Homemade Podcast Episode 16: Anne Burrell on Returning Home, Rustic Cooking, and a Recipe for Kitchen Success
Chef, cookbook author, and TV host Anne Burrell’s resume cuts her out for mentoring kitchen novices on “Worst Cooks in America.” Yet the co-host of Food Network’s longest-running series considers herself as much of a home cook as a chef. Watching Julia Child on television captivated Burrell at just three years old. And though Burrell’s mother credits the chef’s success to Child, Burrell maintains that she learned from her mother first and foremost.
Naturally, Burrell has become the cook of the family. As she and her fiancé quarantine with relatives, she takes requests for everything from spaghetti in clam sauce to tacos to turkey burgers. From her hometown of Cazenovia, New York, Burrell catches up with host Martie Duncan on this episode of Homemade. The two talk holiday traditions, the purpose of salt and pepper, and preparing the perfect Bolognese and Carbonara. Plus, Burrell shares her pointers for beginner cooks. Download it for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning September 23.
About Anne Burrell
Anne Burrell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English before earning a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. She went on to attend culinary school in Italy. She then accepted the position of sous chef at Lidia Bastianich’s New York restaurant Felidia. In between jobs at top New York restaurants, Burrell taught at the Institute of Culinary Education. In 2008, her Food Network show “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” premiered. Since 2010, she has co-hosted “Worst Cooks in America.” Burrell is the author of two books, Own Your Kitchen: Recipes to Inspire & Empower and Cook Like a Rock Star: 125 Recipes, Lessons, and Culinary Secrets.
MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade from Allrecipes. I’m Martie Duncan. Each week on this podcast we celebrate the stories behind some of our favorite recipes. And my guest today has so many fantastic stories!
Today, I have the extreme pleasure of having one of my favorite Food Network chefs. She's an author. She's battled on "Iron Chef." She's the host of one of the longest-running shows on Food Network. And she's a great teacher. She just brings so much life to the kitchen. I’m talking about Chef Anne Burrell. Anne, welcome to Homemade.
ANNE BURRELL Well, hi, Martie Party. It's so nice to see you.
MARTIE It is so great seeing you, too. It's been a while. But I've been following along with you on Instagram throughout this crazy coronavirus. It seems like you've been having a great time at home. I'm going to bring it up right off the bat, Anne. You have some exciting news to share. Can you go ahead and just tell us about what happened during the lockdown?
ANNE Oh, wow. So, I mean, this crazy time we left New York City, like we made the decision to leave New York and it was like one day and then the next day we were leaving. And that was back in March, right before St. Patrick's Day. And we came up here with my boyfriend and his son to spend the time with my family because my mom owns a building, so we have an apartment on the second floor of her building.
So, it's been great to be able to quarantine with my family. I haven't spent this much time in my little hometown — it's, I mean, a town of 3000 people called Cazenovia, New York — since I've been in high school. I mean, this is where I grew up. So, it's like kind of homecoming. And now being back and being able to appreciate it for this long as an adult has been really amazing. And to now have my boyfriend, which is now my fiancé. We got engaged up here; we're going to get married here next fall.
For the most part, it's been really great to be up here, to spend so much time with my family, to be away out of the city, and to just kind of like slow life down a bit. And you get to take stock, and then you notice the silver linings that are happening all over the place.
MARTIE OK, Anne, so you just said “now my fiancé." So you and Stuart got engaged during the lockdown! I want to hear all about the proposal. I know that y’all have been together for a while. I've been watching yall via Instagram, going to Rangers games and all kinds of fun things over the last few years. I heard he got your mom to help him plan the proposal, and he completely surprised you.
ANNE That is that is definitely a true story. So, as I said, my mom owns a three-story building in my little hometown. And she lives on the top floor, we're taking up the second floor, and the bottom floor is a shop — like a retail space where she had her flower shop for many, many years. My sister just lives around the corner, so it's been nine of us quarantining together.
So, Stuart made a plan with my mother that we would have a date night in my mother's apartment. And my mom set a beautiful table and took Stuart's son, who's fifteen, over to my sister's house for dinner. And Stuart and I had a little date night. And then he started talking to me about like, "Oh, well, you know, let's think about songs for our playlist for our wedding reception." And I was like, "What? Why are we talking about this now?" Like, all right, sure, we can talk like a playlist, whatever. Who cares?
But then we started talking about family and being up here. And this is sort of like when we started taking stock in the whole situation. I mean, this was back in April. And I was also starting to get weepy already thinking about how nice it's been to be with my family and just how things are so uncertain and things like that. But it's just nice to be able to have this to come to. And then he got down on one knee and, like, "Our families are all together now," and that kind of stuff, and, "Will you marry me?" Ah! It was amazing.
MARTIE It sounds amazing, and I am just so happy for both of you. Now- if you need any help planning the wedding, you got my number. I still plan one or two weddings per year, and I’ll move you to the top of the list, how about that? Speaking of your hometown, and being there with your whole family, did you grow up in a home of good cooks?
ANNE My mom was a great cook, and we always had a big garden out in the backyard. So she'd be like, "Go out and pick lettuce or tomatoes or dig up potatoes for dinner." I loved doing that. I loved being involved in the garden. I mean, I didn't like to weed it, but I liked to plant it, and I liked to harvest and then use all the stuff. That was always exciting.
My mom was an amazing cook, so she was very inspirational to me. But I also watched, and my mom swears that it's because of this, because of Julia Child that — like, I went to my mom when I was three, and I was like, "Mom, I have a friend named Julie." She said, "You do? Who?" And I was like, "Julie Child. I watch her every day." My mom really swears that it's Julia. But I swear, it's my mom. My mom was an amazing cook.
MARTIE I grew up with a mom who was a great cook too. So, certainly, she is my biggest inspiration, like you. But Julia Child played a big role in my childhood as well. I’d run home to see her every day as well after school. So later on, after high school, did you go to the Culinary Institute of America?
ANNE No. I went to college first — regular college because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Weirdly, coincidentally, I kind of graduated with a major in English and communication, which has come into use. I mean, you think about it, and you think at, like, 17 or 18 years old, how do you know what you're going to do with the rest of your life?
MARTIE I'm just so fascinated with people who know that. But I'm with you. I didn't know either. I didn't have a clue.
ANNE No idea. So, I started waitressing in college because I wanted to buy a car. And that's when I really just got bitten by the restaurant bug, and I stayed with it. After I graduated from college, I was out for a couple of years, I had a rotten job, just terrible, miserable. And I was like, "I'm 23 years old. I am too young to be this miserable!"
And that's when I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, and so I moved home after being out of the house for six years. And as much as I love my family, once you leave your house, you're never really supposed to move back in again unless there's a pandemic. But, so then I went to culinary school. I went to the CIA. I did that for two years. And then I went to Italy for a year, where I did school for three months and then worked for the rest of the year for free in restaurants to learn the Italian kitchen. It was a magical year.
MARTIE It sounds like it. And a dream come true for most of us! Who wouldn’t want to go to Italy and cook for a year?
ANNE And like farm to table, that's just Italian food. That's just food there.
ANNE And to love the rustic Italian kitchen. And people are like, "Oh, rustic, that's easy." And I'm like, no. Rustic is as hard as it gets because it's like, if there's only two or three things on a plate, if your ingredients and your technique is not perfect, there's nowhere to hide. No sauce, no fancy knife cuts. And to me, that speaks to my soul. That's what feeds my soul as well as my body. And that's the way I like to cook. My mom hates it when I say this, but as a cook, I say I'm a professional pleasure provider, and you know...
ANNE Right? So that's the way I always approach it. Yes, you can have more fancy rustic or less fancy rustic. But the soul of what in the food, that's what speaks me. How to build layers of flavor. How to do this with just everyday ingredients. And it's what you do with your hands and your cooking techniques that make things so soul-satisfying.
MARTIE You know, I think that was the main thing that I liked about "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef." It was always one of my favorite shows on Food Network, and I still occasionally will go watch some of your videos because I love the fact that you are taking these simplistic dishes but showing us how to build big flavor and make them so delicious.
ANNE I just made a big pot of Bolognese the other night, and so I put up a little video of the sauce simmering away, and I said, “Brown food tastes good,” as said in my best Cookie Monster voice. And people are like, "Oh, I wish! I can smell that just coming through the screen," and stuff. And I’m like, ah! That was the very first episode of "Secrets" I ever did, the Bolognese one, and it's the recipe people today still say to me the most that they love.
MARTIE I have to say, after I saw the post, Anne, I went and made Bolognese. I sure did. The leftovers are in my fridge right now, in fact. For people who never saw that episode of "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef," walk us through the perfect Anne Burrell Bolognese.
ANNE Well, to me, it's all about the dance of the Bolognese. You start the party by just taking onions, celery, or carrots. And sometimes I substitute fennel instead of carrots. And you just pulse them in your food processor to make what I call sofrito. Or that's what I learned in Italy, to call that a sofrito. It's not a Spanish sofrito. It's an Italian sofrito. Like, vegetables that have been processed a lot. It's almost like they are a coarse paste. And then you start browning those and you cook all the water out, and then you see the crud start to form on the bottom of the pan, and then you scrape off the crud, and let it re-form. And this is where you start to develop your brown food. And then you put the big meat in there. You brown that, plenty of salt. Then lots of tomato paste. And people are like, tomato paste? Like, I use a lot of tomato paste and a lot of red wine in my Bolognese. It gives it such soul and depth. But then with a lot of wine, it also brings a bright acidity to the whole thing as well.
This is not a place to skip or skimp on time and steps. Take your time and brown everything. This is where you're developing your wide flavor base, like your foundation of what your Bolognese or your ragu is. So then once you get everything brown, you get the wine in there, let the wine cook down. And then, this is where the dance starts. You throw in your water. Just cover the surface of the meat and you BTB, RTS — bring to boil, reduce to simmer — and simmer it. You can see the water cook down, add more water and let it come back to a boil and simmer, and add more water and reduce, and taste it every step of the way. Like, re-season it occasionally. It tastes so different from the beginning of the cooking time to the end of, like, the three hours once you simmer it for that long. It just keeps on giving and it just keeps on getting better. And then, it's even better the next day. Let it cool down and you, like, reheat it a little bit, it's even better.
MARTIE OK, Excuse me. I gotta run to my refrigerator real quick and heat mine up. I am dying now. That just made me sooo hungry. Now, this is the dish you're best known for on television. But at your house, especially during the quarantine with your whole family there, what's your number one requested dish?
ANNE Well, so we have a lot of people that have been quarantining with us. So we're nine altogether. It's four teenagers, five adults. My mom's gluten-free. Two of my nieces were vegan for a while. So, like, it's almost easier to cook in a restaurant.
I have some fan favorites, though, that my nieces and nephews and kids have loved. Out of my first book there was a recipe for chicken thighs with an almond-mushroom sauce. Sort of like a mushroom ragu and then you thicken it at the end with pureed almonds and olive oil, so it really tightens up that sauce, but it gives it like this nutty deliciousness. Then you have the earthy mushrooms and then you have the really succulent, crispy, browned chicken thighs, really nice and fatty. So, everyone always wants me to make that one.
I have a recipe that the kids love so much as well for what I like to call killer turkey burgers. And I'm like, turkey burgers? Who would request turkey burgers? They're always so dry. And so...
MARTIE Yeah, so dry.
ANNE Right? So, I wrote this recipe a bunch of years ago when I was coming home for Christmas or something. My sister picks me up at the airport and she's like, "OK, you're making dinner. We're having turkey burgers." And I'm like, "Oh." Because she had to go, like, pick up the kids, you know, or do something, whatever. My sister's off being a mom. And so, she's like, "Oh, yay! You make dinner tonight." So I'm just like cruising through Jane's pantry, and I was like, what can I do to zhuzh-up turkey burgers because they're so like, whatever. So, I saw a can of water chestnuts. All right, Asian stuffed...
MARTIE Yeah, inspiration sometimes comes in a can.
ANNE Soy sauce. She's got cilantro, ginger, garlic, onions. So, it's turkey burgers that are, like, really nice and moist, but they have the crunch of the water chestnuts in there as well. People go bananas for that.
MARTIE Really? I gotta look that recipe up.
ANNE Everyone has their stuff. I've gone from spaghetti in clam sauce to tacos to chicken piccata to all over the place.
MARTIE What's the one recipe growing up that was your favorite to make with your mom?
ANNE Let's see. Well, my mom was always such a good cook, but really fast at everything. And I would always kind of do like the dessert kind of stuff. And I was also terrible because I would never read the recipe. I would just get so excited to cook that I would just start dumping all the ingredients together and then I'd be like, "Mom!" And she'd be like, "You're doing it again?" I think I more frustrated my mom.
But during Christmas time, when I was a kid, we would never decorate our Christmas tree with Christmas ornaments. My mom had hundreds of cookie cutters, so she would make like a zillion gingerbread cookies, and she would decorate and pipe so ornately every single one.And every single one had, like, holly leaves and a holly berry on it. And so we would decorate. And then for months, we would have stale gingerbread cookies in our lunch. So, I liked to actually help doing those, but I never like to eat them because I am scarred to death by stale cookies in my lunch box. I mean, I threw them away for months. And never told my Mom.
MARTIE Oh my goodness, that's so funny. All right, Anne, so you have one of the longest-running shows on Food Network with "Worst Cooks." I mean, that's been on, what, ten years now?
ANNE I think, yeah, if not more than that. But yeah, something like that.
MARTIE That's pretty amazing. And you've been the only host that's been on the whole time. Like, you have had a lot of co-hosts. Let's see, you've had Bobby Flay...
MARTIE Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine, Tyler Florence.
ANNE Yeah. Tyler has done it a lot of times. Alex Gaurnaschelli did it recently. We've had a lot of people. We're actually just gearing up to start shooting again, the end of September and all of October. We'll be shooting seasons 21 and 22.
MARTIE And you're recruiting contestants right now, I think.
MARTIE So Anne, I have to ask, who was the absolute worst cook you ever saw in 10 years of that show?
ANNE Oh, there's so many. There's so many. You know, Alton Brown even said one time when he was doing it with me, he's like, "We've been on the Food Network for this long and there's still this many bad, worst cooks in America?"
MARTIE That is pretty shocking.
ANNE It will keep me in a job, I guess. But I also look at it that, you know, we're really helping people. And I say to everyone on the first day, "Whether you are here for a little time or a long time, this show will change your life. And it will probably change it for the better." Some people might just decide, "You know what? Nope, nope, nope. Cooking is just not for me." But I say that I can teach anyone to cook that really wants to learn.
MARTIE That's because you're a great teacher. Give us some tips. We're an audience of home cooks here at Allrecipes. How can we have more confidence in the kitchen and more courage to try new things?
ANNE Well, and I tell my recruits this all the time, trust the mise en place process. Do your mise en place. Do your prep work. Like, read your recipe before you start. Make sure you have all of the ingredients. I mean, I feel like my mom talking to me when I was a little kid, but little things like that can mess you up. Then do all of your prep work. Get out all of your little mise en place containers, and then you can clean as you go and you can keep things neat and organized. Like, when my kitchen is crazy pants and just cluttered everywhere when I'm cooking, I have a hard time with it. So, imagine if you're not 100 percent confident in what you're doing.
I also say this: When you're new to cooking, when you're starting off on things, don't start off with Thanksgiving dinner. Start off with your roasted chicken on a Tuesday. Or something like that. Start off with things that are a little bit more basic.
ANNE It is my supreme belief that if you do one or two simple things well, it is better than doing a half-assed job at something that's very complicated.
MARTIE I would agree with that 100 percent.
ANNE I would rather have like a perfect caprese salad with tomatoes from right now and basil from the garden and mozzarella with delicious olive oil than someone trying to impress me with making pasta from scratch that is kind of crappy. You know what I mean? Start off with things that are easy for you. Understand what you like, and then understand sort of how timing of things work, and get your cooking techniques down really well. And then move on to something that's a little bit harder. Or, take that same dish that you've done really well and make sides that are a little bit more difficult or something like that. So you have a couple of balls in the air. You know what I mean? Plan your menus. It's funny you ask this. I'm sorry I don't mean to be going on such a huge, like, diatribe about this.
MARTIE No, no, no. I love it.
ANNE It's been really something that I've been thinking about a lot since I've been quarantining because I am from New York City. I'm a professional chef. I'm used to cooking in restaurant kitchens and having access to everything that I could ever imagine. So being up here in my little town with just access to a Tops or an Aldi, you know, my decision every day was like, hmm, Tops or Aldi or Aldi or Tops? You know, those are the grocery store choices. And, you know, they don't always have everything that I need. But, my family still wants me to cook like a rock star. And plus, then, I don't want to spend all day, every day cooking. So, I'm kind of at a crossroads in my career, like, the real chef in me versus the home cook.
MARTIE That's right, you’re actually kind of a home cook now, too!
ANNE It's been kind of like inspiring me to get myself together to write another book. Because I always have thought, like, oh, I'm very empathetic and sympathetic to the home cook. But then I've been, like, having to do it every day for nine people for six months almost. And I'm like, I'm bored with this. I'm tired of, like, you know, spending all day, every day in the kitchen. I want to enjoy, like, outside in summertime.
ANNE How do I streamline stuff but still have my cooking techniques and feeding everyone in a great way? So, I'm really like formulating my ideas how to do another book.
MARTIE I think that's a great idea, and you'll help people plan a week, maybe, of cooking so that even when this is all over, it can simplify and streamline life for everybody. I love that.
You know, I have always been a wandering cook in the kitchen. I never understood about mise en place because I never worked in a restaurant and I didn't go to culinary school. So, when I did "Food Network Star," it was the one thing I struggled with the most, and it was a lesson that I learned from all the great restaurant chefs in the cast on my season, like Michele and Justin Warner. I watched them, and the reason they were having such an easy time of it was that they had gotten all their ingredients ready in advance, and then all they were doing is cooking and I was still running back and forth to the pantry, like, 50 times. I lost a lot of time not being organized, and I would always struggle at the end because of it.
So y’all, listen to Anne and do your mise en place before you begin to cook. That’s great advice.
ANNE Right? I'm always like I can tell on "Worst Cooks" when people have really started to trust the mise en place process, as I call it. And you can see them — like, the penny starts to drop. And then they're not so frantic. They're not so crazy. And I'm like, "Look at the recipe or the, whatever it is you're making, and look at every individual little part. If you look at the whole picture, you're going to freak yourself out and you're gonna get yourself all messed up. So just trust the steps and do the little steps. And then at the end, you'll see how everything kind of just comes together."
MARTIE You're listening to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan, and we'll be right back.
This is Homemade, and my guest today is Chef Anne Burrell.
So, Chef, we've got fall coming up. Are you starting to think about fall flavors and fall recipes?
ANNE Yes, ish. I mean, we are actually going back to this city this week. I'm not ready to think about pumpkins and stuff yet. I'm still enjoying my corn and tomato euphoria.
MARTIE Yeah. Your season's a little later than ours. I'm just about done with everything from my garden, although I still have butternut squash growing. And I'm really looking forward to cooler weather and making things like soup big braises and roasts. "Big meat" as you would say. That’s one of your specialties. Is that something you picked up in Italy? Give us some tips for cooking big cuts of meat.
ANNE When you have stuff like that, they're showstopping. They're special for holidays or someone's birthday or something. Whether it's a standing rib roast or a rack, like a crown roast or something, you know, like a rack of pork crown roast. Ugh! Sexy, sexy. Or, even if it's a turkey or something like that, when you bring out this big, huge hunk of meat, it's impressive.
MARTIE It is!
ANNE Or even a ham. I mean, it's so funny. The first time I made a ham, I was like, wait, you just got to warm it up? I don't get it. Why does everyone seem like making a ham dinner is such a big deal? And I'm like, yeah, I brush it with mustard and whatever. I'm not a, like, sweet and salty kind of girl, so. If I'm making it, then I'm not going to put, like, the honey mustard on the outside of my ham.
But the thing about a huge hunk of meat is that you still want the brown flavors on the outside. So, it's really important to season your meat a lot on the outside before you cook it. Start it off at a high temperature, so it kind of gets that brown food on the outside, and then turn it down and let it go sort of low and slow.
Definitely have a meat thermometer. If you cook by your watch or a clock, you're going to have a hard time because your oven is different than the person's oven who wrote the recipe or whatever. You might see different times for different cuts of meat. So the only way to be sure is to have a functioning meat thermometer.
Then another big thing that I think people don't do enough or don't count enough or the importance of is letting your meat rest after it comes out of the oven. You should let your turkey rest for probably at least 30 minutes before you cut it. This is why a lot of times people say turkey is dry. Yes, turkey can be dry, especially the breast. But if you don't let it rest enough what happens is those juices just run out of your turkey or your roast or whatever, and they're lost forever. So give them a chance. I always do this interpretive dance of, like, the meat juices in your meat when they're in the oven.
And they come out of the oven and they don't really know that they don't have to keep doing this yet! So give them a chance to calm down and to be like, "Oh, all right. We're not in a hot spot anymore. We can just hang out right here." Give them a chance to do that and you will have juicy meat all the time. People are scared it's going to get cold or whatever. And I'm like, big hunks of meat keep their heat for a long time. And if you need to, you can flash it back in the oven just to, like, for a minute, a couple of minutes, just to get a really nice and piping hot again. But don't discount the importance of resting.
MARTIE Well, and a lot of those times you would have gravy anyway, which would be hot.
ANNE I always find when I'm doing big meals like that, people are like, how do you get everything ready all at the same time? That resting time is also the gift of getting everything ready all at the same time. Everything that you've made ahead, like your mashed potatoes while you're making your roast and either just kind of throw them back in the oven after the roast comes out. And your side dishes, throw them back in the oven. You could even turn the oven off, so it's still hot, but keep it closed. But things won't cook anymore, and they'll just heat up very gently and gradually while your roast is resting. I mean, it's a two-part deal.
MARTIE You can finish your mashed potatoes.
ANNE Yeah. Make your gravy and ...
MARTIE Yeah, I never thought of it that way. But I guess you're right. That resting time is the gift of side dishes.
MARTIE What a smart thing, Anne. Now, here's a question for you. I've heard you say this lots of times: Salt does not have to go with pepper.
ANNE Sally and Pepe, salt and pepper, are not married. They're only dating. Sally always goes to the party. Pepe is usually pretty strong and we leave him home a lot unless we want to actually feel his presence.
I mean, you know, salt and peppers don't have the same function. Salt just turns the volume up on flavor. It just makes things taste more. Pepper brings another very strong spice to the table. So I use pepper as an ingredient, like the same way I would use, like, horseradish as an ingredient. We need salt to really make things just taste like what they are. Pepper tastes like something else.
MARTIE So the bottom line is here, every time you cook, you don't have pepper just because you added salt.
ANNE No, I don't. In fact, I rarely cook with black pepper.
MARTIE But you do like red pepper flakes, and you're known to use those sometimes.
ANNE I do. I like a little bit of crushed red pepper. I like a little tiny poke of spice, you know, where you're eating something and you're a few bites in and then you kind of get like that little warmth up the back of your throat. Like, not something to necessarily punch you right in the face with spice. I mean, sometimes we want that. But I like something that's just like, "Oooh!" It's a little bit surprising. It's a little exciting. You know, keep everyone on their toes.
MARTIE I always like to ask these questions that are kind of personal, too. So your favorite five things. I think I know some of them. Like, for example, your cats — I know you have Maine Coon cats. And what is that one’s name, Miss Nancy Fancy Pants or what is it? Crazy Pants or what do you call her?
ANNE Nutty Nancy Crazy Pants.
MARTIE Yeah, that one!
ANNE And Marcia Marcia Marcia.
MARTIE Yeah, that's right. You've got two Maine Coons, right?
ANNE Yes. They're big. They're so friendly and fine and delightful. They've been enjoying country life. Nancy loves to go outside now.
MARTIE Oh really? They're not city cats anymore. They're country cats.
ANNE Right? I know! And I'm like, oh, my gosh. It's like my sister has a cat that goes out hunting and it brings home like squirrels and bunnies and things, like animal critters. And my cats think they're hunting when they get, like, you know, like, a fur glove in my New York apartment.
MARTIE That's so funny.
ANNE So I'm addicted to my cats. I love the New York Ranger Rangers. I love karaoke.
MARTIE I knew that was coming! That's what I was going to bring up next. Oh, my goodness. We had the most fun karaoke-ing that time you came down to lower Alabama for the big Hangout Oyster Cook Off. We had a fun night at the worst dive bar possible, singing karaoke. Y’all, Anne’s a pretty good singer. I remember you did "Take Me Home, Country Roads"?
ANNE That's always my warm-up song. I've got a whole collection of songs. In fact, every year after Christmas dinner, I hire karaoke to come. All of our friends from high school and family friends from around the town come and everyone. I'm like, my only thing is that anyone who comes to this party — and I want everyone to come to that absolutely wants it — but you have to sing one song. Everyone has to get up there at least once. You don't have to sing all by yourself. You can stand in the background with a group. But everyone needs to get up there at least just once.
MARTIE I want to come to that Christmas party. That seems like so much fun. What a great idea!
ANNE We do it every year. And in fact, actually for my rehearsal dinner is going to be at the venue where we're getting married as we're going to hire a big barbeque and then we're doing karaoke.
MARTIE How fun! How fun, fun, fun! So you see, you've got half the wedding planned already. All right. So, we've got the Rangers, you got your Coon cats, we've got karaoke, and I'm going to guess the next one. Prosecco. I know you're a giant fan of Prosecco.
ANNE I love prosecco. I like to say it's cheap and cheery, just like me. And I always drink my prosecco on the rocks, like, with ice cubes because then it makes it like big girl soda. And I'm drinking and hydrating at the same time. So I love a good multitask. These days, life has gotten very simple, and I really enjoy it. So, oh, I've really taken up knitting!
MARTIE What? Knitting?
ANNE I've been knitting a lot since Christmas, actually. I've made an afghan. All of a sudden, like everyone I know started having babies. So I'm on my third baby blanket. I have one more after this. And then I'm finishing an afghan for my niece.
MARTIE I really wouldn't have thought you would sit still long enough to knit. That's pretty remarkable because you're on the go. OK. So movie night at home. Are you a salty snack or a sweet snack?
ANNE It depends. If it's after dinner, sweet snack. I make what I call Candy Salad, which is Mike and Ike's Hot Tamales, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Jelly Bellies, any sort of, like, sweet stuff, I buy lots of them. Mix them together in one big bowl, and then everyone has their own little container of candy salad.
MARTIE Ooh! Yum.
ANNE If it's before dinner or like an afternoon or whatever, I'm a popcorn girl.
MARTIE I get it. I'm definitely sweet, like if I have popcorn, there will likely be M&M’S mixed in with it or maybe just caramel corn. I’m definitely, lile, more to the sweet side. So, I want to talk a little bit about the holidays because we're getting close. Tell me about some of your favorite holiday traditions. What dish defines your holiday table? Like, it wouldn’t be Christmas without...
ANNE We don't have a set holiday dinner, like, for Christmas. I mean, clearly, Thanksgiving is turkey, but really, we have a lot of traditions that we do with my family. And yes, food and eating is part of them, where I make a huge dinner. But it's not the same dinner every year. It goes from standing rib roast to pork roast to turkey. Like sometimes if I haven't had, like, my turkey at Thanksgiving, I will make Thanksgiving dinner at Christmas because I love it so much.
But because I'm usually not here all year in my little town, we call it the Christmas Olympics. It's like almost like Christmas vacation, where I come home for a week, at least every year for Christmas and we have the build up to Christmas, the shopping days. There's one night that I rent a limo for a bunch of us and we go out to dinner in Syracuse and then we have, like, the redneck pub crawl on the way back to town. We stop in every little country dive bar on the way back.
MARTIE I love it. I absolutely love it.
ANNE And then for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there's a little Scottish inn in my town, and I rent out the entire thing. It's only like twelve rooms, but no staff. And we move in and we take it over for two days. And so, that's where we open our presents. And my sister cooks Christmas Eve dinner, and then I do all my prep for Christmas night dinner where we have another couple of families come.
MARTIE Ooh, fabulous!
ANNE Yes, it's really fun, but it definitely like takes a lot of stamina to get through our Christmas.
MARTIE The Christmas Olympics, I just it. That is just so awesome. I want to come! I'm inviting myself.
ANNE All right, come up!
MARTIE OK, one thing that I make a lot in busy days leading up to Christmas is your carbonara. I based my recipe off of yours because I know you learned yours in Italy, it’s like authentic. So can you walk us through it? It is so satisfying and just so homey and really so fast, too.
ANNE Oh, it is such a quick and easy thing to make. And it's like it's so, so, so delicious. You start off a pan, a cold pan, either pancetta or guanciale. I mean, a lot of people can't find guanciale, which is cured pork jowl. It behaves just like pancetta or bacon, but it has a little bit of a sweeter flavor. So you put that in a cold pan with just a splash of olive oil, and you bring it to a low heat and let the fat render out. So, you kind of get golden pancetta or guanciale. Just cook it really gently in its own fat until it gets golden and crispy delicious.
On the side, while that's happening, you take a bunch of eggs. I like to make mine a little bit more saucy than most people. So I use a decent amount of eggs. So I use per pound of pasta like eight eggs. Beat those together with a whole bunch of either Parmigiano or pecorino. This is one place I use black pepper because it's very traditional. And you beat that together till it's a homogeneous mixture.
You cook your spaghetti or whatever pasta it is. You take it right from the pan into your pan full of fat and toss it all around. So, like, the hot spaghetti, the hot bacon grease or pancetta grease. And then you turn your pan off and stir in those eggs and cheese really quickly and keep it moving. So the residual heat from the pasta and the bacon grease or the pancetta grease is what cooks the eggs ever so gently. So it becomes like a sauce, like a cream sauce, but there's no cream in it. It's like a custard.
MARTIE Oooh, delicious.
ANNE You can stop stirring and put a lid on it for like 30 seconds just so all of that steam and vapor just kind of cooks those eggs ever so gently and take it off. One more big spin around, and eat it immediately. Don't wait.
MARTIE I can't wait. I'm making that tonight. Anne, I want to circle back to one thing. Earlier we were talking about traditions and you said, if you haven't had your turkey by Christmas, you’ll make turkey for Christmas. So ,what's Anne’s turkey?
ANNE I'm a briner. I brine my turkey for three days. I pull it out the night before Thanksgiving, and I make rosemary sage butter that, like, underneath this skin on the breast and on the legs, really get your arm right in there. And then I get my stuff to roast it all set up—like my carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, bundled bay leaves—in the bottom of my pan, put my turkey on it and leave it in the fridge overnight, uncovered. That really dries out the skin, and you get that beautiful sort of Norman Rockwell brown turkey crispy skin. But because you brined it or because I brine it for three days, it's so flavorful and so juicy. Even the breasts are juicy.
MARTIE So the brining is the key. And the drying of the skin gives you the crispy skin that also browns up so nicely, and I think that's the important part. Now, do you baste along the way or not?
ANNE Every once in a while, but I feel like it's not a good thing to keep opening and closing the oven because that just adds more time. So, if you brine — and people are like, "Three days for brine?" I'm like, "Trust me, it works."
MARTIE So Anne, you've got two seasons of "Worst Cooks in America" that you're filming now and recruiting contestants for now. You're going to work on a new book. I am excited to see what you come up with there. What else besides this wonderful wedding do you have on the horizon?
ANNE I am working on another project, another show. So we're gonna actually shoot a little bit of it and we're gonna take it to the network and let them see if they like it and stuff. So, fingers crossed for that, that we'll have like a new series in the new year.
MARTIE I'm going to wish you all the best for that. And best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful fall and a holiday season coming up. I can't wait to see what you're up to. I'm going to follow along with you on Instagram and see what you're cooking and then get inspired and run in my kitchen and make it myself.
MARTIE We have so enjoyed having you on the Homemade podcast today. You are a joy, a treasure, Anne Burrell. It has been so much fun.
ANNE This was wonderful, Marty. It's so nice to talk to you. You're just so warm and engaging and delightful. And it's been way too long since I've seen you.
MARTIE Oh, thank you, Anne.
ANNE Bye, bye bye.
MARTIE Anne Burrell is the host of "Worst Cooks in America" on Food Network. They’re currently filming their 22nd season. She’s on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at ChefAnneBurrell.
We have got a great show coming up for you next week. I’m excited about this one. I am talking to cookbook author and five-time James Beard Foundation Award winner Dorie Greenspan.
If you like French food — and especially French pastries and desserts — you don’t want to miss this one. And you don’t have to. Just subscribe to the podcast and new shows will magically appear on your phone or your iPad. And while you’re there, leave us a review so we know how we’re doing.
Don’t forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world’s largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
Homemade is produced by AllRecipes with Executive Editor Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, Tanya Ott, and Maya Kroth.
Thanks for listening! I’m Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.