While I saw the second film about three months after the first, I highly recommend watching them one after another. In fact, I'd like to watch Jiro again just to do a closer cultural comparison. Obviously, both films honor the incredible careers of Ono and Bras, but what I found most interesting were the comparison between Yoshikazu and Séba...both middle-aged men who diligently worked to become equally talented enough to open their own successful restaurants, if they had chosen a more independent path. In Japan it is traditional for the eldest son to inherit his father's business, and Séba seems inspired by that despite a very contrasting Western worldview that glorifies the self-made man. But despite Japanese tradition, or simply Séba's sense of duty, both documentaries acutely depict the intense amount of pressure both sons feel as they follow in their fathers' footsteps. Each son must walk the extremely fine line that allows them to develop their own culinary identities while adhering to the culinary traditions of their family and culture. The outcome for both is artistic mastery, I think.
If the cultural context of each film doesn't interest you so much, they're both very good food documentaries in their own right. The amount of care and craftsmanship taken with the ingredients and cooking process is really well filmed. Step Up to the Plate, in particular, highlights contemporary French cuisine as an intensive design process from the market to the plate.
One dish Sébastien Bras creates, in particular, inspired this post...very loosely. He roasted a whole onion, carefully removed the outer layers, and stuffed it with some sort of creamy, cheesy, Frenchy filling. I was mostly impressed with how beautiful the roasted onion looked. However, lacking the hours it would have taken to roast a whole onion, I opted for a faster method of cooking it whole. And, lacking the desire to consume such a rich dish, I made a Middle Eastern filling of barley, chickpeas, and vegetables instead. So, yes, quite a loose inspiration. Inspiration, nonetheless.
Ingredients (makes about 6 stuffed onions):
- 4 medium sized onions
- 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup barley
- 1 1/2 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. coriander
- 1/2 tbsp. ground mustard
- 1/2 tbsp. salt
- 1/2 tbsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
Bring a very large pot of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim about 1/2 inch off each end of the onions, and peel away the skin and any tough outer layers. Once the water is boiling, add the onions for 10-12 minutes.
Bring about three cups of the remaining onion water to a boil in a smaller sauce pan, and add the barley, bay leaves, and cloves to cook at medium heat for 10 minutes (or until soft). Drain when finished and set aside in a large large bowl.
Heat a small frying pan on the stove with 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Roughly chop 2 of the inner layers of onion you have left over and add them to the hot oil with salt and pepper for seasoning. Once softened and browned, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Finally, add the chickpeas and mixed spices and stir into a chunky paste.
I then filled in some of the empty space in the dish with the remaining onion I had, and brushed it lightly with olive oil. Cook it covered with foil for about 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 30 minutes so it is golden brown.