Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Author Guest Post: Cooking with the Movies w/Anthony Chiffolo

Following on the success of our previous collaboration, Cooking with the Bible, my co-author, Rayner “Rusty” W. Hesse, Jr., and I decided to embark on a new writing/cooking project: Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels (Praeger, 8/2010). Some of our friends—especially those who had seen us prepare dinner for 30 people in our small home kitchen—thought we were crazy. But at the same time, they began to look forward to more of our delicious and interesting meals. After all, our friends were our most important “taste testers.” Somehow, we seem to be “called” to cook! Or at least to entertain. And what better way to entertain than to combine performance (film) with eating (cooking)?

What is Cooking with the Movies? It is most definitely a cookbook. We selected 14 noted films and created recipes that will enable the reader to prepare and serve the very dishes that are featured in the movies. Thus, if one has a hankering for Codornices en Pétalos de Rosas (Quail in Rose-Petal Sauce) as shown in the film Like Water for Chocolate, or Veal Pancetta from Big Night, or a decadent Marshmallow Mermaid Pie from Waitress, the recipes are found right there in the pages of Cooking with the Movies. Just get out your measuring cups, preheat the oven, and begin! We are firm believers in the adage “if you can read, you can cook,” so the recipes are easy to follow and can be made right in your own kitchen.

We selected the other films in the book—Tampopo, Babette’s Feast, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored, Titanic, Chocolat, Dinner Rush, What’s Cooking?, Gosford Park, Mostly Martha, and Tortilla Soup—because the food shown “on screen” helps to advance the story and explain the characters; indeed, the food often becomes a central “character” in the movie. We also wanted to represent a variety of cuisines, including Japanese, French, Italian, Southern American, Mexican, Vietnamese, and German Bistro, among others. Finally, we hoped that the splendid food might make people seek out and enjoy a wonderfully made movie or two that they might never have heard of before.

Now, lest we be accused of teasing your palate, here’s one of our favorite recipes from Mostly Martha:

Steamed Asparagus Rolled in Prosciutto

Photo by Anthony Chiffolo
2 bundles (approximately 36) asparagus, trimmed
12 pieces of prosciutto
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup truffles or porcini mushrooms, minced
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

Steam the asparagus for about 5 minutes, until al dente (do not overcook). Combine the butter with the mushrooms and pepper. Wrap 3 stalks each in a slice of prosciutto spread with mushroom butter. Arrange in a circular fashion on a plate. Serves 12.

It looks as tasty (and elegant) as it sounds!

A STORY TO SHARE As we were preparing the recipe for Pastel Chabela de Boda (Rosaura’s Wedding Cake) from Like Water for Chocolate, we noted that Laura Esquivel, the author of the book on which the movie is based, had provided the foundations of a recipe but had given the ingredient amounts in grams. No problem, we thought, as we went to the Internet and found the conversion rate for grams to cups. Thus we proceeded to measure out all the ingredients at the same rate. When the batter was prepared, we thought it seemed different from other cake batters we had made, but we poured it into a pan and set it in the oven. It baked to a nice golden brown, but never rose, as we expected it to. When we tried it, it was tasty, but definitely not “cake”—more like a frittata, which was not surprising since we had used 17 eggs. Back to the Internet, we discovered that each ingredient converts at a different rate from metric to English—thus, 25 grams of flour is not the same as 25 grams of sugar (unless they are weighed on a metric scale). So we rewrote the recipe, using the proper conversions, and baked a proper (and wonderful) wedding cake. We served the “failed cake” as an appetizer with salsa, and our guests were clamoring for more! This is how new dishes are created.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS In 2006 we wrote Cooking with the Bible: Biblical Food, Feasts, and Lore, which has been translated into German, Russian, Chinese, and soon, Korean, and is also available in paperback. But we don’t sequester ourselves in the kitchen. Rusty is an Episcopal priest serving a parish in New Rochelle, NY, a certified antique appraiser, and author of Jewelrymaking through History: An Encyclopedia. But he began his career singing cabaret in New York City and performing in Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway stage productions. Anthony is a book publisher, but he is also an accomplished nature photographer, and his photos of glaciers, water lilies, elk, swans, forests, and streams have appeared in books, magazines, and catalogs—and he photographed all the dishes for Cooking with the Movies that appear in the book. But most of our time is occupied with our “menagerie”: four Labrador retrievers, four parrotlets, and several tropical fish tanks. Sometimes it seems that all we do is serve food—whether to our animal companions or our human friends! You can find out more about the book, the authors, and see more photos on our website: www.cookingwiththemovies.com.

--Anthony Chiffolo, co-author of  Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Man ! I just bought this new book "Cooking with movies". I read few chapters of it and seriously speaking enjoyed it lot. I have great fun with it. Hopefully, I will complete it within 1 week.