Across The Table From Al Roker
NBC's Today's show co-host chats about grilling, romance and one news anchor's cooking abilities
Al Roker is co-host of NBC's Today show, the host of Wake Up With Al on The Weather Channel and author of Al Roker's Big Bad Book of Barbecue.
Will you grill for Father's Day and the Fourth of July?
Oh, yeah. I grill all the time—steak, lamb or fish. I also barbecue pork shoulders.
What's your signature dish?
A bone-end rib eye, grilled asparagus, and potatoes wrapped in foil and baked on the grill.
Who's the best nonprofessional cook you know?
Today's Ann Curry. She makes a really good pasta puttanesca.
What would be your ideal setting for a meal?
If it's with our three kids, it'd be all of us together in our dining room. If it's a warm summer day, it would be in the backyard; and if it's a romantic meal with my wife, it would be in a restaurant with a view of a pretty skyline.
Do you have any beefs with amateur grillers?
People flip and poke the meat too much and press on burgers with a spatula. Let the meat cook on one side and then flip it—once. And putting steak sauce on a really fine cut of meat is sacrilege.
What food most reminds you of your childhood?
Grilled cheese sandwiches with cream of tomato soup. My mother would put butter on the bread before grilling it for lunch. There's no diner near work, so I haven't had it in a long time.
What's the best home-cooked meal you've ever eaten?
My mother's Thanksgiving feast: turkey, ham, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, peas and rice, and salad. She had a four-burner and an oven; I've got two Viking ovens, six burners and a griddle, and I still don't know how she did it.
What's your guilty pleasure?
French fries, usually with ketchup, sometimes with aioli.
What's your must-have kitchen utensil?
My cast-iron skillet. You can do anything in it: bake corn bread, and roast or fry chicken.
Any last food for thought?
Enjoy yourself when you cook. Don't look at it as a chore.
My Mom's Peas and Rice
"In the Caribbean and in the South, some beans are known as 'peas.' For example, black-eyed peas, which are really beans. You could call this recipe beans and rice, but then maybe you'd get confused with franks and beans. All I know is, it tastes great.
"My mother has made her patented peas and rice for family picnics and barbecues since I was a little boy. I think that was her way of making sure she would get invited. She is known far and wide for her peas and rice, and with good reason. Her only nod to conveniences is to use canned kidney beans."
½ pound salt pork, cut into 4 chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups white rice
6 cups water
Freshly ground pepper
3 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained, rinsed and drained again
1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and add the salt pork. Cook for several minutes, until the pork renders a tablespoon or so of fat. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the pot, lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Pour in the water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
3. Stir the beans into the rice and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove the salt pork and discard. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.