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Food fit for a 'Stranger Things' watch party: waffles, french fries, pudding

With its clever combination of cozy '80s nostalgia and spine-chilling horror, Stranger Things is the surprise hit TV show of the summer. The Netflix original is earning buzz for its writing, authentic vibe and eerie synthesized score. But not many people are talking about its food. It's time we changed that.

Just think back to that scene in Episode 1 — the first time Eleven (Millie Brown) steps onto the screen. The camera pans from the barefoot, bald girl in a ragged hospital gown to the back of a diner. After she sneaks into the diner's kitchen, Eleven finds a pile of hot matchstick fries in wax paper, and tentatively puts one between her lips. The effect? Rapture. Eleven, who has spent her entire life hooked up to electrodes in a research facility crushing cans with the power of her brain, has tasted her first french fry. It's likely the first good thing that has ever happened to her.

This is why food is a huge part of the series. Along with creating the appropriate ambience, food acts as Eleven's introduction to our world. It serves as life-giving energy for the group of middle school boys — Mike, Dustin and Lucas — who believe that "Nutty Bars, Bazooka, Pez, Smarties, Pringles, vanilla wafers, an apple, a banana and trail mix" will give them enough stamina to destroy monsters and save their friends.

And most importantly, food allows us to re-experience the show — at least until the second season airs.

So invite your friends to join you in a Stranger Things celebration. To set the mood, put on Will's favorite song, Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash. Play it like you're a kid stuck in another dimension just trying to make contact with his mother. In other words, blast it at startling moments and hope the lights flicker at the same time.

Or, for a more guest-friendly option, play Netflix's Stranger Things playlist on Spotify. And don't forget to hang Christmas lights everywhere.

YOUR MENU

Eleven's fries

Introduce guests to your party the same way Eleven is introduced to our world: french fries. After Eleven tastes her first fry, she begins double-fisting them, stuffing the entire pile into her mouth as fast as she can. Be prepared: Your guests may have the same response when they taste these Matchstick Potatoes. Serve them piping hot, just like diner owner Benny would want.

Eleven's hamburger

When Benny hands Eleven a burger fresh off the griddle, it's the first time anyone has treated her kindly. Her delight over her hamburger — it's so delicious that she even forgets to be afraid of Benny — is so well-acted, it's impossible to watch the scene without wanting to rush to the nearest diner. I've never seen anybody eat a hamburger so worshipfully.

Benny, tragically, is not here to make us our own burgers (moment of silence for him), so we'll have to grill our own. I wouldn't dream of trying to re-create a Benny burger, so this recipe is slightly different: Sloppy Joe Sliders made with beef sirloin and seasoned with garlic and onion, served warm on potato rolls. This gourmet version of a classic '80s dish will leave your guests as worshipful as Eleven.

Dustin's chocolate pudding

For dessert, you could scoop a helping of strawberry ice cream, which Benny serves Eleven after her burger. But we've spent enough time in the diner. Let's move on to honoring another member of the show: middle schooler Dustin. Dustin, who tragically never got to taste his tin can of Hunt's Snack Pack Chocolate Pudding. Dustin, who just wanted a moment of celebration after surviving a bully's knife attack, constant teasing over his missing front teeth, evil government officials, an extra-dimensional monster and a lunch lady who denies him this chocolate pudding every day. But of course, he gets nothing.

So go ahead and eat a bowl of homemade Double Chocolate Pudding for Dustin. Plus, if you're feeling a little drained after sitting on the edge of your seat for eight episodes, it might be just what you need. After all, Dustin promises that pudding will "charge your battery right up."

When Mike tries to describe pudding to Eleven, he may call it "chocolate goo you eat with a spoon," but don't worry, this recipe is far more elegant than their cafeteria option. Made with bittersweet chocolate and garnished with shavings, this chocolate pudding only serves four — so you may be tempted to hoard it, just like Dustin's loathsome lunch lady.

Upside-down cake

Not a fan of chocolate pudding? Or maybe your sympathies lie with the monster who lives in the Upside-Down world instead of Dustin and his friends? We won't judge if you'd rather bake a Blueberry Upside-Down Cake. Thankfully, the name is all it has in common with that dark alternate dimension. If you eat a slice of this cake, a perfect summer dessert, you'll remain safely in our world. At least, we think so. (Blink the lights twice if we're wrong.)

Upgraded Eggos

Now, I know what you're all thinking. French fries, burgers, chocolate pudding, and now upside-down cake . . . aren't we missing the most important part of the show's menu? What about the Eggos? Don't worry, we haven't forgotten Eleven's love for this frozen breakfast.

Since you and your friends will be staying up all night to finish the addicting first season, you can bake one of these waffle recipes for breakfast the next morning. They're not Eggos, but they're definitely just as good. And this Cinnamon Sugar Waffles variety might be even better. (Please don't tell Eleven I said that.)

Contact Emily Young at emilyyoungfreelancing@gmail.com.

.WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

Stranger Things

This new Netflix original series debuted July 15. After her young son Will goes missing in the suburbs of 1980s America, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) believes that she can communicate to him by speaking to her Christmas tree lights. The weird part? She may be right. Meanwhile, government officials hunt an escaped young girl (Millie Brown) who has special powers — and who may have accidentally released an evil being from an alternate dimension into their mundane Indiana town. Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix.

>>MODERATE

Sloppy Joe Sliders

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Coarse salt and ground pepper

¾ pound ground beef sirloin

1 (14 ½-ounce) can tomato puree

½ teaspoon mustard powder

1 ½ teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

16 party-size potato rolls

Heat oil over medium in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add beef, and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, mustard powder, sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.) Serve warm on rolls.

Serves 8.

Source: Martha Stewart

>>EASY

Matchstick Potatoes

Peanut or canola oil

2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled

Sea salt or kosher salt

Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour at least 1 inch of oil into a deep pot and heat it to 350 degrees.

Slice the potatoes into thin matchsticks (⅛ inch thick) with a vegetable slicer or mandoline, dropping them into a bowl of cold water as you cut. Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with paper towels.

Drop the potatoes in batches into the hot oil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the pot with a wire basket skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest of the potatoes.

Sprinkle the potatoes with parsley, if desired, and serve hot.

Serves 4 to 8.

Source: Ina Garten

>>MODERATE

Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

For a fluffy cake, it's important to use milk that's at room temperature. It keeps the butter from curdling.

4 tablespoons butter, plus more for souffle dish

cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 ½ cups blueberries, picked over and cleaned

¾ cup cake flour (not self-rising)

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

¼ cup milk, room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1-quart, 5 ½-inch-diameter souffle dish. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter into the souffle dish. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons brown sugar over butter. Scatter 1 cup blueberries over sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining ⅓ cup brown sugar and the egg. Whisk the milk into the egg mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth.

Pour half the batter into souffle dish. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup blueberries over batter. Spread remaining batter over blueberries. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean of batter, about 45 minutes. Immediately unmold cake, inverting it onto a serving dish. Serve warm with whipped cream if desired.

Serves 8.

Source: Martha Stewart

>>MODERATE

Double Chocolate Pudding

cup sugar

cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ½ cups whole milk

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus shavings

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.

Whisking constantly, heat over medium until the first large bubble sputters, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat; immediately pour through sieve into bowl. Add butter, vanilla and chocolate, stirring until smooth.

Place plastic wrap on surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming; chill at least 3 hours (or up to 3 days). To serve, whisk until smooth, then divide among serving cups and garnish with shavings.

Serves 8.

Source: Martha Stewart

>>EASY

Easy Waffles

1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and eggs; pour over flour mixture, and whisk gently to combine (don't overmix). Gently whisk in butter.

Following manufacturer's instructions, cook waffles until deep brown and crisp. (For a standard waffle iron, pour a generous ½ cup of batter into center, spreading to within ½ inch of edges, and close; waffle will cook in 2 to 3 minutes.) Serve warm, with maple syrup and butter, as desired.

Serves 4.

Source: Martha Stewart

>>EASY

Cinnamon Sugar Waffles

The cinnamon sugar bakes into a sweet, crunchy topping when the lid of the waffle iron is closed.

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated, room temperature

2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted unsalted butter, plus more for waffle iron

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Grease waffle iron with a small amount of melted butter, and heat. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, light brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla bean scrapings. Pour into dry mixture and combine.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter.

Ladle ⅓ cup batter onto each square of the waffle grid, spreading batter almost to the edges. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar.

Close lid and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until no steam emerges from waffle iron. Transfer to a baking sheet; place in an oven set to low heat, about 200 degrees, while using remaining batter. Serve warm.

Serves 4.

Source: Martha Stewart

Food fit for a 'Stranger Things' watch party: waffles, french fries, pudding 08/15/16 [Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2016 4:15pm]
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