Jersey to California, wild turkeys are taking over. But there's one especially notable bird from Oakland, California. And that would be Gerald who lived in the Morecombe rose garden for most of 2020.
Reporter Carrie Paul: It seems like nobody really knows where Gerald came from or when.
CK: that's Carrie Paul, a reporter who wrote about Gerald for The Guardian in November 2020.
CP: Gerald was just kind of always around the garden. He was kind of a mellow guy historically. There's a carpool pickup there where people would wait for the carpool and Gerald would sometimes be seen waiting in line with the carpoolers.
CK: But then things with Gerald took a turn.
CP: As the pandemic hit. Gerald started attacking people in the garden. I know at least a couple of people have to know the hospital for Gerald injuries.
CK: Neighbor started theorizing about why Gerald was suddenly aggressive. It was 2020 and people were taking pandemic walks in the garden. So maybe seeing a lot of people stressed him out. Others blamed one person who fed Fitzgerald almost every day, perhaps he now expected everyone to feed him.
CP: It's very unclear what made him snap, but he definitely snapped.
CK: Keri was attacked by Gerald twice the first time she was able to run out of the garden.
CP: And it's funny because I remember thinking like, oh, I made it out of the Rose Garden. I'm safe. And it's like turkeys do not recognize borders. So, you kind of just kept chasing me down the suburban streets.
CK: The second time Gerald was on the opposite side of the garden when he spotted her about a football field away.
CP: Then he kind of locked eyes with me from hundreds of feet away and then just came for me, which is kind of a common story with Gerald people say that he will find you wherever you are in the garden.
CK: While reporting her article carry track more than 100 attacks and chases on over 80 individuals.
CP: Gerald unfortunately had a penchant for young people like babies in strollers and then old people. So, it was really attacking the weakest among us.
CK: So, what could the city of Oakland actually do about this bird? Well, they decided to kill him, which outraged many neighbors in the community. People went to the website next door to argue about Gerald, one person wrote, lose the garden, keep the turkeys. Others agreed with the city that it was in fact time to kill him. Someone posted, relocate the turkey to the wild or cook him for Thanksgiving.
CP: And I've just never seen such passionate fights on next door and we have like real problems and Oakland. But Gerald was kind of the most hot button issue for a while.
CK: It became clear to the city that they couldn't just kill Gerald, so they decided to capture and relocate him instead. After many tried to get them, the city called and Rebecca Dimetric. She's the director of wildlife emergency services, a private volunteer group based in California's Central Coast.
Rebecca Dimetric: So yeah, my world involves going out and helping people resolve their wildlife problems, and also helping to capture animals that are in difficult situations like Gerald was.
CK: Rebecca and her husband Dwayne made a plan to capture Gerald with a special gadget, a neck gun.
RD: As we go up to this platform, and Dwayne goes to fire and it's out of air.
CK: Dwayne then went to go get another cartridge which left Rebecca alone with Gerald,
RD: I wasn't dressed in any uniform too that was another guy was dressed like little old lady. And so, I kind of hunched over a little bit and turned a little bit away from him. Like I was scared, and I noticed his his head perk up like I can take you. And really it was more my body language of being kind of hunched over and weak that I think got him close enough to me.
CK: Rebecca and Gerald got closer and closer. She went in for the scruff of his neck.
RD: I grabbed him. I just grabbed him by the neck, and you know what? He, he just went limp. Like, oh, me, I didn't do anything. No, it wasn't me. It was just funny. It cracked me up that he was so Mr. Macho, coming after me. And then the second My hand was on him he knew he had been had.
CK: Finally, Gerald was captured and relocated to Berkeley. But then a week later, he was spotted at a playground. He was captured again and brought to a third location. So maybe that's where he is today. But Rebecca doesn't buy it. She thinks that when everyone stopped paying attention, they finally killed Gerald.
RD: You know, I'm going to probably do a FOIA and I should, I should. This is inspiring me to do a, you know, public information request of them and see if I can find out what really happened.
CK: Gerald's whereabouts are unknown, but his reign of terror is over. Now it's time for the story of another turkey. You might remember last year's Thanksgiving special. We got a call from Amy Proctor whose son Simon would not let her cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Amy Proctor: My 10-year-old, she has made a very strong friendship with Believe it or not an actual turkey.
CK: This year, we followed up with Amy and Simon to find out more about his friend.
Simon Proctor: At the animal sanctuary, there were a ton of animals but the one that really stood out to me was this turkey. And I'm just like, oh my god, this is the coolest turkey ever.
CK: Simon was curious how he ended up there.
SP: I mean, the reason he was there was because he got kicked off of different form because he chased everybody around but that's just because he's like really friendly.
CK: And maybe that's how it all started for Gerald too maybe he was friendly and just very misunderstood. We shared Gerald story with Simon and asked what he thought about all the trouble Gerald got into for chasing people around.
SP: If the turkeys chasing you around, I think first you could walk away or something. But I think you should come back and just like get to know it. And it'll come up to you on your spec. Oh, hi turkey. How's it going?
CK: Thanks to Simon Proctor and his mom Amy in Vermont, and thanks to Carrie Paul for her reporting in The Guardian. Carrie’s article is called all we could do was run the strange story of Gerald the Turkey who terrorized a city. You're listening to Milk Street Radio coming up Claire Ptak. Kenji Lopez Alt, Carla Hall, and more of your favorite chefs and cookbook authors reveal their favorite part of Thanksgiving. That's after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. You know, we get a lot of questions here at Milk Street, about making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. So, I've asked Rose Hattabaugh and Wes Martin, both from our kitchen team as well as April Dodd, from our cooking school to try to come up with solutions to some of your issues. Let's get them on the line. Hey, Rose, what's going on?
Rose H___: Hey, Chris, how are you?
CK: This is a confessional. I've stopped using recipes for mashed potatoes, but I love mashed potatoes. So, I just sort of make it up. And they seem pretty good. But you're our more exacting cook than I am. So, is there something new here or has everything been figured out about mashed potatoes?
RH: Well, we came up with a really great recipe here to make milk simmered mashed potatoes in one pot. And that's the new thing, because I don't know about you. But when I'm doing Thanksgiving, I'm usually cooking 10 pounds of potatoes, I've got boiling water, I've got to like drain into a sink. These are really easy, because you actually just boil the milk, right with the potatoes. And then it retains all of the starch and the creaminess of the potato. And then you throw in a little bit of butter, and you're done.
CK: So, I'm a little confused. So normally, with a few pounds of potatoes, you might use I don't know, two cups of milk or whatever it is. So, to actually cook potatoes in milk, don't you end up throwing away some of the milk or not.
RH: No, the milk actually gets absorbed into the potato. So, it really retains all of the dairy. That's the nice thing about these. So no, you're not like throwing anything out. You're cooking it all in one pot. And then you're just smashing it up right there. So couldn't be easier.
CK: So, what about melted butter? I mean, I always was taught the first thing you do is pour melted hot butter on the potatoes when you mash them to sort of coat the starch granules. Is that part of this recipe? Or is it just milk and potatoes and salt.
RH: But you're cooking them in the milk. But we do add butter. I mean, everybody loves butter and mashed potatoes. So, all you have to do is throw in four tablespoons of butter at the end and you don't have to melt the butter or do anything fancy. I like that. I really love to make mashed potatoes like this. But I know Wes has another really good hands-off recipe.
CK: Hey, Wes, you on the line?
Wes Martin: Yes, I am. Hi, Chris. I actually like using the Instant Pot because you know you got all those pots going on the stove, you got to make gravy, there's all the timing about Thanksgiving is the biggest pain. And you can use an instant pot and put that thing in the closet. If you have to. No draining required very little water. With Yukon Golds that make the best and I use them peel on. Put a little butter in with the cooking water this time and then mash them up when you're done.
CK: So, are these peeled whole potatoes? Do you cut the potatoes before you put them in or what?
WM: Yeah, we just chunk them up and leave the peel on. I don't necessarily like you know, you have those mousseline potatoes that are more cream than potato. There's enough rich food on the table. I like a little bit of hearty rustic texture in my mashed potatoes. So, I leave the peel on and they really break down under pressure when they're cooking. So, they're soft, and it's not like you're getting a big piece of potato peel in your mouth to chew on. But it's fast and easy and and really hands off and you can keep them warm while you're making everything else.
CK: That's what I was going to ask that one of the benefits is you can just set the thing too low or warm and walk away. And, you know, I assume you might have to add a little bit of milk if it's been sitting for a couple hours, but I liked that concept of holding it.
WM: For sure. And I also like to add a lot of different kinds of flavorings too because anybody that knows me here knows I'm not a fan of garlic and garlic mashed potatoes have no place on a Thanksgiving table.
CK: Yes. Good for you.
WM: I would rather add some interesting flavors. And I my favorite of these recipes has fontina and Thiago and a lot of black pepper in it. So, they're rich and creamy. And you could hold off on adding that until you're ready to serve. Yeah,
CK: Yeah, one trick I learned years ago was not to put all the liquid in at the beginning if you're going to hold them right and then, so you let them sit around for a couple hours reheat and then you add the balance of the liquid at that time the milk and that way you don't end up over adding liquid. It’s the same amount as just most of it to start with and about a 20% later on, and that seems to refresh them pretty well.
WM: But one of the things I've also done too and this is sort of the same concept with an instant pot is I'll make my mashed potatoes ahead put them in a big bowl set them over a pot of very warm water and tightly cover the bowl. So, they're staying warm, but they're not losing moisture. If you put them in a pot and keep them warm. Of course, you're going to have to add things to that are going to start to crest onto the bottom of the pot, but that's another way to do it. But then you've got a huge bowl and another burner used up while you're trying to make carrots and gravy.
CK: So, April are you there?
April Dodd: Yeah, hi, Chris,
CK: Do you want to top Rose and Wes come up with something even better?
AD: Well, it's interesting that you say it that way because the recipe that I'm suggesting here is really less about the mashed potatoes themselves and more about kind of a final treatment that you give them so you could actually make either Wes’s or Rose’s mashed potatoes and then finish them with this technique called a tarka, which is an Indian cooking technique where you take a fat in this case, I like to use butter because it's Thanksgiving and you bloom spices or you heat chilies or aromatics in it. And it gives you this super flavorful finishing pop. And it looks beautiful. In my favorite recipe for Thanksgiving, I like to bloom whole caraway seeds and mustard seeds in butter. And then you drizzle it over your mashed potatoes. And it just looks and tastes fantastic.
CK: Yeah, I remember when I was in Turkey a year or two ago, they did also use that in Aleppo, infused butter over the top, but then they added cheese and threw the whole thing in an oven, and it really looks great and tastes great. So, a lot of people talk about low fat, this and low fat that I assume at Thanksgiving we're not having this discussion, or are we?
AD: No, we're not. Not at my house.
WM: No, I don't you know, there are ways to add flavor to things without a lot of fat. I mean, I know people who make yogurt mashed potatoes and who are looking for that sort of low-fat thing. But you know, get on a bike on Friday, the day after?
CK: Yeah, I'm with you. I think especially Thanksgiving, put the diet aside, please and enjoy yourself. So, two ways to cook the mashed potatoes and one way to flavor them. Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving, and we can resume the diets at a much later date. Thanks.
AD: Thank you, Happy Thanksgiving.
WM: Thanks, Chris. enjoys that meal fat and all.
RH: Happy cooking everybody
CK: That was Rose Hattabaugh, West Martin and April Dodd from our team here at Milk Street. You can find all of these mashed potato recipes at Milk Street radio.com. Now it's time for a slice of pie history. I'm joined by Rossi Anastopoulo, who tracked down the origins and true stories behind America's favorite pies. Her book is Sweet Land of Liberty. Rossi welcome to Milk Street.
Rossi Anastopoulo: It's so wonderful to be here. Thank you.
CK: So, let's go back way back hundreds of years. My understanding is that the original pie crust was flour and water and was just a container. You didn't actually eat it. Is that right?
RA: Yes, it was mainly like an inedible vessel for the fillings inside. And you know, I think it starts to evolve in England. There is one old cookbook that had I believe a dozen different types of pastes, as they called it, which was another word for pastry crust. But as American pie culture has evolved from influence from England and France, it has consolidated into this flaky pastry nine-inch round in a pie dish version that we think of now, which is part of what makes American pie so unique.
CK: So, pumpkins were really the fruit, the most common fruit right it early on with these early pumpkin pies, more savory and not really custard pies?
RA: Yeah, I mean, if you look at when colonists started to arrive in North America, you know, apples aren't here, but pumpkin was and of course, it's a staple of indigenous diets and is adopted in many ways by European and British settlers. And it was commonly prepared both ways, I would say both sweet and savory applications. But as things like spices and sugar become more available throughout the North American diet, it starts to get incorporated. Unfortunately, those very early iterations of colonial pumpkin pie, we don't necessarily have a lot of recipes for them until we get into Amelia Simmons American Cookery towards the end of the 1700s. And as pumpkin pie evolves into kind of the Thanksgiving iteration that we think of that was probably the 1800s and 1900s.
CK: Let's talk about pecan pie. So, there was commercial pecan production mid 19 century. But your point is that Karo corn syrup recipe came about I think in the 1930s. And that's really what made this recipe take off.
RA: Yeah, I mean, if you think about pecan pie has been around since the 1800s, something that was really a regional dish in many ways. And I think as the whole of the American food system gets more industrialized and commercialized Karo corn syrup seizes on pecan pie and and starts printing it on his bottles and starts making that a vessel for care corn, syrups in American households. So, you can see that many pecan pie recipes that start to be publishing like community cookbooks on the 30s and 40s. They literally are referencing caramel corn syrup as the primary ingredient or calling it Karo pecan pie. And so, this brand and this recipe that has been around for decades already become entwined because of advertising and corporate sponsorship.
CK: Derby pie. I didn't know this, first of all, tell everybody what it is. But there's only one company that's allowed to use that name, right? I just ordered one, by the way, just to taste it. But what is Derby pie?
RA: So, Derby pie is a type of pie from Kentucky if you couldn't guess based on the name. It's made with either pecans or walnuts, bourbon and chocolate. And I actually, I just ordered one here in Los Angeles, too. And I was quite surprised to see it on the menu because as you mentioned, there is one company called Kerns Kitchen that has a federal trademark on the term Derby pie. And yeah, they've literally sued people for calling a dish Derby pie on their menu. One establishment started serving a piece of what they said is called I can't call it Derby pie pie. To try to get around this. You know, the company has sued Bon Appetit after the magazine ran a recipe for Derby pie in the 80s. So, it's been an ongoing battle for the soul of Derby pie.
CK: Chiffon pie, I like chiffon cake. Actually, it's interesting because both of these stories are almost identical. A guy invented in the 1920s, which I think was also true chiffon cake. So, this guy called Strauss, what was the story? And what is chiffon pie?
RA: Yes, Monroe Boston Strauss. He is the person who claims to have invented chiffon pie, which is made by folding in beaten egg whites and crowned with a topping of cream. And it's very like light and delicate and airy. But I should also say that he claims to have invented it because there are records, of chiffon pie being referenced earlier. But I think what's important is that whether or not he actually invented it, he became famous for having invented it. And I think that's the key distinction. And he was you know, he would give funny quotes like, you know, talking about how because he ate so much pie, he said, you know, I have a good complexion and marvelous digestion. And he was a showman, not unlike, you know, the movie stars across the way in Hollywood not far from where he was making his pies. And he directly drew that line between what he was doing as the self-proclaimed pie King, and Hollywood, you know, he has a picture of himself serving Mary Pickford a slice of orange chiffon pie in his cookbook. So yeah, he was a very interesting character in the history of American pie.
CK: So, the ark of pies is pretty interesting. I mean, I guess in a way, you can tell the story of civilization this way. Maybe that's overstating it. But you know, 500 years ago was a container for food, then it was still practical with pumpkin and other things and apples, then it became fancier, then it became something that the processed food movement sort of got involved with. And where is it today? I don't think people make pies at home very much anymore. Is this lost in our past now pie making? Is it coming back? It’s been many things. What is it now?
RA: It's a good question. I think it's so excuse the pardon the pun baked into American culture and American cuisine as a whole that, you know, hopefully, I don't think it'll ever be fully eradicated from our baking. So, I think that pie will continue to endure. And, you know, use that malleability and that versatility to express different ideas and continue to be creative through the infinite possibilities of pie. So, I think it'll always be there and I'm excited to see where it goes from here.
CK: Rossi thank you so much. Maybe we'll bake a pie together. I certainly hope everybody does. Thank you.
RA: Thank you. It was great chatting.
CK: That was Rossi Anastopoulo, author of Sweet Land of Liberty, a History of America in love with Pies. By the way, we've collected some of our favorite Milk Street pie recipes from Apple to pumpkin to Maple brown butter and put them on our website, Milk Street Radio.com. You're listening to History radio. For this special episode, we invited our friends to share their favorite parts of Thanksgiving, from food to family traditions, to the small, unexpected moments that make the holiday special. And here is what they shared.
Claire Ptak: Hi, everybody, it's Claire Ptak from Violet Cakes in London. And I feel like the best part about planning for Thanksgiving is the shopping list. All the like beautiful pumpkins and squashes and quince and apples and I can buy so much because there's always extra people that show up to my Thanksgiving dinner. And they're always welcomed.
Adam Gopnik: Hi, this is Adam Gopnik. The moment that I relish most of all, is actually the night before Thanksgiving, because that's the moment when I've got everything, I think, ready to go. And for one brief, completely illusory moment you think this is so well organized that it's going to be easy. Even though your experience of 40 or so Thanksgivings tells you chaos will descend shortly tomorrow morning.
Duff Goldman: Hey, what's up. I'm Duff from Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Maryland. I think my favorite moment is really early in the morning going down in the kitchen. And you know, you turn the oven on, and it's going to be on all day long. Having a cup of coffee making the list of everything I'm going to be doing that day and then really like not sitting down until about 11 o'clock at night.
Jonathan Adams: Hi this is Jonathan Adams. And my favorite part is when you've riced the potatoes and they're drying and steaming, you're so close to having everything ready and everything be perfection. That that's the signal to me to call the kids to the table. Because here we go.
Lidia Bastianich: This is Chef Lidia Bastianich and Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday at our house. Especially for me. I am grateful and appreciative of the opportunity that I was given as a young immigrant to become an American.
Pierre Thiam: Hi, I'm Pierre Thiam, I'm a chef from Senegal and I love to cook and give it a twist of West Africa. You know, the turkey becomes a turkey marinated with a tamarind glaze. Oh, this year 47:28 actually is going to be a ____ turkey. It gives it a special West African Thanksgiving.
Andrea Winn: Hello there this is Andrea Winn and when so this year I am going to roast chicken because we're not a turkey family and roast chicken with lots of vegetables and finish it off with a Nuoc Cham vinaigrette, it’s very Vietnamese.
Nik Sharma: This is Nik Sharma from Los Angeles, California. My favorite Thanksgiving moment is when we sit down to eat dessert. I've tweaked a classic Goan recipe from India called Bebinca that includes pumpkin or sweet potatoes. It's still got that delicious custody texture of a pie filling and there's no crust drama.
Hi, this is Carla Hall. Hi, this is Tyler Eakins you can from whatever Lea in Wilmington, Delaware. Hey, this is Ileana Masonite. My favorite moment on Thanksgiving Day is making the cornbread dressing and it's probably because it involves so many hands. My favorite memory of Thanksgiving is my grandmother's cornbread. Every year it was the unsung hero at the dinner table alongside all the knife cuts she'd done with adult paring knife and arthritic hands. When I was young, I'd walk the mile to my grandma's house and help her get the turkey out of the oven. That was also just a moment to spend time with her before the chaos of our very large family passed into her very small townhouse.
Dorie Greenspan: Hi, it's Dorie Greenspan, I love the holiday. I love everything about it. But I think my favorite part is the end of the meal. The meal is over. But no one leaves the table. We all sit around the table completely relaxed and happy and just having the best conversations.
Kenji Lopez Alt: Hi, everyone this is Kenji Lopez Alt. My favorite part of Thanksgiving actually comes after the meal in the evening when we all sit around and play music together and sing songs. It's a big family singalong. My dad plays the banjo, I play the guitar. Both of my sisters play the fiddle. And in fact my kids now play music as well. So, it's a big family jam session and I really can't think of anything I love doing more than playing music with loved ones.
Thomas Keller: Hi, this is Chef Thomas Keller from the French Laundry here in Yountville, California. And I just want to express my love and affection for this wonderful day that's coming up called Thanksgiving. It's a day where it's all about your family, and not about the gifts or anything else, not about a single person but about all of us together, celebrating a moment with one another.
Jacque Pepin: This is Jacque Pepin, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, the greatest holiday for me. It’s all about food. It's all about wine. There is no gift, no date of battle to remember. No scent going up to heaven to remember. It's only eating and drinking together. The best of the holiday.
CK: Thanks to everyone who shared their stories with us. You can find even more stories from friends of the show at Milk Street Radio.com. You know, I don't have a favorite moment for Thanksgiving. I just love Thanksgiving. It’s the cornfields double out of my kitchen window. It's the pale moonlight in the woods that illuminates deer trails on frozen leaves, it’s the smell of corn silage and wood smoke of yeast and molasses. It's coming in from the cold or going out into it. It's the memory of a green metal hand pump in the sink. Along with a wet dog and the suet like aroma of bacon grease. It's waking up pre-dawn in the Kimball house with radiators clanking it's a place where nobody listens to the news, we make our own. It's a place with three churches, a library, chicken suppers, old home days, and a volunteer fire department. Thanksgiving always reminds me of what we cannot afford to lose. And that's a place called home. That's it for today to explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer this holiday season. Please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can become a member and get full access to all of our recipes and free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and much more. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and cooking questions. Thanks for listening and wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH. Co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah 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.