Guess who’s coming to dinner?!

James Franco. Simply typing the letters of his name on my keyboard gives me the willies.

The scruffy, brunette actor had me at hello when I was only a tween, making my heart skip a beat every time I saw his goofy grin appear on the much under-appreciated sitcom, Freaks & Geeks. Then came Spiderman, alongside a slew of other rom-com, stoner flicks & soap opera appearances. There was the movie where he chopped his arm off and the movie I still can’t believe I paid 12 dollars for : Your Highness. He can be serious or seriously funny. Have him play Sean Penn’s gay lover in Milk and he’s still sexy. Make him lose 50 pounds and cake his face with makeup for 127 Hours. I’m still turned on.

So, when it came to picking the first celebrity for my new series, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”, it was as if the answer was written in the stars. Or rather, it was written in James’ Gucci cologne ad on the back of a magazine sitting in our kitchen. Either way, it was my man Franco all the way.

The project of figuring out a meal proved challenging at first, especially because, how am I supposed to know what James likes? What he doesn’t like? If he has any food allergies? As difficult as it is to admit, James Franco is not my friend. I do not actually know James Franco. He is a celebrity and I am a mere mortal. Polar opposites, if you will (And you all know what they say about opposites).

As I put my thinking cap to good use, the ideas came flowing. I was feeling suddenly empowered, as if I were just bitten by a spider, only to infect myself with super-human powers and the ability to shoot webs, crawl up buildings and bake the perfect souflee. I could picture my demise, which would result in an untimely blood bath with my best friend’s father, Norman Osborn, who was unknowingly my arch nemesis in the kitchen.

But what would I cook? I wanted to prepare something homemade, something all my own, something special for James. Then, the lightbulbs. Franco is his last name. That’s Italian. I myself, am half Italian. Boom – Our famous Lolli family recipe for baked rice. James Franco is a very hot man. I enjoy spicy food. Boom – Chicken and Sausage with Hot Peppers.

Baked Rice with Marinara, Meatballs & Cheese

The baked rice is an induldgence : it’s rich, meaty and comforting. Pair it with a bustling red wine, a fireplace and some fabulous company in the form of a 20-something brunette who always reads for pleasure, and you, my friends, my James, have got yourself a meal.

Though I knew the rice would be a hit, I also knew I needed more. Such an A-list actor doesn’t get full on a plate of ooey & gooey rice and neither does allanabytes! Where’s the beef?

Dream meal with a dream man
If you were to combine balsamic vinegar, rosemary, peppers, onions, chicken and sausage and let it all simmer together for two hours – it will be delicious. With that same thinking, if you were to combine a camera, two brothers, and two generations of handsome, you will get this video.
I can only imagine what it would actually be like to cook for James Franco. And in fact, I did imagine what it would be like. As we would bond over our shared love of watching and in his case, starring in, videos, he would tell me lovingly that he didn’t find it at all creepy I paid twenty dollars for a black tote bag with his face and name plastered on the front. In fact, he would appreciate all the sly comments and quick witted remarks and compliments I’ve received on the bag since purchasing it a month ago. Bottles of wine would be consumed, food would be devoured and a friendship would be created.
So long would be the days of calling him James “HOTalian” Franco and “that scruffy actor from Spiderman,” – we would simply be too good of friends for such proper “English”. He would call me Lan, compliment my new feather extensions in my hair and tell me how my homemade chocolate chip + sea salt cookies were better than any cookies he had growing up. We would laugh by the fire as we exchanged stories of both going to college for creative writing and yet wondering why we didn’t have “real” jobs. The possibilities were clearly endless. He would later tell me, with bated breath, how many exact takes it actually took to complete his famed UCLA rejected commencement speech video.
As the night would eventually come to an end, he would thank me, and I would shrug it off as nothing. “James, seriously. it was no big,” I would say, laughing, or rather, in my case, roaring. The elevator door would close, and my celebrity would be gone. “It was over before it even began,” I would think to myself. Sigh. Nice guy, that James Franco, very nice guy.

Mom’s Baked Rice

2 lbs rice ( fills big All-Clad  lasagne pan )
Mini meatballs- fried at last minute
Tomato Sauce- make double batch- use puree instead of crushed so that it’s thin enough
Good grated cheese (Parmesan or Pecorino will do)
1½  – 2  lbs Brick cheese, chopped small ( can grate some for top )
1½ – 2 lbs Swiss cheese, chopped small  ( can grate some for top )
Butter, to taste
2 raw eggs
3 hard-boiled eggs, minced very fine

1. Fry meatballs. 2. Boil rice, al dente 3. Heat sauce (you can use any sort of tomato sauce, homemade or jarred) 4. In big bowl, put meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, butter,1/3 of the cheeses, cooked rice, then mix up gently. Add salt and pepper. Add raw eggs. Add enough sauce so it looks pink. Taste. In large pan, cover bottom with sauce, then 1/3 of the rice mixture, sauce, grated cheese, and chopped cheese. Do it again, 2 more times. End with cheese on top. Bake at 425 – 450′ covered for 45 min., then 15- 30 more min. with foil off, til bubbly.

Chicken Scarpariello

1 whole chicken, in pieces
2 links Italian sausage, cut up
1 med. onion, sliced
3 potatoes, small quarters, optional
¼ cup vinegar
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbs rosemary
1/3 cup dry white wine
10 pitted black olives
6-8 pepperoncini

1. Remove skin from chicken, season, and partially brown in skillet along with sausage pieces. (For this recipe, I used plain, boneless, skinless chicken breasts) Add onions and potatoes, if using, and brown lightly. Add 1 cup water mixed with ¼ cup vinegar, 1 tsp pepper, salt,  granulated garlic, and 1 Tbl. rosemary. Mix and simmer ½ hr. over moderate heat. Add 1/3 cup wine, olives and pepperoncini; cook 15 – 20 min. over low heat. ( May need more time. )

One thought on “Guess who’s coming to dinner?!

  1. Freaks and Geeks was one of the greatest shows ever. Ahead of its time and audience. Lolli recipes rock, I can testify to that. Hallelujah, brother !

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