Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weird Tales from the Book

My cell phone battery died once and upon retrieving my text messages found two messages from:

  1. Bruce Campbell, indie-god of horror and awesomeness leaving me a message about our disclaimer form.
  2. Richard Matheson: author-god of such books as I am Legend and many short stories and original Twilight Zone episodes leaving a message forgetting what he sent us.
Martin Sheen sent a signed photo and wrote "Cream of Wheat" on the photo for his favourite food. This was before he got the part on The West Wing.

Once when Gord and I were lining up to meet Angela Cartwright from Lost in Space and Julie Newmar from Batman at a convention, we realized we didn't have any cash to buy their photographs. Luckily, we knew the convention organizer and he gave us cash from my credit card.

Working late trying to get out all our legal permission forms out and we spelt director Richard Fleischer's name wrong. Being a member of Hollywood royalty (his father was one of the original animators) he declined to sign the release form. Gord called him soon after and apologized and he agreed to sign the release.

Roughly 40 per cent of all the names in the book were gleamed from conventions. Travelling to fan conventions from all over, going up to actors, directors and stars and simply asking them "do you cook"? seemed to work best.

The rest of the submissions came from a brute force writing campaign and some helpful assistance from interviewer Tom Weaver and his endless supply of home addresses from stars from the classic period.

For every 18 people we wrote, we received one reply.

Tim Burton's office expressed interest but never got around to sending a submission due to conflicts. Burton's production at the time: Planet of the Apes.

We were turned down by Lou Ferrigno, Douglas Adams, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Stephen King, Majel Barrett Roddenberry and Jonathan Harris (Lost in Space, A Bugs Life) who asked for money.

Buddy Hackett sent a great Sweet and Sour Salmon recipe but we ended up not including it because he hadn't enough credits. The recipe will be posted on this blog in the near future.

We were originally turned down by Ray Bradbury but Gord sent his dinosaur book and we managed to get a submission.

Tom Baker (Doctor Who) send me a great letter but we couldn't get permission to print it. It has been reproduced on this blog for all to see.

While shovelling snow in the worst snow storm in years, I got a phone call from Jeffery Combs, the star of Re-Animator and one of my favourite actors in the horror genre and we had a great chat. He sent a great recipe for Tortilla Soup. Gord who loved movies of a different generation, had never heard of him. Combs gave away the ending to me of Star Trek Deep Space nine on the phone at a later period.

Gord and I were belonged to different generations. He gathered the older generation and I got recipes from the newer generation of 1970 and beyond.

We gathered over 100 recipes from stars, directors and writers in the horror and SF film genres in the course of 8 years.

Thanks to the sons and daughters and grandsons/daughters of Vincent Price, Alfred Hitchcock, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr, Claude Rains,

The Jessica Rains, the daughter of Claude Rains, told me a great story of working with Woody Allen on the set of Sleeper and being taken to see The Invisible Man at the movies in which he wrapped himself up in a scarf to protect his identity and failing miserably thanks to him looking more like his character than he imagined.

After getting a recipe from Joe Dante, we managed to receive a recipe from just about anybody who ever worked with Joe very easily.

I got a phone call from actor Robert Picardo (The Howling, Star Trek Voyager) about his recipe and was delighted that he dedicated it to the Godfather. My mother had answered the phone and thought it was from Patrick Stewart who played Jean-Luc Picard.

Kurtwood Smith sent a nice letter saying he was sorry he "blew it on the cookbook" but we had our deadline moved forward and I wrote him back. I never heard from him again as I had moved after that point but he sent a great photo and I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his performance in Robocop.

Harry Knowles of  Aint-it-cool-news fame sent out several emails to his friends and stars regarding the cookbook on our behalf. I received a nice email from Guillermo del Toro saying that he would think about it, but sadly, he never got back to me.

Happily enough, Father Geek (aka Jay Knowles) sent a great recipe he created for the cast of The Faculty which was a great beef brisket he named in honour of Elijah Wood. That recipe is in the book as well and is highly recommended.

Nothing was more exciting about that time of my life than getting a return envelope in the mail with a recipe inside.

Once I received a return envelope with nothing inside. I never figured out who it came from.

Forrey Ackerman (the agent and super fan) sent a ton of anecdotes and most of them are in the book. I enjoyed talking to him on the phone and he shared many more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Home made Corn Dogs

I love these things. I never had the pleasure of having one in New York where they first made an appearance but have always enjoyed them at carnivals and exhibitions. I used extra sized all-beef pure franks and used a glass to dip them in the batter. That way the batter coats the entire wiener. The secret is to keep the weiners as dry as possible otherwise the batter won't stick properly.
I was getting somewhat annoyed at having cornmeal lying around the cupboard and not having a proper use for it since I stopped making cornbread with it. Too dry. I've since substituted creamed corn for that so this seemed like the best use of it.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons of bacon fat or duck fat
oil or shortening for deep frying
10-12 hot dogs
wooden skewers or popsicle sticks


Heat the oil in the deep fryer until it's 360°.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, bacon fat and cayenne pepper with a fork in a medium sized mixing bowl.

In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs with milk and the 1/4 cup of oil. Stir egg and milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until the batter is fairly smooth and consistent.

Pour the batter into a tall glass. A beer glass works best.

Pat each hot dog/wiener with a paper towel to ensure it's fairly dry.

Insert a wooden skewers (I used 2 for each wiener) or Popsicle stick into each wiener. Holding the stick or skewer, dip each hot dog into the beer glass filled batter, twisting the wiener to coat evenly so that the batter is relatively thick.

Cook hot dogs in several batches of about 2 or three each until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Place on paper towels to drain.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cooking a well done steak Gordon Ramsay

I found this video on Youtube and thought it was interesting. A news crew went to Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant and filmed a well done steak that was "overdone and a bit burnt" and tasted like "rubber."

In other words, it sounds like just about every well done steak I've ever had.

I think the journalists were a bit obnoxious, and I have to side with Ramsay on this one. Either they have an axe to grind with Ramsay, or they're fishing for more ratings. In any event, a well done steak loses its flavour through cooking.

Typically, well done steaks will be slightly charred on the outside, especially if it's a thick steak that the longer cooking requires. An overcooked steak will be bitter. I'm not sure what rubber tastes like as unlike the reviewer, ever eaten it but I going to assume he's referring to the chewy texture.

However, the USDA minimum safe temperature for cuts of steak are 145F which is around Medium to Medium well done so a well done steak is not necessary for safety reasons. Red meat turns pink at around 140F as the myoglobin -- a protein that stores and carries oxygen to the muscle tissue -- starts to turn colour. It's also that runny red juice that people mistake for blood. It's actually the myoglobin that gives the meat its red colour.

Some tips for cooking steak:

  • Don't go by weight when cooking meat. Use the thickness as a measure instead. A one inch thick steak will cook on medium heat for 4 minutes a side for rare, 5-6 for medium and around 7 for well done.
  • Only turn steaks once especially if using a BBQ. If turned too early, the outer layer can stick to the grill and you want to get those great lines on the steak.
  • Meat is mostly water and they give it up through the cooking process. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes so it can reabsorb the water and you'll end up with a more tender steak.
  • When taking temperatures, use the center of the meat away from the bone (the bone can heat up more than the meat and give an inaccurate temperature reading) and slowly pull out the thermometer reading the temperature the entire time. The lowest temperature will be the most accurate.
  • Ground meat should be cooked to 155F at least. There is greater danger for pathogens and fecal bacteria from the intestines in the butchering process with ground cuts of meat.
  • Chefs often fry their steaks in butter with a bit of olive oil and keep basting through the cooking process. Tilt the pan slightly towards you and with a soup spoon, keep pouring the butter over the top. This will result in a juicier steak even at medium.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Does 'searing' meat seal in the juices?

I know it's been a while, but I'm returning to the blog because I've started cooking again after a long contract. I dug out this old post I wrote two years ago and made some changes to it.

This is a somewhat old question now but I thought I would revisit it because there is still a great deal of confusion on the topic. I still see people doing this and for the wrong reason. It seems to depend on what one means by 'searing'. That does not mean preventing a complete net water loss from the meat tissue.

In fact, searing the meat results in a greater loss of water content from the muscle tissue than not searing the meat. As the meat is applied to a very hot surface, it browns the outer tissue and purportedly reduces the porousness of the muscle fibres, a belief that, according to Wikipedia, began with a food scientist and chemist Justus von Liebig in 1850.

The hard crusty outer layer of that is formed through a chemical process is often falsely believed to act as a barrier to prevent water from escaping during the cooking process.

Searing a piece of meat improves the flavour through a chemical process called The Maillard reaction. Unlike caramelisation in which sugars are oxidized, The Maillard reaction is a process where a carbon and oxygen group of a sugar reacts with an amino group from an amino acid which results in a browning effect and a flavour change. A good example is the toasting of bread or roasting of coffee.

It does improve the texture as the difference between a crusty exterior and a softer interior make for a more desirable palate experience. Quite often chefs will brown the exterior of the meat before broiling, frying or even boiling large roasts.

Sear the meat to improve the flavour, but a juicy cut of meat on the table starts with a fresh cut of meat from the local butcher.

For more information on the science of cooking, try On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee and Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Herve This.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010