10 Culinary Lessons from Alton Brown

(The first line is title of short, 2nd is FN's description. Picture is also from Food Network.)

[Every short begins with]
Announcer: Here's a good eats short with Alton Brown

[Every short ends with]
Announcer: [Good Eats Theme plays] Announcer: For more information on this and other shows visit foodnetwork.com. And, be sure to watch Good Eats on Food Network.

Can Can
History of Cans

    Ever wonder where the can comes from? Well, I'll tell ya.

Napoleon: [enters carrying a sack marked "La Prize"]

    In 1794, a young French army officer named Bonaparte offers a twelve thousand franc prize to anyone who can devise a new practical method of food preservation.

Appert: [enters carrying a wine bottle and attempts to get a hunk of ham into the narrow end]

    A retired confectioner, Nicolas Appert, decides to give it a try, and, looking to wine for inspiration, attempts to bottle food.

Appert: [returns with a small gold tin and hands it to Napoleon]

    Now over a decade passes but finally, in 1809 Appert successfully ships safe and tasty bottles of partridge, gravy and vegetables to French troops. The now Emperor Napoleon awards him the twelve thousand francs ...

Napoleon: [hurls La Prize bag at Appert who falls back]

... which he uses to build a factory.

Appert: [appears holding a toy factory and wiggles his eyebrow.]

    Now, although Appert feels certain that boiling the food inside the bottles is key to the process, his competitors reject his theories and seal their goods in unheated metal tins. As a result, thousands of people consume a heapin' helpin' of something that Louis Pasteur would explain fifty years later, germs!

Diner Speak
Diner Slang

    Once upon a time, Americans on the go ate at diners which often offered dozens if not hundreds of different dishes. Now to streamline communications and cut down on the chaos, the cooks and waitresses devised "diner speak."

Waitress: Whaddaya have, hun?

[ed: I've added this dialogue side-by-side so you
can see what food goes with what diner speak]

AB: Well, I was thinking of starting with the
cheese and crackers then the
bacon-wrapped oysters on toast,
couple of poached eggs with
a tuna fish sandwich hold the mayo
hold the butter hold the lettuce,
two hamburgers with onions and
and a hotdog with kraut and fries,
    to go.
Waitress: [to the chef off camera]

Need one dog and maggot,
angels on horseback,
a dead-eyed zeppelin,

a radio sandwich high and dry,

two cows make 'em cry and paint
    'em red
and one bloodhound in the hay with
    frog sticks walkin

You got room for dessert?

AB: You bet. How about
Jell-O and chocolate sauce.
Waitress:  [to the chef off camera] Throw a nervous puddin' in the mud.

[back to AB] Oh, and I'll bring you a gravel train and some moo juice for your Joe. Anything else?

AB: Uh, can you "biggie size" that? Waitress: Sorry, hun. Don't know that one.
    Sweet! [sips his coffee]

Fable of the Four Chickens
Understanding Chicken Labels

    Once upon a time there were four brothers: three had marketing degrees, the fourth was a farmer. Each had a chicken.
    Now, the first brother called his chicken "Natural." Did he mention that any chicken not containing synthetic ingredients or chemical preservatives can be called natural? No, but his chicken sold for a dollar.
    The second brother labeled his chicken "Hormone Free." The fact that hormones have to be frequently injected in order to be effective, and are therefore useless in commercial poultry production wasn't something he mentioned. But he got 2 bucks for his.
    The third brother opened the door of his chicken's cage and called it "Free Range." He earned 5 bucks and the admiration of the first two brothers.
    The fourth brother quadrupled the size of his chicken's coop, grew it a nice field to roam in, fed it organic vegetarian feed, and never gave it antibiotics. He christened his bird "Organic" and got 8 bucks for it ... along with a federal fine for ten thousand dollars; because you can't sell your chicken as organic unless you submit to third-party certification. [he's handed a piece of paper saying, "You owe $10,000.00]
    That's not marketing, kids. That's the law.

Fairy Floss Formula
Cotton Candy 101

    In 1899, one William Morrison and John C. Wharton, both of Nashville, Tennessee, invented a strange device which married a spinning plate with a gas burner. Now by harnessing centrifugal force, this curiosity created these thin little wispy threads of sugar, which the duo sold at the 1904 World's Fair as Fairy Floss. We know it as cotton candy and if you really feel like it, you can make it at home.
    [Pours sugar into a metal bowl] Cook two and a half cups of sugar, one and a half plus one tablespoon of water, and two-thirds a cup of white corn syrup to 300 degrees—that's the hard-crack stage—then remove from the heat. Add a couple drops of red food coloring to a Pyrex or other heat-proof bowl. Add the syrup. Stir with a whisk that has the ends conveniently cut off of it. Place a V-rack over some newspaper. Dip the cut-off whisk into the syrup and sprinkle across forming large threads, thusly. [AB swings the whisk back and forth creating cotton candy wisps, he folds up the cotton candy from the V-rack and holds it up]
    Look! Heh-heh-heh-heh. Now I can tell my dentist I floss every day! [AB begins eating]


Feelin' Edgy
How to Clean Knives


    So, ya finally got yourself a good knife, huh? Well, if Excalibur there is gonna take care of you, you're gonna have to take care of it, starting with washing.
    [AB goes to put it in the dishwasher] Oooh, you know that's not a very good idea. Not only can plates and glasses knock your knife around but harsh dishwashing liquids can damage blades and handles alike, as can that drying cycle.
    Nope. Hand washing is the only real way to go. [just plunks the knife down in the soapy water] But, attempting to wash a knife with a sponge or washrag while it's waggling around in soapy water can lead to serious bodily injury.
    Luckily there is a method that is as friendly to hands as it is to knives, just lay your knife as flat as possible against the backside of your sink and clean with a soft bristle brush on both sides. Nice and clean. Then rinse and dry flat where the knife can't be knocked around.
    Remember, kids: a clean knife is a happy knife.

Knoweth Thy Nog
Origins of Egg Nog

    Ever wonder about eggnog? Well, 'nog' was the name of an ale that was very popular in 17th century England. But modern eggnog was actually born of a boozy thick dessert custard called "sack posset." It was so think it that it made socializing tedious.

Mr. Darcy: [shyly] Good evening, Miss Bennett.
Miss Bennett: [also shyly] Good evening, Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Darcy: [summoning his strength to tell her he loves her, he drinks some sack posset which makes him unintelligable] IjustwannasayIloveyou.
Miss Bennett: [misunderstanding, she slaps him]

    Eventually the cooking was done away with and modern egg nog was born. And, it was a good thing. It was just what those Victorians needed to break out and get crazy.

Miss Bennett: And, how is your mother?
Mr. Darcy: Very well. [still bashful] You know, I like your sleeves. They're ... they're real ... big.
Miss Bennett: Why, thank you, Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Darcy: [very pleased with himself]

    There you have it. Another crazy holiday moment brought to you by egg nog.

The Scoop on Sugar Substitutes

    [indicating a sugar molecule diagram] Behold, sugar—or sucrose to be more exact—which is a disaccharide composed of one molecule each fructose and glucose. This contains 16 calories per teaspoon. But, if we were to replace some of these hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine we would have something called sucralose which is 600 times sweeter than sugar, yet contains no calories.
    Sucralose kind of reminds me of this guy [Frankenstein's monster]. After all, he's made of people, but he's not exactly natural, now is he? Neither is sucralose. Of course, if the villagers hadn't freaked out on him, he might have become mayor one day.

Frankenstein's Monster: Actually, I prefer baking to the drudgery of administration.
AB: Well, you know it's funny that you mention baking, because unlike almost every other sugar substitute on earth, sucralose can be used in most baked goods. [holds up a stick lighter in FM's face]
Frankenstein's Monster: [unphased] Oh, puh-lease. [blows it out]

Teeny Tiny Bubbles
Opening Champagne

    Sooner or later, you are going to face one of these [champagne bottles]. Will you know what to do? You bet you will.
    Sparkling wine should always be served between 43 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit, a thermal state best obtained by placing the bottle in a bucket containing equal portions of ice and water for one half hour.
    Now we uncork. Remove the top section of the foil and loosen but do not remove the protective wire hood or cage. Grasp the cork and cage securely, and then use your other hand to turn the bottle. Do not turn the cork. [the cork pops right off] Perfect.
    Place your thumb into the punt [the indentation at the bottom] of the bottle, lay your fingers along the barrel and proceed to pouring.
    To prevent foam-overs, place just half an inch of champagne in each glass, then go back and fill to two-thirds—no more.
    Of course, there is one other way to serve up your bubbly. [Enter crazy cowboy Nascar guy driver shaking a champagne bottle with foam flying everywhere]

The Other Medicine Chest
Healthy, Well-Balanced Diets

    Welcome to the modern American medicine chest. Countless cures, preventatives, and comforts can be found behind its mirrored door. Take this multivitamin. It contains synthesized versions of vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K—all of which are necessary if your body is going to get stuff done ... like turn calcium into bone or protein into collagen, the stuff that makes your skin elastic. Deficiencies in any one of these vitamins can lead to nasty illnesses, like rickets, scurvy, or beriberi.
    But, no matter what your momma said to scare you into choking these down as a child, if you are healthy non-pregnant person, you’re probably better off getting your vitamins from THAT [points to the refrigerator] medicine cabinet.
    Although scientists aren’t sure why, the vitamins we get from fresh dairy, meat, fruit and veggies do use more good than the stuff they put in pills. So, in the end, a balanced diet may be the best medicine. [pulls out a carrot and eats it]

Weighty Matters
Weighty Matters

    Although the Romans invented the concept of ounces and pounds, the Saxons actually standardized the pound as weighing 5,760 grains—a grain being equal to the weight of one barley corn. Now this is called a 'troy pound." And although it's still used by the precious metals industry today, back then merchants found it cumbersome. So they concocted a 15 troy ounce pound weighing 7200 grains, and then finally a 16 ounce 7000 grain pound which was originally used by Italian wool merchants.
    Now we still use this system called Avoirdupois [pron: av-ah-du-PWAH or av-ver-do-POISE] for goods of weight to this day because a 16 ounce pound is easily divisible by eighths. Now an Avoirdupois ounce also breaks down into 16 drams. But Americans prefer to break theirs down into fractions which makes life in the kitchen very, very tedious. Is there a cure for this madness? Go metric!

Transcription provided by Dana McDonnell
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited 08/27/2010