Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tortilla Soup

Our most recent cooking endeavor was based upon the food in the film Tortilla Soup. This one expanded our boundaries a bit, for the recipes called for everything from octopus to banana leaves, squash blossoms, and cactus paddles! But it was fun to put together, and it was a great end-of-summer grilling opportunity--the last of the season?--well, who knows what the next movie will require?

Fun Fact
The chefs who prepared the food served in Tortilla Soup, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, are also known as the “Too Hot Tamales,” which was also the name of their series on the Food Network (1995-1999). The dishes they cooked for filming were based upon the menus at their famous restaurants, Cuidad in Los Angeles and the Border Grill in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In Brief
Released August 21, 2001
Starring Hector Elizondo as Martin Naranjo, Raquel Welch as Hortensia, Jacqueline Obradors as Carmen Naranjo, Tamara Mello as Maribel Naranjo, Elizabeth Peña as Leticia Naranjo, Nikolai Kinski as Andy, Constance Marie as Yolanda, and Paul Rodriguez as Orlando Castillo
Directed by Maria Ripoll
Screenplay by Hui-Ling Wang, Ang Lee, James Schamus, Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca, and Vera Blasi
Awards: 2002 American Latino Musical Arts (ALMA) Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Peña); 2002 Imagen Foundation Award for Best Theatrical Feature Film
Food prepared by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken

"It's a very sensual film, and the food of course is just a metaphor for all the different characters in the story. We're all very different, and each character is quite unpredictable in their own way."
—Raquel Welch

Movie quotations
Do you know why we clink glasses before drinking?... It's so that all the five senses are involved. We touch the glass. We smell the drink. We see its color. We taste it. Hearing is the only sense that doesn't participate unless we create it.--Carmen Naranjo
I love toppings. Sometimes I go to restaurants and I just order toppings.--Orlando Castillo

The last two photos depict our version of tortilla soup--with just enough hot spiciness to inflame the palate!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fast Food Nation

Based on the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, the film Fast Food Nation is a dramatic portrayal of America’s relationship with fast food—burgers, fries, chicken tenders, shakes—and the companies that cook and sell it, the meat-processing plants that make it available, the animals that provide it, and the workers that prepare it. When a marketing executive for Mickey’s Burgers learns of tests that show his company’s Big One burgers are tainted with fecal matter, he travels to Cody, Colorado, to inspect Uni-Globe Meat Packing, the supplier of the hamburger patties. At the same time, several Mexicans who have just illegally crossed over the border are hired to work at Uni-Globe as meat cutters and cleaners. And a young cashier at a Mickey’s Burgers franchise joins with a group of newfound friends to free cows awaiting slaughter from their holding pen. The three plotlines converge, but the filmmakers have chosen realism over drama, and the actions and decisions of the individual characters have little if any lasting effect.

Although animal-slaughtering scenes don’t occur until the end of the film, Fast Food Nation is not a movie that will whet your appetite. Indeed, from the mention of feces-contaminated hamburger in the opening scenes to the depiction of an undocumented worker losing his leg in the meat-processing plant, the film causes viewers to ask if they want to participate in any way in this “machine” that seems to have taken control of America’s eating habits.

Debi Anderson: Well, I guess it is a marketing issue. If the kids die from eating your burgers, it makes them much harder to sell.
Don Anderson: Marketing 101. Don’t kill the customer. Bad for repeat business.

Rudy Martin: By the way, Don, you seem like a nice fella. But the food your company sells is crap—total crap—even when there isn’t manure in it.

Harry Rydell: It is a sad fact of life, Don. But the truth is … we all have to eat a little shit from time to time.

Remarkable Facts
Americans spend more than $140 billion annually at fast food “restaurants”; the U.S. fast-food market is the world’s largest, with China’s second. The average American spends more than $20,000 on fast food in a lifetime; about 25 percent of Americans visit a fast-food restaurant every day. The 3.5 million fast-food workers in the United States represent the largest group of minimum-wage earners.

Released November 17, 2006
Starring Greg Kinnear as Don Anderson, Bruce Willis as Harry Rydell, Ethan Hawke as Pete, Patricia Arquette as Cindy, Kris Kristofferson as Rudy Martin, Bobby Cannavale as Mike, Luis Guzmán as Benny, Ashley Johnson as Amber, Paul Dano as Brian, Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sylvia, Ana Claudia Talancón as Coco, Wilmer Valderrama as Raul, and Avril Lavigne as Alice
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater, based on the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

Monday, September 8, 2008

More Recipes from "Titanic"

As we continue to prepare dishes from the films we've selected, we find that certain meals take much longer than we might have anticipated, and sometimes we just run out of steam and have to finish up another night. This is what happened with our preparation of the famous meal from Titanic, the blockbuster film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. So here are some additional selections from that dinner.

The first is Sirloin of Beef, delectable and buttery, prepared with shallots and mushrooms:

Next is Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette, a quite refreshing dish because it is served chilled:

Finally, Chocolate and Vanilla Eclairs. This is a recipe that took us three tries to perfect: the pastry has to be light yet strong, the filling must be smooth yet substantial, and the chocolate sauce must be thick yet spreadable. As chefs, we have to remember that "presentation" is perhaps just as important as taste (but these eclairs are really yummy too!).