Monday, March 5, 2012

Dinner and a (Dead) Movie (Star)

"I'm not a heavy eater. I'm just heavy and I eat." - Alfred Hitchcock

Frank DeCaro is best known for his years as the flamboyant movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He currently hosts his own radio show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. He also dabbles in cookbook writing :) Over many years, DeCaro has collected old celebrity recipes and cookbooks, marrying together his love of dead celebrities and food. Inspired by a "Dead Celebrity Party" in his college years, where everyone dressed up as a dead celebrity, he put together a seriously nostalgic cookbook, aptly named The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, sharing recipes (along with fun little bios) from a wide range of celebrities.

Would you care to try Liberace's Sticky Buns or perhaps Patrick Swayze's Chicken Pot Pie? Maybe Elizabeth Taylor's Chicken with Avocado and Mushrooms or her buddy Michael Jackson's Sweet Potato Pie? Truman Capote's Fettuccine or Vivian Vance's Chicken Kiev? These are just a few of the recipes I think would be fun to try out! And speaking of Vivian Vance (I Love Lucy's Ethel Mertz... who according to this book apparently HATED her co-star William Frawley), an entire chapter is devoted to Lucille Ball, who featured many food-related episodes on her TV shows. Remember Aunt Martha's salad dressing? The chocolate factory? Lucy ordering a whole side of beef and then getting stuck in a meat freezer? Crushing grapes with her feet to gain "local color" and make wine ("I'll shave my head, I'll wear a mask!")? The list goes on. Well, many of Lucy's own recipes are shared in this book, including a simple Sunday Night Goulash and a politically incorrect titled "Chinese-y Thing."

Another chapter is entitled "A Psycho Shower" and shares recipes from Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch is my favorite director of all time. I have seen nearly 50 of his films. I'm not exaggerating, I've actually counted! I own many of them on DVD as well, and figured if I was going to try a celebrity recipe from this book, I should try his first. He often referenced food in his films, quite prominently at times. I was actually impressed that in his Quiche Lorraine recipe he made his own pie crust. I can just picture him standing in the kitchen and doing so, in fact, haha. While a traditional Quiche Lorraine uses a combination of crispy bacon and Gruyere cheese, Hitch's version calls for diced ham and sauteed onions (but no cheese). Not quite a Lorraine, but it'll do.

I ended up using a 9-inch pie dish instead of the 10-inch one called for in the recipe because half the dough (as the recipe called for) was just not enough to line the bigger dish. I also baked my quiche significantly longer than the recipe stated (about 50 to 55 minutes instead of 30). I found it odd that the eggs were to be whisked into hot milk and cooked until thickened before pouring into the quiche. I've never seen this technique done before, but I followed Hitchcock's instructions. The result was pretty tasty, but for whatever reason my quiche got very watery, and thus didn't get golden brown or even look very appealing. This has never happened before when I've made quiche (usually with a combo of heavy cream and whole milk) and this time I used the lower fat milk I had on hand, which probably caused the problem (since there were no raw veggies in there to cause extra water, I'm assuming it was the milk). Next time I'll be sure to avoid this, as I had to drain out a significant amount of water which also made my crust soggy in the process. I assumed that cooking the milk and eggs together would avoid any problems such as this, but I guess I made a boo-boo :(

Either way, it was really fun trying out a celebrity recipe for one of my favorite celebrities of all time. While many of the recipes in this book are terribly simple (barely requiring an actual recipe, but exist more for fun and nostalgia), others are actually more impressive. Honestly, I wouldn't picture most of these celebs cooking, but I guess they all did! I love the idea of cooking from this book and then watching a movie or TV show starring the recipe's inventor. In fact, each chapter ends with an "After Dinner Viewing" suggestion that corresponds with the previous chapter. Although I don't expect most serious cooks to find culinary value in a kitschy book like this, people who love both movies and cooking will find it to be a perfect medium between these two worlds. As a former film student, I can honestly say that I found a lot of amusement in this book and would happily try out more of these recipes, even if they aren't the most elevated dishes in the world. It just makes me feel closer to these old stars, and that's a pretty great feeling. Especially since they're all dead!

Alfred Hitchcock's Quiche Lorraine
Serves 6
(From The Dead Celebrity Cookbook)

2 cups pastry flour
1/2 cup butter
1 egg yolk
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup cold water

2 or 3 slices ham, diced
2 onions, chopped
4 eggs
Pinch salt
Pinch cayenne
Pinch nutmeg
2 cups hot milk

To make the crust, work together the pastry flour, butter, egg yolk, salt, and cold water. Chill dough 1 hour, or until needed. Roll out half the dough to line a 10-inch pie pan. Crimp edges and prick crust with a fork. (Reserve rest of dough for another use.)

For filling, scattered diced ham on the crust. Saute onions in butter until they are soft, but not brown. Spread over ham. In a saucepan, beat 4 eggs with salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Gradually at 2 cups hot milk, beating with a wire whisk. Continue to beat the mixture over low heat until the custard begins to thicken. Pour it into the pastry shell and bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is golden.

*Note* This recipe is typed exactly as it is in the book. I stated earlier that I found a 9-inch pie dish to be more efficient for the amount of dough used. I also used all-purpose flour in place of pastry flour, and used a typical technique of cutting the cold butter into cubes and working that into the flour first, then adding the wet ingredients until they come together (the recipe doesn't specify, but I suggest you use this typical pastry crust-making technique). The ham I used was cut 1/4-inch thick, and I only used 2 slices which was probably more than enough.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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