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Stuffing!

20 Nov

Stuffing! 

There are few things I love more than Thanksgiving. And there are few things I love more on Thanksgiving than stuffing. Just in time for the big day, then, a stuffing post. 

Or do you call it dressing??

We grew up calling it stuffing. Even though we never stuffed a bird. My mom thought it was a bit gross to stuff a bird. Subsequently I never stuff the bird either. I hear from my dear and trusted friend Phyllis that stuffing the bird creates incredibly moist, tasty stuffing. I will have to try it sometime!

Thanksgiving Table 2013

Thanksgiving Table 2013

One thing I love about stuffing is how versatile it can be. Mom, for instance, made an incredible shrimp and crabmeat stuffing I can still taste to this day. During the year she would also make a southwestern stuffing, with green chilis, black olives and cheese. A good basic stuffing recipe is incredibly adaptable to almost any flavor. 

There is also the question as to white bread or corn bread. I say, why choose? Each year I have one of each at the table. So whether you call it dressing or stuffing or, um, Stove Top (Never, Ever, Ever), below are two terrific stuffing recipes, from two very good friends. Both these recipes are so good, I make them not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year when I have that craving for stuffing. 

Remember first a few general stuffing notes:

* Stuffing tastes better over time so you can ease your Thanksgiving by making the stuffing the day before or even days ahead. Bake it, then it can sit in the fridge a day or two, getting more flavorful, or you can make it even a week before, freeze it, then reheat it (my trick.)

* You can make fresh vegetable stock in 30 minutes or fresh chicken stock in less than an hour. Fresh stock makes a world of difference. Just do it. Click here.

* Stuffing is not an exact science. I never ever follow these recipes to the exact amount and the stuffing is always is wonderful. Just taste as you go!

NAN’S CLASSIC STUFFING

stuffing

nan’s stuffing with soy chorizo

 

My friend Nan is an amazing cook. I’ve had many wonderful dinners at her house. She introduced this stuffing to me and I’ve made it every year since.

There are a number of things I love about this recipe… it works with either cornbread or white bread. Nan, in fact, uses both to great effect. And while it is indeed wonderful with pancetta and sausage, we both substitute in soy chorizo, which is shockingly good and creates a stuffing that pleases the meat eaters yet is vegetarian friendly. As with any stuffing recipe, it is hard to screw up. I’ve simplified her relatively easy recipe even more to make it as user friendly as possible. Oh and, yeah, I’ve simplified it also because I am lazy.

Ingredients:

2 large loaves of good quality bread (LaBrea Bakery Rosemary Olive Oil bread is an excellent choice) OR 2 pans of cornbread. For the best cornbread in the world, click here. (You can do one of each and mix your breads.)

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, depending… click here to make easy homemade stock. It really does make a difference.

2 cups half and half

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

7 T butter

1.5 lbs bulk pork sausage (or 1 lb soy chorizo)

8 oz pancetta (optional)

3 medium onions, chopped fine …about 3 cups

3 ribs celery.. and leaves! (impt!)… about 1 1/2 cups

4 T minced fresh herbs… thyme, rosemary, sage and or savory are good choices

3 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Cut or tear the bread into bite sized pieces. Some people like to cut. I myself tear, I like the rustic look. (Did you know “rustic” means “lazy”?) Spread the pieces on 2 baking sheets and dry out in a 250 degree oven for an hour. Place in a large bowl when cool.

bread for stuffing

torn rustic white bread

 

2. Whisk stock, half and half, and eggs in a bowl. Pour this mixture over the bread and toss pieces gently to coat. (Cornbread can become mushy so I like to make bigger pieces of cornbread)

3. Heat 12 inch skillet over medium-high head until hot. Add 2 T butter and swirl to coat pan. When foam subsides, add your meats or soy chorizo or whatever combo and cook, stirring, until it loses it’s raw color. Remove to a bowl. If you use chorizo, wipe the pan relatively clean so your veggies do not turn orange.

4. Add 4 T of butter and saute onions and celery until softened. As they cook, add salt and pepper liberally, and your herbs. After 5 minutes, add the garlic. Cook on medium heat until all is soft. 

5. Add this mixture to the meats/chorizo, then toss with the bread mixture. Toss gently so some of the bread remains in full pieces and does not mush. Taste! Do you need more seasoning? Add it. 

6. Cover bowl with wrap and let sit an hour, or 4 hours, or overnight, whatever you have time for.

7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large rectangular baking dish. Pour in stuffing and any remaining liquid. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. 

8. If making ahead, bake fully, then keep in fridge or freeze. If you freeze it, let it thaw overnight. Either way, pad with butter, all over, when you reheat.

Note: Eliminate the meats/chorizo and you have a wonderful basic stuffing recipe here, ready for any kind of flavor twist.

JAN’S STUFFING

Where I grew up, on the gulf coast of Texas, the idea of fruit in stuffing was anathema. I could never imagine it! I’d hear of people putting, say, apples in stuffing and think, “What??? They must be a Yankee!”, about as bad a thing a Southerner can call, well, anyone!

So the fact my friend Jan has converted me to making a stuffing that does indeed contain fruit is pretty amazing. This is a terrific stuffing!! I would be making it this year, along with Nan’s version, but Jan is bringing her version to the meal! This is a wonderful addition to any table.

Ingredients:

2 pans of cornbread. For the best cornbread in the world, click here.

3-4 chopped onions

1 1/3 c. chopped celery

1 lb. chopped mushrooms

4-6 c. chicken broth 

1 c. fresh snipped parsley

2 t. sage

1 T. rosemary

2 t. thyme

1 1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 string dried figs (I use about ten)

1 c. Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries – optional) 

3 apples, peeled and chopped

1 c. pecans 

Instructions:

1. Bake your cornbread. Let it cool. 

2. Melt 1/2 c. butter in a huge skillet or Dutch oven. Sauté the onions and mushrooms and celery until soft. 

3. Add chicken broth and spices and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.

4. Cook your sausage. 

5. Crumble the cornbread into a very large bowl. Add the sausage. Snip in the figs (I quarter them). Add the Craisins, if using, the apples and pecans (set some stuffing aside into another bowl if you have people coming with food allergies). Pour the chicken broth/onion mixture in and mix all together. 

6. Turn the whole mixture into a casserole dish and bake till warmed through — about half an hour at 350°. 

Food for your 4th… ’14

29 Jun

Last year’s ‘Food for your 4th‘ was such a hit, I figured I might as well give you more choices. Hopefully posting in time to prep for your celebration, here are some favorites that cannot be beat!

DESSERT

*CAFE GRATITUDE’S RAW LEMON CHEESECAKE

photo 2

raw lemon cheesecake with berries

This year, let’s start with the sweet. Let me introduce you to a wonderful dessert everyone loves yet it is very healthy! Last year I gave you the recipe for a terrific raw peach cobbler I make and devour all the time. My good friend Theresa “Tee” Elam, who is a marvelous cook, turned me onto Cafe Gratitude‘s Raw Lemon Cheesecake about 6 weeks ago. I have been devouring it ever since. Damn, is it excellent. And, again, it’s healthy! Sometimes life is so good.

Note: I confess, I’ve only done the crust once. The crust is worth making and helps it seem like a ‘real cheesecake’ but I love the filling so much and, you know, I’m such a lazy S.O.B. that I usually just make the filling and eat it with some fruit on top, not that it even needs the fruit! Any of these ingredients can be ordered off Amazon.com if you can’t find them in your local store.

The recipe makes one regular cheesecake, though I usually make individual sizes, as seen in the photos.

Click the link for this recipe and other recipe/suggestions!

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It’s called the Game Of Thrones

15 Jun

Game Of Thrones is like standing behind a mean horse who kicks you in the head, over and over. A friend walks up and says ‘What are you doing?”

KICK.

You say, “I’m standing behind a horse who keeps kicking me in the head.”

KICK.

Your friend asks, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

KICK.

You say, “Are you kidding? It’s brutal. I’m dizzy and I can’t see straight. Watch. He’s going to do it again.”

KICK.

Your friend asks, ‘Why don’t you move???”

KICK.

You say, “Because it’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen.”

That’s Game Of Thrones. It pummels you, over and over, with unrelenting harsh brutality yet it is turning out to be the best show that has ever been on TV. You can’t walk away even as it repeatedly kicks you upside the head. It’s filled with amazing beauty and is as grand a narrative as you’ve ever seen.

Game-of-Thrones-fan-art-by-Doodle-Mon_4  

NOTE: Spoilers start halfway down, you will be warned before they start. Also, this is written from the perspective of someone who has not read the books. Please, if you have read the books, no forward spoilers in the comments section.

I actually had no desire to watch Game of Thrones.  Season three was over and I still refused. It’s not my genre (snore) nor did any of it sound appealing. I’ve certainly seen enough tits and ass and gratuitous violence over the years to keep the ‘R’ rated factor from being enticing. And dragons? Eh, whatever. Been there, done that as well. I was one of those people who, when fans would go rabid on Facebook, I’d roll my eyes with great patronizing condescension. Then after much bullying one of my best friends, Adam, dared me to watch the pilot. Just one episode and if I didn’t like it, he’d never bug me again.

Honestly, in about 5 minutes I was absolutely transfixed.

ned-beautiful-death What is it about this show? Certainly there is the scope. Nothing on this scale has ever been done on television. Each one hour episode is filled more stunning visuals than just about any summer movie thundering around the cineplex. And, yes, there is the “tits-n-ass and blood-n-guts” factor. The show is incredibly ‘R’ rated, so much so it spawned one of the funniest online videos of the last couple of years:

None of this, however, explains why the show is so popular and why so many of us are saying it might be the best show ever on television. For any narrative to work, the audience has to care about what is happening and George R. R. Martin, along with the creators, writers and actors of the show, have created incredible characters we root for passionately. As another great friend, Chad, remarked tonight after the season 4 finale, ‘I feel like people I know are dying.”

To read more, click the link!

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“Chef”

25 May

Well, this was a no-brainer for On Food And Film. Just released is the best movie about food in many a year, written and directed by Jon Favreau, presently one of Hollywood’s more successful directors. My friend Teresa Lundy encouraged me to see it and I’m glad she did!

chef-movie

“Chef” is a relaxed and unhurried yet enjoyable movie about a chef who beautifully self destructs after receiving a ghastly review from an important critic, only to find a better version of himself — and his food — as he rebuilds his life. The movie also becomes a heartfelt depiction of his struggle to be a good father to his son, with whom he spends very little time.

film-summer-preview

The general story and structure is not very surprising. It’s obvious where the movie is headed from the beginning. Yet it is indeed a pleasurable ride. There are wonderful performances from many well known actors including Scarlet Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, Sophia Vergara and a hilarious cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. who gives the movie an amazing shot of electricity at just the right time.

Whatever your feelings about the general story, there is a wonderful reason to see the movie: The Food. Other than Big Night, I haven’t seen a movie that so gloriously depicts food: the prepping of it, the cooking of it, and the final product. Chef is total food porn, which alone is enough to recommend it.

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As one example, early in the film the chef, Carl Casper, makes a bowl of pasta for Molly, who runs the front of the house at the restaurant where he works. I would kill for this pasta, a simple, glorious dish made with thinly sliced garlic in an wondrously lived in carbon steel pan. Damn, that looked good.

chef-scarlett-johansson-01-636-380

But all the food looks incredible. Favreau, overseen by Roy Choi, does his own dicing, slicing and cooking in the movie. He’s great. As is the food. If you want an enjoyable time at the movies, check out Chef. But schedule a good dinner after, you are going to want to eat some incredible food when this movie is over.

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SIDE NOTE: In Modern Family, the gorgeous Sophia Vergara is paired with Ed O’Neill. In Chef she is paired with Jon Favreau. What gives? She might want to have a serious talk with her agent…

Winter Salads

13 Dec

Even though it is freezing cold and there are no fresh spring or summer vegetables flooding farmers’ markets and grocery stores, you can still enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: the salad.

I’ve been a fanatic for salad as long as I can remember, all kinds. Even the simplest of salads, correctly prepared, can be sublime. One of my favorite dishes in all the world, for instance, is Union Square Cafe’s  Bibb & Red Oak Leaf Lettuce Salad, their version of a dinner salad that thankfully never leaves the menu. I dined there once with a friend who is not partial to salad. Given my raves about the salad, she decided to order it, figuring she might as well try one of the world’s best dinner salads to see if her mind might be changed.

She tasted it, waved down the waiter and ordered a second one before continuing. Her reaction for the next few minutes eating the salad was not unlike Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

That’s what can happen when you have good salad.

You can always make a simple, wonderful green salad with fresh lettuces any time of year. Add a few herbs and toss with a wonderful vinaigrette (never ever store bought, learn to make a great one, with variations, here) and you will have the perfect start, or end, to any meal.  Let me also, however, give you two salads tailored specifically for the ingredients and tastes of winter: a fantastic Raw Kale Caesar (with video!) as well as a delicious and crunchy Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.

RAW KALE CAESAR

Here is a video demo I did with some friends prepping a few videos to use for the website. I of course left out the anchovy when I made it! See the additional notes and written recipe below for more details:

NOTE: When you make this, be sure to add the anchovy! Sautéed pancetta is a wonderful addition I often toss into the salad, particularly if I omit the rustic croutons. If you want the salad really healthy, add no croutons, no pancetta and very little cheese… it’s still terrific. But a touch of cheese and pancetta won’t kill you! Those are tastes where a little goes a long way and does not get in the way of healthy eating.

Click here to get the full recipe: Raw Kale Caesar recipe.

PESTO VEGETABLE SALAD

Cabbage Salad

The next winter salad has become one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s my own version of a salad I had at one of my favorite places in the world, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. This rustic inn, located in one of the most beautiful locales imaginable, is one of the best havens from the outside world you can find. While the inn is down the road from a couple of the most expensive hotels in the world, Deetjen’s itself is very reasonable. And romantic. And relaxing. No phones, no TV’s, not even locks on the doors. Comfortable beds, a glorious woody setting right across from the Pacific… I get lost there for days.

Deetjen’s has a terrific restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner, both glorious. The restaurant’s Eggs Benedict are the best I’ve ever had. Ditto their Blueberry Pancakes. Best ever as well. At night, the restaurant is soft lit, warm, romantic and, again, rustic. Oh, and wonderful food. For me, Deetjen’s is heaven on earth.

The last time I was lucky enough to stay there a few nights, they offered a special salad made with cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes and a variety of nuts, lightly tossed in a wonderful pesto vinaigrette. I liked it so much I ordered it two nights in a row then came home and figured out my own version.

This is a terrific salad, very much a ‘throw together’ salad that is virtually impossible to mess up. Just be sure to include a variety of nuts and don’t miss using the peanuts: they help give the salad a wonderful, salty kick. While you can make this any time of year, I make it all summer, it’s great on a cold winter’s night as a starter to your dinner. Or as part of a buffet with other winter salads and dishes. Or, if you are eating light, a solid meal on its own. Get the recipe here: Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.

A Great Movie You’ve Probably Never Seen, Vol. II

26 Sep
MosesI ain’t about to leave some poor little child stranded in the middle of nowhere. I’ve got scruples too, ya know. You know what that is… scruples?
 
Addie: No, I don’t know what it is but if you’ve got ‘em, it’s a sure bet they belong to somebody else!
papermoon1973dvd
               
In 1972, Warner Bros released What’s Up, Doc? starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. Streisand was already a worldwide star and O’Neal was coming off the huge success of Love Story two years before. Directed by Peter BogdanovichWhat’s Up, Doc? was a smash hit, the #3 box office hit of ’72 behind The Godfather and The Poseidon Adventure. A wonderful homage to the great screwball comedies of the 30’s, the movie also launched the film career of the brilliant Madeline Kahn. In the very first scene, with the words “Howard… Howard Bannister,” Kahn firmly established herself as one of our most extraordinary comedienne/actors. Her wig alone is genius:
click the photo for the clip

click the photo for the clip

As wonderful as is What’s Up, Doc?, even better is Bogdanovich’s next film, a movie that seems to have fallen off many people’s radar. Easily one of the best films of the 70’s (which we’ve previously established is the greatest decade for film) the movie is also one of my personal favorites of all time: Paper Moon.
PAPER_MOON_poster_by_rodolforever.png

Based on a novel Addie Pray, Paper Moon was adapted by Alvin Sargent, garnering his first Oscar nomination for the script. (He won the WGA award however.) Sargent went on to win two Academy Awards for adaptations: Julia and Ordinary People. At age 86, Sargent is still writing in Hollywood, having worked on, among other things, the last 4 Spiderman films. That’s one hell of a career.

To play con man Moses Pray, Bogdanovich again hired Ryan O’Neal.  Bogdanovich also rehired Madeline Kahn as ‘Miss Trixie Delight’…  Kahn’s first appearance in Paper Moon is one of my favorite first appearances of all time.  

PJ_PaperMoon31s80


Kahn is so good in the movie that although her role is small, she was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Finally, in a stroke of genius, Bogdanovich cast Ryan O’Neal’s daughter Tatum as Addie in her first appearance on screen. Tatum O’Neal is so stunningly good she deservedly won the  Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role, still the youngest person ever to win an Oscar. (note the incomparable P. J. Johnson in the background struggling with the suitcases.  This also was her first movie and she is brilliant.)

Exquistely shot in black and white, Paper Moon is one of the most entertaining movies you will ever see. I screen this for people frequently, given that even many cineastes have not seen it. Each time, the room is filled with howls and laughs all the way through. Yet the movie has a rich complexity under the comic surface. It also has a lot of heart without becoming in any way saccharine.

Click below to continue reading and see two clips from Paper Moon:

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“Mariachi Band”

30 Aug

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I produced a record that we launched this week. Here is a little background on the project:

20 years ago a close friend of mine, Chad Holley, called from St. Louis to say he was engaged to be married.  Having not seen Chad for a while and wanting to meet his fiance’, I flew to St. Louis to meet Claire Chamblin, soon to be Claire Holley. There began another close friendship that has only deepened since the great day 10 years ago when Claire and Chad moved to Los Angeles.

Claire is a wonderful person and very good friend who, like my closest friends, patiently puts up with my hyperbolic passion. (I’ve written before about the wonderful arguments, um, discussions we have around the dinner table.) Claire is also an extremely talented singer/songwriter/musician. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her sing often, a few times even in my own home at magical house concerts she performs in my living room.

Two years ago, I went to see Claire at the Cinema Bar in Los Angeles. One of the songs she sang that night was a new composition, “Mariachi Band.” By the time she finished the song, I knew I wanted to produce it. Convincing her of this, however, took a little cajoling.

Tom Provost and Claire Holley

Tom Provost and Claire Holley

Not many people know it but I, too, am a musician. I was plopped in front of a piano at the age of three and forced to take piano lessons for many years. My first piano teacher was an unpleasant old woman who would cut my fingernails way past the point of comfort and rap my knuckles with a ruler. This did not make me initially enjoy the piano, perhaps the understatement of the year. She also made me do volumes and volumes of “Notes”, which was music theory paperwork designed to teach notes and chords and everything musical on the page.  At the age of 5, this was Not. Fun. It wasn’t even playing the damn piano!

Thankfully, she, well, retired in a way and I moved through a few other piano teachers until I was 18, all much more fun. I also subjected my family to learning the saxophone for band. God bless ‘em. While I remain merely passable at playing the piano, I was actually kick ass on the sax. Good performer or not, the music theory I learned under the old lady stuck with me and I’ve been a music fanatic all my life. Deep down, I always wanted to try producing.

When I heard Claire play Mariachi Band in her beautiful, haunting style, I had a vision for something a little different: more upbeat, a song that would make people want to tap their feet. I wanted to arrange the song in a way that would highlight her beautiful voice. And as a passionate lover of Los Angeles, truly one of the great cities in all the world, I also envisioned an accompanying video that would be a love letter to East Los Angeles, my favorite part of the city.

It indeed took a few more passionate dinners but eventually I convinced Claire to give it all a try. She helped assemble some of the more talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. We then spent a couple of days in the studio recording, then mixing the song.

Click to keep reading and see the video!

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