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Milk Street’s Christopher Kimball On Holiday Cooking, Fake Milk, And Instant Pot Ribs

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In what has become an annual tradition, this week I interviewed Christopher Kimball of Milk Street on food trends and his advice for the holiday season. The podcast is here. The transcript is below:

Domenech:
All right, boys and girls, we are back with another edition of The Federalist Radio Hour. I’m Ben Domenech. Happy to join you once more for what has become an annual tradition this time of year, our conversation with Christopher Kimball.

He is formerly the founder of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated, and is now at Milk Street. He has a new cookbook out, that is something I would recommend that you order now if you have been struggling to find something for a home chef in your life, on vegetables, which we started out our conversation about, and then we turned to a number of different elements of not just holiday cooking, but other questions, gifts, and potential ideas for the cooks in your life, and new things that you can try in the new year when it comes to cooking. Christopher Kimball coming up next.

Kimball:
Since vegetables you raised had to be, because they were inexpensive and available, had to be at the center of the plate, they had to come up with ways of making them interesting, so they char the food directly over fire, for example, or in a skillet. They use chilies or fermented sauces, or spices or herbs. So they found ways to infuse or add big flavors to things that, from a Western perspective, you’d say doesn’t pack a big punch. A steak, everyone thinks of as a big umami delivery system, but if you do vegetables the right way, they also have big flavor.

Domenech:
I think pretty much everyone is familiar with a combination of olive oil and salt and garlic and pepper and an oven, that work great on a lot of different vegetables. How do you stretch yourself, or what’s the first thing you should maybe think about for a side dish, either this holiday season or just as a goal for the new year, to try to get out beyond that normal combination of things where, “Let’s just toss them in those things and throw them in an oven, and that’ll make it better”?

Kimball:
Well, it does make it better, and I still do that. But you can, for example, for some strange reason, cauliflower is now… You cannot publish a recipe today on cauliflower and not have an A+ success with it. It’s like the kiwi from the ’70s or something. People slice them into steaks. People roast and they eat it whole. People put tahini on it. People put fresh herbs. People put other spices on it.

It really goes down back to the pantry. The rest of the world has a great pantry. My mother’s pantry had 10-year-old spices, baking powder, baking soda, Lawry seasoning salt. We just didn’t have a pantry.

So if you have soy sauce and fish sauce and mirin, if you have some spice blends like Za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern blend which goes on everything, it’s great. You might have harissa from northern Africa, which is a spice paste. There’s a lot of things you can keep in your refrigerator or pantry, which means if you go to roast your vegetables at 450 degrees, great, but you can also toss them in those spices. You can use the herbs at the end.

There’s some good examples of this. For example, in a lot of Chinese cooking, you might boil vegetables or steam them, put them on a platter, put some mint ginger and scallion on top, and then take a quarter cup of oil and get it really hot and pour it on top. That sizzles, and it just brings out the flavor of the ginger and the scallion. In Indian cooking, there’s something called tarka, T-A-R-K-A, where they take oil, like a quarter cup of oil, heat it up with a spice like Aleppo pepper, for example, which is a fruity red pepper that used to be from Syria, now you can get it from Turkey, or whatever spice you want, and it flavors the oil with a spice. If you have lentil soup, or whatever you have, you just drizzle the hot spiced oil on top. So it doesn’t almost matter what the base vegetable is; it’s just a question of how you’re going to add flavor to it, not just through the cooking process, but also through what goes on it.

Domenech:
I have many questions, as always, that are submitted by our readers and writers in advance of our discussion. One that I actually got from more than one person was the best and most creative ways to prepare deer meat. I had some version of, “I’ve got a freezer full of whitetail and blackbuck, and I’ve run out of ideas.” Multiple people, I guess they’ve been spending their time out hunting a bit. What is your recommendations regarding that?

Kimball:
Well, I just spent five days in the woods in my hunting cabin, so I like the question. Well, it’s sort of like rabbit, that is, the loin, tenderloin, the backstrap, whatever you want to call it, it’s a very tender piece of meat, and that should be cooked to medium rare, so high heat, quickly cook it, just like you would a beef tenderloin. The legs, however, are lean, and you really need to think about cooking them very low and slow.

I’m not a big fan of marinating in general because marinades don’t tend to penetrate meat very deeply. But if you use a marinade with salt in it, it’s sort of like brining. It’s not going to add a lot of flavor to the inside of the meat, but it will keep the meat a little like… A soy sauce base, for example, will keep the meat more tender and moist, because as you roast the meat or cook the meat, it tends to retain its liquid better. So any kind of salt-based marinade actually works pretty well low and slow.

Juniper berries, I think, are one of the things that go great with game, whether it’s rabbit or venison, but it is a problem because it’s particularly lean, so again, low and slow. And a marinade that has a salt base will be helpful.

Domenech:
One practical question that I have is, every time that I come around to this time of year, there’s this tension between wanting to try something new that will be interesting and different, but also the challenge that you don’t necessarily get a dry run. By the time that I’ve made this year’s turkey, I’ve made multiple turkeys. And I would say that, to my great and good fortune, knock on wood I’ve only had one that I would consider a failure. I’ve got a bit of experience.

But if I were to cook venison for a group of people, even if it’s just, say, eight to 10 people, a traditional family gathering, that’s a little bit more intense and there’s a good bit more pressure. So how do you balance that wanting to do something new with you don’t get as many cracks at it beforehand, unless you’re willing to make that venison in advance and see what happens?

Kimball:
Well, I think this goes down to the philosophy of life you hold, which is… Of course, you know that’s how I’d answer this. I don’t really care. First of all, no one is going to remember it the next day, I just got to tell you. 48 hours later, if you made a venison stew and it was tough, this is history. This is not something anyone is going to remember, especially in an age of social media. So this is going to be a momentary embarrassment, and alcohol can certainly help smooth that over. Also, don’t forget, a meal has more than one thing. So you have multiple opportunities to fail, if you look at it from a half-full perspective, or be successful.

Secondly, I don’t feel… If I fail, I fail. Secondly, I don’t feel a great need, especially around the holidays, to actually do something different. My wife’s mother was from Austria, so we make tafelspitz, which is essentially boiled beef with vegetables and horseradish sauce. I make a trifle, one of those things I’ve made for years.

There are times when I do like to completely improvise, and once in a while I would. This year, I did have a turkey failure, actually, speaking of turkey. I did it on the Green Egg, because in Vermont at the farm I only have one oven, so I figured, “Well, okay.” I was doing a bunch of stuff in the oven, so I threw it in the Green Egg, which I love. It’s just a great way to cook something. But a smoky turkey? I don’t know. I didn’t love it. It came out fine. It’s just I didn’t like the smoke taste with the rest of the things on the table. But everyone else liked it, and it was fine.

I just say, do whatever you want, like Julia Child. Just act like Julia Child. If you went over to her house and had something that you didn’t like, she wouldn’t care. She’d just go, “Hey, I invited you over, I cook for you, and now you’re going to complain?” The other way to look at it is you’re the host, you worked, you bought the food, you cooked it, you’ve done your part. Whether it’s an A or a C, I don’t know, I’m not sure it matters.

Domenech:
Do you have any take on the food supply chain issues that people have been facing in the past couple of months, or any advice about the way that people could deal with that or think of substitutions based on what they have available in their areas?

Kimball:
Yeah. Well, first of all, food and supply chains is a big topic, and I’m a huge believer in having the Department of Agriculture, which will never happen, support a locally-based food economy. By that, I mean small farmers tend to get left out of the equation, although I think they’ve gotten some help recently.

What’s really missing here is the processing and distribution infrastructure. If you’re a beef or a pig farmer, let’s say, in Vermont, there are very few processing facilities. There’s no infrastructure. There’s no distribution facility. So you can grow the livestock, but getting it to market, all that part is missing.

I think one of the ways to solve this problem of supply chain, which means long supply chains from other countries, is to build the infrastructure for local production. Now, local production doesn’t solve all the problems, and I’m not against French cheese or whatever. I like to see a mix of things. But I think that infrastructure is really the problem, and if there was better local infrastructure, you would have more access to more food locally, which would give you a more secure supply chain. No one ever talks about infrastructure in food, and I think that’s really important.

Domenech:
On the substitution side of things, I haven’t really run into that too much, except for perhaps a few brands that I would normally have purchased something not being available in the supermarket, where I would have to get a different can of something that didn’t necessarily have that. Have you run into any challenges on that in terms of sourcing things, or is it just that by dint of being connected to the Trilateral Commission of food, all spices are available to you at all times?

Kimball:
Well, I think it comes down to money. If you’re buying online and you’re willing to spend the money, you can get almost anything. I think the question is if you’re living, as a lot of people are, on a tight budget, and food is an important part of that, what do you do?

One suggestion I can make is I get a delivery… Around Boston, there’s a company called, I think, Family Dinner. They source from local farms, including fish and beef and other things, and deliver to your home every week. And you never know what you’re going to get. On Saturday morning, I get a bag of stuff, and so I’ve gotten used to now just cooking. I got some fish which I made, and I add some kale and I add some potatoes.

Cooking what’s available is what people used to do until fairly recently. So instead of planning your meal ahead of time based on looking at a recipe, if you start the other way around, the way people have for tens of thousands of years, that’s really helpful, because then you also become a better cook because you adapt to whatever is good.

Don’t get me started on winter tomatoes or winter strawberries. Have you ever picked up a supermarket tomato and put it up to your nose and had any aroma? No. Sometimes it’s better to cook with what you have or what you can find. For a lot of people, that’s the reverse. But I think that’s probably the better way to do it, if you want to take the time to figure it out.

Domenech:
On the tomato front, just because it is, similarly to you, it is one of my great frustrations, the only thing that I’ve found is that cherry tomatoes seem to do a little bit better in the supermarket experience, compared to others.

Kimball:
They do.

Domenech:
What’s the reason for that? Is there a reason for it?

Kimball:
Yeah, because tomatoes are not picked ripe, because they have to be shipped. Actually, a friend of mine wrote a book about tomatoes a few years ago. He talked about the Florida tomatoes are essentially grown in sand. As you know, the composition of the soil is critical for flavor, and so they’re not being grown with a tremendous amount of organic material and minerals and other things to add flavor.

But they’ve also been bred for color, shape, and shipping characteristics. When I was a kid, they had a tremendous flavor and aroma. Now they’re being designed for other purposes. In defense of those companies, however, we still go out and buy them. People will not buy a disfigured apple or tomato. We buy with our eyes in the supermarket, so they’re simply giving us what we want in many respects. If we really wanted to change it, we’d have to just stop buying them, but that’s not going to happen.

Domenech:
Back to some reader questions. How long should you rest a turkey or similar Christmas fowl? I’ve heard some say that you should rest it as long as you cooked it, but I’ve never heard a way to convince Grandma turkey shouldn’t be served piping hot, so have not been able to hold the carving by more than 15 minutes, with full distractions engaged.

Kimball:
Well, I don’t know who… If it takes three hours to cook your turkey, you’re not going to let it rest three hours. The resting has to do with the size, the mass of the meat being rested. So a steak might be just a few minutes, but a 20-pound turkey you could probably let sit around for half an hour and it would still hold its temperature. I agree, you want to still serve it between warm and hot. If you lose a little bit of juice, that’s fine. But I would say a big turkey, half an hour. I wouldn’t let it rest any more than that.

The other thing is most turkeys today, like Butterball, are essentially brined. They have a saline solution injected in them. No matter what you do, the Butterball-style supermarket turkey will turn out moist. Some people might even say too moist. But I don’t think you have to worry about resting a bird for hours, no.

Domenech:
One question from my perspective on how much money you should expect to spend on a bird. I’ve seen a couple of comparison videos on YouTube about this, but when it came time to buy a turkey this year, while there were plenty of the normal Butterballs, it was a little harder to find some of the more specific things that seem to be in a bit of a shorter supply. How much is the point, where people don’t get as much return, how much should they put effort into finding a wild-raised bird of some type? Where’s the point where that just doesn’t really give you a return on your investment?

Kimball:
Well, I’ve been down this road, as you can imagine. I actually buy my turkey from a local farmer who sets one aside for me.

I don’t know if I told you this story, but years ago, my neighbor in Vermont across the way brought a turkey she had raised. She had three turkeys. She had Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Those were the names of the turkeys. So she brought it over. It was an heirloom bird, and this and that and the other thing. And it turns out the legs were humongous, they were like T-Rex legs, and then the breast was small, and the meat was tough. My experience with that was not great.

I would almost say at this point, I think the turkey is there as a foundational element on the Thanksgiving table, and it’s really about the gravy and the mashed potatoes. I’m sorry. I care much more about the gravy than the turkey. So I don’t think spending twice as much on an heirloom bird… And it’s going to be harder to cook. Those Butterball turkeys are foolproof. So I don’t know.

Now, when it comes to chicken, I’m of a different mind, because the difference between a really good heritage-style chicken and the typical supermarket chicken is between edible and non-edible. So I would spend the money for a chicken. If you do it right, you can get lots of meals out of a four or five-pound chicken. It ends up as soup, so you can do a lot with that. For turkey, again, it’s the gravy that matters to me, less the turkey.

Domenech:
To go to a different protein question, what’s the secret to perfect brisket on the smoker? Trimming it right? Injecting it? The rub? Wrap? No wrap? The rest? What is it? Should you sous vide it before? For the life of me, I cannot get the flat and the point to come out right.

Kimball:
Yeah. Well, assuming there he’s talking about a whole brisket, so it’s got the flat and the point. I do it on a Green Egg. I just did it this summer for a big birthday party. It was 10 or 11 pounds, I think, with both parts. I just set it up to be really low, like 225, 200 to 225, and let it smoke. Some people do say you should wrap it during the cooking, so it stays moist. I guess so. The only problem with that is meat releases liquid, not because it’s wrapped or not; it’s just about internal temperature. So once it gets up to a certain temperature, it tends to release it.

You want to spend the money on the meat. You want a lot of fat in that brisket. I’d say 80% of it is the cut from the particular animal, and two, cook it low and slow in something like a Green Egg. That’ll do a pretty good job. But if you overcook it, he’s right or she’s right, it’s going to get tough and it’s going to dry out. So you want to get it to the right temperature where the connective tissue has dissolved, but it’s not overcooked. My guess is you’re talking 180 to 185 internal, something like that.

Domenech:
On the sous vide question, that seems to be something that caught on as being a more widely used method in recent years, thanks to the availability of some of these different devices, some of which have gotten quite fancy. I have one. It was a gift. I use it, but I use it relatively sparingly because I really only use it when I’m making something for multiple people and don’t really want to have to pay attention to it. What is your approach to using sous vide? Do you use it regularly? And how is it properly used?

Kimball:
I have used it. B, I don’t use it now. C, I understand why people like it. I can understand, for example, to sous vide a steak to, let’s say, 100 degrees, take it out, and finish it on a grill. That will develop flavor while it’s coming up to temperature, and you can get a perfect turkey breast or whatever you’re doing. You can do chicken breasts, other things, and you don’t have to watch it, so I get it. It’s just that I can roast a chicken in the oven, and it’s really not that hard. I can throw a steak in a 250 oven for 15 minutes to get it to 95 to 100, finish it in a skillet or on a grill.

So the question is, is it something you’re going to use on a regular basis? The only convenience tool I do use frequently is the Instant Pot, oddly enough. I find that it helps organize the cooking, and especially weeknights. For example, I do a version of doro wat, which is a chicken stew from Ethiopia. It’s three large onions, a third cup of a berbere spice mix, which you can make up yourself, and a bunch of chicken thighs. It cooks for 20 minutes or so, and you’re done. It’s quite good. So my rule for those appliances is, if it’s a regular part of your repertoire, great. If you’re going to use it once every two months, no.

Domenech:
We have a couple of Instant Pot questions. One is, how do we get Emily to stop making ribs in her Instant Pot? I believe that’s in reference to one of our writers. Should she make ribs in her Instant Pot?

Kimball:
Well, yeah, the Instant Pot is good at breaking down foods. For example, I can make a great chicken stock with just using chicken wings. Matter of fact, I did that for my turkey gravy this year. You get like three pounds of chicken wings, throw them in with a little bit of water, and you let it go for almost an hour, and you just get this great extraction of flavor.

So I would say, yeah, you can do ribs in the Pot. It’ll break down that connective tissue pretty well. The problem is you probably don’t get what you want, which is a nice glazed rib. It depends on what style you want. An Instant Pot is going to extract liquid, and things tend to get saucy in them, sort of like a slow cooker. So if you want a nice sticky glaze on something, I’m not sure about the Instant Pot, but it’ll certainly break down tough foods. It’s also great for things like beans, for example.

We actually did a bunch of recipes. We actually tried pasta in it. I don’t know what to say about that. It works, but I’m not sure it’s really saving you any time, because it doesn’t take long to cook boiling water.

Domenech:
I have an Instant Pot, and I have to admit that I think I’ve underutilized it, because so many of my friends say that they use theirs, just as you do, with great regularity. I’d like to use it more in the coming year. In addition to the recipe that you just mentioned, which I certainly will look up and try, are there a couple of other things that you would recommend trying in an Instant Pot, especially if you’re someone who is maybe used to a slow cooker or to using the Pot as a rice cooker-style type thing, but you want to make more full meals in it?

Kimball:
Well, the thing it’s really good at is taking chicken parts, especially dark meat like thighs and legs, and cooking them in 20 minutes, with a little bit of release time, maybe 10 minutes, and creating a sauce quickly. Yeah, you saute some onions and other stuff to start for 10 minutes, and then throw them in. I think chicken parts is probably the number one thing it’s really good at.

It’s also really good at any kind of stew. So you have beef or lamb or pork in two-inch pieces, I keep them fairly large, start out with the usual sofrito, the onion-garlic mix with some spice herbs, throw in the meat, probably a little liquid, and then close the Pot, and you’re done. One of the ones we do I really love is pork, and it has miso and gochujang in it. It’s got five or six ingredients, and it is killer. It is really good, and you can get that in and out of the Pot quickly.

Kimball:
So I’d say stews and chicken parts really are the things, and beans. I do big black beans all the time on a Sunday, for example, a big pot. You can use those in different ways during the week. So beans, meat stews, and chicken parts really are the three things I would do with it.

Domenech:
A couple of questions about different things to buy. What’s the best value starter cookware, and any tricks for transitioning to it from carcinogenic nonstick pans without wrecking all your food?

Kimball:
Yeah. Well, that’s a long topic. First of all, this idea of starter cookware, I just don’t buy it, because if you buy starter cookware, it’ll make you a much worse cook. The difference between using something like a three-ply, high quality pan and a single-ply pan that I used back in the ’50s is night and day.

Here’s what I would get. I would get a carbon steel skillet, an eight-inch skillet. If you season it properly, it’s not that hard, it’s almost nonstick, and you could cook eggs and stuff in it. I use it all the time. So you don’t have to use nonstick. I would get a 12-inch cast-iron pan. The newer ones are very highly polished on the inside, so they’re low stick, I would say, not nonstick. I would buy a Dutch oven, a six-quart Dutch oven. There are companies out there that sell them for under 100 bucks. Like 80 bucks, you can get a pretty good one. Then I would get a three-quart saucepan that’s three-ply.

I have four items, carbon steel eight-inch skillet, 12-inch cast iron, six-quart Dutch oven, and then a three or four-quart stock pot, or let’s say three quart, because you have the Dutch oven, a two or three-quart saucepan. That’s all you need are the four things.

Domenech:
The thing that you say about starter cookware, there are many people who I believe still believe that their $20 Lodge cast iron skillet is the best thing that they have. How well-founded are they in that belief?

Kimball:
Well, first of all, there’s a whole new era of cast iron. There are companies that make cast iron that are about 20 percent, 30 percent lighter. And as I said, the inside is more highly polished, so it’s less stick.

It retains heat because of the mass of the iron, so once you heat that up, it’s a heat sink. You’re not going to get hot spots. If you put a cold piece of meat in it, it’s not going to reduce in temperature. And you’re much less likely to burn things, so it’s very even and very consistent. It’s very good at transferring a lot of heat to food. I think those are reasons to like cast iron, and it’s cheap. It’s not nonstick, it’s low stick, but it’s great.

Another thing to think about is a wok, and you can get them cheaply. I’ve seen people use them in other parts of the world. They can steam in them, boil in them, fry in them, stir fry in them. You can do a lot of stuff in a wok. Once you get to know how to use it, it’s a pretty amazing tool. If you’re willing to invest a little time, that’s a multipurpose tool in the kitchen, and you can buy woks for 20, 30 bucks. They’re not expensive. So that’s really worth looking into.

Domenech:
A follow-on question. How does one cook with enamel-covered cast iron without dinging the damn things to death?

Kimball:
Well, Le Creuset, Staub… Well, actually, Le Creuset is probably the best-known enamel-coated cast iron. That’s what I use. And I use Staub cookware too, which is nice. I think the Staub has a different interior which is not enamel per se. It seems a little different than Le Creuset. It seems like that holds up pretty well.

I’ve had Le Creuset for years and years and years. Yeah, it will discolor after a couple months of use if you have a… We have a white one, for example, on our stove at all times. Yeah, the white turns off-white and then looks like it was left outside for a couple years, but if you get over that, which you should, that just shows you’ve got kitchen cred, then it’s fine.

I don’t find that it really chips too much. I don’t really think that. And I’m not sure that’s a problem if there was a tiny chip in it. I like enamel cast iron. I think it does a good job. It prevents, obviously, reacting with the cast iron underneath. So I don’t think that’s a big problem. It will not look new. It’ll look used, but that’s okay.

Domenech:
I’ve seen more than one ad this season, and maybe they’ve been running them before, but for whatever reason, this year I’ve just seen a lot of them, for air fryers. Why are people so obsessed with them? Are they in any way worth it?

Kimball:
I have no idea, and they’re not. We’ve tested them here. Look, the name is great. Whoever came up with air fryer was brilliant. It’s just a great marketing thing. But if you’re expecting to get French fries, something that’s really fried with that crunch, you’ll be disappointed because it’s not going to deliver, because air frying is not the same as oil frying. Oil conducts heat better than air, or misted air, whatever it is.

I would say it probably can do some things well. Some people tell me that if you take, sometimes, frozen items, they’re good at reheating or heating up stuff like that. But if you want really crunchy fried food, I would not… We’ve never had success with it here versus the real thing. Now, some people refuse to fry the traditional way, and maybe that’s okay, but it’s not the same.

Domenech:
I wanted to ask you about the college football or football season staples that are out there. I’m sure that there are a lot of home cooks who would like to do something a little bit different than what they could order from Buffalo Wild Wings or the like. Do you have any recommendations on that? Just some, maybe, twists on the typical sauce-drenched, too-wet flavors that are combined during the college bowl game or Super Bowl season?

Kimball:
I might give you the same answer I gave you about Thanksgiving, which is maybe that’s the right thing to eat when you’re watching a college bowl game. I don’t know. I find there are times when… Look, James Beard loved potato chips, and Julia Child loved Goldfish. I think that sometimes that’s just the right thing. I think you can, though.

There’s so many sauces out in the world, chile crisp sauce and gochujang-based sauces and soy-based sauces and boat sauces, et cetera. There’s a ton of these things out there. I wouldn’t change the base item, like the fried chicken wing or whatever it is. I just would change up the sauce. I think that’s an easy way of making a huge change in the experience, just using a less sweet, a little more sophisticated sauce. And you can buy these in jars. You don’t even have to make them yourself. Chile crisp, for example, is just one of those things that’s great. I have some of them in my pantry as well. So I’d just change up the sauce.

Domenech:
A few more reader questions as we start to wind down. Any American etiquette expert will tell you to never use a pasta spoon, but any old Italian grandma will snort at that while using her pasta spoon. Is there one of them that’s right.

Kimball:
That’s a good question. I never use a pasta spoon. I’m not sure if I’ve seen… I’ve been to Rome. I’ve been to Italy a few times. I can’t remember seeing anybody at a restaurant or trattoria eating with a pasta spoon. I guess I wouldn’t care one way or the other, particularly.

I would say that the pasta… See, it’s changed in recent years, I think. It used to be pasta was first course. It wasn’t a lot of pasta, so you have a small amount, or risotto or whatever. It’s not like you have this huge mound from Lady and the Tramp that you’re trying to eat. Then you’re on to the next course. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anybody eat pasta with a fork and spoon in Italy, so I’m not sure if the premise is right there.

Domenech:
What is the perfect ratio, if it exists, of butter and cream to potatoes in mashed potatoes?

Kimball:
That’s a good question. I did four pounds of potatoes this year, and I think it called for two sticks of melted butter and a cup and a half of half-and-half, or something.

Here’s what I would do. First of all, you want to melt the butter, and you want to warm the cream or half-and-half. I would probably do a stick of butter for three or four pounds, not more, and then I would slowly add the warm half-and-half. The fat in the butter is going to coat the starch granules and keep it lighter, and then add the half-and-half. But I would do it slowly, until you get to the point where you like it. The problem if you use too much is the mashed potatoes tend to get soupy. Mine was a little soupy this year, I have to say. So I would add it until you just get to the right point that you like.

The other thing to think about is, if you make mashed potatoes ahead of time, I would cut the amount of liquid by half. Then when it comes to serving, put them in the pot, reheat them, and then start stirring in the warm dairy. That way, you refresh them, but they haven’t absorbed the full amount to begin with, so you won’t add too much. That’s a good trick.

Domenech:
Has non-milk being marketed as milk run its course, or are we going to be subjected to more of it in 2022?

Kimball:
I just interviewed someone on my show about these future foods, plant-based foods, and one of the things someone is making now is pea milk. I’m going, “Oh, no, please.” Almond milk and then rice milk, and this milk and that milk, and oat milk and whatever. No, I think we haven’t even begun to see it.

The most interesting trend now is mycelium, which is a fungus. They can grow it in vats, and they can turn it into Chicken McNuggets, turn it into protein-like things. That, it seems to me, is… There’ll be 10 more nut milks, but mycelium is going to be the basis of all these foods going into the future. But I got to tell you, I’m not…

The problem with these foods is they’re all highly processed. Some of these burgers have 20 ingredients, and many of them are highly processed ingredients they buy from big factories. Hamburger is made from beef. It’s got one ingredient, so why not eat that? I don’t want to eat something with 20 ingredients, 15 of which are highly processed, like hemoglobin from soy. I’m not a big fan of all that stuff.

Domenech:
I have one more finish question. But before that, I wanted to ask you, I know that last we talked, you talked about having your old-fashioneds around Christmas. I was curious if you have a particular bourbon or rye that you go to for that or if it changes, if you use something but then sometimes you feel like something else, and why you might use different things depending on how you’re feeling.

Kimball:
No, I am totally without imagination when it comes to the old-fashioned because I’ve settled in for the long term, which is Willett bourbon, which I like. It’s nice and smooth. It’s not a really high-proof bourbon. And then High West rye, which I love. I mix 50 percent bourbon, 50 percent rye. The spiciness of the rye cuts through the sweetness of the bourbon.

I’ll use a very small raw sugar cube. I muddle that with orange and regular bitters, with a little bit of water to mix. Then I actually shake… I know this is crazy. I shake it with a Boston shaker about 20 times to chill it down and also to slightly dilute it, because according to a friend of mine who’s a bartender, if you’re over 85 proof in a drink, it’s hard to taste the other ingredients in the bourbon, for example. You just taste the heat of the alcohol. So I do that.

Then I serve it very cold on fairly large cubes, and I drink it really fast. Harry Craddock, who was the famous bartender in London in the ’20s at the American bar, he always said, “Drink it cold. Drink it fast.” I follow in his footsteps.

Domenech:
Last question is this. Christmas is great and warm and fun. Even January is novel. But February and March, oof. What is your ultimate cold, damp, dark-season comfort food, the dish you make when you wake up on a Sunday and decide the afternoon will be devoted to cooking something that warms the home?

Kimball:
Well, I think, first of all, it’s just cooking in the Sunday afternoon, which I do a lot. It’s the time of year I do bake bread. It’s the time of year where I still do… I make a lot of apple pies. I used to have a big root cellar, so I was still cooking out of there. But I still do that a lot. And I try to cook something for the week that’s going to hold, so a big pot of soup or stew.

For me, it’s not so much what you’re cooking; it’s the surround. The surround for me is what I’m listening to. The surround for me is being in the kitchen. The surround for me is I’m too busy to take care of the kids, so I have to cook, which is really cheating. My wife has caught onto this a long time ago. Maybe making something for the kids at the same time, baking cookies, doing something for the kids too. But it’s just that idea of it’s late Sunday afternoon, it’s dark, it’s cold, and something’s in the oven. And you’ve probably broken up a bottle of wine by then.

I love listening to BBC Radio 4 Extra. “Alexa, play BBC Radio 4 Extra.” It’s this really crazy station out of the BBC that plays stupid old British comedies and detective stories, Sherlock Holmes and all the other stuff. It’s very retro. There will always be an England station. I find that that just takes me out of time into another dimension.

Domenech:
That sounds fantastic, and sounds like a wonderful way to spend Sunday afternoon. Christopher Kimball, thank you so much for joining us again. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.

Kimball:
Yeah. Thank you. Take care.

Domenech:
I want to thank Christopher Kimball for joining us. It’s such a great chance to learn from one of the smartest people in the world of food, and we always appreciate his time. I’m Ben Domenech. You’ve been listening to another edition of The Federalist Radio Hour. Until we meet again, be lovers of freedom and anxious for the fray.