Staying in? We've got you covered -- both on the culinary and entertainment fronts. Now presenting Dinner and a Movie -- a guide to do a do it yourself evening of food and film.
Winter in the desert can get cold and gray. More people are wearing black sweaters, jeans, full coverage shoes, and some (including me) dig out their jackets and coats. In the Valley, this climate is short lived; but in London, folks keep their peacoats handy.
This week's pick pairs a British action crime caper with a candied bacon caramel corn that packs a little heat, some warm pub grub, and a couple of pints.
Film: Lock, Stock and Two Smokin' Barrels (1998)
Popcorn Alternative: Chile Spiced Caramel Corn with Candied Bacon
Entrée: Shepard's Pie. Or if budget and location permit- partially baked pasties from Cornish Pasty Co to finish baking at home.
Beverage: Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout with the caramel corn and Boddington's Pub Ale with the entrée.
Lock, Stock and Two Smokin' Barrels (1998)
This is director Guy Ritchie's debut feature film. It is about a group of four London neighborhood mates who find themselves deep in debt to a loan shark after a card game goes wrong. This crime action/ caper film is filled with twists and turns and British humor. The editing techniques and music give it an edgy, sexy style, of course, Jason Statham and Sting also bring these qualities. Stream it through your Wii on Netflex.
Make it a double feature: If you have seen Lock, Stock or want to make it a double feature, also rent Layer Cake (2004). Similar genre: crime, action, dark humor. Stars Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller. (DVD only on Netflex, available at Blockbuster)
Chile Spiced Caramel Corn with Candied Bacon:
4-6 strips of bacon
4 cups of unflavored popped corn (1 microwave bag)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/8 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 400. Cut strips of bacon in thirds. Place small strips on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Cover each piece of bacon with a coat of brown sugar. Bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon. Keep an eye on it. You don't want to burn it, but you do want it to your own personal level of crispness. I like mine crispy, but still meaty.
Use tongs to remove bacon from pan and onto a cooling rack with foil or parchment under it to catch any melted grease and sugar. Melted grease and melted sugar are very hot so exercise patience and keep your hands off of it until it cools completely. (Trust me, due to my impatience, I am now missing part of my finger print. Thankfully, I didn't get it all the way to my tongue)
While your bacon is cooling, pop some corn. If you have an airpopper, drag that baby out and pop enough for four cups. I used a package of Orville Redenbacher's "Natural" microwave popcorn. Avoid butter (or other flavored) flavored popcorn for this.
Line another baking sheet with foil or parchment and spread the popcorn out on it. In a medium size heavy saucepan, place the brown sugar, water, butter, and salt. Let it boil until it starts to thicken then sprinkle in a teaspoon of your favorite chile powder. I use red chile from Hatch, New Mexico and a half to one teaspoon is enough to be noticeable without being hot. Adjust the amount to your own personal taste. Once the chile is in, add a half teaspoon of baking soda. This will cause the caramel to bubble up a little and look foamy and a little lighter in color. It also makes it easier to work with.
Pour the caramel over popcorn on the baking sheet. Use the wooden spoon to spread it around. It is okay to not cover each morsel. You want to leave some naked for that sweet/salty contrast. Put into the oven for about 5 minutes. Chop the bacon into smaller bits and add to the caramel corn. Transfer it all to the bowl and pour a pint of stout.
Entrée Tip: If you don't feel like making dinner after making the candied bacon caramel corn, pick up a couple of pasties from Cornish Pasty Co. The sell them partially baked for take out, so you can finish it in your oven so it is ready when you are. They also knock a dollar off the price if you cook it yourself.
Simple Shepard's Pie:
If your budget is as tight as mine or you don't live near either Cornish Pasty location, you can whip up this Shepard's Pie in less then 30 minutes.
3 medium potatoes (peeled and quartered)
1 package ground beef (or lamb, or turkey, you can use leftover rotisserie chicken for this too, your choice)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
one small onion (diced)
two carrots (chopped)
one can of peas (or one and half cup frozen, thawed, rinsed, and drained)
handful of shredded cheese
a pinch of rosemary
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Preheat oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to boil on stove. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in boiling water with a quarter of the garlic and the pinch of rosemary. While they boil, heat onions and carrots in a skillet with olive oil. Once they begin to sweat, add ground beef and half of the garlic. Cook until carrots are tender and beef is fully cooked. Salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
Once potatoes are tender, strain and return to pan. If you place the pan back on the burner for a minute, the excess water will dry up making for a fluffier mash. At this point I throw in a half stick of butter and the rest of the garlic and use my low tech masher. Mash however you see fit.
Spread meat/carrot mixture out in a 9x9 baking dish. Place peas on top of the meat and cover with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and then add a few dashes of paprika for color and kick. Heat until cheese is melted and potatoes form a light crust at the edges, about 10-15 minutes.