Penne from Heaven

Henri is thrilled by a new book about matching menus and movies

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Buy the book:
Movie Menus (220 pages, Random House, $16.95) is available at Barnes & Noble and Lyon Books. Segan is also the author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook.

One of the great joys of Henri’s life has always been reading. In fact, he can think of little he enjoys more than an evening spent curled up on the couch with a glass of Bordeaux, a blazing fire and the coffee table piled high with literature: Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma catalogues and my Judy Garland biographies. And of course Miss Marilyn dozing in her little bed in the corner.

Sometimes I’ll take down all my cookbooks and back issues of Cooks Illustrated Magazine and spread them out on the floor and pore over recipes, looking for perfect meals for special occasions. Mostly movie marathons. Oh, how Henri loves to match movies and meals!

Which is why he felt rather ambivalent—both delighted and a little, well, scooped—at his discovery at Barnes & Noble last week of a new book that should be right up his ruelle: Movie Menus: Recipes for Perfect Meals with Your Favorite Films, by Francine Segan.

Well, first things first, of course: What had Ms. Segan to say about Henri’s all-time favorite movie? Quelle horreur! No mention of Some Like It Hot? Well, OK, another try. The Wizard of Oz? Better. Three entries. Gone With the Wind? Four.

Movie Menus is actually a charming and useful little book, whose organization combines the history of civilization and cooking with the history of Hollywood and movie genres. Chapter One, “Pharaohs and Philosophers: Ancient Times,” has recipes for herbed olive puree, chickpea dip and stuffed figs and recommends The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Chapter Five, “The Wild West,” has recipes for Texas chili and Old West baked beans and recommends The Magnificent Seven, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Blazing Saddles. (For shame, Francine! No Stagecoach or The Searchers!?). Other chapters include “Knights and Kings: The Middle Ages,” “Shakespeare and the Renaissance,” “Gangsters to Greasers” and “Romantic Dinner for Two.”

Additionally, Segan’s jaunty and often tongue-in-cheek tone is ideally suited to its subject. She recommends spaghetti and meatballs with The Godfather, pan-seared steak and onions with Treasure of the Sierra Madre and mock-apple pie with The Wizard of Oz. (Remember the Scarecrow’s line, “Come on, Dorothy, you don’t want any of those apples"?). Naturally, appetizers are called “Coming Attractions,” entrees “Feature Presentations,” and desserts “Closing Credits.” The book is sprinkled with classic movie lines and Hollywood stills.

For Shakespeare in Love, Segan recommends Courage Tart, which she calls a “sort of Elizabethan Viagra.”

Courage Tart
1 large sweet potato—peeled and diced
2 cups white dessert wine
2 apples—peeled, cored and diced
3 dates—pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 9-inch pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Simmer sweet potato and wine in large sauce pan for 10 minutes. Add apples and dates and simmer until tender, about another 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and puree in a food processor. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, butter, and egg yolks and puree.

3. In large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peak (using electric mixer). Gently fold the sweet-potato mixture into the egg whites. Pour this filling into the pie crust and bake for one hour, or until the center springs back when pressed.

Turns out Henri’s favorite movie is indeed included. In fact, Segan quotes one of Henri’s favorite lines: “Oh, well, I guess some like it hot. I personally prefer classical music.” It’s just that the index isn’t very well done—not only is the movie title missing, but so is Tony Curtis!