Sunday, January 4, 2009

Quel Interprétation: The Fortune Cookie (1966)

I've decided to expand the concept of "Quel Interprétation" into general interpretations inspired by classic films and not just limit it to dress-up. My latest (and tasty) installment is inspired by Billy Wilder's comedy The Fortune Cookie (1966) . In this film, Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is a cameraman who gets knocked over by footballer player Boom Boom Johnson (Ron Rich) during a play and has to be taken to the hospital. Harry's brother-in-law Willie (Walter Matthau) is a scheming lawyer who sees this accident as an opportunity to sue the big guns at the TV studio for major dough. Willie uses Sandy, Harry's no-good and money hungry ex, to lure Harry into the scheme of pretending the injuries are worse than the are. All the while Boom Boom is feeling terrible guilt about the incident and is doing everything possible to make it up to Harry.

In one particular scene, Boom Boom cooks Harry an authentic Hungarian meal which consists of Paprika Chicken with egg noodles, red cabbage and apricot dumplings. We don't get to see the food, but all of us, including the two detectives spying across the street, are left with mouths watering.

It's unusual for me to find a meal served in an old movie appetizing. So when my tastebuds started to tingle, I knew I just had to make this meal! I did some research, got some recipes, and then made it for New Year's Eve dinner. I made some adjustments to the recipes and instead of apricot dumplings, which were too complicated, I made apricot cobbler. I took plenty of pictures too. Enjoy!

Braised Red Cabbage

1/2 Head of Red Cabbage cut into chunks
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1 teaspoon of cider vingegar
1/4-1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

(Although the glamour shot of the red cabbage shows an onion and a head of garlic, neither is necessary for this recipe.) Head some olive oil in a wide pot. Add red cabbage, salt and pepper and cook until the cabbage's tough structure begins to give a little. Add the splash of cider vinegar and the broth. You can also add a couple tablespoons of sugar if desired. Cover pot with lid and let simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain of excess liquid (which is now bright red) and serve.

Paprika Chicken

1 chopped onion
olive oil
Paprika and Salt for seasoning
1 14.oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and seeded
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
1-1/2 teaspoon of flour mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons of sour cream

Season chicken breast with salt and paprika.

Heat wide skillet (that has a lid) with olive oil. Add chopped onions, salt and paprika to taste. Cook onions until they get tender, about 5 minutes. Push onions to the side of the skillet.

Add seasoned chicken breasts to hot oil. Sear on both sides. Mix back with onions. Add canned tomatoes and break them down a bit with a wooden spatula. Add broth and simmer for 10 minutes covered. Then simmer uncovered for 5-10 more minutes until sauce has reduced a bit.

In the meantime, cook 2-3 cups of egg noodles in boiling salted waters for about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. Don't let them sit too long or they'll dry out.

Remove chicken breasts from pan and set aside. Add flour mixture and sour cream to sauce and mix. Turn off the heat and stir until well mixed. Add back the chicken breasts. Serve chicken and sauce over egg noodles. Garnish with some parsley.

Vegetarians could easily substitute the chicken for vegetables or leave it out altogether.

Apricot Cobbler

6 apricots sliced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup of cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1 egg slightly beaten
Splash of vanilla

Note that this makes a very small cobbler. Double or triple measurements depending on size of baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Add sliced apricots and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix until apricots are fully coated and glistening.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add in slightly beaten egg and splash of vanilla and mix until incorporated. Then with your hands gently knead in cold cubes of butter until mixture is crumbly. Don't try to incorporate all the butter. Little blobs are good. They melt in the oven and make the topping crispy and yummy.

Cover apricots fully with crumbly mixture. Add baking dish to oven on a middle-rack and cook for 30-35 minutes (more if it's a bigger dish) until golden brown on top.

Serve hot or at room temperature by itself or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream.

The Fortune Cookie (1966) is available on DVD and TCM will be airing it on January 14th (at an ungodly hour) and February 28th.


  1. Another nice post, Raquel. It looks like your recipes turned out well, especially the apricot cobbler!

  2. Classic film menus-- what a great idea! & this particular menu looks tasty. Good pix, fun concept.

    John H

  3. Raquelle,
    Yay! I will try to make this my dinner tomorrow.

    You should absolutely consider the idea of making a classic film cook-book. Great things have been consumed in many great films.

    I have noticed a common lunch dish in European silent movies. A jolly sandwich with a thin slice of roast veal topped with something like pickeled gehrkin enjoyed with a nice glass of beer. Classic and simple! :) No experience needed! :)

    A swell post!

  4. I'll be checking out films now for cooking ideas

  5. I'm calling you all over when I make aspic!

  6. "I'm calling you all over when I make aspic!"

    Sounds dandy! ;)

  7. Puns were never my strong suit :(


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