MOVIES THAT COOK

Nov 20th, 2008

Do you ever watch a movie and become fascinated by the food in the story?
I may suffer from the Chef’s obsession, but sometimes I become so intrigued by the food they are making in the film that I forget the plot and just want to get in the kitchen to cook. Lenore and I recently surveyed a group of guests at an EVOO dinner for their favorite food scenes. Here are some from that discussion. Just thinking about them makes me want to watch them again.

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN – Lenore and I first saw this on a flight to London. Full of culture it is about a renowned Taiwanese chef and his daughters. Clearly a successful chef by societies standards, he spends much of the movie trying to impress his grown daughters with his cooking. He even loses his sense of taste, critical to his craft. Alls well in the end, but I don’t recommend seeing this movie without your best take out in front of you. Airline peanuts do not suffice.

THE BIG NIGHT – It’s all about the food, or is it all about the success of a business? The opening scene introduces the quirky brother-owner duo, one the front man and the other master chef, Primo Pilaggi. As the movie opens Primo is alone creating an intricate dish while Tucci waits, pacing for his brother to finish. In this restaurant the food takes way too long to get to the customers and business is falling apart. After much consultation, Tucci’s mentor convinces him that the restaurant needs Louis Prima and his band to come to dinner. Preparations begin and what unfolds is a testament to one chef’s obsessive attention to detail and passion for his craft, and another’s failure to recognize when it’s time to move on.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES – With a cast including Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson you know you are in for an enjoyable ride. What you don’t expect is great barbecue and southern recipes throughout. Very much a period piece, set in the 1930’s at the Whistle Stop Café, the movie explores women in the south and what true friendship can endure. A movie I still think about when frying green tomatoes and especially remember the best line of the movie, “its all in the sauce.”

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE – a romantic story of a fictional family set in the early 1900’s, in Mexico. It covers two decades of life, love and food. Young Tita spends most of her childhood in the kitchen with the family cook, learning the craft. Tita falls in love. Her mother denies her marriage, and besides, her older sister is betrothed to the man Tita loves. Because she is oldest, tradition requires her to remain in the house as her mothers’ caretaker. Tita vents her frustration through cooking and her emotions are felt in the meals created, especially when making her sister’s wedding cake.

CHOCOLAT – In the 1950’s the main character (Juliette Binnoche) is a single mother who brings her daughter to a tranquil French village. The quite town suits her just fine as she opens a chocolatierre, just as lent begins. Being a time of fasting and restraint, the towns mayor attempt to overcompensate for his miserable life, makes it his mission to oust the chocolate maker as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the newcomer demonstrates her tenacity and skills, and even gets into the villagers lives, learning their preferences for chocolates and gaining their patronage. As with all great food movies, there is life, love (in this case with Johnny Depp) and good eats. The plot is one of fantasy that leaves you beliving and turning to your favorite box of chocolates.

BELLA MARTHA (MOSTLY MARTHA); recently remade as NO RESERVATIONS. It takes place in Germany where chef Martha Klein rules supreme. God forbid any diner queston the quality of their entrée. Martha’s passion and need for control is tested when her sister dies in a car crash leaving her 8 year old daughter for Martha to raise. Motherhood proves more challenging than expcted until Martha’s new Italian cook comes into the picture. Martha’s overbearing and intimidating ways soon melt away allowing her vulnerability and playful side to show. I particularly enjoyed the realism in this working kitchen but definitely liked the original better than the remake.

RATATOUILLE – Okay, I probaly don’t even have to go here since it is so recent, but as a chef I enjoyed the familiar portrayal of a professional kitchen. Set in France the star is Remy the rat, who has a passion for fine food and finds himself uprooted from the countryside to the sewer just below a famous restauarant, owned by his idol chef. The story unfolds as Remy gets his shot at culinary freedom while teaching an unlikely cook named Linguini. Between relationships, turf wars and smart culinary jargon, this movie is a whole bunch of fun and honestly my favorite movie that year.

Then there are the movies that are not really about food but hard to imagine with out it. Take MOONSTRUCK, for example, where almost every scene takes place in a restaurant, bakery or home kitchen, and I being both Italian and romantic find the final scene where the family gathers around the kitchen table over oatmeal quite essential to its plot.

There are isolated food scenes from movies too, that do nothing but make a huge impact. For instance, whenever I cook hard boiled eggs I think of COOL HAND LUKE. And most people remember WHEN HARRY MET SALLY’s delicatession scene that wasn’t really about the food, and for me, memorable because it’s my worst high maintenance customer nightmare. And lastly the scene where one shared strand of pasta leads to an innocent first kiss between the LADY AND THE TRAMP is a sweet classic that I’m sure the child in us all remembers whenever we eat spaghetti and meatballs.

So mix up some popcorn and tell us your favorite food scenes from the movies. Send your thoughts and even better, your recipes inspired by a movie to info@evoo.biz Here are a couple of my recipes named for the movies – Enjoy!

BIG NIGHT – Ravioli
3 cups AP flour
1 tsp sea salt
5 eggs
3 -4 TBS water, more or less as needed
1# duck confit*
Chicken stock as needed to cook ravioli
2 cups parmesan cream – see recipe
Method: Combine flour and salt in large bowl; make a well in center and add the eggs and most of water; work the dry and wet together and add enough water to make a moist dough; remove to board and knead for 10 minutes; cover with a towel and allow to rest for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll through pasta machine gradually to lowest setting. (Pasta should be thin, #8 on our machine) On one side of a long sheet, place-filling 1 in apart using a small spoon; moisten edges with water and fold noodle over filling to cover and seal using pasta wheel or fork.
For service: boil raviolis in salted chicken stock until they float. Drain well; Place on top of cream sauce and garnish with more duck and apple chutney, if desired.
Note: duck confit and apple chutney can be purchase at many specialty stores such as Whole Foods or Zupan’s.

Parmesan cream for ravioli: Reduce 4 cups of cream to 2 cups; stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt, white pepper, and coriander.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES with Garlic-Dill Aioli
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp cayenne
2 cups buttermilk
4 ea green tomatoes, sliced ½”
As needed vegetable oil to fry
Method: set up a breading station by combining panko and seasonings in a container appropriate to hold panko and tomatoes; place buttermilk in breading pan next to panko mixture; place a slice of tomato in panko with left hand and cover completely and evenly with crumbs – remove with left hand and dust off completely; place in buttermilk and coat well using right hand –remove and allow to drip over pan, using right hand; place back in panko to double coat tomato; remove to parchment lined pan and refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking.
Place oil in large sauté pan and heat until oil begins to haze; add tomatoes and cook through, browning on both sides; remove to paper towels to drain; serve immediately – adjusting salt as necessary.
GARLIC-DILL AIOLI
4 cloves roasted garlic
3 egg yolks, room temp.
½ cup EVOO
½ cup grape seed oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh dill
Method: mash garlic into a paste; add yolks and whisk well until light and fluffy; add oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly; add juice and chives; adjust seasoning with sea salt and coriander; reserve chilled.

CHOCOLAT – HOT CHOCOLATE LACED WITH DARK RUM
6 oz heavy cream
12 oz whole milk
¼ cup salted butter
2 TBS sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 oz good bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 oz sweetened whipped cream
2 tsp dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg Method: place all ingredients except chocolate into heavy bottom sauce pan; bring to simmer. Add chocolate until completely melted and absorbed. Ladle into cups; garnish as desired. Suggested size serving: 4 oz as this is very rich
To Garnish: (pick one or a couple)
1. Float whipped cream on top
2. Add splash of dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.