The Baker Who Made Julia Child Cry: Nancy Silverton's Recipes Will Change Your Life | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 728
November 30, 2023

The Baker Who Made Julia Child Cry: Nancy Silverton's Recipes Will Change Your Life

The Baker Who Made Julia Child Cry: Nancy Silverton's Recipes Will Change Your Life

Nancy Silverton is here to make you a better baker. She tells the story about the time she made Julia Child cry on TV and the very best way to make cornbread, angel food cake and more classic desserts. Plus, Joan De Jesus explains the wine world’s biggest trend right now, natural wines; J. Kenji López-Alt shares his secrets for cooking salmon at home; and we make Korean Stir-Fried Chicken with Rice.

Questions in this episode:

"I'm a college student and I bake bread every week for my housing co-op. Do you have tips for how to scale bread recipes for large groups?"

"What’s the secret to perfectly cooked green beans that don’t squeak when you eat them?"

"I make toffee every Christmas but sometimes the butter and sugar separate at the last minute. How do I avoid that?"

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Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today it's my interview with baker Nancy Silverton, she shares her favorite tips for angel food cake and bread pudding and tells us about the time she made Julia Child cry.

Nancy Silverton: I thought that I had burned her, and I was just sort of taken aback when I saw these tears streaming down her cheeks. And all she had to say was this is a dessert to cry over. Now that is the ultimate compliment.

CK: Later in the show, baking with Nancy Silverton. But first Joan de Jesus is here to explain the wine world's biggest trend right now natural wines. Joan is the founder and curator of Wine for Me, a social club for wine lovers in Brooklyn. Joan, welcome to Milk Street.

Joan de Jesus: Thank you for having me.

CK: So natural wines. I remember one of the first wines I had was at a little sort of modern bistro in Paris a long time ago. And it was cloudy. And I have to say the taste was surprising. It was fresh. It was vibrant. But I don't think it had it didn't have that long tail. It didn't have that sort of depth I was used to where it took a while to kind of get all the flavors. So, let's let's start by defining a natural wine. I assume this means it has to be from organic or biodynamic grapes. Is that is that the starting point?

JJ: Yeah. So, I think there's different kinds of categories of natural wine, right? Natural is no branch was introduced that wasn't originally there. No additional additives were added the winemaker let the grape do its thing. No additional rain or water source was added to the environment. It's like natural on like that bigger level includes no one's doing anything that the earth wouldn't do. A step underneath you have biodynamic, which means the winemaking process has kind of followed a more authentic way in which the earth would be creating or making either nutrients of the soil or growing grapes. Sometimes this means winemakers are adding manure from you know the neighboring farm to the grapes. Then there is organic wine, which really doesn't speak to the winemaking process, it just means that the grape itself is organic.

CK: I've talked to people many times about you know how to buy wine or how to choose wine. And the conclusion I've come to is just it's too bloody complicated. So, let's assume I'm listening to this, and I want to try a couple of bottles of natural wine. How, give me the short guide to buying natural wine?

JJ: Yeah, there's a few kind of pointers that I can share. One is get to know the people who are bringing natural wine into the US. So, what I mean by that is distributors, there are some sort of larger distributors that carry natural wine producers in their portfolio, folks like Louis Dressner, Jenny Francois, Seth Broman,T Edwards, and even some microbe distributors like Super Glue. And then once let's say you try a wine from a distributor you like, look at other producers in their portfolio, you can typically get a good sense of the kinds of wines these distributors is bringing in and the kinds of wines they like by trying out a few of them.

CK: But could you give me three specific wines to buy?

JJ: Yeah, so a few domestic natural wine producers. I love Bianca Minor, based out of Berkeley, California. Donkey & Goat also in California, and then Forge sellers. Right here it will I'm based out of New York. So right here in the Finger lakes do really, really good kind of bone, dry Riesling, and cool climate Pinot Noir.

CK: So are a majority of these producers here in the States or you just happen to prefer the ones here in the States.

JJ: You know, I think I am trying to experiment and even myself kind of get back into domestic natural winemakers. Sure, European winemakers are doing great things. But I think there's something to be said about some of these small producers who are making natural wine right next to conventional winemakers who have so much more plots so much more employees so much more resources. So, I'm personally drawn to kind of the stories of these smaller producers in the US who are doing cool things in natural wine.

CK: You know, there seems to be an interesting issue here and I will side with you on this but a good friend of mine grew up his family lived in Paris, and he still buys all his wine from one producer outside of Paris. It's like six bucks a bottle, right? And he gets cases and cases and he he told me many years ago, he said, I love it because some years are good, and some years are not. It seems to me that the wine industry is you probably agree, like Howard Johnson's in its day, right? Or, like Shake Shack, they want consistency. And consumers don't like being surprised, right? They want to know what they're going to get. It seems to me that the natural wine industry is the exact polar opposite of that, which is that, you know, the good years, the bad years, we're not messing around with Mother Nature. And so, this is a sense of uncertainty and adventure in all of this. Do you think that plays well in the market or do you think that's going to be a challenge?

JJ: Hmm, I think I think it'll play well, with certain wine drinkers, the natural wine ethos of respect for the land. And being in harmony with nature speaks to kind of like this younger punk ethos. I go back to maybe the top of this interview, you were talking about this memory you had drinking this glass of wine in this Parisian Cafe, and you instantly connected to that memory to that place in time. And that's what natural wine kind of does. It reminds you of this authentic expression of the terroir of those winemaking styles. Maybe emotionality is the way to go. I don't know but I do think natural wine has a way of grounding you and a memory of exactly where you tried that wine, whether you loved it or whether you know you hated it.

CK: Yeah, I think that's true. I think, I think natural wines do have a more emotional is the right way of saying it. But it's a fresher, cleaner, more direct impact when you taste them.

JJ: Yeah, I think you end up getting more of the wine in your class versus, you know, oak chips, other added sugars (the winemaker, right) yeah. So, your kind of are experiencing the the acapella version of you know, your artists favorite song, kind of stripped down without theatrics. It's like Woodstock versus Madison Square Garden.

CK: Yeah, you're, you're recording in your basement, not in a massive studio, like everyone used to do.

JJ: Yeah, you're going to get two different kinds of experiences from those rights, something that feels connected to others, the people around you the place versus a large-scale production.

CK: Joan, it has been a real pleasure. And I'm going to go out and buy a couple bottles of natural wine as soon as I'm off the show. Thank you.

JJ: Thank you.

CK: That was Joan de Jesus. Joan is founder of Wine for Me. Now it's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Her latest book is Home Cooking 101.

Sara Moulton: Chris, before we take a call, I have a burning question. Have you ever had sort of a strange experience in a fine dining restaurant?

CK: Many, actually, some of which I probably can't tell on radio. But my best and worst was Frédy Girardet’s restaurant in Christie's Switzerland back in the 80s.

SM: Oh, gosh, that was considered the best restaurant in the world.

CK: Well, it was outside of Lucerne, and you drove out and it was in this think in March or April. It was a small restaurant, maybe 30 seats, something like that. And here's a guy who worked in this little, tiny town. He went to the market to like 4:35 in the morning. And his father had had a restaurant, different kinds of restaurant, the same space. You know, he didn't go to Disney World. He didn't do London and Paris and stuff. He just did that. And so, I interviewed him in my terrible French and then I went to eat well, the problem was, I had gotten a stomach flu. (Oh, no) I was feeling awful. And he cooked for us for like two and a half hours. (Oh, no) And the food was the most exquisite food. I mean, just absolutely amazing food, like his tart pastry was literally paper thin, you know. And he had these truffles in jars in the kitchen that were size of softballs. And it was just amazing. And he was the nicest guy. But here's like the meal of my life. And I was like, you know, not able to fully enjoy it. I just struggled through. But it taught me something about restaurants though. Here's a guy who didn't care about being famous. He didn't want to be a celebrity chef. And he had a small restaurant in a little town where he grew up. And the food was just exquisite. Yeah, that's the best restaurant experience you can have. It’s just about the food just about anything else.

SM: Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more

CK: Anyway, right. So, let's take some calls.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Ian. I'm a junior at Oberlin College where I'm a bread maker for a student coop.

SM: Oh, wow. That's a big job. Is it a fun job?

Caller: Oh, it's great. So, I make bread for 70 people every week.

SM: What? Okay. Well, how can we help you?

Caller: I’m wondering how do I adapt recipes to larger groups, so it's just me making bread on my own. So I've had a lot of success with focaccia, and some of those other breads that I can really easily scale. But I've had some trouble with hallah’s and breads that I need to knead and then braid together and things like that

SM: I'm going to hand this to Chris pretty quickly because he's better with a question like this one, but are you familiar with something called a baker's formula? (Yeah) okay, where the ingredients are given as a percentage of flour by weight. (Yes) And you are weighing everything. (Yes). You say the Baker's formula doesn't work for some of the recipes you're doing?

Caller: It’s not it's not the formula. I found that the the amount of work that I do is, it's just so slow to knead ten loaves that by the time I'm finishing braiding the 10th loaf, then the first one is now over proofed.

SM: You're braiding loaves for 70 people? (Yeah) Oh, my God. Okay, for Friday night dinner. Yeah, (yeah). Wow, you're a good man, Charlie Brown. I don't know, I'm going to pass you over to Chris and see what he has to say.

CK: Let's figure out what the problem is. You're talking about in the industrial process line where you have lots of loaves. By the time you get to the last one, the first one, you know, should have been in the oven already. So, is that the problem? Or is the problem the recipe scaling, which is the problem?

Caller: The problem is the industrial process. Okay. So, then you need to designate an assistant who will start putting the bread in the oven when it's properly proofed. Let me ask another question. So are most of the time you're doing fairly simple loaves, or you're doing a lot of yeah okay

Caller: Focaccia is my kind of go to because of how easy it is to work at that scale.

CK: You just throw the half baking sheets in the oven right. I think you just have to tell someone they've won the lottery and they're your now your, do you have an assistant to help you?

Caller: No, not yet. I’ve got to go grab one.

CK: Okay, well, there you go.

SM: You don't have to braid it. You can bake it, you know, like, in a loaf pan

CK: But he wants to

Oh, right. Okay.

CK: He’s an artist, this guy’s an artist.

SM: I can get behind that.

CK: No, I just get some yeah, you just need someone to help you. That's all and make it sound like, you know, Tom Sawyer and the picket fence? Yeah, it's an honor. Honor, tell someone, they're going to learn how to make and bake bread and learn how to braid. So other than that recipe, was there any other recipe you had trouble with?

Caller: Not particularly no. I mean, that's kind of the recipe that I have the most trouble with. And I think that the process really killed it,

CK: There is something you can do, you can do a slow ferment, right. So, in a lot of professional bakeries, they have the big racks and they go into a cooler, which slows down the proofing process. What I would do is braid these and then the first ones I might put in a cooler environment if you have such a place. (Yeah, like walk in) yeah, put in the walk in and put it on one of those roller things, and let it sit. And then then when you're ready, you can bring it out and can finish proofing. That's what I would do. That solves your problem.

Caller: That’s great

SM: Ian I'm very impressed by you. From start to finish. Yeah, yeah. Wow. Okay. Well, let us know. I think that was a very good suggestion from Chris. Let us know how that goes.

CK: I think the assistant is better because yeah, yeah. Make a friend. Yeah. More fun work. Yeah. Ian take care.

Caller: Thank you so much. Bye,

SM: Bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need some inspiration in the kitchen, give us a call anytime our number 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Roseanne.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: My question is about green beans. We love to eat fresh green beans, but I have yet to really master that al dente crunch, but without the squeak that I had in restaurants. So, I can either get it where they don't squeak and they basically dissolve in your mouth, which my family doesn't particularly care for. Or I get them where they're kind of al dente, but then they're still super crunchy. So, I need some help.

CK: Yeah, we have this trouble too. And it goes from Al dente that is inedible to overcooked in about 20 seconds. You're right and there's that really narrow little window. So, the best way to do it, I do it in a wok, but you could do in a skillet. I would put the beans in trimmed, add some water, not a lot of water. Put the top on steam them for a couple of minutes. Take the top off that water is going to evaporate and finish cooking them in a sauce when you finish whatever you like. But it's a steam not a sauté. The wok is particularly good at this because it's big and it's easy to do. But you could also do it in a 12-inch skillet. So steam it, take the top off, the water will evaporate and then finish off with whatever sauce you're going to use.

Caller: Would you add salt to the steaming liquid first?

CK: Sure, you could do that. I mean, yeah, that's fine. I'd add a little bit of salt or you could just add it to sauce. I mean, usually when I'm doing it, I'm using toasted sesame oil. Soy sauce, mirin, little oyster sauce, maybe where you can keep it drier doesn't have to be just a tiny bit of sauce. But with chilies, you know, spices etc,

SM: Or a little bit of butter or a little bit of really good olive oil at the end

CK: Or those things. Yes, you could do that too. The steaming just gets them pretty much half cooked two thirds cook and then when you finish it off with the sauté, you have a bigger window when they're done. And also, you can add a lot of flavors that way too.

SM: Years ago, when I was a chef at a restaurant here in Boston, what we would do as we combine the vegetables, whether it was broccoli florets, or green beans or carrots cut a nice way in a large skillet with water and butter. And we put the lid on, bring it up to a boil and then take the lid off, let the water evaporate, and then eventually the butter would either coat the carrots, or if you kept going with brown the carrots and that was sort of a good way to do it.

CK: Steam. Take the top off. Sauté, season.

SM: All right.

Caller: Okay, well give it a try.

SM: All right Rosanne

CK: Thank you.

SM: Bye, bye.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Erin from Chicago.

CK: How can we help you.

Caller: So, we have a secret family Christmas toffee recipe that my granny started making when she was young, and my mom and then my sister and I have also been making it every year at Christmas time for many years. And sometimes it cooks up perfectly without issue. But every year, inevitably, at least one of us experiences the dreaded 11th hour separation. So, the butter and sugar separate kind of right as it's nearing the end of cooking. So, I'm wondering what causes this? And also, what's the best way to remedy it when it happens?

CK: Are you all cooking it in? You're doing all the same kitchen or three different kitchens or what?

Caller: It's definitely all different kitchens, different pans, but same kind of sauce pan.

CK: And the saucepan you're using is a pretty heavy duty bottom heavy saucepan, or is it a thinner, inexpensive saucepan?

Caller: Maybe somewhere in the medium. It's not a super nice pan, but it's not really thin.

CK: Okay, so you start with sugar and butter. Is that correct? (Yes). And you're cooking this slowly and stirring the whole time 20 minutes or 25 minutes?

Caller: Yes, 20 to 30.

CK: I'm just going to keep asking questions, because after a while you forget your question. Because you have no idea what the answer is. I'm desperately trying to think of an answer. This separation happens towards the end when you think it looks emulsified. And then it just separates.

Caller: So what will happen is as they get warmer, the butter and the sugar come together. And then it looks great for a while and then yes kind of maybe around the 20 minute mark that this often will happen

CK: Two more questions, and I'll try to come up with a feeble response to this. You're not changing the type of butter.

Caller: It's always like a salted butter from the supermarket.

CK: And last question is how do you know when it's done?

Caller: by the color

CK: Okay, the one suggestion I would make is I think you can make it with sugar or cream or maybe take out some of the butter and add cream. Cream’s hydromized better and won't separate out. And that might be a more stable way of doing this. It sounds like you're doing everything else right now I'll turn this over to my my co-pilot.

SM: Who is equally equally baffled. Two comments, one about the stove. And the fact that there's three of you making it and sometimes that works for one and not the other. Do you have gas or electric?

Caller: We all have gas.

SM: Okay. Because electric can really be a problem. It because it cycles on and off even when it's at a temperature that you think it should be. So that's not the problem. Here's another thought, clearly what's going on with this here's the butters coming out of emulsion and what is butter have in it has three things. The scum, which is not relevant here. That's the protein solids on the top, the butter oil and the milk solids. And it seems like maybe what happened is the milk solids evaporated. So, the liquid that was in there, evaporated, so all you've got is the oil and the sugar. And so eventually, once the sugar is melted, and it's cooked for a while the oil separates out. But the thing about cream versus butter is it's got a higher percentage of liquid in it to begin with. So, I think you should try what Chris said because it seems like it would restore some of the water that's in the emulsion.

CK: I would do half. See what happens if that helps stabilize it.

SM: Could you try it and let us know if it works?

Caller: Totally, yeah,

SM: Call us back and let us know.

CK: There's one other thing you could do. You can make this a family projection for the new year. like Groundhog Day, right? If it turns out well, it's going to be a great year. And if it separates out maybe that's Oh Chris, we don't

SM: Oh Chris, that’s too dark, don’t be so dark

CK: But I like it because it's sort of like you know it's like vintages in wine good years and bad years and you love both years but you love some years more than others. Right

Caller: Right and whoever's kitchen it separates and is the one who's doomed Yes. Absolutely.

CK: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. I like that little extra thing. Anyway, Erin and I are dark. Yeah. Okay, well, I'm

SM: Okay, well, I’m not all right.

CK: Well, try cream.

SM: Yeah. I agree.

Caller: Great. All right. Thank you guys so much. Thanks,

SM: Chris, that reminds me of the cake that makes us cry. I think I've told you about this before. And you know what that cake is? What's our (genoise) genoise cake. That was a bad recipe from the New York Times I finally figured out it wasn't me. But my sister and I would make it every year and it was just horrible. And then the buttercream which involved softball stage, and we didn't have a candy thermometer at the time also made us cry. The whole thing made us cry. Ahh, it's terrible what we go through, right?

CK: Well, if you really hate someone, just suggest, you know for your birthday, you'd like a genoise

SM: That they should make a genoise for me and I'll give them the New York Times Cookbook recipe that didn't work, yeah

CK: It's like giving someone a recipe without a key ingredient. (Right) Which I've never done before. (No? somehow, I think you have) no, I've never done it. I know people who have remain anonymous

SM: Okay, moving on.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio after the break Nancy Silverton on her favorite desserts that's coming right up. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host Christopher Kimball. My next guest is baker and chef Nancy Silverton. In her early career in 1980s LA. Nancy worked as a pastry chef for legendary restaurants like Michaels and Spago.. Later on, she founded La Brea bakery, which became the largest artisanal bakery in the United States. Today, she's the chef and co-owner of Mozart Restaurant Group. She recently released a new cookbook, The Cookie That Changed My Life. Nancy, welcome back to Milk Street.

Nancy Silverton: Well, thank you. Nice to be here. Nice to chat with you.

CK: Yeah, just a few minutes ago, before we got started, we talked about the fact we're both still around in the food world and reimagining ourselves. So, I did want I've never asked you about this kind of a sore subject, but you had sold La Brea, I guess and had some money and invested in that investment was lost, along with many other people in the whole Madoff scandal, how did you find out that money was gone? And then I'm so impressed, because I read your more recent resume, all the things you've been doing. Do you look back now and go like, I'm glad that happened? Because my life changed or, or not?

NS: No, you know what, I look back at it as a great lesson in life. And that is those twists and turns, don't let them get you down, you know, because there are other routes that life takes you. And that's kind of what I felt about the whole situation you asked me how I found out that, uh, you know, one day, I had a large bank account. And the next day, I had no bank account. And it was a very sudden disclosure to me, I was actually in a car on my way with three other cooks. We were headed to do an event at Mehta Wood, and I was taking them all to the French Laundry for dinner because they had never been there before. And I called my father just to say hello. Now my father also had a lot of money invested in Madoff and he was the first to hear about the loss of that money. And so when I called them to say hello, I could tell by the sound of his voice that something was not right. And immediately without any segue it was you don't have any money left. And it's like what? He lost it all made off was a Ponzi scheme. It never existed. And I'm like Uh oh, okay, I didn't have a second to really digest and happen suddenly, I did have a few minutes to think, okay, what am I going to do with my reservation for for at the French Laundry, and all I could think about was, I'll keep that reservation, and I'll deal with this tomorrow. And that's really what I did. But what I have to say is this is that with the amount of money that I had, in my bank account the day before, I could have retired with, you know, with a comfortable life, I could have retired, but I didn't, and I still had a paycheck. And that's what mattered was that I did have that had, I retired and didn't have an income, then I would have been in bad shape. And so that's what I thought about. It's great. I've got a paycheck coming in next week.

CK: This story, we may have discussed this before, I just want to tell it again, because I think it's says a lot about you. But Jeff Drummond, who was my producer, early on in television, it was Julia’s producer for years, tells the story about baking with Julia, and you made a brioche tart with secret white sauce. And she took a bite and, and tears came to her eyes. And Jeff thought that she'd burned her mouth. It was concerned. And it wasn't that it was that it was a strong memory that she had from her time in France. But that I think that was one of the few times she ever got really emotional on any of her shows. Right?

NS: Yeah, you know, and it's still a when people ask me, you know, so what, what's the highest achievement that you've had, I always bring back that story and say, I was able to make Julia Child cry, you know, and I too, thought that I had burned her. And I too, was you know just sort of taken aback when I saw these tears streaming down her cheeks. And all she had to say was this is a dessert to cry over. Now that is the ultimate compliment when you can bring back whatever that memory is. That sort of the joys of pleasing somebody through your food when you can do that, because food is emotional.

CK: Yeah. And that that recipe is particularly powerful. I don't know why it's sort of ____own style sauce. It's just phenomenal. Anyway, I never had it in France, and I still got emotional. So, you're a chef, a pastry chef, a cook of strong opinions. I guess we share that. One of my favorite quotes in your new book The Cookie That changed my Life is do we really need matcha in our poundcake? Excellent question. And I love the fact you've gone through classic recipes and fought really hard about them. I think people so often do their versions of something or alter a couple of things. But I got a sense that you you really went back to ground zero and rethought a lot of recipes.

NS: You know, I did I think what you did, you took dishes that people were fond of that people made over and over and you sort of just really looked at them under a microscope and tried to make the best version of those. And that's really what I did, you know, I had decided that really what I wanted in a baking book was between the covers recipes that I wanted to actually make written by somebody that I would trust, and I didn't have to look at the internet and look up peanut butter cookie and then see, you know, 750 recipes and then trying to look and see what makes one different. And that's the one I want to try. I wanted to pick up a book, look up peanut butter cookie, look at the recipe and make it.

CK: Angel food cake. So, this is this is a great example of why I love this book. I've been making angel food cake. Probably as long as you have. And every you know all the time is you don't grease the pan because you want it to climb up and it should be perfect. You turn it over when it's baked that perfect dome, and cetera, et cetera. And you said that's all just complete nonsense. I'm going to do it differently since No, but you want a different effect. Let put it that way.

NS: Yes, exactly. Because I felt like angel food cake was just a vehicle for whipped cream and berries. You know, and I still think that I don't like the texture. The flavor of it alone like a big hunk of angel food cake is so bland but I wanted to take and there several examples of these recipes things that I never liked and tried to make myself a fan of. And so, what I did with the angel food cake is firstly I tried to give it a little texture. And I gave it that texture by greasing the sides of the pan and sprinkling on sugar right so that it gave a crunchy crust to the typical no texture in the angel food cake kind of world, right? And then by folding in melted chocolate not only did it have those striations the way a bacca does, but just those threads of chocolate gave a lot more flavor to the angel food cake. And yet it still could be a vehicle for whipped cream and berries.

CK: Yeah, but you didn't mention the best part, which is the top is this craggy (Yeah) it looks like the Carpathian Mountains or something. It's got this rough up and down texture, which I think is really appealing.

NS: Yeah, it's like, you know, I think anytime something can look homemade, it has a better look than that one that looks like you just unwrapped the cellophane wrapping, you know.

CK: Okay, so let's talk cornbread. Now you ask the question. Why shouldn't it taste like corn? And I'm, I'm kind of thinking like, I don't think it should taste like corn, like, get the corn out of my cornbread. But you have a way of making it taste like corn that actually makes a lot of sense. So how do you do it?

NS: I understand what you're saying. If and I did not grow up in corn bread. You know, I'm not from the south. My mother didn't make it. And there weren't restaurants that I went to growing up where I had corn bread, but every time I ever had corn bread, I thought why doesn't it tastes like corn? And why does it always taste like brown sugar or honey, it's sweet. And it doesn't taste like corn. Maybe it's misnamed. But I always felt if a corn bread is called cornbread. Isn't it supposed to taste like corn? So, I really wanted to do that in this book. And one thing was that I never liked the texture of a corn bread that had whole corn kernels. It always felt like I bit into him. And then I wanted to spit out the kernels, right? They kind of got in the way, not the way that raisins do because I kind of like raisins, like a carrot cake or something. But there was something about those corn kernels I didn't like. But somehow, I got the idea of creaming that corn and straining it and with all the milk that came out of that corn the you know, when I say milk, we know the corn milk. I wanted to see what would happen if I cooked it down. I thought I would just reduce it and have the essence of corn. But what happened was what I had forgotten happens with corn and cornstarch products is that it immediately when brought up to heat, it became a pudding. And it was that pudding with a ton of flavor by the way that I was able to reincorporate into my batter. And what came out of the oven was a corn bread that actually finally had corn flavor.

CK: Well, there are probably millions of us people who think that corn bread or corn muffin is simply a place to put butter and honey. So that's sort of which is not a bad thing. But I I would agree with you that does sound extremely appealing. And I don't know why no one else thought of it.

NS: And by the way, I finish it. So, after it comes out in the skillet, right and I let it cool just a little bit. I slather on, so it's not quite melted when it goes to the table, a honey butter and thyme mixture. (there you go) So there's your you get your honey and you pick your butter that you're asking for. But beneath that you actually get a cornbread that's not too sweet. It doesn't taste like brown sugar, but it actually has corn flavor.

CK: So, let's talk about cinnamon rolls. Like I want to like cinnamon rolls, but they're just so sweet. And they're just, they're just over the top. But I think you have thought about cinnamon rolls and probably propose a better solution.

NS: You know, I think so I too. You know, when I think of cinnamon rolls, I think of Cinnabon. And sure I've been at the airport when you know people that I'm traveling with will buy Cinnabon’s because they love them. And I'll pull off a piece and I'm like, ugh sweet, dry. I just didn't understand the appeal. But I was at one of my favorite bakeries worldwide. it's called Hart Bageri in Copenhagen. And there they had the most outstanding cinnamon buns and what they did with them first of all, the dough itself was a fantastic dough. And then what's layered on there is a cinnamon butter. But what they do and what they do with so many of their other pastries in Denmark, which makes everything so luscious, is when things come out of the oven, they're soaked in a butter syrup. And it just is life changing.

CK: When you say butter syrup do you mean is it part sugar syrup and part butter or all butter?

NS: Yeah, it's it's all butter.

CK: Well, nothing’s wrong with that.

NS: No nothing wrong with that

CK: Julia would be perfectly happy with us (she would be) Texture. Bread Pudding has been one of those things I've made for many years, and I've only had one great one of my life. But it had really rustic bread. So, there was great texture. And I think you agree with that, that the bread has to be right. Yeah, but though you also, I love rice pudding, but you don't. And but you solve the problem because you have a crunchy crust on rice pudding, which I thought was really, really smart.

NS: I just am not a fan of rice pudding. But there is that morning pastry in Italy that I'm so fond of. And it is a budino di riso and it's a rice pudding, but they serve it in a pastry case. And what's so delicious about it not only is that the rice is not, it's a little bit more solid than we think of as a rice pudding, which is more runny. But just the texture of that soft rice with the cookie like crust, to me is how a rice pudding works. So, I say how do you how do you make the perfect rice pudding, you put it in a tart shell, you know?

CK: That's that's that's really excellent, Nancy. Well, we're going to have to do this again.

NS: We are and you're going to have to do some baking and come back to me and let me know your favorites. And if you're a fan of bread pudding, I really like this bread pudding so much. I love the big hunks of bread, especially the ones that stick above the custard and crunchy. If you make it do follow the instructions of it has a caramel on the bottom meaning just a sugar and water caramel like it would have flan not one that has butter and cream in it as well. But it's also it does have to be baked in a water bath by the way, sorry, but it has that caramel on the bottom. And when that bread pudding is done, you've got to then set it in the refrigerator because you have to set the caramel the way you set a flan and otherwise it'll just be liquid. And then where you're going to use it. Then take it out of the refrigerator. Warm the bread putting up but that caramel will be the right texture that when you dig deep, you're not going to invert it. But when you dig into the mold to get it, you'll get that caramel off the bottom. But it'll have a viscosity rather than just be runny. So, you can't eat it right out of the oven (Oh Lord it’s going to be) but I think it's a great, I'd love you to make that bread pudding and tell me what you think. I think it's a great one.

CK: The bread pudding. I'm definitely going to try your corn bread, (please) and then the Kentucky butter cake which we didn't get a chance to talk about but that also looked amazing. Nancy, a pleasure as always. Congratulations on your more recent career and this fabulous book. Thank you.

NS: Thank you. A pleasure talking to you.

CK: That was Nancy Silverton her latest book is the cookie That Changed My Life, which she co-wrote with Carolynn Carreno. You can find Nancy's recipe for bread pudding at Milk Street It's been said that you never really know someone until you have walked in their shoes. And the same might be said about recipes. Which brings me to Nancy Silverton. She's gone back through the American baking repertoire and like a good scientist approached each one with a thought experiment. For angel food cake. She asks, what if I greased the two pan. Well, the cake collapses as it cools, providing a better, less foamy texture. So, the takeaway is really simple. Even the most familiar things in life will surprise and delight, if only one asks just the right question. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. I'm joined now by JM Hirsch to talk about this week's recipe. Korean stir fried chicken with rice. JM, how are you?

JM Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: I go to certain places in my culinary travels you go to others never the twain shall meet. But you did go to South Korea not too long ago place I would just love to go to and you did the obviously Korean fried chicken. But you also came across a recipe for stir fried chicken and rice. It's really different than anything I'd ever heard of before. And I guess they have special restaurants that are designed specifically to do this dish.

JMH: Yeah, it was really a fascinating experience because there were a lot of kind of unexpected moments in the meal and that's always a good thing. But in this case, it absolutely was. So, what we're talking about is dakgalbi. And so there are restaurants that cater to and basically, it's a chicken and usually cabbage and gochujang the spicy you know fermented chili paste and you can decide whether you want rice noodles or rice dumplings with it. It's very simple dish and you make your order it comes to the table they cook it for you at your table and then you eat it. Great. What surprised me was that before we had even finished our meal because there was still quite a bit of it simmering away on the griddle at the center of our table, the waiter comes back, but this time the waiter comes back with a bunch of additional sauces with freshly cooked rice and some additional vegetables and turns the can we call them leftovers? I haven't even finished my meal yet, but turns our leftovers into a second meal, a rice-based stir fry with all the leftovers, plus some new veggies plus some new sauces. And it is absolutely amazing and delicious.

CK: Just to be clear, I assume you're not suggesting that I cook a stir fry, make extra and then all of a sudden turn around and make a second meal. So, right, I mean, I know we're crazy, but we're not that crazy right.

JMH: No, I mean, you can have at it and make sure you install the gas griddle in the center of your dining room table. No, we decided to streamline for our version of this because again, dakgalbi. is traditionally a restaurant meal. So for our home cook friendly version, we adapted it to a nonstick skillet, and we kind of just jumped to the finish line, we take all the basic ingredients from the first part of the meal, the chicken, the cabbage the gochujang, and we combine it with the second part of the meal, the freshly cooked rice, ginger, garlic, some additional veggies, and we just turn it into a one-step stir fry that really is wonderful.

CK: Now the tough question. I remember I interviewed a couple who does a wonderful YouTube show about real Chinese cooking and what we get wrong here in America. And one of the things they really got upset about was bad heavy stir fries, right? It's supposed to be extremely light. And so obviously they're using day old rice because of the starches and it's lighter. This is warm, freshly cooked rice, which I would think would give you a much heavier moister result. Now you're going to tell me, that's exactly what they wanted but it’s a very different style. I mean, a lot of people would argue with you about whether this is the right style or not, right?

JMH: Absolutely. Yeah, no, you know, Korean stir fries are not made from day old rice, which so much Asian stir fry is based on in Korea, they use freshly cooked rice so you are getting a very different consistency in the finished dish. It's freshly cooked short grain rice, so it's going to be stickier, it's going to be chewier. But because of the griddle and kind of the searing that occurs, you're also getting crispiness on that rice, so you get this kind of push and pull of textures and the finished dish. Chewy, sticky, crispy, but also sweet and tangy and spicy from the sauces the gochujang and it's really a lovely combination. So yes, it is a heavier style of stir fry but boy is it a delicious one.

CK: JM thank you Korean stir-fried chicken with rice a very different way of thinking about stir fried rice, but it sounds equally delicious. Thank you.

JMH Thank you. You can get the recipe for Korean stir fried chicken with rice and Milk Street

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio coming up J Kenji Lopez Alt shares his secrets for perfect salmon at home that's in just a moment. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, this is Carrie Bates from Albuquerque New Mexico and I have an egg flipping trick. What you do is you crack the egg that holds the yolk and the viscous part of the white in the bigger half of the shell for a little bit while the less viscous part of the white spills onto the heating surface and cooks. Then you gently lay the rest of the egg onto the cooked part of the white. And that provides a small buffer zone under layer between the yoke and the heating surface, so that when you go to flip it, you can get your spatula all the way under it. And you have fewer broken yolks because the yoke has not stuck to the pan. Thank you enjoy the show.

CK: By the way, if you'd like to share your own cooking tip right here on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk tips this is most your radio now let's check in with our friend Kenji Lopez Alt. Hi Kenji, what's going on?

KLA: How's it going, Chris?

CK: Good.

KLA: I thought we could talk about salmon today.

CK: Oh, boy. The only fish that America still eats probably other than shrimp.

JKA: Or canned tuna. We use the canned tuna, right? You know, I live in the Pacific Northwest now, I'm an East Coast guy but I live up here now. And my kids eat a lot of salmon, which means I cook a lot of salmon at home. And you know, one of the things that bothers me about cooking salmon and it's the same thing I think that probably bothers most people is (a) sort of the smell you get, and then (b) really the spatter and the mess that you get when you try to pan fry it. And so, I thought I'd talk a little bit about this technique that it comes initially originally from Japan, but it's very useful for sort of any kind of Western preparation as well called Shiozake. Okay, so Shiozake in Japan means shio means salt and zake means salmon. So, it's essentially just salted salmon in Japan who was traditionally used as a preservation method. And then you sort of boil the salmon and eat it for breakfast with rice. But I use it now to cook basically any salmon at all. It's very similar to like how you would dry rind say a chicken breast, but pork chop or a steak, you salt the salmon, then you put it on a rack and let it sit in your fridge uncovered overnight. And what happens is that during that time, there's of course, there's some drying out of the surface that occurs. So, when you put the salmon down in the pan, you don't get that spatter from all the liquid on the salmon kind of mixing with the oil and sputtering around. So, you get a much nicer cleaner sear on it and a cleaner cook. But more importantly, what it really does is it it breaks down some of the muscle protein. So, myosin in particular is a is a protein in the muscles that when it comes into contact with salt, it breaks down a little bit and it actually allows the salmon to bind to water a little bit better so that as the salmon is cooking, there's less moisture loss. It also solves that you know when you cook salmon, and you kind of overcook it a little bit, or even if you'd properly cook it and you get that white, (the white ooze) Yeah, the albumin kind of coagulated pushing out the sides of the salmon. That happens because this protein is soluble in water. And as the muscle proteins tighten up, as they heat up, they squeeze out water that then carries this protein along with them. And that gets to the surface of the salmon and coagulates. And that's why you get that. So, if you can prevent that water from sort of migrating out of the salmon, you can prevent that white protein from coagulating on the outside.

CK: So this is like koshering a turkey or salting a chicken is the same thing. The the salt draws out moisture, it combines with the salt goes back in, it allows the proteins to hold onto moisture better during the cooking process was so it's it's really a similar concept, right?

JKA: It's a very similar concept, I would say it's actually more similar to the way you would dry brine a steak in terms of the effect it has. What's really interesting I found is that if you actually weigh the salmon filets, a fresh salmon filet versus a salted salmon fillet before and after cooking, what you'll find is that from their initial weight, actually, they end up losing about the same amount of moisture total. But the difference is that with the dry brine filet, you're losing most of that moisture from the surface while it's resting overnight. And so, the moisture that's left in there stays and it's similar to how when you dry age a steak you know, people will say that oh dry aged steak has a better flavor because the flavor is more concentrated because there's less moisture. That's actually not quite true. If you cook a dry aged steak versus a regular steak what you find is that a non-dry aged steak will lose a lot of moisture as it cooks while a dried steak will not however, that drier steak already lost most of that moisture during the drying process. So, the actual amount of total moisture lost is about the same. The difference is that in one case it comes out before it hits the pan and the other case it comes out after it hits the pan and you want it to all come out before because all that moisture does. If it's coming out of the food while it’s in the pan it's just going to rub the pan of heat it's going to get steam takes longer to cook you get less of a sear exactly it also causes all that spat your moisture coming out and getting into the oil is what causes the stovetop spatter. So, you know really I find that it really neatly solves a lot of these issues that I have cooking salmon at home and

CK: And just to remind everybody how much salt would you if you take a center cut piece of salmon for four people how much salt would you use roughly?

JKA: Well ideally you would weigh it and I would go for around between around 1% by weight of salt maybe a little bit less for some people a little bit more for others but around that point if you're not going to weigh it you know what I what I always describe it as whether I'm salting a piece of salmon or a steak I describe it as what like a light snow flurry looks like in a New England parking lot, which is a very specific metaphor, but (as well, you know) but you know, I would season it about as well as you would normally season if you're cooking. So, for a single portion, salmon fillet, you know, kosher salt, about a third of a teaspoon is what I would say maybe half a teaspoon per side. And if you're using regular salt, about half that amount.

CK: And last thing just to remind people so you salted but that salt is not removed before cooking.

JKA: That salt is not removed before cooking. Although if you are sensitive to salt, you can actually rinse the filets and just pat them dry before you cook them if you do want to remove some of that excess salt.

CK: And in terms of cooking method, is this just a basic sauté or are you steaming or doing something else?

JKA: The recipe I did was for pan seared filets. You can of course steam it but steaming, I find is actually a great method to pick salmon anyway, because it also solves some of those problems. But if you're after sort of the crispy skin, and a little bit of browning that you get from pan searing, I think that's when this method really shines the most. It's also great for grilling.

CK: Kenji another brilliant way of solving a common culinary problem, which is how to cook salmon retain the moisture and the flavor and get a nice sear. Thank you.

JKA: Oh, thanks for having me on again.

CK: That was Kenji Lopez Alt. He's a New York Times columnist and the chief culinary consultant for Serious Eats. He's also the author of The Wok, Recipes and Techniques. That's it for this week's show. Please don't forget, you can find more than 250 episodes of milk Street Radio, at our website, Milk Street or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find out more about Milk Street at 177 Mill There you can become a member and get 1000s of recipes, access to our online cooking classes, and also get free shipping on all orders from the Milk Street store. You can also learn about our latest cookbook, Milk Street Simple. Please check us out on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.

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.