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Special Sauce with Ed Levine

Serious Eats' podcast Special Sauce enables food lovers everywhere to eavesdrop on an intimate conversation about food and life between host and Serious Eats founder Ed Levine and his well-known/famous friends and acquaintances both in and out of the food culture.
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Now displaying: November, 2018
Nov 29, 2018

In part two of my enlightening and heartfelt conversation with Chef Michael Solomonov and his partner Steven Cook, authors of Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious we took a deep dive into- what else?- the soul of Israeli food.

First of all, I became really envious when they told me about the kind of research they did for the book, which involved going to over 80 restaurants in eight days. That's my kind of trip!

And, apparently, when you eat at that many restaurants, you end up discovering a lot about a place. Cook noted that in the book they try to explain where many of the culinary traditions in the country came from, and what makes them Israeli, by documenting "the stories of all these cultures that have come together in the last 100 years, and evolved the cuisine that was already there, and brought in new traditions." As Solomonov notes, too, part of what's unique about the country is that "most Israelis are a few generations away from their family coming from a totally different part of the world," which makes for an interesting mix of food traditions.

But Cook also had one observation that stuck with me about what makes Israeli cuisine unique. He said, "Because of the way that so many different cultures have established themselves in Israel, within the last several generations, I think that there's an attachment to tradition that is really special, and something that we see probably less of in America. As food obsessed as we are now, it's about what's new and hot. It's not about doing something, perfecting something over generations, doing one thing, handing it off to your children. And that's really an inspiring way, I think, to think about food, and I think it comes through in how it tastes."

I learned so much from these passionate, smart advocates for Israeli food, and I have a feeling that many serious eaters will feel the same way after listening to this week's Special Sauce.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/11/special-sauce-michael-solomonov-steven-cook-part-two.html

Nov 21, 2018
When I was mulling over what we could do on Special Sauce for Thanksgiving, I immediately thought about stress reduction. Making the big dinner can be stressful for any number of reasons, and while we design all our Thanksgiving offerings with an eye to making the holiday as hassle-free as possible, I decided to continue with that theme in this special edition of Ask Special Sauce. I invited Kenji and Stella on to answer as many questions from our community as we could, since they know a lot about a lot of Thanksgiving-related topics.
 
The two of them delve into a myriad of tips and tricks, from figuring out what to do with leftovers and accommodating your guests' allergies and dietary restrictions, and they discuss the differences between stuffing and dressing. (Kenji even has an ingenious solution for people who would like to cook their stuffing in their bird without overcooking the meat.)
 
We will also provide a full transcript of our conversation on our website, for those of you who'd prefer to read it, and have included highlights and links to the recipes mentioned in this episode below.
 
There are so many people that I have to thank concerning Special Sauce.  I'm thankful for everyone who makes the podcast a joy to create. Our producer, Marty Goldensohn, our associate producer, Marissa Chen, everyone here both at CDM Studios and the other Serious Eats' Special Sauce home, the Radio Foundation. And a big thank you especially to our listeners, whether you're new to the podcast or tune in weekly.  Without you, there would be no Special Sauce.
 
Happy Thanksgiving, Serious Eaters, from me and all of us here at Serious Eats!
 

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3:23  Kenji addresses a question about make-ahead savory foods for the holidays.

Recipes: Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Make-Ahead Roasted Squash and Kale Salad

6:27  Stella’s tips for make-ahead desserts.

Recipes: Pumpkin Layer Cake, Pumpkin Pie, Cherry Pie

8:28  Kenji explains how to get the most out of kitchen space when planning your Thanksgiving menu.

Recipes: Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Sweet Potatoes

10:25  Debate: Should pies be reheated?

11:57  The team debates the differences between stuffing and dressing. Kenji is going to steal Stella’s dad’s idea for including brown butter in a stuffing recipe this year.  

Recipes: Slow-Cooker Sage and Sausage Stuffing, View all stuffing recipes

18:51  Is it possible to make gluten-free pies or other desserts that are actually delicious?

Recipe: Flaky and Crisp Gluten-Free Pie Crust

22:33  Are expensive turkeys better than ‘typical’ turkeys?  Kenji, Stella and Ed discuss heritage vs. organic vs. free-range vs. commercial turkeys. Advice from Kenji: Use a thermometer and don’t overcook. Animal rights issues and farmers.

Video: How to Take the Temperature of Your Turkey

27:50  Kenji and Stella offer suggestions of what to do with leftover pumpkin purée.  

Recipes: The Best Pumpkin Pizza RecipeSpicy Spring pizza, Sweet Potato Pancakes Made With Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes, The Food Lab: How to Make Kickass Quesadillas

30:18  Is sous-vide a useful technique for Thanksgiving?  Kenji says yes, it’s great for turkey, leftovers, and heating make-ahead dishes.

Recipes: Sous Vide Turkey Breast, Deep-Fried Sous Vide Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta), Gravy

Nov 16, 2018

For the last couple of Thanksgivings, we've done call-in episodes of Special Sauce with Stella and Kenji to answer the holiday-cooking questions stumping the Serious Eats community. We love producing these episodes, and our audience seems to love listening to (or reading) them, so we've decided to make it a Serious Eats holiday tradition.

This year, we were treated to a mini treatise from Kenji on gravy, which, I'm not ashamed to admit, has vexed me so much over the years that I've resorted to tubs of the store-bought stuff. Kenji broke down the basic process of making it, then described one of his favorite secret ingredients: "The other thing I like to do with my gravy, which some people consider cheating—whatever, I don't care—is that we add a little bit of soy sauce to it. This is actually something that my grandmother did, my mother did. This is an Alt family, a Nakanishi family tradition, actually.... When I do it, I actually put enough to make it taste a little bit like soy sauce, just because I like that flavor, but even if you don't want that flavor, even just a little splash of it, I find, it gives it a nicer color, and it also really deepens the flavor and brings out some of the other, more roasty flavors in the turkey."

Meanwhile, Stella had reassuring words for cooks who think the best-tasting pumpkin pie depends on fresh roasted pumpkin. If roasting your own sugar pumpkins and scooping out the flesh adds to the coziness of your Thanksgiving experience, she says, then go for it. But "if you don't enjoy that process, if you don't feel like, man, this is really improving my day and my dessert experience, there's not really any huge benefit, because the companies that make canned pumpkin are using the most delicious type of squash product, pumpkin product, that they can. They have scientists and engineers and farmers, all working together to produce this one glorious thing. It's like, let them do their job." The upshot of all of this being that "if you've got a recipe that calls for pumpkin purée, don't beat yourself up. Grab a can of pumpkin purée, and just take it easy."

Stella and Kenji's Thanksgiving troubleshooting ranged far and wide, tackling the most challenging questions with their customary aplomb and grace: How to time the many dishes that go into a Thanksgiving repast so that they all end up on the table together? What kinds of pies travel best? If you have to make your turkey in advance, what's the best way to reheat it? And many, many more that we're sure serious eaters will appreciate. If that isn't enough to entice you into listening, in the course of our conversation, both Kenji and Stella revealed themselves to be lovers of white-meat turkey and explained why. (I was skeptical, as you'll find out, but you'll no doubt render your own judgment about this controversial position.)

This special episode of Special Sauce is our way of thanking the millions of readers and listeners who have welcomed us into your kitchens and your stomachs over the years. Happy Thanksgiving, serious eaters.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=439838

Nov 8, 2018
When we booked multiple James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov and his business partner Steven Cook on Special Sauce to talk about their new book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Israeli-Soul-Easy-Essential-Delicious/dp/0544970373/?tag=serieats-20">Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious</a></em> and their restaurants (<a href="http://www.zahavrestaurant.com/">Zahav</a>, Dizengoff, Federal Doughnuts, among others), I thought they'd talk a lot about a typical chef-restaurateur partnership and contemporary Israeli food. 
 
I couldn't have been more wrong. What I heard instead was an incredibly moving story of a friendship made stronger by struggle. Zahav was no overnight sensation, Cook is no ordinary restaurateur, and Solomonov is not your everyday rock star chef. 
 
For example, here is Solomonov speaking about the nature of his relationship with Cook: "It is a true partnership and we are equally on the hook for things when they go wrong. We've learned how to grow together and how to remove ego...and at this point we've done this long enough where if we don't like something we're comfortable talking about it. Like it's safe. We encourage it. With our team and certainly with our managers. The last thing that we want are for people to just agree with us."
 
Zahav's success was by no means assured at the outset. Israeli food was not exactly trendy in Philadelphia, or anywhere else for that matter. The first year was fraught with peril, but the peril ended up inspiring Solomonov and Cook to experiment with the cuisine and be less hemmed in by tradition. As Solomonov says, "We had no salaries and we were going to close the business and we were squeaking along to really make payroll, to stay open. It forced us to be really diligent and to think about our priorities. And actually, in a way, it freed us too. That was when Zahav, the food or the way that we cook now, sort of came to fruition." Or, as Cook puts it, "There's nothing like the desperation of impending failure to sharpen your focus."
 
Solomonov and Cook were incredibly candid about Solomonov's well-publicized struggles with substance abuse; Solomonov describes how Cook found out, three months after Zahav opened, that he was keeping secret his crack and heroin addiction. Solomonov says, "Steve, as a friend and business partner and brother, was the first to be supportive and to say, literally, you know, you have a problem and we want you to get help."
 
The Solomonov-Cook episodes of Special Sauce are so full of life, love, pain, and redemption, they should not be missed. Be sure to tune in next week for the next installment. 

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/11/special-sauce-michael-solomonov-steven-cook-1-2.html

Nov 1, 2018

In part two of my repartee-filled interview with <em>New York Times</em> food editor Sam Sifton, we delved into the intersection of food and technology. When I asked Sam how he thinks the internet has impacted the food media landscape, he said "I think it has changed food for the better and for the worse. You know, there's something kind of delicious as a critic, at least in the first years of being able to go to the internet, to get the photographic notes that you would've taken if you weren't raised like a gentleman....You know, this is everybody obsessively photographing their food but, after a few years of that, now chefs are creating dishes that are meant to be photographed. That's a problem, right? The sort of Instagram-bait platings are a problem, so you've got to kind of be careful about it but, on the whole, I can go on my phone and get a reservation in two seconds and order a car and get there and take pictures of the food and then get a news alert or have the president send an alert to my phone, as he did today. That's amazing! That's cool! That's great!"

And, since Sam wrote a cookbook exclusively devoted to Thanksgiving, I also had to ask him for his top tips for the notoriously challenging holiday meal. "Okay, three things that you need to know about Thanksgiving that you don't really know already," he said. "Number one: everything is going to be fine. It really is. I promise you. It's going to be fine. Two: you need more butter than you think. You really do. Three: Thanksgiving is not the time to litigate that issue [Whatever the hot-button of the moment happens to be]. It really isn't. Let it go. Let it go for the meal."

For a whole lot more <em>New York Times</em> food wisdom, including the origins of the newspaper's cooking app, and a great deal of fun food-gabbing, check out this week's episode of Special Sauce.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/11/special-sauce-sam-sifton-part-2.html

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