Two Movies That Made Me Hungry

Midnight in Paris and Passione.  French and Italian.  The first, a delicious confection. The latter, a lusty stew. The first, written, produced and directed by Woody Allen is charming and uproariously clever, a look-see into Paris in the 20's, where the Fitzgeralds and Picasso and Salvador Dali mingle with the protagonist (no doubt, Mr. Allen) who is vested in 2009 but rooted in his fantasies. The more you know about Paris during that time, the more you will enjoy it, as much of the pleasure comes from the anticipation of the characters and events.  The latter, written, produced and directed by John Turturro was a musical soul-catcher, depicting life in Naples today built note by note, and dance step by dance step, into a Neapolitan version of Rent in which the protagonist experiences life in the moment through a historical lens.  The main character here is the music of Naples, narrated by Mr. Turturro, who shows both his intellect and insight, and an extraordinary ability! Yet since we are talking about two of the world's most notable food cities, one could not help find the references, though there were few.  In Midnight in Paris, Maxim's was portrayed as Paris's socio-gastronomic apex, whereas in Passione, Taverna Dell'Arte, the restaurant of one of the leading characters, Don Alfonzo, was in shadow, a mere suggestion of the dining culture in Naples.  The B-roll in each city provided but a glimpse of the culinary clichés we love:  outdoor cafes in Paris and covered outdoor markets in Naples.

I went to see Midnight in Paris with my husband.  It was one of the few dates we've had without our 15 year old daughter.  We, in turn, went to see Passione with our daughter, and with the man who knows more about life, food, and the culture of Naples than anyone -- maestro Arthur Schwartz and his partner, the scholarly Bob Harned. What a joy to dance in our seats together.

If there are two food books that exemplify these movies, they would be Dorie Greenspan's wonderful new, and award-winning book, Cooking Around My French Table, and Arthur's encyclopedic, Naples at Table.  Read them both, see the movies, prepare a meal, buy the Passione soundtrack (available soon), and invite me to dinner.

Root Beer Chicken with Cinnamon Stick


Not so many years ago in Paris, a very cool restaurant, inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 1970 cult movie A Clockwork Orange, made its name with a singular dish (not to mention great design and a fabulous pastry chef as consultant).  Nonetheless, the signature dish in the mecca of gastronomy was...Chicken Cooked in Coca-Cola.  I smiled when I saw the menu at Korova on Paris' rue Marbeuf, because that very dish had made a prior debut that year -- in my cookbook for children called Kids Cook 1-2-3. No matter, I probably didn't invent it either.  But the merger of Coca- Cola and ketchup yields a very credible barbecue sauce.  Mixed with droplets of melted chicken fat, it feels very French actually, and it mollifies the sharp edges of both drink and condiment. Finger-lickin' good -- hot, cold, or in between -- every kid (and adult) I know, seems to love it.

Just last year I decided to play with the dish a bit, as chefs are wont to do.  Remembering a Jean-George Vongerichten recipe for chicken with sassafras root, I swapped the Coke for root beer (a hint of sassafras!) and added a crushed garlic clove, spicy Sriracha (Thai chili sauce) and...a cinnamon stick!  The result was more complex -- a deeper sauce with aromatic punctuations.  This is a very cool dish that might have inspired a different movie... Paris, Texas.   Serve on a mound of crispy shoestring potato stix (right from the bag!) or atop a sweet potato puree accented with grated orange or fresh ginger.  Cole slaw might also be nice.  What to drink?  A California zinfandel (red, of course), beaujolais nouveau, or...a Coca-Cola.

Root Beer Chicken with Cinnamon Stick Sriracha sauce can be found in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.  Use Tabasco if you must and search for the darkest root beer around.

1 cup ketchup 2 cups root beer 1 large clove garlic 1 long cinnamon stick 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce 3-1/2 pound chicken, cut into eight pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together ketchup, root beer, garlic pushed through a press, cinnamon stick, Sriracha, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Make several deep slashes in each piece of chicken and put chicken in marinade.  Let sit 1 hour at room temperature or up to 8 hours, covered, in the refrigerator.  Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Transfer the marinade to a saucepan.  Place chicken, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake 50 minutes.  Boil marinade, lower heat and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup.  Baste chicken twice during cooking.  Remove chicken from oven and drizzle with remaining marinade (adding some of the chicken fat for flavor and texture.)  Serves 4

Hot Chocolate from Paris

I had the most extraordinary hot chocolate of my life more than 30 years ago in Paris.  I am not alone as Angelina's, located at 226 Rue de Rivoli in the first arrondissement, is where tout le monde (everybody) goes for their favorite hot chocolate.  It is like eating a molten candy bar, so thick you can barely stir it; so rich, one serving had best serve two.  It is a curious thing to drink in the morning and begs for a cup of hot coffee...or a nap... immediately after.  And so I recommend it après (after) a visit to the Louvre, rather than before.  And speaking of après, there would be no better time to drink it than après-ski. The mere idea of hot chocolate conjures up wintery days, holiday spirits, and general good feelings.  It is the ultimate comfort food for some, the holy grail for others.

Chocolate, in the form of a drink, was discovered in Mexico then brought to Europe by the Spanish.  In 1615, according to Larousse Gastronomique, Ann of Austria introduced this novelty to the French court, and her maids of honor circulated the recipe.  In 1670 Paris, there was only one chocolate merchant, but an edict issued in 1705 allowed cafe owners to sell chocolate 'by the cup.'  In Louis XV's time, hot chocolate became a way of life and was served at collations (light meals), drunk at breakfast, and sipped with the afternoon snack.

The recipe that follows comes from my good friend Dorie Greenspan who lives in Paris part of the year.  (Dorie recently authored a wonderful book called "Around My French Table" -- c'est marveilleux!)  Dorie shared her version with me so that I could include it in Kids Cook 1-2-3 (written in 2006 for Bloomsbury.)  Quite appropriate as the perfect recipe for hot chocolate has only three ingredients.  Can you guess what they are?

Voila!  Hot Chocolate From Paris:  especially wonderful on cold winter mornings when you're still in your pj's.

Hot Chocolate From Paris 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate 3 cups whole milk 5 tablespoons sugar

Chop the chocolate in small pieces and set aside.  Put the milk, sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan.  Bring just to a boil.  Remove from the heat and, using a wire whisk, whisk in the chocolate.  Whisk briefly until thick and smooth.  You can serve as is or whip up as follows, as Dorie suggests.  If you have an immersion blender, use it to whip the hot chocolate in the saucepan.  Or carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and whip on high speed for 30 seconds.  Place the top a bit askew with a towel on top so that the hot air can escape.  Be careful as you do this.  Serve hot.  Serve 4

I Love Paris

Last night before I went to bed, I popped a few moist prunes in my mouth and started to reminisce.  Why was it that prunes make most people snicker, while they make me long for Paris!  Yes, it's true.  When I was 20, or so, I took my first trip to France and was mesmerized by the dessert cart in most bistros.  No, it wasn't the tarte tatins or the offerings of chocolate mousse that interested me, it was the pedigree of the prunes that sat soaking up a vast amount of red wine.  It seemed to me a most sensible, and sensuous, way to end a meal.  Of course I was embarrassed (snicker) but after a glass or two of Bouzy rouge (red champagne!) one late afternoon (at the bistro run by the famous chef Michel Oliver), I summoned the courage, and have been serving them ever since.   Not only that, I began to experiment with prune juice, too! (snicker, snicker). But first, the prunes (which, as you may know, begin life as plums.)  I like to pit them and wrap them in short pieces of bacon and broil them as a simple hors d'oeuvres. (For real drama, slip a tiny piece of candied ginger into the prune before wrapping.) Often I put them in a jar, designated for the task, and cover them with cold water and a gossamer slice of lemon, and let them sit, tightly covered in the fridge until they express their dark liquid to form a viscous broth.  Stewed prunes, without the stewing!  Other times, I use them along with prosciutto and sage,  to stuff a fleshy turkey roast (recipe from Radically Simple, below).  For dessert, I plump them in port wine and then hand-carve shards of white chocolate to scatter on top.

But the most curious recipe of all (which was featured in the New York Times and appears in my Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook) was my audacious use of prune juice.  I simply simmer it until it is greatly reduced and begins to resemble chocolate syrup!  It makes an improbably delicious "sundae" with coffee ice cream and toasted sliced almonds.

Rolled-and-Tied Turkey Roast with Prosciutto, Prunes & Sage I love preparing a "turkey roast," which is nothing more than a boned breast half with the skin on.  Here it is filled with prosciutto, sage leaves,  and prunes, then rolled and tied.

2-1/4 pound turkey roast (large boned half breast, skin on) 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto 10 large pitted prunes 1/4 cup pine nuts 12 large fresh sage leaves 12 medium shallots, peeled 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 cup chicken broth 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a mallet, flatten the turkey (skin side down) to 1-inch thickness.  Cover evenly with the prosciutto.  Arrange the prunes in a tight row down the center.  Top with pine nuts and 6 sage leaves.  Roll up tightly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Tie with string at 1-inch intervals and tuck 6 sage leaves under the string.  Place the turkey and shallots in a small roasting pan.  Drizzle with the oil.  Roast 45 minutes, until cooked through.  Transfer the turkey and shallots to a board.  Pour the broth and wine into the pan.  Place pan on the stovetop and boil, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 3 minutes.  Strain into a saucepan.  Whisk in the butter and cook 1 minute.  Remove the string; and thickly slice.  Serve with the shallots and pan sauce.  Serves 6