Homemade Podcast Episode 20: Dan Pashman on a Lifelong Love of Food and Devotion to Culinary Details
As Dan Pashman transitioned out of his radio career around 2010, he chewed over the idea of starting a podcast. Though not a chef, Pashman thought his obsession with food might cut him out to discuss it in detail. It did. His hit podcast, The Sporkful, has won thousands of listeners, plus James Beard and Webby awards. Its success has also led Pashman to host of Cooking Channel’s "You're Eating It Wrong."
On this episode of Homemade, Pashman shares his well-researched insights into folding pizza inside out and the crunchiest potato chips — just two of the topics he's covered in depth on The Sporkful. But his conversation with our host, Martie Duncan, digs a little deeper into his personal life. Tune in to learn about Pashman’s holiday traditions, the baked pasta his daughters can’t get enough of, his mom's thumbprint cookies, and whether he’s team Taylor ham or pork roll. Download it for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning October 21.
About Dan Pashman
New Jersey native Dan Pashman began his career in radio. As a friend and colleague transitioned from radio to podcasts, Pashman decided to delve into the up-and-coming medium, too. Launched in 2010, The Sporkful has won the James Beard Award, Webby Award, and Saveur Award for Best Food Podcast. Pashman is also the author of Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious and the host of Cooking Channel's "You're Eating It Wrong." He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.
MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade from Allrecipes. I'm Martie Duncan. On this show, we celebrate the stories behind we love to cook and eat. And sometimes, that starts with what we’re doing wrong.
You can find Dan Pashman’s video series "You’re Eating It Wrong" on the cooking channel. But what he’s best known for is being the creator and host of the James Beard Foundation award-winning podcast The Sporkful, which is immensely popular. He likes to say it’s not a show for foodies; it’s a show for eaters. And that's something I can really get behind, because if I'm anything, I'm an eater.
Dan Pashman, welcome to Homemade. We’re so happy you’re here.
DAN PASHMAN Thanks, Martie. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
MARTIE You've done a lot of podcasts, and I think the one that intrigued me the most — I hate to say this as a snackaholic — was the potato chip one. So right off the bat, I just want to ask you, does the louder a chip crunches actually mean it's a better chip?
DAN This is a deep philosophical question you're asking here, Martie. So, yes, there's a researcher in England named Charles Spence. He's done that a bunch of research along these lines of the way that our senses contribute to taste perception. And one of his most famous experiments was that he had people sit in front of a microphone, the microphone's connected to headphones that they're wearing, and they would eat a potato chip into the microphone, and they would hear the crunch of the chip in their ears. But because it's going through headphones, Spence could adjust the volume. So some chips they would eat would have a very loud crunch. Other chips, softer crunch. Thing is, he was giving them Pringles. Every single one was identical. Right?
DAN So, it's the same chips. The only difference was how loud it sounded in their ears. Loud crunch or quiet crunch. And then he asked you to rate which chips were better. Which one’s fresher, crunchier, better. And people said the ones with the louder crunch were fresher and better.
Even though they're actually the same chips, identical chips. Now, some people would hear that and say, "Oh, well, so they got fooled." But other people would say, "No, because, like, if you perceived that one was better, and what is how something tastes to you, but how you perceive it?" It's all perception. So if you perceive that it's better, then that makes it better. But whatever tricks got played to make you think that. It's at the end of the day, if you got more enjoyment from it, then it's better.
MARTIE Yeah. Exactly. I don't have a problem with that.
DAN Interestingly, the same research holds with the sounds that the bag makes. That's why potato chip bags tend to be loud and crinkly. It's not about freshness. When it's a food that we think is supposed to be a loud food, the louder the potato chip package, the fresher we will think that the chips are.
MARTIE That's interesting, too. And I buy those, sometimes, those ones that are kettle-cooked, thinking they're gonna be crisper and crunchier because I think the crunch factor has a lot to do with it.
All right, so, Dan, we know, you know everything about food. But we want to know more about you. How did you get here? What was your journey to food?
DAN Yeah. I mean, I, I always loved to eat. Ever since I was a kid, I loved food. Food was a big thing in my family. We love to go out to eat. Every holiday, every vacation was pretty much like just sitting around waiting to eat.
MARTIE You might be Southern because we do that. When you're eating breakfast, you're planning lunch and dinner.
MARTIE Where are we going for dinner? Where we going for dinner?
DAN That's exactly right. But yeah, my background was in radio. When I graduated from college, about 20 years ago, my dream was to host my own radio show. Long story short, I kept getting jobs at radio stations, working on different radio shows. And I would think, oh, here's a great place for me. I'm going to work my butt off. I'm going to work my way up, and maybe in 10 years, I'll have my own show.
Problem was, you know, it's already a tumultuous industry. On top of that, the Internet and technology were kind of throwing the radio world upside down. There were a couple of major recessions in the time I was coming up. The shows I kept working on kept getting canceled. I got laid off from like six jobs in eight years.
MARTIE I get it, 100 percent. But how did you get to food? Was that just because of your podcasts?
DAN Around this time, like 10 years ago, a friend of mine from radio was starting podcasts. I said maybe this is what I should get into. But what should my podcast be? At that time, you know, like, I'm a big sports fan. I had done a lot of work in news and politics in radio, but I didn't really think that the world needed another guy with opinions about news and politics or, you know, who the Yankees should be trading or whatever.
There's enough of those folks out there. And I thought, well, what about food? You know, I love to eat. And I feel like I have this sort of idiosyncratic approach to food. I'm very obsessed with the little details. I love to sort of build sandwiches and study how they fall apart or don't. Or how can I layer them to get the best taste? Not from a chef perspective. It wasn't about like finding the fanciest ingredients. It was just like egg and cheese sandwich, like English muffin or grilled white bread? And like, do you put the cheese on both sides or only on the bottom? Scrambled egg or fried egg?
Obsessing about these tiny details was something I love to do. And I was like, maybe that's a show. And in the early days, that was the show. Our second episode, I spent 20 minutes discussing ice cubes.
MARTIE I mean, I didn't even know what a podcast was about two years ago, much less 10 years ago.
DAN Yeah, it's been a big explosion.
MARTIE Yeah, it really has. And I feel very fortunate to be hosting this one with my favorite people from Allrecipes. But let me ask you: So we know a little bit about the podcast, we're learning a little bit about you. But I want to dig a little deeper and get to the personal stuff. So, you're married. You live in New York. You have two kids. Right?
MARTIE And y'all are a cooking family.
DAN We do love to cook. I love to cook with my kids. Sometimes that can be wearing on your patience.
DAN But it is a lot of fun.
MARTIE But it's so important to teach them to cook because then they can always feed themselves, number one. And secondly, it just makes memories.
So you've had this podcast for 10 years now. How in the world to decide what you're going to talk about, who you're going to talk to, and how do you prepare?
DAN I'm fortunate enough now to have a couple of producers that I work with. And so we work together to come up with the idea. Sometimes it's one person's idea. Sometimes it's the group idea. You know, often the best ideas are the ones where one person says, "Hey, how about this?" And another person says, you know, "Yes and also this. Or, "Why don't we add this?" And everyone contributes.
I think that good ideas are all around you all the time. Whatever your job is. There is a million ideas. There's no shortage of ideas. There's stories everywhere. Interesting things happen every day. It's just a question of a combination of having the professional experience of noticing.
When you have worked in a field in this kind of field for a long time, it's like a conversation that anyone might have with a friend that may just pass by. It's like, oh, that was an interesting conversation. I'm more likely to be like, "Oh, this is an idea. This is a show." Because I've been doing it long enough that I'm sort of always trying to be on the lookout for, like, what, what's a kernel of something?
MARTIE I see.
DAN An example of that is like — so for our tenth anniversary, our listeners voted and the number one vote getter for an episode for us to rerelease with a brand new update was this show we did called "Searching for the Aleppo Sandwich."
And that started when I ran into an old friend of mine, Adam Davidson, and he started telling me this story about the sandwich shop in Syria. This amazing sandwich shop. He had been there before the war in Syria. And I was just like, this is a show. Like, I want to know what made the sandwich shop special. What was in those sandwiches? And is it still there? Are the owners alive or dead? And we set out on this quest. We spent like two years trying to find out what happened. And it's one of our most popular episodes ever. We told this like an hour-long, two-part story that I was very proud of.
And now we just recently posted an update. Because that was three years ago that the story came out. That's an example, just a casual conversation with a friend turning into, like, one of our biggest episodes ever.
MARTIE You say that you can learn a lot about someone by asking, "What do you like to eat? And how do you like to eat it?"
DAN You can learn everything about a person from asking those questions.
DAN Pretty much. I mean, you can learn what they grew up eating.
DAN Where their family's from.
DAN So that tells you a lot. You can pretty quickly learn about their parents, you can learn about how they eat now, which is going to probably tell you something about where they live now and what they do and how much time they have. How much money they have.
MARTIE Right. You can tell if they grew up in a cooking household because if they say, you know, like the blue box mac and cheese, then, you know, they probably more or less the latchkey kid and probably feed themselves a good bit of the time.
DAN Right. You can tell that. You can tell what cultures they were raised with and with an understanding of. You can hear about their extended family. And what they do for a living. Because then like your job is going to inform what and how you eat. How many hours do you spend working? How much time do you have? Do you go out to eat at nice restaurants all the time or do you more cook at home? And then like the actual way that you eat your food, that gets into more of your idiosyncrasies. Like, are you the kind of person that likes other things kept separate on the plate? Do you like to mix it all together with a spoon?
MARTIE I love those questions.
DAN Are you very messy or are you very neat? Do you like spicy or not spicy? All these things tell you a little bit about a person's life experience.
MARTIE I'm gonna guess you're a guy who likes your plate neat. And I'm going to say you're moderately spicy.
Dan Those are good guesses. I'm at least moderate spicy. I'm — you know, when you reach the level of sort of OCD food obsession that I have gotten to, Martie, you kind of transcend any one category.
DAN And it becomes, like, what's the specific situation that we're in right now? So there's certain times where I'm like, oh, there's leftover Israeli couscous and there's leftover soup. I'm going to dump the Israeli couscous into the soup because now it's a meal. And I add some carbs into the carrot soup. Now it's a lunch.
MARTIE That's a different category, though. Leftovers don't count.
DAN OK. That's right. You're right.
MARTIE That's fair game for everything.
DAN That's true.
MARTIE Leftovers can go like always. Now, I don't really like — I don't mind if my food touches. But I don't really like to mix it. But I'm not so bad that I have to eat them one at a time.
DAN Right. Yeah, yeah. Oh, I never eat one at a time. Because it's like, chefs talk about palette fatigue.
DAN You keep you the same food over and over again, at least for me, like I'm going to get tired of it. Whereas a couple of bites of one thing, move on, circle back around, and then each bite is new again.
MARTIE All right. So this show is a show about the back stories of recipes. And it is sort of based on author Pat Conroy's quote that, "A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal." So I love that one of the things that you do, you do these deep dives on regional dishes, too. You go and explore and you find these crazy, weird things that people who don't live there have never heard of, but the people who live there will fight about them.
MARTIE So I want you to tell me about that New Jersey sandwich.
DAN Oh, yeah. Please. Yeah. I'm born and raised in New Jersey, and although my family's Jewish, we always ate pork growing up. And, you know, New Jersey is a funny place because most of the people who live in New Jersey are either in the New York suburbs or the Philly suburbs.
DAN And so New Jersey is a place that struggles to have an identity of its own, as distinguished from New York and Philadelphia. We don't have many of our own sports teams. What many people call the New Jersey accent is actually just a New York accent or a Philly accent. There is a New Jersey accent, but it's, you know, you really got to know how to pick it out. And it's only in a couple of counties.
DAN So, the food we're talking about here is some people call it pork rolls and we will call it Taylor ham. But that is the food that is really like one of the very few things that is uniquely New Jersey. It is made in New Jersey. It was invented in New Jersey. The first one was invented by a guy named Taylor back in the late 1800s, and he invented Taylor ham. And then this guy named George Washington Case came along and created a competing product, Case's pork roll. And Taylor ham kind of more dominates the northern half of the state. Pork roll dominates the southern half of the state. And it's essentially like an encased meat. Like, you got a long, thick log of it. You slice it like you would bologna or salami.
MARTIE Like a hotdog sort of sounding thing.
DAN Yeah, but much bigger. I mean, like it's more like a sandwich meat.
DAN So like, when you slice a slice, you get a circle like the size of a piece of white bread.
MARTIE OK. So bologna size.
DAN Yes, that's right. But it's saltier, smokier. It’s got sugar. It's got a ton of flavor. But when you throw it on a griddle, the edges curl up and get all crispy and caramelized. And the classic way to have it in New Jersey is to is to eat a pork roll or Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. And you get, you know, the saltiness. It's kind of like...
MARTIE It's a breakfast food?
DAN It's probably mostly the breakfast or late night.
DAN But in the same way the bacon, egg, and cheese is so good, you know, you get that same smoky saltiness from Taylor ham. It goes into the egg and cheese. But then you also get the sweetness, the caramelization . You get a meatiness. You know, you're really sinking your teeth into this piece of meat as opposed to bacon that kind of can be a lot of flavor, not much meat. The Taylor ham, oh, like, you know it's there. And there's just nothing quite like it. Ugh, it's so good.
MARTIE Really? So it's that distinctive?
DAN Oh, yeah. You're not going to mistake a Taylor ham.
MARTIE Now, which one are you?
DAN I'm from Northern New Jersey, so I call it Taylor ham.
MARTIE You call it Taylor ham. And it's a fight over the what you even call it?
DAN That's right. New Jerseyans can't agree on what to call it. And in typical New Jersey fashion, even this small group of people can't agree on what to call it or even which one is better. It's from Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, is where they're made now. And there's two competing Trenton pork roll festivals. There was one, but then the two guys had a fight and a falling out. So now every year, Memorial Day weekend, during normal times at least, they have these two competing festivals, like, down the street from each other, which is kind of hilarious and perfect.
MARTIE On "You're Eating it Wrong," it must have stirred up a lot of passionate discussion like this about what's right, what's not right. What's the most controversial episode?
DAN I would say my idea that you should fold a slice of pizza inside out.
MARTIE Inside out?
DAN And this goes to my idea. Cheese on the bottom. Cheese side down. Really, any kind of layered food...
MARTIE Wait, wait.
DAN You want to think about…
MARTIE Wait, say that again? What now?
DAN So, in any kind of layered food, you want to think about, what is the order of the layers as they hit your tongue? Because whatever is on the bottom layer, that’s what’s going to land on your tongue; that flavor will be accentuated. That's why, for instance, I would say you usually the cheeseburger with the cheese side down. When you're eating a salad, you want to fork around the salad and build a bite on the fork, ending with the thing you like the best. So that that's when the tip of the fork, it lands on your tongue and that flavor is accentuated.
Same thing for a slice of pizza. You fold it inside out, the cheese and the sauce land on your tongue, you taste it more. It also really changes the whole texture of the slice.
Now, I'm going to anticipate the first objection right now. People say, "Well, what about the toppings? What are the toppings?" First of all, I think if you're eating a good pizza, you don't need a ton of toppings.
MARTIE Well, I would agree with that.
DAN Right. Too many toppings release too much liquid. Vegetables release water. Meat releases fat. You put a bunch of that stuff on a pizza, they release all this liquid, and your crust is going to turn to mush.
MARTIE Soggy. Yeah.
DAN Just get good pizza. Don't top it with so much stuff.
MARTIE So you're saying if my pizza slice, my little triangle, I'm going to take the topping and pull it down as opposed to doing what most people do, especially New Yorkers, and fold it up.
DAN That's right.
DAN That's right. And look, so in general, your pizza, I think, shouldn't have a ton of toppings. It is true that some pizza with toppings, this isn't gonna work. But if you're eating cheese pizza or pizza with minimal toppings, it works very well. Sometimes I eat it this way. Sometimes I eat it than the regular way. The point isn't so much that there is an objectively right or wrong way. The point that I like to take away from this is that such a simple change in the way you eat a food can make a huge difference in the eating experience.
MARTIE So on that particular episode where you were talking about folding your pizza backwards, did people just have a come undone?
DAN So in that episode, I'm basically pitching this technique to Patsy Grimaldi, who is an 80-something-year-old New York pizza legend. At this point, he may be the last person in America still making pizza today who trained under someone who trained under Lombardi.
Lombardi, in 1903, got the first license to operate a pizzeria in America. And he had a bunch of guys who worked in his restaurant who went out and opened up a bunch of other pizzerias in the 30s and 40s, and then they had their disciples, and Patsy Grimaldi's uncle was one of Lombardi's disciples.
So here I am with this really old guy who’s been making pizza for close to a hundred years. And I'm like telling him that I think you should fold it this way and he is just not having it.
MARTIE Not having it.
DAN He is just like — I'm like, "What do you think of this, Patsy?"
DAN Nope. Don't like it. Don't like it one bit.
MARTIE We're not stopping here. Keep going.
DAN Yeah, yeah, yeah.
We’re going to keep this conversation with Dan Pashman going right after the break. You're listening to Homemade.
MARTIE I'm Martie Duncan, and my guest today is Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful podcast.
Who was the most surprising guest you've ever had? You've interviewed everybody, so who surprised you the most?
DAN Maybe I would say Jamie Oliver.
MARTIE Oh, really?
DAN You know, people like him who are such great communicators, to have this gift to be able just go on TV and just connect with other people, which is not something that comes naturally to me. You know, it turns out that that you can talk about really big, important, deep issues and, like, just those kinds of people just have this kind of intuitive understanding of people. They just get people. They understand people. They know how to connect with people.
So we started talking about food policy, which he's very passionate about, like, healthy meals for kids and all that. But he's not just, like, some spokesman guy who like tweets or Instagrams some slogans. He's like meeting with the prime minister and all this stuff and, you know, lobbying for legislation. Just his insights on why some things happen, why some things don't happen, why political food issues play out the way they do. Like, he just has such a deep, keen understanding of people and their motivations. And that was a great conversation.
MARTIE So he really surprised you in that he's not just a celebrity chef. He is an actual person who gets things done in a big, huge, policy-making sort of way.
DAN Yeah, yeah. I mean, I assumed he was smart because I don't think you get to be that successful running restaurants and shows without being a bright person. But just the details that he knows about and had at his fingertips and just kind of like his keen understanding of people.
MARTIE So who was the most fun person you've ever interviewed?
DAN We did one a couple months ago with Samantha Irby. She's a writer. An essayist, not a food person. She's really just a writer. A fantastic writer. Hilarious. But she loves food. She writes a lot about food and eating. And she is just super funny. And its like the kind of person who you can tell is, like, fun to eat with. ‘Cause she was saying that, like, when she first met her wife on their first date, her wife like housed this whole plate of enchiladas. And she was just like, "I'm sticking with this, with you." Like, she's like, "I can't hang out with people who don't enjoy a meal." So she was a ton of fun, someone I'd love to hang out with.
MARTIE What is the number one request that you get when Daddy's cooking for the kids?
DAN I mean, it doesn't matter who's cooking. The number one request is pasta. And mac and cheese. You know, it's funny the things that become our signature dishes. Couple years ago, we were having a bunch of family over. I don't know what the occasion was. It was like a Saturday afternoon kind of get together. My wife and I didn't want to serve a big sit-down meal. But we also just didn't want to order out. We wanted to cook for our family. And I said, "Why don't I just make a big baked ziti?" It's pretty easy to make. You can make a huge tray of it.
DAN You know? It'll be good. And I can make it in advance. So I'm not in the kitchen, so we can be with our family. And I mean, I'm happy to eat baked ziti. I don't love baked ziti. It was more just like a practical...
MARTIE Easy thing to do.
DAN Right, an easy way to throw together a big hunk of food in advance for a lot of people. I did it and it was huge it. And everyone's going crazy and the kids loved it. And now it's become my thing. And it's funny because I still don't love it. I'm happy to eat it, but like I don't look forward to it. But, like, my kids want it at their birthday parties. I made a baked ziti for my daughter's friend's birthday party. It's still a little bit involved to make the filling, the ricotta, and all this, and then layer it and assemble all the components.
MARTIE Will you walk us through that, Dan?
DAN Sure. So, the real key: First of all, I use rigatoni. I don't use ziti because you've got to have ridges on the outside and this nice big, hollow center to get stuff inside. Just make rigatoni, like two pounds of it, and then mix it with a bunch of tomato sauce, whatever good tomato sauce you like. It can be from a jar. That's fine. The key is then you make your filling, and that is a bunch of ricotta cheese. Well, ricotta’s kind of creamy but doesn’t have a lot of flavor. So you've got to put pesto in. Add pesto to the ricotta.
MARTIE Ohh, good idea.
DAN And then you add a lot of grated Parmesan and even probably some salt and pepper, a little bit of shredded mozzarella. Mix it around and just keep tasting. Taste it until it's salty and cheesy and just full of flavor.
MARTIE Do you do a bunch of herbs in there too?
DAN Not — I mean, usually the pesto takes care of that.
DAN And the pesto, you can buy it in a jar at the supermarket. You can throw it in. It's so easy.
MARTIE That's a great idea.
DAN And the key is you need that filling to taste good on its own. And then usually what I'll do is I'll take mushrooms and spinach, sauteed them separately, drain them. And when I make the baked ziti, I put down one layer of the rigatoni and sauce, one layer of the cheese, ricotta cheese filling. And then and then I put a nice thick layer of vegetables on half, which is like the grown-ups' half. Make it a little healthier, add a little more going on. Another layer of the pasta with the sauce and then another layer of the ricotta cheese filling and then shredded mozzarella on top. And it's really good. And...
MARTIE And no meat.
DAN No, I don't — no meat.
DAN Yeah, yeah.
MARTIE Sounds delicious.
DAN Yeah, my wife grew up in a kosher home, and if you're kosher, you don't mix meat and dairy.
DAN We don't follow those rules quite strictly in our house today. But typically, like, we wouldn't make something that was like chock full of cheese like this that would also have meat. So, yeah. So it's all vegetarian. Lots of cheese. The kids love it. The kids kept asking for. But it's a bit involved, like all these components in separate pots and then you have to bring together. I invented something called speedy ziti.
MARTIE OK. I really want to know about speedy ziti.
DAN Make your pasta. Drain it. Throw it back in the pot. Throw in the sauce. Throw in the ricotta and the pesto and the Parmesan. All in one. Mix it all up. So, you kind of get a soft — almost as the texture, like a penne, like a vodka sauce. You know, the ricotta kind of becomes part of the sauce.
MARTIE Creamy. Yes.
DAN Right. So you're losing your layers. But then you just throw everything into one pot and you just dump that in. And then you just sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, run the heat with the lid on for a minute, and then the cheese melts. And you serve it right out of the pot.
MARTIE That's a great idea for fast weeknight dinner.
DAN Yes. And then it's one pot. You're not mixing a bunch of stuff. I call that speedy ziti.
MARTIE You don’t have to worry with the layering and everything. And besides, when you spoon it out into your plate or your bowl, it all kind of mushes together anyway.
DAN It's true. It kind of makes me wonder why I do it the long way at all. And I always have a fun moment with my kids because once that cheese filling with the pesto and the Parmesan is ready, I call them in and I say, "I need you to taste test." And they taste it, and they always say it needs more cheese.
MARTIE Oh, always.
DAN So then I sprinkle in more Parmesan cheese, but it's fun for them because then they feel like they're the ones who are controlling the recipe and telling me when it's done. So...
MARTIE Well and it's engaging them in the cooking process. And I find that when you get kids involved in the cooking process or especially in the growing process, if you can get them in the garden, growing vegetables and things, typically they'll eat it. What do the girls like to make? Your daughters?
DAN They love mixing, measuring, baking, really.
DAN Baking great for kids because, they're nine and seven now. They're pretty good over a hot pan, they can stir stuff. But still, there's little more technique in that. I worry about, like, oil splattering on them or something. Whereas, you know, like, baking is very easy and they can taste the batter and it's fun.
MARTIE I once heard you talk about your mom baking, and you said she had a thumbprint cookie that was a holiday favorite for you.
MARTIE Is that one of your best holiday memories?
DAN Oh, for sure. Yeah, making that dough with my mom, and we’d roll it into small balls, maybe about the diameter of a quarter, and put them all out. And then she has a clothespin. She actually makes the thumbprints using a clothespin that has like a knob on the top. It's like an old-fashioned — it's not one of those clothespins that has the springs. It's her grandmother's, my great grandmother's clothespin.
MARTIE Oh, my.
DAN Before they had metal spring on, they were just kind of like a clip.
It had sort of like a little, almost of like a hair bun, on the top of it, you know, a little like round ball that would go on the top of the clothespin. And you press that down and you make them and then you bake them and you put a little raspberry jam in.
MARTIE And what holiday do you have these for?
DAN Usually Thanksgiving.
MARTIE Yeah. Is that your big family holiday? I know everybody's is different.
DAN Yeah. Thanksgiving definitely probably is my favorite. Because we're Jewish, Passover and Rosh Hashana are big family holidays. Even though we don't really celebrate Christmas, I still love Christmas. I mean, on top of, sort of, you know, the Christmas season and the spirit and all that, there's something nice about having this day that's a holiday that you can celebrate however you want because it's not really your holiday. So, every year we kind of do something special on Christmas. Every year, Christmas Day, we drive into New York City, we volunteer, we deliver meals with our kids.
MARTIE That's a great family tradition. I love that!
DAN Yeah. I'm glad we do that. We like we go to a shelter. We help package the meals and then deliver them to seniors around New York who can't cook for themselves on Christmas. The kids sing Christmas carols and stuff. And that's fun.
MARTIE I love that. Ohh.
DAN Yeah. So that's really nice.
MARTIE All right. I have two words to say to you now that we're talking about the holidays.
MARTIE Egg nog.
DAN Oh, yes. Every year around Christmas or New Year's, I make one batch of homemade eggnog. I use The Joy of Cooking recipe, although I'm sure there's also great recipes on Allrecipes. There's more than one way to make an eggnog. But, I grew up drinking eggnog out of the carton. I had never had real homemade eggnog until a coworker of mine brought it in once around Christmas. And then I was like, "Oh, my God. This is ridiculous."
MARTIE So tell me. You make it. So, can you walk me through how you do it?
DAN It's really pretty straightforward. You're basically like making a cake. But without — instead of flour, you put in liquor. And then you drink the cake.
MARTIE Yeah, don't bake it. Just drink it.
DAN Right, yeah. It's like a dozen eggs, a pound of sugar, a gallon or a half-gallon of heavy cream. And like a bottle of liquor. And you just mix them together in the right order, and you end up with this absolutely magical concoction. Definitely let it sit in the fridge overnight after you mix all together. It's got to kind of come together and get real chilled.
MARTIE Right. So you separate the eggs...
DAN Right. Separate the eggs and make the drink only with the egg yolks. Keep the whites separate. And then when I go to serve it, I whip the whites...
DAN Into sort of a meringue, and then I kind of fold that in. So you get the frothy egg whites on the top...
MARTIE And the light...
DAN And the creamy...
MARTIE Yeah, it becomes lighter that way. Now, do you — are you a rum guy or a bourbon or whiskey or a brandy? Which do you prefer? All of the above?
DAN Yeah, it's sort of whatever I have. That part varies a bit from one year to the next. I mean, definitely rum. I think I always want rum in there. I like to mix two. But it's — I guess by most often I would say rum and bourbon.
MARTIE Yeah. Bourbon for me too.
DAN Yeah. But sometimes if I’ve got brandy around and I feel like emptying that bottle then that's what we'll do.
MARTIE Right. Brandy is very, very good. Sometimes I'll put a little bit of Grand Marnier in with that.
DAN Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MARTIE And a bit of orange zest. And that's pretty good. They do some with booze, some without booze.
MARTIE And there's always a lot left without booze. There's never any left with booze.
I think eggnog is just one of the magical Christmas things. Christmas cookies and eggnog, to me, that just makes the holidays.
All right, so, how about some tips for our listeners who may have holiday anxiety? Because I listened to you on one of your podcasts say that you get a bit of anxiety when you're hosting the big dinner.
DAN Yeah, this is sort of, it's a continuing struggle for me. First of all, I think if you're hosting even 10 — but let's say 15 or 20 people — that's always gonna be a little stressful.
MARTIE Oh yes.
DAN You know? So it's OK for that to be a little stressful. It doesn't mean there’s something wrong with you. But you do want to kind of like manage that so that you get enjoyment out of the day. So to me, it's sort of like cooking as much as you can in advance. Being prepared. Not biting off more than you can chew. Like it always comes where it’s the day before or the morning of and I'm like, what if we were to also make this one more thing?
MARTIE Oh, I know. I do that, too.
DAN And then I have to, you know, "Don't do it. Just stop. If you have extra time, you know what? Pour yourself an eggnog, and sit down."
MARTIE Don't decide to add to the menu at the last minute.
DAN Don't do that. Don't do that. You know, have a drink. Relax. And also just remember — I keep reminding myself that I got to think about my kids and the kind of memories they'll have from holidays, and I want them to have happy memories from the holidays. And if I'm happy, having a nice time, like, what they'll remember is that we were having a good time together and the family being together. Yes, of course, the food matters. But like, if the food's great, but I'm miserable because I'm freaking out, then that's not a good holiday.
MARTIE What dish has to be on your holiday table or it's not the holidays?
DAN I mean, depends on the holiday. If it's Thanksgiving, then obviously turkey and then stuffing and mashed potatoes.
DAN Stuffing, to me, like that's where my focus is at Thanksgiving.
MARTIE Well, I read where you said one of your hacks is to make the stuffing outside the bird. You know what they call that, right? That's dressing.
DAN I know. Yes.
MARTIE That's not stuffing. That's dressing.
DAN But what do you call it, Martie? See, I stuff the bird and also make extra stuffing outside the birds, because I do like the stuffing from inside. But I don't think you can get enough stuffing just inside. So I do both and then mix them together. So what do you call that?
MARTIE Dress-stuffing? Like turducken? I don't know.
DAN Dressed up stuffing?
MARTIE Yeah. Duff struffing, I don't know. Something like that. We'll have to come up with that.
MARTIE Yeah, we don't do that. We do dressing. That's how you know, you said earlier you can tell how people are, where they're from and what they're all about...
MARTIE By what they eat. We eat dressing.
DAN Yep. Right.
MARTIE And if you eat stuffing you, from somewhere else.
MARTIE What's your favorite kind of stuffing? How do you make yours?
DAN I make it like my mom made it. You know, it's pretty straightforward. It's breadcrumbs. Usually we use the Pepperidge Farm mix. Sometimes I'll get fancy and buy some other larger croutons, two different size of bread crumbs, mushrooms, and onions. Cook them in advance and drain them, so you don't get too much water. Mix them in. And then it's just like butter, pan juices, all that stuff. Mix them together. Try to cook it at a high heat so you get crusty bits.
MARTIE Ooh, the crusty bits are the best.
DAN Yeah, you've got to have crusty bits. We're all in it for the crusty bits.
MARTIE I think everybody's into the crusty bits and fight for that. Like I want the corner. But then you want to put gravy on the crusty bits. Isn’t that funny.
DAN Yeah, but this tells you, if you put the gravy on, even right away, you'll maintain the crust.
MARTIE All right. So it's fall. And I want to know about your favorite fall flavors. What do you look forward to?
DAN I love pecan pie.
MARTIE Me too.
DAN Is chess pie fall or is that all year round?
MARTIE I think chess pie can be fall. I think pie season is the fall to me. That really is — although we have cobblers and everything all summer long with fruits. But I think, to me, when the holidays come around, especially Thanksgiving, to me that's pie season.
DAN Yeah, I think that's right for me. And then, you know, usually I make my switch from clear liquors to brown liquors as the weather gets colder. So, warm weather is tequila, vodka and gin, mostly tequila. Cold weather is like bourbon, whiskey, brandy, those things.
MARTIE Now, how do you take your bourbon?
DAN Depends on my mood. I've lately been really enjoying old fashioneds.
MARTIE I do, as well.
DAN I love an old fashioned. Sometimes in the summer though, if I'm in a bourbon craving, I'll do a bourbon is just a little bit of ice water, a little splash of cold water. I love that.
MARTIE I do like to have a little orange slice in, you know, like a little peel, a piece of zest or something in my bourbon with an ice cube. Like, I like that. Or an orange peel.
Do you get invited over for dinner? Or are people intimidated to cook for you?
MARTIE You get invited?
DAN The answer to both questions is yes.
DAN Yes, people invite me over to dinner. I think sometimes they get intimidated until they get to know me and they realize that I'll actually eat anything.
MARTIE I know, me too. I just want to say, listen, I love the fact you'll cook for me. I don't care if we'll have a bowl of cereal. You're cooking. You're cleaning it up. I'm happy.
MARTIE You know, just hang out.
MARTIE And somebody will do the cooking for a minute. What's your current food or condiment obsession?
DAN I would say... Colman's English mustard.
MARTIE Oooh, I love it.
DAN I had Nigella Lawson on a couple years ago and she called it the British wasabi, which is a great description. It's got a sort of horseradish, back-of-the-throat burn to it, but it's got flour in it. So it has a little bit of texture to it like a hoisin sauce or gochujang. And I love that texture. Any sauce that's got that kind of floury texture, I'm all for it. And just that with any kind of fatty meat, on a burger, meat loaf. Like, I had kind of burnt out on meatloaf after my kids have been eating it for so long. I couldn't eat any more meatloaf. And then Colman's English mustard reinvigorated it for me.
MARTIE I'm gonna give you a tip on a favorite condiment.
MARTIE If you can find it, Wickle's Pickles.
DAN Ooh. OK.
MARTIE They're hard to find up your way, but if you find them, they're made down here in Alabama, and they are the best. They're spicy and wickedly pickled and they're just good. And I use that pickle juice for a lot of things. Like, I use it to brine pork sometimes or sometimes I use it in a dressing. And you know, they say pickle juice is a great chaser for a shot of whiskey.
DAN Yes. I've heard that. A pickleback, they call that right?
MARTIE Yes, pickleback, that's right. We did a lot of picklebacks on Food Network Star. Maybe a few too many.
Well, listen, Dan — passionate cook and eater and dad and husband. It's been such a joy getting to know you a little bit better. I'm wishing you a very happy holiday season. Thanks for sharing some of your secrets and your tips and your recipes and stories with us today here on Homemade.
DAN Thanks, Martie. You, too.
MARTIE Dan Pashman is the host of The Sporkful podcast, which could find on any podcast app and on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. He's also online at Sporkful.com.
Next week on the show, we’re going to sit down with award-winning chef, restaurateur, TV star, cookbook author, and philanthropist Marcus Samuelsson.
Marcus You have five million American kids that goes to bed every day with food insecurities. So, when you think about haves and haves not, food insecurities for kids is really something that we have to do a better job at.
But everybody can do something. And that's the key, right? If you are a grower, you're bringing kids once a week to show them how to grow vegetables, for example.
Something that happened during the pandemic in my neighborhood was to all the parents got together and said, "Hey, how to create a summer or some sense of normalcy for our kids?" And every parent's work was something, so everybody can contribute. So, it was my wife and I, we cook. So we hosted cooking classes, for example. So there is a way for communities to collectively to come together.
MARTIE Make sure you join us. He’s one of my favorites. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Homemade so you don’t miss is it.
And 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.