Comics Worth Reading » Recipes and Food Independent Opinions on Comics of All Kinds Tue, 03 Mar 2015 11:33:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Marvel Features Cooking and Comic Connection Sat, 08 Nov 2014 01:08:52 +0000 I’ve long been interested in areas where comics and cooking intersect, whether it’s illustrated cookbooks, food-based graphic autobiographies, recipe webcomics, tie-in products, or recipes inspired by comics.

That latter category is the focus of a new Marvel YouTube series, “3 Course Comics”. Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski cooks a dish that’s somehow Marvel-themed while talking comics with various contributors. This first episode features Aunt May’s Okonomiyaki Wheat Cakes, a Japanese-inspired twist on the classic pancakes with the addition of pork belly, cabbage, and scallions. It’s shared by writer Dan Slott and editors Nick Lowe and Sana Amanat while they talk about the current Spider-Verse event.

Says Cebulski, “Cooking has always been a passion of mine, and if I hadn’t gotten into comics, I probably would’ve become a chef. So I’m thrilled to bring some of my international experiences from doing business around the world back home to my kitchen and table to share with creators and editors as we talk about exciting stories happening around the Marvel Universe.”

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A Delicious Cocktail: The Journalist Sun, 02 Nov 2014 00:26:21 +0000 I don’t recall where I stumbled across this recipe, but I had all the liquors, so I thought I’d give it a try. (Since moving to Wisconsin, I’ve become a fan of gin and citrus drinks.) Plus, the name “Journalist” tickled me.

Journalist cocktail

Shake together with ice:
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes (approx. 1/2 teaspoon) lemon juice
2 dashes triple sec
1 dash bitters (I used an orange bitters)

I double-checked this in my Bartender’s Best Friend, a lovely book that’s a great reference (and can often be found cheap). There, the recipe is heavier on the gin:

2 oz gin
1/4 oz EACH sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, triple sec, and lemon juice
2 dashes bitters

Probably easier to remember that way, though.

This drink is similar to another old one I recently discovered, the Corpse Reviver (possibly named such because it was refreshing on the day after). That one shakes together 1 oz each gin, triple sec, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc. Although since I don’t know what the latter is, I use dry vermouth, which basically makes a very wet, orange-y martini.

It also resembles something the local paper ran, which like these others dates from at least the 1930s, called “Satan’s Whiskers”.

1 oz gin
1/2 oz Grand Marnier (also orange, like triple sec)
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz orange juice (fresh-squeezed, they say)
1 dash orange bitters

I’ll have to give that one a try.

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Comic-Inspired Recipe Column Sat, 02 Aug 2014 14:22:24 +0000 How did I not know that Annie Bulloch has a column at Women Write About Comics dedicated to recipes called “Cook Your Comics“? The latest, inspired by the scouts of Lumberjanes, is a classic campfire dinner wrapped in foil, but she’s also written about meatloaf for Captain America, breakfast and pancakes for Hellboy, and pink cake for Ma Hunkel, among others. Fun stuff!

Ma Hunkel

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William Shatner Launches Online Wine Show on Monday Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:13:42 +0000 On Monday, Ora.TV (an online TV distribution and production network co-founded by Larry King) will launch a new show starring William Shatner called “Brown Bag Wine Tasting“. It’s got an odd premise, but one that could be conversationally fruitful (ha!): Shatner sits down with someone and pours them an unidentified “mystery wine” (from a brown bag). The guest is then asked to describe the taste in terms of their job, whether magician, cheesemonger, horse trainer, or clown. You can see the show explained in this promotional clip:

The first guest will be celebrity chef Alton Brown, as teased here:

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The Snacking Dead Mon, 11 Nov 2013 00:03:12 +0000 When I think zombies, I think the opposite of “yummy snacks”, but I suppose “eating brains” does suggest the munchies in some ways.

The Snacking Dead is both a cookbook, focused on finger food and sandwiches (the kind of stuff I think of as “football food”), and a parody story of the zombie apocalypse. The recipes alternate with incidents in the life of Pam, a divorced woman trying to feed her two kids as the world collapses around them, while remembering her backwoods childhood crush, Daryl, who taught her how to butcher a squirrel. (We hear about the squirrel a lot.) The dishes are lightly connected to incidents in the tale, creatively.

Since I don’t care much about zombie fiction — it all seems pointless, since there’s no way to win — I found the chapters repetitive, but the dishes sounded tasty, even if they’re named in gory ways. Recipes included oozing calzone, false sense of security blueberry muffins, gratuitous violence jello mold (with pomegranate for that bloody touch), backwoods burrito, and gory red grinder (meatball sandwich).

There’s an appetizer section, one on sandwiches, and a third with some entrees, including maple-brined pork chops, a ground beef and macaroni casserole, shepherd’s pie, and ribs. Most of the dishes are pictured, a nice touch, with props, like hunting knives or reaching hands. I didn’t try preparing any of them, but the instructions seemed clear enough, and most of them are more assembled than cooked.

If you know a crazed Walking Dead fan who wants ideas on what to eat while watching the show, this would be the perfect gift. Sample recipes can be seen at the book’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Roast Cauliflower With Parmesan Sun, 14 Apr 2013 17:52:03 +0000 I love this recipe, and I don’t know how to explain to you how weird that is for me. For *years*, I simply didn’t eat vegetables (unless you count the starchy, no-color ones like potatoes and corn). Then I realized that I could do things to them and try them and maybe discover new tastes (and that I really needed to eat healthier). So it’s very strange for me to like this dish so very much. It’s simple to make, too, and goes well with lots of different meats.

Take a head of cauliflower and break it into florets. (After this step, I usually have to take a hand vacuum to the kitchen counter, because those little bits get everywhere.) Toss them on a rimmed baking sheet with a sliced onion (cut vertically, not into rings), three or four unpeeled cloves of garlic (which you can eat later on toast, yum), and three tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.

Now, the original recipe said to roast this for 35-40 minutes at 425 degrees, but I found that, in my oven, that made the onion turn black. Not appetizing. I was making a roast chicken at 375 degrees, and I found that putting the cauliflower in at that temp for about half an hour worked just fine. Anyway, cook the cauliflower somewhere in that temperature range for sometime about that length until it’s tender enough that you’d consider eating it. Then sprinkle it all with a half-cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and roast another 10 minutes, and you’re done! SO good.

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*Relish: My Life in the Kitchen — Best of 2013 Tue, 02 Apr 2013 02:35:44 +0000 I have wanted, for several months, to tell you how much I enjoyed reading Lucy Knisley’s new food autobiography, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, as I hoped I would. However, it was so good that I was afraid to try telling you how and why; I didn’t feel that any of my words could live up to the book’s quality or capture how much I enjoyed the read.

Relish explores food as memory and meaning. In chapters punctuated with illustrated recipes (which relate to something in the chapters and sound really tasty), Lucy tells of key moments in her life, all of which revolve around food. She remembers Mom’s work as a restaurant chef, foraging for berries, raising chickens, baking as self-comfort, traveling to Rome with Dad and Mexico with Mom, trying weird Japanese food as a teen, and working as a catering assistant or at a farmers’ market.

An uncle ran a gourmet food store. Dinner parties were populated by artists. When the parents divorce, Lucy and her mother move from the city to the country and begin gardening. It’s not just a portrait of the New York food scene at a now-gone point in time, but a way to sink into a lifestyle many of us will never know.

Like many children of well-meaning parents of a certain era, Lucy’s discovery of junk food (through a friend without such discerning guardians) leads to a life-long appreciation, although given her background, it’s one that’s balanced against all her other food loves. One strange little chapter, about sharing food cravings with her mother, reveals new insights (on a re-read) about relationships and gender and inheritance. Making food for someone is about love and sharing, as several chapters illustrate, and so I’m not sure what to think about the one focusing on her father, who mostly eats in restaurants but still seeks out his ex-wife’s cooking.

Lucy’s colors are amazing. Her lines are deceptively simple, her expressions poignant, but it’s her palette that I love best. The recipes show the ingredients and techniques in well-composed steps. Even a roast leg of lamb seems possible to achieve. Although I already knew how to make pesto or chocolate chip cookies, the recipes reminded me I should do so more often. And assembling ingredients is more fun when they’re little pictures instead of a boring list of quantities. You’ll even learn how to make sushi rolls and sangria and categorize cheeses.

It’s rare that a book you’re anticipating greatly lives up to its promise and even exceeds your expectations. Relish is one of those cases. After reading it, I’m inspired to pay more attention to what I eat and what it means.

Lucy is on tour to promote the book. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble Sun, 31 Mar 2013 16:26:45 +0000 I wasn’t previously familiar with the Miss Julia series of Southern novels. The new installment, Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble, is due out next week; it’s the 14th (!) in the run. (The full list can be seen at author Ann B. Ross’ website.)

I believe I was asked to talk about this volume because of its food connection. Miss Julia is a well-meaning upper-class remarried widow in a small North Carolina town, the kind whose Presbyterianism requires good deeds and upholding the way things have always been done while gossiping with women like her and their kitchen help to figure out what’s really going on. In this installment, her neighbor Hazel Marie is overcome by trying to take care of twin babies and her husband while her housekeeper is laid up by a broken wrist. Because Hazel Marie can’t cook, Miss Julia hatches a plan. She’s going to ask the women of the town to come over, fix a meal for Hazel Marie and her family, teach her how it’s done, and assemble the recipes into a cookbook gift.

As we’re told in the first few pages, Hazel Marie is Miss Julia’s dead husband’s mistress, but they’ve since become friends, bonding over Hazel Marie’s son by said adulterer. Because Miss Julia spends the first chapter thinking about everyone who’s a significant player in the book in the kind of internal monologue that’s completely unrealistic but needed for new readers, you can start the series here — but I don’t recommend it. I stopped halfway through the book and got the first volume, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, from my library. After reading that, I felt much more aware of who the players were. I would advise anyone interested to start there, since it explains a lot about the cast and their relationships. Plus, that story, which involves a lot of change for Miss Julia and an attempted kidnapping, is more interesting to a reader who doesn’t already care about the characters. By comparison, this book pokes along in a catching-up-with-old-friends fashion.

The recipes are all included, although most of them are the old-fashioned casserole kind. The main dishes all require mixing some things together, then leaving them on the stovetop or in the oven for an hour or two. I haven’t seen so many recipes that use Kitchen Bouquet in years, and it’ll be no surprise that several require cans of soup. All of the vegetables, unless you count onions, also come out of cans.

It’s old-school housewife cooking, where you put dinner together and then finish your cleaning while it cooks. The desserts involve layering store-bought cookies or canned fruit with some whipped cream or, in the one that most stunned me, mixing egg whites, sugar, and crushed Ritz crackers and calling it a pie. On the other hand, you’ll learn to make that Southern celebration staple, cheese wafers. I didn’t see any I wanted to try, although I’m not cooking for a family every day.

The events of the series will feel familiar to anyone who’s white and privileged in the South. These women reminded me of those I’d known, particularly through church, when I lived in North Carolina. Those who aren’t comfortable with those categories may be put off by how stereotypical some of Miss Julia’s attitudes (and those of her friends) can be, particularly about the proper places of men (making the money) and women (looking pretty for them and feeding them). Miss Julia is well-meaning, if overly certain of herself and her beliefs, and there’s a certain amount of humor, but it plays best to those who know and don’t question this milieu. I’m going to give this book to my mother, for example, who will likely enjoy it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers outside the region. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Baked Chicken Risotto Fri, 22 Feb 2013 01:55:57 +0000 An excellent way to use up leftover chicken, warm and filling on a cold night, this risotto recipe from Southern Living came out surprisingly creamy. I’m going to make this again the next time I roast a chicken and need something to do with the leftover meat. Plus, I use the carcass to make all the chicken broth needed, which means I get that great gelatinous homemade stock. (I use my slow cooker overnight to make stock by covering the leftover bones, skin, and some veggies — carrots, leek, onion quarters — with water with some parsley, garlic, and a bay leaf. Cook on low, then in the morning strain the bits out.)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cook a chopped sweet onion and a couple of minced garlic cloves in 3 tablespoons of butter for five minutes over medium-high heat. Important: Make sure you’re using an oven-safe pot with a lid. This covered pot will be going into the oven later.

Add a cup of short-grain Arborio rice and cook for a couple of minutes, just to toast the grains. The recipe says to then add a quarter-cup of dry white wine, but I almost doubled that amount and cut back correspondingly on the four cups of chicken broth that goes with it. Once all the liquid is added, bring to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

At that point, add one can of quartered artichoke hearts (drained and rinsed) and three cups of cooked chicken and sprinkle with some pepper. (The original recipe called for zucchini as well, but I didn’t care to add it.) Bake for another 10 minutes. Let stand a few minutes if needed to absorb remaining liquid, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of lemon zest, a sprinkle of salt, and a sprinkle of red pepper. Stir together and serve.

It’s not the prettiest, but it sure is tasty. I make mine a bit soupy because I end up microwaving the leftovers, and extra liquid keeps it from drying out later.

Chicken risotto

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Pot Luck Chicken Pie Sat, 02 Feb 2013 19:57:35 +0000 A really easy thing to do with leftover cooked chicken. I call it Pot Luck Chicken Pie because I learned to make it after having it at numerous church pot luck suppers. It warms up well and gets better after sitting for a while. This version was made for a 9″ x 9″ baking dish, but you can adjust it as needed for different sizes or amounts of ingredients.

Cut up the cooked chicken into bite-size pieces, enough to make a full layer in the dish. I used two breasts’ worth and a few more leftover bits. Mix a can of cream of chicken soup and a cup of chicken broth and pour over the meat. Then all you need is the crust. Mix well a cup of Bisquick mix and 3/4 cup of milk and pour that over the top, spreading it to cover the whole dish. (The original recipe used flour, buttermilk, and melted butter, which is very good, but I never have buttermilk around, and I no longer cook recipes that start “melt a stick of butter”.)

Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is cooked and golden.

(One of these days I’m going to remember to take pictures before I cut into and eat what I’m making. It wasn’t today, though.)

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Crockpot Salsa Chicken Fri, 30 Nov 2012 16:56:45 +0000 Over the past few years, I’ve accumulated quite a stack of recipes I intend to try, clipped from magazines or flagged on cookbook pages. Now that I’m settled again, I’m slowly working my way through the pile. I figure you should only try one or two new recipes at most in a week, because what if you don’t like them? This one turned out to be quite successful, though.

It’s from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, a book of slow cooker recipes that are also gluten-free and relatively cheap to make. (Quite an accomplishment! And it’s by a blogger who spent a year cooking with her crock-pot.) I was surprised that something so minimal turned out well.

You can read the recipe online, but here’s how I did it. Put in your slow cooker:

  • 1 package chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) — if you see a lot of fat on them, trim that first
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 package frozen corn — she says white, but I couldn’t find one, so I used plain yellow
  • 1 cup salsa — chunky kind

Cook for 7-8 hours on low or 4-5 on high. I found that the salsa mostly cooked in, which was fine, but if you want more of that flavor, add some when serving. Instead of treating as a main dish entree, I shredded the chicken and plopped it all on taco chips for nachos, with a side of sour cream and some sliced avocado. Yummy! Other people suggest serving over rice with Mexican shredded cheese blend. I should do that with the leftovers.

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*Dirt Candy: A Cookbook — Best of 2012 Sun, 30 Sep 2012 22:04:39 +0000 I hadn’t previously heard of Amanda Cohen, owner and chef behind the Dirt Candy vegetable restaurant in New York City, but that’s not surprising, since I’m primarily a carnivore. However, I was familiar with the outstanding work of artist Ryan Dunlavey, most recently on the impressive Comic Book History of Comics. He’s a wizard with the presentation of non-fiction material in comic format. Given how a cookbook is a natural for visual presentation — showing techniques, for example, or what ingredients or a dish should look like — I eagerly anticipated reading this unusual volume.

Not only did the book live up to my expectations, it turned out to be even better than I thought. Instead of just recipes, the book also includes stories from Cohen’s struggle to open her restaurant. (It’s about half graphic memoir, with each chapter starting with comics before moving to the recipes.) That business is tough, but fascinating and entertaining to hear about, especially in such a crazy city. Plus, you’ll learn why salads cost $14, a hugely insightful revelation about the economics of the restaurant business.

The title, both of the book and her place, Dirt Candy, comes from her wanting “people to think of vegetables as a treat, as something fun. Like candy from the dirt.” Cohen organizes the chapters, in the fashion typical of cookbooks, by type of food: salads, sauces, entrees, desserts, etc. However, there’s also an introduction, where we meet our author, her restaurant, her staff, and where she explains her philosophy. This section also covers basic cooking techniques, including sweating, blanching, and reducing, as well as Cohen’s time competing on Iron Chef America.

There’s early indication of how creative the visuals are going to be, as Dunlavey uses imaginative images wherever he can to keep the author’s monologue highly readable. My favorite is the panel where Cohen’s saying, “Cooking vegetables is like the Wild West: There are no rules, so anything goes.” Dunlavey has drawn various veggies, with stick arms and legs, having shootouts with each other. (The corn gets it in the ear, ha ha.)

Even when the characters are simply talking to each other (or the reader), they’re expressive and emotional, which keeps them entertaining. I also found them easy to relate to; I’ve never cooked or staffed an eatery, but their high-stress tasks have a lot in common with many jobs.

I’m not sure the recipes are those I’ll ever try — some are very ambitious, using advanced techniques like molecular cooking to make tomato pearls, and some take from five hours to three weeks to prepare — while others just don’t sound to my taste (especially the ones using ingredients or spices I’ve never heard of). I might steal some of the concepts, though, to use in simpler preparations. The Grilled Cheese Croutons — cutting a grilled cheese sandwich into little bite-sized bits — is top of the list.

I sure enjoyed reading about all these dishes, though, and the restaurant’s high on my list to try the next time I’m in NYC with an adventurous eater. Here’s the book’s trailer:

You can buy a signed copy (with free shipping) at the restaurant’s website; that link also has some preview pages shown. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Drawn Butter, Another Cooking Comic, Presents Drink Recipes Sun, 30 Sep 2012 20:44:36 +0000 If you like reading illustrated recipes and webcomics about food, but Cooking Up Comics, I Think You’re Sauceome, and Crave This aren’t enough for you, then you should check out Drawn Butter.

L. Nichols (Jumbly Junkery) alternates posting cocktail recipes and links to her “Gears ‘n’ Grub” column for the Village Voice, in which she bikes to a neighborhood restaurant in Brooklyn. If you scroll back in the site’s history, there are some food recipes as well, to go with the drinks. I’m going to try making this cocktail, the Abbey, as well as the lemon butter cookies.

Abbey cocktail by L. Nichols

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Lucy Knisley’s Relish Coming Spring 2013 Fri, 17 Aug 2012 02:37:47 +0000 Relish: My Life in the Kitchen cover
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

I have been looking forward to this book so much! Lucy Knisley (French Milk, Make Yourself Happy) is one of my favorite cartoonists, and I love reading about food, and this combines them both! Along with a good dose of memoir.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (preview pages at link) is due out in April from First Second. It’s described as so:

Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe — many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions.

It’s a graphic novel just for MEEEEE, and I’m already expecting this to be one of the best books of 2013 (but no pressure…). To promote Relish, Lucy has created a new comic site. At Crave This, she’s posting a daily food drawing. My favorite of the three so far is the apple/brie sandwich with balsamic drizzle… mmmm. How far away is April?

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Breakfast for Dinner Tue, 22 May 2012 01:36:40 +0000 Some nights you want something comforting. What’s better than a breakfast-inspired meal of warming dishes?

I’m particularly proud of myself because, while I was inspired by certain recipes, I went further “off book” than I usually do, and what I wound up with suited me better as a result. The only downside was that I dirtied four pans, which is a lot for a quick weeknight dinner.

Main dish: poached egg over sauteed spinach and walnuts. I started with this Cooking Light recipe, but honestly, it was too fussy. Just saute some mushrooms in olive oil with garlic and shallots and a sprinkle of thyme. Then briefly saute some spinach. (Really briefly, just 2 or 3 minutes.) Mix the two together with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts and shredded Gruyere. (Nice and nutty! Although I forgot to get any of that specific cheese, so I settled for a slice of baby Swiss.) Poach an egg — I hung this print from Sarah Becan, from her comic I think you’re Sauceome, in my kitchen, and the instructions really work! — and dump it on top.

For a side dish, I made cheesy grits, or if you want to be fancy, call it Gorgonzola polenta. Bring a cup of water and a cup of milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of quick-cooking grits, bring back to boil, then reduce heat and cover. Leave it alone for 5 minutes, or until the grits have absorbed most/all of the liquid (depending on the consistency you prefer). Stir in crumbled blue cheese. If it sits a bit while you finish the other dish, that gives it more time to melt.

I’m tempted to, now that the leftovers will have set up overnight, slice it up, fry it, and serve it with some crumbled sausage for true breakfast. Both of these would also be good with more roasted vegetables, if you had or liked them.

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Thor Whisky Debuts as Part of Valhalla Collection From Highland Park Mon, 21 May 2012 20:51:04 +0000 I don’t have much to add to this press release, since I don’t drink Scotch, but I find this a clever idea for branding. “Thor” is the kind of name that makes sense for a manly product.

Thor Whisky

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky just released its newest whisky, Thor, the first coming in the Valhalla Collection, a range of four unique whiskies, taking inspiration from the legendary Nordic gods. This limited edition release comes out just in time for Father’s Day and is the perfect gift to celebrate Dad and his bold character, just as the Norse god possesses himself. This collectible whisky will also be a welcomed addition to any rare Scotch collection or a great gift for the comic book enthusiast.

Highland Park is distilled in Scotland’s Orkney Islands at the world’s northernmost distillery, resulting in a uniquely flavored Scotch, unlike any other single malt. With only 1,500 being released in the United States, this special liquid is bottled at a robust 52.1% ABV and housed in a unique wooden frame echoing the fearsome contours of a traditional Viking long ship.

The taste and look of Thor mimics the masculine traits of the Nordic god, known to carve valleys into mountains and strike fear into his opponents. It is sure to inspire any dad to find his inner warrior and conquer anything this summer whether he’s head of the house, master of the office, or captain of the grill!

The 16-year-old Scotch, limited to 23,000 bottles worldwide, has a suggested retail price of $199 and the following taste elements:

Nose: Concentrated and forceful, with an explosion of aromatic smoke, pungent fresh ginger, antique copper, stewed plums, and golden syrup. With water, earthy notes emerge, like a garden after a heavy rain shower.

Palate: Thor’s high strength grabs the palate and refuses to let go. Initially dry, with fiery gingerbread, then vanilla, blackberries, fresh mango, peach, and hints of cinnamon. As its big flavours swirl around the mouth, some softer, sweeter notes develop, giving Thor an unexpected layer of complexity and depth.

Finish: The finish thunders on, leaving behind lingering notes of sweet vanilla and an intense spiciness.

If you can’t find Thor at your favorite whisky retailer, the Highland Park website does mail order. I wonder who the other three will be? Odin, likely, for one. Loki? Baldr?

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The Easiest Crockpot Chicken Recipe Ever Sat, 07 Apr 2012 13:07:50 +0000 Here’s how to make crockpot chicken cordon bleu:

Get four chicken breasts, and pound them thin (or buy the new thin-cut ones). Roll them up with a slice of ham and a slice of Swiss cheese inside. Put them in a slow cooker. Pour a can of cream soup over — I used cream of chicken because I was making this for a picky eater, but cream of mushroom would also be nice. Cook on low for about six hours.

This recipe is immensely easy and pretty tasty. The only problem with it is that it doesn’t cook the full day, so you can’t put it in before work unless you have one of those fancy timer units. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable or salad.

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Cooking Up Comics Brings Weekly Recipes Wed, 14 Mar 2012 11:58:38 +0000 Alisa Harris has launched Cooking Up Comics, a weekly vegetarian recipe strip. I’m firmly carnivore, but I need to eat more veggies, and I’m hoping Harris will give me some great ideas. Smartly, she’s also made the strips available as PDFs, so you can print and cook from them. So far, she’s made a smoothie and today’s choice, Macaroni and Cheese.

Cooking comic by Alisa Harris

If you’re looking for more illustrated recipes, two of my favorite comic creators have recently posted some in their webcomics, too. Sarah Becan is making spicy sushi. (Don’t worry, it uses cooked shrimp in the home kitchen.) Lucy Knisley makes delicious-sounding pecan shortbread cookies, while comparing cooking in her mom’s spacious kitchen to her own shoebox city apartment.

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Reel Cuisine: Blockbuster Dishes from the Silver Screen Fri, 23 Dec 2011 12:15:12 +0000 I wasn’t sure what to expect with this slim volume connecting movies and food. It’s described as “bringing cinematic dishes to life”, so I was anticipating recipes for big, fancy meals that serve as centerpieces for films. Instead, what I got was a lot more down to earth and homey — and recipes that are more achievable.

Author Nami Iijima is a professional food stylist, someone whose job it is to create meals for the screen that look good. These recipes come from her column for a Japanese magazine in which she aimed “to faithfully recreate the dishes shown in various films so as to appease film fans and movie buffs.” Many of her choices are from slice-of-life movies, so if you’re looking for more fantastic fare, look elsewhere.

The book is grouped into several loosely themed sections. The first, featuring dishes she created for films she worked on, will be the most confusing for American readers, since they likely have never heard of the movies, let alone seen them, while the dishes are an odd mix of Japanese specialties (seaweed bento, vegetable chirashi sushi) and American basics (chicken nuggets, cinnamon rolls). They use complicated techniques and, in the Japanese food, unfamiliar ingredients. I think I would have put this section last, with more editorial explanation, since the remaining sections are much more comprehensible, consisting of brunch dishes, family dinners, desserts, and international fare.

Each recipe is printed with a short plot description of the associated film and sometimes an author’s note about the dish. These may clarify a technique or mention ingredient substitutions. Only a limited number of the recipes — those printed with tan background instead of white — talk about why the particular dish was selected to represent the film. I wish we’d had those notes on all of the recipes, because sometimes, I thought the choices were odd or just plain wrong. For instance, for Fried Green Tomatoes, she provides instructions for fried chicken. That’s likely of more interest to readers (especially those in Japan) who actually want to make the food, but I would have expected at least an acknowledgement of why you aren’t telling us how to make the title dish.

Also, the recipe specifies chicken thighs, while the picture clearly shows a drumstick. Which, yes, is more evocative, but disconnects between the food shown and the method described always make me suspicious of cookbooks that play fast and loose that way. Some of her steps are similarly missing in details. For instance, in the hamburger recipe, Iijima advises cooking the burgers for a total of 2 1/2 minutes. I’d have expected her to be more specific about how thick her patties are, because I typically cook hamburgers for more like 10 minutes (because I do not enjoy eating raw ground beef or food poisoning) and they still come out pink in the middle. Other recipes advise cooking “until cooked through”, which can be difficult to determine without some time guidelines.

I was surprised at the number of recipes for basic dishes, including fish and chips, pancakes, popcorn, tuna salad sandwiches, and green salad. Often, I found the connection between the recipe and movie somewhat nebulous. Why guacamole for Bridget Jones’ Diary? Waitress is all about making dessert pies, so why a recipe for quiche? Tampopo features the search for the perfect ramen, yet we’re told how to make fried rice instead. In Stranger Than Fiction, one of the characters is often seen making cookies, so I expected that recipe, not one for banana cake.

Some of the food choices are perfect, though, like the Chicken Meatball Pho for Good Morning Vietnam or spaghetti for The Godfather: Part III or truffles for Chocolat or ratatouille (guess). Other recipes range widely, through pot au feu (with boiled chicken, not beef), paella, chili, hummus, roast chicken, yakisoba, and various pastas. I don’t see myself cooking from this book, since the dishes I’d want to make are already well-known to me, but as a reminder of the connections between food and film, it would make a great novelty gift for the movie buff. Many of the films are international, so most readers will find some listed that are unfamiliar to them, the better to seek out and try. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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The I Hate to Cook Book Mon, 15 Aug 2011 11:55:50 +0000 I don’t know where I originally found my tiny 60s paperback edition of The I Hate to Cook Book, but I thought it wonderful. It wasn’t just a collection of (outdated) recipes to make getting dinner on the table easier — it was a glimpse into a whole ‘nother culture.

Peg Bracken was part of a world where women, no matter what else they did — she worked in advertising — were also expected to take care of the home and cook dinner every night. In this book, she treated this duty as a task to get through efficiently and with a minimum of fuss, instead of beating oneself up to achieve pretty, underappreciated dishes night after night. Her message was that you didn’t have to want to be a perfect housewife or cook, and that was okay, that there were other women who felt the same way. In amongst the recipes was a good deal of subtly feminist humor.

Her dishes were simple and fast, many depending on canned cream of mushroom soup. And they demonstrated just what ingredients were supermarket common in the mid-60s, and what techniques were standard. It was eye-opening, a journey into another world I’d only seen on sitcoms.

(There is one short section I’m still conflicted about, though, where she advises lying to your husband about whether you’ve made something yourself because “marriage is sometimes a rough game.” Then I found out she was married four times, and I ignore that piece.)

Imagine my surprise to discover, while browsing a terrific local bookstore on vacation, that the book had been recently reissued in a lovely hardcover. This 50th Anniversary Edition has been “updated and revised”, but that means only this:

  • Two recipes are gone, for things no one today would make anyway: cream puffs filled with dip, and two kinds of canned plums with ginger. (I don’t know where I’d find canned plums, anyway, let alone both damson and greengage.)
  • The mention of canned Welsh Rabbit has turned into a quick recipe to make your own.
  • All references to chicken or beef consomme are now chicken or beef broth, and the refrigerated jellied consomme soup mention is gone.
  • The can and package sizes have been tweaked to reflect modern-day standards.
  • “Raw” rice is now referred to as “uncooked”.

There’s also a new foreword by Peg’s daughter Jo (which turns out to stand for Johanna!) that shares some memories of her mother.

The first chapter gets right to the reader’s needs, providing 30 basic entrees, enough casseroles to cover a month of dinners. Bracken admits that some are simple, some are even dull, but they’ll get you through the month. (Assuming you have an oven and don’t mind cooking with onion-soup mix or canned mushrooms or lots of cream or butter.) The most complicated parts I found were making a cream sauce — which turns out to be flour and butter with some liquid — or using a double boiler, and that’s not hard, just old-fashioned. Recipe times range from 30 minutes of cooking to one odd bean dish that takes six hours.

Additional chapters cover leftovers (although who cooks lamb these days, let alone worries what to do with it after?), vegetables (which consist mostly of carrots, beets, green beans, onions, and spinach; I love that this chapter begins with a recipe for an easy cheese sauce to cover them up), and starches (potato/rice). Then she starts getting into the social events of her era: The potluck. The company dinner party. The ladies’ luncheon. The cocktail party nibbles. The children’s birthday party.

This book is highly readable as much for its humor as its recipes, although I’m going to try some, if only so I can say that I’ve made something called Clam Whiffle.

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