Today (June 5) is Christopher Kimball’s birthday. Here’s a slice of an interview we did earlier this year when the host of the eponymous Milk Street Television stopped by NPT earlier this year. KImball was in Nashville to promote Tuesday Nights at Milk Street, a 786-page cookbook featuring hearty peasant dishes. (Yes, he was wearing a bowtie.)
What with Tuesday nights?
It was a column in the magazine, “Tuesday Nights.” The question was how to get dinner on the table in 45 minutes or less. It forces our kitchen to understand the fundamental point of a recipe. If you’re going to have 25 ingredients, anybody can be brilliant. But if you’ve got eight ingredients, you’ve really got to work harder to understand what makes the recipe good. That’s how most of us cook anyway.
What’s coming up in Season 3?
Oaxaca, Mexico; Beirut (kabobs, tabouleh, hadra [lentils and rice with fried onions on top], which is sort of a comfort food in the Middle East. Paris, which covers baking and gnocchi from a French chef. Spain, Greece. Italy, where we found out the right way to do polenta and the right way to do pesto, which is very different than what I thought.
Is that a recurring thing, the “right” way to do something?
Well, for recipes that American cooks are familiar with, it’s just to go back and find out how people really cook it somewhere else. I found that interesting because how many stories have been done on pesto? Thousands and there should be nothing new to learn at this point. But if you go to Genoa, they … make a really dry mixture, then they’ll add a little bit of olive oil. When they use it on pasta, they’ll add starchy cooking water to thin out the pesto. So, it’s not overwhelming and you’re really getting the taste of the basil.
Any tips for the new or hesitant cook?
Everybody will give you the same answer, and that is salt. Most home cooks who are not cooking a lot under-salt their food. We need salt ‒ it’s not a bad thing.
That last 30 seconds before you serve the food is crucial. Good cooks have secret things they put in at the end, a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice is nice. A little bit of fresh garlic or ginger added at the end just punches up flavor. One of the best ingredients to keep around, which you can get now in supermarket, is pomegranate molasses, which is just pomegranate juice boiled down like cane juice or maple sap. It has a sweet-sour taste: add a teaspoon or two in a stew at the end. Taste, adjust and serve.
Look for the new season of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Television in the fall; in the meantime, Season 2 episodes continue on NPT and NPT2. (Please check our full schedule at https://www.wnpt.org/schedule).