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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: Page 1
Nov 23, 2020

Special Sauce, Serious Eats founder Ed Levine's podcast, is back to stay (with new theme music, no less) with a Thanksgiving episode that explores the seemingly antithetical nature of the pandemic and Turkey Day. After all, Thanksgiving is all about gathering around the table with people you love and sharing a meal with them. The pandemic on the other hand is all about minimizing contact and connections and sharing. J. Kenji Lopez Alt, NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie, Splendid Table host Frances Lam, Franchise author Marcia Chatelain, celebrated crime novelist Laura Lippman, and cookbook authors Jessica Harris and Nik Sharma, weigh in on this thought-provoking topic. One thing they all agree on: the pandemic has made us reexamine just what we all should be thankful for this year. 

Jul 30, 2020

Much has been written during the pandemic about the increased popularity of community supported agriculture, commonly referred to as CSA. On this week's Special Sauce, we had a far-reaching conversation with Maggie Cheney, one of the owners of Rock Steady Farm, which is part of a special kind of CSA.

Rock Steady describes itself as a women and queer owned cooperative farm, rooted in social justice, growing sustainable vegetables, flowers, and herbs for our upstate and NYC communities. As you will hear, Maggie and her partners have withstood the many challenges they have encountered during the pandemic with sheer determination, a lot of hard work, and the support, both financial and otherwise, of the communities they serve. But it has not been easy.

Rounding out the episode is another Ask Kenji segment. This time Kenji answers a Serious Eater's question about the whys and wherefores of salting vegetables like cucumbers and eggplant before cooking them. I don't want to give away too much of his answer, but I will tell you that water balloons are repeatedly mentioned.

So there you have it, our very first all-vegetable Special Sauce, and it's inspiring, surprising, and informative.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 

https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=454208

Jul 16, 2020

On this week's Special Sauce, Susan Spungen, author of Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gathering and other books, regales us with her experiences in Hollywood as a food stylist and culinary consultant for movies like Julie and Julia and Eat, Pray, Love. What's it like to be on set and cooking for the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Amy Adams? Listen and you'll find out.

Susan also talks about her terrific new book. She explains that the organizing principle behind the book is "sprezzatura," an Italian word for "studied nonchalance." The book articulates beautifully a relaxed yet rigorous approach to gathering your friends to eat and drink.

And, as usual, Kenji gets the episode off to a hot start by explaining the best way to cook his justifiably famous smashed burgers, indoors or out.

Kenji on smashed burgers and Susan Spungen on cooking for Meryl Streep and "sprezzatura." It's a Special Sauce that should provide a welcome respite from the insanity we're all living through.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 

tps://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=454070

Jul 9, 2020

On this week's Special Sauce we talk to Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, about the huge changes being brought about in the food culture by the Covid-19 pandemic. The startling conclusions he's come to are the result of a survey he and his team sent out to more than 500 farmers. The farmers' responses made it clear that the effects of the pandemic will have catastrophic consequences for many of them. As you'll hear, the usually pessimistic Barber has some ideas that can help both the farmers and the thousands of out of work restaurant cooks in this country.

The articulate Mr. Barber is followed by our very own Kenji Lopez-Alt, who answers a Serious Eater's question about the use of dried versus fresh herbs. Surprisingly, for certain uses of some herbs, Kenji turns out to be an advocate for the dried variety.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

Jul 2, 2020

On this week's Special Sauce we're once again talking about selling cheese during the pandemic with cheesemonger Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers and cheesemaker Sheila Flanagan of Nettle Meadow Farm and Artisan Cheese. Without a hint of self-pity, Anne and Sheila talk about the nimbleness and the optimism required to keep their businesses going. You can support both Saxelby and Flanagan by buying cheese directly from their websites, you won't be disappointed.

After our inspiring cheese talk, we once again stay on the dairy theme when Kenji Lopez-Alt answers a Serious Eater's question about the differences between American and European butter.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/07/special-sauce-anne-saxelby-sheila-flanagan-cheese-2.html

Jun 25, 2020

This week on Special Sauce we are returning to the topic of the horrendous toll the pandemic has taken on the food culture. Today, we’re talking cheese. In the first of two far-ranging interviews, I spoke to cheesemaker Sheila Flanagan, co-owner of Nettle Meadow Farm, and Saxelby Cheesemongers owner Anne Saxelby.

This episode of Special Sauce also marks the return of our "Ask Kenji" feature. Today, given our interviewees, I thought it was only right that Kenji answer a dairy-related question, about butter. (Sheila Flanagan, in addition to cheese, makes a delicious, lightly salted butter, too.) 

So enjoy the cheese and butter talk on today's episode of Special Sauce. And please stay safe and healthy. 

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/06/special-sauce-anne-saxelby-sheila-flanagan-cheese-1.html

Jun 18, 2020

"A jukebox is the musical equivalent of a well-stocked pantry," says Alexander Smalls. Poetic riffs on the relationship between food and music are just par for the course with Smalls, who's both a Grammy and a James Beard Award winner (not to mention a Tony winner, too). In part two of our interview, we talked about everything from hanging out with James Baldwin and Nina Simone in Paris to the guests he'd invite to his last supper. How does a table with the aforementioned Baldwin and Simone, along with Toni Morrison, Jessye Norman, Aretha Franklin, and Gloria Steinem sound? Pretty damn swell to me. 

 
It was such a pleasure and an honor to hang out with Alexander Smalls, who is truly a national treasure. His new book is titled, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes From My African American Kitchen, and it belongs in every household's collection. Just like last week, we'll play the episode out with his stunning, soon-to-be-released rendition of Wade in the Water.
 
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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 
https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/06/alexander-smalls-2.html
Jun 11, 2020

The last Special Sauce I recorded in a studio before the coronavirus pandemic hit was with the multi-talented chef, opera singer, and restaurateur Alexander Smalls. He was just about to publish his new book, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes From My African American Kitchen. It was March 11th, and after an hour-long interview I found myself in awe of Alexander. We hugged in the green room at the studio as we said goodbye, and that was in fact the last hug I have received from anyone besides my wife since. It was an extraordinary interview, befitting an extraordinary man, who I think is the only person in the world to have won a Tony, a Grammy, and a James Beard Award.

But now, three months later, given what's transpired in the interim, we thought it was time to check in with the remarkable Mr. Smalls. We were very confident that he would have a lot to say about our current state of affairs. And as you're about to hear, he most certainly did. But before you hear all that, we decided to include a big chunk of our initial interview in this episode.

Next week you'll hear more about Alexander's new book and recording. I think Serious Eaters will find both this week's episode and next week's to be must-listens. How lucky we are to hear Alexander Smalls's story in its entirety at this moment.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/06/special-sauce-alexander-smalls-part-1.html

May 28, 2020

Special Sauce has obviously changed a lot with the advent of the pandemic. But before we changed the format a couple of months ago to adapt to the times, we'd already recorded a couple of great interviews.

One of them was with my old friend, cookbook writer and food stylist extraordinaire Susan Spungen. Susan's new book, Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, came out 17 days before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his stay-at-home order. Susan's bag was already packed for a national book tour, but obviously that tour never happened.

With the country slowly opening back up for small gatherings, I thought it would be a great time to check back in with Susan. I figured she might have some interesting things to say about what a properly socially distanced gathering would look like and what we would eat there.  As she says, we've arrived at a moment when "people are craving togetherness and they like to eat together and be together." We should note that Susan's comments and mine are impressionistic and most assuredly not prescriptive. People should consult trusted sources like the CDC to find out how they can gather and eat.

We also went back in and edited some of her original interview into this episode. With so many people out of a job today wondering about what the future holds for them work-wise, I found it comforting to hear about Susan Spungen's circuitous career path. She went from dropping out of art school to making omelets to order at a hotel buffet to working side by side with Martha Stewart for ten years. I hope Serious Eaters will find it comforting as well.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-susan-spungen.html

May 21, 2020

On this week's Special Sauce, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who's been used to eating out six nights a week, tells us about cooking lunch and dinner for his two teenaged sons now that he's home every day. Pete explains that he's really enjoyed returning to the kitchen every day; he notes that he originally got into food writing because he loved to cook.

I asked him if his sons appreciate his culinary efforts? "At least they're not complaining," Pete says, which is about the best you can hope for with teenagers. But you'll also want to tune into the episode to hear Pete's thoughts about how the role of the restaurant critic will need to adapt to the restaurant landscape, which, as everyone knows, has been overturned by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 

ttps://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-nyts-pete-wells-on-the-future-of-restaurant-criticism.html

May 14, 2020

What does a restaurant critic do when there are no restaurants to review? The San Francisco Chronicle's Soleil Ho has shifted to primarily covering how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the restaurant industry in the Bay Area, while also writing profiles of people like the Indonesian artist known as Nao, who publishes drawings of toast that, according to Soleil, "have garnered her a legion of followers who swoon at the accuracy of her char marks, the glorious shimmer of her half-melted butter and the detailed brush strokes in her crusts."

And this week's Special Sauce guest, Pete Wells of the New York Times has similarly broadened the scope of his work. He recently wrote a terrific piece with Jennifer Steinhauer about the ripple effects of restaurant closures, particularly in areas where restaurant booms have helped sustain local economies. The story really struck a chord with me, so I decided to ring Pete up and find out more about what he's been up to for the last two months.

Our thought-provoking, far-reaching conversation covered so many bases that we've split it into two episodes. The first one covers how the restaurant industry has shifted, and how those changes have affected cities throughout the U.S.; in part two, which we’ll publish next week, you’ll hear more about how his job and life as a whole has changed.

And, again, if you care about the fate of restaurants as much as Pete and I do, please go to saverestaurants.com to find out what you can do. Or donate what you can to Jose Andres's organization, World Central Kitchen. Through its Chefs for America initiative, it has served over seven million meals to people in need during the pandemic and has activated many restaurant kitchens in the process.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-pete-wells-coronavirus-1.html

May 7, 2020

According to Ezekiel Vázquez-Ger, my guest on this week's Special Sauce, everything was going swimmingly at his new Washington, DC, restaurant, Seven Reasons. The place was packed almost from the minute it opened its doors in April of 2019. A rave review followed in The Washington Post in October, and then, a month later, Esquire named it America's Best New Restaurant of the year. It even survived a fire that started at the bar next door.

It was all good, until it wasn't. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and Ezekiel had to close his doors in March and lay off all of his employees. But, as you'll hear Ezekiel describe, he and his chef and co-owner, Enrique Limardo, along with their employees, banded together in creative ways in order to survive.

The Seven Reasons story is hardly unique. The pandemic is forcing independent restaurant owners and all the people that make up those restaurants' supply chain to tap their creativity to reimagine their businesses in ways that go way beyond take-out and delivery.

The outcome for these endeavors is uncertain, but if you care about the vibrant food culture we've created in this country, you can't help but root for all of these folks to succeed. We need as many of these people to make it to the other side as possible.

Once you hear Ezekiel tell his story, I'm sure you'll want to do something about the situation he and the hundreds of thousands of small food business owners, and their millions of employees, find themselves in. I urge you to visit the website for the Independent Restaurant Coalition to find out what you can do to help.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-ezekiel-vazquez-ger.html

Apr 30, 2020

In 2010, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin founded Ovenly, which they originally envisioned as a bar-snack business, providing bars with better alternatives to beer nuts and potato chips. Over the course of ten years, Ovenly transformed into a combination wholesale/retail bakery, with four retail locations and a healthy wholesale business selling to coffee bars and upscale grocers. By March of 2020 it had grown into a business with more than fifty employees and a new, about-to-open location at Kennedy Airport.

Then, when the pandemic struck, it had to close up shop both as a baked goods retailer and as a wholesaler. And in what Agatha called the most heartbreaking decision she has had to make as a pro-socially-minded businesswoman (many of their employees were people who have faced high hurdles entering the workforce), Agatha and Erin had to lay off just about their entire staff. On this episode of Special Sauce, we get to hear the Ovenly story in Agatha's own words. 

Once you hear Agatha tell her story I'm sure you'll want to do something about the situation she and the hundreds of thousands of small food-business owners, and their millions of employees, find themselves in. I urge you to visit the Independent Restaurant Coalition's website to find out what you can do. 

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=453144

Apr 23, 2020

As part of our special Special Sauce series on the pandemic's effects on the various constituents of the food community, I reached out to Xi'an Famous Foods co-founder Jason Wang. Jason had told his remarkable story previously on Special Sauce, so I was confident that his experiences as a Chinese-American, his knowledge of financial matters, and his experience as a restaurateur serving his justifiably famous hand-pulled noodles would give him a unique vantage point on the pandemic. 

As you'll hear, I was right on all counts. Jason shut down all Xi'an Famous Foods locations a few days before he was mandated to, and his previously healthy cash flow was reduced to zero immediately. And, unlike many of his colleagues, he isn't serving take-out or doing delivery in an attempt to survive. That doesn't mean he's short on ideas about how to create a sustainable business model in the future. But you'll have to listen to the episode to hear about why he's not doing take-out and what his ideas for the future are. 

His take on the situation he and his fellow independent restaurateurs are facing is a must-listen for anyone interested in the future of restaurants like Xi'an Famous Foods. 

I feel compelled once again to underline the perilous plight of independent restaurants during the pandemic. If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, please contact your representatives in Congress. And, if you can afford to, give what you can to one of the many terrific organizations that have been formed to support the millions of restaurant workers that have already lost their jobs, like Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/04/special-sauce-will-xian-famous-foods-survive-the-coronavirus-lockdown.html

Apr 16, 2020

As we all try to deal with the crisis confronting us, I thought we'd follow up on the Special Sauce episodes that focused on Kenji's stories with other voices from the food and beverage industry. In the coming weeks you're going to hear the stories of farmers, bakers, cheesemakers, bartenders, servers, chefs, and anyone else in our food supply chain that should be heard from in these troubled times.

This week, food activist, chef-restaurateur, and Top Chef co-host Tom Colicchio gives us the lowdown on the goals of the newly formed The Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization formed on the spot to lobby Congress to do right by the more than 500,000 independent restaurants that employ nearly 11 million people—a big part of the nearly $1 trillion dollar hospitality business. Tom knows his way around food policy—he has been working on the issue of food insecurity in this country for years, as when he worked on the terrific documentary, A Place at the Table, which was produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, a talented filmmaker who happens to also be Tom's wife—and so he is really wise in the ways of DC policy making. Tom is talking about really important stuff here, so please do give this and the future episodes of Special Sauce a serious listen.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/04/special-sauce-the-food-chain-tom-colicchio.html

Apr 2, 2020

It's obviously still not business as usual at Serious Eats (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter), so we're going to continue to produce Special Sauce episodes that deal with the coronavirus pandemic. On this week's episode, we once again hear from Serious Eats's Chief Culinary Advisor Kenji López-Alt. Kenji has been pitching in mightily on so many coronavirus-fighting efforts, both on Serious Eats and off.


On Serious Eats, he published an epic post on coronavirus and food safety that millions of people have found useful. We followed that with our first Special Sauce episode focused on the impact of coronavirus, which detailed what's happened at Kenji's restaurant Wursthall since the pandemic broke out. Then we released a video featuring Kenji in which he answered many of the questions he posed in the original post. To complete this multimedia effort, this week's Special Sauce episode features the audio track from the aforementioned video, since we think the information is that important.


Here are some examples of the kinds of questions answered in this episode: Can I be infected by coronavirus by touching or eating food? Is it safe to eat raw foods? What is the safest way to shop at the supermarket? Is it okay to buy produce from open bins?


And as Kenji and I both note in this episode, he has promised to continually update the original post as new information becomes available in this rapidly-changing situation.


On a personal note, Kenji has really helped so many people in these exceedingly tough times by answering these questions. The least we can do is ask that you return the favor, if you're able. If you can afford to support Kenji's Wursthall-centric coronavirus initiative by donating to his Patreon account, or by directly purchasing meals-for-free from Wursthall's own take-out website, please do so.  

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:

https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=452525

Mar 26, 2020

<em><small><strong>Editor's note:</strong> The Coronavirus story is unfolding at a breakneck pace. That means that something said that was true at the time may no longer be so. On this episode please note that Lola, the Tom Douglas restaurant in the Hotel Andra in Seattle, is now closed, as is the hotel itself.</small></em>

Before the sh*t hit the proverbial fan, I had the next several episodes of Special Sauce all queued up. They were going to feature Susan Spungen, the founding food editor of <em>Martha Stewart Living</em> and author of <em>Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings</em>; and Alexander Smalls, an opera singer turned chef-restaurateur and cookbook author (<em>Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes From My African American Kitchen</em>). But when the coronavirus pandemic struck with full force, destabilizing and eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs in our industry, I realized that we needed to put those episodes on hold and change up the Special Sauce MO. So over the coming weeks, the podcast will be focused on the virus' effect on people in the industry who sustain and feed all of us, like chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, bread bakers, servers, and so many more.

For our first episode in this vein, I knew I wanted to speak to our very own <a href="https://www.seriouseats.com/editors/j-kenji-lopez-alt">Kenji Lopez-Alt</a>. Kenji, along with his partners, opened Wursthall in his adopted hometown of San Mateo, CA in March of 2018; like the rest of California's restaurants, they were forced to close their doors to all business but takeout and delivery earlier this month. He's spent virtually all his time since trying to aid his laid off workers and keep the restaurant going in order to rehire as many of his people as he can. Miraculously, Kenji did find the time to pen a ridiculously comprehensive and clear-headed <a href="https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html">guide to food safety and the coronavirus</a> for us.

On this episode of Special Sauce, Kenji shares the problems he, his restaurant, and his staff are facing, and the tactics he's employing to keep the lights on and the burners fired up. Just as importantly, Kenji also talks about the macro socio-political and cultural issues the coronavirus pandemic has merely brought to the surface for businesses like his.

I hope that those of you who can are able to support Wursthall and its employees past, present, and future. Kenji has opened <a href="https://www.patreon.com/kenjilopezalt">a Patreon account</a>, and 100% of donations will soon go directly toward producing and providing meal kits for local San Mateo families affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition to their own local initiatives, the Wursthall crew has been working with organizations, including <a href="https://wck.org/">Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen</a>, to deliver meals to various organizations in need, including Samaritan House San Mateo, the Oakland Fire Training Center, and San Francisco General Hospital emergency room. Folks will also be able to directly buy meals for families, individuals, and front line workers who are affected by the pandemic. Go to the <a href="http://www.wursthall.com/">Wursthall website</a> for the latest details about this program.

One more note about this ever-changing crisis: Even if the proposed multi-trillion dollar federal legislation is passed in the next day or two, all of these efforts are desperately needed in the short, medium, and long-term.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/special-sauce-kenji-coronavirus-wursthall.html

Mar 5, 2020

On this week's Special Sauce, I continue my conversation with visionary pastry chef Claudia Fleming. But before we get to Claudia's captivating story, Kenji fields a question from Serious Eater Joan Moore, who wants to know how long the blade on her Cuisinart food processor should last.

After Kenji delivers his characteristically thoughtful answer, Claudia and I pick up where we left off last week, and talk about her harrowing and moving journey. We start off by examining why she and her late husband, the prodigiously talented chef Gerry Hayden, decided to pack up their knives and scrapers, leave New York City, and buy an inn on the North Fork of Long Island, despite the fact that at the time, Claudia was, as she says, "kind of the it-girl when we left. I was on top of the world."

Turns out, the move was made in part for Gerry. "I felt like I was eclipsing the larger talent in the relationship," Claudia says. "He devoted his entire life to being a chef, a cook. I loved him very much and wanted him to have his time. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing. I wanted him to live his dream and I wanted to help facilitate that."

The inn hardly turned out to be a panacea. "It was a little money pit and it was a bit like The Shining," Claudia remembers. "It was kind of crazy. The inn was literally falling down and falling apart... There were lots of hysterical things about that. But it was kind of creepy and scary, too." If there was a single lesson Claudia took away from the experience, aside from the necessity of being well capitalized, it was this: "Beware of your passion. It can kill you."

The battle to keep the dream of the inn alive took a tragic turn when Gerry was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Claudia became chief caregiver to Gerry, even as she was running the inn. And yet somehow they persevered. "I got my strength from him," Claudia says, explaining how she managed to keep everything running. "I'm like, 'How is he doing this?' It was incredible. I'm like, 'If he can do it, I can do it with him.'"

Claudia and I also spend some time talking about the reissuing (a rare occurrence in the cookbook world) of her profoundly influential book, The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. I ask Claudia what she set out to do with the book. "I was trying to make restaurant desserts more accessible by deconstructing them," she says. It was also a way for her to advance the idea of dessert as something more than just something sweet to end a meal. "I think maybe I was or am a frustrated cook," Claudia says, "so I started making dessert just like another course: the last course. It became less about sweet than about just another course that wraps up the dinner. It didn't come out of left field."

To close out the episode, Daniel Gritzer checks in from the Serious Eats test kitchen and schools us on grilling pork chops. "Grilling pork chops can present similar problems as chicken breasts. The meat is lean and prone to drying out, even with the slightest overcooking. With a few simple steps, though, you can guarantee that your pork chops will be juicy and perfect every time."

I urge all Serious Eaters to check this episode out, just because Claudia Fleming's story is so moving.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=452053

Feb 28, 2020

There are forgotten giants in the food world, people who have profoundly influenced what we eat, but whose names we barely know. James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Claudia Fleming is one of those people.

She is the author, along with Melissa Clark of the New York Times, of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, which you'll find on the bookshelf of anyone who's serious about dessert. She is also my guest on the next two episodes of Special Sauce, and man does she have some stories to tell! First, in this week's episode, Claudia talks about ice cream, dance, and dessert construction; then, in next week's episode, she'll talk about love and loss.

When Claudia first became a pastry chef, it was the era of vertical desserts, which she wasn't thrilled about. As she says in the book, "I wasn't very interested in Legos. I wanted it to taste like something." She expanded on that notion in the interview. "They make things that stacked on top of each other and how high can we make it before it falls down," she says. "Technically, the only way to do that is with tons of sugar and it's almost inedible. You'd have this tiny edible thing on the plate and then you have all of these things on top."

Claudia has a gender-based theory for why that trend came about, and why her approach is different: "I think it's a more feminine approach because- I'm going to be really sexist- boys like to build things. Women nourish more. I'm being incredibly generalistic and very sexist, but that's my experience."

But before we hear from Claudia, Serious Eater Ryder Cobean asks Kenji for a non-meat alternative to use in Kenji's very fine pressure cooker chile verde. Kenji offers up two ideas. One is soy-based and not so surprising. The other, however, shocked the hell out of me. I'm not giving it away here, but I will give you a hint: It's a fruit I most often associate with the Caribbean.

Finally, we hear from our beloved Pastry Wizard Stella Parks about how to improve your banana bread, no matter which recipe you use.

Pastry chef legend Claudia Fleming on the rise and fall of Lego-like desserts, Kenji on losing the meat in his pressure cooker chile verde, and BraveTart weighing in on banana bread. Quite an 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/2020/02/claudia-fleming-1-1.html

Feb 14, 2020

In part two of my conversation with Supernatural star Misha Collins, we dive into his family's eating habits, which eventually lead to The Adventurous Eaters Club: Mastering the Art of Family Meal Time, which he wrote with his wife, Vicki. Their children Maison and West had adopted the chicken nuggets-centric diet typical of many children in America until West, seemingly at random, put some Jerusalem artichokes into the shopping cart. From that moment on their food lives changed forever.

All of a sudden the Collins family started making things like kale chips at home. Of course, the Collins children's newfound food agency did lead to some-ahem-unusual recipes, which are documented in the book, like the pasta with jam sauce (Misha readily admits it's not a recipe to be made). I don't want to give away the whole recipe here, but I can tell you it includes chocolate chips, Goldfish, and popcorn for a garnish. On a more serious note, Misha also talks about his extraordinary charity, Random Acts, which will receive a cut of the royalties from the book (100% of the Collins' royalties will fund Random Acts and other nonprofits).

But before we delve into the intricacies of pasta with jam sauce, Steve Garbacz asks Kenji whether it's okay to leave butter out of the fridge for days. As someone who leaves pizza and mozzarella out for days on end, this was a question near and dear to my heart.

And at the end of the episode, Serious Eats's Senior Culinary Editor Sasha Marx weighs in on making pizza at home. What do we need to make the dough? "If you're serious about making doughs, breads, whatever, it's good to have two types of scales. I like having a large scale, and then having one of these small jeweler's scales. You can buy this online, and also in head shops, is a good place to get them. Tell them it's just for making pizza, and they'll be like, 'Sure, definitely, for making pizza.'"

Misha Collins on pasta with jam sauce, Kenji on one of my favorite food topics, and Sasha's visit to a head shop to make pizza dough: A far-ranging Special Sauce, to be sure.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/02/special-sauce-misha-collins-on-pasta-with-jam-sauce-and-random-acts-of-kindness.html

Feb 6, 2020

One of the things I love about Special Sauce is how often I am surprised and moved by my guests. And this episode, in which I interview Supernatural star Misha Collins, who, with his wife Vicki, just published The Adventurous Eaters Club: Mastering the Art of Family Mealtime, is a perfect example.

Collins had a peripatetic childhood- "I think I lived in 15 places by the time I was 15," he tells me&mdash;and often found himself living in parks and teepees. Yet his "idiosyncratic and eccentric" mother somehow managed to almost always gather the family at dinnertime, even if what they were eating was procured by shoplifting. When your mother teaches you how to shoplift a peach, I would say that that's more than idiosyncratic and eccentric.

Before I was mesmerized by my conversation with Misha, Kenji answered Serious Eater Ryan Daugherty's question about when to use dried or fresh herbs in preparing food. And to close out the episode, Daniel Gritzer schools us on the joys of making sous vide chicken wings.

I hope you tune in for a supernatural, moving, and surprising 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/preview?record=451403

Jan 31, 2020

This week's Special Sauce features part two of my conversation with the online cooking star Maangchi, but first we get to hear from Kenji, who answered a question from Serious Eater Kyle Johnson about whether or not you can freeze the base for his white chili with chicken. Kenji being Kenji, he doesn't just limit himself to yes or no, but he offers a few pears of food-freezing wisdom, like "Flat things freeze faster and they defrost faster."

Maangchi and I mostly discussed her new book Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine, in which she wrote that Korean food "embodies generosity, innovation, patience, compassion, frugality, practicality, flexibility, and resourcefulness." But she also told me about how she was surprised by the fact that people have called her "YouTube's Korean Julia Child." In fact, she said, "Actually, when I heard the Julia Child...I didn't know who she was. I'm telling you the truth."

Finally, we close out the episode with SE Culinary Director Daniel Gritzer weighing in on making the perfect French omelet. He says that you need the right gear, of course, but it isn't anything fancy: Gritzer's omelet-making secret weapon is a plastic fork.

Maangchi on Korean food, Kenji on why the frozen food world should be flat, and Gritzer on the special qualities of a plastic fork. All in all, a fun, revealing, and informative Special Sauce.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=451351

Jan 23, 2020

Maangchi. Maangchi. Maangchi! Need I say more?

On this week's Special Sauce I had a chance to sit down with YouTube cooking sensation Maangchi, who, in addition to being an inspiration to all of us here at Serious Eats, is our associate producer Grace's hero. And I discovered she's an impossibly engaging woman, as charming and disarmingly forthright as anyone we've had on.

And her path to success was definitely unorthodox: Maangchi went from living in a room in the back of her father's seafood auction house in Korea, to cooking fried chicken and burritos for her grocery store manager boss in Toronto, to becoming a master video gamer (that's when she came up with her nom de game, Maangchi), to teaching millions of people on YouTube how to cook real Korean food. Her life would make a great movie.

But before we get to Maangchi's story in this episode, Serious Eater Little Chefs Dubai asked Kenji, "What are your favorites to cook with [your daughter] Alicia?" I won't give away Kenji's answer, but I will tell you that Alicia is an accomplished and willing sous chef and she's not even three.

And, finally, to finish, we have the latest dispatch from the Serious Eats test kitchen, with Stella weighing in on no-bake cookies. "I have a secret to share with you about no-bake cookies," Stella says. But to hear what that secret is, you'll have to tune in.

Maangchi, Kenji, Alicia, Stella: This episode is indeed a very special Special Sauce.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/01/special-sauce-kenji-on-cooking-for-his-kid-and-maangchi-on-becoming-a-youtube-sensation.html

Jan 16, 2020

On this week's far-ranging Special Sauce we cover a lot of territory- and I mean a lot- of territory. We've got Sean Brock on the highs and lows of an extended stay in rehab, and the joys of parenthood; Kenji on being a Juicy Lucy skeptic; and Stella on making an olive cake so delicious and so easy it can be in your mouth in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Billions.

Before we get to Sean Brock's ongoing battle with recovery, Serious Eater Mike Suade wants to know if Kenji will join him in Minneapolis for a Juicy Lucy (two hamburger patties stuffed with cheese), which is most assuredly not Kenji's favorite style of burger. "I've probably said in the past that Juicy Lucys just don't sound like a great idea."

Sean Brock talks honestly and painfully about the non-linear path of recovery he embarked on when he checked into The Meadows rehab facility. He also reflects on the unadulterated joy of parenthood. Finally, he discusses the pleasures of letting go of his compulsion to control everything in his life, which has allowed him to redefine success. "I had a different definition of happiness. I thought success was happiness."

Finally Brave Tart rhapsodizes about her shockingly easy to make olive oil cake. "This is a fantastic last-minute recipe," she says. "It comes together in about five minutes flat, bakes for 33 minutes, give or take, cools in 10. So let's do the math. You can have this cake in your face in an hour."

This episode of Special Sauce will both make you hungry and make you believer in the power of redemption.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/01/special-sauce-sean-brock-on-the-distinction-between-happiness-and-success.html

Jan 9, 2020

On the first new Special Sauce episode of 2020, we go deep and wide on a whole range of topics. First the insanely talented chef Sean Brock, whose new book, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations, has just been published, takes us on part of his extraordinary journey as a chef.

Brock talks about picking vegetables in his grandmother's kitchen and getting his first job in a restaurant kitchen as a teenager, which he describes as feeling like walking on to a pirate ship. He then delves into how that first restaurant job set him on the path to becoming a James Beard Award-winning chef. But Brock doesn't just talk about his success; he also reveals how his proclivity for obsessively going down culinary rabbit holes and working in fits of manic intensity threatened his mental and physical health and well-being.

But before we get to Brock, Serious Eater Zack Kreines asked Kenji about his favorite cut of meat, and his answer might surprise you, and our pastry wizard Stella Parks rounds out the episode with the key ingredient to her pumpkin cake (which she says is superior to pumpkin pie), a three-dollar purchase that'll enable anyone to make the "fluffiest cake in the universe."

Any episode of Special Sauce that covers Kenji's favorite cut of meat, Sean Brock's extraordinary life story, and Stella giving us the key to making the fluffiest cake in the universe is worth a listen.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/01/special-sauce-chef-sean-brock-on-the-perils-of-working-too-hard.html

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