For Chris Lemmon, stepping into the kitchen is a real joy.
"Cooking for me is showing the people you love how much you love them," said Lemmon.
The actor/musician is currently in Chicago working on the one-man show "Jack Lemmon Returns," a production based on the life of his father Jack Lemmon and his relationship with the acclaimed actor. The production, written and directed by Hershey Felder, opened May 12 at Chicago's Royal George Theatre and ran through the first week of June. It reopens June 25 and continues through July 20. FYI: Call (312) 988-9000 or visit theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.
"I do a lot of cooking at home," Lemmon said.
When it comes to enjoying various dishes, Lemmon said, he loves sushi. He was introduced to Japanese cuisine by a woman from Osaka, Japan whom his mother Cynthia Stone hired to help in their home while he was growing up. Various dishes, including sukiyaki, a Japanese stew, were among favorite items on her menu.
"I starting eating sushi then. She was a wonderful cook and she made all sorts of Japanese food." Lemmon also enjoyed Asian barbecue.
Though some of the Japanese dishes he grew up eating are a bit complicated, Lemmon said "I'll make things like tempura," which he has fun creating.
Lemmon's mother also exhibited culinary talent. "She loved cooking but didn't do the Japanese food. She did really incredible American fare," he said.
The actor said he and his wife and children are now focused on healthy eating. He commented when you eat properly it "makes your soul happy."
Lemmon's father, Jack, was a person who, the actor said, was never pretentious about food.
"His favorite meal was a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate frappe," Lemmon said, about the legendary actor who was born in Massachusetts.
"He was a New England kid and he stayed true (to those roots)."
If Lemmon splurges on a treat, he said he's apt to reach for cheese, which he loves. He also likes pistachio gelato.
Lemmon's signature dish when he steps into the kitchen is chili.
"I make a mean batch of chili. I call it my Prescription Strength Chili. That's my go-to dish," he said, adding he makes about 2 big tubs of it two to three times a year. He'll also freeze some to serve later and he seems to always have chili on hand for whenever the craving hits.
"If there isn't a bag of chili in the freezer, I get a lot of grief," he said.
Lemmon said he's been enjoying his time in Chicago working on "Jack Lemmon Returns" and paying tribute to his dad in the "real father-son story" which is about "love and family."
He said director Hershey Felder, who is a friend, is wonderful to work with. Lemmon added Felder is also a good cook and party host.
If Lemmon could share another meal with his father, he said it would definitely be a "cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate frappe."
"He'd appreciate that," Lemmon said.
The following is a recipe for Lemmon's chili.
CHRIS LEMMON'S PRESCRIPTION STRENGTH CHILI
It Ain’t Tame!
Ground dark turkey meat
Italian sweet sausage links, cut into small chunks
Leftover turkey breast (from the turkey you cooked the night before) (optional)
Corn kernels (fresh always best, but canned works ﬁne)
Black beans (“)
Kidney beans (“)
Garbanzo beans (“)
Pinto Beans (“)
Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Lot’s of ‘em! (hate to say but canned is best)
And any more beans that catch your eye
1 each: Red, Green, Yellow, Orange Pepper, ﬁnely diced
Mild Poblano Peppers, ﬁnely diced
1 Yellow Onion, ﬁnely diced
Sliced Mushrooms, lots of ‘em!!
Cilantro, Sage, Bay Leaves, Thyme, Oregano
Cayenne Pepper (woo-hoo!)
Salt, Black Pepper
DIRECTIONS: Brown ground turkey in saucepan with salt and pepper - drain off excess liquid, place in BIG ‘OL POT, on stove. (make sure there’s a cast iron heat disperser underneath).
Brown sausage chunks - toss in pot.
Toss optional turkey in too (face it folks - lotta tossing goin' on. In fact, let’s cut to the chase - toss it all in there!)
Now you can either make the Cumin Mixture yourself, or save yourself a lot of time and hard grinding work, and go buy Carroll Shelby’s Texas Chili Fixins! I know, I know, against the rules but hey folks, it's good!
Add Cumin Mixture - don’t be shy, if you’re making a big batch go ahead and add 2 packs. Add cayenne, salt and black pepper to taste (big batches will mellow during cooking).
Add water until the consistency is slightly watery - it WILL reduce a good amount.Put on lowest possible heat (be sure there’s that heat-disperser/warming-plate thingy underneath the pot).
Let cook approximately 3 hours or until consistency begins thickening, stirring every 15 minutes or so. You’ll know when it’s ready.Add Corn Flour, and more salt, pepper, cayenne, to taste. Let stand 1/2 hour.
Serve with Asiago Cheese (spring for the good stuff) Diced Scallions, and if you’ve a mind, a bottle of really good Mexican Beer. Enjoy!