Science, Food, Art, and Writing

« previous episode | next episode »

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Industrial hygienist Monona Rossol starts us off with the latest research into PCBs and other dangerous chemicals in our homes and in our public schools. Then, food writer Molly O’Neill tells of travelling across the country in search of recipes from the best home cooks. Also, we find out about two exhibits currently at the Frick (which just celebrated its 75th anniversary): one features Velazquez’s portrait of Philip IV, and the other a collection of Spanish drawings from Ribera to Goya. Plus, three literary magazine editors compare notes!

PCBs at Home and School

Monona Rossol, industrial hygienist and founder and president of Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc., and Dr. Robert Herrick, senior lecturer on industrial hygiene, Harvard School of Public Health, discuss the health risks of PCBs in schools, homes, and other buildings.

Comments [9]

One Big Table

Former New York Times food columnist Molly O’Neill discusses taking a cross-country road trip to find out what Americans cook at home. Her latest book, One Big Table: 600 Recipes from the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-masters, and Chefs, is a celebration of American home cooks and a portrait of what we eat and why. It includes heirloom recipes from communities such as Virginia’s Eastern Shore to New Mexico.

Comments [6]

The Frick at 75

Curators Pablo Perez d’Ors and Jonathan Brown discuss two exhibitions at the Frick Collection: "The King at War: Velazquez’s Portrait of Philip IV" (on view through January 23, 2011) and "The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya" (on view through January 9, 2011), and we’ll talk about the Frick’s 75th anniversary.

Comments [1]

Literary Magazines

Literary magazine editors Hannah Tinti of One Story, Keith Gessen of n+1, and Ann Kjellberg of Little Star talk about the hurdles and opportunities inherent in publishing literary magazines today: attracting top writers, enticing paying subscribers and using digital technology (or not) to put the work out.

Comments [6]

Guest Picks: Molly O'Neill

Molly O'Neill shares some of her favorite picks with us!


Helena Litke Longhofer’s Midday Chicken

Frank Reese says: “I’m fourth-generation poultry farmer on my father’s side, a fifth-generation poultry farmer on my mother’s side, and second-generation German and English stock. It’s a common combination in the Midwest prairie. When the railroad was being built, you could get your own land by clearing it, and many immigrants did just that. Most were big on simple, hearty food. My grandmother and great-grandmother fixed chicken this way for large groups, like the harvesters who came to the early spring and the late fall. Previous generations used lard for the first frying, but I use Crisco with a little pat of butter added for flavor. Over time, the homemade poultry spice blend gave way to a commercially made one, but making a fresh blend gives a better flavor. And you can use it in dressings, to season birds for roasting, even in chicken soup. This chicken recipe comes from a friend’s grandmother. The meat can be served sliced and cold in sandwiches, or hot with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. You can make Midday Chicken out of just about any breed of chicken, and frozen chicken works real well, so it’s a year-round favorite and oh-so-good.”

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces and
1 cup vegetable oil or vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter or lard
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup milk

1. Place an oven rack in the center position and
preheat the oven to 325°F. Set a wire rack over a
baking sheet and a roasting rack in a roasting pan,
and line a plate with paper towels.

2. In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour,
poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and paprika. Coat
each piece of chicken in the flour mixture and
transfer to the wire rack.

3. Heat the oil and butter in a large cast-iron
skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-frying
thermometer registers 365°F to 375°F or a pinch
of flour bubbles and sizzles in the oil. Carefully
add half of the chicken to the skillet and cook for
8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides.
Transfer the chicken to the paper-towel-lined plate
to drain briefly, then transfer to the roasting pan.
Repeat with the remaining chicken.

4. Carefully strain the oil through a fine-mesh
strainer into a heatproof container. (Discard the oil
when cool.) Return the browned bits in the strainer
to the skillet and add the water. Bring the water
to a simmer, scraping and stirring constantly, and
cook for 1 minute. Pour this mixture, along with
the heavy cream and milk, into the bottom of the
roasting pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil
and bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the chicken is
tender. Serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Poultry Seasoning

3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried savory
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon ground fennel
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients.
The spice blend can be stored in an airtight
container for up to three months.

Makes about 2⁄3 cup

From ONE BIG TABLE by Molly O’Neill. Copyright © 2010 by Molly O’Neill. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY


Peter’s Saigon-Biloxi Shrimp

In 1975, Peter Nguyen’s family left Vietnam and traveled a circuitous route, landing wherever church groups and missions offered housing to refugees—Guam, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Texas, Louisiana, and finally Biloxi, Mississippi. Like hundreds of others, they were drawn to the familiarity of fishing. Working as hands or headers, cutters or gutters, families like the Nguyens labored as French, Polish, and Slavic immigrants did before them.

Language barriers and suspicion from the local community made it hard to earn enough to live, much less to realize the dream each father had for his son: owning a boat of his own. But when he was 20, Mr. Nguyen made his father proud. The 1990s brought rich harvests that commanded high prices. Then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated piers and boats, and, like many, Mr. Nguyen could not afford to rebuild and fish again. He went to work at the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. Vietnamese fishers make up 70 percent of the state’s shrimp industry, and Mr. Nguyen translates their concerns to the consortium, which is working to maintain Mississippi’s fishing industry.

When it comes to Gulf shrimp, Mr. Nguyen is a true believer. “You won’t get better, sweeter-tasting shrimp anywhere else. You do a recipe with Gulf shrimp and some other shrimp. Same recipe, different shrimp. You see with your own eyes, taste with your own mouth which is better.” This recipe he just “made up” based on memories, and it has become a family favorite.

2 1⁄2 pounds extra colossal Gulf shrimp
(about 10 per pound)
1⁄3 cup palm or granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup fish sauce
1⁄4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1⁄4 cup minced fresh Thai basil, mint, or cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1. Using a paring knife, cut through the back shell
of each shrimp and remove the dark vein. Run your
forefinger between the shell and flesh of each shrimp,
separating but not removing shell from flesh.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, fish sauce, lime
juice, basil, oil, garlic, and chiles together until
the sugar is dissolved. Place shrimp and marinade
in a large zipper-top plastic bag. Squeeze out the
air, seal, and shake to coat the shrimp evenly.
Refrigerate for 4 hours, turning the bag every
30 minutes.

3. To cook the shrimp, heat a charcoal or gas grill
to high. Remove the shrimp from the marinade.
Grill, turning frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, until
evenly pink and golden on both sides. Serve,
passing a bowl for the shells at the table.

Serves 6

From ONE BIG TABLE by Molly O’Neill. Copyright © 2010 by Molly O’Neill. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY


The Saffron King’s Persian Kebabs

Behroush Sharifi is a large man with a small ponytail. His bulk belies his agility on the mountain bike that he races through Manhattan, delivering small packets of Persian saffron to chefs at the city’s elite restaurants. At $88 an ounce, the spice is precious stuff. He was a child émigré who fled Iran with his mother, a nurse, just after the Iranian Revolution, landing first in England and then in Arkansas. In Mr. Sharifi’s mother’s kitchen, like that of most Iranians, saffron played a large role no matter how hard it was to procure.

Now, Mr. Sharifi mixes saffron with butter to finish off the grilled kebabs that are Iran’s most popular fast food or picnic fare, especially during the Sizdah Bedar (13th Day) celebration marking the end of the Iranian New Year festivities that begin on the first day of spring. Although the Sharifi family prefers lean ground beef for their kebabs, a mix of beef and lamb or simply lamb are equally traditional and offer a richer depth of flavor.

4 medium onions
3⁄4 pound 90% lean ground beef (preferably
ground twice)
3⁄4 pound ground lamb (preferably ground twice)
3 large egg yolks
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 long, flat, metal kebab skewers
Pinch of saffron threads
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground sumac
Pita bread or lavash, for serving

1. Grate the onions on the large holes of a box
grater. Squeeze out excess liquid by hand or press
out in a strainer with a wooden spoon. Transfer the
onions to a medium bowl and add the ground beef
and lamb, egg yolks, salt, and pepper. Using your
hands or an electric mixer, blend the ingredients
until the mixture is sticky. Cover and refrigerate for
4 to 5 hours.

2. Remove the meat mixture from the refrigerator.
Dampen hands, divide the meat into 12 even
portions, and shape into 5-inch cylinders. Slide
them onto flat, metal kebab skewers and flatten
each into a kebab about 8 inches long and ¼ inch
thick. (If the skewers are unavailable, shape each
portion of meat into an 8 x 1 ½-inch rectangle.)

3. In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron
and sugar together until the saffron threads are
pulverized. Stir into the butter.

4. Heat a grill to high. (If not using skewers, heat
a grill pan over high heat.) Grill the kebabs—or
unskewered portions—for 2 to 3 minutes, brush
with saffron butter, and flip. Grill on the second
side for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the meat is
cooked through.

5. Brush with saffron butter, remove from the
skewers, sprinkle with the sumac, and serve with
the bread.

Serves 6

From ONE BIG TABLE by Molly O’Neill. Copyright © 2010 by Molly O’Neill. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY

Comments [1]

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.