Frank DeCaro | The Dead Celebrity Cookbook (HCI)

book decaroOnce in a while, you find a recipe like “John Wayne’s Favorite Casserole,” and know instantly why he had heart disease and cancer.

 

 

You know, now that I think about it, The Dead Celebrity Cookbook plays into the current cultural obsession with zombies—only instead of eating their brains, DeCaro has picked them for favorite foods. And if you’re not creeped out by that (and I’m not) and you occasionally like something retro (many of these dishes are seasoned like Mom did back in the ’50s and ’60s) and love gossipy tidbits about stars’ eating, drinking, and other passions, this is your cookbook.

Once in a while, you find a recipe like “John Wayne’s Favorite Casserole,” and know instantly why he had heart disease and cancer. The Duke used two full pounds of cheese in a dish meant to serve six. Oh, my. It’s also hard to see how costume designer Edith Head (35 Oscar nominations and 8 wins, both records) could have eaten her “Chicken Casa Ladera” very often and kept her figure. It calls for 1½ sticks butter and a pound of chicken livers. Gulp. You’ll notice that many of these recipes don’t stint on the fat, salt, or processed ingredients. But there are also a number of practical and simple concoctions you’ll enjoy.

The chapters are arranged in groups, with all the celebrities having something in common: “Talk Chow” (talk show hosts), “Batman’s Kitchen Capers” (Batman television villains), “Musical Munchies” (vocalists), a whole chapter called “I Lunch Lucy” (obvious), etc. For the record, DeCaro notes that Lucy didn’t cook and these recipes came from Lucille, her longtime chef who, from the looks of these dishes, didn’t either. At the end of each chapter, there are suggested “after dinner activities” involving films and music including the celebrities in the section. It’s a clever idea and a lot of fun to read.

I tried “Robert Reed’s Beef and Biscuit Casserole,” which was easy and good. To be a fair tester, I made no changes to the recipe as printed except to cut back on the onion (personal taste), drain the peppers, and rest the casserole 10 minutes after baking to make it hold together when cut. We liked it a lot, and you’ll find the directions at the end of this review. (Reed’s chapter is called “Make Room for Dinner,” and its ideas come from actors who all played TV dads. He could also have been included in the section titled “A Gay Bash,” which has some pretty yummy-sounding stuff.) I’d love to make “Agnes Moorehead’s Lobster Mousse” for tonight (from the chapter covering cast member of “Bewitched”), but I don’t think I can afford the extra mortgage to pay for the pound of lobster meat and dozen shrimp. But, yum!

DeCaro includes a lot of good, simple dessert recipes. One that comes together in minutes but chills overnight and tastes wonderful is “Klaus Nomi’s Lime Tart”: For the crust, mix 1¼ cups graham cracker crumbs, ½ cup brown sugar, and ¼ cup melted butter. Press in pie pan and chill. (The recipe doesn’t tell you to bake the crust but I would do so, in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes). Cool and fill with 4 eggs (separated), 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and ½ cup lime juice. Using two bowls, beat the egg yolks, milk, and lime juice in one and whip the whites in the other until stiff. Fold the meringue in the lime mixture, pour in crust and chill overnight. You will love this.

Frank DeCaro has worn many hats, including being the film critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for some years and hosting his own show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. He’s a writer, performer, columnist, and screamingly funny author. Even if you don’t cook, I think you’ll enjoy reading this book. For more information, visit his website or the book’s site. You can also “Like” him on Facebook.

And do try this family-friendly recipe from Mike Brady himself. No exotic ingredients, mildly spicy, and mighty fine! | Andrea Braun

 

Beef and Biscuit Casserole

1 lb. lean ground beef
½ cup chopped onion (I omitted this because of the dried onion called for below)
¼ cup diced green chiles (one can, drained)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to your taste)
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 (8 oz.) can biscuits (get one that has 10 biscuits)
1½ cups shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese (I used the Mexican blend)
½ cup sour cream
1 egg, slightly beaten

Brown the beef and onion and add all the ingredients to and including the garlic salt. Mix the dried onion with one-half of the cheese, the sour cream, and the egg. Cut the biscuits in half and line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan with 10 halves. Pour the meat mixture over, then layer the sour cream mixture. Finally, place the other 10 biscuits on top and sprinkle with remaining half of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Testers note: I baked mine 25 minutes and rested it for 10. It cut into perfect squares.

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