Flame is bad. Flame does nasty things to food. It makes soot and it makes deposits of various chemicals that are not too good for us. The last thing you really want to see licking at your food while it’s on a grill is an actual flame.
The thing that helped me get into the film business was that I went to school in Athens, Georgia and managed to get on, um, working on music videos for a band called R.E.M. and that kind of opened up a lot of doors for me.
So I quit my job and went to the New England Culinary Institute for the full two years and worked in the restaurant industry after that until finally I thought I had a grasp on what I needed to do what I do.
‘Outlaw Cook’ was a revelation. Folks like Jeff Smith and Marcella Hazan got me interested in cooking, but John Thorne pushed me into the path that I follow to this day. This is the only cookbook I’ve ever read that understands how men really eat: over the sink, in the dark, greasy to the elbows.
Jeff Smith was the Julia Child of my generation. When his television show, ‘The Frugal Gourmet,’ made its debut on PBS in the 1980s, it conveyed such genuine enthusiasm for cooking that I was moved for the first time to slap down cold cash for a collection of recipes.
I’m an absolute connoisseur of cheeseburgers and like to think that I can detect even mere percentages of shift in fat content in ground meat in a burger and can actually name the temperature to which it was actually cooked to the degree if I’m, you know, really on my game.
I think in the end there are only 20 or 30 tenets of basic cooking. It’s going at perhaps the same issue from different angles, from different points of view, from different presentation styles, that really makes things sink in and become embedded.
I grill almost all of my fish with the skin on because that gives you real protection at least on one side. It’s a nice barrier against super high heat which tends to make a lot of fish to turn really flaky. It’s very easy to overcook fish on the grill. But I still brush it with oil before I start.
That’s the ultimate goal of most turkey recipes: to create a great skin and stuffing to hide the fact that turkey meat, in its cooked state, is dry and flavorless. Does it have to be that way? No. We just have to focus on what the turkey is and what the turkey needs.