Samin Nosrat's tips on making the perfect chicken : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Tom Bodett celebrates a heroic payphone and gets advice from author Samin Nosrat.

Celebrating a heroic payphone, plus Samin Nosrat's tips on making the perfect chicken

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Hey, everyone, I'm Emma Choi from Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! This is EVERYONE AND THEIR MOM, with a story we just got to know more about. This week, we're phoning home with Wait Wait panelist, comedian and my No. 1 choice for an apocalypse survival buddy. It's Tom Bodett. Hi, Tom.


TOM BODETT: Hi, Emma. Thank you very much.

CHOI: Thanks for being here. Let's just get right into it. I want you to imagine you're a little kid, OK? And you're lost, and you're praying for a miracle to come save you. Well, that's exactly what happened in our story this week. Last fall, a man in Minnesota, Brian Davis, turned heads by finally fulfilling every man's greatest dream. He finally installed a pay phone in his front yard.

BODETT: These days, just finding a pay phone anywhere is kind of a miracle.

CHOI: Yeah, I know. It's, like, something of a novelty in the neighborhood, right? So people come to gawk at it, to take prom pictures with it. And a lot of people thought that Brian was crazy. But Brian and his pay phone actually made the news recently when a lost boy used the phone to call 911 to rescue himself. Brian's pay phone is a hero, you know? Take that, haters.

BODETT: What happened? I mean, what was the kid - he was lost, like, in this guy's neighborhood?


BRIAN DAVIS: Hello. This is Brian.

CHOI: Brian?

DAVIS: Hey. Hi, Emma. How are you?

CHOI: Oh, my God, it works. Would you introduce yourself to us?

DAVIS: Oh, absolutely. So I'm Brian Davis, and, Emma, you just called me on my pay phone, so...

CHOI: Can you tell me where you are right now?

DAVIS: Just out front - my front yard. It's kind of cool 'cause incoming calls are free, so I don't have to pay any money to talk to you, so...

CHOI: That's awesome. OK, I'll let you go back inside, but let's keep talking.


CHOI: So we heard that a kid used your front yard pay phone to call for help.

DAVIS: He did. He did (laughter).

CHOI: Yeah, would you mind telling us that story from the beginning?

DAVIS: So, I mean, the pay phone itself - I installed this back Labor Day of last year and just, like, a couple of weeks ago, I got out, made coffee. I'm looking out the kitchen window, and I kind of notice, like, this young boy kind of running around, playing and stuff. And he seemed a little young to be maybe by himself. And so I just was kind of paying attention to him, and eventually he made it to the pay phone. So I went up to him, and I actually - I walked way up around him 'cause I didn't want to scare him. And he's on the receiver, and he's talking to somebody. So I said, hey, are you talking to somebody? And he's - he kind of shushed me away, and he said, yes. So then I kind of smile. I thought, OK, this kid's really into make-believing. So I walked away. I came back in the house, and then all of a sudden, there's, like, three squad cars out front. And I thought, oh, my goodness, what number did this kid dial?

CHOI: Yeah.

DAVIS: So I went back outside, and the officers were there, and I said, did he call you guys? And he said, yes, he called us because he was lost. So that's what happened. He's from another city, and he was here visiting his grandparents. And I live right across the street from, like, a city park. So he made his way to the city park, but for some reason, maybe he just didn't know how to get home.

CHOI: Yeah. Can you take us to the moment this phone dream was born? Like, did you just wake up one morning and realize, like, my calling is to install a pay phone in my front yard?

DAVIS: Well, I knew it was kind of a crazy thought, you know?

CHOI: Right.

DAVIS: Yeah. And I wasn't sure if I could really pull it off, you know? Like, OK, I can really get this phone to ring? And so I actually covered it up with a moving blanket. I hooked up all the wires and stuff under a blanket. It was, like, 100 degrees out. I had a flashlight. You know, I'm kind of in the dark, but it's during the day - because I just was so nervous, like, can I really do this? Can I get this thing to work? And so when I kind of had all the wires hooked up and stuff, I called my cell phone from the pay phone. And that was just, like, the craziest, coolest thing. Like...

CHOI: I feel like that's how Alexander Graham Bell felt like when his first telephone started ringing, you know? He's like, pour myself a drink. I did it. That's awesome (laughter).

DAVIS: Yeah.

CHOI: Well, you always wanted a pay phone in your yard, and your dream came true, so do you have anything to say to our listeners about pursuing their dreams?

DAVIS: Oh, my gosh. Go for it - absolutely, 100%, go for it. If it's - if you've been thinking about it for more than, you know, a month or something - I don't know.

CHOI: (Laughter).

DAVIS: ...Just absolutely go for it. People were like, you really want people in your yard? And I'm like, come on, that's the least of my worries. You know, it's just - it's supposed to be fun, positive, you know, get whatever you want out of it, do your thing. You know, call mom, make a prank phone call - whatever you want to do, you know?

CHOI: Yeah. What a beautiful, fun, joyful thing to have in your front yard.

DAVIS: Yeah.

CHOI: Thank you for talking. This was great.

DAVIS: Well, thank you so much. Truly.


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) We've got all tonight. And when you don't want to be alone, I put my number in your phone.

CHOI: You know what's funny about this story? This guy was basically saying, kids get on my yard, you know? And I think that's a really refreshing take from get off my yard, kids.

BODETT: Yeah, yeah. You know, it's possible, too, that he just ran out of things to do. I have friends like that now. You know, men reach a certain age, especially if they've retired, or perhaps they have businesses or work that don't take up a lot of their time. They really don't know what to do with themselves. And they come up with really weird things.

CHOI: Yeah.

BODETT: Yeah. I have a friend who has five grills. Oh. No, they're all different. They're - I mean, to him, they're all different.

CHOI: That's a cry for help.

CHAD FARNUM: Well, in my defense, they all do something different. And some are very specific. So that's kind of how - you know, that's why I have five. My name is Chad Farnum, and I'm a friend of Tom Bodett's.

CHOI: Hell yeah. Me, too. Yeah, walk us through. What does each of your five grills do specially?

FARNUM: OK. So the first one that I ever got was a charcoal grill. And then I have a gas grill that's very similar to that. Then I have an offset smoker for cooking pieces of meat like ribs or a brisket or if you want a smoked chicken to make it really soft and tender. And then I have a griddle. And then I just got grill number five yesterday, as a matter of fact, and just put it together.


FARNUM: So I'm in this special group of friends. There's six of us, and Tom is one of them. And I just turned 50. And for my birthday they bought me this grill. So it got delivered yesterday. It was a complete surprise and very - I almost cried. So it was such a special moment. So....

CHOI: Oh. Happy birthday.

FARNUM: Thank you.

CHOI: Chad, if you met a grill master, is there anything you'd want to ask them, like, anything you're trying to troubleshoot?

FARNUM: You know, I don't have a good chicken recipe. Like, what would be the best way to take a chicken and prepare it either on the smoker or on one of the other many grills that I have? I don't have a good chicken recipe. I have a few that I've tried that I haven't been happy with.

CHOI: Yeah. A whole chicken?


CHOI: Yeah. What kind of event are you thinking?

FARNUM: I think I'd be thinking of a chicken for the family. Like, you know, I'd like to - you know, you go to the grocery store, and those rotisserie chickens are so juicy and delicious.

CHOI: Yeah.

FARNUM: And I've never been able to replicate that at home. So how would I cook the chicken just right to be that juicy and that flavorful?

CHOI: Ooh, I want to know that, too.


SAMIN NOSRAT: Hi. My name is Samin Nosrat, and I'm a writer, a teacher and a cook. I wrote "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat."

CHOI: Yes, the New York Times bestselling cookbook. Yeah, and you're a celebrity chef, food writer and the reason our producer Jennifer owns Diamond Crystal salt. So thank you for changing her life.

NOSRAT: (Laughter).

CHOI: And you're writing another cookbook, "What To Cook," like, as we speak, right?

NOSRAT: Very, very slowly, yes (laughter).

CHOI: That's so exciting. Well, Samin, you wanted to talk to you because we just talked to a man named Chad who has five grills, OK?

NOSRAT: Oh, Chad.

CHOI: Is that a lot of grills?

NOSRAT: That's a lot of - well, I mean, I don't know what Chad's life is like, what his job is.

CHOI: Sure.

NOSRAT: But it sounds like a lot of grills to me, yeah.

CHOI: I mean, how many girls do you have?

NOSRAT: I hesitate to admit that I have two, but they're very small.

CHOI: Are there other cooking tools you have multiples of?

NOSRAT: Many (laughter).

CHOI: Yeah. What's the tool that you have the most of?

NOSRAT: I have so many - like, an absurd number - of wooden spoons.

CHOI: (Laughter) What?

NOSRAT: I actually - I should have counted before we got on the line.

CHOI: Yeah.

NOSRAT: But I actually - it's one of those things where everywhere I go, like, any trip I take, I collect wooden spoons. But also, I think before it became an intentional collection, it was a thing that one of my best friends, Aaron, who's an art historian - and a lot of his research takes him to countries in Latin America and South America - he would just bring me the most sort of, like, absurdly large wooden spoons, like, almost the size of a shovel.

CHOI: So they're just oars at that point.


CHOI: OK. Well, Chad - you know the guy with five grills?

NOSRAT: Oh, yeah. Tell me all about Chad.

CHOI: Yeah, Chad - what a guy. What a guy. Chad doesn't have, like, a good chicken recipe. And he wants one he can make either in a smoker or on one of his five grills.


CHOI: So is there, like, one chicken recipe he should definitely know?

NOSRAT: A super simple way to cook chicken on - I think on a grill, like, that I personally love is to spatchcock the chicken. It's essentially butterflying a chicken so that it lays flat. And cook it under a brick. So I think also always salting the meat in advance for any meat is a great idea. If you have enough room in your fridge, you could put it on a sheet pan and leave it uncovered skin side up in your fridge. And then because refrigerator air has a - refrigerator has, like, a compressor spinning dry air inside, that's going to dry off that skin. And the chicken skin will be a lot crispier once you go to grill it.

CHOI: Yeah, that's great. Well, we also asked - OK, we asked him what occasion the chicken was for, and he specifically asked for a chicken for the family. Is this, like - would you regard this as a good family recipe?

NOSRAT: This is definitely a family chicken.

CHOI: I love - OK, so if this is a family chicken, is there a chicken recipe that's better for, like, clubbing with the girls?

NOSRAT: Ooh, clubbing with the girls chicken?

CHOI: Yeah.


NOSRAT: What kind of chicken do the girls want to eat?

CHOI: Maybe just beer can chicken, get it a little boozy.

NOSRAT: Oh, a beer can chicken's not a bad idea.

CHOI: Yeah?

NOSRAT: I mean, I think that's a great idea. Yeah.

CHOI: OK, we're going to tell Chad that, and he's going to do it. OK. One last thing, OK? So we have a game for you, OK?

NOSRAT: Ooh, I love a game. OK.

CHOI: Yay. OK, OK. So you're an expert on cooking and menu planning, so we wanted to test your skills with a game we're calling What's For Dinner?

NOSRAT: Uh-oh (laughter).

CHOI: So we're going to give you a super specific event, and you tell us what you would serve for dinner.


CHOI: OK, you can do it. Perfect. OK, here we go. Your neighbor's goldfish dies, and they throw a mini funeral. What's for dinner?

NOSRAT: Goldfish crackers (laughter).

CHOI: Too soon, Samin. Jesus.

NOSRAT: (Laughter).

CHOI: But you know what? I'll lock it in.


CHOI: Next - you want to convince your landlord not to raise your rent. What's for dinner?

NOSRAT: There's a story behind this, but it's going to be ribollita soup, which is (laughter) - so it's a Tuscan bean and bread soup. It's a classic example of the Tuscan cucina povera, which is, like, the poor people's cooking.

CHOI: Come eat my stew. I'm so poor (laughter).


CHOI: Another one - you're pulling an all-nighter to write an essay about the Salem witch trials. What's for dinner?

NOSRAT: Ooh. Ooh. Ooh - clam chowder.


CHOI: OK. Last one, OK? And go with me on this.


CHOI: It's a story. So you installed a pay phone in your front yard.


CHOI: And a small, lost little boy called 911 from it and got rescued. And you want to celebrate your payphone playing its part, OK?


CHOI: What's for dinner?

NOSRAT: I think I would probably make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

CHOI: Aw. And on the top, can we frost, like, congrats on not being lost anymore?

NOSRAT: Yeah, 100%.


CHOI: Yes. I love it. You won our game. And thanks for helping our friend Chad. We can't wait to read your book.

NOSRAT: Congratulations, Chad.


CHOI: Well, let me ask you this, Tom. Here's the age-old question, OK - landline or cellphone?

BODETT: Oh, you have hit me at a very vulnerable moment in my phone life. I eliminated my landlines - I have one that just goes to voicemail because they've just become overrun with, you know, ad calls and stuff - and replaced it - you know, and then we just use our cellphones. And all that was fine. And two weeks ago, I changed cellphone carriers. And I won't name names, but I wish I would.

CHOI: Yeah.

BODETT: And the new...

CHOI: What does it rhyme with, Tom. What does it rhyme with?

BODETT: Yeah. It rhymes with Sfinity (ph).

CHOI: OK. Thank you.

BODETT: And it's awful. I mean, you know, I live in southern Vermont, and the cellphone service here - even the best of them are not good. But this is so awful, it's almost like not having a phone.

CHOI: What negative - yeah.

BODETT: And so I am suddenly in Siberia where I'm kind of - I'm out of communication with my life. So...

CHOI: Wait, Tom. Now I'm really curious. Can I test your service and call you right now and see if it gets to you?

BODETT: You could, yeah.

CHOI: Let's try it.

BODETT: Yeah. Here, let me get my phone. Hang on.

CHOI: OK. Here we go.


BODETT: Oh, my God. There it is, from Falls Church, Va.

CHOI: You getting it?

BODETT: Yea. It's not a total loss.


CHOI: I can hear two of you right now. Give me your best phone voice.

BODETT: Oh. Yeah. Hi, Tom here.

CHOI: Hi. We're calling you about your car's insurance fee. It's running out soon.

BODETT: I'm sorry. You're kind of cutting out. Could you repeat that? I've got a very weak signal.

CHOI: Hi. We're calling about your car's insurance fee. Could you please pay us?


CHOI: Here's the chickeniest part of the podcast - the credits. This show was brought to you by Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! This episode was produced by Hayley Fager, Zola Ray, Lillian King, Nancy Saechao, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis and the wine lady on the front of all the birthday cards for us sassy ladies. Our supervising producer is Jennifer Mills. And our Miss America is Mike Danforth. Once again, Lorna White, thank you so much for helping us with sound. We don't know how to do it, but you know how to do it so good. Thank you to Chad Farnum for grilling us so good with your five grills.

FARNUM: I can't believe you want to talk to me about this.

CHOI: And thanks to Brian Davis for letting me call you on your pay phone. That was incredible.

DAVIS: It's pretty crazy.

CHOI: Thank you to my one disgusting sweatshirt for getting through finals week. But guess what, everyone? Schools out for summer, baby. Samin Nosrat, thank you so much for being cool about it when I fangirl over you.

NOSRAT: It's like you're seeing directly into my soul.

CHOI: Check out her amazing book, "Salt Fat Acid Heat" and her Instagram and Twitter - @ciaosamin. Thank you to my co-host, author, humorist and craftsman Tom Bodett.

BODETT: I'd be happy to partner up if we have to.

CHOI: Tom was the founder of HatchSpace, a woodworking school and community workshop in Brattleboro, Vt. Tom made someone on our staff a cutting board once, and he literally will not stop talking about it. It's amazing. Check it out at I'm Emma Choi, and you can find me - @waitwaitnpr and learning the true meaning of Christmas. It's friendship.


CHOI: OK. I'm done. This is NPR.

BODETT: All right. What else can we do?

CHOI: Can I try you again? And then can we listen to your voicemail?

BODETT: Oh, yeah. I don't even know what it is, so go ahead. I'd be curious, too.

CHOI: OK. We can all look hear together. And don't pick up, Tom. It's on speaker.


BODETT: Hi. This is Tom's cell. Leave me a message. Thanks.

Oh, that's kind of friendly.

CHOI: Oh, yeah. I love that.

BODETT: That's not terrible.

CHOI: Let me tell you why I like that. It's short.


CHOI: It sounds like you. And you don't sing.

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