02 September 2011

Dinner With Tennessee Williams


Let's just get this right of the way -- I am not fond of cookbooks that take a famous person of event and then just throws together recipes claiming to be a cookbook. So I was quite skeptical about Dinner With Tennessee Williams. Drinks with Tennessee Williams might have been another story...


Thomas Lanier Williams by Alfred Eisenstaedt


Still, if you were going to do a Tennessee Williams cookbook, this one was done in the right way. First, there was rhyme to their reason. Every year New Orleans has a Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. This cookbook grew out of a love of Tennessee William's New Orleans. Chef Greg Picolo had cooked for the Literary Festival on occasion. Troy Gilbert had written a cookbook or two. Throw in Dr. Kenneth Holditch, a noted Williams scholar, and you have a fine cookbook, one even Tennessee Williams would have been proud of.

I lived in New Orleans for a year. I gained forty pounds! Seriously, I GAINED forty pounds. Even the crappiest food in New Orleans is about ten times better than the BEST food in most places. Southerners love to sit around an talk and eat. And talk and eat and tell you about what they ate and how their grandma cooked it and how that differed from the way Mama cooked it and how they cook it and what restaurant has a good approximation. New Orleans is one of those cities where people can talk poetically and passionately about food and spend their entire life having never set foot in a kitchen!

Gilbert and Picolo do a great job of translating Dr. Holditch's scholarship about the food in the plays of Tennessee Williams into actual food on a plate. Here is a pork chop fit to serve the overbearing and "big" Big Daddy from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Note they are not just pork chops but double-cut pork chops cooked in Coca-cola, bourbon and molasses the real "holy trinity" of Southern cooking.

Big Daddy's Braised Double-Cut Pork Chops With Coca-Cola, Bourbon, Molasses, and Granny Smith Apples

6 double-cut pork chops
Salt and pepper
2 cups flour, seasoned
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups bourbon
4 cups Coca-Cola
2 cups apple juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons lite soy sauce
2 tablespoons Steen's Molasses
2 teaspoons Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce
2 cups demi-glace
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup beef stock, if needed
5 Granny Smith apples, cored, quartered

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Season chops with salt and pepper and then dust in seasoned flour. Sear chops in hot oil in an ovenproof pan until light brown, about 2 minutes on each side and remove to a plate. Carefully pour off excess oil, then add onion and saute 2 minutes. Return chops to pan and deglaze with the bourbon, allowing the pot liquor to reduce by two-thirds.

Add Coca-Cola, apple juice, garlic, soy sauce, molasses, Tabasco, demi-glace, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper. While cooking, take a brush and baste the chops every 5 minutes or so. Braise in an oven, uncovered, at 450 degrees F for 8 minutes. If needed, add stock or water if the pot-liquor reduces too quickly. Reduce heat and cook at 350 - 400 degrees F for 20 minutes; turn the chops. Cook for an additional 20 minutes then turn again. Add apples and cook an additional 20--40 minutes, until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Serve .

Another reason to feature this cookbook is to take a look back at some of the fine actresses that have given life to the complex women of Tennessee Williams' imagination.




Judith Ivey
The Glass Menagerie


Calista Flockhart and Julie Harris
The Glass Menagerie


Cate Blanchett
A Streetcar Named Desire


Olympia Dukakis
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore


Cherry Jones
Night Of The Iguana


Elizabeth Ashley
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof


Natasha Richardson and Amy Ryan
A Streetcar Named Desire

Frankly, this is the "short list" ...we could go on and on... Check out more actresses at Lucindaville.

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