Is there anything quite like sorghum? Rich, earthy, and funky, it’s like molasses with a deep, dark secret. Chefs and home cooks everywhere are figuring out what those of us in the South have always known–sweet sorghum syrup is a great way to add depth, umami, and character to anything that needs sweetened up.
We here at The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) know that there’s no better application for sorghum than drizzled over a hot biscuit, but on this month’s show we’re going to show you some new ways to incorporate it into your cooking routine. We’ll be talking with Appalachian food afficionado Ronni Lundy about her new book Sorghum’s Savor, and hopefully we’ll have a sorghum maker in the studio to tell us how it’s done.
That’s Wednesday, April 1, 6-7 PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM. Stream it live here; archived version will be up eventually. And if you’re in or near Whitesburg, come on over and join the Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
I think I speak for the vast majority of us when I say that this winter bullsh*t is getting old. Don’t get me wrong–I appreciate the fact that we get all four seasons here in Kentucky, sometimes in the same week. But when it’s almost time to Spring Forward and I’m looking at big dirty piles of snow from the week before last and plumber bills from the frozen pipes, I’m ready to set my wool coat on fire and head someplace where I could wear shorts to Christmas dinner.
That’s why The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) is making like the smarter varieties of bird and flying south for the rest of the winter. We’ll be cooking a couple of stews from warmer climates that have enough substance to keep us warm in the frigid temps but can transport our minds and our souls to places that don’t even have words for snow.
And speaking of keeping warm, Jonathan will be talking about his trek to Louisville for the Bourbon Classic, where he spent several days trying to keep warm Kentucky-style. And like one always does when flying south, he’ll stop in Atlanta for a Georgia-inspired cocktail that won his heart at the Bourbon Classic Cocktail Competition.
That’s Wednesday, March 4, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg–you can stream it live here. And if you happen to be nearby, we’d love to have you on our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel, so come on by the opulent kitchen studio of the Appalshop!
Don’t miss it!
(Note: if you’re planning to see Alton’s tour at some point, I suggest you stop reading right here and enjoy the show as it comes. If you’re not planning to see it, then I’d strongly encourage you to change your mind about that, and still stop reading here. If you’ve already seen it, or if it’s just not possible for you, then OK, keep reading.)
I had no idea what to expect from the Edible Inevitable Tour, Alton Brown‘s big theater extravaganza.
It wouldn’t be the first time Tamara and I had seen him live; several years ago we trekked to Nashville for a demo in which he set up his Turkey Derrick (well before it appeared on Good Eats) and deep-fried a turkey in the middle of the Opryland Hotel, probably taking years off the life of more than one fire marshal. But this had to be more than a cooking demo, even an over-the-top one; this was Alton’s attempt to combine his senses of whimsy, kitchen nerdery, and grandiosity into a compelling evening at the theatre.
It was a good bet that we would be on board for whatever he had in store–he is, after all, the patron saint of What’s Cookin’ Now!. But even with the high expectations that such a title brings with it, I’m happy to say that Alton’s show blew them away.
The show broke down into roughly four parts, which I’ll discuss separately.
Alton spent most of the first act alone on stage with only a few simple graphics behind him, doing a talk called Things I’m Pretty Sure About About Food. At the beginning of his career Alton started keeping a notebook in which he kept track of things about food he was absolutely certain about, most of which ended up getting scratched out later on. When he looked back at what was left, it was a pretty short list:
- Chickens don’t have fingers.
- Trout does not belong in ice cream.
- Don’t leave out the NaCl.
- Raisins are always optional.
- Never eat shrimp cocktail in an airport.
These nuggets of wisdom came with stories, including his attempt to scare his daughter’s friends away from chicken fingers, his experience watching Iron Chef Sakai making trout ice cream and the horror that ensued from his tasting portion, and a cautionary tale from his early cooking days about dumping an industrial batch of unsalted bread dough in a Dumpster in the raging Georgia heat.
If the entire show had been nothing but Alton telling stories, I would have been perfectly happy. The chance to stretch out into a longer form than television allows him clearly suits him. It reminded me of Kevin Smith’s “Q&A” sessions, in which the questions just become jumping-off points for lengthy and hilarious stories about his experiences making movies. If Alton ever wants to scale it back, he’d be excellent in Smith’s format.
Each act contained a large-scale, ridiculous, and fairly dangerous cooking demonstration. Alton has always expressed his disdain for “unitaskers” by saying that the only thing in the kitchen that should only have one job is the fire extinguisher, but after he had one fail at the task (because he neglected to keep it charged) he decided to stop giving it a pass. So he brought out a rig that allowed him to inject CO2 into a chamber filled with chocolate-infused cream, which not only made a gallon of chocolate ice cream in ten seconds but also carbonated said ice cream.
I do think Alton could have spent a little more time explaining exactly what was happening, science-wise; he gavea brief explanation along with a slide of the Joule-Thomson equation, but it wasn’t up to his usual level of making kitchen science understandable. But as a demonstration of what awesome things you can do when you bring science to the party, it was fantastic.
The science behind the second demo was fairly self-explanatory. He talked about getting hold of his cousin’s Easy-Bake Oven as a kid and trying to ramp it up by replacing the 100-watt bulb with a 150, only to melt down the plastic housing. He never gave up the dream of the light-powered oven with More Cowbell, though, and those dreams eventually became the Mega-Bake, powered by 54 Par 64 cans (theatrical lights) and achieving temperatures of up to 1000 degrees. With the help of an audience member (who signed a waiver on the way up), he made two pizzas and cooked them in four minutes.
These demos were a blast to watch, but I especially loved the way they gave us a look directly into Alton’s id. The Mega-Bake is not something he conceived for this show; he showed a picture of a sketch he made of such a device when he was a teenager. He talked of building prototypes of the Jet Cream in his own garage (and the subsequent damage). As he said at the beginning, this show was not created for the audience’s amusement, but for his own amusement, and it’s obvious to me that if he didn’t have an audience he’d still be finding ridiculous ways to cook. “Why?” he asked, after explaining that he was going to cook pizzas in four minutes? “Because I freakin’ can.”
The second act contained a Q&A portion, with the questions submitted via Twitter and chosen randomly. It didn’t last as long as I wish it had (other parts of the show ran long), but it was fun. For instance, he claims that his logo has six fingers as a tribute to Inigo Montoya (though I’m skeptical), he likes the simple sabotages more than the more ridiculous ones on Cutthroat Kitchen, and he was surprised to find that people would buy his yeast puppets at the merch stand even though they’re socks with eyes purchased at Michael’s.
The show was punctuated by four songs scattered out through the acts. While Alton is a pretty good guitarist (who picked up a sweet Rickenbacker at Wilcutt while he was in town, showing that he knows a great guitar shop when he sees one), the songs missed more than they hit. The worst was the opening number, a rap (yes, a rap, complete with Run-D.M.C. hat and diamond-studded donut on a chain) entitled “TV Chef” that was at least as bad as you might imagine. It was cringeworthy in a way that made me feel bad for Alton’s now-15-year-old daughter, who I suspect wants to disappear into the walls even more than teenage girls when their parents get going. “I guess it’s all uphill from here,” he said when it was over, and he wasn’t wrong.
The best of the songs was “Easy-Bake”, a more straightforward rocker that served as an intro to the Mega-Bake demo and included a reference to Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” debacle, possibly my favorite movie scene ever. And the closing number, a song written to help explain to his daughter that cooking is not as hard as he makes it look on TV, was sweet and a great way to bring the energy back down at the end.
This show, for better or worse (and almost entirely for better), is 2 1/2 hours inside Alton Brown’s head. It’s not a bad place to spend an evening if you’re a fan of cooking, science, spectacle, or even just entertaining stories. See this show while you can.
(Note: I cannot say enough about what a great facility the new EKU Center for the Arts is, and what terrific stuff they’re bringing in. That Hot Sardines show coming up is worth checking out. Huge thanks to Shawn for getting WCN! into the meet-and-greet. And to our dear friends the Collinses for the excellent seats.)
Did you know that more songs have been written about honey than any other food? Actually I made that up, but it almost has to be true, right? Honey has become a metaphor for just about everything that’s good, and it’s easy to see why. It’s delicious, it’s useful in the kitchen, it takes a lot of work to make it go bad, and it can be a completely local product.
Jonathan and Jenny have been teaching at the Eastern Kentucky Beekeeping School for the last couple of years, so we’re bringing some of that knowledge to The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of). We’ll be focusing on savory dishes and how honey can punch them up. We’ll also talk about how you can use science to make infused honey, and of course we’ll talk about some great ways to use honey in cocktails.
We’ll also have a preview of the Bourbon Classic 2015, coming up this month in Louisville! We’ll have some audio that Jonathan and Tamara recorded at last year’s Bourbon Classic Cocktail Competition, and a preview of what’s coming up this year.
That’s Wednesday, February 4, 6-7PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg. As always, you can stream it here. And if you happen to be in Whitesburg, we’d love to have you on our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
I didn’t get any pictures of the cocktails I did in our session at the 2015 Eastern Kentucky Beekeeping School, but I thought I’d get the recipes down anyway. The first one is original; the second one is not.
For the “Winter Honey”:
1 half-pint honey
1 cinnamon stick
zest of 1 medium orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
If you have an immersion circulator, combine all ingredients in a half-pint Mason jar and place in a 120 degree F water bath for six hours. If you don’t, either combine all the ingredients in a jar and leave for at least 5 days, or combine them in a saucepan and heat over low heat for 30 minutes or until tasty, then cool completely. See the previous post for details on infusing honey.
For two cocktails:
3 barspoons “Winter Honey”
3 dashes Angostura bitters
3 ounces Appleton Estate XO rum
2 coins of orange peel
Place the honey and bitters in a mixing glass and swirl around with a muddler. Add the rum and swirl some more. Add ice and stir until the glass is cold. Strain onto clean ice in an Old Fashioned glass and top with a flamed orange peel.
(originally created by T.J. Siegel at Milk & Honey, NYC)
For the honey syrup:
Combine equal parts honey and water and heat just until the honey dissolves, then cool completely. Or, if you have a sous vide setup, place equal parts honey and water in a Mason jar and place in a 120 degree water bath for 2 hours.
For two cocktails:
4 ounces high-proof bourbon (such as Old Forester 100 or Old Granddad Bonded)
1 1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed or don’t bother)
1 1/2 oz honey syrup
Pinch of salt
Shake vigorously with ice and strain onto clean ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
This recipe is from What’s Cookin’ Now!’s “Cooking with Honey” presentation at the East Kentucky Beekeeping School in Hazard on January 24, 2015.
Infusing honey presents a dilemma. The easiest way to do it is to just chuck something flavorful into a jar of honey and let it sit until the flavor infuses, but you’re going to have to wait at least five days and probably more before you get any real intensity. Heating up the honey mixture speeds up the process considerably, but it’s very hard to do without pasteurizing the honey. Pasteurization is the process of heating raw honey until the wild yeasts still present in it are thoroughly vanquished; it’s a function of temperature and time, but at 161 degrees F it takes less than 30 seconds to be considered pasteurized, and it’s really hard to maintain a temperature lower than that on the stovetop. Health advocates say that pasteurization destroys many of the health benefits you get from the raw stuff, and honey connoisseurs say that it blunts the complex flavors that can make honey so interesting. So how do you infuse honey but keep it as raw as the Wu-Tang Clan likes it?
Enter the immersion circulator!
Maintaining those low temperatures is exactly what sous vide cooking is all about. If you happen to own a Sansaire (or other circulator), just put your honey and flavorant in a Mason jar, seal it up, and put it in a 120 degree water bath. At 130 degrees honey will pasteurize after about seven hours; six hours at 120 degrees F gives you a nice infusion and spares most of the yeast from execution.
Now, have I Pepsi Challenged honey infusions made in the circulator vs. those made on the stovetop or those just left to sit and infuse at room temperature? No, I haven’t. But it’s a nice tool to have in your arsenal.
My original plan was to serve the rosemary honey over fried eggplant, as they often do with honey or molasses in Spanish tapas bars. (Curate, possibly the best Spanish tapas bar that isn’t in Spain, does theirs with honey and garnishes it with rosemary.) But since it’s January and the few eggplants I could find in the store didn’t look very good, I decided to use some of Old Homeplace Farm‘s awesome butternut squash instead. I’m really glad I did, because this one’s a keeper. It can be a side dish on its own, or a main dish served over quinoa with a little lemon juice, and the leftovers would be excellent tossed into a salad.
Sauteed Butternut Squash with Rosemary Honey
For the honey:
1 pint raw honey
4-5 sprigs rosemary
Seal honey and rosemary in a pint mason jar and put in a 120 degree water bath for six hours, or until the flavor is as intense as you’d like. Alternately, let it sit for several days, or put it on the stovetop over low heat until it’s tasty (shouldn’t take long at that temperature).
You won’t use the whole pint. If you intend to store it for more than a few days, strain out the rosemary and keep it in the fridge, but once you realize how good it is poured over a sheet pan of popcorn and parked in a low oven for a while, it won’t last long.
For the squash:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper (to taste)
Melt the butter in a 12″ saute pan along with the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Let some good browning develop. Add some salt (three-finger pinch) and a few grinds of pepper and pour in the water and a couple of tablespoons of the honey. Cook down until the water is nearly gone. Remove to a plate, drizzle another half-cup or so of honey over the top, and garnish with a sprig or two of rosemary.
While WCN! may be the World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), we are certainly not the only radio show out there about food. Lynne Rossetto Kasper is celebrating her 20th year as the host of The Splendid Table, a weekly show from American Public Media that covers the whole world of food from chefs to farmers to scientists to home kitchens where listeners call in with their questions. Jenny and Jonathan have both been devotees of the show from very early in its run, and I think it’s safe to say that our show wouldn’t exist (at least not in its current incarnation) if Lynne’s hadn’t been there first.
So we couldn’t have been more excited when she agreed to join us for an interview! In this first part, which aired as a part of our January show about inspiration, we talk about (among other things) Julia Child, kitchen disasters, when you can call yourself a professional, and the whole crazy idea of talking about cooking on the radio.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper interview (Broadcast Version)
And in this Web Exclusive, we take Kasper’s classic Stump the Cook segment–in which a caller gives her five ingredients that happen to be in their fridge at the moment, and she comes up with a dish on the fly–and turn the tables, creating our own dish from what Kasper has in her fridge. After Jenny tells a story involving a fridge full of breast milk, we go hard Appalachian and emerge victorious with the Full Kilt Salad.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper interview (Web Exclusive Segment: Stump the Cook!)
They say that good artists borrow and great artists steal. Find anyone who has taken a craft seriously enough to be good at it and he’ll usually be happy to rattle off a list of the people who have inspired him, whether he’s learned from them directly or admired them from afar. Cooks are no exception; the best cookbooks read more like biographies than anything else, tracing the path to a recipe and describing the people and influences that a dish wouldn’t exist without.
This month on The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), Jenny and Jonathan will talk about some of the inspiration we’ve found on our way. Jonathan will be paying tribute to kitchen nerd patron saint Alton Brown in advance of his appearance in Richmond next month. Jenny is reaching all the way back to the 80s for a moment of inspiration. And there will probably be cocktails.
We’ll also be airing our interview with a lady who has been a huge influence to both of us–Lynne Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table! We talk about Julia, kitchen disasters, and what would possess someone to do something as crazy as a cooking show on the radio.
That’s Wednesday, January 7, 6-7 PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. You can stream it online here. And if you’re fortunate enough to be in or near Whitesburg, come on over to the Appalshop and join our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
When it comes to the traditional Thanksgiving meal, most of us have a good idea in our head of what it looks like. The differences in details can be revealing and fascinating, but mostly it’s variations on the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberries, etc. But what is the traditional Christmas meal? Songs and stories tell of roast goose and figgy pudding and wassail, but when is the last time your grandmother turned those out? A lot of people have pretty much the same thing they had at Thanksgiving. But when it comes to specific foods that mean Christmas, they’re different for everybody.
Wednesday on an all-new What’s Cookin’ Now!, we’ll talk about our own Christmas traditions and those of our tasting panel and our listeners. And we’ll make some foods that say Christmas to us, even if they might not say it to everybody.
That’s Wednesday, December 3, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM! You can stream it here, and we’ll have it posted to the WMMT website shortly thereafter. As always, we’d love to have you on our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel, so come on out to the station and join us!
Don’t miss it!
In his song “Alabama Pines”, Jason Isbell says “No one gives a damn about the things I give a damn about.” It sums up how I feel a lot of the time–who else cares about what technically constitutes a sandwich? Or how a sandwich should be ideally plated? Or proper strategy at a buffet? Who else thinks about surface area to volume ratio so often that the concept requires its own abbreviation (SATVR)?
Enter Dan Pashman and The Sporkful. The podcast’s tagline is “It’s Not For Foodies, It’s For Eaters”, and the focus is on how to make every bite more delicious. Dan has collected his wisdom into a new book entitled Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious, a textbook exploring the finer points of something we all do a few times a day every day.
He sat down for The WCN! Interview, and we discussed foodies vs. eaters (I’d consider myself both), pie vs. ice cream temperature, Thanksgiving strategy, stuffing vs. dressing, and more!
(A shortened version of this interview aired as part of our November 2014 episode.)
WCN! on Twitter