A Night IN at the Movies


When Andy approached me regarding this feature it instantly brought movies to mind that featured iconic foods we all seem to remember.  Deciding on the dishes was the easy part, now came the recipe creation.  I remember asking myself “Where am I going to find fava beans?” and “How do I incorporate SPAM into meatloaf?”  Well, it took several tries yet I have to admit the results turned out surprisingly well.

Two of the recipes made my head churn more than the other though.  For the fava beans with Chianti from The Silence of the Lambs, I had to consider that Hannibal Lechter was a food snob, so the dish needed to be upscale.  I also wanted this recipe to double as a main course or side dish.  The other, and probably most challenging dish, was the infamous meatloaf Annie Wilkes made for Paul in Misery. Again, I needed to consider the life this person really lived, her means, the availability of ingredients, as well as her quirky personality.  Annie definitely considered herself a good cook, yet she lived in a remote Colorado mountain town; the basics with an odd twist was what I had to configure.

The remaining recipes are dishes I have made many times and are regulars at my table, but there also happens to be a chocolate pie from The Help and fried green tomatoes from Fried Green Tomatoes. I did add one dish that does not come from any actual movie, yet is derived from a movie staple: hot buttered popcorn.  My mom used to make a popcorn cake when I was young, only she would fill it with spiced gumdrops, which I hated.  My sister recently turned me on to Hot Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, so I combined the two and decided to “frost” the cake with melted white chocolate.

I hope these recipes inspire you as they did me.  Please turn your cell phones off now, the show is about to begin…


Fried Green Tomatoes

“Face it girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.” This iconic side dish from the South eventually became the title of an iconic movie, Fried Green Tomatoes.  To me, you need to think about fried green tomatoes like you do potatoes- plenty of seasoning. This dish would be a great thing to snack on while you watch this movie since they do stay hot for a good half an hour. I like to fry these in my grandmother’s electric skillet as it does a great job regulating the heat of the peanut oil. I figure one tomato for 1-2 people, depending on the hunger level.

Heat electric skillet to 375 degrees filled with roughly 1/2 cup of peanut oil. Slice and remove the green tomatoes’ tops and bottoms, then quarter middle sections into four relatively even slices. Most green tomatoes are roughly 3 inches around. Place on a sheet pan that has been lined with paper towels and generously season with salt, pepper and sugar.

While oil is heating and tomatoes are sitting, mix together:

Bowl 1-
1 1/2 C buttermilk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt

Bowl 2-
1 C flour
1 C cornmeal (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Using one hand (keeping the second hand clean), dip tomato slice into buttermilk mixture and then dredge into flour/cornmeal mixture one by one. Place gently into hot oil, making sure not to add more than six slices at a time since it will drop the oil temperature. Fry for 2 minutes first side and 1 1/2 minutes on the second side. Place onto a paper-towel lined tray or dish and season generously with salt and pepper. They remain hot for a long time, so do not worry about serving immediately. Enjoy!

Fava Beans with Chianti

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”   There was no way I could not include this famous dish referenced in The Silence of the Lambs.  I wanted to create a dish that could either be eaten on its own or enjoyed as a side dish.  I honestly think this would also be fantastic served on crostini.  The fava beans are surprisingly easy to find at your local supermarket in the dried beans section; these are from Bob’s Red Mill.  To reconstitute them I placed them in my pressure cooker with 5 C water, 1 tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.  I cooked them for ten minutes and was gentle to try and not break them up too much—they are quite fragile in this state, so I did not add them until the very end of making the dish. Obviously if you can find fresh fava beans, that would be preferred.

To a medium sauté pan I added:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, halved and medium sliced
1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms
leaves from 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 C fresh fava beans (OR read the recipe above for preparing dried)

I sautéed this until the mushrooms had released most of their moisture and the onions softened. Then I removed the dish from the stove and added:

1 tsp. sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
cooked fava beans

I gently stirred the mixture to combine, trying not to break the beans up too much. I topped each portion with fresh Parmesan cheese that I cut using a vegetable peeler. This is made easier if you pull the Parmesan out when you begin making the dish.

Of course I served it with Gionelli Chianti with its iconic raffia-wrapped bottom.

Annie’s Spam Meatloaf from Misery

“My secret is, I always use fresh tomatoes, never canned. And to give it that extra zip, I mix a little Spam with the ground beef!”  I’m certain Annie Wilkes loved to cook and felt she was definitely gourmet.  When creating this recipe I wanted to actually consider what Annie Wilkes would have on hand in her home and use to create her special meatloaf for Paul.   Of course she had to drive into town for fresh tomatoes…

2.5 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
1 – 12 oz. container SPAM, grated
3 eggs
1 C quick-cooking oats
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Fresh Tomato Sauce:
4 large tomatoes, seeded, pulp removed and chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

To make the sauce, place all of the ingredients into a large fry or sauté pan over medium-low heat, simmering/cooking until tomatoes release most of their moisture, stirring occasionally. This process takes roughly 20 minutes. Set aside.

For meatloaf, combine the eggs, oatmeal, garlic powder, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper together, stirring with a fork.  Set aside so oatmeal can absorb moisture.

Grate SPAM using the large holes of a box grater and mix gently together with ground beef. Add in oatmeal mixture and combine. Form into a loaf shape and place into a 1 lb. loaf pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully place fresh tomato sauce on top, gently pressing it on top to adhere. Place back into oven and bake for 20 more minutes then remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

The Help Dark Chocolate Cream Pie

“No! No. No. No, Miss Walters. That’s Miss Hilly’s special pie.”  If you’ve seen The Help, you know what makes the pie so special.  But, we’ll leave that ingredient in the movie.  Intense and dark, this chocolate cream pie is sure to satisfy even the most devout chocoholic around.  This deep flavor is created by using unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.  To keep the whipped cream stable I incorporate half a package of unflavored gelatin in with the mixture, adding the gelatin to half of the heavy whipping cream, heating it up in the microwave in a liquid measuring cup to activate the gelatin, then letting it cool to room temperature and finally adding it to the remaining cold cream and whipping it in a chilled bowl.

1 1/2 C. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter – diced
2 Tbsp. water

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt until combined – then add diced butter and pulse until butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. Drizzle water over mixture and then pulse until mixture holds together. Form into a ball and place on a silpat, flatten into a round disc, and then place a second silpat on top.  Using a french rolling pin, roll into a 12 inch circle and place into a 9 inch pie pan, trimming edge and finishing/crimping to your desire. Use a fork to prick holes in bottom and place in refrigerator to chill while you make filling.

After chilling for 15-20 minutes, line the dough in the pie dish with foil and fill with dried beans (this is called blind baking) and bake in a 350 degree-preheated oven for 20 minutes, then remove foil and beans and place back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes until crust begins to lightly color.

3 C half & half
2/3 C sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks
1/2 C cocoa powder
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla

2 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla-bean paste
1/2 package unflavored gelatin (if desired)

In a large saucepan, place half & half, salt, cornstarch and eggs over medium heat and using a whisk, stir continually so the mixture does not burn, bringing it to a boil to thicken.  Once it begins to bubble, add chocolate and stir again with whisk to melt chocolate.  Once chocolate has melted, remove from heat and add butter and vanilla to combine.  Pour into pre-baked and cooled pie shell.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill, at least four (4) hours.


Hot Buttered Popcorn Cake

This is a nice iconic movie food, remixed in a way to impress anyone…with a little twist of popcorn-flavored jelly beans and white chocolate to top it off. On a side note, I mix all of this in one of those large pebbled-outside punch bowls from Party City – it makes the job easier to have a sufficient-sized bowl.

2 bags ACT II Extreme Butter Microwave Popcorn, popped

1 16 oz. container Hot Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

1 16 oz. bag marshmallows
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 tsp. sea salt
1 lb. white chocolate

Prep a tube pan; I used a coffee cake pan and sprayed it liberally with cooking spray to ensure easy release. Place the popped popcorn and Jelly Bellies into a large bowl, no need to stir as the Jelly Bellies sink to the bottom. Melt marshmallows and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until marshmallows are almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until marshmallows have completely melted, then add vanilla bean paste. Pour over popcorn mixture and stir to combine. Last, sprinkle with sea salt and stir again to incorporate. Place into prepped tube pan and press down firmly to compact the cake. Allow to rest for two hours, then invert onto plate.

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler and when fully melted, remove from stove and, using a spatula, drizzle and spread white chocolate over top of cake. Allow to sit until chocolate has cooled and set onto cake. Serve.

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