When it comes to food on UPROXX, Zach, Vince, and I feel like we have things sewn up. I interview chefs and edit the food section, Zach handles all our DIY recipes and reviews food TV, and Vince writes reviews of Top Chef that the cooks on the show famously read every week. Plus we’ve got this series, which is still going strong after 27 entries.
But when it comes to the intersection of food and film, the three of us still have to defer to the king of the genre — Binging with Babish‘s Andrew Rea. Since his show started, Rea has been a friend of the site and we’ve cheered him on from the front row as he’s gone from “just some dude” riffing on YouTube to hanging with Jon Favreau and Roy Choi on The Chef Show. We’re damn jealous of the man, but we respect his hustle and concede the cooking-pop culture crown to him. That’s why we had him judge our attempts at dishes from movies and TV a few months ago, and why we brought him back for today’s cooking battle.
So what’s the competition? It’s food from Oscar-nominated movies — fitting, considering that the Oscars are Sunday. But rather than that food that we saw on-screen, we’re imagining what the characters in our favorite movies from 2019 might eat. Which comfort foods would they take deep pleasure in? What sorts of flavors do they crave when they’re not whacking Jimmy the Greek, acting as a gopher for Rick F*cking Dalton, or snidely commenting on how their personal driver smells?
Our theme interested Rea so much that rather than writing out responses to our food, he made us a video roast. Of course, the chef couldn’t stay away from making his own Oscar-nominated dish, too. In a collab with Bounty paper towels, Babish cooks up a very high-minded “blue box mac & cheese” inspired by Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Check it out, then dive into this month’s entries. You know how it goes when Babish comes around — we all do our best to bring it.
— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, Uproxx Life
BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Pumpkin Spice Showdown — 1) (tie) Vince, Zach 2) Steve
Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Chili Cook-off Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Nacho Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Burger Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Breakfast Burrito Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Fried Noodle Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Fried Chicken Sandwich Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown Rematch: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Italian Comfort Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) (tie) Zach & Vince
Date Night Showdown Part II: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Party Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Grilling Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Film and TV Food Showdown: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Breakfast Sandwich Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Thanksgiving Showdown Rematch: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Christmas Movie Showdown: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. All votes are counted equally. As it stands, the score is:
VINCE’S LINGUINE WITH WHITE CLAM SAUCE (The Irishman)
My favorite movies of the year were actually The Death Of Dick Long and Uncut Gems, but alas, Oscar voters remain middlebrow dorks. Of the remaining best picture nominees, Parasite is my number one by far, but in terms of an Oscar movie inspiring food, that was an easy choice: The Irishman. Set mostly in the 60s and 70s among Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters (based in Detroit), throughout the film we see the characters eating the kind of Italian-American immigrant dishes that my dad and grandma and great aunt taught me when I was first learning to cook.
What’s a dish I can guarantee they were eating back then? Linguine with clam sauce. This was still a pretty popular Italian restaurant classic by the time I was growing up in the 80s and 90s (it may be the first seafood dish I ever enjoyed), and is still a staple of old-fashioned red sauce joints all over the US. For good reason: it’s delicious and simple, and bivalve filter feeders like clams are arguably the most sustainable/green animal protein you can eat.
As for thematic appropriateness, let us not forget that one scene in The Irishman depicted the famous hit on Crazy Joe Gallo (which the real-life Frank Sheeran was almost certainly not involved in, but I digress) which took place… where else? Umberto’s Clam House. Also, I was just listening to Audible’s 20th-anniversary edition of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four: The Final Pitch, a book written by a baseball player in the late 60s, and in one of the chapters he mentions how they always used to go out to a restaurant called the Italian Gardens in Detroit for linguine:
“Roger and I had this one spot in Detroit, the Italian Gardens. We’d go there for linguine with white clam sauce and we’d have a bottle of wine, and then some more linguine, and another bottle of wine, then maybe another bottle of wine, and we’d stagger back to our room. When Roger was sold we made a pact that any time we got to Detroit we’d go alone to the Italian Gardens and order linguine and drink wine and stagger back to the hotel in memory of the good times we’d had.”
Again, same time and place as The Irishman was set. Neither here nor there, but my teammates also nicknamed me “Linguine” the last year I played baseball. Anyway, here it is, my version of linguine with white clam sauce.
Great thing about this dish is that it’s super easy and there aren’t too many ingredients.
- Fresh pasta noodles
- Dry white wine
- Olive Oil
- Crushed Red Pepper
Are my noodles wider than linguine? Yeah, probably. Dry pasta would’ve been more faithful to this recipe, but fuck it, I just like making my own. Canned clams would’ve been more faithful to what was probably in the 60s version of this dish but I’m not doing that shit either. Aaaanyway, I won’t rehash my entire fresh pasta recipe on here again, but suffice it to say, two cups 00 flour, four whole eggs. I actually like my old Cuisinart better than a stand mixer to knead — I just pulse it a few times until it turns into a solid ball and then pull it out to combine on the counter a few times and then let rest for 20 minutes. I rolled the sheets out in the machine then rolled them and knife cut it — to get it a little thinner than my fettucini attachment. It’s still a little thicker than boxed linguine, but as the Italian-Americans say, va fongool.
Cream? No, you don’t need cream in this recipe, but my guess is that they probably used in 60s Detroit. I don’t use much, maybe a tablespoon or two.
Tarragon? Yes, flat-leaf parsley or basil would’ve been more traditional, but I like the flavor of tarragon with seafood, and I feel like it has a slightly better mouthfeel than flat Italian parsley.
Cloudy olive oil? I’d baked some garlic cloves in that oil for a different recipe yesterday, so I had all this garlic-infused oil lying around — double the flavor!
For my garlic — lately, I’ve been using what I call the Ilan Hall method (because I learned it from his fideo recipe that was in the Top Chef cookbook), where you put whole (or in my case halved, with the shoots taken out) garlic cloves in olive oil over medium-low heat, stir them until they start to get brown, and then smash them with the back of a spoon. It takes a little longer and requires more effort but it’s pretty fun. Honestly do it however you want, just don’t burn it. Light golden is plenty.
Once the garlic is lightly browned, add a pinch of crushed red pepper and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the wine to stop the garlic cooking.
Get that up to a low boil and reduce for a minute or two, then add the clams (which I had already pre-purged by soaking in salty water for a few hours and then drained).
Steam ’em until they pop open (kids love watching this part)…
…and then remove the open ones to a separate bowl to keep them from overcooking.
I bring the clam juice/wine/olive oil/garlic mixture up to a simmer and let it reduce more for a few minutes, to concentrate the clam flavor and get a nice sauce texture. No need for canned clam juice (which you’ll find in lots of linguine and clams recipes).
At this point, I turn the heat down all the way and stir in the cream (sorry, no pictures of this part). Again, just enough to give it a nice velvety, unctuous texture. Try not to drink the bowl at this point because it’s really good.
Steve on Vince’s Dish:
I’ve been to Umberto’s. I know this dish. And any complaint I have probably brings the dish back to Italy (cheese with seafood? Cream?) whereas your dish is meant to be Italian-American. Also, who am I to be anti-dairy products? That’s just not a stance I can support, given my history. I don’t like the tarragon move — would have preferred oregano and flat-leaf parsley, but you can’t get much roasting material from a poor herb choice. Cracked black pepper would have been nice and you always go so light on the chili flakes that they’re invisible, but these are quibbles compared to my one big complaint.
Ready? Here goes: Is there any level of invention or creativity here? You made a winning dish that the characters in The Irishman would surely devour and our fans will definitely love but was it a stretch for you? Like at all? I feel like this is so rote that you might have just made it a few months ago and kept it in the chamber, knowing you’d get a chance to use it eventually. I suppose, in the end, you made The Irishman of dishes: expertly put together, undeniably well crafted, and absolutely un-exciting. I’m getting drowsy just looking at this dish, and it’s not just from the forthcoming food coma.
Zach on Vince’s Dish:
It’s hard for me to fault this dish — it’s one of my favs. I guess I have to go to Padma levels of nitpicking here. Why use cream instead of butter? That way you completely avoid the whole “cream” issue. Plus, the butter will add more depth. I agree with Steve on the lack of sharpness. The chili flakes seem like a nice layer but they disappear in the dish. Freshly cracked black pepper on the end would have brightened things up. Also, parm is great with seafood in certain experiences. I don’t really see it bringing anything here a nice, large flaked finishing salt couldn’t have achieved.
Lastly, your pasta looks as pale as f*ck. It might have needed a little more yolk and working through the pasta maker. At the end of the day, if I was over at your joint and you whipped this up for lunch, I’d kill this plate of pasta in no time.
Andrew on Vince’s Dish (starts at beginning):
ZACH’S HICKORY BURGER FROM THE APPLE PAN (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was my favorite film of the year (with Jojo Rabbit and Parasite coming in hot on Rick F*cking Dalton’s heels). The movie also had some great food and drink moments. Anyone looking for a great Whiskey Sour recipe? Anyway, in the spirit of this competition, I couldn’t help but think of Rick and Cliff hanging out in L.A. at one of the city’s most iconic burger institutions — The Apple Pan. And with both Rick and Cliff being on-screen cowboys to some degree, there’s just no way they weren’t grabbing the smoky Hickory Burger back in those days.
The Apple Pan’s Hickory Burger goes back to the 1940s and was inspired by California’s In-N-Out style of burgers. They then inspired Ronn Teitlebaum to open up Johnny Rocket’s in the 1980s, based on The Apple Pan’s layout, food, and vibe. So, yeah, The Apple Pan definitely feels like the kind of icon that would be in Quentin Tarantino movie taking place in the 1960s. There’s also a little bit of Kahuna Burger energy here, with a smoky and tangy hickory sauce in place of any “Hawaiian” elements.
I always try and hit The Apple Pan at least once while I’m in L.A. and usually follow my burger up with a big ol’ piece of banana cream pie. Anyway, the Instagram below is what I’m going for. I’m going to add a little extra to mine … but this is the goal.
- Unsalted Irish Butter
- Garlic Powder
- 6-oz. 80/20 Ground Beef
- Irish Aged Yellow Cheddar
- Vegetable Oil
- Hickory Smoke
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Deli Dill Pickles
- Hickory Sauce
The most important part of this burger is the hickory sauce. Upon doing some internet research (special shout out to Alvin Cailin’s super useful The Burger Show), I found that this sauce is a mix of chili sauce, ketchup, and liquid smoke.
I’m adding in a little splash of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of smoked brown sugar.
I give that a good stir, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour to let the flavors marry.
All told, this was one-quarter cup each Heinz ketchup and Heinz chili sauce. Maybe five or six drops of liquid smoke and a tablespoon each of the vinegar and sugar. Test for seasoning and smokiness. It should be bright, umami-rich, very tangy, slightly sweet, and full of smoke.
To add to the smoke x-factor, I’m smoking my ground beef with hickory smoke for about an hour. I have a countertop smoker that allows me to fill a bag with plenty of hickory smoke. After I form two three-ounce balls of meat, I fill a ZipLock with smoke. Then I let the meat rest for nearly an hour while it both comes up to room temp and soaks in all that smoke.
After the smoke has soaked in, it’s time to make some burgers. To mimic the grill top greasy spoon nature of The Apple Pan, I’m doing a classic smash burger in cast iron.
Basically, I take one of the ground beef balls, add it to a smoking hot skillet (with neutral oil), and use a large spatula and wooden spoon to smashy-smashy.
As soon as the patty is smashed, I hit it with a generous pinch of salt and crank from the black pepper mill. I let that patty sear off for a good two minutes, or until a thick sear is present.
Once the burgers have been flipped and there’s a sear on both sides, I lose the heat and add the cheese. The Apple Pan uses aged Tillamook Yellow Cheddar which I can’t get in Berlin. So, I’m using the Irish equivalent — which is basically the same thing.
The key here, though, is to not add the cheese too soon. You want it to just melt but still have a little body left.
I toast off the buttered brioche buns with some butter and garlic powder until they have a nice crunch.
I then start building. First, mayo, pickles, and iceberg go on the bottom bun in that order.
Next, I place the patty and smother in the hickory sauce. Pop on the top bun, place the burger in its requisite white paper bag, and you’re ready to tuck in!
This is such a delicious and simple burger. The hickory sauce gives off these big moments of tang, smoke, sweet, acidic, and umami. The smoke on the meat just shines through enough to meet the sauce halfway and build upon each other.
The crunch from the lettuce and pickle is right on and really ties the whole burger together. Just look at that cross-section!
Overall, now that I have the sauce down pat, I’m going to whip up the burger more often. It’s a really easy recipe (especially if you skip smoking the meat) and you can get a burger on your plate in no time at all.
Vince on Zach’s Dish:
Whoa, smoked brown sugar. I’ve never smoked a sugar before, frankly it seems like something it’d be easier to snort. Anyway, to paraphrase Jules Winfield, Mm-mmm, that is a tasty burger! That being said, you said you smoked… the meat… the sauce… the sugar in the sauce… did I get all of that? At this rate I’m pretty sure this burger is legally considered a carcinogen in 43 states. All things considered, this thing looks good, and I’d never considered dropping some garlic powder on my toasted bun before but I will now. I guess my biggest quibble here is construction. Compared to the Apple Pan’s burger, which looks nice and portable, this burger patty looks massive. I feel like we need a thinner patty to really make this a one-hander. Same with those car door-sized pickle slabs. I love me some pickles, but I can’t taste a pickle if it’s in my lap (or can I?). This looks like a delicious burger that I’m going to end up eating with a knife and fork. And I can’t be seen eating a burger with a knife and fork, it would ruin my rep.
Steve on Zach’s Dish:
I like the story here. It seems like a burger Rick would send Cliff to go grab while he sat in the makeup chair, getting ready to play a member of a biker gang on Adam-12, alongside Mickey Dolenz and Edd Byrnes. When he’s hungover and peckish, this burger sounds great. And no one can really fault the technique. But Christ your dish is even less inspired than Vince’s. Once upon a time… in this very contest, you literally pulled branches off of tress to make birch syrup and here you couldn’t devise your own hickory sauce? You’ve pickled about 50 things unnecessarily over the years and this go ’round you decided not to make actual pickles? I don’t believe for a second that your raw beef held any of that smoke through its cooking process, so I think what we have here is… a burger. No mistakes, but no risk factor either.
Dude, you had a chance to make the shredded beef chimichanga from Casa Vega — because you just know that’s what the boys ordered there — and instead, you made this? You’re really keen to get rid of those waxed paper sandwich bags you ordered a few months back, I suppose.
Andrew on Zach’s Dish (starts at 3:35):
STEVE’S DAKKOCHI (Parasite)
I hadn’t even seen Parasite yet when Zach brought the culinary masterpiece that is ram-don into my life. His recipe not only made me incredibly intrigued about the movie, but it’s also been the #1 pageview smash across the LIFE vertical since publication. Let me tell you, people really, really want to know how to make this dish.
Once I saw Bong Joon-ho’s film, I understood the ram-don appeal. The entire rich-poor juxtaposition of the movie is encapsulated in that single bowl — incredibly expensive steak (probably an a5 wagyu top sirloin cut) paired with ramen and udon, both pre-packaged, quick to make, and incredibly cheap. When we decided on this contest, I thought back to that dish and wondered what other dishes could hit the high and low notes that encapsulate Parasite‘s class struggle.
I decided to make dakkochi (Korean chicken skewers) with a kombu, shitake, and anchovy broth. Like ram-don, this is Korean food that’s heavily influenced by the Japanese tradition. The skewers are a close relative of yakitori and the broth, called yuksu, is just slightly-tweaked dashi. Unlike the ram-don, this dish is gluten-free. Yeo-jong Jo and Sun-Kyun Lee are the best-looking couple in the whole Oscars race (sorry, Brad and Leo!), so while I think their characters might often mix and match highbrow and lowbrow tastes, I’d bet they don’t go for the double-noodle dishes all too often.
Check that photo out because. like Parasite, I like to keep my images full of foreshadowing.
Broth Ingredients/ Instructions:
- 1 package (6oz) dried shiitake mushrooms.
- 1 package 12 oz kombu (this is non-sushi grade kelp — it has sea salt crystals and hasn’t been washed after being in the ocean)
- 5 anchovies.
- 5 fresh shiitake mushroom stems
- 8 cups of water
As opposed to my beloved “bone broth,” this dashi (which draws a fair bit from this recipe) never comes to a boil. It’s really just an umami-based tea, when you think about it. In fact, I put the anchovies into a tea-ball strainer, so that I could easily remove them if the broth started to get too strong.
I let that mixture simmer on low as I prepared the rest of the dish. I spiked the heat right before serving, after straining it, to make sure it was served hot. The great thing about this technique is that there’s still a lot of life in your ingredients after they simmer, so you can make more broth, this time at a boil to really draw out every last bit of flavor. I have my second-run dashi boiling on the stove right now, with my chicken bones in the pot.
Chicken Skewer Ingredients/ Instructions:
- 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs — trimmed and cut into cubes
- 5 chicken hearts
- 3 chicken livers
- One bunch scallions
- 5 shiitake mushroom caps
- Sesame oil
- Rice wine vinegar
After trimming my thighs and cutting my livers in half, I put all the ingredients above into a bowl. The fat on the thighs meant the chicken was sure to be tender,
You’ll notice that the hearts and liver are greatly outnumbered by the thighs. I get that the Park family likes to imagine themselves as regular, instant-ramen eating normies, but I doubt that these a5 waygu-eating millionaires really want to see the weird, gaping left-ventricle of a chicken heart on their skewers. See how the one above looks a little like the mouth of a drowned puffer fish? Not so appetizing.
Gochujang-Sauce Ingredients/ Instructions:
- 1/4 cup organic ketchup.
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar.
- 4 tablespoons honey.
- 10 tablespoons premium gochujang (by “premium” I mean: should have Korean chilies as the first ingredient, should not contain high fructose corn syrup, and should be properly fermented).
- Two dashes of MSG.
- 6 raw garlic cloves, minced.
- 3 slices of raw ginger, minced.
- 4 tablespoons sesame oil.
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce.
This is thick enough as is, without needing to be heated. Simply mix then coat your skewers. (Oh yeah, at some point I put my meat on bamboo skewers which had been soaking in water. Each one was made up of about 8 pieces of chicken thigh, 1-2 pieces of liver, 1-2 hearts, four chunks of scallion, and 2 shiitake mushroom caps.
From here, I grilled my skewers to get that lovely Maillard reaction — turning them occasionally, so that all four sides were touched by the flame. Next, I squeezed a nectarine over the skewers, hit them with some sea salt and cracked pepper, and sprinkled sesame seeds over the top.
As my dashi warmed up, I added in some finely chopped scallions then served the skewers over the broth. The broth was highly refined, the skewers were classic street food fare — it was like an inverted ram-don, where the protein is the inexpensive part of the dish. The hearts and livers were spread out enough to offer a really nice textural and flavor variation, without being overpowering. The dashi was warm, soothing and elegant in its simplicity.
I’ve been wrong a lottttttttt lately in predicting my own success in this series, so I’ll just say: this is a dish that could lure the weird, mole-ish man living in my sub-basement up to the kitchen late at night, hunting for leftovers and scaring my son so badly that the poor kid is forever damaged.
Zach on Steve’s Dish:
This feels like the perfect format for Steve: Anything with broth and marinades. It gives Steve a chance to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and it makes sense. Again, my critiques are super nitpicky. Why not clarify the broth to add that extra layer of frou-frou? And … that’s all I got. Really, though, that cloudy sauce is the one step that takes this from a nice dinner at home to holy-shit-remember-that-time-we-had-those-amazing-skewers-and-broth-at-Steve’s?
Hum, I guess my only complaint here is don’t give me shit for using pre-made condiments in my hickory sauce when you used pre-made condiments in your marinade. I see you, Bramucci! You can come to me when you make your own fermented gochujang! Challenge forwarded!
Vince on Steve’s Dish:
Damn, did you steal that puffer fish line so that we couldn’t roast you with? Speaking of, check this video I saw online last week, I call it “Steve’s Mom Fish”:
I don’t know how much you paid Zach to go easy on you this week but my check has not arrived so you will not get that consideration from me. First off, who “squeezes” a nectarine? I spent an entire childhood in stone fruit country and even worked on the farm and it never would’ve occurred to me to squeeze one over food (which I imagine would get lots of nectarine on my hand and not much on my food). Would you squeeze a mango? Would you squeeze an avocado? I’ve never once heard someone say “mmm, yeah, just squeeze a little avocado over that to finish.”
[Tangerine! Tangerine! The editor needs to get edited too! -SB]
Also, two dashes of MSG? How does that compare to one big dash, or a pinch? Or as Lefty might say, a punch? (Staying on the Donnie Brasco theme, I do like to imagine your wife standing there quietly as you douse the kitchen in gochujang and tea balls full of anchovy paste going, “Oh no, I can’t cook special like Stevie.”)
Anyway, all of this brings me to my larger critique: that skewer looks delicious. That broth looks… well, like broth, but I can’t fault any of your technique there so I will assume it’s also delicious. My question: what am I supposed to do with a skewer and some broth? Do I dunk the skewer in the broth? Remove the meat into the broth? Take a bite of the skewer and then a sip of the broth to combine them in my mouth? We’re plating in my mouth now? I don’t understand how they go together. I understand why the ram-don has gluten — the noodles are a great vehicle for combining the meat and the broth. Ditto rice, or even bread. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time camping in Asia to get this one, but to me it kind of feels like two separate things. That is a nice tablecloth though.
Andrew on Steve’s Dish (starts at 6:15):