Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"The Casablanca Cookbook" & "Pilar Wayne's (John Wayne's wife) Favorite and Fabulous Recipes - Oscar Night!

Date I made these recipes:  March 2, 2014 – Oscar night!

The Casablanca Cookbook – Wining and Dining at Rick's by Sarah Key, Jennifer Newman Brazil and Vicki Wells
Published by:  Abbeville Press Publishers
ISBN:  1-55859-474-4
Purchased at The Strand (Bookstore) NYC
Recipe:  Couscous Marocain – p. 25, using a spice mix found on page 15

Pilar Wayne's Favorite and Fabulous Recipes (Pilar was married to actor John Wayne) by Pilar Wayne
Published by:  PAX Publishing Company
© 1982
Purchased from Etsy - RetroMarketplace
Recipe:  Cream of Carrot Soup – p. 55

As so just like Christmas, this year's Oscar celebration came and went...and went...and went.  Honestly people, I am no expert on telecasts but really – three and a half hours for this show is a bit much.  When husband Andy finally threw in the towel (somewhere around hour three), he said "Have they even done the best actor and actress yet?"  Ha!  (Snort) "Not even close, honey.  We're still at Best Adapted....something."

And so off he went to bed (he has an early start for work) and I endured the remaining half an hour as if I was involved in some kind of Chinese water torture.  I don't remember feeling this antsy before but the older I get, the more I just have limits on how much time I want to "invest" in something like this. 

As someone who has the unofficial title of "Event Planner" on her resume, let me just offer up a few suggestions on how to make this excruciatingly long evening a success:  a) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler guest host...everything.  Not only are they funny but they move it along, Douglas!; b) no offense to the people who worked their butts off in areas like sound editing and visual effects and costuming, but let's be real, shall we:  what we want to see boils down to a few select categories, specifically:  Best Supporting Actor/Actress; Best Actor/Actress; Best Director; Best Picture.  Wait—that list is too short so I must have made a mistake.  No, upon further review, I think that sums it up.

Item c):  Really, John Travolta?  Did that toupee on your head scramble your brain?  The woman who sang the theme song from the movie, Frozen, is Idina Menzel—even I can pronounce that. Instead, the buzz on the internet today is how would John Travolta mangle your name:  Idina's became "Adele Dazeem."  Snort.  Moral of that story:  please do quit your day job, John. 

Okay, so that's the long and short of what I thought of the Oscars, let's get down to dinner.  I recently acquired both The Casablanca Cookbook and Pilar Wayne's Favorite and Fabulous Recipes cookbook and so put them aside with the intent to use them for the Oscar broadcast.  No problem.  What was more challenging was tying these recipes together – Casablanca/Moroccan recipes with Pilar Wayne's fondness for Tex-Mex/Peruvian food.  In the end, I decided the "safest" route was to pair the cream of carrot soup recipe with the couscous recipe because in my head, at the time of selection, I pictured a less creamy carrot soup than what I got.  With a less creamy soup, the carrots would have gone nicely with couscous and all its accompanying vegetables and spices.  But let me tell you, "pilgrim" (John Wayne often called someone "pilgrim") the soup was damned good.  It almost didn't turn out that way because I had an inattentive moment at the stove (thought the burner was off and it was on simmer, almost wrecking my soup ingredients) but we liked it a lot.

As to the couscous, I really enjoyed the spice mixture in this recipe.  I vacillated between making a whole batch or a half batch and decided on a whole but you can easily divide this.  To round things out, I poached two chicken breasts and mixed them into the couscous mixture.

So let's talk about the cookbooks and why they were perfect for Oscar night! 

Casablanca has to be one of my favorite movies, not so much for the love story (although it's awesome, am I right?) but because of the sheer wit of the dialog and the droll way it was delivered.  In case you have never seen the movie (making you one in about a bazillion) here's the story:  American expat, Rick/actor Humphrey Bogart, owner of Rick's Cafe American, is running his little gin joint in Casablanca in the middle of WWII. Enter his former lover, Elsa/actress Ingrid Bergman, who, along with her husband, Victor Lazlo/actor Paul Henreid, is trying to get out of Casablanca (now run by the French Vichy government) and needs Rick's help (Victor is a leader in the Czech Resistance and is trying to get back to his people). Rick sums up the situation thusly: "Out off all the gin joints, out of all the towns in the world, she walks into mine."  Damn you, Elsa!

So that's your basic plot.  It gets better and funnier ("Round up the usual suspects") as the movie goes along, culminating in the resolution to the Rick-Elsa-Victor conundrum (in a beautiful scene and you cannot tell me that you have not seen this scene before – cannot) and one of the best ending lines, ever:  "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."  (Sniffle.)

So as you might imagine, The Casablanca Cookbook is filled with Moroccan-inspired delicacies, along with other memorable movie quotes and photos. To this day, I am still bummed that my husband, Andy, refused to wear a white formal dinner jacket– ala Rick – to our wedding (and not the tacky, modern white tux but a classic 40's and 50's white formal dinner jacket...and yes, there's a difference).  Oh well.  To soothe my soul, I'll just have to watch the movie again...and again.

And so now we turn our attention away from Casablanca to westerns.  Make that John Wayne westerns. 

Nobody, but nobody, not even Clint Eastwood, although he comes close, embodies westerns like John "Duke" Wayne.  That voice, that swagger, that stature (the guy was 6'4") all worked to turn him into a cinematic legend.  All this from a guy named "Marion" at birth – glad to see that name change worked out for him.

Although nominated for an Oscar on three occasions – 1949 – Best Actor Nominee for the Sands of Iwo Jima (he lost to Broderick Crawford for All the King's Men); 1960 – Producer – The Alamo (he lost to Billy Wilder of The Apartment) and 1969 – Best Actor for True Grit, he only won 1969 Oscar for Best Actor in True Grit.  Although best known for his westerns, Duke also performed in an equal number of WWII films.  Actually, any time a movie needed a "man's man," John Wayne was "it." 

Here's a list of some of Duke's notable movies:
Rooster Cogburn – 1975 – with Katharine Hepburn
Rio Lobo – 1970; Rio Bravo – 1959; Rio Grande - 1950
Chisum – 1970
Hellfighers – 1968
The Green Berets – 1968
The Son's of Katie Elder – 1965
How the West Was Won – 1962
The Longest Day – 1962
The Quiet Man – 1952

And on and on and on! 

Now I must disclose that while I loved Duke in the Sands of Iwo Jima (a film that hit home for me because my dad was a Marine on that island during the same battle), I did snort at the...I don't know....over the top portrayal of valor.  I mean, Duke went down as only Duke could go down but it was rather "Hollywood," and far less realistic than the bloodbath it actually was.  But hey, he gets points for trying.

And I must also disclose that my favorite John Wayne moment did not come from any of his movies, good though they were but from my favorite TV show of all time, I Love Lucy. In Season 5 (1955), episode 2 (the Hollywood episodes), Lucy gets the bright idea to steal John Wayne's footprint from Grauman's Chinese Theater and manages to break it into pieces.  In the scenes that follow, Lucy has to then try to get "Mr. Wayne" to redo his footprint.  Bedlam ensues.  In the end, Lucy gets to meet John Wayne, his footprint is restored and all is well as Lucy and Ethel jump up to try to kiss that very tall man.  Hopefully, neither Desi Arnaz (a/k/a Ricky Ricardo), Lucy's real-life husband and co-star nor John Wayne's wife, Pilar were put out over that innocent kiss although the massage scene (yes, you read it right) might be another matter.  Hint:  watch the episode!

 Born in Peru, Pilar Pallete met John Wayne when he was in Peru scouting locations for The Alamo.  Although John was 29 years her senior (oy!) they were together for 27 years until 1979 when John died (they separated in 1973).  Today, Pilar – actress, mother (she and John had three children) cookbook author, restaurateur, interior designer and artist – makes her home in California.  Her artwork (including many paintings of John) can be viewed at

Although Pilar just published a second edition of her cookbook, I knew I had to have her first edition the minute I spotted it on Etsy.  Although I was not a follower of John Wayne's career, I was aware that Pilar was his wife and so I put this book in my shopping cart and there it is!   This book is a great mishmash of recipes – some Peruvian, some not and – be still my heart – there's even a recipe for (Jell-O) Lime Mold.  Scoff all ye may, but I love Jell-O and would have made it had I not been obsessed with other dishes in the book.

So there you have it – Ann's Oscar Night Dinner 2014.  And the Oscar for Best Culinary Creation goes to....

Cream of Carrot Soup (serving size not given)
1 lb carrots
1 lb potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
6 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 cup cream
Tabasco (just a little)
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cold milk

Peel carrots and potatoes.  Cut carrots into rounds and cube potatoes.  Melt butter in a pot and add onion.  Add the carrots, potatoes and chicken and bring to a boil.  Add thyme and bay leaf.  Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes until carrots and potatoes are tender.

Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Return to pot; add remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly.  Serve hot.

Couscous Marocain – makes 6 to 8 servings
16 ounces couscous
1 recipe Abdul's Secret Spice Mix (see below; in the book, see p. 15)
1 cup raisins
19-ounce can chick peas
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 red onion, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups unsalted chicken broth or water

Abdul's Secret Spice Mix
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon salt
Ann's Note:  per the book, you can also use this spice mix for Marinated Black Olives (p. 16), Goat Cheese Purses (p. 28) and this recipe.

Mix spices in a small bowl.

For the couscous:
Place dried couscous in a fine strainer.  Pour cold water over the couscous until it is completely wet.  Let drain for 30 seconds.  Spread couscous on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp towel.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  Then take couscous and pour it into a large bowl.  Separate it into grains with your fingers.  Mix in all remaining ingredients.  Up until this point couscous can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days.  When ready to serve, place couscous in a large ovenproof dish with water or chicken broth.  Bake covered at 400F until couscous is hot and all the liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).  Couscous goes well with kebabs.

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