Food on the Tube

Old man winter has been particularly nasty the last few weeks. The Hubs and I like to hole up on the couch and watch either our DVR queue or something on Netflix on snowy and cold Saturdays. In honor of the recent Oscars, I thought I’d share with you some good food-themed movies we’ve recently watched.

Image Source: "Chef 2014" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chef_2014.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Chef_2014.jpg

Image Credit: IMDB.com

 A couple weekends ago, we watched Chef, starring Jon Favreau as chef who loses his job in a fancy restaurant after a difference of opinion with the owner and some unfortunate tweeting to a restaurant critic. He picks up the pieces a  starts his own food truck business–which amasses a huge following, thanks to a more effective use of twitter, all while he reconnects with his son and wife. It’s definitely worth a watch. It was also written, produced and directed by Favreau (I’ve seriously been a huge fan since PCU. Who remembers that one?) Make sure you have the fixins for Cuban sandwiches on hand if you’re going to watch it, though. I guarantee you’ll be craving them by the end of the movie.

The very same weekend, we also watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. What a gorgeous movie! It’s a documentary about Jiro Ono, octogenarian sushi chef, who owns a Three-Michelin-Star sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. I’m not making that up. I don’t know that I’ve every seen someone more dedicated to their craft than he is. It was all in Japanese with English subtitles, but I honestly didn’t even notice. I was so mesmerized by the way his hands moved making sushi. He’s been doing this for more than fifty years, and he makes a task which I am sure is incredibly difficult look seamless. I’m sure I’ll never get the opportunity to eat there, but I’d love to. For each seating, he memorizes the order of gender of the patrons sitting at the counter and whether each is right- or left-handed, and adjusts the sushi he prepares accordingly. Can you imagine? And he’s 85 years old, with no plans to retire.

A month or so ago, we watched Somm, another documentary, this one about the grueling Master Sommelier exam. I’ve always joked that I would like to be a sommelier when I grow up, but achieving the prestigious master sommelier title is no joke at all. These people are serious about wine, and I think probably even a little crazy to attempt the exam. I thought the bar exam was ridiculously difficult, but this documentary made it seem like it would be child’s play compared to this exam. There is a tasting portion and a written portion. For the tasting portion, you are given a handful of wine samples, and you have to be able to identify with reasonable accuracy, the grape variety, region it was produced in, type of producer, and approximate vintage. All while being timed. You have about 4 minutes to gather all that information from about 2 ounces of wine. While watching, you’ll want a couple bottles of decent wine on hand to enjoy. And you’ll definitely never look at those cheap six-dollar bottles at the grocery the same.

There are tons of other food movies out there–mostly documentaries–worth watching. I hope everyone has had a chance to see Food, Inc. by now. Seeing it was a watershed moment for me. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must! We’ve come a long way in the seven year since it’s debut, I think because of the attention it shed on our food system. A Place at the Table is in the same category of tide-turning food documentaries, but with a focus on hunger in America rather than the broad shortcomings of our food system. The number of people with food insecurity (not knowing when or where your next meal will come from) in this country is truly appalling. It is an issue with many layers, but one that absolutely demands our attention. Also, this fall, I watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary I’d wanted to see for a long time. It’s about two doctors have done extensive research on a plant-based diet, and are treating folks with a range of chronic conditions. While plenty of evidence supports this approach for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, some of these patients are living with cancer that seemingly stopped growing when they adjusted their diets. This is a crazy concept, but one that I need is worth exploring further. I am a true believer in the old adage from Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine thy food,” and this film definitely embodies that philosophy.

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Image credit: moviexclusive.com

In the feature film category, this past year, we watched Bottle Shock. It is based on the historic blind wine tasting in Paris in 1976, pitting French wines, seen by most as the best in the world, against the relatively up-and-coming California wines. In dramatic fashion, California wines won both categories–white and red. The poor tasting panel, all French, were mortified and vilified for years afterwards. The event was covered in the press only by an American with Time Magazine’s Europe bureau, George Tabor, who later wrote a book about the tasting. The movie is based on the book. Last summer, I read the book, and it was fascinating. If you don’t want to delve into the intricacies of wine making in both California and France, watch the movie, but I loved the book. Make sure to have plenty of good California wine on hand to watch the movie–and if you read the book.

There are a few more food-related movies left to get to on my netflix list, with the last few (hopefully) weeks of nasty weather. Maybe I should turn some of these movies into dishes… Hmmm, future blog post, maybe.

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That time I made Welsh Rarebit

I love food with a story.

I have had this recipe for Welsh Rarebit printed off and in my binder for a long time (I’m not going to PROJECT RECIPE it, though, since it wasn’t from a food blog). I don’t know what caught my eye about it when I first found it. It just sounded weird, I guess. So, I printed it, and I started wondering what the back story was. Where did it come from? Why did it have such an odd name?

It’s basically toast with cheese sauce over it. And this is a real thing. I mean, I’m sure college kids eat stuff like this all the time. But this is a real thing. This isn’t your ordinary cheese sauce, though. It has dijon mustard and porter in it, along with cheddar cheese. The flavors were so complex. And even though there’s only a little bit of mustard, the taste is so prominent. It goes great with the bite of rye bread.

Welsh Rarebit (2)

Apparently, the dish was originally called Welsh Rabbit, and was an English tavern dish. It has always been simple toast with cheese sauce–there has apparently been rabbit in it, ever. It dates back to the early 1700s, and somewhere along the way, the name transformed into “rarebit” instead of “rabbit”. One theory is that peasants were not allowed to keep rabbits killed in the forest, but instead had to turn them over to the lords who owned the land. So, they used a little cheese stretched into a creamy sauce instead. But I doubt this is true. I suspect rabbit morphed into rarebit by people who simply didn’t get the “joke” that there was no rabbit in this dish. It became a cheeky term that seems to make as many people mad as those who like to call it this. But everyone knows what it means.

This dish was a great quick and easy dinner perfect for a cold winter night. I bought the fancy rye bread and really good sharp cheddar. With such a simple dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use quality ingredients.

I would definitely make it again because it’s one of those things that you can probably whip up if you happen to have rye bread and porter on hand.

If you’re down with cheese (hello? who isn’t) and some quick and easy food you can say is a fancy British dish (say with with the accent and it sounds better) you should definitely try this.

Welsh Rarebit

British Curry Chips

If I had to pick my favorite type of cuisine, it would be tough. I love Asian food. And I love Italian. But, I think my favorite type of food has to be bar food. Hands down. I love wings. Potato skins. Nachos. And a nice spicy IPA to go with it, or a hearty toasted porter.

While, really, the best part of bar food is the ambiance, in my opinion, sometimes the Hubs and I like to make pub grub at home and stay in. Particularly if there’s a game on. It’s almost like we’re there. Except my bathroom is a lot cleaner than the bar. That’s a good thing.

Last summer, when we were in Niagara Falls, we went up to Niagara On The Lake for the day, and we ate at an Irish pub before leaving town. We got burgers and fries, but you could substitute poutine (it was Canada, afterall) or curry fries for regular fries… Er, I mean chips. The Hubs got poutine, which was amazing, and I got the curry chips.

I never heard of them before, but they were really, really good. I figured they were fries with curry seasoning on them, but no. These were crispy and greasy fries with curry SAUCE over them. It was weird, but amazing.

Wintertime is the perfect time for bar comfort food like curry chips. Last Sunday, I decided to try and make them myself.

My first attempt wasn’t too bad.

curry fries (2)

British Curry Chips (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 4 to 6 medium thin-skinned potatoes (I used kennebec)
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tb curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp corriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Cut the potatoes into sticks for fries. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch. Drizzle with 4 Tb olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Toss to coat. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil (the dull side). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tb oil in a large sauce pan. Add the diced onion, and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir to keep it from burning. Add the garlic after about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir for a few minutes. Slowly add the stock, and whisk to combine. Add the spices. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Stir to combine. Keep warm until the potatoes are done. When the potatoes are brown and crispy around the edges, they are done. Serve with the curry sauce poured over them and sprinkle parsley on top.

Of course, fries are better, if they’re well… fried. But I don’t have a fryer, and these are healthier. They were almost as good as the fried ones I had at the Irish pub.

Curry sauce on fries might seem weird, but Great Britain has a strong Indian culture–and of course, a great pub culture. So, really, curry sauce and chips go together perfectly. There was even a short-lived tv show in the Sixties in England called “Chips and Curry”.

If you like curry sauce, you def need to try this. It’s definitely an interesting take on bar food–and went great washed down with an IPA.

PROJECT RECIPE: Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach

I love Indian food. I love cooking it almost as much as going out to have it at an Indian restaurant.

For the longest time, I was solidly against Indian food. I chalk it up to a bad experience the first time I ever tried it. So, I thought I didn’t like it for a long time. I’m glad I gave it another chance. I can’t get enough of the exotic spicy food nowadays.7:007

I had a couple wild turkey breasts in the freezer from last spring season. Fresh turkey breast is great when its lightly breaded and fried. But I think, when its frozen, it gets tough. So I thought this recipes would be great since it braises slow and low in the oven for about an hour–the best way to cook tough cuts of meat.

I think I must’ve stumbled on this recipe for Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach on pinterest. I can’t remember.

indian turkey and chickpeas (2)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Eh. I wasn’t “wowed”. The best part of the recipe were the chickpeas because they got nice and soft braising in the pot for so long. It was better leftover, like some stews usually areIt seems like it is probably relatively healthy. It was absolutely full of spinach, mushrooms and chickpeas–a great way to get your fill of vegetables.

How I changed the recipe: I mentioned I used turkey breast instead of turkey thighs. I love dark meat, so that might have been better. But I didn’t have any turkey thighs. Also, I didn’t have quite enough curry powder, so I just added some tumeric and cumin to make up the difference. I thought it was a little bland. Looking back, maybe if I’d actually followed the recipe, this might have been better. Maybe I wasn’t fair with it. I do have another turkey breast in the freezer, so maybe I’ll give it another try.

indian turkey and chickpeas

PROJECT RECIPE: Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso

Soup recipes always get my attention because I eat it for lunch about everyday. Year-round. The best thing about eating soup year-round is using what’s in season. Tomato soup in late summer. Adding greens in fall and spring. I like to make a big pot on Sunday afternoon to take for lunch all week. This carrot soup with miso was a nice recipe for winter.

I have been following the {never} homemaker blog for a while. The recipes are solid healthy fare, and she sprinkles in stories about running and fitness, and sometimes it motivates me to hear about how other people exercise. Sometimes.

The recipes are always simple and straight forward. I’m a big believer in that. The best recipes, in my opinion, just let the ingredients be the star, not super-fussy techniques. This recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso measures up.

carrot miso soup (4)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. Carrots and miso are such an interesting combo. I honestly had no idea what this would taste like, but it was really good. Miso is so salty, and roasting the carrots and onions made them nice and sweet. It was that really good combo of salty and sweet like bugles in vanilla ice cream. Well, maybe not, but it was really, really good. Plus, it was really, really easy. It took about 45 minutes or an hour total, but most of that was the time the vegetables were in the oven roasting.

carrot miso soup (2)

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t. But this soup is a little thin. I think next time, I’ll roast a big potato in the oven along with the vegetables and toss it in the blender to mix in the soup and mix it up a little. Or maybe a couple tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it up. I like my soup with a little more body than this.

But, it’s pretty yummy like it is. It has such an interesting taste from the miso. Definitely not my same ol’ soup every day.

carrot miso soup

It’s worth checking out through the links above. And checking out some of the other recipes while you’re on the blog taking a peek.

PROJECT RECIPE: Super bowl snacks edition

The best part of the Super Bowl this year wasn’t the football. And it definitely wasn’t the commercials. Katy Perry WAS pretty kick ass, but in my opinion, the food was pretty hard to beat.

The last couple years, we’ve hosted my brother and my dad for the game and a spread of snacks. This year, my brother is on a paleo diet kick, and I’m trying to stick with my New Year’s resolution, so we needed some healthy fare. It seemed there was no shortage of yummy recipes that were fairly healthy this year for the Super Bowl on pinterest.

I’ve had these recipes printed for a long time and in my binder, but I hadn’t ever tried them. I decided the Super Bowl was the perfect time to try them both.

bean dip

The Sundried Tomato spread is from Thug Kitchen. If you aren’t familiar with that website, please, please go now. But only if you don’t mind profanity and like vegetarian recipes. I’m down with both. They even have a cookbook out now, which I’m dying to get.

This is definitely a keeper. It’s super healthy since it is made from white beans, garlic and sundried tomatoes. It would be so good in a wrap with some veggies or on a sandwich. But it disappeared pretty quickly with homemade baked tortilla chips.

I found this recipe on Katie’s Cucina. I met her at Mixed Con a couple years ago. Spicy baked corn chips are right up my alley since I love tortilla chips with just about anything. Using corn tortillas and baking them makes them healthier. Once they cooled, they were really crunchy. They were so easy to make, too.

Click through these links to get the recipes, and while you’re at it, order a cookbook from Thug Kitchen. These are two recipes that you don’t need to wait for the Super Bowl for.

PROJECT RECIPE: One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

I usually try to put myself out there like a sophisticated foodie, but I have a confession to make. I freakin’ love chili mac. It’s basically Hamburger Helper, but something about it just says comfort food to me. It’s quick and easy and hearty and satisfying. A total package.

When I saw this recipe for one pot chili mac and cheese from Damn Delicious, I knew it would be a winner. I found it on Pinterest, but I’ve been to her blog before. She was actually at Mixed Con one of the years I was there, and her site has tons of really yummy quick and easy recipes for busy weeknights. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?

chili mac

Here’s the thing about this dinner. The Hubs had it ready for me when I got home from work Friday.This is the time of year I get super-busy at work, and I stayed until about 6:30 Friday evening, just to get some work done after everyone else left. It was one of those days when things kept popping up and I couldn’t seem to get any tasks completed. I walked in the door and smelled this delicious smell and it was hot and ready to scoop into bowls and enjoy. I’m a lucky gal, I know.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Definitely a keeper. Since I didn’t have to cook it, that might have helped this one score some points. But nonetheless, the Hubs attests this one was quick and easy to make, and I can speak to how delicious it was. It’s different than other chili mac I’ve had since it used turkey (or chicken stock). It gave it a nice richness and deep flavors. Chili mac is such a hearty meal, perfect for busy winter evenings–when you end up working late.

The Hubs said he didn’t change the recipe at all, except for using turkey stock in place of chicken stock. In my book, that doesn’t really count.

Click through the link above to get the recipe yourself, and maybe find some other yummy recipes from Damn Delicious. This recipe is going to make regular appearances on my menu, especially this time of year when I have to work late.