By Gerry Barker
Photos by Gerry and Pam Barker, unless otherwise noted
How does an award-winning actor, director, producer, playwright and filmmaker express his love of horror movies besides making one?
In the case of Richard S. Sargent, the answer is a cookbook.
It’s called “The Horror Movie Night Cookbook,” containing “60 deliciously deadly recipes inspired by iconic slashers, zombie films, psychological thrillers, sci-fi spooks and more.” As a horror film fan myself, as well as foodie fanatic, this was something I had to know more about.
In the book, it notes Sargent was hooked on horror movies as a kid in his native Pittsburgh, where “some of his earliest memories are sitting in front of the TV after school watching reruns of Chiller Theater with his mom.”
That brought back my own memories of growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, where every Saturday night my brother and I watched Nightmare Theater on Channel 11, hosted by the black-caped Gorgon (played by Bill Camfield), as the Wolfman, Frankenstein and the Mummy ran amok.
Eager to try some of Sargent’s recipes, my wife Pam suggested we ask some friends to join us for a “Horror Movie Night Cookbook Dinner Party.” Each couple would pick out a recipe from the book and we would gather to rate the dish and accompanying cocktail. Let the fun begin!
Friends Ann and Marty selected “Crawling Steak” — seared steak slices on sourdough crisps with artichoke-jalapeno spread,” inspired by the 1982 movie “Poltergeist.” Says Sargent: “This is one of the first horror films I watched as a kid. I was freaked out by the scene where one of the paranormal researchers goes to the kitchen for a midnight snack, including a steak from the refrigerator. He ends up getting a lot more than had expected.”
Fortunately, their steak didn’t crawl off the crisp.
The cocktail that goes with it is “The White Noise,” made by mixing gin, thyme-infused simple syrup, lime juice and citrus soda. As soon as Marty made some, he took a cue from the movie: “They’re here.”
For friends Eileen and Bill, their choice was a recipe inspired by “Scream 2” called “Phil’s Black-Eyed Pea Soup,” described as a hearty “black-eyed pea and cheese tortellini soup.” The drink that goes with was inspired by movie character Debbie Self, the inexperienced reporter played by Laurie Metcalf, called “The Debbie Salted Apple Cider Martini.” The soup’s “body count (aka servings)” was listed as six, but what they made could have easily served a whole army of zombies. (But do zombies have an appetite? Probably not for food, anyway.)
For our dish, full disclosure: We did fudge a wee bit. Instead of the recommended pairing, we chose the main course from the movie “Contagion” — Chinese Pork — and combined it with the cocktail from “The Wicker Man,” called “The Burning Man.” The former was baked with honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, sesame oil and Chinese five spice. For the drink, it combined vodka, elderflower and sparkling wine.
We spent the first hour or so sampling the drinks and comparing notes on the book., which Pam recorded in two of her “Gigi in the 561” podcasts. While there was merit to every drink made, the consensus winner was “The Burning Man.” All the flavors melded to create a real palette pleaser.
Time to move on to the food — and there was plenty of it. Pam and I made some side dishes to round out the entrees, including a butter lettuce salad and coconut jasmine rice. Judging by the fact virtually nothing was left over — except the massive black-eyed pea soup — every dish was a winner.
But wait — there’s more. Eileen and Bill did a bonus dessert: “Flypaper” — honey-glazed lemon bars topped with chocolate chip “bugs” — inspired by the 2006 movie, “Bug.” It provided the perfect “sweet ending” to our Horror Movie Night Cookbook dinner party.
By the way, Sargent provides his own recommendations for what to fix for horror movie night themes as well, which we’ll consider for an encore event. I already know Bill and Marty are anxious to try the “Monkey Brains Shot” from the movie, “28 days Later,” while I have my eye on the “Piranha Soup.” So much horror — so little time.
The Horror Movie Cookbook is available on Amazon ($19.95).