Pantry Raid II: Seeing Red Transcript

The Kitchen

    The pantry, it's more than just a closet. It's a testament to your preparedness. Having been a scout, I believe in being prepared. Whether it's having a change of clothes or when you turn over the canoe ... again ... or plenty of canned tomatoes without which I could not produce tomato sauce at a moment's notice. Ah, tomato sauce. The chameleon. Capable of elevating the most humble pot roast, chicken, pizza, pasta to higher culinary ground.

    Join us as we create a binary tomato sauce that tastes like ours but takes only minutes. We'll evaluate canned tomatoes and the tools that let us get at them. We'll discover the truth behind cutlery maintenance and delve into the Zen of mire poix. Sound like fun? Sounds like good eats.

The Kitchen

    In an age when we can have anything anytime, why would I choose canned tomatoes over fresh? Well, for one thing, fresh doesn't always mean ripe. Case in point: this lycopersicon lycopersicum, picked green and hard, gassed into redness with ethylene, packed into a crate five by six, and shipped 2,000 miles to my market is now bearing about ten pounds of pressure. [the tomato is in a vise] And it seems pretty content.

    Now this is what many grocers are looking for: bright, shiny, durable. What's affectionately known in the trade as 'bullet-proof'. But you'll notice that 'flavor' isn't anywhere on the list.


    The way I see it, we should enjoy the real thing only when available locally and at their summer peak. To count on Uncle Fester, here, to get us through the rest of the year, just doesn't seem right, somehow.

    Canned tomatoes come in many forms for our convenience: crushed, diced, pureed, whole peeled, whole stewed, diced in puree, ground, crushed, whole with herbs and organic. Which is best for sauce?
    Well, before we crack cans, some safe assumptions can be made.

Crushed   Diced
Pureed   Whole Peeled
Whole Stewed   Diced In Puree
Ground   Crushed
Whole   Herbs   Organic

    Now, all canned goods must be cooked, to some degree, in order to kill any pathogens that might stir up trouble. But, since we plan on cooking our sauce further, we rather avoid tomatoes that have been heavily cooked and reduced down. That means that the purée and the stewed tomatoes go bye-bye for now. We can also rule out the crushed tomatoes because there's no way for the crushers to miss all those seeds, and seeds make sauce bitter.
    That leaves us with whole and diced. Now, assuming that the less a food is processed the more it will taste like itself I'm going to go with the whole over the diced.




    Now, all of our sauces today are going to be based on two 28-ounce cans of peeled, whole tomatoes. But to get any further, we're going to need a little hardware.

Two 28 oz cans:
peeled, whole tomatoes

Badger Industries Infomercial

GUESTS: E. Clement Hoss, President Badger Industries
             Health Inspector

E. CLEMENT HOSS: Tired of busting your knuckles every time you open a can? Well help is here. Introducing the new and improved Can Badger 2000. The ultimate last word in elec-lectrical ki-kitchen convenience. Just loo-loo-loo-look at these features.


The Kitchen

ECH: Look, I say, YEEEE ... [Alton turns off the TV.]

    Evil. Evil, pure and simple. Now, ask yourself. What do you think the first thing a Health Inspector looks at when they go into a restaurant kitchen?

HEALTH INSPECTOR: The can opener.

    The can opener. Well, of course. I mean, just think of the damage that a dirty can opener could do. And electric can openers are the worst, cause they're usually the dirtiest thing in the kitchen. Why? Because you can't wash them.
    Hand can openers have come a long way in the last few years. Now this little jewel right here, this is my favorite. Why? Check this out. You ever try to open up one of these [syrup bottles] when it's had a few months to set up? Look at this. [opens tightened syrup bottle by gripping it in between the handles of the can opener] This is a first rate, second-class lever. Check that out. That's beautiful. Wow. I just love a multi-tasker. [see FAQ 413]

    Now this sauce is all about getting a lot of flavor fast. Step one: strain the tomatoes. You see all that liquid right there? That only slows down cooking and waters down the sauce and we don't have time for that.

Step 1:

    Step two: while you're here by the sink go ahead and seed them. Just grab them in one hand, split them open like that and just dump the seeds right into the sink. Step 2:
    Now, step three: reduction. Because, instead of storing the juice, we are going to reduce the juice down to a syrup consistency along with some other flavors. Step 3:
    Namely, a quarter cup of Sherry Vinegar, a quarter cup of sugar ... we still need that added sweetness ... a teaspoon of red pepper flake, a teaspoon of dried oregano and a teaspoon of dried basil. Now basically, this is the flavor pack for the entire recipe.

¼ Cup Sherry Vinegar
¼ Cup Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
1 tsp Dry Oregano
1 tsp Dry Basil

    We're going to bring this up to high heat and just stir everything together. And it's going to cook down into a thick glaze that we'll add back into the dish later. And you basically want to cook it until the bubbles stack up on each other. That lets you know that it's starting to reduce and thicken. That's the time that you're going to drop it down to a simmer. But, we've got lots of time before that happens. We've got chopping to do.

high heat

Badger Industries Infomercial

ECH: That's right, once your blades have passed through the diamond dust encrusted wheels of the Can Badger 2000 Sharpening System, nothing, ...

The Kitchen

... no nothing at all, will be too dense to hack to pieces. But you must call now, right now, call n ...

    [turns TV off] I can't believe you're going to fall for that. I mean, don't you know that all of those home sharpening gizmos just wreck your blade? [camera pans to honing steel] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, that's different. That's a steel. That's for honing a blade. That's a whole 'nother ... *sigh* Okay, look.
    Let's say for a minute that, uh, that this useless executive toy—sit down, sit, sit—is actually a cross-section of your blade. And let's say it's a darn sharp blade, too. There you go. See, nice edge on that. Now there're two things that can happen to this blade. Basically, just every day use will kind of take a blade out of, 'true', is what it's called. It's kind of ... lean it over like that. Now see the edge is still there but you can't really use it because it's all off kilter. But, a steel will basically smooth that back out. Just regular honing. I use mine every time I get my knife out. And that gives you your edge back. Just like that. It just bends it back into place.
    But, the other thing that can happen is that after awhile, your knife just erodes. Acidic ingredients eat away at it. It just wears down. And that looks [demonstrates] kind of like that. And when that happens to your knife, no amount of this is ever going to bring it back. You actually have to sharpen it, remove material to reshape that edge. That means sharpening and sharpening you should never, no never, do at home. Professional chefs send their knives out to be sharpened and so should we.

Since they require extra force to use,
dull knives are responsible for most kitchen accidents.

The Edge of Knife
The Driveway

GUEST: Geoff Edges, The Blade Smith
            (770-458-3102 / /

   This is my idea of a knife sharpener. His name is Geoff Edges and no, I didn't make that up.

AB: I got about 55 feet of sad steel for you here.
GEOFF EDGES: Thank you, sir.
AB: Definitely in need of your skills. You know, I was wondering what's the number one question that people ask you?
GE: "What's the best knife?"
AB: That's a good one. What's the answer?
GE: The one that feels comfortable in your hand. Price is not important, although the better knife you can buy the better it will be. But one that feels comfortable in your hand, that's the one you'll use.
AB: And that's the one you should go with.
GE: Absolutely.
AB: So, I'm actually better off with $25 knife that I really love to use than a $100 knife that I can't stand.
GE: If it's going to stay in the drawer it will do you no good at all.
AB: Keep its edge though. Ha, ha, ha.
GE: For a long, long time.
AB: True, too. Okay, so once you've bought it, how do you keep an edge?
GE: All right, first it has to be ground with the correct bevel.
AB: Which is like at the factory.
GE: Exactly. I can adjust that up or down. It's easy depending on what you want to do with the knife. Put it on the grinder, set the edge right here.
AB: So basically, you're remaking that knife. You're remaking the edge.
GE: That's correct.
AB: And you can either do that in its original form or a whole new, new ... ???
GE: I can make it much sharper. I can make it more long lasting. I can give it some bite.
AB: Some what?
GE: Some bite.
AB: Oh, some bite.
GE: Little ... little scratch marks that I polish into the edge that gives it the ability to cut and hold, and hold an edge longer.

GE: This [grinding] can be dangerous. I don't recommend this at home.

Don't try this at home.

AB: And yet it's an integral part of the process. Right? I mean, without this everything you've done on the belt, it's not going to come to fruition.
GE: Absolutely not. You'll have the little rooster tail that will be on there. It'll quickly break down when you cut and it'll ...

AB: It's all over.

GE: ... be right back down to dull again. I'm finished. Try that.

GE: It's my job to sharpen the knife, it's your job to keep it sharp. So, the first thing you don't do, you don't cut on a plate.
AB: Or a glass cutting board or any of that makes sense.
GE: No glass cutting board, no plate. You need a good either wood cutting board or poly cutting board.
AB: Okay.
GE: You need to keep it clean. Store it in a place that you're not going to cut yourself and it's not going to bang on something else. And keep it out of the dishwasher.

Don't cut on a plate.

Use a wood or plastic cutting board

Keep knife clean

Store in secure place

No Dishwasher

Use Steel Regularly

AB: So, is that what happened to this knife? I mean are these cracks is that from a dishwasher or from general use?
GE: I would suspect that the dishwasher played a large role in this cracking right here.
AB: Home maintenance includes the use of ... uh ... this mysterious tool.
GE: Right. This is called a sharpening steel.
AB: But it doesn't sharpen.
GE: No. This is a honing device and that's all.
AB: Okay, honing.

    That's that thing where you've got the edge bent over and you want to bring it back up straight.

AB: Right?
GE: Realign it.
AB: Realigning.
GE: Okay. Now let me show you a simple way to use this piece of equipment.
AB: Okay, great.

GE: This, if you put the steel down on the counter top so it's firm and then you take the knife and starting at the heel of the knife pretend you're going to slice a thin piece off the steel and slowly, four or five strokes on one side ...
AB: Now for those of us that keep protractors in the kitchen, that's like a 22° angle, right?
GE: That's recommended.
AB: Okay.
GE: ... and then you do the same thing on the other side.
AB: How many times do I need to do this?

4-5 strokes each side

GE: Well, if you will start off with five on one side followed by five on the other side. And then do three.
AB: Right. Three.
Then 3 each side
GE: And then two and one. Then 2 each side
Then 1 each side
AB: That's it. You don't need to go any faster than that.
GE: That's it. All right, pick up the steel and use it before each use of the knife.
AB: So if I'm getting ready to cut up mire poix for, say, tomato sauce ...
GE: Right.
AB: ... I'd get out the knife, get out the steel and honed before I start chopping.
GE: A few strokes and you're ready to go.
Steel before each use.

AB: Thanks a lot, Geoff. Appreciate you coming by. See you in six months.
Appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

    So, now that I've got another 26 square feet of shiny, hot blade here ready to cut, we're going to dive in to a little thing that the French call mire poix.

Mire Poix:
Traditional chopped mixture of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and celery.

Slice, Dice & Everything Nice
The Kitchen

    The very, very first rule of knife work is stand comfortably. If you're hunched over like Quasimodo you're not going to be able to cut. 1st Rule:
    The second thing is your grip. It needs to be secure yet comfortable. This is good. This is good. But I've seen bad things happen to people doing this or holding out like this. I mean, bad things. 2nd Rule:


[Good Methods]


[Bad Methods]

    Now contemplate your carrot and divide it into good, kind of even working pieces. In this case, cut in half. Okay, now cut this piece in half into two moons, just like that. Kind a set one aside there. Never steer the knife with this hand [the hand holding the knife]. You drive the knife. You steer it with this hand [the NOT holding the knife]. Observe: placing the fingers on the top of the carrot we're going to turn the knife to basically a 45° angle and slice down towards the center. The idea is to make, kind of a radial pattern. Now going to turn it around and do exact same thing on this side. You notice that I'm slicing not chopping. One more right down the middle. Like that. So now we've got basically four nice pieces, okay? Divide food into
manageable portions.

    Now this hand, the knife hand, doesn't go anywhere. It sits like an engine and goes back and forth. This [other] hand does all the work by feeding the food through the blade. And keep the thumb back or it'll be in the way. So basically, we're just going to slide the blade away from us. Just like that. You notice that the tip of the blade is always in contact with the board. Whenever you can keep the tip on the board, do because it's going to add to stability. Knife stays in one place.

Thumb out o the way!

Guide blade with knuckles.

    Now since the carrots take so much longer to cook, we're going to go ahead and put these into the roasting pan. And we're using a roasting pan in this case because we've got a lot more material to cook and that means we need more surface area. So this is going to go over two burners. Our reduction's no where near going yet. Now turn both of these up to low heat.
     And add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Don't bother breaking out the extra virgin stuff, just cold press or fino will do fine.

    Now, back for the onion and the celery. What's odd about this is that these things don't look anything like carrots, right? But cutting them is exactly the same. First, the onion. Now, we've peeled it and we've cut off the blossom end. But what you want to make sure you leave is at least some of the root ... I'm going to trim that a little more. But you see that there is enough of that material there at the end so that all of those different leaves ... and that's what these are, by the way, these are actual leaves ... are all going to hang together while we cut.

Cut on pull

    So, down on the board and again, starting with making these kind of pie-shaped cuts but we're going to make a lot more of them this time. And I'm going to start with the heel of the knife almost even with the end of the onion and pull towards me. The reason for that is that I want to make sure I clear that root. I don't want to cut the root because if I do, the onion is going to fall apart. Radial cuts again, pulling away. See, I'm just barely missing the root and that's good. Now you can reach over here, it's all right. You're not going to cut yourself.
    And take your time. A lot of folks have the tendency to when they get good at this they want to get fast. Don't. Fight that urge. Just clear the food away and keep going. Now when you get down to the very end like this, you could cut around the root and maybe squeeze out another gram or two. But you know what, most of the stuff that makes you cry is right here. So you know what? I throw it away. Heck. Onions are cheap.

    Celery. It's exactly the same as the carrot. Take a look at it. That looks like two pieces to me. So, I'm going to slice it in half. And again, a 45° angle kind of making it into a pie. Now I'm not going to go as many times. I'm just going to cut this one down in two slices like that. Okay. And then feed it into the blade. My fingers are curved. Knuckles on the food. There you go. Nice and even.

Knife stays in place.
Food moves into blade.

    Now just scrape this off the side of the board into, ... I like to use a loaf pan because it's easy and this goes right in with the carrots.

    Oof, I almost forgot my four cloves of garlic. Remember, no mercy. [slams the mable sample right on top of the garlic] I think I got'em. I know I got'em. Okay. Into the sweat.

Marble Sample


    Now notice that I refer to this as a sweat. A sweat may look like a sauté, but it's actually a lot lower. See when you sauté something, well, it's a high heat method that's all about sealing in the flavors of each individual piece of food. Sweating on the other hand is a very low, slow cooking method that allows foods to open up, share their flavors with one another. How do you know which one you're doing? Well, for one thing, you can listen. Now if you here more than just a gentle sizzle, or if you see anything in the pan that's browning then your heat's too high. You're sautéing, not sweating, so turn it down.

Sauté = high heat
Seals in flavor.

Sweat = low heat.
Flavors mingle

    This is now ready for the tomatoes. Straight into the pan. And again, you kind of want to move things around so that they level out, cover a lot of the area. Just toss everything in there. We're also going to toss in three tablespoons of capers ...

Capers are the brined, un-opened blossoms of a Mediterranean bush.

... that have been rinsed and drained. Okay, this is about ready. Oh and by the way, so is this [sauce]. That is exactly what we're looking for in that glaze. This is reduced almost in half. And you see the way those slow bubbles are coming up. Looks kind of like a tar pit. Get that off the heat.
    Meanwhile, this is getting ready to meet the heat. A broiler in fact. Now, why go to the trouble of boiling this? Well, dry heat methods intensify flavors like no other moist method could ever dream of. And since this is a very high heat method, it's actually going to brown, to caramelize some of the sugars that are in both tomato and the carrots. Of course, it could over caramelize if we're not careful, that is, burn. So, keep a close eye on them and stir every four to five minutes for about the 15, maybe 20 minutes that it's going to take for those tomatoes to really soften up and take some good color.

Tomato Sauces did not appear in Italian cookery until the 19th century.

Seeing Red (finally)
The Kitchen

GUEST: Shirley O. Corriher, Food Scientist
            Diners #1 - #5

    Having stirred every five minutes or so for about 15 minutes under the broiler we've taken some nice color and definitely have some great aroma. Now, the next step to liberating flavors here is to hit it with about a quarter cup to half a cup of white wine. Now that's going to do two things. One, it's going to dissolve any of the solids on the bottom. It's going to deglaze. But the alcohol is going to do something else as well. I've kind of got my hands full here.

AB: Shirley would you mind explaining?
SC: I'll be glad to. Some flavored components in food dissolve in water. Some dissolve in fats. And some dissolve in alcohol.

Although much of the alcohol added during cooking
does "cook out", small amounts always remain.

AB: They're actually flavors inside these tomatoes that can only be liberated with alcohol.
SC: That's right.
AB: Good enough for me. I think this is yours.
SC: Thank you.
AB: Thanks, Shirley.

    Now, finally, time to bring the two nuclear ingredients together. All of the tomato solids go into a big pot so that we can play with them later. And now, the mixture, the tomato syrup. Thick, protean, loaded with goodness. Now, finally, I get to add my beloved, black pepper. Ummm. Mmm. Good.

   Could use a little salt, but before we get in to any corrective seasoning we need to consider the sauce's final destination, which, by the way, will determine the texture of the di ...

DINNER #!: [walks up with a plate of mussels]
Oh, mussels. You want this full strength just like that. There you go.

[v 1.0]
Mussels = Full Strength

DINNER #2: [has a plate of pasta]
    Oh, for pasta, odds are you going to want to break things up just a little bit so that those big chunks of tomatoes aren't in there. So I suggest, again, the masher. Especially good with tube pastas like penne things like that.
[v 1.1]
Pasta (penne, etc.) = Mash some

DINNER #3: [has a plate of meatballs]
Hey, aren't those the meatballs from our meat loaf show? Yeah, they are.

    You're going to want to have something even smoother in that case. But, I have stick, will blend. There we go. Just add enough to come about half way up the side of the meat, cover, and cook nice and low until everything's tender.

[v 1.2]
Meatballs = Stick blend it until smooth

    Now, if you're looking for something like ...

DINNER #3: [hasn't left yet]
AB: Come on, come on ...
DINNER #4: [has a pizza crust]

    If you're looking for something like pizza then you're going to want a very smooth sauce, so, stick on. So, be very, very discriminating with the amounts. One ladle right in the middle and then use your ladle to spin it ever, ever outwards like that. Now your toppings go on and everything, everything's fine.

[v 1.3]
Pizza = Stick blend it some more until very smooth

DINNER #5: [has a plate of chicken cacciatore]
    Oh, well, chicken cacciatore is a natural. You just use it, again, just straight up like that.

    Ooof. Well, as you can see this is pretty versatile stuff. Now we hope that we've inspired you to free up a little room in your pantry for canned tomatoes. Whether you're looking for a quick fix, a kick in the teeth or versatile elegance there's good eats waiting in every little tin.
    [notices he's dished out all of the sauce] Oh boy. Well, uh, this was good eats. I am Alton Brown. Don't worry, we'll make more.

[Closing Music]


ECH: Operators are standing by!

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010

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