French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”

Don’t tell anyone this, but sometimes when I’m bored at work I go into the men’s room and watch myself in the mirror while I angle my arms in different directions and pretend I’m a hieroglyphic.

Other times I sit at my desk and stare silently, with a balance of frustration and thought on my face.  You’d swear I was trying to work out a production issue.  But in my head, I’m actually deciding what music I want played at my funeral.  I’m nearly ceratin that the “thinking theme” from Match Game ‘76 is what I’d like for when they carry my casket out of the church.

Working in television is not glamorous.  Appearing on television is glamorous, but working in television is just long hours.  Minimum ten to twelve a day, sometimes sixteen or more, almost all of it on your feet when you’re in production, and then far too much of it in a chair when you’re in post-production.

You’re often working out of rooms with no windows, overhead Gestapo lighting, a shortage of trash cans, and heavy, boxy old Mac desktop computers that crash when they try to bring up a website and auto-save a phone list at the same time. The kitchen has nothing but diet sodas, Hershey’s Miniatures and Cheez-Its.  You may start a television show eager and optimistic.  But by the time the show spits you out the other end, you’re pale, your pants don’t fit, and you discover all your house plants are dead.

But there’s no time to express how tired you are while you’re in the thick of it.  You’re almost always behind schedule.  Your shows aren’t being edited fast enough. The network has decided your set should be red instead of lime green even though you wrapped production six weeks ago and the set is sitting in a dumpster in Lancaster.  Also, you can’t use that shot of the breaded chicken strips you desperately need because the camera caught some idiot standing where he shouldn’t have been standing, and upon closer inspection, it turns out that idiot is you.

You just have to keep working.  You have to always be busy.

And when you’re not busy, you have to make it appear to everyone else that you are.

When I absolutely can’t concentrate on work any more, I’ll pick up a piece of paper and walk around the halls for ten minutes or so with a look of rushed worry on my face.  Another producer might say, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say to them, “Trust me.  You DO NOT want to know.”  And then they’ll run away from me as fast as they can, like I’ve just started talking about my experiences with prison sex.

Sometimes I have the phone up to my ear and when someone comes up to assign me another task, I just hold up the “can’t do it right now” finger, then point at the phone and make a sad face.  They’ll walk away thinking I’m trying to convince a contestant to sign that release form no one remembered to have them sign before they appeared on the show. They’ll never know what I’m actually doing is listening to what time Inside Out is playing in theaters across the country, one zip code at a time.

I believe in breaks, but television production does not, so I have to make them happen any way I can.  I’m really not qualified to participate in any other field except show business.  Thankfully in show business, with a lot of stamina, a little bit of brains, and a massive talent for being able to trick people into believing what you want them to believe – home viewers, studio audience members, the person about to hire you –  you can go very, very, very far!

I’d share more tricks on how to always “look busy,” but I’m under the gun to get these pork pies done in time for dinner tonight.

Or am I??

Continue reading “French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”” »

The Hot Brown (Louisville Hot Brown Sandwich): Recipe Swap

This month’s Burwell General Store Recipe Swap comes from the Maison La Fitte in Palm Beach.  Remember when we went to Maison La Fitte after that day of sun-dappled Palm Beach antiquing? You found that kicky flapper’s hat and I picked up that wagon wheel in the heart of the shopping district?  Then we sat down in the picturesque courtyard and ate a pound of chicken meat cooked in a pint of heavy cream?

Well, the very best thing about the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap is that the recipe selected by its moderator is merely a jumping off point for the rest of us.  So I scanned the rundown on Stuffed French Pancakes until I found something that greased my flag pole, in this case called “Mornay sauce.”

Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce (roux of butter and flour cooked in cream or milk) combined with shredded or grated cheese, in this case about a 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano.  Once well-simmered, I seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper, poured it over two slices of Texas Toast (your local grocery story may call it simply “French Toast”) topped with turkey and ham, tossed in some sliced tomatoes and a little more Pecorino Romano, broiled it until it was bubbly brown, and baptized the results with some parsley and smoked paprika.  The finished product is what’s known as the “Hot Brown,” a signature sandwich invented by Chef Fred K. Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926.  The “official” recipe for the Hot Brown follows below.

Click here for the recipe for the classic “Hot Brown” Sandwich

Smoked Salmon Potato Pizza with Lemon Dill Sauce: Recipe Swap (With Video of the Most Dangerous Job in Television)

It’s Monday, but hey… it could be worse. You could have a job that includes the words “live television” and “portable rigging.”

Come one! Come all! See the big finale to Miss Vivian’s act while performing on the ABC children’s show Super Circus (1949-1956) below, followed by my interpretation of this month’s Burwell General Store recipe swap.

If you’re hoping for the inclusion of dark red pickled beets, you’ve come to the wrong
Continue reading “Smoked Salmon Potato Pizza with Lemon Dill Sauce: Recipe Swap (With Video of the Most Dangerous Job in Television)” »

Lemon Sponge Pie with Oreo Cookie Crust: Recipe Swap

This is my first month participating in the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap.  Burwell General Store is a fantastic food blog run by my new friend Christianna who I recently met while working on Beat the Chefs for Game Show Network. Though we were on the same show, we actually have only been in the presence of one another a handful of times.  Nevertheless, as is often the case when two foodies with extroverted personalities run into one another, it was admiration at first sight.

Once a month Christianna sends to all the Burwell swapping participants a recipe from The Second Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes From Famous Eating Places, compiled in 1954.  Participants are asked to re-create the recipe and put their own spin on it in the process.  This month it was Lemon Sponge Pie, as presented by the Old Court House Tea Room in New Castle, Delaware.

As I am of the type to duly investigate a subject before diving in (see my post on Heidi Bohay and the NuWave oven), I pulled the old Google off the shelf and learned what I could about the Tea House’s history before deciding on my “in” for changing up the recipe.  Here’s what I learned:

There’s great debate on how old the New Castle Court House actually is, though a 1952 article from Wilmington’s The Sunday Star confirms that the Delaware state constitution was adopted there in the 1780s. The accompanying Tea Room, however, didn’t open its doors until 1926, when it began luring in with food and drink the Delaware passengers lining up to board the ferry to New Jersey.

A quick call to the court house informed me that the tea room disappeared in the early 1950s. According to the court house supervisor/museum curator, its fate was sealed in April 1945 when the Delaware State Highway Department authorized construction of a bridge which would connect New Castle to Pennsville, New Jersey, thus eliminating the need for the ferry.  No ferry meant no line of people outside the tea room, and no line of people meant lots of Oolong and lemon sponge cake left untouched in the kitchen. On August 15, 1951, The Del Memorial Bridge officially opened… the final nail in the coffin for the birthplace of this month’s recipe.

Here’s something else: On July 2, 1938, a 10 year old Shirley Temple lunched at the Old Court House Tea Room with her parents, business manager, and friends. Shirley had a chicken sandwhich, a piece of cheese, and a chocolate milkshake! Over 300 people turned out to greet Shirley on Delaware Street up on her exit.  No word on whether she took the ferry to Jersey.

So I decided to take my cue for twisting up this month’s recipe from Miss Temple’s visit to the Tea room.  I have yet to read anywhere that lemon sponge pie pairs well with chicken or cheese, so I zeroed in on the chocolate, adding an Oreo crust for the bottom and a chocolate shell for the top.  I won’t say it made for the most attractive pictures as no matter how delicately I pierced the shell on top it immediately cracked into chocolate shards each time.  But the flavor combination more than made up for what this rich, citrusy dessert lacked in camera flair.

You can check out my recipe, and the rest of the Burwell interpretations below.

Click Here for my Recipe Twist on Lemon Sponge Pie