July 1, 2013
The host of Bizarre Foods America schools us in summer eating and cooking.
What can we expect to see in the new episodes of Bizarre Foods this summer?
We start out in Los Angeles and we end up in Houston, Texas. In between that, we’re in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and everywhere in between in the middle of the country. What excites me most is the amazing stories that were right here in our own backyards, underneath our own noses, that we kept passing up for years. Culture from around the world has found a home here in America. And there’s no better example of that than in this current season. In our Los Angeles episode, we go into hidden neighborhoods like Compton and Watts and talk about the families that are making a difference in those communities, including Mexican ranchers who are actually ranching in Compton and single moms who have turned to food entrepreneurship as a way to save their families and their community. Those are very very powerful ideas. We’ve done shows like our Queens, New York, show, which is one of my favorites. If Queens was its own city, it would be one of the 10 largest in America, and there’s over a 140 ethnic groups there that call Queens home. And I make the case in the show that Queens is the most diverse and approachable town for ethnic eating in America. The story of immigrants is the story of our country. Whether it’s Indian communities in Houston or Portuguese communities in Rhode Island, our show does a great job of storytelling in that regard.
Was there one city that stuck out as the most unique or the most bizarre?
I think all the cities are unique. The Queens episode is very special to me. By the same token, I was bound and determined with our LA and Hawaii shows to highlight a different part of those cities that people never see. And so, I mean, TV food shows don’t go into Compton and Watts; I wanted to do that. TV food shows go into the big cities in Hawaii, but they don’t go out into the ancient villages with no electricity that are still fishing the way their ancestors a 1000 years ago did. And I think when it comes to uncovering the best of culture and food, I think that’s our strength.
It’s summertime—what do you think is the best-kept secret of grilling?
I’ll tell you what I’m grilling with. I use a Cowboy Cauldron at home. It’s my current obsession. I love them, it’s like a barbecue pit on a tripod. I’m doing a lot of lamb, rabbit, goat, and duck in it, and this is not a promotion for them, but the large size allows me to roast away from the coals so my ducks don’t incinerate on the grill with fatty flare-ups. When I cook the rabbit in it, it turns out so delicious and lean. I love my Cowboy Cauldron because I can do really low, indirect heat cookery and then during the last minute, I can slide the meat right over on top of the fire. You know, the great thing about grilling and barbecuing in general is that it’s all about time and heat ratio. Grilling’s very social - you can have friends over and stand outside and man the grill.
What are three things that every griller should know?
1. Always let your meat rest when it comes off the grill. I even let my hamburgers and hotdogs rest when they come off the grill. This allows your meat to stay juicier and it’s just smart cooking. You don’t want to cut into a steak when it comes right off the grill and have all of the fat and flavor run out on the cutting board, that’s awful.
2. People should be grilling with alternative proteins, like goat, small fish with the heads attached, game birds. The more that we extend our dinner choices across a wider range of foods, the less factory farmed foods we’re going to end up eating. We’ve limited our choices too much in America.
3. Cook a new recipe, at least one every week during the summer that involves your outdoor equipment. It’s like golf; you can’t be a good golfer unless you go to the putting green and the driving range. Too many weekend barbecue enthusiasts are like, “Well, why didn’t my ribs turn out great?” It takes experimentation and practice.
How many times a week do you do grill?
Four times a week in the summer months and probably once a week in the winter, twice a week in the winter. I even cook in my fireplace in the wintertime. I like cooking over wood and live fire, and coals and smoke.
If you were going to pick one American city to live in based on food and food alone, which one would you pick?
New York City is the greatest food city in the world. It’d be silly not to pick NYC. And I’d be silly not to pick my hometown, because I live here now and I love the food in Minneapolis. All of that being said, I would love to live in a 400-year-old townhouse on the water in Charleston, South Carolina.There, the food is diverse - the combination of foods that come out of the ocean and forest, like game cookery, low-country seafood, and southern hospitality... I think the south is a glorious, glorious place. Also, I enjoy the energy of Charleston, and I think mostly I enjoy the history in what is their version of the French Quarter down there. The homes are stunning, the ghosts are still in the graveyards, the legacy of the Huguenot, you know, diaspora, that came into that part of the New World in the 17th and 18th centuries is still palpable. You can see it in their food, you can see it in the architecture, and you can smell it on the air. It’s an extremely powerful experience strolling in the streets of that city.
What are the top 5 things you’ll eat as much as you possibly can this summer?
Lobster rolls, grilled or fried walleye, my wife’s barbecued ribs... she does homemade ribs in sauce that are just out of control, and homemade fruit popsicles that I make with my kid. We have one of those Zoku popsicle makers where you make popsicles in 10 minutes, and we puree all the old fruit in our house and make these amazing popsicles. And Szechuan spicy cold noodles.
What are the basic elements of the perfect lobster roll?
Good toasted bun, lobster that’s never seen the inside of a tank, and as little as anything else as possible. There’s a place just north of Portland, Maine called Five Islands Lobster Company, and they have the world’s best lobster roll. I love it. Since my dad lives in Portland, Maine, I go there many times a year and drive up to Five Islands. It’s the best.
New episodes of Bizarre Foods America return tonight on The Travel Channel. Check out his website, andrewzimmern.com.
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