Homemade Podcast Episode 3: Chef John on Family Recipes, Fulfilling Food Wishes, and Finding YouTube Fame
His recipes and videos abound on Allrecipes. But how well do you know the chef behind the camera?
If you don’t recognize the name John Mitzewich, you may recognize his voice, his hands, or his moniker: Chef John. Mitzewich became a YouTube sensation in the 2000s when the video platform began promoting his recipe how-tos on its homepage. Cooking videos like his weren’t common at the time, though videos that resembled audition reels were. But Mitzewich didn’t concern himself with finding fame. He focused on teaching. He focused on food. Without a wireless mike or lighting, he had no other choice, he tells us. But what he lacked in video equipment he made up for in his knack for teaching and cheeky humor. And long after YouTube monetized his online channel, he has stuck to his no-fuss approach of recipe videos.
In this episode of Homemade, Chef John talks with Martie Duncan about growing up in western New York, making cabbage rolls and perfect barbecued chicken, and the ingredient that inspired a drinking game. Listen here, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are available.
Recipes In This Episode
- Chef John's Barbecue Chicken
- Chef John's Buttermilk Biscuits
- Chef John's Salmon Loaf
- Chef John's Spaghetti al Tonno
- Chef John's Tomato Sauce
- Cornell Chicken
- Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)
- Pauline's Key Lime Pie
- Perfect Polenta
- Pizzadilla (Grilled Pizza Sandwich)
- Samosadilla (Samosa Quesadilla)
- Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
About Chef John Mitzewich
A culinary school graduate, Chef John Mitzewich cooked in San Francisco restaurants for almost a decade. He went on to teach at the California Culinary Academy for five years. As cooking classes grew and students began to watch their instructors on TVs from inside the same room, Mitzewich decided to leave the school for a new venture: YouTube. Before long, he became a YouTube content partner. His subscribers grew from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Now, his Food Wishes channel boasts 3.5 million subscribers and even more viewers.
Follow him on YouTube.
MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade from Allrecipes. I’m Martie Duncan. Each episode of this podcast celebrates the notion some of our most beloved dishes stir up special memories. And today I’m talking to a Chef who hardly ever shares personal stories when he’s making his cooking videos. In fact, we rarely see his face. He’s like Oz behind the curtain. It’s just his hands and the ingredients. And he is a legend on YouTube.
He has millions and millions of followers on YouTube. He has a huge audience of devoted fans and Allrecipes.com, and he is, without a doubt, one of the biggest names in food. Chef John, thank you so much for being on the podcast.
CHEF JOHN MITZEWICH Well, thank you so much for having me, first of all. It's a big honor. And I think this is my first official podcast, ever. So I'm pretty excited.
MARTIE It's my third.
CHEF JOHN Regarding your Oz reference, I hope it works out a little better for me than in the movie. But I appreciate it.
MARTIE We have all watched you — your hands, that is — and listened to you. You're such a good teacher. I think the thing that makes me find your videos so captivating is, you go slow enough for me to get it. When you see a recipe online, most of them go too quickly to keep up. And the thing I like is that you do it at a speed that every home cook can follow along with. Is that intentional or that's just your method?
CHEF JOHN I'm not sure if anything I'm doing is intentional. And I think maybe that was one of the secrets to the success — that I didn't really try to do anything. I just started doing the videos. I've always disliked the sped-up video, time-lapse stuff. So what I end up doing is I'll start whisking in the oil into the vinaigrette and I'll do that for five or six, seven seconds. Then I'll stop the camera. I'll change the camera angle.
I'll turn it back on. I'll finish whisking it in. So when all that's edited together, I think I just end up having more time with each step because I'm using that method versus the sped-up footage
And if you have, you know, 45 seconds of whisking in the ingredients into the vinaigrette versus how it's done on some channels, where it's just boom, boom, boom. Ten seconds, you're done. I think that gives me those extra moments to make my vague references and questionable puns and so forth.
MARTIE Speaking of, I caught one on your latest, your pizzadia video. I caught your Eminem reference.
CHEF JOHN Oh yeah.
MARTIE Maybe everybody didn't catch it, but I caught it.
CHEF JOHN Well, you know what? People catch that. And I always get amused by it because it was inspired by the Eminem hit song. But I don't think people realize, especially most of my millennial viewers, that's actually a square dance reference.
MARTIE Absolutely, 100 percent.
CHEF JOHN And then I think Malcolm McLaren reference, way back when. And then eventually an Eminem reference. I guess I'm saying I go back three generations of round the outside references.
MARTIE Well, you have a multi-generational audience, I know, because I know a lot of kids that like to watch your videos and they learn. A lot of their parents don't cook, and they're learning to cook from you.
CHEF JOHN That's right. I always joke, "Be careful of that hot oil. In fact, maybe get your kid to turn it." So yeah, no, it's always — I love getting those emails. I get them from parents that, "We, on the weekend, we would pick one of your videos and then we cook with the kids and they get to make it. We have you up on the TV, and..." Those are some of my favorite feedback I get.
MARTIE So you're a professionally-trained chef and you worked as a chef in a kitchen for a long time. So I'm assuming that's something you don't get to do too much anymore. Most of your cooking now is in your own kitchen.
CHEF JOHN Yeah, I went to culinary school, did this sort of the classic culinary degree, training, learned the basics. And then did the externship and worked under a couple, you know, real chefs. But to be quite honest, it was a fairly unremarkable career based on, "Did you work for any famous chefs or Michelin star restaurants?" Not really. But I always had sort of an entrepreneurial spirit. I was one of these people that would change jobs every two or three years, whether I needed to or not.
MARTIE Just for inspiration?
CHEF JOHN: Just to move around and do something new. And it's weird because one of the things I did between cooking jobs and chef-ing jobs was some desktop publishing, where that was like the first wave of the personal computers, the little Apple computers. And I would do resumes for some of my chef and cook buddies. Because one of my jobs was sous chef at the Carnelian Room, and I would get just the worst resumes, ever. And I would think, "God, these folks really need a hand with that."
So I started doing that as a kind of a side business. I would typeset resumes and help them word it and all that. And one thing led to another. When the job at the Culinary Academy came about, where they needed a chef that was classically trained but could teach the business class how to do desktop publishing and print resumes and menus and business cards and spreadsheets for the food costing and all that, it's like I just sort of magically had the perfect resume for that job. So that's really what started this journey, is I got a job at the Culinary Academy based on my cooking experience and degree but also that I had this computer experience.
MARTIE And a business background that a lot of chefs just don't cultivate.
CHEF JOHN Well, it's funny. No kid goes to the Culinary Academy to learn how to do pricing spreadsheets and ordering formulas. But I would tell them, this is the only class, literally out of the entire school curriculum, where you're going to have the skills of a master chef when you leave. All the other ones, you're gonna have to work for 10 years to become a master butcher or a sauce maker. You don't need a lot of experience. A spreadsheet either works or it doesn't work. And either it tells you how many pounds to order or it doesn't. So that was sort of my rationale for letting them, say, you might want to pay attention to this class, even though I know it's the last class you want to take.
MARTIE So from that you jumped into — you're one of the earliest adapters in the culinary world on YouTube.
CHEF JOHN I was, yes. And it's kind of a funny story because when I left the Culinary Academy, that's right when they started installing these big screens like above the chef in the classroom, 'cause the classes were getting so big. And I'm thinking, these kids are paying, you know, 50 grand for this school. And they're actually watching the chef on TV. Like they're in the same room, but they can't see what he's doing. So I'm thinking maybe we'll just cut out the middleman here. And so that's sort of started the idea—and that's when YouTube had just started and kids spent half my class on YouTube watching videos.
MARTIE About what year was that?
CHEF JOHN That was like '97, maybe. So, eventually, that led to, oh, I think I'll maybe I'll try doing like an online culinary school, where I just do the same basic skills as a culinary academy, but people learn at their own pace via video. And then I realize, of course, especially back then, no one wanted to pay for anything online. They just wanted free content. And I had just sort of been practicing doing recipe videos. And I got an email from someone at YouTube saying, "Hey, we'd like to make you a content partner." I totally thought it was spam. I just deleted it, didn't answer them. They sent like three or four more. Delete, delete.
Eventually, someone called me and they said, "Hey, just, sorry for the cold call. We haven't had any response to any of these emails we sent you about. Would you like to be a content partner with us?" And I'm like, "Oh, my God. That was a real thing? Of course, I would like to have some of your money sent my way." So that's sort of started the monetization of the channel. And of course, it was only, you know, tens of thousands of subscribers, not...
MARTIE Millions, like now. Multi-millions.
CHEF JOHN Like three and a half, I think, was the latest count.
MARTIE Yeah, I looked at it, today and it was three and a half. I was incredibly jealous.
CHEF JOHN It's crazy how it blew up geometrically, but...
MARTIE Well, I think the thing that makes you so exceptional is that you do consider the food the star of the show. And we really don't see you. We hear you, but we don't see you.
CHEF JOHN Yes.
MARTIE And that is a very different approach than almost anybody cooking on any sort of outlet today because they all want to be superstars.
CHEF JOHN Now, to be honest, nowadays, when I tell the story, you know, like, at a cocktail party. Of course, it was all by design and it was just this brilliant model I came up with. But it really — the truth is, I did not have any equipment to do an actual show. I didn't have a wireless mike. I didn't have lighting. I wasn't able to stand behind a range and kind of show off like the typical food video back then. So it really was by just necessity. I had — you know, remember those little Logitech webcams? Like the little ball-shaped eyeball?
CHEF JOHN So I had that just stuck on an old spice rack I had, like taped. Like, literally, taped or bungee-corded to the thing. I pointed it down at the cutting board and I would film my recipe and I'd move that over towards the stove when I had to. And then the next day, I would just somehow, someway find the audio recording on the laptop and I would do a soundtrack and I would chop it up and whatever. I don't even remember — Moviemaker, I think was the first video editing software I came about. So I started getting comments, like, "Oh, there's something different about this format."
MARTIE Were you shocked?
CHEF JOHN What shocked me, not really initially, 'cause it was still just a matter of dozens, hundreds, thousands. But at one point, a video I did, I think it was You Don't Have to Be a Cheese Whiz to Make Your Own Cheese, or something stupid like that, but I did like a fromage blanc, like a fresh cheese video.
And it ended up somehow on YouTube's homepage. Back then, they used to curate the content on the homepage. And I just remember, on a good day, I would get like two emails. And I just had hundreds of emails. I was like, something's going on. So that's when I went from, you know, tens of thousands up to like the hundreds of thousands and then it kind of went from there.
So that kind of surprised me how much it ramped up appearing on YouTube's home page. I guess it shouldn't, because of the traffic, but that was the first time I was like, oh, wow. This might actually be happening. And at the time, I mean, there really wasn't a lot of people doing straight recipe videos, like how-tos. There were a ton of food content, quote, unquote, but it was like either something jokey, like people seeing if they could eat a spoon of cinnamon to a bunch of people looking like they were trying out for Top Chef. Like it was an audition reel.
So I think I sort of accidentally found this niche of, we're gonna make a recipe in the next five, six minutes. That's all you're gonna see. You're gonna hear some of my smartass comments and my narration. But really, it's gonna be about how to make this. I kind of compared it — I don't know if you remember — if you're a fan of that nature show, Planet Earth?
CHEF JOHN Remember Sigourney Weaver?
CHEF JOHN I think she might have done the first season? And I always thought that was such a brilliant format because it was just all these gorgeous visuals. And you were just — just the disembodied voice — so you were like in the scene. And I sort of started to realize I think that's what it was. Since there was no chef in the frame, just hands and pans and food, people were like drawn into it. Like they were cooking with you. Almost more of a point of view? I guess it's called point of view, now, with a GoPro. But back then, like that was sort of a novel thing.
MARTIE So, the amazing thing to me is it's how your audience continues to grow. I mean, you would think at some point, you have all the people who want to learn how to cook. But your audience just continues to grow.
CHEF JOHN: Right.
MARTIE And I think part of that has to do with the wide variety of recipes that you bring to the table. I'm sort of assuming that's because you live in San Francisco and so you have a wide variety of ethnicities to pull from when it comes to recipe inspiration, is that right?
CHEF JOHN That's definitely a big part of it. That's a good call. Now, first and foremost, the channel is called Food Wishes, so the metaphor for just what viewers or people leaving comments, either under the video or just contacting me directly. You know, "I would like to see a video for this." Or I'll get a request, "Can you make khachapuri?" And I'm like, "I, maybe? Excuse me. But I've never heard of that." I'll Google it and I'll see pictures. And that will be how that video exotic ethnic recipe comes about.
MARTIE So for those of us who don't know what it is, you want to fill us in?
CHEF JOHN Oh, that is a Georgian — not near where you're from — it's over in Asia, the country of Georgia.
CHEF JOHN One of their national dishes is a bread dough that you roll out and then you roll up some cheese. And so it was like the original stuffed crust pizza.
CHEF JOHN You roll up lots of cheese in the crust and you form it into like a boat shape. And the inside will have like a cavity. And then you bake that cheesy bread and then you crack a couple eggs or an egg inside and you finish it off with the egg cooked and then you finish it with a couple pads of butter. And pull off the ends of the boat, the pointy tips, and you dip that in the runny egg cheesy center.
MARTIE Ooh, that sounds delicious.
CHEF JOHN So anyway, I had no idea this was even a thing.
MARTIE Me neither.
CHEF JOHN So that's one half of the show, is me getting those requests. The other part is, as you were saying, because I'm in San Francisco. I go out to the restaurant and I'll have something and I'll think, that was really good. I would like to do a video for that. And I'll kind of go from there.
MARTIE Your recipes go from Southern to Italian to all of these exotic types of things you had. You cover all the bases.
CHEF JOHN I like to, try at least.
MARTIE And even desserts. A lot of chefs don't do that. They won't even try to tackle dessert.
CHEF JOHN I never understood that. It's become a cliche on the cooking shows like, "Oh, I'm a hotline chef. I don't do baking or..."
MARTIE "I don't do pastry."
CHEF JOHN Like what? What is that? What's the difference? Like, I don’t understand. See, most of the cooking I do is very — you don't need to measure a lot. It's a soup. It's a stew. It's just a little of this, a little that like. Like, you know, I grew up watching my mom and grandma and aunts cook.
MARTIE Like all of our mamas cook like that.
CHEF JOHN: Not a lot of measuring when you're making a meat sauce, Sunday sauce. So when I do the baking and pastry stuff, it's kind of fun to have to measure the grams of butter for the puff pastry and then the lamination. And, now, I still refuse to measure dough with a yardstick. That kills me when I'm watching the show. And I won't name names, but the one where they're doing all that testing in America in a kitchen?
CHEF JOHN But anyway, they like to roll the stuff out. And they'll be like, "And it should be 18 by 15. And now we're going to do a tri-fold." You know, just get it close. I don't go to that level, but there is part of that precision that appeals to me. And the baking and pastry, especially bread making, is where you have to be the most intuitive and you have to touch it.
And people get mad. They send emails. "Why don't you put the bread in specific weights?" It's like, I could and sometimes I do, but you still have to feel it. And I don't know what humidity you're baking in and if your flour is really dry or not. I can give you all kinds of specific, precise measurements, but you really have to feel it.
MARTIE A lot of people will get a little frustrated with the biscuit recipe that I have on my website and it's for that exact reason, because it's a matter of manipulation and how it feels and how you touch it and the humidity in the house that day and all of those other things. But it just takes a little bit of experience to know that. It's not something you know instantly.
We'll have more with Chef John after the break.
Welcome back to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan, and we're talking with Chef John.
I heard that there's a drinking game where people have a drink every time you add a dash of cayenne to a recipe?
CHEF JOHN Wow, those poor people. I'm not responsible for any of their rehab. No. Yes, that makes sense. So, the cayenne is interesting because — and I don't know really how this started, and I don't seriously remember when it became like a meme, where people are expecting it in every recipe. But I do use it in almost every recipe, even if it's really small amounts. I have this theory about micro-seasoning, where even just the tiniest pinch is not really perceivable. It's like, "Oh, that's kind of spicy." But it sort of opens up the receptors on your tongue for the other flavors if you have a little cayenne and things. Some of it is just this wacky theory I can't prove. And eventually, people started noticing and commenting that I put cayenne, a little shake in everything. And so now I kind of do it on purpose, but not really, 'cause I still would put it in there anyway.
MARTIE Right. It's one of my favorites. I use it in just about everything also.
CHEF JOHN Part of it is me wanting people to understand, it's not like it's either not spicy and you didn't put any cayenne or spicy hot and you added cayenne. You can add it and it isn't even noticeable, barely. Or it is, depending on what the dish is, of course.
So, yes, I do have an adventurous palate. I like to use lots of exciting ingredients and bold things. But at the same time, I think I've just as many very — bland's not a good word but, you know.
CHEF JOHN Less thrilling flavor profiles, I guess, is a way to put it.
MARTIE Will you share some of your favorites with me? Like for me, bay leaf is one that I use quite a lot.
CHEF JOHN Yeah, bay leaf. Any time I do a stew or soup, that usually finds its way in there. I think, other than cayenne, I'm a big fan of cumin. And it's funny. A lot of people go, "I don't like curry. I don't like this. I don't like that." But that's only if they know you're doing that stuff. Like you make something with that stuff in it and people just enjoy it. They can't pick out that there was a pinch of turmeric or a little bit of coriander.
MARTIE I guess I should bring it up, but right now we're isolated because of the COVID-19 and the coronavirus. When we can get back together with friends and family, what are you looking forward to cooking or eating?
CHEF JOHN So I'm guessing based on the timing of when maybe this stuff blows over, I'm thinking like a big old barbeque, Fourth of July, you know, all the fixings, potato salad, and some ribs.
MARTIE You almost sound like you're Southern.
CHEF JOHN Well, in a former life. I mean, people that have tasted my biscuits have said the same thing. So, not to, you know, not to brag.
MARTIE Oh, we might have to have a biscuit throwdown.
CHEF JOHN Hey, that sounds like a good idea.
MARTIE So you're from New York originally, though? You're not Southern.
CHEF JOHN I'm from the south of New York, but it's the north of New York. So let me explain. Where I'm from is the Finger Lakes, rural farming region of New York state.
MARTIE Is that the Hudson Valley?
CHEF JOHN No, it's south of Rochester, near the Finger Lakes. Western New York, basically. Which is very rural, very country. People listen to country music. They hunt. They fish. And if you just parachuted in there, you could be somewhere in the Midwest. You could be somewhere down south. It really is a very similar lifestyle. A lot of home cooking and a lot of farms, a lot of...
MARTIE Canning and putting up and all those kinds of things.
CHEF JOHN Yeah, it's not in any kind of urban, sophisticated cuisine. It's very, very country. So I grew up in that environment. And then you combine that with my mother's side of the family — were first-generation Italian immigrants, all that cuisine. So it was kind of country Italian meets, you know...
MARTIE So that's why you said Sunday — did you say gravy? What did you say? Sunday sauce?
CHEF JOHN Sunday sauce.
MARTIE Sunday sauce.
CHEF JOHN Yeah. Because, you know, you make a big pot of sauce on Sunday. Sometimes it was for pasta. Sometimes it was on polenta.
MARTIE Oohh, yum.
CHEF JOHN Which, until I was like 18 years old, I thought was pronounced "polanda," because that's how the family pronounced it. And they had so many words that they just screwed me up when I went to culinary school. People were like, what the hell are you talking about? And I'd be like, "You know, polanda?" And they'd be like, "You mean polenta?" I'm like, "The corn." "Yeah," they're like, "it's called that that's called polen..." Like I literally had never seen it spelled or it was just something I heard my grandparents say, which was, like, Italian and American kind of combined languages. So anyway, that was kind of a funny thing. But no. So I think I have the like the Southern aesthetic for the food and the cooking and the lifestyle. I mean, soul food is soul food, no matter where you're eating it. It's the same idea.
MARTIE So, Chef John, also with a coronavirus, most of us are not going to the stores like normal. Are you a fan of the pantry cooking or refrigerator cooking? Do you just kind of go and see what's in there and then decide what you're going to make?
CHEF JOHN Yeah, that's how I generally eat, myself. One of my favorite go-to nothing in the house is just a simple tuna spaghetti. Tuna fish, some red sauce, regular prepared spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce. Boil up some spaghetti. Sometimes you throw some capers in there, some anchovy. All again, things you might have in the pantry. Some grated cheese. And that's one of my favorite all-time recipes. And that's just walking into the pantry. Nothing. No, there's nothing to eat. What do we — And there is stuff to eat.
MARTIE I never would have thought about putting tuna with red sauce. So that sounds absolutely delicious, though.
CHEF JOHN Yeah I don't know if you've ever had like a clam in linguine with a red sauce.
MARTIE Yes, of course.
CHEF JOHN It's a similar flavor profile. There's a great Sicilian pasta that sardines with olive oil and onions. And kind of inspired by that, I guess.
MARTIE I love that.
CHEF JOHN And I think I gave it some really pretentious Italian name when I posted, like Altona or something. I try to refrain from that but sometimes I can't help myself, putting on airs, making it sound a little more highfalutin than it is.
CHEF JOHN Yeah a little more chef-y. But yeah, that's probably one of my go-tos. I just recently posted a Shelter in Place Salmon Loaf. A lot of people have those cans of salmon in their pantry. They don't even remember buying them. They saw some doctor on TV saying they should buy canned salmon because it's good for you. Then they put it next to the tuna and never used it. So that's another one we like. Salmon cakes are super easy.
MARTIE So salmon cakes. My mother used to make 'em. We call them salmon patties.
CHEF JOHN Yep.
MARTIE I've never been able to replicate that recipe. Walk me through how you do that. I'm going to pick up some tips from you and I'm going to perfect that thing, one of these days.
CHEF JOHN The first step is pretty controversial because I un-can it, dump it in a bowl, and I do not pull out those the skin and the vertebra and all the nasty bits.
MARTIE My mother didn't either.
CHEF JOHN No, you don't have to because of the way it's processed, I guess it's cooked in the can under such high pressure, that stuff just dissolves. That stuff is as soft as the meat. So as long as you really give it a good mash, you're good. And then I just toss in an egg. I toss in just enough bread crumbs to bring it together, maybe a spoon of mayonnaise, if you want a little richer. Now, I'm guessing that was her secret because that's the difference between sort of a rich, juicy salmon patty and a dry doorstop salmon patty, just a few drops of lemon juice if you got some fresh lemon around. Some chopped up capers are nice. Maybe a teaspoon of the brine from the caper jar.
MARTIE I think there were onions.
CHEF JOHN Oh yeah, definitely. You could mince up some green onions or not.
MARTIE I have not been able to get it, though. I've been trying for like 14, 15 years and this — there's a missing some little something.
CHEF JOHN You know, the missing might be her.
MARTIE No doubt.
CHEF JOHN Here's a classic example. I'll get an email or request, "My wife and I had crepes in Paris on our honeymoon. I would love to... I have not been able to recreate that recipe." Well, every crepe recipe in the world is almost literally exactly the same. The ingredient you're missing is you're not on the street of Paris as newlyweds. That's the missing ingredient. You would never be able to recreate that taste memory without that. You can have your milk and your eggs and your flour and the same exact griddle. They could fly that griddle from France to your house. In fact, they could send the guy that made it to your house, too. And it will not taste the same.
That's why the oysters you had in New Orleans were so much better. And that cioppino you had in San Francisco, you can't recreate that. That's just one of the unfortunate, or fortunate, depending on who you talk to, aspects about food. It's impossible to replicate the extra unseen intangibles around a recipe.
MARTIE You mentioned the food you grew up with. Have any of your videos been about your own family recipes?
CHEF JOHN Definitely, yeah. I posted over the years many family favorites.
MARTIE Like that red sauce, for example.
CHEF JOHN Yeah, you know, it's so funny because there was never a standard recipe for that. It's whatever they had around. Sometimes they had beef and meatballs and sausage and chicken in the same pot of sauce. Sometimes it was just beef. Sometimes it was just pork. The family had very few really specific recipes. In fact, one of my favorite family recipes growing up was, believe or not, cabbage rolls, which doesn't sound like a classic Italian meal.
MARTIE I love cabbage rolls.
CHEF JOHN But that was made once every couple of weeks, especially in the summer with the big cabbages that were available. And I remember I finally filmed that recipe. And my mom and aunts were upset because I added a little bit of Parmesan cheese to the filling, which they never did. I was trying to fancy it up, you know?
CHEF JOHN When I started the channel. That was that didn't go over well with the family that I changed. So there were some that were specific recipes. But no, I've posted a lot of family stuff over the years. And my mom and aunts were great pie makers. There's actually a video of my key lime pie that has my mom's hands in there. I filmed it on a visit to her when I went back to visit her one year.
MARTIE How fantastic.
CHEF JOHN People were commenting on her beautiful manicure as she was crimping that dough.
MARTIE Let's go back to this cabbage rolls for a minute.
CHEF JOHN Yes.
MARTIE I'm really intrigued by that. My mother never made that, but I've only had them once or twice but loved them.
CHEF JOHN Oh, they're so good.
MARTIE You cook the cabbage a little bit first?
CHEF JOHN Yeah. You cut out the core and you put the cabbage in a big pot with a couple inches of water. You're basically steaming it more than anything.
MARTIE So it's soft enough to roll.
CHEF JOHN And then you put it on high and every couple minutes, walk by with your tongs and pull off another big leaf that will kind of peel off the head.
CHEF JOHN And you put those in a big bowl, just pile them up, pile them up. And as they sit layered, the hot leaves on top of each other, they kind of soften up. And that's step one. Then you just let that go. Just let it sit there while you make your filling. It was a pound of beef, a stick of butter, and a cup of rice. Long grain rice.
MARTIE OK, a pound of beef.
CHEF JOHN A stick of butter.
MARTIE A stick of butter.
CHEF JOHN Which is a ridiculous amount, speaking of Southern cooking.
MARTIE Not in my life.
CHEF JOHN Not where you're from.
MARTIE No, that's sort of normal.
CHEF JOHN That's totally appropriate. And a cup of long-grain rice. A teaspoon of fine salt, handful of parsley, some garlic, some sautéed onion. They used to saute the onion in a stick of butter. Black pepper, I remember. But that was the basic ratio. And then you would make out — if you had five pounds of beef, you'd use five cups of rice, five sticks of butter.
MARTIE When you go to roll it up and then you put it in like a little casserole dish or whatever — when you cook it, do you put the red sauce over it?
CHEF JOHN Yeah, so it was kind of like a Dutch oven. They were maybe six, eight inches deep and wide. And I always was so nervous because this was not like high-end cookery. They had these two little thin handles. Every time I would see my mom or aunt pulling it on the oven, I would swear it was going to snap off and there was gonna be like 20 pounds of cabbage rolls going everywhere. But it never did.
But anyway, you layer those up and any of the extra cabbage you use to sort of pad the bottom and you put one layer between each row and then more on top. They would do sliced onions between the layers of cabbage. And then it and then the cooking liquid was basically half red sauce or just a smushed up jar of plum tomatoes, like the San Marzano.
CHEF JOHN It wasn't necessarily a prepared sauce, just smooshed up red plum tomatoes and half water, I would say. So kind of a brothy. And they fill that right up to the brim because it all would get absorbed.
CHEF JOHN And then they'd check it after a couple hours. They'd often — I remember them adding some more water to the top of it if it looked like they had soaked it all up.
MARTIE Yeah. The rice will eat it up. Right.
CHEF JOHN That was basically the recipe.
MARTIE So did they cover it with aluminum foil to cook it? Or it has a top?
CHEF JOHN Yes. Well, they had a lid on the pot.
MARTIE OK. I'm making that! I am so making that
CHEF JOHN Remember those — it was kind of a blue, like a dark blue galvanized aluminum, almost like a canning material, only was oval. I still remember these pots.
MARTIE My mother has one. I have one at this house.
CHEF JOHN That's what those are — official cabbage roll pot was. But as long as it's deep enough to hold everything and you've got enough liquid in there.
MARTIE Some people use those for turkeys. Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. OK, I'm making that. That's gonna be one of my quarantine dishes. That sounds so delicious.
CHEF JOHN So, yeah. So if you follow the cabbage roll — and in fact, I think I did a redo of it and I have a lamb cabbage roll recipe, which is the same idea just with lamb and little sort of the Middle Eastern spices. Super good. But you'll see the basic procedure there.
MARTIE Well I can't wait to make it. It sounds delicious. Well, you know, we're gonna spin around and it's gonna be the Fourth of July and grilling season. So give me some of your favorites for grilling season. What would you suggest?
CHEF JOHN I always gravitate towards the quicker, easier, Asian-inspired girl recipes. We have a couple of satay recipes, pork, and a chicken. I just like the thin-sliced meat, skewered, simple marinade. Do it the night before, the morning of. And then you don't have to worry about, oh, is it medium is it medium-rare? Has it reached an internal temp of this or is the connective tissue broken down?
You know, it's like sometimes people are cooking a brisket, and it's such an ordeal. You can't even enjoy it by the time it's done. There are so many rules and regulations and guidelines. I like, just marinate the meat, throw on a grill, couple of minutes, turn it over, couple of minutes, and we're eating. So I would say any of our skewered grill ideas. Shish kebab, I think we have something there just called Shish Kebab, or chicken, maybe it's called Chicken Shish Kebab. But that came out really well.
If I had to pick them. I know Fourth of July is the all-American holiday, but I tend to go with the ethnic recipes on that. Although our barbeque chicken has been very well reviewed because generally, people cook that thing black because they put the sauce on too early. So if you check out that video, we mark the skin side down. We start it that way, and then we let it pretty much barbeque all the way on the other side. You know, these are half chickens.
CHEF JOHN Barbeque on the other side so that that rib cage and the bones and underneath are basically protecting it. And it doesn't really matter if that side gets charred too much. And then towards the end of the cooking, you can paint a nice thick coating of your barbeque sauce on that skin and finish it off and judge the color. I also like to make a few slashes in the thigh and the leg when you do barbeque chicken, so that marinate and the smoke really gets into that joint.
MARTIE Well, that's a good tip. I've never tried that.
CHEF JOHN Yeah. One little cut near where the wing hits the breast, that thickest part. Just 'cause those spots take the longest to cook. So you're kind of evening it out so the breast isn't cooked and you're still waiting for those joints.
MARTIE That's a great tip.
CHEF JOHN So yeah, I always like to make a few slashes in the thigh and the leg, and then whatever marinade you're using. There's an upstate New York or Western New York recipe for grilled chicken. A lot of people call it Fireman's Chicken because if you go to a firemen's carnival or a fundraiser, it's always the chicken they would grill and serve in Western New York.
CHEF JOHN And you ask anyone from that area, they're like, "Oh, I know that chicken." But it's actually was invented by a professor from Cornell University. And I think I posted it on Food Wishes as "Cornell Chicken."But it's a weird marinade. It's oil and eggs and spices and seasonings, but you put that in a blender and it looks almost like a really, really thin. Well, it looks like a salad dressing, which it kind of is. And so it's eggs, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, whatever, thyme, different spices. And then you marinate your chicken in that overnight and you grill it the next day over some hot coals, hopefully. And that is a really, really good chicken.
MARTIE There's an egg in that marinade. Did I get that right?
CHEF JOHN There's an egg, yeah. It's so weird.
MARTIE Now, what does that accomplish?
CHEF JOHN The protein — I don't know. I'm no scientist. And in fact, I don't like to know too much about why this stuff works. I like a little magic and a little mystery with my food. People sort of can overanalyze this stuff.
CHEF JOHN But it's something to do with the protein and the acid in the vinegar that just penetrates that meat.
MARTIE That sounds fantastic. I'm trying that one, too, for sure. So the name of it is Cornell Chicken. By the way, I love that pizzadia recipe because I...
CHEF JOHN Yes. Thank you, Papa John's.
MARTIE Yeah, well I had just...
CHEF JOHN I ripped them off.
MARTIE Well I think it's great, and it's easy, especially when you're doing some pantry cooking. You can whip up a pizza dough in two seconds if you don't have one.
CHEF JOHN Yup.
MARTIE You probably have all the stuff to make it. You can do it with all-purpose flour or self-rising flour, and you can basically make your little crust in literally five minutes, have a pizza. But I love the idea of folding it over. When I made mine this week, I didn't fold it over like that. So I'm gonna do that and make the little pizza pocket, little pizzadia. And I like the mozzarella that you used. And did you put a little sausage with it and?
CHEF JOHN I think I did. Yeah, I did. I think some sausage, some pepper, I did a — you know, obviously any of the toppings don't affect the technique. There's a recipe you just reminded me of that — I don't know if you're a fan of Indian food?
MARTIE I'm a giant fan of Indian food. And I don't get it very often.
CHEF JOHN OK, what is that fried dumpling they do that has the potato and the peas? Samosa!
MARTIE Oh, samosas are fabulous.
CHEF JOHN So check out the samosadia video.
MARTIE Ooh, that sounds delicious.
CHEF JOHN The filling, it could not be simpler. It's Indian spice, the potatoes, peas. But the dough and the folding and the frying is so messy, and it's — so I was like, I love that flavor profile. But I was like, how can we do this and make it, like, way faster and easier? And I'm like, duh. Let's just take a flour tortilla, which is similar to what the pastry is, and just fry that in a pan with the filling, cut it in triangles, and...
MARTIE What a great idea.
CHEF JOHN Dip it in that green chutney, the cilantro, and the serrano. We have that recipe on there, also. It is so good.
MARTIE That is a great idea.
CHEF JOHN And I see that posted. People will share a picture on Twitter once in a while. People say, what's your mission? That's it. A thing you had at a restaurant that you loved but it's just a pain in the butt to make at home. And then someone you saw on the Internet figured out how to make it a little easier so you could make it any weeknight in just a few minutes.
MARTIE Chef John, thank you so much for being on today. I know our Allrecipes family absolutely loves you. They love your videos. You've inspired so many to cook, and I just want to thank you for giving me some new ideas and things to cook, as well.
CHEF JOHN Well, thank you so much. And I love them and I love the support and the feedback. It sounds cliche, but hearing back from people that had successful experiences— and especially, in these trying times, people that are cooking with their family and sort of keeping it all together over a nice meal — that really does make what I do just so fulfilling and satisfying. So thank you so much for having me and for all the kind words and the great questions. It was a lot of fun. So thank you.
MARTIE Listen, y'all, you can subscribe to Chef John's videos on Food Wishes at YouTube, and you can find his recipes at Allrecipes.com. You don't want to miss those. If you're just starting out or if you're a very accomplished cook, you're going to love them either way.
MARTIE Coming up on the next episode of Homemade: a woman who fell into a career making food videos, kind of by accident.
EMMY CHO When my husband and I were living in Japan, and I really missed talking to people in fluent English.
So I said, well, I'll go to the grocery store. I've always have been captivated by food. So I just picked up some things as I went shopping. I'm like, well, what if I just film myself talking about whatever it is that I'm exploring or opening or tasting and just — it just started from there.
So it was mostly candies. There's just an amazing candy selection in Japan with these kits that you can make and assemble and pour and shape. I'm like, this is me. So here I am, a grown woman sitting in front of a laptop in front of the window, opening packages of candy and mixing. And it was the best. It just started from there. And I just continued and that was — gosh, we're coming on 10 years now.
MARTIE She moved on from candies to some really exotic and even weird foods. I’m telling you, Emmymade from Emmymade in Japan will try just about anything! You do not want to miss this show.
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Thanks for listening. I’m Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.