The Blacklist: Beef Stroganoff

I just started watching The Blacklist and I. Can’t. Stop. The writing on this show is great and I love contemplating whether or not someone is “good” or “bad” after every episode. Great suspense, great dark humor, tons of food references and it has James Spader; I can’t think of anything missing!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this show it is about Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former Navy officer turned high-profile criminal who, after eluding capture for decades, tells the FBI that he has a list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years and is willing to inform on their operations in exchange for immunity.  However, he insists on working only with a rookie FBI agent by the name of Elizabeth Keen. Once Elizabeth starts working with Red her whole world becomes this surreal situation where the people she thought she knew are strangers and the people she is just encountering have been on the sidelines of her life for longer than she knows. The viewer has no idea who is meaning to do her harm or help her; we also have no idea regarding Red’s intentions for working only with Elizabeth.  (At least as far as I have watched it!)

Raymond Reddington spent his criminal years globetrotting around the world and has been to his fair share of exotic locales. He has also enjoyed a wide spectrum of delicious food. However, the dish I have chosen to write about in terms of this show is one that is pretty common and not exactly exotic: Beef Stroganoff. Originating in Russia and popular in almost every region of the world, Beef Stroganoff is featured in one of the most memorable scenes of The Blacklist to date.

During the first season, in the episode “The Good Samaritan Killer” Red is still looking for the leak in the FBI. He discovers that money had been transferred into an agent’s bank account and goes to investigate the banker that handled the money. The scene is set up so that the banker arrives home to find his wife drinking wine, hanging out and cooking Beef Stroganoff for Red. If that isn’t bizarre enough, when Red fails to get the information he is seeking and shoots the banker in the leg the wife reacts by screaming hysterically and insisting that they call a doctor.  Things get kicked up a notch when an exasperated Red threatens to put her in the closet if she doesn’t stop; he ends up cramming her in the closet. After Janice continues to yell from the closet an even more irritated Red tells her in a strangely non threatening way that he will shoot through the closet door if she doesn’t stop yelling. Finally, Red leaves with the information he wanted but not before yelling,  “Janice, my sincerest apologies. I’ll take a rain check on the Stroganoff. It smells delicious!” Wtf?

Obviously, the scene is memorable because of its absurdity and that is one of the reasons why it is important. It’s significant because it marks a major moment in the show where the writers realized that they could make this dark or make it dark humor; they went the humor route. The scene mirrors one from the film Taken where Liam Neeson’s character is trying to get information and the scene goes the route of dark, bloody and intense; when the same sort of scene presented itself in The Backlist we get humor. This is because Red’s character is happy, full of life and he is just as good at making friends as he is at making enemies. By utilizing Red’s personality the writers were able to reach their objective for the scene (getting the information) but in a fun and unpredictable way. The “Stroganoff Scene” actually changed the course of the show.

This scene is also significant because it hints at the lengths that Red will go to in order to tie up loose ends but also demonstrates his sense of fair play. He is a man willing to befriend the wife of his target, use lies and  persuasion in addition to violence. This man was just one small part of the equation and Red spends a great deal of energy getting the information he wants. He is able to get the information from the banker without harming Janice at all and without causing any unnecessary damage. This scene is indicative of Red’s style in these types of matters, he is thorough, efficient, and totally charming. This scene is where Red becomes the anti-hero that viewers really applaud.

I was excited to make this dish because like Janice, I already had a recipe that I have used for years that I make when “company” comes over. I wrote the recipe using round steak and that is what I actually used this time but I have previously made this with all sorts of cuts including stew beef. So use whatever you are comfortable with.

Cooking the mushrooms right in the pan after the meat has been removed allows you to deglaze the pan with the mushroom juices. This really helps blend the flavors of the dish. Adding the onions to the skillet when the mushrooms have had time to start breaking down is the key to avoiding overdone onions and underdone mushrooms. This way, they finish at the same time making the texture of the dish really great.

One key to the sauce for this dish is to let the sour cream warm up a bit on the counter before adding it to the skillet. Doing this helps to temper the sauce so its less grainy and integrates better with the other ingredients. After whisking the sauce together you add all the other components back in and it’s Stroganoff magic.

 

This dish is one of my favorites because it’s simple; alternatively I am loving The Blacklist because of the complexities. I am delighted that both could come together for this post. I may make another batch to eat while I binge watch the next season of The Blacklist this weekend.

 

Beef Stroganoff

1-1.5 pds Round steak

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 tbsp. flour

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

3/4 cup chopped onion

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 (10.5 oz.) can of cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

8oz egg noodles cooked.

  1. Cut the steak into thin strips against the grain. Coat with salt, pepper and flour.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Brown the meat and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add the mushrooms and cook 1-2 minutes. Add onions and continue cooking until done.
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce, soup and sour cream. Whisk together to blend, making sure you get all leftover browned bits off bottom of skillet.
  5. Bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes.
  6. Add the meat back in and the egg noodles. Stir to coat. Serve.

 

This entry was posted in TV.

The Husband’s Secret: Hot Cross Buns

I love Liane Moriarty novels. I love the food (and drinks) that I have been able to make from her books. The Husband’s Secret is no exception; I loved this book. It can be summed up as a modern day take on the story of Pandora and her box. Only in this case the box is actually a letter written by Cecilia Fitzpatrick’s husband. The novel goes on to detail the lives of three women (Cecilia, Rachel and Tess) who are impacted by the murder of a teen girl that happened nearly thirty years ago. This novel illustrates how tiny decisions can change the scope of dozens of lives.

The story takes place around Easter so a main food component in the novel is Hot Cross Buns. In fact, the buns are all eaten by the characters on Good Friday the eating of the buns by the characters is interesting not only because it is a tradition to eat them on Good Friday but because it marks the convergence of all the individual story lines of the women into one final conclusion. It is the point where their individual experiences come together for the conclusion of the novel.

The scenarios in which the buns appear for each character also carry meaning in the story in regards to their individual situations. First there is Cecilia, who makes the buns for her family and upon getting ready to eat them discovers that she has forgotten butter to put on them. This is significant because it has been established in the novel that she is a very accomplished homemaker, the fact that she has forgotten a staple like butter is indicative of the effect her husband’s letter has had on her. It demonstrates her inability to focus on the everyday tasks because she is so taxed with John-Paul’s situation.  Cecilia forgetting the butter for the hot cross buns shows how Cecilia is slowly starting to fall apart because of John Paul.

“How could that have happened? She never forgot a staple. Her system was foolproof. Her refrigerator and pantry were always perfectly stocked”. -Liane Moriarty

Next there is Tess, the hot cross buns are significant in her storyline because they represent her situation with her husband and with her lover. When she is on the phone with Connor she tells him that, “I’ll come over after Liam is asleep. I will bring hot cross buns”. However, later when she is imagining her conversation with Will she thinks to herself how she will withhold the buns from him and not let him have any even though he loves them.

“The thought of seeing Will filled her with almost unbearable confusion. Would she cry? Yell? Fall into his arms? Slap him across the face? Offer him a hot cross bun? He loved hot cross buns. Obviously he did not deserve one”. -Liane Moriarty

The buns are demonstrative of her feelings for each man. She wants to give them to Connor while she wants to deny them from Will. The buns represent the conflicts she feels in her love life and where she wants to direct her emotions.

Finally there is Rachel, the buns for her are indicative of the fact she exists outside of the family unit of her son.  On Good Friday, Lauren is the one that makes the buns, this is to position her as the matriarch of the family, not Rachel. When Lauren brings the buns into the room Rachel offers to help and Lauren tells her no.

“” Let me help, “said Rachel. “Absolutely not,” said Lauren over her shoulder as she returned to the kitchen. “You never let me help at your place” …when you didn’t let a woman help, it was a way of keeping her at a distance, of letting her know she wasn’t family”. -Liane Moriarty

This whole scenario is an allusion to the fact that Rob, Lauren and their child are exclusive of Rachel. The buns in this scene serve as reminder of  the fact they are leaving Rachel behind, they are moving and not including her in their plans just like Lauren does not include her in the serving of the buns.

It is on the day that all three ladies have their individual experiences with eating the hot cross buns that their stories unite and the novel concludes. With all the mentions of the buns smothered in butter I decided I was hungry for them. I have never made hot cross buns or eaten them but Easter is approaching so it seemed like a good time to try.

The Husband’s Secret takes place in Australia so I looked up a traditional Australian hot cross buns recipe to make them authentic to the novel. I lucked out and found one  from The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine which is where I picture a woman like Cecilia getting her recipe from.  You can find that recipe here.

I knew right away that I would have to find Americanized versions of some ingredients. I was able to get the currants no problem but I had trouble finding sultanas and used golden raisins. I also had to figure out the American equivalents to some of the measurements. Once I had all that figured out I was ready to get started.

While working through the recipe I felt strange putting the yeast into a room temperature liquid. However, I decided to just trust the recipe. It worked out fine. As far as the warm place to put the dough to rest I suggest a windowsill in sunlight, or on an open oven door, with the oven set at a low temperature, as the perfect place for yeast dough. Also when working with the original recipe I found the dough to be really wet and so I increased the amount of flour in mine to make it more manageable.

When the buns came out they smelled delicious. The glaze makes them look glorious, seriously don’t skip this step! I tried one loaded up with butter and it tasted delicious.  The fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness and the butter gives them an indulgent taste and a great texture. I will definitely be making these again for Good Friday next year. To tie everything back to the novel, hot cross buns are an interesting device used in the novel to help signify different truths in each of the women’s situations. I think Moriarty did a fantastic job of using them to make subtle points in the stories of Cecilia, Tess and Rachel.

The Husband’s Secret: Hot Cross Buns

  • 1 cup  milk
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 5 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1 cup apple at room temperature
  • 1 packet of dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp.  orange zest
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 5 3/4 cups bread flour (see tips)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp salt

For the Flour Paste:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cold water, approximately

For the Glaze:

  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1 tbsp water
  1. Heat the milk until bubbly in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and add the honey and butter; stir until combined.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a separate, large bowl, whisk the juice and yeast until dissolved. Whisk in the egg and orange zest until combined. Stir in the currants and raisins. Add the flour mixture, then milk mixture. Mix together until well combined. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  4. Lightly knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 seconds. Return dough to the bowl, cover and stand in warm place for 1 hour or until risen by half.
  5. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Shape into balls and place on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper in four rows of four. Cover and stand in a warm place for 30 minutes or until risen by half.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. To make flour paste: combine flour, sugar, and vanilla in small bowl. Gradually mix in enough water to form a smooth paste. Place mixture into a small piping bag fitted with a small plain tube. Pipe crosses on buns.
  8. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes until browned then leave to cool on the tray.
  9. To make glaze: combine all ingredients in small pan and stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar and gelatin are dissolved.
  10. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and brush tops with the glaze. Serve warm with butter.

This entry was posted in Books.

LEGO Batman Movie: Lobster Thermidore

I recently snuck off without my kids to see The LEGO Batman Movie. I love Batman and I really enjoyed the last LEGO movie and it seemed like a great afternoon date idea. I was curious about how LEGO would pull off a Batman film but it was witty in all the right places, campy in all the right places, filled with LEGO’s and I really liked it!

The plot was actually more complex than I expected it to be. There was the story arc of Batman vs Joker and the rest of the rogues gallery but there was more to it than that. The film also centers on Batman learning to work with others and becoming less egotistical. When the film begins he is very arrogant and selfish, (a lot of the humor comes from the portrayal of him like this).  It was interesting because I didn’t expect the LEGO franchise to portray Batman so humorously narcissistic and self centered. Later in the film, Batman learns to accept others into his life (Robin), and work as part of a team (with Barbara and the others).

Let’s not forget about the food. Batman’s favorite dish is Lobster Thermidor. He has Alfred cook it for him everyday. This is meaningful not only because it perpetuates a joke that billionaire Bruce Wayne would eat lobster every day but he also forces his elderly butler to cook the dish for him every day. I decided that if elderly Alfred can whip this up everyday for Batman, then I can make it at least once for myself.

 

Lobster Thermidor is not generally served in restaurants any more because the ingredients are expensive and the dish is time consuming; this alludes to the fact that in this film, Batman is rich and he is tedious. Using this dish in the film also indicates how uncaring Batman is because he makes Alfred cook this for him repeatedly.  After Batman has become more accepting of the other people in his life some of his selfishness still remains in the fact that although he shares his Lobster Thermidor with everyone, he still has Alfred doing all the work.

To make Lobster Thermidor you obviously have to steam lobsters.  I couldn’t bring myself to steam live lobsters and was able to get a fishmonger to do it for me. If you have the guts to do it yourself  then by all means, but if you don’t I suggest asking your lobster supplier if they will do it for you. I had the good fortune to have mine steamed and the meat picked out for me. Bonus!

Once your lobsters have been steamed and picked out, the next step is to start the long process of making the lovely sauce for this dish. I used almost every pot I own for this part. Once all the steps have been completed you can assemble the dish by filling the shells with the yummy mixture of sauce and lobster, sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs, and broil.

 

After spending so much time and making such a mess in my kitchen with this dish I totally understand the meaning of Lobster Thermidor in terms of it being labour intensive and costly. A perfect metaphor for Batman in this film. Another point is that the dish, like Batman is inherently good. I couldn’t make this everyday and I would never make my elderly butler (if I had one), do it either, however it is so good and decadent that I might make it again.

 

Lobster Thermidor

Part 1.

2 1-1.5 pound lobsters

Part 2.

1/4 pound mushrooms sliced

1Tb Butter

1/2 tsp. Lemon juice

1/8 tsp. salt

Part 3.

3 Tb. Butter

3 Tb. Flour

1/2 cup cream

Part 4.

2 Egg yolks

1 tsp. Dry Mustard

1/4 cup Cream

2 Tb. Sherry

pinch cayenne pepper

Part 5.

4-5 Tb. Cream

Part 6.

2 Tb. Butter

2Tb. Sherry

1/4 tsp.  black pepper

1/8 tsp. salt

Part 7.

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

  1. Boil lobsters. Let cool. Split them in half, lengthwise, making sure to keep the shell halves intact. Crack claws and remove meat, remove meat from tail and discard any remaining lobster innards. Cut all meat in 1/4 inch pieces, set aside.
  2. Place all of the items from Part 2. in a sauce pot with a lid and let stew for 10 minutes over low to medium low heat.
  3. Remove mushrooms but leave the liquid in the pot.  Melt butter from Part 3.  in the same pot and add flour until foamy. Remove from heat and whisk in cream. Replace on heat and cook until it starts to thicken. Set aside.
  4. In a separate saucepan mix ingredients of Part 4 together and whisk over a low heat until thickened. Gradually add this mixture to the other sauce mixture and set aside.
  5. Set a skillet over medium heat with the butter from Part 6. When foam starts to subside, add the lobster meat and stir slowly for 5 minutes until it turns a rosy color.  Add the salt, pepper and sherry and then boil for 1 minute.
  6. Thin out the sauce mixture with the cream from Part 5. Add half the sauce mixture to the lobster mixture and add back in the mushrooms.
  7. Arrange the split lobster shells in a roasting pan and heap the mixture into the shells. Cover with remaining sauce. Mix Part 7 ingredients together and sprinkle over lobsters. Put a pat of butter on each half.
  8. Place in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and sauce has browned. Serve immediately.

This entry was posted in Film.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette: Audrey’s Rosemary Apple Tarte Tatin

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was another pick from my book club and another book that I didn’t think I would enjoy but did.  The novel follows Bernadette Fox,  an anxious, reclusive ex- architect who disappears right before a family trip to Antarctica. The story’s narration is a compilation of letters, emails and other documents that 15 year old Bee has gathered in hopes of finding her missing mom. The epistolary framework of this novel is a turnoff for some people but I found that it really worked in this case and helped round out the story.

As much as I enjoyed this book there is not a lot of food in it. The big exception to this is the correspondence between Soo-Lin and Audrey (the novel’s antagonists) discussing the upcoming brunch to recruit new students for the private school that Bee attends.

“I still have enough green tomatoes in the greenhouse to fry up for appetizers, plus dill, parsley, and cilantro for aioli. I’ve stored two bushels of apples and want to make my rosemary tarte tatin for dessert”. -Maria Semple

The idea of an apple and herb dessert caught my attention, so I decided to make Audrey’s apple and rosemary tarte tatin.

The tarte tatin is an inverted dessert. It is literally baked one way and flipped 180 degrees to get the finished product. This perfectly describes Audrey’s character, she starts off as an adversary to Bernadette. She spreads rumors, shames her on her lack of parental involvement in school activities, lies about her, and judges her at every turn throughout the novel. However, there is a turning point for Audrey and she does a “complete 180” and becomes somewhat of a hero by the novel’s end. I think it is fitting that Audrey makes a dessert that completely flips over ending right side up.

“You know how we thought Audrey Griffin was the devil? Turns out Audrey Griffin is an angel”. -Maria Semple

I based my work off a recipe I found from the New York Times and you can find that here. I changed it up because, to be honest, I wasn’t keen on making an 11 inch tarte tatin  and the flipping had me freaked out so I had to modify the recipe to work with a 10 inch cake pan. I used a cake pan for easier flipping and also because Julia Child said it was acceptable to make this dish in one.

You all know I am super intimidated by pie crust, but I felt fine making this one. It was simple, and I was able to realize that even if it was ugly when I put it in the oven it wouldn’t matter because after the dish gets flipped, you can’t see it anyway!

The entire dish is pretty straightforward and simple but it did take a lot of prep time. I suggest starting this thing early if you are going to make it or prep parts of it in advance such as the pastry dough and prepping the apples.

The flipping part was a little scary but I felt better putting a platter over my cake pan and then flipping it over versus trying hold a skillet but that is just my preference.

I also found it helpful to wiggle the pan after the flip to make sure it all came out. Here it is after the flip:

 

Like Audrey, the villain turned hero of the story, Apple Rosemary Tarte Tatin is a great mix of sweet and savory. I really enjoyed the flavors of this dish but my family is not as enthusiastic about sweet/savory mixes. They did enjoy the idea of it being prepared one way and then flipped over though. I may bring this for my next book club meeting; they seem to have great taste in books, they probably have great appreciation for good food as well.

Audrey Griffin’s Rosemary-Apple Tarte Tatin:

For the Crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

For the Filling:

1 cup sugar

10 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered and cored

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1-1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

  1. Make the Crust: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Add the yolk mixture and pulse again until mixture comes together. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.
  2.  Place the sugar in a pot over medium-low heat. When the sugar begins to melt, stir until it melts completely and turns into a caramel-colored syrup. Remove from the heat. Pour into 10-inch cake round.
  3.  Toss the apples with the melted butter and rosemary. Arrange the apples in the skillet on top of the syrup in 2 layers, making concentric circles.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out into a circle slightly larger than the cake round. Place the dough over the apples and fold in the extra dough, pressing it against the skillet to form a seal. Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 40 minutes.
  5. Let stand for 10 minutes. (I only waited 7) Quickly but carefully invert the pan over a large plate or platter. Serve warm with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Books.

Beauty and the Beast: Cheese Souffle

I feel like Beauty and the Beast is everywhere these days. Disney is about to release a live action version of the popular animated film, so I thought I would celebrate by making something from the animated movie. For those of you that may not have heard the story (could that be possible?),  it is about a girl named Belle who agrees to live with a prince turned scary monster in order to free her dad from his dungeon. Belle and the Beast get off to rocky start but begin to fall in love, which is the key to breaking the curse on the Beast and his castle. This story has been around for a very long time but Disney made it mainstream pop culture with their beautifully drawn movie and memorable soundtrack.

 

One of the most famous scenes in the film is when Belle has agreed to stay at the castle in exchange for her father’s freedom, and is so depondent about being stuck with the Beast she refuses to leave her room to eat. Finally, the enchanted members of the castle staff entice her downstairs to eat by showing her (through song and choreographed dance), all the wonderful things they would like to do for her. The staff is so excited to have a guest they are compelled to demonstrate all of their hospitality skills. They are also hoping to make Belle feel comfortable and more accepting of her situation (and the Beast).

 

It is during the famous “Be Our Guest” song and presentation that Lumiere shows Belle a cheese soufflé ready for her to eat. I always loved the enchantment of this scene and so I chose the soufflé to make.

The soufflé is significant because it is a French dish-lending itself to the appropriate time and place of the story. It is also significant because the word soufflé comes from the French word to breathe-Belle is a metaphorically a breath fresh air in the palace and that may be why the dish is talked about at the same time as her arrival.  Also, souffles are labeled as  being a little difficult to prepare and delicate to handle; these characteristics mirror the early relationship between Belle and the Beast. Their situation is a precarious agreement that could “collapse” at any minute causing everyone to be cursed forever. Finally, in more recent depictions the falling of a soufflé is often a source of humour in a cartoon or show; the fact that it is featured during one of the most whimsical parts of the film may not be a coincidence.

To make this I knew I had to start with eggs and cheese, and after looking at a few generic recipes for cheese soufflé I realized there wasn’t much more to it. However, I was more confused about process with this dish rather than ingredients. So I consulted an expert: Julia Child. A lot of her cooking shows can be found on various websites, including Youtube. After watching her cheese soufflé episode 30-40 times I was ready to attempt the dish. I planned on doing it in my own way but I needed a little bit of guidance!

First, I buttered my 1 quart soufflé dish and sprinkled it with some parmesan cheese. This is so that the soufflé has something to hold on to as it rises; it also provides a delicious crust. A lot of other recipes use breadcrumbs for this part which is totally acceptable but I figure you can never go wrong with more cheese.

Next, I melted more butter in a saucepan and added  flour. I let it get bubbly and then removed it from the heat. Then I added milk and whisked to remove lumps and then put it back on the heat. TIP: I warmed the milk up beforehand so that it would mix better with the already warm butter and flour. Once the milk mixture started to thicken I added my cheese and then removed it from the heat. Since the backdrop of the story is French I used one of my favorite French cheeses: Gruyere.  Gruyere has a great strong woody flavor that goes great in any egg dish. To the cheese mixture I added the egg yolks and spices.

I set my cheese mixture aside and started to whip the egg whites with the cream of tarter. I used a hand mixer and blended until I had stiff peaks. This is when you stop the mixer and hold it upside down the peaks stay stiff and do not fold over onto themselves. I folded about half of the egg whites into the cheese mixture and then the other half. I poured it all into my dish and baked.

This dish was like eating a cheesy, egg-y cloud! It was so good and light! The taste was amazing! Making it, I realized that as extravagant and fancy a cheese soufflé may seem it really was a simple dish with basic ingredients. It reminded me of the film in terms of how, when the Beast is able to simplify his situation and be himself with Belle, magic happened. I am really hoping the live action version of Beauty and the Beast is just as great (and delicious) as the animated version.

 

Cheese Soufflé:

Melted butter for brushing sides of dish

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese ( for dusting the dish)

1/4cup  Butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
Dash of ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 cup warm milk
2 cups Gruyere cheese (8 ounces)
3 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter 1-quart soufflé dish or casserole. Dust bottom and sides of dish with parmesan cheese. Shake dish to properly cover and dump out excess.
2. Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Whisk in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in cheese until melted; remove from heat. Add egg yolks and spices stir until combined.
3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff but not dry; set aside. Fold about 1/2 of the egg whites into cheese mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites. Carefully pour into soufflé dish.
4. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Serve immediately.

This entry was posted in Film.

Young and Hungry: White Truffle Mashed Potatoes

I was Netflixing recently and happened upon Young and Hungry; based on the title, I decided to give it a try and I am glad I did. This show is very charming and food plays a large role. Right from the first episode it is evident that there is a ton of food featured in this show, (so be prepared to see it written about more than just this once). The series follows Gabi, a young broke girl that lands a gig as a personal chef to a young tech millionaire. As Gabi tries to navigate her way in this job she is surrounded by funny characters and plenty of romantic hijinks.

These hijinks start in the very first episode. Gabi is still trying to land the personal chef job when Josh agrees to hire her if she can make a dinner for his girlfriend Caroline that will make her say yes to his marriage proposal. After Caroline breaks up with Josh the same day, he feels distraught and to comfort him Gabi feeds him mashed potatoes and they drink lots of booze. Josh and Gabi end up having a one-night stand. They decide to keep it a secret, which causes her to have complicated romantic feelings for Josh.

It is after Caroline breaks up with Josh and before he sleeps with Gabi that the potatoes become significant. Josh is feeling hopeless and empty. He says that nothing will make him feel better after losing Caroline but audibly perks up at Gabi’s mention of her mashed potatoes. He starts to eat them and there is a visual change in his mood; he is less upset about his situation. Every time he gets visibly upset about the breakup Gabi literally shoves more potatoes in his mouth.  Josh ends up giving a toast to the mashed potatoes and tells Gabi about how much it made him feel better. Mashed potatoes are by culinary definition a comfort food. They are used in this episode in a very literal way to comfort Josh.

To make these I did some research and I liked the idea of using white truffle butter then I did actual truffles. I read that the butter would carry the flavor better and is much easier to deal with. I am fortunate enough to live within a reasonable distance of a huge international grocery store so I knew they would have it there. If you aren’t as fortunate, some grocery stores do carry truffle butter in their gourmet section. I am sure that a lot of specialty and gourmet stores will have it as well; you can also order it online. So, once I tracked down the white truffle aspect of the dish, it was just a matter of incorporating that into a solid mashed potatoe recipe.

I like to use Russet or Idaho potatoes for mashed potatoes because they are starchier and can hold cream and butter really well. A lot of people prefer to use Gold Yukons for mashing because they are known to make a more flavorful dish. However, they are more difficult to get smooth than the other potatoes. I wanted something that would hold the add-ins well and make a nice smooth dish so I went with my preferred potato but you can use anything you like.

I cut them up into one inch chunks and boiled them and when they were really soft, I drained them. While I was waiting for them to be done I melted the butter in a saucepan and added one cup of whole milk, half n half or cream would work here too if that’s what you have on hand.  I let that simmer and thicken a bit. I pulled it off the heat and added the truffle butter; stirring until it melted. Then I added the liquid to the poatatoes and mashed. I use a hand masher but a hand blender would also work well for this too.

I really enjoyed these potatoes! I don’t mess with my mashed potatoes very often and my family likes them pretty basic, but they really liked these! As a matter of fact, I only got this one picture of them before they started eating them!You can taste the truffles and the butter but the flavors are not overpowering. This was great comfort food on a cold winter night and the truffles make the potatoes decadent enough to make them special. Although I wasn’t eating them out of heartache they did feel indulgent and I understood why they were chosen as a high end comfort item for Josh.

 

Gabi’s White Truffle Mashed Potatoes:

5ish Russet or Idaho potatoes

1 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons of butter

3oz White Truffle Butter

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut potatoes into 1 inch chunks and boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer about 20-25 minutes until very soft. Drain.
  2. while potatoes are simmering melt butter in separate saucepan. Add the milk and let thicken a bit. Remove from heat and add truffle butter.
  3. Once truffle butter is melted add the sauce mixture to drained potatoes and then mash with a masher for chunkier potatoes or use a hand blender for smoother potatoes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, to taste.

This entry was posted in TV.

The Good Girl: Eve Dennett’s Lasagna

I was introduced to The Good Girl by Mary Kubica through my book club. I probably would not have picked it up otherwise, but I was pleasantly surprised by the story and enjoyed this book very much. It’s always an especially good thing when a book that I may never have read ends up being good and has some meaningful food in it.

The novel centers around the disappearance of Mia Dennett. A young woman who is kidnapped by Colin Thatcher. Colin’s job was to kidnap Mia as part of an extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. Things change unexpectedly when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in Minnesota until he can figure out a better plan. The story is told from the viewpoints of Mia’s mother Eve, the detective on Mia’s case and Colin; through their perspectives we get a very good look into human and familial entanglements.  I liked this book because it was more about human interaction than a suspense thriller.

There is not a lot of food mentioned in this book, but one item stands out-lasagna. It appears in the book when Eve makes a lasagna birthday feast for her missing daughter. Eve makes the lasagna in Mia’s absence as part of the ritual of caring for her.

“”It’s for her,” she says. “Mia loves lasagna. Any kind of pasta. She’s the only one I could always count on to eat what I’d cooked. It’s not that I expect her to show up. I know that won’t happen. But I couldn’t…”” -Mary Kubica

Making the lasagna demonstrates a connection Eve has with her daughter, when the connection is disrupted by Mia’s abduction it is evident in the cooking process. When Eve is making the birthday lasagna she is breaking down simultaneously as the ingredients of the dish “break down”. She breaks the garlic with her palm, the salt shaker falls off the counter and spills, she burns the meat for the sauce all while breaking down into tears before erupting into anger.

Finally, the fact that the prominent food in the novel is a lasagna is meaningful. Lasagna is comprised of layers and several different components which could be a metaphor for the composition of the book. The events in the book are told through several different characters; having several different perspectives on the events in the book give it all a very complex and layered feel.

For this dish I didn’t have to do very much research because I frequently make lasagna for my family. I used ingredients that were mentioned in the novel to make it authentic to the book. I generally make my own sauce from scratch but I don’t think that Eve did based on the comments from Detective Hoffman, “…Mrs. Dennett is a one-trick pony in the kitchen. She’s probably got a chicken recipe and chances are she can boil water. But that’s all”. -Mary Kubica

So feel free to use bottled sauce or any other shortcuts for this if you prefer.

To begin, I browned sausage in a skillet with some chopped onions and added it to my sauce. Then I  mixed the cheeses, herbs and egg together and set aside. I then layered my dish and baked. I don’t cook my noodles beforehand and I have never had an issue but cook them if that’s what you prefer.

 

Overall, this dish is a classic comfort food.  It is symbolic of home, family, and togetherness in this story.  It is also a symbol of the complexity of the story telling and the layers of perception it takes to get to the truth about Mia’s disappearance. Regardless of whether you agree with my ideas about the comfort or the complexity of lasagna, it is delicious.

Eve Dennett’s Lasagna

1pd Ground Italian Sausage

1/2 cup minced onion

24 oz  Pasta Sauce

30 oz Ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 egg

2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

16 oz Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1 Box of Lasagna Noodles

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Brown sausage in skillet with onions. Add sauce and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Mix Ricotta, parmesan, egg and spices. Set aside.
  3. Spread 1/2 a cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 inch pan. Place a layer of noodles to fit, top with 1/3 of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 the sauce. Repeat with noodles, cheeses, and sauce. Then noodles, the remaining ricotta mixture and the remaining shredded mozzarella.
  4. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Uncover and let cook for another 20 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

This entry was posted in Books.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason: Magic Mushroom Omelet

 

I have posted previously about Bridget Jones and her diary, this time around I decided to take on the next installment in the franchise, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. In this installment of the adventures of Bridget Jones, Bridget finds herself happy and in love with Mark Darcy and fully expecting a proposal. When it doesn’t come and Mark confesses that he hasn’t been thinking of marriage Bridget begins to suspect that he is cheating on her with a business colleague. In a snit she decides to work on a project with her ex Daniel Cleaver. They travel to Thailand together with Bridget’s friend Shazzer in tow and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

I enjoyed this film in a different way than the first one because it is not just Bridget’s antics that carry the story; I really appreciate that this film gives a deeper glimpse into Bridget’s relationships and how loved she is versus her seeking out love from others. The viewer gets to see Bridget’s quirkiness in action during a relationship versus when she is trying to navigate the dating arena. It was nice to see her impulsiveness and lack of judgment stayed consistent, especially during her trip to Thailand which is where my inspiration for the Magic Mushroom Omelet comes from.

Bridget eats a “Magic Mushroom Omelet” which causes her to hallucinate, make sand angels, and admire all the “colors”. One could argue that the omelet is what causes Bridget’s lack of judgement to follow.  Having Bridget eat a magic mushroom omelet is the only way the viewer would accept what is happening. We have to believe that Bridget is out of her mind in order to sit through watching her canoodling with Cleaver.

In order to make a proper magic mushroom omelet I would have had to get my hands on hallucenigic mushrooms. Since that wasn’t going to happen I thought I would substitute some mushrooms that are frequently used in Thailand when they are not using the magic variety. In my research I found that magic mushroom edibles (and milkshakes!) are very popular tourist fare in Thailand. However, I also found out that several different types of regular mushrooms, like Shiitake, and Straw were popular as well.

I was also surprised to learn that the omelets in Thailand are not the rolled up bundles of goodness like they are here in the states. They are actually open faced and have everything cooked inside/on top of them. They also use several subtle tastes like soy sauce and fish sauce during cooking that really make this dish delicious. Finally, what makes an authentic Thai omelet is the actual cooking process. Thai omelet’s are cooked in lots of oil so they get puffed up, crispy on the outside and soft in the center. Yum!

So, I gathered all the ingredients, whisked the eggs, and added the mushrooms,  fish sauce and soy sauce. If you don’t have or care for Fish Sauce you can substitute more Soy Sauce but the Fish Sauce brings a flavor that is totally worth it!I heated a lot of oil in my skillet-a wok would also work if you have one- and poured in the eggs. A medium high heat is good but watch it; you don’t want the egg to cook too much before the mushrooms. I casually tested my patience by letting the omelet sit in the pan to brown up. It should be brown on both sides so you can flip it a few times, use a large spatula so that the omelet doesn’t break. Once nicely browned up on both sides, you can plate it up by itself or enjoy it over some rice.

Overall, this was a really fun project. The texture of the omelet was very good and the subtle flavors really make this a great dish. Even my husband, who does not care for mushrooms, declared this was good. Although it was not of the magical variety this omelet still ended up being something special.

Magic Mushroom Omelet

2 eggs

1/2 cup Shiitake Mushrooms

1/2 tsp Soy Sauce

1/2 tsp Fish Sauce

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

  1. Whisk eggs
  2. Add in mushrooms, Soy and Fish Sauces
  3. Heat oil in skillet or wok on medium/high heat. Add the egg mixture.
  4. Fry on one side until nicely browned, then flip over and fry until done. Omelet should be thick and very firm, well browned and crispy on the edges.

 

This entry was posted in Film.

Big Little Lies: Not on a School Night

I have previously written about Big Little Lies and now with the TV adaptation getting ready to air, I have decided to revisit this novel a second time. The story focuses on three women, Madeline, Celeste and Jane.  The ladies all have little ones starting kindergarten together and they all end up getting wrapped up in schoolyard politics, marriage issues and growing pains. However, underlying these plot points is the fact that the book is framed in a murder investigation. We know that someone has been killed but we don’t know who or why; Moriarty does a great job at keeping the reader invested and guessing until the end.

This book kept me enthralled from beginning to end not just with the whodunit aspect, but also because of the incredibly relatable characters. If the series is half as well done as the novel, viewers are in for a treat!

Overall, this novel does not have a huge amount of food in it but there is a fair amount of booze; I have chosen to write about the drinks mentioned in the story. The first drink mentioned is the “Perry Surprise” which was featured in an earlier post that you can find here:

Big Little Lies: “Perry’s Surprise”

The second drink, “Not on a School Night” is the focus of this post. It is the potent and delicious drink served during the trivia night at the school. One could argue that it served as a catalyst for the dramatic events of the trivia night.

“Stu: As soon as you walked in the door you were handed one of these girly-looking pink fizzy cocktails.” -Liane Moriarty 

 

This drink carries some significance in its name.

“…the Year 6 teachers invented it. They’re calling it ‘Not on a School Night’ or something”-Liane Moriarty

The expression “not on a school night” is often used to discourage behavior that would interfere with a good night’s sleep, or overall well being when you have to be alert the next day. Behaviors like drinking, staying up late, and even attending social functions would fall under this category. The adults in the novel engage in all of these behaviors at the trivia night and things end up going badly. The name of the drink is a subtle warning to everyone that’s drinking it.

It is also something typically said by adults to children. It is generally an expression used in parenting. This is interesting because in this instance it is being geared towards the adults in the novel; perhaps as an indication of impending immaturity and (deadly) shenanigans. It also indicates the adults in the story are about to be involved in a bit of “schoolyard drama”; only this time someone ends up dead.

 

To make this drink I took clues from the text about the ingredients and taste.

“Hey, can you taste mint in this?” said Tom to Jane.                  “That’s it!” said Jane. “So it’s just strawberry puree, champagne–” “–and I’m thinking vodka, ” said Tom. He took another sip. “Maybe quite a lot of vodka.” -Liane Moriarty

So, I started with the mint flavor. You can use either a mint syrup for this or a mint liqueur. I tried both approaches and they both worked taste-wise but found that to get the appropriate alcohol factor indicated in the book, Crème de Menthe was the better choice.

I also didn’t want to drink to have a Vodka-y taste so I went with a strawberry flavored Vodka. I used frozen strawberries and a hand blender to make the strawberry puree. I put these ingredients in the glass first and mixed them together. Then I topped off with the champagne/sparkling wine, I chose an Asti because they tend to be sweeter and I was really happy with the results.

 

My friend Kelly used to work for a flavor company and specifically with alcohol, so I used her as a consultant on this project.  It was fizzy, pink, delicious and loaded with booze. Perfect. I ended up serving this cocktail at a gathering for my mom’s group and it was a big hit. We did not drink these on a school night!


Not on a School Night

1 oz. Crème de Menthe or mint syrup

3 oz. Strawberry Flavored Vodka

8oz Strawberry puree

6oz Champagne/sparking wine

  1. Mix everything except for the champagne in a large glass.
  2. Add champagne

 

This entry was posted in Books.

Gilmore Girls: Rocky Road Cookies

I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t like Gilmore Girls. The show about super independent, single mom Lorelai, her daughter Rory and their navigation of life in the small town of Stars Hollow. The town is filled with quirky characters which balance the presence of Lorelai’s rich, manners obsessed parents. The writing of this show is so good!! The dialogue is very fast paced and filled with pop culture references. In 2016 the show was revived on Netflix with a four episode miniseries. What makes Lorelai and Rory such memorable characters is their amazing relationship as well as their ability to eat copious amounts of junk food.

A favorite junk food staple of the girls is a simple burger and fries from the local diner and coffee. Lots of coffee. However, in order to gear up for the revival I have re-watched the entire series and I discovered an interesting and meaningful little treat amongst all the snack food: Sookie’s Rocky Road Cookies.

They are featured in the episode “Love and War and Snow” from season one. Sookie makes the cookies so that Rory can give them to Dean. This is where the significance is; the rocky road cookies are totally symbolic of Rory and Dean’s relationship. Through the course of seven seasons Rory and Dean had breakups, makeups, love, sex, infidelity and the excitement of first love. Rory gives Dean the cookies at the very beginning of their romance; an excellent foreshadowing of their entire relationship.

Traditionally, Rocky Road is known as a chocolate flavored  ice cream that contains nuts and marshmallows so I had to figure out a way to transform the ice cream into a cookie. I started thinking about the dough and decided to go with the chocolate, obviously. I kicked the flavor up a notch by I melting some real chocolate and adding it to the dry ingredients that included cocoa just for good measure.

Once I had the basic dough together I added in the walnuts and marshmallows and chocolate chips for good measure.  I decided to add the marshmallows into the batter because I thought that they would give the cookies a more gooey  texture.

The most important part of this process is to use parchment paper! When the cookies are done baking they are still very fragile and will fall apart if you move them too soon or if they stick at all. So after taking the cookies out of the oven I let them cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes and then moved the paper to the cooling rack until the cookies were completely cool. After they were completely cooled they were wonderful; they were sweet and gooey and crunchy.

 

These cookies have a great complexity of texture and flavor. My conclusion is that the taste, as well as the name, are a clever foreshadowing of Rory and Dean’s relationship.

 

Sookie’s Rocky Road Cookies:

  • 2 cups chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup  brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla or chocolate extract
  • 3/4 cup marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips with the butter in the top of a double boiler until smooth. Remove from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line cookie sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. To make the batter, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs,  brown sugar, and extract, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the flour mixture and cooled chocolate, and beat for 1 minute. Fold in the remaining 1 cup chocolate chips, the marshmallows, and the nuts, if using.
  5. Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet pans about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until just firm.
  6. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and cool for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet pans. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper.

This entry was posted in TV.