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Nick Fountain from NPR’s “Planet Money” shares the skills and strategy it takes to sell food at the ballpark. Plus, chef Angela Dimayuga gives us a crash course in Filipino flavors and techniques; we learn about the language of eating outdoors with Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette; and we make Swedish Cardamom Buns.
Questions in this episode:
"Why would anyone buy minced garlic in a jar?"
"Do you have any recipes for sparrows?"
"Can you give me tips for roasting sweet potatoes?"
"What's a good substitute for cornmeal?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX and I'm your host Christopher Kimball. At a baseball game, you always hope for the perfect conditions, warm weather, clear skies and energetic crowd. Anything less than ideal can spell disaster. Especially if you're the guy selling beer.
Nick Fountain: So, what’s the worst night of the year probably most likely.
Jose McGrath: The worst night of the year?
NF: So far.
JM: It's cold. It's a Wednesday. There's no giveaway like last night was cold. But there was a Mookie Betts bobblehead giveaway.
CK: That was Fenway Park vendor, Jose McGrath talking to Nick fountain, co-host of NPR’s Planet Money. In 2016, Nick went to this game to report on the skills and the strategy it takes to sell food at the ballpark. Nick, welcome to Milk Street.
NF: Thanks, Chris.
CK: So of course, I've been to more than a few baseball games in my time. But you know something about baseball I don't which is what goes on with the people who sell the food in the stands for Planet money. You went to Fenway Park to talk to the vendors. But before that, you were a vendor yourself at Fenway Park. So, tell me what that was like?
NF: Yeah, yeah when I was in high school, the career counselor said, hey, would you like to get a job at Fenway Park and I said, this is the best day of my life because a bunch of neighborhood kids where I grew up in Boston had had the job and I knew that it was an awesome job pretty lucrative for a teenager. And also, pretty sweet. You get to hang out in a ball stadium. And it's so much fun interacting with with all these people and getting to be this sort of caricature version of yourself where you're running and yelling and faking your accent a little bit. I've been hit by a ball. I've seen other people being hit by a ball. I once sold Stephen King an ice cream bar. There's a lot of exciting things that happen.
CK: The stuff that's being sold by people like you walking through the bleachers, etc. versus the concession stands. How does that work? There's sort of more upscale products being sold in booths around the stadium. And then there's the stuff that's being sold in the stadium. Do they relate to each other in some way?
NF: Yeah, definitely. In the boxes, there's really fancy food, right. And then there's the stuff at the different concession stands. And then there's the stuff being sold in the stands. If you're selling stuff in the stands, it has to be very portable. And that means that sodas and ice creams and waters and peanuts are pretty good. But once you get to like hot dogs, I would say hot dogs is pretty much the limit of that. I know at Fenway Park they were doing clam chowder for a while there. But that's really risky. you know
CK: Now, it's risky, because?
NF: Because you're holding the case of this stuff over your head, you're running up and down the stairs with 30 - 40 pounds where the hot dogs, there's a sterno in there, there's some hot water to keep steam in the hot dogs. It's really dangerous and it's quite a workout. My first year working there I had to switch from glasses to contact lenses because I was sweating so much.
CK: So, tell me a little bit about you went to Fenway Park, you talk to the vendors, the ballpark vendors, what did you find out?
NF: Yeah, so for Planet Money, me and another reporter Robert Smith, we went to Fenway on a cold April night just to sort of explore this system of the allocation of different vendors. And we followed two vendors around so at the beginning of the night a manager comes by and they write out all the things that they're going to sell in the different parts of the stadium so we're going to have three guys selling coke at home plate, and three guys selling diet coke and maybe only two guys selling it at the bleachers and then the vendors based on seniority, you get to decide what product they pick, and that is a very strategic decision.
Voice: Bud Light at right, Coors at home bro. Thank you. Hurley. Blue Moon last beer, right? Right. So, I’ll take that. All right beer’s gone
NF: Vendors are calculating all these different things. They're making spreadsheets at home trying to figure out which products work the best during the day. They all know that on a hot day, everything's going to sell well, but especially your waters, your ice creams, your sodas and on a cold night you want to be selling something hot, you want to be selling your hot dogs, and they really really have studied the different clientele really well. I like to tell the story when I was working there. I used to sell a lot of Diet Coke out of home plate because that's sort of where the vain people sit. But in the bleachers. I would prefer to sell coke because people don't really care about that calorie count in there. Although Boston has turned much fancier since I worked there.
CK: So, the rich people were the good seats want diet Coke. (Exactly) And the rest of us slobs are just going to get coke. So, some of these people are clocking in at well over $1,000 a night.
NF: Oh yeah. I mean, the variance between good sellers and bad sellers is amazing.
CK: You mentioned one guy in particular Jose
NF: Jose McGrath, he is a legend at Fenway Park. What's your rank and commission last year?
Jose McGrath: As far as (the year before) first year before, it’s been first for a bit
NF: He just the best vendor at Fenway Park. I'm going to say one of the best that's ever been.
CK: So, this guy when the other vendors have quit, he's still with the remaining crowd after the game still selling stuff or what?
NF: Yeah, you're supposed to at a seven o'clock game, you're supposed to stop selling at nine o'clock or in the middle of the seventh inning, whichever comes earlier. And he is out there until middle of the eighth just trying to get those last sales. At any point today. Did you watch any of the game? Did you look out on the stadium or?
JM: There was one play that something happened I looked up but it was, there was a home run for whoever we're playing today, which you're playing today. No, I don't know who’s playing today
NF: You spent three hours in a ballpark.
Jose: I know. And I'm a huge baseball fan. Yeah, I'm not sure who is on today.
NF: It's the Tampa Bay Rays,
Jose: It’s the Tampa Bay? I felt like Tampa Bay. I'll tell you what, that feels about right.
NF: I've never seen someone vend like this guy does. He has been at it for as long as I've been going to games at Fenway Park, he's still at it. He goes down to spring training in Florida and does some vending there. It is just delightful to watch this guy run around the stadium. Out hustle everybody else, work longer than everybody else and just do it with a smile on his face.
CK: So, you also followed a guy who just started called Mitch.
NF: Yeah, we followed a rookie, yeah, Mitch Lyons and he was just you know, he had just been working there for a week or two. And he was pretty green.
Mitch: You basically just have to yell water. You get your water here, ice cold water.
NF: I'm going to give you a tip that I learned working here. It's a cold night. Don't say ice cold
Mitch: Sure thing. I can do that. Warm water. Get your lukewarm water here
NF: I think Mitch, enjoyed the game more. And Jose made a lot more sales.
CK: I would think the pressure of getting the sales every night would be you'd be exhausted after seven & half innings. Right? And because you're on every second, you have to make change. You have to get the food to the people. You have to look for the row that your competitor hasn't gotten to. It's a full on 110% immersion, right?
NF: Yeah, I mean, you're constantly looking for the next sale. You're constantly running to evade those other vendors. You're yelling, you're saying, Hey, coke and soda.
CK: You mentioned faking the Boston accent. So, would you go out of your way to do the the spa for the car thing when you're in the stands?
NF: I'm going to say absolutely. And I would say that like 20% of the people selling food at Fenway Park lay it on thick with the accent. I'd say 50% of them lay it on thick. Now obviously, we all grew up in Boston, we have our accents. But, you know, a certain part of this job is showmanship.
CK: Nick, thank you so much. Now I know that it’s a job I'm not cut out for and I'm glad you loved it. Thanks.
NF: Thank you, Chris.
CK: That was Nick Fountain along with Robert Smith, who reported this story for the Planet Money episode, Peanuts and Cracker Jack. My co-host Sara Moulton I are ready to answer your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking One on One and she stars in Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.
Sara Moulton: Hey, Chris, how are you?
CK: I'm good. How are you?
SM: I am ready. That's good. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is William from Miles, Georgia.
SM: Hi, William. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, that was about a year ago, I heard somebody ask you when it comes to cooking, what was the difference between the crushed fresh garlic and garlic powder and the answer was basically, okay, use either one. You know, I wasn't surprised at that. I had hoped that the person would ask you about that stuff in the jar in the produce department, but you got quart jars of says crushed garlic
SM: Or minced garlic. Yeah. And you want to know what about it? Is it worth it?
Caller: Well, what are you supposed to do with it? It tastes awful.
SM: Well, don't don't do anything with it. don't buy it. I agree. It does taste awful. It has stuff added to it. It's first of all, it's minced up garlic and you know it's got citric acid probably in there in a fair amount of salt because if you put garlic into an anaerobic environment, meaning straight oil, it can create botulism. So, I wouldn’t buy it. If you're going to do minced garlic, I would mince your own, you know, before you're going to use it, the more you break up the cells of garlic, the stronger it gets. And so, you know, if you poach it whole, you know, it's quite sweet. If you crush it, it's a little stronger. And if you coarsely chop it, it's even stronger. And if you mince it, it's really much stronger because you keep rupturing the cells.
Caller: Right, but where's it intended to be used?
SM: That stuff in the jar?
SM: However, you would use minced garlic is the idea. (Oh) Yeah but as you pointed out,
Caller: I don't think it works for that
SM: Well, I don’t think it works at all. I mean, you actually already knew the answer to this question. Don't bother.
Caller: Well, about every five years I get tricked into I say it's going to be good. It's garlic, I’ll try it again
SM: No, it changes. Also, as it sits, ah, it's taste change. It doesn't taste fresh. Any rate. Now, let's hear Chris pontificate. No.
CK: Well, I think Greg is a topical application for a sunburn, for example, or I mean, like, yeah, I mean, you your question is, why would anybody sell a product that's that bad? The answer is the worst thing in the kitchen. One of the worst things is when the recipe says, six garlic cloves minced, and nobody knows how to do it, it sticks to the knife, you know, it's dangerous. Nobody likes it so that's why it's a convenience product. The short answer to the alternative is smash cloves of garlic. Make sure the papers you know gone from the outside. And as the Italians do flavor the oil if you're cooking with oil, flavor it with garlic cloves,
SM: Start them in cold oil
CK: Start with cold oil
SM: It pulls out more flavor
CK: and you get nice flavor. It's not overpowering it’s no work at all. And then dump the cloves before you serve the meal. Or or cut off the top quarter. Get rid of the outside paper, throw it in a soup or stew, cook it for a couple hours. Pull it out, squeeze it with tongs and you have that really buttery, yummy, yummy garlic, which is nice and mild, and is great so
SM: You can make big amounts of it and then freeze it in ice cube trays.
Caller: Oh, well, what about that squeezes? I bought a squeeze it for the fresh garlic where it comes out and looks like spaghetti strands coming out.
SM: You're talking about a garlic press.
Caller: Yes. Okay.
CK: Don't do that. Let's…Sara and I will disagree but most of the time, I would say don't do that because it gets a very strong flavor, which I think people disagree with me. It's too strong. I think it's too strong. Yeah. Yeah, don't look at the prepared garlic section in the supermarket
SM: But do you know it seems like you were interested in the roasting garlic business. So as Chris said, you take a whole head of garlic, cut off the top quarter of it, drizzle it with olive oil and salt and wrap it in foil and put it in 400-degree oven till it's very, very, very soft. I think it's about an hour. And then you have to do several two foreheads at once and then squeeze them all out. And you know, freeze them, you have to freeze them because garlic has no you know, acid and so it can go bad quickly,
CK: You can do that. But you can also throw them into soup or stew and cook the soup next to and when the soup pr stew is done, then you take it on, just squeeze it back in. Right. That's the way to do it anyway.
SM: And actually, garlic can be a bit of a thickener. You know, we used to make this sauce when I worked at this restaurant, and we’d throw whole garlic cloves into the sauce and then we puree it sort of like make a garlic milkshake and it had a wonderful texture. I like garlic.
CK: And garlic likes you.
Caller: It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
CK: Thanks for calling and take care. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a little help in the kitchen, just give us a ring anytime 855- 426- 9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hey, Mike
CK: how are you? How can we help you?
Caller: I’ve got a question for you guys. My wife and I have this tradition with two other couples where once a month we get together and do this thing called supper club. So, we try to promote creativity and just having fun mostly. Honestly, it's the three husbands pretending to be chefs and our wives rolling their eyes at us. So, in the spirit of creativity, I’m trying to come up with (here we go) spirit of creativity. I was trying to come up with a new dish and I wanted it to be inspired. And I wanted it to be local. So, staring at my bird feeder. (Oh no) It came to me. The house sparrow. Give me a second. This is a bird, non-native. And it's also highly invasive. It nearly wiped out the Eastern Bluebird, for instance, very aggressive nuisance bird and certainly not protected under the Migratory Bird act. So, I'm thinking If I could ethically acquire sparrows, why not use these for a supper club entree or I guess appetizer, depending on how many I had? Do you guys have any good Sparrow recipes?
CK: Well, this is the most interesting call I've had in a long time. The first question is, are you motivated by revenge or culinary delight?
Caller: Option C, all of the above.
CK: Okay, so the second thing is, you know, I do hunt a fair amount. The problem with small birds is you can't shoot them, at least in quantity so you're going to have to net them. Or like in Lebanon, for example, they put something on the trees that makes the bird stick to the trees, so they get caught. How do you get enough sparrows over dinner for six? I don't think you're going to go online to sparrow.com. Maybe maybe someone does ship them, I don't know. They have quail they have rabbit and they have sparrow. The other problem is, if someone else isn't doing the work, field dressing them as it were, is going to be a lot of work.
SM: Have you ever done that before?
Caller: I do a fair amount of hunting myself, primarily deer and duck. I'm not overly intimidated by that process.
CK: Here's what I would do. You want something different? I would go out and use quail and say it's Sparrow. Absolutely.
SM: You’re telling him to lie?
CK: Absolutely. And the other thing is you really, I mean sparrows, I wouldn't touch a bird who's in your neighborhood for a million dollars, because could have pesticides, it could be eating out of trash, you just never know. So, I would, I would get a bird quail or whatever, we get a bird from a supplier who's growing them. They do all the prep work for you. In Lebanon, they actually grill them. They're delicious. And they use pomegranate molasses to baste them when they come off the grill, which is absolutely delicious. So, we do something like that.
SM: You can also you can buy them, or you used to be able to buy them online, partially boned, which makes your life easier. You
CK: You want to do something spectacularly different, right?
Caller: Do something no one else has done. And honestly, I liked the intersection of this being unique and new. And also, a solution to a problem. Native songbirds’ population reduction ongoing directly because of this other bird the house sparrow.
CK: I salute you for your intrepid culinary tastes. But please don't put this on social media. You're going to have to move if you do this
SM: Yeah, I don’t think that would be very popular. Here's here's one. Another thought is why don't you do a whole foraged meal
CK: There you go. that’s a good idea
SM: Local ingredients.
SM: Yes again, do your homework so you don't kill anybody.
Caller: That would be frowned upon.
CK: That's an excellent idea, that’s a very good idea.
SM: That would be very different.
CK: That's actually a good idea.
Okay. Love it, guys. We'll we'll go for quail.
CK: All right. Thanks for the year’s most interesting call.
SM: Yeah, thanks.
Caller: Anytime. Thanks. Take care.
CK: You listening to Milk Street Radio coming up a crash course in Filipino flavors and techniques, with Chef Angela Dimayuga. That's right after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Next up is Chef and artist Angela Dimayuga, she's the co-author of Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora. Angela, welcome to Milk Street.
Angela Dimayuga: Thanks for having me. Really excited to talk with you today.
CK: You grew up in San Jose, and you said Filipino migrant farmworkers started settling there in the 1920s. So, it's, it has a large Filipino American population.
AD: Yeah, that's right.
CK: So, what was it like growing up? Do you have a lot of family around. The food was a combination of Filipino food and American food what what was that, like?
AD: I have a bunch of cousins. I have 40 cousins; my mom has eight siblings. And so that means our family gatherings are quite large. Also, being around a bunch of Filipinos in my elementary school and high school meant that not only were we eating Filipino food at home, but we're eating Filipino food from different regions at friend's homes. And then in general, the food options in San Jose were amazing. I grew up around a lot of Mexican food, San Jose is 30% Asian and 30% Mexican and so I got to eat lots of Vietnamese food. And then of course, American food, because in the early 90s, fast food was taking a real boom.
CK: What little I do know about the Philippines and Philippine cooking is that it's complicated, right? I mean, there's like 200 different indigenous languages. The north southeast was different islands, it's very different, right in different places. Is there a way to say that there is a, a cuisine? Or is it just like many places? It just depends where you come from? Or what part of the Philippines you're talking about?
AD: I think that's a really good question. You know, in a, if I'm looking at the historical timeline of the Philippines, we were 7000 disparate islands, all with our own different cultures. I think about Okinawa in relationship to Japan or Taiwan in relationship to China. There are regional dishes that are specialties from all over in the south of the Philippines, there is a large Muslim population, and so they have their own types of curries using burnt coconut. But if you look at just the historical timeline, when the Philippines became the Philippines, during King Philip's reign, there were ingredients that came into the Philippines from around the world. And so, for me, when I think about the Filipino cuisine as a whole, there's a layer of richness that's different than other Asian countries because of our use of dairy, butter and cheese. We also have a lot of sour flavors from our indigenous cuisine, flavor profiles that are citrusy and sour from fermentation using coconut vinegar, just to simply preserve our food in this hot tropical weather.
CK: Coconut vinegar is at the heart of so many of these recipes. You also talk about how to make it at home. But what is it about that vinegar that is really critical or foundational for your cooking?
AD: Yeah, one one part of the book is the flavor matrix, which actually designed, inspired by the culture matrix that's at the back of New York Magazine. And for me, I think it was an opportunity to share what the flavor profiles are of our cuisine are. If you see a densely populated quadrant of this flavor matrix. It makes you understand what our food might tastes like. Crunchy, fatty, acidic, etc. So, you asked about coconut vinegar, and coconut vinegar, I feel is very recognizable for Filipino cuisine. And that's simply from the plethora of coconuts available in indigenous periods. We utilized all the parts of a coconut and that's something I learned that was really beautiful. Like the coconut shells were used as fuel, you could burn them as charcoal on a grill. You could also there was an indigenous dance that we learned in folk dancing, where they use the coconut shells for percussion instruments on your body. So, you would just use two coconut shells and hit various parts of your body and do this rhythmic type of dancing. The coconut milk would be used to flavor and thicken and make dishes more rich like the coconut milk adobo which is a really popular dish. And then we even take coconut milk and fry it. You basically cook it for a long time simmering to the point that the curd separate from the oil. And you get these beautiful nutty crispy bits that we top on sticky rice, you then get coconut oil from that process, and you can utilize it and cooking and coconut vinegar was from fermenting the coconut water.
CK: You do also say that adobo you say quote, it's the least understood recipe by Westerners. What is it that we don't understand about? I mean, it's a fairly straightforward concept. But what is it we think it is that it's not?
AD: Yeah, I think the name is misleading. That was a name that was given by Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. I love that I learned in the bookmaking process that this is an indigenous dish. But this is a name that became a unified name for all the versions of this dish that exists in the 7000 Islands. And it reminded Spanish colonizers of their version of adobo, which has a bunch of spices and it's originally seasoned stewed meat. Doesn't always have vinegar in it but the proportions again, are what makes this dish special using soy sauce and vinegar. And that's what I mean by least understood because of that historical fact. But this introduction of these simple flavors that combine in a really unique way, I think when you think about all those ingredients, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf black pepper, you're not maybe ready for what that flavor profile is. And when you do taste it, it's undeniably good. And I love that dish as a gateway dish, because it works with chicken, pork. I can make that sauce and pour it over fish, but it works really well with tofu or cauliflower
CK: I’ve made a lot of fried chicken in my time, but your recipe is the most interesting fried chicken recipe I've ever seen. You you steam it first. You make a marinade using raw rice. you base it with American throw in their fridge for 24 hours till it dries out. And then you fry it. Is this something you came up with because it really sounds interesting.
AD: That's that's the nerdy chef side of technique that I added to this dish where I had been so inspired by utilizing koji and made for many years a koji fried chicken, I wanted to merge that technique to a chain that exists. That's Filipino fried chicken chain called Max's Fried Chicken. I never even went there as a kid, but my dad loves that recipe. So, I was really just playing around and I had that fried chicken dish in the book. But then it was also really fun to have a whole roasted chicken that is made by just dumping sinigang packet which is a tamarind soup base that's really popular. MSG and all we love MSG. You know, with Americans, we have this fear of MSG, just from this was from a like a racist history of the separation of Asian cuisine and MSG that has been debunked at this point. And you know, MSG is just something that was found by a Japanese scientist that allowed you to taste umami on a really special level, but it's in everyday foods, mushrooms, tomatoes, seaweed, so it's naturally derived, it was just selected and celebrated by algae nomoto. So that's a whole rabbit hole I think we should look into if we don't understand that. And something to celebrate as an invention at this point.
CK: Yeah, I'm pro MSG. koji also, the liquid Shio koji from Japan that which is kind of the same thing, but I'm all for it. You also did something in the book. Do you have a fried pork chops stack? Could you just explain that to me? Because it's it just sounds like a lovely idea. But but what is it?
AD: So, coming from a big family, my mom would make these giant batches of food feeding six kids at a time coming home at different times. My dad would come home from work really late from working in the restaurant industry. And so, we had food always made in giant piles. And one of those was a fried pork cutlet. And, you know, just like adobo there was this preservation method of just brining pork chops straight up in a smashed garlic and vinegar marinade. And so, you can marinate that for a couple days. But my mom would marinate these thin pork chops. And I made tons like countless hundreds of pork chops when I was working at a new American restaurant called Vinegar Hill in Brooklyn. And we had what they were called double cut pork chops that were massive. And I learned to butter base these pork chops. We cook them in our wood oven, and I love that butter basting technique.
CK: You just base with butter. Is that the technique?
AD: Yeah, so you fry either a piece of steak or pork chop in olive oil at a really high temperature to get a nice crunchy sear. Get the umami from that crust that's built up. And so, I combined those techniques where I use that vinegar marinated pork chop of my mom's thin cut. And the idea is to merge that flavor of vinegar, butter, garlic and make a huge stack of it because oftentimes when my mom would make a fried meats for me, you don't eat one piece, you eat two or three with mounds of rice and just eat as much as you want. And that's that's where the stack idea comes from.
CK: And now we turn finally to dessert, mango, turmeric chiffon cake that just really caught my eye. So, you need to talk about that.
AD: Yeah, my grandmother was an amazing pastry chef. Not only should she cook tons of Filipino food and her specialties, but she also had a huge range of desserts. And I think that's something that the American audience doesn't quite know about, because I think it was such a individual experience of my own. But we have so many pastries and cakes in the Philippines, and in Filipino cuisine reminds me so much of if you hit up a Chinatown, and you go to the Chinese bakeries, there's so many options, but the cake that my grandmother made, we would just call it mango cake growing up, and she would either use really ripe mangoes or even canned mangoes. But I realized when I learned more about baking as an adult and working in kitchens that her recipe was essentially a chiffon cake. And that was the cake that she'd make for every birthday. So, it had fluffy eggs where you whip up your egg whites separate from the rest of the batter. And you just fold it in so gently, and it's just simply whipped cream and mango on top. And I just really love that dish because it's not super sweet. And it really matters to have this sweet tart flavor from the mangoes and then I also just loved utilizing a really high quality tumeric powder to separate some of the batter in a separate bowl and just add some tumeric to that I really love that flavor and fragrance of tumeric but also just looks really gorgeous with that mango and you just spoon in different layers of the white batter and the tumeric batter and then you get this beautiful swirl that is actually quite effortless.
CK: Turmeric mango chiffon cake. That's that's another one that's a stack of pork chops on the menu and that for dessert and you're all set. Angela, spend up. It's been fun. It's been a great pleasure. Thank you so much.
AD: Yeah, thanks for talking to me about all the technique of our cuisine. Yeah, really fun to talk with you about it
CK: That was Angela Dimayuga, she's the co-author of Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora. You can find her recipe for mango turmeric chiffon cake at Milk Street Radio.com. You know countries contain their own diasporas national borders rarely define a consistent culinary heritage. In the Philippines, for example, there are 7000 islands, 200 dialects and culinary styles that vary substantially from north to south from east to west. So, the truth is that national dishes they do exist, but they are simply the tip of the cultural iceberg. What lies beneath is the real story. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. We're heading into the kitchen with Lynn Clark to learn this week's recipe. Swedish cardamom buns. Lynn how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well.
CK: You know our food editor Matthew Card. One of the things he's told me about for years is Swedish cardamom buns. And we made them not too long ago and I was just I was blown away. I mean, there's nothing wrong with cinnamon roll or cinnamon bun they're a little sweet and sort of one note the cardamom with the dough. The enriched dough is just a lovely combination. It is absolutely home run. So, we worked on a recipe and how does it go?
LC: Well, this is a bit of a project piece which I think is always fun, especially because it's actually not that hard. It just takes some time obviously it's a yeast dough so it's going to rise a couple of times you have a little bit of fun shaping to do because these are kind of twisted and wrapped around your fingers into this little turbine like been filled with a mixture of cardamom, brown sugar and softened butter the dough is enriched with all of that milk and butter and an egg and then this cardamom flavor is really the star. Because of that. We do not recommend using pre ground cardamom in the recipe. Instead, you want to try to find cardamom seeds and grind them yourself which you can do in a mortar and pestle, or you can do with a spice grinder. You just want to leave a little bit of texture because we like having a little bit of that texture in the dough.
CK: You know I have a feeling if I were a betting person, that next year will be the year of cardamom. (Yeah) it's sneaking up on us every turn around. But this dish is just these buds are just absolutely tremendous. One last question. So, you fill it the dough, etc. How do you shape the buns? This is like a spiral shape. How do you do it?
LC: It's actually a really pretty little bun much prettier than a cinnamon roll. So, you roll out the dough, you fill it, and then cut the dough into strips and you take those strips, and kind of while you're twisting the strip of dough, you swirl it around your fingers and make it into this little it looks almost like a little turbine. It's really nice and high and plump. And so that creates a lot of different textures. So, you've got that feeling kind of poking out in a lot of different areas. I can't sell this hard enough. I love these. I make them all the time. They're so different than a cinnamon roll but will likely replace your love for cinnamon rolls.
CK: I've never heard you this excited before.
LC: I really like any sort of breakfast baked good, but these have quickly become my favorite.
CK: Lynn Thank you. Swedish cardamom buns. It’s some work it's a used to dough, but it's not hard. And these are absolutely spectacular. Thank you.
LC: You're welcome. You can get the recipe for Swedish cardamom buns at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up the language of dining outdoors with Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette we'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. It's time to take a few more calls with my co-host, Sara Moulton.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Catherine Devine from Houston, Texas
SM: Hi, Catherine how can we help you today?
Caller: So, I have a question about roasting sweet potatoes. I roast a half sheet pan of sweet potato slices almost every day for my daughter's breakfast. And I'm having an issue with some of the slices being nice and crispy. Other pieces are kind of raw and soggy. And then some pieces they just burn up into little charcoal bits. And so, I'm trying to figure out how to make a full pan of evenly crisped, sweet potato slices.
SM: So, I have to ask the obvious questions for starts. Sweet potatoes vary in terms of how old they are, how much sugar they have, if they've ever been refrigerated. The older they are, the more their starch has turned to sugar. So, you could have had a discrepancy even within you know the same batch of potatoes you got because maybe they got mixed up in the bin at the supermarket. How did you slice them where they all have the same thickness?
Caller: Yes, I typically do one sweet potato, and I peel it and then I slice it by hand. Sometimes I use my mandolin, but my goal is to make them all even, I typically use the round slice sometimes I cut it in half again. So, they're half rounds.
CK: How thick are the slices?
Caller: Between one eighth and one quarter of an inch. If it's a long skinny sweet potato, I can do those rounds pretty quickly. If it's a big fat one, that's when I'll typically cut it in half. Cut it again. So, I have a flat surface to work with
SM: Yeah, I think that makes more sense. But aside from that, I was going to say that first of all, they don't have the same starch as white potatoes, and they have a lot more sugar, so they do brown unevenly, it's sort of hard to get around. One thing you might consider but it's sort of a pain in the butt is to boil them in some acidulated water the acid helps to set up the pectin just do it very briefly. pat them dry. And then something else you could do is make sort of a cornstarch slurry with water and cornstarch, very thin slurry and then toss them in that and then roast them at a high heat. But that sounds like a lot more work than anybody would ever want to do, so I don't know I mean, Chris so what do you think/
CK: Here's my two thoughts. If they're not exactly the same thickness being an eighth an inch to a quarter inch, I think that's where you might get your variation because it's all the same sweet potato. Secondly, what temperature is your oven when you do this?
CK: The outside of the sweet potato is going to get caramelized with the heat fast before the insides cooked. So, I would try a 350 oven and use a mandolin to get perfectly even slices and I’d put it on a little parchment sheet you know on the half baking tray and see if even slices in lower temperature might give you more consistent results because you said some get crispy and some don't.
SM: You know what I wonder if this is a job for an air fryer? I haven't done all that much work with an air fryer, but I know that
CK: We have
SM: What do you think?
Caller: I've actually tried that too
CK: We tried French fries. makes terrible French fries
SM: isn’t that the point of an air fryer?
Caller: kind of soggy
CK: They’re soggy,
Caller: They didn’t get as crispy, as I would have thought Yeah,
CK: Everyone buys an air fryer for a variety of reasons, but French fries evidently is not it's not the reason I would try that because I think inconsistencies the problem here
SM: or you could try what I suggested but it is a pain in the butt.
CK: She just wants to throw them in the oven. Okay, don't do that. It's just breakfast.
Caller: But I’m Interested in the boiling Did you say it's a special kind of water you boiled them in?
SM: Acidulated some white vinegar. Put a little bit of vinegar in there.
CK: I could have made you know, three batches of waffles. two batches of pancakes and some corn muffins in the time you get finished with the prep for this.
Caller: Well, come on over to my house and do bread.
CK: I do breakfast really well,
SM: Right, right.
CK: Anyway, Catherine give that a shot. Thank you
SM: You’re a good mom. Yeah
CK: Healthy. I want maple syrup on mine. Take care.
Caller: Thank you so much for the tips.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are ready to solve your most perplexing kitchen mysteries. At least we think we can give us a ring 855-426=9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or drop us an email at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Paula Gardzelewski calling from Magnolia Texas.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: Well, I have just been fascinated since I heard about Milk Street and you know learning about different ways to cook and bringing new flavor profiles to my family. But there are allergy and food sensitivity issues that I encounter. And I was intrigued with one of your recent recipes, cod with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. But the cornmeal corn is one of the food allergies that we deal with. So, what kind of substitution can be made for the cornmeal?
CK: You can get I think gluten free panko breadcrumbs. Okay. And I use those anytime I'm citing or frying shallow frying fish or chicken cutlets or whatever. Panko really does. I don't know about the gluten free version of it, but it is very crispy. And I think what you're looking for here is that texture on the outside. The other thing you could do is just skip the cornmeal entirely and just cook the fish and serve it you know, with olives and capers and tomatoes. But if you want that crispy outside texture, that would be my go-to I mean, are you looking for a crispy coating or you just want a coating?
Caller: That's a great question, because I'm never really sure what the best way to substitute something. You know, I assume that because the recipe calls for cornmeal that it should have something crispy on it. So, if I want to crispy texture, then obviously I need to do something that Panko sounds good. And I know in the past I've ground up nuts to make a flour of sorts. But it's always kind of a hit or miss thing.
CK: Yeah, I would do the gluten free Panko. But the other thing is when I do this, I guess you could use a gluten free flour. I always take the chicken or the cutlet or the fish in flour first, shake it off into egg and then into the panko
SM: Standard breading procedure.
CK: And that way the eggs really going to hold onto it
SM: It will stick.
CK: If you don't use the flour, it's not going to stick very well.
Caller: May I ask you one more quick question. Along this line.
Caller: You were mentioning definitely template in the flour, shake it put in the egg then put it through the powder again.
CK: The coating. Yeah
Caller: We also have egg allergies. So, what would be a good substitute for the egg in that
Caller: Milk, then there’s dairy that’s the other thing
SM: Okay water. Even water. Water's fine.
CK: How about egg white, can you use egg white? just the yolk or the egg white? That egg white makea some terrific coating. Yeah, I use that all the time. It's really crispy,
SM: Or you could use stock it's sort of a wetness that glues the coating to the flour that's already on the fish.
Caller: So, it's not the viscosity of the liquid it's just the fact of having a liquid
CK: Eggs will make it thicker
SM: Yeah, eggs will make a thicker coating, but I think it would work with any liquid.
Caller: I see.
SM: Oh boy poor you what a challenge you have.
Caller: Yes, we have a whole long laundry list. have allergy issues that have to be dealt with. So, it's always a constant battle to try and figure out what's going to work and what isn't.,
CK: Well maybe you'll end up with tequila cod with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers as your liquid. Well, maybe we just invented something.
SM: Yeah, no, that sounds good to me. Yeah.
CK: Maybe that's a good idea. Anyway, Paula, thanks for calling.
SM: Yes. Good luck.
Caller: Thank you so much
CK: Yeah, good luck.
Caller: Thank you. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Right now, it's time for a language lesson with Grant Barrett and Martha Burnette. Hosts of A Way with Words. Grant and Martha, what's up this week?
Grant Barrett: Hey, Chris, good to talk to you know,
Martha Burnette: Hey Chris, we're thinking about dining Alfresco this evening. I don't know about you. But I always find that food tastes better outdoors. And when you're talking about Alfresco, you're literally dining in the fresh air. That's an Italian phrase that means in the fresh air. But you don't use that phrase in Italy because Alfresco in Italian is slang for in prison.
GB: So, what would you say in Italian instead?
MB: Well, if you're going to a restaurant in Italy, what you want to ask your waiter for is to dine fuori, which means outdoors, or al aperto.
CK: So, if Alfresco is slang for in prison, which is doesn't sound too appealing, why is that term used here to meet eating outside?
MB: Okay, well, the difference is that in ancient Italy, jail cells were often holes in the ground, and they have the top open to the sky. So, it's sort of fresco meaning fresh, ironically, I suppose.
GB: So, this is one of those borrowings where we just wanted to borrow a little bit of the glamour of, of a foreign language, just like we sometimes do with French,
MB: Right. And in fact, we borrowed from the French, the word picnic, which has a kind of a squishy etymology, we're not totally sure of it, but it apparently goes all the way back to the 17th century. And the idea of picking a thing of little value, you know, everybody brings a little bit to a gathering outside.
CK: Well, at least we got revenge on the French because they say le weekend so okay
MB: That's true they do. Have a picnic on the weekend.
GB: And so, I'm also thinking about all these other kinds of particularly in the south, there's all these other kinds of outdoor gatherings like fish fries, and basket dinners. Kentucky _____, there's so many of these
MB: Dinner on the ground and fish camp in North Carolina. I remember going to fish camp right
GB: And then of course, and I know these aren't exclusively outdoor meals, but the difference between potluck and covered dish is kind of this a dividing lingo in the United States. They're they're very reasonably demarcated, aren't they?
MB: They are. Yeah, you usually hear the term potluck in the northern Midwest or the far west of the Northern Plains. And it's in the South and the eastern seaboard and the eastern Midwest where you hear the term covered dish for that kind of supper or lunch. And, Chris, if you're dining outside, I'm hoping that you won't ever experience formication.
CK: Man, I'm not I'm not going for that one.
GB: they're a letter M as in money, not an n as a nickel.
CK: So what what is for fornication mean
MB: Formication is a fancy term for the sensation of ants crawling on your skin
CK: Can I say a question, because you guys are experts on words, why did someone need to invent a term for the feeling of ants crawling over your skin?
MB: Well, actually it's a medical term. You know, some people have things and it's one of those fancy Latin based terms
GB: but I'm kind of thinking back leaving the kitchen again, Martha and going outside to a log fire a wood fire and the things that we cook over the fire, and s'mores or the stuff that Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts make that they wrap in foil and and these have a tradition and there's some language attached to both of those.
MB: Sure. Yeah. You always want some more of a s’mores, right?
CK: So, is that actually the derivation of that term?
GB: Absolutely. Yeah,
MB: It is.
GB: Yeah, in the 20s and 30s s’more was used before it became the fireside treat to just mean some more of, of whatever it is they were talking about. And then by the 1920s 1928 in fact, we find it used as a campfire treat at a girl's gathering for the YWCA.
CK: Huh, I didn’t know that.
GB: Pretty much exactly as we make them today with chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallow,
CK: It's still a winner. I mean,
GB: Yeah, and part of is the fun of the mess too.
CK: Yeah. Part of the fun is is taking big bite out of your five-year-old s'mores before he has a chance to it. That’s also
MB: The fresh air and the smoke following you
CK: So, s’mores Alfresco
GB: So, Chris, did you ever make hobo stew or foil stew or campfires stew tin foil dinner?
CK: I've done tin foil dinners. Yes. I haven’t done stew, hobo stew
GB: We're not talking TV dinners that you buy and you know they're cooked in foil. But these are where you take vegetables, meat, maybe butter or oil and seasoning and seal them together in a packet to roast in the coals of of a fading fire. And this is, this comes from the hobo tradition, which is more than 100 years old, and it's basically a mulligan stew. Originally, it was whatever you had at hand seasoned well, because usually it wasn't of high quality and cooked all at once over a fire.
MB: But Chris, you might carry all of those things in a knapsack, which is actually another food word because apparently that goes back to an old German word that means to eat ____, which is literally to make a snapping noise. So, you're carrying all those edibles in your knapsack.
CK: The good old medieval German always comes in handy I find.
CK: You guys are just a fount of obscure but fascinating knowledge.
MB: We've been called worse
GB: regular clambake with us, Chris
CK: Grant and Martha, thank you so much. Next time I see you I hope we don't dine al fresco at least in the true meaning of the word.
MB: Well, stay out of trouble, Chris.
CK: Thank you so much. That was Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for this week's show. You can find all of our episodes on Milk Street Radio.com or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about Milk Street and 177 Milk Street.com. There you can become a member for just $1 you get full access to all of our recipes to our live stream cooking classes and get free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. We're on Instagram and Twitter at 177. Milk Street on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's 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 Clark, Assistant 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. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX