Special Sauce: Kenji on Freezing Chicken, Simone Tong on Making Mixian [2/2]

This week’s episode of Special Sauce kicks off with our new culinary Q&A segment, “Ask Kenji.” At the behest of listener Dave Shorr, Kenji lays down the law on the best way to freeze chicken. It’s a simple process that includes placing chicken pieces into a zipper-lock bag and pouring in a saltwater brine. Tune in to learn more about why- and be sure to read up on the benefits of freezing flat.

Next, Little Tong Noodle Shop owner Simone Tong explains how she came to open a restaurant serving mixian. These rice noodles, which are typically served in a brothy sauce with an array of toppings, hail from China’s Yunnan Province, and were largely unfamiliar to her customers. We both agreed that building a restaurant around a relatively unknown dish might not have been the wisest business decision, but she was undeterred. “I was naive and I was brave,” she says. “I was like a New Yorker, confident.”

Tong’s confidence and bravery were well rewarded. “Yeah, like you and many other food writers, supporters and foodies, they eat my food and they decided that they like it and they share the stories…and slowly, gradually people come. People come and I cook.”

Finally, we listen to Serious Eats’ very own pastry wizard Stella Parks as she tackles an at-home version of the famed (enormous) Levain chocolate chip cookie. “These cookies are no joke,” she says. “They came not to play, but to slay. You can kill a man with these cookies. Not that you should, but if you needed to, it would certainly get the job done.” You can watch the full video of her process and get the recipe for those cookies right here.


Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce 2.0, Serious Eats’ podcast about food and life. Every week on Special Sauce, we begin with Ask Kenji, where Kenji Lopez-Alt gives the definitive answer to the question of the week that a serious eater like you has sent us.

J. Kenji Lopez Alt: Freezer burn can happen even when you store food in plastic bags. Freezing submerged in brine will prevent that from happening.

EL: After Ask Kenji, a conversation with our guests, Simone Tong, chef proprietor of Little Tong Noodle Shop in New York City.

Simone Tong: Instead of telling, saying that I’m inauthentic, ask yourself this question. Is it delicious? Would I put a smile on you?

EL: And finally on today’s podcast, a teachable moment from the Serious Eats test kitchen.

Stella Parks: These cookies are big. How big? Extremely big. Six ounces a pop. If anyone leaves a comment on this recipe, can I make these cookies smaller? The answer is no.

EL: First up, our chief culinary consultant, author of The Food Lab, Kenji Lopez Alt. And Kenji, serious eater Dave Shorr says, “I live in Manitoba, Canada, and I have a contact on a Hutterite farm who sells me chicken right from the farm. Nothing comes close to the taste, flavor and quality of these particular chickens. The problem is he only sells them frozen. If I’m making Kenji spatchcock chicken, no problem, but I would like to be able to quarter some and use different parts for different uses.

JKLA: First of all, I have, I actually happen to have a Hutterite chicken in my freezer right now.

EL: Is Hutterite like a kind of chicken? Is it a place?

JKLA: No, no, no. Hutterites are a religious group, an ethnic religious group. They’re similar to sort of Amish and Mennonites. Just like you can get, you can probably near Pennsylvania you can probably get Amish chickens.

EL: Any tips?

JKLA: You can defrost the chicken carefully, let it defrost in the fridge overnight. You could break it down, you could then refreeze it if you want. Even though the government recommends you don’t, as long as you’re careful about not letting it stay defrosted for too long between. Let it defrost, break it down as soon as you can with clean hands, freeze it again. Then as far as safety goes, it should be fine. Quality wise, you definitely you lose, it’s detrimental to both texture and sort of moisture level. Chicken tends to get a little fibrous and drier, the more defrost and freezing cycle it goes, cycles it goes through. And this is because water crystals inside the chicken, water inside the chickens muscles, it freezes and it forms crystals and those kind of jagged crystals will break up muscle structures.

It kind of can turn the chicken a little mushy. It makes it so that it doesn’t retain moisture as well. Yeah, so it can definitely harm texture. The way I would get around that texture issue would be to freeze it in brine. Freeze your chicken pieces in brine. Rather than freezing them just to kind of bare in bags, I would make a brine, maybe a 3% to 4% saltwater solution. Put your chicken into plastic bags, pour enough brine in there that you can seal the bags off without any air in them so that the chickens are sort of completely surrounded by that brine, and then freeze them flat on a tray.

What this does is, first of all, it protects the surface of the chicken from freezer burn, which is an issue when you do sort of extended storage. Freezer burn is what happens when ice crystals inside a frozen food, they do, they go through a process called sublimation, which is where they convert directly from solid to gas without turning into liquid water in the interim. They go directly from being frozen ice crystals to water vapor and they leave the food. It’s the same process as what happens in freeze drying. It’s just that freeze drying is a controlled process whereas freezer burn is something you don’t want. Freezer burn can happen even when you store food in plastic bags and the more you freeze it and the more you defrost and freeze it, the easier, the more likely it is that that’s going to happen. Freezing submerged in brine will prevent that from happening. That’s one way to sort of save texture a little bit.

More importantly, the brine as the chicken is freezing and defrosting, it acts as if you were sort of soaking the chicken and a brine overnight, so it’ll help that chicken retain more moisture, which you’re really going to want to do because chicken that’s been frozen repeatedly is much more prone to losing moisture. That would be my solution.

EL: No pun intended. That would be your solution.

JKLA: Yes, my saline solution. The real question I would have is though, if you’re defrosting one chicken, I don’t know, it just feels like surely there are things, there’s enough things you can do with a chicken. Even if you live by yourself, that you could get through one whole chicken before it goes bad. You can roast it whole and have all that cooked chicken meat to use in other dishes through the week. You could portion it and cook the, braise the legs or grill the breasts, whatever. There’s a lot of things you can do with a chicken that even if you’re eating it for a week, I think, I don’t know, I just, I personally can’t imagine a scenario where I would defrost the chicken, break it up and then freeze it again only to defrost it a second time.

EL: When you say a 4% brining solution, how do you know what’s 4%?

JKLA: You use a scale. And you just go by weight. A liter of water weighs exactly a kilogram. And so a kilogram is a 1,000 grams and so 4% of that is 40 grams of salt. For every liter of water you would add 40 grams of salt.

EL: Dave Shorr is now in so much better shape as a result of your explanation. He’s going to be thrilled.

EL: Kenji Lopez-Alt is Serious Eats’ chief culinary consultant and author of The Food Lab. Do send in your questions to Kenji to specialsauce@seriouseats.com.

EL: Now it’s time to hear more from Simone Tong. Simone Tong is the chef proprietor of Little Tong Noodle Shop in New York City.

ST: Thank you.

EL: You went on some wacky adventure.

ST: When I was traveling in China, yes. I picked a province. Before I traveled to China, I met my business partner. I gave him three options or three ideas in my head. He picked one. I stuck with the one that I’m going to, which is visit to Yunnan because I grew up loving the rice noodle, mixian, in Yunnan, but I have actually never been to Yunnan. Yunnan mixian is very famous, very popular all around China. I grew up eating a lot of that in Changzhou every time I visit my grandparents, my relatives in Changzhou in summertime.

EL: But not popular here.

ST: Not popular here. Not popular here. It’s as popular if not more popular to like Vietnamese pho in China.

EL: Got it. You decided you were going to explore?

ST: Yeah, I decided that I should understand, get inspiration, know the stories of all these places in Yunnan. To eat all different kinds of rice noodles, all different kinds of mixian.

EL: And you went all over the place.

ST: I did.

EL: Where did go?

ST: I did. I went to, honestly, I went to some of the touristy cities or old towns. They call it because they’re very old. Lijiang is one of them. Kunming is the capital.

EL: Kunming it’s called?

ST: Kunming.

EL: Kunming.

ST: Yes. Perfect pronunciation. Kunming, it’s the capital. I add a lot of the Kunming style, little part, which is they cook mixian in copper pots. It’s a little sour. Means pork with chives, chili oil vinegar, peanuts.

EL: Sounds familiar.

ST: One of the mixian dish in Little Tong, it’s called little pot. Little pot, in a copper pot.

EL: And then you also went to ancient towns like Dali.

ST: Dali, yes. Lijiang. In Dali I found this woman run, hole in the wall, mixian place that specialized in black chicken mixian.

EL: Nice and black chicken of course they’re famous black chickens which you can get in Chinatown, for being spectacularly tasty.

ST: Yes. Good for making soup but tough meat. But in in Dali, that black chicken is the size of a turkey. It’s a different breed of a black chicken.

EL: Wow.

ST: I can’t get those chicken, but what I can get is very good chicken and get inspired from that and create my own stuff.

EL: Got it. And then you hiked through the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

ST: Yeah, I did. It was very cold and very beautiful. Very snowy. It was five, like 4,000 meters above sea level. I don’t know how much.

EL: It’s like over 12,000 feet. That’s pretty high up.

ST: Clean oxygen. Clean oxygen. But it was an adventure. Yes.

EL: And who was on this adventure with you?

ST: I picked up a few friends. On that particular adventure it was actually a friend of a friend from Chicago. He’s American. He, it was his first time traveling in China. He was traveling from Shanghai, Beijing and all the way he came to Yunnan. He had a great time too.

EL: And then you went to all these places I’ve never heard of, the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

ST: It was very angry, yellowish, muddy water that went through from the high mountains all the way the gorge and through the river out into Shanghai. In that section it was like chocolate milk in anger.

EL: Chocolate milk, angry chocolate milk.

ST: Angry chocolate milk.

EL: And then you went to some place called the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery.

ST: It was the second biggest monastery outside of Tibet. Built in I think Chin dynasty, by a famous Emperor, which it’s fading. My memory is fading, but yeah.

EL: Probably so is the monastery.

ST: It’s fascinating. I think they renovated it so it looks very glorious, very glorious with Tibetan monks walking around.

EL: And when you went on this trip, did you even know exactly why you were going? Or did you just…

ST: I know as far as I’m going there so to understand the food culture and the people and talk to the people, really get a feeling, a sense of what they do over there. I carried that sense and feeling with me back to New York and do what I do over here. But the details and specifics, I don’t really have a plan. I was very nervous, but I know I could depend on the app on my cellphone, which will be able for me to pay like Airbnb. I use Expedia, Airbnb and Uber. And DiDi the the equivalent of Uber there. Along the way I make a lot of friends.

EL: Got it.

ST: They were very good people and they were very friendly, very helpful.

EL: You flew back to New York?

ST: Yes. After a few months I flew back to New York and then I opened the restaurant in East Village. I did a lot of popups first and then open the restaurant.

EL: You did a lot of pop ups and did you do, you didn’t do Smorgasburg though, right?

ST: No. I just, some good friends who run restaurants offer me their space and I did the menu of like Little Tong 1.0, over there while the restaurant is renovating.

EL: Got it. And so you opened the restaurant and you’re serving food that nobody knows. To me it’s not maybe the best business plan I’ve ever heard.

ST: No, it’s not. It’s not. But I was naive and I was brave. I was like a New Yorker, confident.

EL: They go hand in hand, by the way. You have to be naive to be brave and brave to be naive.

ST: Yeah, I still want to be naive and brave. Yeah, like you and many other food writers, supporters and foodies, they eat my food and they decided that they like it and they share the stories and one to 10, 10 to a 100 and slowly, gradually people come. People come and I cook.

EL: Simone Tong is the chef proprietor of Little Tong Noodle Shop in New York City. I was struck the first time I went to the restaurant. It’s like, okay, there’s like six bowls of soup or whatever there is and it was maybe six small plates and it was just like, I really appreciated the fact when the second time I came back and there was the lunch special where you could get a small plate and a bowl of noodles. The first time, as you know, I ordered all the noodles and all the small plates, but they were really delicious and unusual. Were they direct descendants of what you’d tasted? Or where they filtered through your culinary imagination?

ST: Really it’s the second. It filter through my experience, my learning in the Blue D50 in 15 East, all my traveling over the different places where I grew up. You can’t taste Little Tong’s food and love it and then go back to Yunnan. You can’t find it there. You can’t find what’s authentically Yunnan at Little Tong either. You get the creative aspect and the structure of it. It is rice noodles. It sometimes it’s brothy, sometimes it’s cold, it’s sometimes it’s dry. And you get the idea that best flavors with seasonal ingredients that are local, that happened with using Chinese techniques. Also American techniques, also modern techniques and traditional techniques. And you’ve got this, all these dishes that are still changing.

EL: Yeah. And you sort of combined ingredients in unusual ways. These were not your typical chicken soups.

ST: They’re not. They’re not the typical chicken soup, but what is typical chicken soup?

EL: That’s true.

ST: Because every culture, every family are different.

EL: Yeah. And people took to it right away?

ST: A lot of the, I have to say, not a lot, some Chinese take it as not Chinese food.

EL: They were disappointed.

ST: They were disappointed or they were angry. They are like, some of them are like, “I am from Yunnan and you’re not from Yunnan and you shouldn’t call this mixian because these are not mixian.”

EL: Wow.

ST: Some of them are like, “Why are you charging this so cheap?”

EL: This is like intra-Chinese cultural appropriation.

ST: In a way.

EL: Have you thought about that?

ST: In a way. In a way. But I think everybody has the right to do what they feel right with their own passion. That’s why we open different kinds of restaurants. That’s why everybody has different tastes, different interests. That’s why we don’t like all the same thing. Yet we still like one another.

EL: Right. Yeah. I’m with you. And were you surprised and excited when Pete Wells gave you a full review?

ST: Again, with my naivete, I hope that he would come. I really do. I think I thought too highly of myself, but he did come so I didn’t realize, oh my God, he actually came. We didn’t know that he came three times. We only saw him the last time, on the third time when he was asked for a new chopstick because he dropped it on the floor. Clearly we weren’t trained really well. I remember when I first read the articles, my publicist sent me the article. I was carrying 15 bags of things in Chinatown and I was like, okay, let me put it down on the street and take out my phone. My hand was shaking. I’m like, oh, what did he write? And I was like, let me just scroll down and see what’s the report card. What did the report card say? I was like, oh, okay.

EL: Every time I’ve been in there, you’re there. You do a lot of work. You are not afraid of hard work. You are not, you don’t have a big staff do you?

ST: No, I don’t. This is New York.

EL: I noticed that.

ST: Labor cost is very high. I do work. I came, yeah, I just came from the restaurant.

EL: And so now you have two.

ST: Yes.

EL: Right? One in the East Village, the original and one on Midtown East.

ST: Yes, Midtown East.

EL: And you’re about, and you’re going to open a third?

ST: Yeah. We are going to open a third one in the Garment District, but the third one is in a food hall.

EL: In a food hall.

ST: We’re one of the seven.

EL: Got it.

ST: Seven vendors in the food hall.

EL: Do you worry that you lose control when you’re in a food hall?

ST: Oh yes. I’m always worried. I’m a little bit of a control lover.

EL: Really, I kind of figured that out.

ST: I like everything to be organized, but I’m also chaotic. I need people to help me organize things. And I don’t like to, yeah, lose control because if I lose control, I lost consistency. I lose consistency. I lose the trust from the people that love the food and I would lose everything.

EL: I’ve sent some people to Little Tong and the flavors are too strange for them. I never felt that. I was like, the food always made sense to me. It had great internal logic.

ST: Yeah. Thank you.

EL: Do you ever get that? Like this is just too weird for me?

ST: I can see that. I can see that because if I grew up only eating authentic Chinese food from the Canton area and then suddenly you asked me to eat Yunnan cuisine that has cheese, has fermented rose petals, has different kind of rose wine, I would feel very strange. I would say, “This is not very Chinese food that I know of.” Cross-regional, everybody would already think, they’re not used to eat different regions of Chinese food and all the more, if they come to me, they’re like, wow, you’re using black garlic aioli with cumin lamb and then with baby pea shoots. And so that’s a little strange.

ST: But however they go well, the flavor goes well. If you are willing to try it instead of telling, saying that I’m inauthentic, ask yourself this question, is it delicious? Are you willing to eat it? Would that put a smile on you? Then if you don’t prejudge me, maybe you will open your mind and heart. It’s like appreciating music. Some of the music are really funky, if you are used to jazz, you probably don’t like hip hop. I don’t know, I’m not a music expert.

EL: And now I just read that you’re opening another concept, which is nothing like Little Tong.

ST: I’m growing braver and more and more naive.

EL: I love that. And so tell us about this because this is going to be in the Village.

ST: Yeah, in the West Village.

EL: On Cornelia Street and it’s called Silver Apricots.

ST: Yeah, Silver Apricot.

EL: And what’s going to happen at Silver Apricot?

ST: Silver Apricot is a celebration of Chinese Americans, overseas Chinese, Chinese Americans that grew up in this land and all the regions and all their flavors and it’s going to be a celebration of that in a nontraditional way.

EL: What will we find on the menu?

ST: For example, you know this thing called zongzi. Zongzi is a sticky rice wrap in sometimes banana leaf, sometimes bamboo leaf, sometimes lotus leaf. You can find that in a lot of Cantonese restaurants.

EL: Pronounce it again.

ST: Zongzi. It’s like Chinese tamale.

EL: Got it.

ST: Everybody loved it. If you go to dim sum, the Cantonese like it. That is a very, a truly Chinatown, New York, Chinese American, Chinese dish, Chinese American dish. I want to celebrate that and many other very homey ingredients or homey style of cooking in Silver Apricot, but elevate it.

EL: Elevate that.

ST: Elevate that.

EL: And then also serve some non-Chinese oriented food. Or is it all going to be based on some kind of Chinese?

ST: It’s going to be based on some kind of Chinese romantic stories and history that people are very familiar with. That everybody’s familiar with Peking duck, but perhaps I won’t be serving Peking duck for example. I might be serving right now I’m thinking, this week I’m thinking I’m trying to, grawls or Rohan duck.

EL: Got it.

ST: Or pigeon, not pigeon, squab.

EL: Squab, sure.

ST: Not pigeon, pigeon would be bad. Not pigeon, squab.

EL: Especially in New York.

ST: Or quail.

EL: People have a bad association with pigeons. But so you’re, what I read, you’re also going to be playing with house-made cheeses for example.

ST: Yeah. I’m also maybe not so much house-made cheeses. Perhaps some sausage.

EL: Got it.

ST: Some ham, some dry aged ham. But definitely the Murray Hill Cheese is our neighbor so we’ll talk with them and see if they can partner with us.

EL: Yeah. You said something in this story I read in Edible Manhattan, you said as Chinese Americans’ identity is something we think a lot about whether we do so of our own volition or because social constructs compel us to. And that’s not unique to just Chinese Americans. We’re sure that like us, any immigrants or first generation children of immigrants are acutely aware of how difficult it is to concisely qualify their identity. It is through Silver Apricot that we will be able to show rather than tell New Yorkers and visitors alike what it means to us to be Chinese American today.

ST: Very ambitious.

EL: Very ambitious, and very eloquent on your part.

ST: I didn’t write that. That was my idea, our idea, but my general manager.

EL: Got it. Excellent writer.

ST: Yeah, she’s after half a bottle of wine, she’s even better. But that is the true essence of what we want to do in Silver Apricot.

EL: And again, it’s like you’re not afraid to just go for it.

ST: I’m sure I’ll get a lot of people that doesn’t like me.

EL: Have you thought about just like opening a ramen shop?

ST: Yeah, I opened a ramen shop. It’s called Little Tong Noodle Shop. People don’t think that my noodle is ramen enough.

EL: Right, right. It’s not ramen in the way they think. It’s a noodle shop.

ST: Yes. But ramen is a type of noodle shop. Noodle shop is a terrible sin.

EL: It sounds like you’re going to be, you have a lot of Chinese oriented concepts inside your head rattling around.

ST: Yes. Yes. I want to do Chinese technique that makes sense in this Silver Apricot concept with New York or tri-state ingredients. Good seasonal ingredients, which is actually very Chinese in and of itself.

EL: The most important question is, are your parents cool now with what you’re doing?

ST: Oh they are, definitely.

EL: They must be really proud. Because you could send them the Times review. Once you send them the Times review they’re like, Simone, she’s all right.

ST: She’s all right. Yes. They are very proud and very happy. They just want me to have a life outside of restaurants if possible.

EL: If possible.

ST: Yes. Find love and all that.

EL: All right, so all right, it’s time for the Special Sauce all you can answer buffet, but don’t worry, take as much time as you want. But so who’s at your last supper? No family allowed.

ST: Oh, no family.

EL: No family.

ST: Just one person though?

EL: No, four people.

ST: Four people. Okay. Okay. Mother Teresa, Picasso.

EL: Good, Picasso’s awesome.

ST: I know, Salvador Dali. I just need one more. Ah, John Lennon.

EL: John Lennon. What a great table.

ST: He likes Chinese food. He goes to Mandarin at the San Francisco a lot.

EL: He used to.

ST: He used to.

EL: Wow.

ST: I think. Mandarin restaurant.

EL: What are you eating?

ST: I want to serve them the Manchurian, the Chinese Manchurian feast. Is that what it’s called, feast? Yeah. I’m going to serve them farmer’s food.

EL: Farmer’s food.

ST: Yes. There’s such a thing of farmer’s food because the farmers have chickens and they grow on their farm and they just stir fry and kill the chicken and make some very peasant food. Peasant food, that’s what it’s called.

EL: Got it.

ST: Delicious home cooked peasant food.

EL: Deep braised things.

ST: Deep braised things.

EL: And stews.

ST: Stir fry, stews, herbs from the mountains and make a salad. Throw a chili vinaigrette on it.

EL: All right, and what are you listening to?

ST: Mozart.

EL: Mozart.

ST: Mozart.

EL: Okay.

ST: Universal.

EL: Do you have guilty pleasures that you wouldn’t like us to know about, but when you get hungry that you just have to have?

ST: I think it would be coffee ice cream.

EL: Coffee ice cream. Does it matter what brand?

ST: It does. But I don’t want to say the brand, it’s so mass produced. Should I say the brand?

EL: Yeah. You could say the brand.

ST: Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream.

EL: It’s an excellent coffee ice cream.

ST: I love that coffee ice cream.

EL: We had a Nicolas Morganstern here from Morgenstern’s ice cream, and he brought some Vietnamese coffee ice cream. And you need to try that. It’s not even far from your restaurant.

ST: Is this too sweet? Is this sweet?

EL: It’s not very sweet.

ST: Okay. Because Vietnamese coffee has condensed milk, I think.

EL: Yeah. No, no, it’s not very sweet.

ST: I love coffee ice cream. I’ll definitely try it.

EL: Three things in your kitchen you can’t do without.

ST: Chopstick.

EL: Okay.

ST: A chef knife.

EL: Okay.

ST: And a peeler.

EL: A peeler.

ST: Peeler.

EL: And what do you cook when there’s nothing in the house to eat?

ST: Fried eggs.

EL: Fried eggs.

ST: Chinese fried eggs, the crispies and the runny, crispy bottom and runny yolk. With some soy sauce.

EL: Which those you call Chinese fried eggs. And I associate them with Spanish fried eggs. Because you get the crispy bottom. And then do you spoon the oil to cook the top?

ST: Yes, to baste it. Yeah. Spanish Chinese eggs.

EL: Spanish Chinese eggs.

ST: Everybody’s fried eggs. Yes, yes.

EL: I like that. All right. It’s just been declared Simone Tong day, all over the world.

ST: Oh wow.

EL: In your case, all the places you’ve lived.

ST: Wow.

EL: What’s happening on that day in Melbourne? In Singapore? And Macau?

ST: On that day, all children must cook for their parents. In whatever, however they can gather whatever ingredients, they must cook a dinner.

EL: Because their parents deserve a little time off.

ST: Yes. And the children should find that very fun and the parents should try to swallow whatever food that the children put on, whether it’s delicious or not. It’s mutual appreciation thing.

EL: It’s mutual appreciation day. I love that. All right. Thank you so much for sharing your Special Sauce Simone Tong.

ST: Thank you.

EL: Such a pleasure.

ST: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

EL: If you find yourself in New York City, visit one of Simone startlingly different and seriously delicious Little Tong Noodle Shops. And now it’s time to head over to the Serious Eats test kitchen where our pastry wizard Stella Parks, author of Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, will lead us through the creation of a killer confection. By the way, no need to take notes, her detailed recipe is at seriouseats.com along with a video.

Stella Parks: Hey everybody, we’re here today with some really epic cookies. These are Levain-style copycat chocolate chip cookies fashioned after a bakery in New York that makes these giant monster cookies. These cookies are no joke. They came not to play, but to slay. You can kill a man with these cookies. Not that you should, but if you needed to, it would certainly get the job done. It would also make for an interesting game of Clue.

We’re making this cookie dough. It’s really easy because there’s a standby so he’ll do all the work for us. We’re going to throw in all these ingredients. First up, some light brown sugar. This is the kind of situation where light brown sugar matters. Dark brown sugar is going to have molasses content that’s a little too high and it’s going to cause the cookies to spread more. Do not want, we want these cookies to stay thick.

Crowd favorite here seriouseats.com, toasted sugar. This recipe does not require toasted sugar. If you don’t have any, don’t worry about it. You can start making cookies right now with plain white sugar. It’s not going to be a real deal breaker if you don’t have it, but if you do, push it over the top. Salt, baking powder and baking soda. Next up, a little bit of butter, a little bit, it’s a whole stick. It’s a quarter pound of butter. It’s plenty of butter. There it is. It’s been softened to cool room temperature about 60, 65 degrees. Vanilla. The vanilla, going to do a whole dang tablespoon that’s a half an ounce for you all doing the math at home.

A little bit of a secret ingredient here is an extremely small amount of nutmeg. We’re talking the smallest amount of nutmeg. It’s like 0.1 grams if we were to weigh it out. Nutmeg has this cool power or it makes butter tastes more buttery, so that’s why we’re putting it in here. If you can taste the nutmeg, you’ve added too much. Don’t overdo it. This is a real delicate matter so just go on. That’s it. Okay, going to pop this on the mixer. Trusty paddle attachment. I’m going to start out on low speed just to get everything combined and then crank it up to medium so we can get some light and fluffy business going on. Going to crank up the speed.

Just waiting for that light and fluffy magic. These are eggs straight from the fridge. I’m kind of cavalier and I’m just going to crack them straight in. If you’re not comfortable doing that, you can crack them into a little bowl and then tip them in. Boop. When it starts to smooth back out, it’s time for egg number two. Boop. Going to decrease the speed here to low and add our all purpose flour. Do, do, do, do, do, doot. Once the flour is mostly incorporated, it’s time to the walnuts, raw walnuts. You’re using pecans, I’d recommend toasting them first.

If you’ve been baking with me along on seriouseats.com or in my book, Bravetart, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of chopped chocolate in cookies, so you might be surprised to see that I’m using chocolate chips in this recipe. Historically in America, chocolate chips have been made of a very low quality chocolate, tends to be a little bit harsh and unbalanced. Nowadays there are a lot of different chocolate chips on the market and in fact, I have made my own chocolate chip blend using eight different brands of chocolate chips. We’ve got some big guys and some little guys, some chocolate chunks. This recipe has more chocolate than butter and sugar combined. For that reason, using a mix of different chocolates is really going to make the flavor pop overall instead of every single bite tasting like the exact same chocolate, you get some different nuances and it really adds some depth of flavor. It creates a more interesting chocolate profile.

That’s it. All right, so these cookies are six ounces a pop. Got a little wax paper on the scale here so I don’t have to wash it in between uses. Here goes, five and one eighths ounces. I was close. I was close. Six and one eighths, that’s like one chocolate chip too many. Shout out to my friend Cheryl who described this as a threatening amount of cookie dough. Anyhow, it’s time for little dough wrangling. These monsters need to be wrestled into some spherical like shape, so the best way to do that is by hand. If you guys are squeamish, you don’t want to touch dough, I don’t know why you’re baking. Just round it up into a nice spherical shape. Plop it on a baking sheet. We’re not baking them right now. This is a type of dough that benefits from aging overnight in the fridge. Kind of helps kick start Maillard browning, so the cookies get some nice color in the oven. It also helps keep them nice and thick. Lets the flours hydrate, promotes a little bit of chewiness. I’m just going to cover these in plastic and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Whole day has passed. If you can even believe it. I know it seems like only seconds. This is some dough that has been chilling for 24 hours in the fridge. You can tell I’m not lying because that’s the thud of six ounces of chocolate chip cookie dough intimidation. I’m only baking four because there’s not that many people here at Serious Eats today and there’s no way all eight because these will be eaten. We would die. All right, going to pop these in the oven. See you later.

Look at these three perfect angels and a hell spawn. We have three perfect cookies and one intentional screw up. This cookie is what happens when you don’t roll up the dough. After portioning all the dough, I roll it into a nice smooth ball that ensures the cookie spreads at a slow even rate and it keeps them nice and thick. If the dough is just left in our rough hodgepodge pile, this is what happens. It spreads every which way and it spreads a lot thinner. If you’ve ever wondered why someone went to the trouble to write such an obnoxious detail in a recipe, this is why.

These cookies are so thick and chunky that using a thermometer is a really good way to test them, to make sure that they’re fully cooked. You want to see them somewhere on the upper 170s to low 180s. It’s weighty. It’s a six ounce wad of dough. It’s hefty and it’s loaded with chocolate chips and walnuts. The gang is all here guys, so thanks for joining me on this emotional roller coaster as we tackled the largest cookies known to man. These cookies can end a person, but we’re here. We’re alive. We made them. Well, I did and you can do too.

EL: No staff members were harmed in the eating of these dangerously large cookies. Again, details of Stella Parks’ recipe are at seriouseats.com. More from our test kitchen next time. That’s it for today. Next week on Special Sauce Kenji will be back to answer with his usual scientific precision, your culinary question of the week. Do send in those questions to specialsauce@seriouseats.com. All this and a special guest on next week’s Special Sauce. So long, serious eaters. See you next time.