Alton Brown has been tempting us with delicious dishes on TV for over 20 years, with his Food Network hit show Good Eats. Brown looked back to his early days, and early cookbooks, when putting together Good Eats: The Final Years. In it, he reviewed the tapes of the earliest seasons of his show and then went back to revamp 145 of those recipes.
Brown will stop by Dallas on his book tour on Monday, May 9 at the Williams Sonoma in NorthPark Center at 5:30 p.m. (tickets are still available). Good Eats: The Finals Years is in bookstores now.
Brown hopped on the phone while in an airport at the start of his tour to talk to Eater Dallas about a very important food: corn dogs. He also shared the secret to his revamped margarita recipe and how you can make it at home, plus his favorite spots to eat in the big D.
Eater Dallas: As you’re very well aware, the State Fair of Texas takes place in Dallas and Fletcher’s corn dogs are a big deal here. But they’re notoriously difficult to make at home and get that delicious crunch. I’d love to hear about the development of your corn dog recipe and what we can do to more successfully make them at home.
Alton Brown: The whole thing about making a really great corn dog at home is controlling the viscosity of the batter. You’ve got to have a batter that is thick enough to grab hold, and it’s got to have enough gluten construct to stay on there so it doesn’t become this kind of flat thing. People also have to figure out how they’re going to fry them. My original recipe was was made for like an electric frying pan. We found that deep frying was better overall. The first version I did was was a shallow pan fry and an electric fry pan, but it doesn’t give the “carnival look” that everybody wants. The other thing to be mindful of is getting the balance of the leavening right, so that you don’t get a tough outer coating. And you also want it to be able to round properly. I’d like to think that the one we’ve got in the book is carefully designed to hit that exact visual of, yeah, that looks like a corn dog, only it tastes better than most corndogs.
Do you have a mustard preference?
I am a strong believer in French’s American yellow mustard when it comes to a corn dog. I think you need the sharpness. I love brown mustard, but not on that.
I am also especially interested in the margarita making an appearance in your cookbook. I’d love to hear about how you changed your recipe on a classic cocktail.
Well, a lot of people have complained about my original margarita recipe because I boiled it down to the point that I’d gotten rid of the orange liqueur. People were turned off by that, everyone’s used to using triple sec or Grand Marnier or whatever. In starting this all over again, I decided we’ll put the liqueur in but we’ve got to make the liqueur from scratch, which we do. I think it renders a massively superior product. Part of that is because we put bitter orange peel in the in the bag, using vodka and other flavorings to make that liqueur. Using the bitter orange peel is what gives the the liqueur real depth.
If you’ve got an immersion circulator and a Ziploc bag, you can do it. I would own an immersion circulator for no other reason than to make liqueurs. It is such a great way of making highly infused cordials and liqueurs. I think it’s worth worth the price of admission.
I was in Texas with my my wife [designer Elizabeth Ingram] in the fall of last year and COVID goes completely prevented us from from going anywhere. When I come in this time, I’ll be in town I think nine hours. I’m gonna get whatever they throw at me at the airport. That’s just the luck of the draw. There are so many great places to eat in Dallas. I won’t even make it down to Pecan Lodge for barbecue which is one of my favorites. And there’s a gas station taco that I like a lot. I can never remember the name of the station, but I know how to get there.
What was your favorite wormhole of information about food that you went down while you were putting this cookbook together?
The real wormholes were going back into the original scripts. This book has to two seasons of Good Eats: Reloaded, and then the season of Reloaded that we didn’t get to make. It’s the first time that I’ve included in a book, anything from a show that didn’t actually get made. We had prepped an entire third season of Good Eats: Reloaded, and fell afoul of budgetary issues. And so the shows never got made, but I decided to publish all the recipes in anyway. Those are actually my favorite recipes in the book. There are 26 or 30 recipes from that, all things we developed for the show that we didn’t get to use.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.