Archive for March, 2011
It would be very pretentious for me to call myself a film buff, since that would imply I actually know something, but at the very least I’m a bit of a film junkie. I was blessed to grow up minutes from the most amazing video store in the whole world (seriously) so my childhood summers were full of movies. Before I realized how bad I am at acting (which took frighteningly long), I dreamed of being in one. I know every little girl dreams of putting on sparkly costumes, being on a red carpet and feigning surprise when she wins an Oscar, but I always thought being behind the scenes looked like more fun than all those things. When I was eight or so, my parents got me The Santa Clause on VHS, and a featurette at the end described how tough it is to make movies because, just like Santa’s Elves, filmmakers do so much work behind the scenes. It looked wonderful. And it is.
In this featurette, Bernard the Elf says filmmaking is full of waiting around. To a degree he’s right, but that’s a bit misleading. There may be a lot of time when the camera’s not rolling, but from what I can tell, it’s never dull. So much happens between takes:
Alex B. and Sofia (Camera) tinker with the 5D
Cyrus (Actor) stretches and warms up
Isabel (2nd Assistant Director) plays Jenga, so the actors have a perfect half-completed game every time
Alex L. (Director) takes a break…
… and I get to do my dishes! Ok, I know it sounds like I’m starstruck and trying to make this sound like more fun than it is, but from mistakes and mishaps – broken microphones and rogue ringtones – to last minute requests (I was the only person on set in possession of nail polish remover), to the quiet, exhausted thrill of finding the best takes at the end of the day, the process is full of awesome, exciting extremes.
But you didn’t come here to learn about film, you came to learn about food, and I’ve hijacked your time (sorry) (it’s for your own good, you know), so on to more important things. Cooking for the Cast and Crew was the most rewarding adventure I’ve had had since beginning college. Cooking for 15 people, no matter who they are, teaches the arts of efficiency and flexibility like nothing else, except perhaps making a movie. One actor turned out to be lactose intolerant, so I coordinated Banana Pancakes against dairy-free scrambled eggs, Cream of Broccoli Soup against dairy-free scrambled eggs, Bread and Butter against dairy-free scrambled eggs… you get the picture. Then, I needed to have dinner ready an hour early, and my puff pastry was still frozen, so I rearranged the recipe for Caramelized Onion Squares with Blue Cheese so that the onions would be ready just as the puff pastry finished defrosting. Then, when I didn’t make nearly enough Caramelized Onion Squares I tossed an emergency salad to stretch dinner farther. As I cooked, I realized that these challenges weren’t unique to this job, or even to catering. Cooking nearly always comes with setbacks. This was just like throwing a dinner party.
I remember a party where mom and I planned shrimp for dinner, only to find out, upon their arrival, that our guests kept kosher. Another time, on Thanksgiving no less, somebody (certainly nobody writing this post) pureed the mashed potatoes beyond recognition. But we found Salmon for our friends, and the mashed potatoes still tasted fine. And luckily, behind-the-scenes mishaps make great stories. Most importantly, they make the end – meal, party or film – so much more satisfying. A lot goes into a finished product, just like Bernard the Elf said. But now I know, as I always suspected, that’s part of the fun.
Of course, it never hurts when people thank you profusely and ask you for your recipes afterwards. Below is the recipe for Caramelized Onion Squares with Blue Cheese, my favorite of the day. It can be used as an appetizer, or as a main course aside a nice tossed salad (plan on 5-6 squares per person). Either way they’re addictive.
Below that you’ll find some final pictures of the shoot. And here is a link to the film itself [Rated PG for brief tobacco references], appropriately titled The End.
Also, a big Thank You to Alex for inviting me on set, and to the entire cast and crew of The End for letting me join you on this project! You were all so much fun to work and talk with, and such a joy to cook for.
Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Squares
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2006
1 ready made puff pastry sheet (i.e. Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ cups crumbled blue cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375º.
2. Roll out puff pastry into a 10 x 13 in rectangle.
3. Prebake until just slightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, melt butter with oil in a large skillet over high heat and add onions.
5. Sautee onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently, especially if not using a nonstick surface.
6. Add sugar and salt and season to taste with pepper.
7. Continue to cook over medium heat until onions are soft and brown, about 15-20 minutes longer.
8. Spread onion mixture evenly over dough, and sprinkle blue cheese on top.
9. Bake until crust is golden and cheese starts to bubble, about 20 minutes.
10. Let cool and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.