Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: Bette Davis

Bette Davis wants you to moisten this, I thought to myself, holding a small container of cream above the bowl. Moisten. Moisten. Moist is the most disgusting word in the English language. Moyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-st. This looks disgusting, too.

And it did:

But, to be honest, it had looked a little disgusting way before I moistened it.

Every year my grandparents give me a Barnes and Noble giftcard for my birthday, and then another for Christmas. That means that every year, right after Christmas, I treat myself to some post-holiday presents, and this year I treated myself to something very special: Frank DeCaro's Dead Celebrity Cookbook, featuring 145 recipes from old celebrity cookbooks, magazines, and other sources. Not only is it useful, but DeCaro is also hilarious, and provides a brief writeup of each celebrity along with their recipe(s). (Some celebrities get more than one.)

As soon as I started reading it I knew that I was cooking something from it this weekend, so I narrowed down the three recipes that intrigued me the most, and then asked my friends on Facebook to please pick one of the following dead celebrities, without telling them why: Bette Davis, Greer Garson, and Karen Carpenter. Yes, Karen Carpenter published a recipe once. For food. Which she claimed to eat. Poor Greer, largely forgotten by the American public, quickly fell away, and it became a neck and neck race between Bette and Karen.

Bette Davis came out the winner by seven votes.

I probably should have put her up against Joan Crawford, but Joan's recipe is for fish and I don't know if I'm there yet, or ever will be. I don't eat fish, for the most part.

Anyway, Bette Davis' recipe is for "Red Flannel Hash", a mix of potatoes, beets, corned beef, and cream. I've made hashbrowns before, but never hash with meat in it, so I was intrigued, and the ingredients were pretty easy to locate at Kroger. Most of these recipes are like that, as they are from a time before America's gourmet revolution, so there's not a lot of exotic spices or rare vegetables to track down.

The recipe starts with cooked, diced potatoes. Back in Bette's day, Bette (or the maid) had to cook up the potatoes herself, but now that we've entered modern times, I'm fully comfortable with cheating and shortcuts:

No shame whatsoever.

If you're wondering where the "red" in the name comes from, you might notice some canned beet slices draining in the sink in the right hand corner of that picture. In case you're still not getting it, or you've never cooked with beets before for some reason (like that there's something wrong with you, because how can you not like beets? Do you hate things that are delicious?), observe the aftermath of the beet dicing:

Straight up murder scene.

(Observe also my green Primary Colors 403 Pyrex mixing bowl, just because.)

After the beets and potatoes were handled, I decided to tackle the corned beef. Again, this was probably a dish meant to use up leftover beef and potatoes from dinner the night before, but since I didn't make corned beef and potatoes last night I had to settle for canned corned beef:

What is that key for, exactly? The beets just had a pop top, like most of my canned foods do. I've never eaten meat from a can that you needed a key to open, so I was a little dubious.

Then I started using the key, and became even more dubious:

It unzips the can? And that's meat under there? As a person who eats Spam, I have to say that this canned corned beef looks disgusting:

It still looks disgusting after it's diced:

and, as you saw at the beginning of the entry, after it's been moistened with cream.

It also smelled like cat food, but I trust Bette Davis, so I melted a half stick of butter in a skillet pan:

and got to work browning my hash. I wasn't sure how brown it should be when it was done, or if it would turn brown at all with the beets in there, but I figured that I would cook it until all of the liquid was cooked off and it looked at least brown-ish.

As it cooked, it stopped smelling like cat food, and started to smell like carmelized meat, kind of smoky and a little spicy. I added pepper, but figured the corned beef had enough salt to flavor the dish, and it turned out that I was right. I'm not sure if this is how it looked when Bette made it, but it tastes good.

Now I just have to decide whose recipe is next.

1 comment:

Marcheline said...

Now I know exactly what I'm spending my Amazon holiday gift card on! Thanks, Joel!

P.S. What was Karen Carpenter's recipe? (Note my extreme self control as I refrain from saying things like "single grain of rice buffet" and "air-popped air")

P.S.2 I think it's hysterical that you hate the word "moist". I mean, it's not like I think it's so great or anything, but the fact that you focus on it, drag it out on stage into the spotlight and humiliate it publicly makes me laugh.