Thursday, February 26, 2015

"The Hollywood Cookbook - Cooking for Causes" - Mediterranean Chicken and Coconut Rice Pudding for the Oscars!

Date I made these recipes:  February 22, 2015 – Oscar Night!

The Hollywood Cookbook – Cooking for Causes by Jackie Zabel and Morgan Most
Published by:  Silverback Books, Inc.
ISBN:  13: 978-1-56937-083-8; © 2006
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipes:  Mediterranean Chicken (Anne Hathaway's) – p. 116 and Coconut Rice Pudding – p. 157

Tonight was the 87th Academy Awards show and the Oscar went to...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Clocking in at 3.5 hours, this sucker was long and might I say boring?  And predictable.  And boring.  Wait, I said that.

Once upon a time, when I actually went to a movie theater (not since 2003 folks and it seems even longer than that) and watched most if not all the Oscar contenders for Best Picture, that horse race was fun.  Heck, I even snuck in a foreign films along the way just to keep my hand in the game and for bragging rights:  "Why yes, I did see that Icelandic horror story, thank you very much.  Two words:  Total shoe-in!"  Back then though, my movie viewing had a purpose and that was to win, finally, my friend Mike's Oscar pool. You think the actual Oscars are a battle? Ha! Try winning that damned pool. Some years I came so close to winning it all (and my plastic Oscar)  it was ridiculous.  And I had my speech all ready to go, damn it, and of course it was totally original, unlike most "plug and play" speeches we hear today (well, except this year):  "I'd like to thank my [producers] [directors] [the good folks at craft food service]...."

But then.  But then everything got boring and predictable and was there any doubt about who would win anything (in a major category) this year?  No, there was not.  In fact, so slow-moving was this train that toward the end, when I was desperately fighting off sleep (and the accompanying mouth drool), I was momentarily dismayed (confused?) to see that Patricia Arquette wasn't pictured along with the rest of the ladies up for Best Actress.  And that's because she won her award for Best Supporting Actress what – days earlier?  It seemed so. 

And G-Bless Neil Patrick Harris but he did not help matters along at all.  Now, if he would have tap danced, if he would have created a work-out video or if he magically (because he is a magician) made the entire auditorium disappear (save for Oprah who never goes anywhere because she's well...Oprah!), well then maybe I might have sat up straighter and paid better attention.  But he didn't so I didn't and so there you go.

And I can't even blame my drowsiness on the fact that Andy and I ate a heavy pre-Oscar meal because we didn't.  Well okay, the coconut rice pudding wasn't exactly the lightest thing on the planet but it was dessert and we had just a small taste so we would not do what in fact we did anyway – snooze!  Poor Andy bailed 3 hours in, recognizing that he would miss out (not really) on the Best of the Best of the...whatever...categories that remained but the guy has to get up for work in the morning and as excuses go, I don't think the boss would be tickled with "Well, I was up too late watching the never-ending Oscars and then I overslept and...."  Okay, small lie:  that might work with me if I was his boss but not in a machine shop full of guys.  Just sayin'...

Okay, well, I could go on and on (and believe me, post-awards I do go on and on about the fashion), but let's get to this cookbook.

The title, if you will, is somewhat misleading because it's The Hollywood Cookbook and to some – okay me – "Hollywood" still means films.  Films that are celebrated on a night like tonight at the Oscars.  Yet this book is filled with mostly TV actors who, of course, work in Hollywood but yet it's not the same.  This is why TV actors are celebrated with the Emmy's and movie actors are celebrated with the Oscars and the twain never shall meet, or at least didn't until the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor's Guild Awards were created to split the difference.  Or at least that's the answer that I'm going with for today.

Now, the purpose of this book can be found in the subtitle "Cooking for Causes."  And so each actor, actress, or chef, listed here gives us the charity/cause they support and they are all worthy.  In some cases, I was tempted to select a recipe based on the cause and not necessarily the actor.  Then other times, I flipped it and was learning toward the actor instead of the cause.  Well, luckily, I have Mr. Not-All-That-Interested for a spouse and so I handed him the book and let him select the recipe he wanted—which really is the point of this blog, right?  And when he handed it back, it was with the caveat that he didn't care what else I made from the book, he wanted the Coconut Rice Pudding.  He loves rice pudding and he loves it so much that despite the fact that we were grocery shopping for ingredients to make this rice pudding, he was still going to buy some at Trader Joe's.  I reminded him of dinner and he put the package back.  "Another day, dear. You can buy it another day."

As to the main dish, he was leaning toward, Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford's (once married, now divorced) recipe for slow cooker cassoulet until I pointed out to him that it calls for duck (I don't like duck) and that even if we substituted that item, it called for a lot of meat and a lot of meat means a lot of money.  So I made the Mediterranean Chicken instead.  That's how well roll the week before payday!

Before we get to the recipes, here's a look at a few stars who submitted recipes, the movie they are most likely known for and their charity:

  • Thora Birch - "American Beauty."  Charity: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation).
  • Michael J. Fox - "Back to the Future," of course.  Charity: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
  • Brendan Fraser  - "Blast From the Past." Charity: P.S. Arts.
  • Anne Hathaway (Mediterranean Chicken) – "Les Miserables (Best Actress winner, 2013)."  Charity: Lollipop Theater Network.
  • Ron Howard – director of too many films to name but my favorite is "Apollo 13"...not to mention the star of TV shows like "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days."  Charity:  Boys and Girls Club of America.
  • Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford (Coconut Rice Pudding) – Mostly TV roles, she for "Malcolm in the Middle," he for "The West Wing."   Charity is one they founded:  Clothes Off Our Back.
  • Esai Morales – "La Bamba."  Charity:  TreePeople.
  • Wolfgang Puck – none listed but he donates a lot of time and attention to several worthy causes as well as caters the Oscar's Governor's Ball every year.
  • Treat Williams – mostly known for Broadway and TV roles like Stanley Kowalski in a TV remake of "A Streetcar Named Desire" ("Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....").  Charity:  Save the Children

...and more.

As a PS, actor James Denton – Desperate Housewives – is also included in this book and I nearly went for his southern treats before my husband decided otherwise.  James is married to a woman from MN and has been living in a Twin Cities suburb for the past couple years.  He has also been very active in Twin Cities theater productions.

Okay, so as to the recipes, both were good and I loved that I could make up the base for each, pop it in the fridge and then proceed to forget about them for a couple of hours.  Actual cooking time was minimal and so for once I was able to time them to get done at the same time – woot!

As to the chicken dish, it was tasty but I must say that the marinade was interesting.  It contained oil and vinegar and that was okay but then you added a bunch of savory items like garlic and capers and oregano and then topped it off with fruit and then topped it off further with brown sugar.  Huh.  The taste was great but you wouldn't have thought so at first blush.

The one little quibble I have is that if you look at the photo included in the book (which never seems to look like my finished product), you'd swear there were onions in this recipe.  And yet I read the instructions and the ingredient list several times and no onions were mentioned.  So there's that mystery.

And the instructions for the rice pudding puzzled as well.  The ingredients call for "1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean (scraped)."  Have we all got that?  But then there's the instruction "Remove vanilla bean pod and refrigerate..."  It almost sounded like I should leave the bean pod whole but I wasn't sure.  So I showed it to Andy who also had no idea. And so I put the entire bean pod in the mixture and removed it before chilling.   This might not have been right but it's my blog and I'll cook like I want to!

And the Oscar for this evening goes to...the food.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken – Serves 6 – Note:  marinate for 4 hours or overnight
6 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (3 whole breasts)
¾ cup red wine vinegar
3/34 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves (Ann's Note:  Not to sound like an idiot but I've never heard of fresh oregano leaves, only dried.  Still, my Rainbow grocery story carried them, bless their hearts, and so I bought them.)
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup pitted prunes
1 handful pitted green or black olives
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup white wine
½ cup brown sugar
6 cups salad mix or rice

Place chicken in a large baking dish.  In a bowl, combine vinegar, oil, garlic, oregano, capers, apricots, prunes, olives, and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts and place, covered, in refrigerator.  Allow chicken to marinate for 4 hours or overnight.  Ann's Note:  The oil will "set" when refrigerated but no worries, it's fine.  Odd-looking, but fine.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove chicken dish from refrigerator and discard bay leaves.  Pour wine over the top of chicken and sprinkle with sugar.

Place dish in oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Serve chicken breasts on a bed of rice or salad.

Coconut Rice Pudding – Serves 6 – Note:  allow one hour for milk mixture to cool, 4 hours to overnight for mixture to be refrigerated before finishing the recipe
1 cup cream, whipping
1 ¼ cups unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken
2 cups milk
3 black cardamom pods (Ann's Note:  you can get these at a co-op or Whole Foods but I couldn't find black, only green.)
1 ½ tablespoons grated lemon zest
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cold cooked rice (preferably medium-grain)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon vanilla bean (scraped)
Toasted coconut shavings, for sprinkling

Combine the milks, cardamom pods, vanilla bean and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from heat, cool for one hour.  Remove vanilla bean pod and refrigerate for 4 hours (or overnight).

Strain the cardamom mixture into a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar, salt and rice, and bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thick and creamy, about 40 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla extract and serve warm or chilled.  Garnish with coconut shavings.

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