Flat is A Beautiful Transcript

The Kitchen

    A few hundred years ago the average Joe on the street figured the world was flat. Then the average Joe on the street also believed in fairies, dragons, sea monsters and that tomatoes were poison.
    Since then, of course, we've learned that we live on a great big ball, that this ball is spinning at about a thousand miles an hour through space, and that this space may actually be a thin layer riding on top of a universe that's as flat as a pancake ... which is fine by me.
    [AB turns his computer to the side to reveal that we've been watching him on his computer] I like flat. I like Kansas. I'm all for a flat tax. I love my flat computer monitor. I wish I had a flat TV screen. And I kind of would like to have a flat stomach. Now, I may not be able to have all these flat things but at least I can have flat food. Ever since I came home from school one day to witness my mom pounding out a Swiss steak with a back of a frying pan, I've been fascinated by dishes built on hunks of meat pounded wafer thin.
    But asides the obvious stress relief potential, flattened meats offer more surface area than big old hunks so they can be more thoroughly seasoned and/or sauced. And since they cook very quickly, flat meat dishes are perfectly suited to the modern Americanís frantically frenetic lifestyle. So stick around, won't you? Because flat isn't just beautiful. Flat is ... [cut to the opening montage]

Outside Parking Lot

              Math Guy

    [AB is driving a steam roller] So, what could we possibly gain by flattening a perfectly good piece of meat? Well, in breaking down the connective tissue, we can certainly gain some tenderness. This is probably why our ancestors pounded so many of their meals. But todayís meat critters are already pretty darn tender. Nope, what weíre looking for here is an increase in surface area. Now, consider that cow over there.

COW: Moooo. Moooo.

    At eight hundred ninety three pounds, that cowís only got a surface to mass ratio of, uh Ö [motions for someone to come closer.]

MATH GUY: [enters, shows AB figures on a clip board]
ALTON BROWN: Is that it?
MG: [nods his head]
AB: Huh.

    Thatís not going to do: barely three to one. Nope, weíre going to have to make some serious changes around here. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! [puts the steam roller in motion toward the cow] Ha, ha, ha, ha!

LAWYER: [climbs on steam roller and whispers something in AB's ear]
AB: [AB stops the roller] Are you serious? You think theyíll mind? [sighs] Okay. All right.


    [climbs off the roller and places a slab of meat in front of the roller] Well, since Iím told that running over an actual cow might upset some people, weíll rollover this roast instead which at three and a half pounds would ordinarily take about two, two and a half hours to roast in an oven. That doesnít really give us that many culinary options. We can change all that by altering the surface to mass ratio.
    [runs over the meat with the roller, cut to AB looking down at it ... it's rather mangled] Hmm. Maybe we should seek out some professional help. [looks at it again] Uuufff.

If using a tougher cut of meat, begin
pounding with the ridged side of the mallet.

Harry's Farmers Market: Marietta, GA - 1:34 pm

GUEST: Three Headed Butcher: German, Frenchman, Italian

AB: [looking in the meat display case]
Can I help you?
AB: Um, sure. Iím looking for tender cut of meat, flat, kind of thin. I was thinking of about a Ö
GB: A cutlet
IB: A scallopini. A scallop.
GB: He didnít ask for fish.
FB: A scallopini, not a scallop.
IB: Eh?
GB: Same thing.
IB: No, no a scallop is a much thinner.
GB: The fish?
FB: No, no no. The cut.
FB: Lamb?
IB: Pork?
GB: Or veal?
AB: Actually, I was just hoping for plain old beef.
IB: A mignot.
GB: Do you mean medallion? Ooohh, thick.
FB: Fine. Fanusit(sp?). Itís a smaller.
IB: No, itís a wrong.
GB: What about a chuck?
IB: He doesnít want a rib in it.
FB: Phooey.
GB: Right, but thatís where word 'cutlet' comes from.
AB: Wwwwait. Wait a second, I thought that came from French.
IB: Itís from a Latin word, costa.
FB: By way of French, cŰte.
GB: Both of which mean, rib.
IB, FB: He doesnít want a rib in.
GB: Oh. What about a schnitzel?
AB: Schnitzel. Hey, that could work.
IB: We get it for you. Ah, no problem. I like a schnitzels.

    When seeking a flat cut of meat, youíre likely to run into a nomenclature roadblock or two because there are just too many words. So why not just buy yourself a big hunk of beast and do the flattening yourself. Youíll save money and you might just save your mind.

GB, FB, IB: We got it.
GB: Where did he go?
IB: He must a not like his attitude with the minuette.
GB: Itís you with the scallops.
IB: Itís a my fault?
GB: Whatís he talking about?
IB: All of a sudden itís a my fault.
FB: Manjour
GB: That cut of meat is ridiculous.
IB: I tella you whata ...
FB: SacrŤ bleu!

Weiner schnitzel was brought to Vienna during the 19th
century from Italy, where it was called 'costoletta milanese'.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Food Police

    The Venetian renaissance painter, Vittore Carpaccio, was famous for his dramatic use of the color red. So famous, in fact, that centuries later he would have a dish, a very red dish, named after him, carpaccio; which is nothing more wafer thin pieces of beef dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, greens, flakes of parmesan and capers. And yes, thatís raw meat.

FOOD POLICE: [off camera, over a loud speaker, as if from a helicopter above the house] Alton Brown. Alton Brown. This is the food police. We know what youíre up to in there and we donít like it one darn bit.
AB: [goes to window, opens it and looks up, and yells] Youíll never take me alive, you lousy culinary cops! Never!
FP: Just cook the meat then nobody has to get hurt.
AB: Cook carpaccio? Sacrilege!
FP: What about minute steak?
AB: Minute steak? Thatís crazy! Thatís insane. [looks interested] Actually, that could be kind of cool.

    [closes the window, the helicopter can still be heard outside] You know if we play our cards right, we could marry the minute steak concept to the carpaccio tradition. Weíll have the best of both worlds. Maybe finally the Nobel committee will recognize my contributions to humanity.

FP: Donít bet on it, Brown.

    The first step to pounding something thin, is usually cutting it thin to begin with. Now, here I have a sixteen ounce hunk of beef tenderloin and as you can see, it is a darn tender hunk of cow, so itís going to be difficult to slice thin at least in this state. So weíre not going to cut it in this state. Nope. Weíre going to wrap this back up and stash it in the freezer. No, I donít want to freeze it solid. That would be a silly thing to do. But I do want to firm it up. So Iím going to park it in here for at least two hours. Donít go more than three or youíll have yourself a meat ice-sicle.

1 Pound Piece Beef

    Slicing even a well chilled piece of meat with a regular blade is a tough proposition. An electric knife will help you keep your slices nice and even and pretty thin. [slice a thin piece] There. Now thatís pretty thin but to get it as thin as weíre going to need it, will require some extra technology.


A paillard is a cutlet that's flattened and seared rather than sautťed.

W's Lab

GUEST: W, Equipment Specialist

AB: [AB enters a room with many hands along the wall hammering cuts of meat] Hi W. Hammered out any new discoveries lately?
W: Well actually, yes. We found that mallets with larger heads produce better results. The smaller heads require a lot more strikes and that can lead to ...
AB: ... making messes, like this.
W: The hard edges are the problem. Mallets with rounded edges cause less tearing.
AB: What about materials?
W: Wood mallets are lighter than the metal ones, so you have a lot more strikes and a lot more work.
AB: Ok, so metal it is.
W: You know, ultimately pounding is about controlling the strike to deliver the right amount of force.
AB: Right. Hey, you know this, this doesnít, this doesnít look bad here at all.
W: Well with good reason. ĎCause you see that ... [turns to the hands] Stop! [they do] Phew! Ok, where was I? Oh. We have a matte finish that reduces the friction, a large head to evenly distribute the impact, curved edges so that cuts down on the tearing, and you have a padded handle so that itís less shock to the arm.
AB: Well the only problem with this is that it looks like a uni-tasker and you know how I hate a uni-tasker. Can you think of anything else youíd might do with this?
W: Oh, well. You know. I could show you what I would want to do with it.
AB: Oh sure, paper weight. I got it. [to the hands] Hammer time! See you, W.

The Kitchen

    Well now that we are armed with a proper pounding tool we are ready to go, right? Weíve got ourselves a nice sturdy surface and a piece of meat thatís thin but not thin enough to be what the French call a paillard which is what weíre out for.
    So a pounding we will go right? Wrong. Not quite yet. See there is one other force we havenít taken into account here: friction, okay? Study your physics. Anytime a blow goes straight down and hits something, it slides, right? The blow deflects and if that happens with a tender piece of meat in the middle of it, well, it could tear the meat. Maybe not a piece of flank steak or a piece of round steak or something even chewier like my momís Swiss steak but this would definitely be damaged. So we need to add slippery into the equation here and I got just the thing.
    Number one, plastic wrapó[cuts a piece off] cross thereóand number two, good old fashioned water, H2O, okay? Iíve got my plastic wrap down and Iím going to give it a little spritz. The meat goes down on one side. Fold over [the plastic wrap] to make ourselves a little sandwich. Then Iím going to add just a little bit more water right on top. Now we pound. We donít really pound. Just kind of drop this right down into the center and then move out towards the edges. Itís a lot like, like rolling a piece of pie dough, you know. You donít just go like this [up and down], you start in the middle and roll out in every direction to keep it even and thatís what weíre looking for here, evenness. Okay? Here we go.
    [flattens it out and holds it up] Here we go. And itís already wrapped for the refrigerator. Pretty convenient.
    Weíll try one more time: plastic ... water ... meat ... fold ... a little more water. And Ö[looks at his mallet] Hmm. ĎScuse me a moment, wonít you?
    [gets a pie pan and a marble mortar,, placing the pan on the meat, he pounds the pan with the mortar producing a flat piece of meat] Now thatís multi-tasking for you. Gotta love it.

If you don't have a mallet or a mortar and pestle,
use a heavy can of food with a pie pan.

    Hmm. Since its surface to mass ratio is ... well ... high and since tenderloin contains very little connective tissue, there is no reason not to cook our paillards very high and very fast. So, heat your cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes over medium heat.

Heat 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.

    Then you can season your meat thusly: a little bit of oil, a little bit of saltókosher of courseóa wee bit of freshly ground pepper and then invert onto your hand, little bit of oil, a little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper. Now, to the heat we go.

Brush each slice of meat lightly with vegetable oil on both sides and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    The problem with cooking a piece of meat this thin and a pan like this is that itís just hard to get down in there and work with it. So my rule is donít. Weíll just turn the pan over, no problem. Iím going to brush on just a little bit of oil and down it goes. Itís only going to take about ten seconds per side so work quickly to get the other meat done.
    There we go. Now by the time the third one goes down, odds are good the first will be ready to flip. Obviously speed is a real benefit here. [flips the last piece] There we go. That one folded over a little bit. Thatís not a problem. Now, as soon as they are brown on this side, and they are, letís get these off to the plate. Their still going to be a little bit red in the middle and thatís just the way we want them.
    To serve, just pretend itís carpaccio. Drizzle on a little olive oil, grate on some good parmesan cheese, sprinkle on some capers. You can even put a little salad right in the middle but keep it simple. Of course, once youíve got your technique down, there are applications a plenty to pursue, like piccata.

Katsudon, a popular flat meat in Japan, is composed of
a fried pork cutlet and onion broth served over rice.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Vladimir Bundislov, Russian Chef
              Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    Roughly translated, piccata means 'sharp', and refers to an entire class of dishes featuring very thin cutlets cooked in a pan and served with a sharp or piccata sauce. Now classically speaking, veal is the leading cutlet in piccata recipes but chicken, pork and even turkey do very nicely. In fact, I prefer turkey Ďcause I think itís tasty and very easy to cutlet-ize.
    [voice over] We start by cutting your turkey breast crosswise to half-inch slices. Then cover with the plastic wrap and pound as we have so many times before. But be gentle. Itís really easy to tear turkey. Now when the piece is basically twice itís original sizeóyou know flatter-wize, that isóseason side A with kosher salt and pepper. Now place side A down into the flour and season side B. Then flip to coat. Now weíre not looking for a heavy coating here so make sure you dust off the excess flour before you add it to a pan in which you have heated two tablespoons of olive oil and four tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium high heat. When brown on both sidesóa couple of minutes each, I'd sayómove to a foil pouch over a heating pad set to high. You donít have a heating pad around you can always use this [foil pouch] in a 200 degree oven. Now onto the sauce.

    [voice over] Right when the last piece is finishing up, just keep whatever fat is in the pan there and add to that two tablespoon of finely chopped shallots cooked for about a minute. Then add half a cup of white wine and a third of a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let that simmer down for two to three minutes. Then whisk in two tablespoons of butter. Just whisk it until itís thoroughly integrated. Nice.

2 Tbs. Finely Chopped Shallots

1/2 Cup White Wine

1/3 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter

    [voice over] Move your slices off to a platter. Remember, you want to make sure that they are warm and the platter is warm. And then cover with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley, a couple of tablespoons should do the trick. You can use cilantro if you like, but I stick with parsley.

For a sharper sauce, finish the piccata with capers or peppercorns.

    Once youíve become proficient with your pounding procedures, you can move onto applications that although build upon a flat meat platform are not themselves flat. For instance, if you pound a chicken breast thin and put on a few pieces of chilled herb butter, roll it up, bread it and pan fry it, youíll have Chicken Supreme. Oh sorry. You probably know it by itís modern name, Chicken Kiev.

VLADIMIR BUNDISLOV: Comrade Brownovitch! Finally, you look to Mother Russia to fuel your capitalist cooking circus.
AB: Circus!
VB: Chicken Kiev, truly a great culinary achievement. Named for might Soviet city.
DEB DUCHON: Not so fast, comrade.
AB: Uh-Oh.
DD: Chicken Kiev isn't from Kiev. Itís not even Russian.
VB: Alton Brownovitch, who is this fiery American fox?
AB: Fox?
DD: Chicken Kiev is French.
VB: нет! [Nyet!]
DD: да! [Da!] French food was very popular in 18th century Russia.
VB: [to AB] Do not listen to this propaganda.
DD: Chicken Kiev actually got itís name from a bunch of restaurant owners in New York City.
AB, VB: [they look at each other and then the camera] New York City!
DD: They were trying to attract Russian immigrants.
VB: Pretty lady, how could you possibly know these things?
AB: Yeah.
DD: Because Iím a dietalog antropolog. [questionable translation of Nutritional Anthropologist]
AB: Ugh.
VB: Then how can you hate Russian cuisine?
DD: I love Russian cuisine. I love the Russians. [moves closer to VB and holds his hand] I spent a year in St. Petersburg in graduate school.
AB: Pfffooo.
VB: St. Petersburg, birthplace of Beef Stroganoff.
DD: Yes. Created for a cooking competition in the 1800ís.
VB: Really? Tell me more.
AB: Yeah, thatís great. Look.
DD: Well, Iíd love to.
AB: Why donít you guys rent Doctor Zhivago, Iíve got cooking to do. [exits]
VB: So, you know Istanbul was Constantinople?
DD: I read that.
VB: Yes.

    Chicken Kiev begins with a compound butter. Now for those of you who may not have committed our episode, A [sic] Case for Butter, to memory, a compound butter is essentially a butter thatís flavored with various herbs and spices. And this one is very, very simple.

    We begin with one stick, thatís four ounces or eight tablespoons of unsalted butter. To that we add: one teaspoon of dried parsley, one teaspoon of dried tarragon, one teaspoon kosher salt and a quarter of a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Now you certainly can use fresh herbs for this but just remember, youíre going to need twice of many. I like the dry stuff because I think itís more of a stronger flavor, a little bit more robust, which is good. Letís take this for a spin on low speed, shall we?

8 Tbs. unsalted butter, 1 tsp. dried parsley, 1 tsp. dried tarragon, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper.

Chicken Kiev was developed by Nicolas Appert in
France and brought to Russia during the mid 18th century.

    [voice over] To prep your newly formed compound butter for storage, just plop it on a piece of wax paper, fold it over, and use something straight and long like a offset spatula to basically push it into a log like shape. Then just roll it up. Make sure there is enough paper to go around at least twice. Then twist the ends like taffy. Now you are ready to store either in the refrigerator or the freezer.
    To build your Kiev, start by pounding a chicken breast nice and flat. Put in a couple of pieces of the chilled butter, about a tablespoon of Panko bread crumbs and then roll by folding over the longest flap halfway first, then the ends and then continuing the roll using the plastic to pull it taut. Just make sure you donít get the plastic up inside the roll. Seal it up like a sausage. There.

Panko bread crumbs are lighter and coarser
in texture than regular bread crumbs.

    Now let this chill in a secure place in your refrigerator for at least a couple of hours or even overnight. Why? Because allowing them to firm up means that they will stay rolled up in the pan; and we like that. See, most of the time Chicken Kiev is made tied with butcher string. I donít like that. Why? Last time I ate Chicken Kiev this happened. [pulls a string out of his mouth] Blah, I hate that.

Refrigerating the wrapped Kiev also helps prevent
the herb butter from oozing out during cooking.

    [voice over] To cook your Kiev, take each of the chicken rolls and dip them in a combination of two large eggs beaten with about a teaspoon of water. Youíll have enough for at least four, if not more, pieces. Then toss in Panko bread crumbs, about two cups worth would be what it takes to coat.

2 Eggs Beaten With
    1 tsp. Water
2 Cups Panko

    Then add them straight to a large in this case a twelve inch sautť pan containing half an inch of vegetable oil heated over medium high heat to 375 degrees. Leave them alone for four to five minutes or until they are golden brown and delicious. Roll each piece over carefullyóI like to use chopsticks for this because itís easier to tossóand cook for another four to five minutes or until the internal temperature reaches a hundred and sixty five degrees. Then evacuate to a draining rig. Mine is composed of a standard cooling rack set over a half sheet pan. Let them rest for five minutes before serving.

While the Kiev is cooking, the butter mingles
with the meat juices to create a sauce.

    I hope that we have cleared the way for you to try your hand at some horizontal cuisine. Pound for pound, flattened meats deliver flavor the way few three dimensional foods can. Add to that the stress relieving effects of hammering your dinner silly, and youíve got a recipe for some seriously good eats. See you next time.


VB: Comrade Brownovitch! Finally you look to Mother Russia to fuel your capitalist cooking circus.
AB: [begins to laugh] Iím sorry. Iím so sorry. Iím, Iím sorry. Cut.

Transcribed by Eeyore8

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010