I love a dinner party with a theme. And when the theme combines both food and entertainment, I’m in.
A screening of “My Fair Lady” on Turner Classic Movies has me planning a dinner that ends with chocolates like the ones Professor Higgins uses to tempt Eliza Doolittle or making pots of tea and little tea sandwiches so we can imagine we’re snacking at the Ascot races.
“Casablanca” on the schedule means Moroccan tagines and strong gin cocktails. “Doctor Zhivago”? Vodka cocktails, borscht and little blintzes with lots of sour cream.
Since 2016, Andrew Rea, creator of the web series “Binging with Babish,“ has been found on YouTube offering his recreations of dishes from film and television. Now he’s written “Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers” (Dovetail, $25) putting 41 of his favorite recipes in one place.
The recipes are wide ranging. There are simple recipes like the one for Pasta Aglio e Olio from “Chef” and much more elaborate dishes like Il Timpano from “Big Night.” Dishes you can put together in a few minutes and those that will take the better part of a weekend. The wide range of recipes was intentional.
“I hope the book will do what the show does, inspire people to try cooking something new and different because it’s attached to one of their favorite movies. We wanted people to think, ‘I always wondered what that dish would taste like’ and then pick up a knife and give it a shot themselves.”
Rea is an accidental cooking show host. A filmmaker by training and trade, he says he grew up being an obsessive movie watcher, and the introduction to his book includes some of his favorite movie-food moments from childhood. “I started ‘Binging with Babish’ when I realized I could merge my two biggest passions: food and movies.”
In a phone interview while he was taking an Uber car to an appointment in Manhattan, we talked about the three dishes we were trying from the book.
We agreed that the Eggs in a Nest from “Moonstruck” would work for any meal of the day. Rea particularly likes the elegant presentation of what is essentially eggs with a piece of toast, and says the dish works well even if you don’t make the red pepper sauce. But with only a few ingredients including jarred roasted red peppers and a little chicken stock, it would be a shame to eliminate it from the dish.
“The Boeuf Bourguignon is one of my favorite things in the world to make. I love dishes that take time to develop and seeing how the flavors change. In this dish you take a cheap cut of beef and make something delicious out of it.”
He likens the recipe to a great cookery course: shopping for the ingredients, cutting up the beef, searing it and building the fond, deglazing the pot, then roasting the vegetables and braising the beef. This is important for self-taught cooks like Rea. “When they watch me, they think, if he can do it, I can do it. And it’s absolutely true. All it takes is a bit of practice.”
As for the truffles from “Chocolat,” he loves the idea of chocolate as an instigator of romance. “That film, and the truffles, show how food can be an emotional and personal experience. That’s an important takeaway. That food can awaken and unite people.”
“Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers” by Andrew Rea (Dovetail, $25) features 41 recipes from films ranging from movie classics like “Roman Holiday” to “Elf.” We sampled recipes from three of our favorite movies.
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