For Your Degustation, Oscars 2010

February 15, 2010

I love Oscar night.  I love coming up with ideas for food for Oscar night. But, jeez I was dreading the 10 nominations thing.  Turns out I was a little bit right about the difficulty with coming up with ideas for the fete.  But, I have.  So, here goes my list for the 10 for 2010.

For Avatar–a silly, big, dumb movie that was just silly,  big & dumb and blue–bring on the tequila and the Curacao,  we’re making  blue margaritas:

>1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces Tequilla
2 ounces Triple Sec
2 ounces freshly-squeezed
lime juice
2 ounces blue Curacaco
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 (1/4-inch) slices star fruit for garnish (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.

Place Tequilla, Triple Sec, lime juice, blueCuracaco, and sugar in the shaker; shake hard for 30 seconds.

Serve in martini glasses with coarse salt on the rims of the glasses. Strain the Blue Margarita into the glasses. Garnish each with a slice of star fruit or a lime wedge.

For A Serious Man, the first best picture nominee ever based on both the Book of Job and Schrödinger’s Cat.  (This movie was too smart for me.  I’m not into Bible stories or physics, sorry Coen brothers.) we’re making matzo appetizers.

Matzo Spanikopita
• 12 Prepared matzo
• melted butter or margarine for brushing matzo
• 5 boxes (10 oz size) frozen spinach squeezed dry
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (do not pack)
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (do not pack)
• 3/4 pounds feta cheese crumbled
• 2 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste (not too much salt, because feta is salty)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Saute onions until soft. Mix together with spinach. parsley, dill, feta and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Trim all sides of prepared matzo as close to the edge as possible. Brush matzo with butter or margarine on both sides. Make strips by cutting matzo in thirds following the grain. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach mixture on the end of each strip and fold up like a flag to make a triangle. Place seam side down and bake on a buttered parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until browned.

Leftover spinach mix can be frozen.

For The Blind Side, a movie I liked a lot.  Probably more than I should have.  Because Leigh Anne would have $18.00 salads with her friends in a fancy Memphis restaurant I’m making a Hearts of Palm salad  from the fanciest hotel in Memphis, the exquisite Peabody Hotel.  I got a chance to stay in this hotel about 10 years ago; it’s pricey, but the duck show makes it worth the money.

Hearts of Palm Salad With Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Also, we gonna add some cold, cooked shrimp to this salad–this is for District 9.  The creatures are derogatorily called “prawns.”  Thank God.

1 1/2 pounds baby string beans, preferably haricots verts

4 to 6 ounces vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, chanterelle and oyster

Salt and white pepper to taste

4 medium shallots, finely chopped

2 pounds hearts of palm, drained

1/2 cup Walnut Oil Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Trim ends of beans and clean vegetable. Blanch in boiling, lightly salted water for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook; beans should remain crisp and green.

Drain beans and immerse in ice water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Heat 1/3 of the oil in an 8-to 10-inch skillet. Add a teaspoon of butter. The butter should brown immediately. Be careful pan does not flame.

Add one variety of mushroom.

Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Saute until brown and crisp on the outside but moist inside. Just before removing mushrooms from pan, add 1/3 of the minced shallots to the pan to release their sweet onion flavor.

Repeat with remaining varieties of mushrooms. Drain on paper towels.

Slice fresh heart of palm 1/8 -inch thick. Toss with Walnut Vinaigrette to keep them from turning brown.

Mix beans, hearts of palm, warm mushrooms and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette. Mound on a plate

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

1 egg yolk

Salt and white pepper to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

5 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

1 pint walnut oil (available in gourmet shops)

In a stainless steel bowl, whip egg yolk to blend smoothly. Incorporate mustard, salt, white pepper and red-wine vinegar. Add oil in slow stream, beating liquid as you proceed. Unused vinaigrette may be refrigerated in a closed container for 10 days. If it becomes too thick, thin with a little wine or water.

District 9? Seriously? Now would probably be a good time to mention to the Academy how nice and convenient it would have been for them to nominate Julie & Julia–the only movie about food and a cookbook.  I could have had class, I could have made Boeuf Bourguignon, but no, instead for our entree I’m combining elements from 3 nominees.

For Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds and Precious I’m making a peanut (Up in the Air), and popcorn (A lot of the action in Inglorious Basterds takes place in a movie theater) encrusted chicken breast (spoiler alert: Precious steals a bucket of chicken). How’s that for a stretch of the imagination?

Thai Peanut and Popcorn Crusted Chicken
  • 2 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 (1 3/4 lbs.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Here’s How:
For the Thai Peanut Sauce: Mix 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce in a small bowl until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Process popcorn in a blender or food processor until ground. Pour ground popcorn into a shallow dish; stir in peanuts and set aside.

In another shallow dish, whisk egg, soy sauce, garlic and hot pepper sauce until blended; set aside.

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Dip chicken breasts first in egg mixture and then in popcorn mixture until well coated. Place in skillet and brown on both sides; about 3 minutes per side. Place skillet in oven 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Thai Peanut sauce.

This is a lot of food.  We need to cleanse the palate a bit.  Also, combining the Englishness of An Education and the Up-ness of Up, we’re having a Strawberry Sorbet.

1 qt. fresh, ripe strawberries
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Wash, hull and dry strawberries. Place in a bowl, mash, sprinkle with 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Toss well and let stand 1 hour, tossing occasionally. In small saucepan heat orange juice, lemon juice and remaining sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Puree strawberries with liquid in blender until smooth. Add orange and lemon juice mixture and freeze according to above freezer tray method for a sorbet.  Using a melon baller, make small scoops of the sorbet and place in a chilled martini glass full of 7-up.  Yum.
For our final movie, and right before we slip into a food coma, we’re making, for The Hurt Locker, truffles with pop rocks.  A delicious and dangerous dessert.

2 cups bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup cream

7 Tbsp. butter, room temperature

1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

2 packages Pop Rocks

Chop the chocolate fine and place in a 2-quart metal bowl. Add the cream to the chocolate and place over a double boiler with gentle heat. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture just until the chocolate is melted, then immediately remove from heat. Do not overheat it. Whisk in the butter until combined. Stir in the Grand Marnier and then the Pop Rocks. Refrigerate until cool and somewhat firm to the touch.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe bite-sized pieces onto wax paper, or scoop out portions with a 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop. Chill until firm.

Quickly roll the truffles between the palms of your hands to form balls. When all are shaped, toss them with cocoa powder and chill. Warm to room temperature for serving.

Should be a fun evening. I hope they go back to 5 nominees next year.  Also, if Avatar wins, all this food might not go down the right way.


Is That Your Final Movie?

October 10, 2009


Well, yes, sadly, it is. For now. But we’re really going out with a bang and not a whimper.

2008’s best picture Slumdog Millionaire, I hope and somewhat predict, will go on the list of greats that the Academy has picked for best picture.  It’s a firecracker of a movie.  I loved that the last movie used a game show as a conduit for telling the story.  I love game shows (if they’re good ones–Jeopardy, What’s My Line and not crappy ones– Deal or No Deal;  and can someone kill Family Fued already, please?) for the most part) and I love movies so this movie is perfect for moi.

2008’s best was a good choice from a bumper crop year:  The Reader (Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar), Milk (pretty good–James Franco was great) Frost/Nixon (totally underrated–incredible performance by Frank Langella, he deserved the Oscar more than Sean Penn, in my opinion) Benjamin Button (ghastly, ghastly,ghastly).  And Revolutionary Road was robbed.

We watched Slumdog, our last Oscar winner about 10 days ago and I haven’t had the heart yet to post.  I’m a bit too reluctant  to end this journey of  film watching.  All good things end, so they tell me, so I guess that goes for things that are great, too.  Bad movies included, (except for you, Cavalcade, you really sucked) Sigh, I really loved doing this project.  Planning the meal, cooking the meal, eating the meal and watching, for the most part, some terrific movies was always a highlight of my week.  But we’ll forge on; there’s been talk about doing movies that should’ve won (e.g. Some Like It Hot, GoodFellas) and that would be fun, but it’s in the “We’ll see” pile for right now.  The 10 nominations thing is going to drive me crazy, too; I might just go to an Oscar party and have someone else do the cooking.  That would be fun!

For our last meal (sounds kinda like we’re on Death Row here)  we went with the fine cuisine of India.  Cooking Indian food is a blast: there are so many different spices and textures and smells, well, it’s just heaven.  Luckily for my wallet, whole foods sold pretty much all of these exotic spices in bulk instead of those expensive jars. I think I drove the store cashier a little crazy with my tiny bags or cardamom seeds and fenugreek seeds, but it was worth it. For dinner we went with a Lamb Vindaloo recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. I wish it was possible to google smells, because this meal was a treat for all senses:  yes, it even felt great.  To eat.

  • 2 t whole cumin seeds
  • 2-3 hot, dried red chili peppers
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • 1 t cardamom seeds (take seeds out of the pods)
  • 3-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1½ t whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 t whole fenugreek seeds (if available)
  • 5 T white wine vinegar
  • 1½ to 2 t salt
  • 1 t light brown sugar
  • 10 T vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into fine half-rings
  • 1 1/3 c water (or broth/stock)
  • 2 lb boneless lamb (or pork or beef) shoulder meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small, whole head of garlic, with all the cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • ½ t ground tumeric
  • Grind cumin seeds, red chilies, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds in a coffee- grinder or other spice grinder. Put the ground spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Mix and set aside.

    Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium flame. Put in the onions. Fry, stirring frequently, until the onions turn brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and put them into the container of an electric blender or food processor. (Turn the heat off.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the blender and puree the onions. Add this puree to the ground spices in the bowl. (This is the vindaloo paste). It may be made ahead of time and frozen.)

    Dry off the meat cubes with a paper towel and remove large pieces of fat, if any.

    Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of water and blend until you have a smooth paste.

    Heat the oil remaining in the pot once again over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the lamb cubes, a few at a time, and brown them lightly on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl. Do all the lamb this way. No put the ginger-garlic paste into the same pot. Turn down the heat to medium. Stir the paste for a few seconds. Add the coriander and tumeric. Stir for another few seconds. Add the meat, any juices that may have accumulated as well as the vindaloo paste and 1 cup water (or stock). Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for an hour or until meat is tender. Stir a few times during this cooking period. Serves 6.

    For a side we had some spinach fried rice
    1 cup Basmati Rice
    1 cup chopped spinach(frozen)
    1/2 red onion finely chopped
    2 green chillis
    1clove garlic
    1″ pc ginger
    1tsp canola oil
    1tsp ghee
    1tsp jeera
    1 tsp garam masala powder
    salt to taste


    Cook basmati rice with 1 1/2 cups water.let it cool and separate the grains.
    Meanwhile blanch the frozen spinach.Allow it to cool slightly
    In a blender make a thick paste of the spinach,green chilli,ginger and garlic.
    In a anon stick skillet heat oil and ghee.Add jeera and saute onions
    Add the spinach paste and saute for 4-5 mins.
    Mix the rice evenly with the spinch mixture in the skillet.

    And for dessert, we dabble a bit with the world’s most expensive spice, saffron.
    Saffron Poached Pears w/ a Champagne Sabayon

    6 cups water
    5 ½ cups sugar
    ¼ cup lemon juice
    1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
    Zest of 2 oranges, in strips
    1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
    4 Bartlett pears

    Champagne Sabayon
    4 egg yolks
    ¼ pound sugar
    1 cup champagne
    ¼ teaspoon white pepper, finely ground

    For Pears:
    Bring all ingredients to simmer, then remove from heat and steep 10 minutes. Discard orange zest and vanilla pod.

    Peel, halve, and core pears and put them in saffron syrup, covered with double layer of parchment paper to keep pears submerged. Poach at very gentle simmer 15-20 minutes, or until pears yield to paring knife. Cool pears and syrup separately, then store pears in poaching syrup.

    For Champagne Sabayon:
    Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl set over simmering water until fluffy, thickened, glossy, and hot. Use immediately, or chill in ice bath, then fold in ½ cup cream, whipped to soft peaks, and chill up to 1 day.

    To Serve:
    Spoon warm or cold Sabayon over poached pear half, and garnish with pomegranate seeds or a few chopped pistachios.

    Well, I guess this is it,  the end. Fin. It’s a wrap. To borrow from 1965’s best picture “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!” or even better, here’s someone who always says it best:


    The Penultimate One (for now)

    August 23, 2009


    Penultimate is one of my favorite words.  A lot of people think it means even more than ultimate.  I cannot tell you how much I hate that.  Penultimate means next to last.  And next to last is, unbelievably, where we’re at.  Well, for now.

    No Country For Old Men, 2007’s best picture is a product of  this country’s best filmmakers: The Coen brothers.   Joel and Ethan Coen can make movies that make you laugh, cry, wince, and pretty much everything else.  They are brilliant writers, just brilliant and even better directors; there’s never a false note in their movies:  Actors must love them to pieces and the Coens were long overdue for a best picture Oscar.  Fargo, have you seen Fargo?  Best movie ever.  Well, okay maybe best movie of the last 15 years.

    No Country for Old Men is a tough movie:  violent, terse, tense.  Scary. Bleak. There is no one here you really like.  I remember when we saw this movie at the show (Chicago vernacular, sorry)  and I just cringed when Javier Bardem’s character (Anton) would come on screen, because I knew he was up to something bad and that violence would ensue.  And I hate violence.  But No Country is a good story, well told with great actors.  Javier Bardem deserved his supporting Oscar just for the frightening hairstyle.  But Jim and I both agree, even though I think it’s still a little early to really make this judgement, that There Will Be Blood would have been a better pick for 2007.  And we could’ve had milkshakes.  And, but, plus that little plucky movie Juno would have been fun, too.

    Perhaps this skit from SNL will help you decide.  Bill Hader’s Daniel Day Lewis is spot on.

    Vodpod videos no longer available.

    For dinner we went with a tex/mex theme.  And for this recipe the cola we used was Mexican Coca-Cola.  No stinkin’ high fructose corn syrup for these gringos, no sirree.  They use the real thing. Chigurh, I mean sugar.

    Jim made a lovely skirt steak taco courtesy of Rachael Ray.


    • 1/2 cup cola
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
    • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    • Salt
    • 1 pound skirt steak, cut into 4 portions
    • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
    • 2 jalapeño chiles, finely chopped
    • 8 crisp taco shells
    • 2 cups shredded slaw mix (from a 1-pound bag)
    • 1 avocado, cut into 8 lengthwise slices


    1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the cola, olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, the chili powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add the steak and let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
    2. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeños and remaining lime juice; season with salt.
    3. Preheat a grill or grill pan to high. Grill the steak, turning once, about 15 minutes for medium-rare; let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and toss with the tomato salsa. Fill each taco shell with some slaw mix, an avocado slice and steak with salsa. Serve with the lime wedges.
    I made a classic Texas sheet cake.  So easy.  The cinnamon-chocolate combo is fantastic.
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon, and set aside.

    Stir together the remaining ingredients.

    Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until you have a smooth, rather thin batter.

    Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.

    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (whole, 2% or skim – doesn’t matter)
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted (about 4 cups)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

    Mix the milk and cocoa in a heavy saucepan (stir, stir, stir). Add the butter and, over medium heat, stir until the butter melts. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the pecans.When the cake is just out of the oven, spread the frosting evenly on the hot cake.

    Being a chocolate freak, I use just a half-teaspoon of cinnamon in this cake. I want the cinnamon flavor to come through, but I don’t want it to overpower the chocolate.

    If buttermilk is not a staple item at your house, this is a good recipe in which to use dry buttermilk. For a product review, see Dry Buttermilk.

    If you aren’t sure about your oven, you can test it with one of those little dime store oven thermometers. With its comparatively thin batter, Texas Sheet Cake requires every bit of the 400° heat in your oven, if it’s going to get done in 20 to 25 minutes.

    One more to go.  Crap.


    I Love That Dirty Water….

    August 15, 2009

    Finally.  A quarter of a century or so after his first Academy Award nomination and several  subsequent nominations later, Martin Scorsese, probably the greatest American filmmaker of the past half century, finally won the Academy Award.  The Departed is not his best movie by far; I think that one is probably Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Casino or Taxi Driver or even The Aviator (my personal fave: I abhor violence).  But beggars can’t be choosers:  Do you think John Ford thought that How Green Was My Valley, 1941’s best picture, was his best picture?  Probably not.  And it’s odd to me that this Martin Scorsese film that won wasn’t set in New York and Robert DeNiro wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  The Departed is set in Boston.  And the lack of DeNiro does not really matter; this movie is lousy with top drawer actors:  Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen.  Certainly a murderers row if there ever was one for acting.

    It was a great moment at the Oscar ceremony when a bunch of his peers presented him with the award.

    oscars01One of the best things about a Martin Scorsese film is his use of music.  Did you know that Bernard Herrmann, Citizen Kane’s and also Alfred Hitchcock’s great composer’s last movie scored was Taxi Driver? I absolutley flove the soundtrack to Scorsese’s  New York, New York (and not because of the ubiquitous title song, the New York, New York soundtrack is a great big band jazzy kind of record–Liza Minnelli never sounded better and Robert DeNiro can’t sing).  The Departed soundtrack is great, too.  Scorsese sagely added that great Boston band Dropkick Murphys to the soundtrack.  We saw them open for Offspring this summer. ( I know what your thinking: yes, the Oscars in Order team does have some rather eclectic tastes.  You’re right, we do! ) And Dropkick Murphys rock.  You gotta love an Irish American Celtic punk band that, yes, has a  bagpipe player.

    For dinner we did all things Boston.

    Boston Baked Beans (of course)

    2 cans (about 15 ounces each) navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2cup beer (not dark beer)
    1/3 cup minced red or yellow onion
    1/3 cup ketchup
    3tablespoons light molasses
    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/2teaspoon ground ginger
    4 slices bacon
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place beans in 11X7-inch glass baking dish. Combine beer, onion, ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and ginger in medium bowl. Pour over beans; toss to coat.
    2. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces; arrange in single layer over beans. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and bacon is browned.  So easy, so delicious, so much bacon.
    We had a simple salad made with Boston lettuce

    For our dinner entree we went somewhat Italian for Marty and had a lobster ravioli with a lobster cream sauce.  I was lucky to have some lobster shells in my freezer.  Paid off nicely.

    The pasta I got at Trader Joe’s.  Follow package directions and put sauce on top.
    Saute some onion and celery together in some olive oil. Add the lobster parts and saute until they are red and fragrant. Pour in some sherry to deglaze. Add some low-salt chicken broth and simmer for about an hour with a bay leaf, some sage, and a few whole peppercorns. Strain. In the original pan, saute some shallots and some prosciutto in butter. Add the lobster stock, and equal parts cream, then whisk in a dab of tomato paste and a beurre manier (butter and flour in equal parts–about a tablespoon each) and reduce to about 2/3 the original volume.  Salt to taste.  Add some freshly chopped parsley and sage.
    For dinner we went with the classic Boston Cream Pie.  From Gale Gand.  Sinful.

    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup cooking oil
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • Pastry cream, recipe follows
    • Ganache, recipe follows
    • Pastry Cream Filling:
    • 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
    • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


    • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
    • 1 cup heavy cream, boiling

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg white mixture and fold in. Gently pour the batter into a 9-inch greased pie pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Invert the pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

    Pastry Cream Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.

    Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)

    Ganache: In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.

    To assemble pie, remove the cake from the pan. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Place bottom layer on a serving plate or board, and spread with the pastry cream. Top with second cake layer. Pour chocolate ganache over and down the sides of the cake. Store in refrigerator.


    No Pride, Lots of Prejudice

    August 1, 2009


    Crash is way  too controversial to talk about!  OK, no it’s not really.  It was, however,  mine and Jim’s biggest disagreement ever about what movie should have won that year.  I much preferred the more complex and richer Brokeback Mountain.  He liked Crash.  I think that any movie that wins best screenplay (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana) and best director (the great Ang Lee) should also win best picture. In the end, after a much heated discussion, we agreed on the comparison of   Crash being is a Dickens novel, and  Brokeback being a Jane Austen.  And since I have the power of the keyboard I can clearly state that Brokeback should have won.  And me and Jack Nicholson were both surprised when it didn’t.

    Whoa indeed.

    Crash isn’t a bad movie.  Paul Haggis, who won the previous year’s best adapted screenplay award for Million Dollar Baby wrote and directed Crash.  Haggis is also a journeyman television writer. And by journeyman I mean journey, man:  he’s written for such varied and sundryed shows such as thirtysomething (a show I loved) and The Facts of Life (a show who’s theme song is now stuck in my head).  Crash’s ensemble cast is pretty incredible too.  Matt Dillon, truly one of our must underrated actors,  is great as the beleaguring and beleaguered cop–the rescue scene is harrowing on so many levels and Dillon and Thandie Newton both shine.  And I love Brendan Fraser, he’s one of my favorite actors.  He doesn’t do a lot in this movie (he plays the sterotypical somewhat corrupt DA).  But It was nice to see him only so I could reminisce about my favorite amusement park ride ever: The Mummy Ride. Love it.

    Racism, however is such an uncomfortable difficult subject.  And most everyone in this movie is guilty of one form of racism (or racial profiling for a more PC word) or another.  So you really end up not liking anyone in this cast.  OK, the daughter and the locksmith, that’s it.  In the end though I think that people watching this movie 20-30 years from now –someone doing the next generation of an Oscars in Order perhaps?– will be hard pressed to figure out how this one won.  Kind of like me and Cavalcade.  Brokeback Mountain, on the other hand, with it’s timeless tale of self-sacrifce will indefinately continue to win the approval of audiences. I need to stop.

    Well we went with the stereotype theme and made food that fit the stereotypes.  Sort of.  Crash is set in Los Angeles so we made California rolls.  I’m not a big sushi eater and this was my first time making sushi.  It’s a bit tricky when you don’t have all the right tools: I had to use a big bamboo place mat instead of the proper, smaller wrapper. They looked a bit wobbly but they tasted great.

    Juice of 1/2 lemon

    1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces

    4 sheets nori

    1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows

    1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted

    1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces

    4 crabsticks, torn into pieces (crabsticks are imitation crab, or “krab”)

    Pickled ginger, for serving

    Wasabi, for serving (but be careful this stuff is hot!)

    Soy sauce, for serving

    Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning.

    Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Cut nori sheets in half crosswise. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down. Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside. Cover with a damp cloth. Repeat until all of the rice has been used. Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

    Sushi Rice:

    2 cups sushi or short grain rice

    2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice

    2 tablespoons rice vinegar

    2 tablespoons sugar

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

    Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

    Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

    We also bought some frozen Korean shortribs from Trader Joe’s and Jim fired those up on the grill.

    And we also had this nice summer-jicama and watermelon salad


    • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
    • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Kosher salt
    • 1 jicama, cut into matchstick pieces
    • 4 cups watermelon in 2-inch chunks
    • 1/3 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves

    Whisk together juices, honey, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the jicama, watermelon and mint and toss to coat.


    Nickel and Dimed to Death

    July 24, 2009

    It was a lucky April shower
    It was a most convenient door
    I found a million dollar baby in a five and ten cent store

    The night before we watched 2004’s best picture, Million Dollar Baby, I fell asleep thinking about how wonderful an actor Morgan Freeman is. I thought he was robbed of a Best Actor award back in 1989 for Driving Miss Daisy.  He should have easily picked up that supporting one for Shawshank Redemption.  Thank heavens he finally prevailed for playing  Clint Eastwood’s one-eyed friend and employee, ex-boxer Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris.  Man, I wish I had a cool nickname like “scrap-iron.”   Mr. Freeman really is a treasure and he is certainly one of the reasons Million Dollar Baby is so good. Good, but a bit depressing.  It’s funny that this movie is considered a “boxing” picture.  While there are a lot of boxing scenes and boxers and the training of boxers, this movie is no RockyThank God.  In the end, in my opionion, it’s about who your family is and who you make your family: who is your Mo Cuishle. I remember just completely sobbing when I first saw this in the theaters and I promised myself on this second viewing that I wouldn’t be such a baby.  I hate breaking my own promises.

    2004 was a pretty strong year for movies:  The Aviator (my favorite that year; a movie about old Hollywood? I’m in! And are they ever gonna throw one Martin Scorsese’s way? Sheesh), Ray (Jim’s favorite), Finding Neverland (Johnny Depp, sigh), and Sideways (a good movie, but I felt drunk after watching it) were the other nominees that year. Other terrific movies not nominated that year:  Kinsey and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind . Hard choices.

    Remember Woolworth’s lunch counter? For dinner I went with the five and dime theme and found an old menu online from Woolworth’s.  I made choice number one:  The Roast Beef Dinner.


    Roast Beef is soo easy to make:

    preheat oven to 500 degrees–with a sharp knife cut slits on the top of the roast.  Insert garlic slivers in the slits. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes remove from the oven, lower the oven temp to 375 and sprinkle with salt and pepper and thyme.  Return to the oven and roast until the meat comes to your desired temperature (130 is rare).  Let roast sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

    For the gravy I just add a little chef’s juice, er, wine to the pan drippings and reduce.

    Mashed potatoes–peel potatoes cook em in boiling water for 20-25 minutes until tender–mash em with some warmed milk and butter. Em is a very important word when you’re making mashed potatoes.

    For the green vegetable I made a recipe from the big red Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook–Billionaires Broccoli

    Slice the florets of the broccoli off the tips (or just buy tips, the cookbook is a bit dated) heat about 2 T olive oil in a 2 quart microwave safe casserole for two minutes.  Stir in 4 cloves of garlic, slivered, and cook until golden, 3 minutes. Stir in broccoli and 1/2 cup chopped scallions (the green part, throw the white part into a glass of water and put in on your windowsill–the green parts grow back) and some chicken broth (about a cup) cover and nuke for about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with some parmesean cheese before serving.

    For dessert I made malteds:

    • 4 scoops chocolate ice cream
    • 1 cup(s) milk
    • 3 tablespoon(s) chocolate syrup
    • 3 tablespoon(s) malted milk powder

    Put everything in a blender and then pour into tall glasses. Serve. Watch the movie and then kick yourself for not making lemon meringue pie.

    I had completely forgotten how important the lemon pie was in this movie.  Once I remembered,  there was just no living with myself.  My brain and my mouth just stopped talking to each other.  The next day I made lemon meringue pudding and all was forgiven.

    1/2 cup Corn starch
    1-1/2 cups sugar
    2 cups water
    4 egg yolks lightly beaten
    1/2 cup lemon juice (or extract)
    1 Tbspn grated Lemon peel (1 lemon)
    2 Tbspn butter or margarine
    4 egg whites
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 tspn Corn Starch
    Mix 1/2 cup corn starch, 1-1/2 cups sugar, water, and egg yolks in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantky(else it forms lumps), bring mixture to a boil (8 to 10 minutes), reduce heat and continuosly stirring for one minuteuntil very thick. Remove from heat, and add lemon juice, lemon zest and butter, stir well untill smooth. Pour this while hot into a well greased baking pan. Beat egg whites in mixer at high speed until soft peaks form , gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight), about 3 minutes. Top the lemon mixture in the baking pan by spooning meringue over it, making sure to spread it on the entire surface, use the back of a spoon tp swirl meringue and draw up into peaks. Place oven rack in bottom third of preheated 375 deg F oven. Bake 10 minutes, until peaks are lightly browned. Cool at room teperature for 30 minutes. Chill for minimum of 3 hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream as topping.


    Revenge of the Nerds

    July 16, 2009

    I know there’s a lot of people out there who go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I’m not one of them, and neither is Jim.  Watching 2003’s best picture LOTR:  The Return of the King was a bit tortuous for us.  We’re really not the fantasy film watchers at all.  And why did it seem like every scene the last hour of the movie  was like the last scene, and yet it kept on going?  I think that if I checked my DVD player there would still be some wacky elves and/or crucial battle scene going on. Honestly,  I really couldn’t make head nor tails out of any of these movies.  And we kept getting other CGI fueled fantasy movies mixed up with this:  Where was Aslan?  What’s Harry Potter up to now?  (Jim kept calling Frodo Harry Potter.  I thought he looked more like Debbie Downer myself).



    They definitely could all be related.

    Around in 2003 that could have or should have won: Mystic River (sure, why not?) In America (one of my favorites, brilliant film) Seabiscuit (Tobey Maguire, another Frodo relative).

    Reluctantly I can sort of see why this one did win.  There’s a lot of film making going on here.  Even though I’m not a special effects fan, The special effects really are phenomenal.   Once again, the cgi-less crowd scenes in Gandhi seem like a miracle.  I really do admire Peter Jackson and co. for telling this tale.   I’m sure it’s  a lot better than reading the book (I read The Hobbit when I was in high school. Hated it).  And I do have a soft spot for Mr. Jackson because he appears in (the special features part) one of my favorite documentaries Broadway The Golden Era.  He was trying to get Fay Wray to appear in his upcoming King Kong remake.  She passed away before it could happen

    Thanks to Roxane we now know what happens when nerd worlds collide:

    For the epic dinner I consulted a few websites that really really like to eat elven food and decided on making Rosie’s Shire Pie and a Carrot Cake.

    For the pie:

    Rosie’s Shire Pie

    1 pound whole mushrooms
    1 pound ground sausage
    1 yellow onion, diced
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 stalks celery, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    2 Tb. flour
    1/4 Cup dry white wine
    1 1/2 Cups chicken stock
    1 Tb. thyme
    1 teaspoon sage
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Clean mushrooms and cut into quarters.  Crumble the sausage & place in a large, deep pan.  Cook over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, celery, and carrot, and cook about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more until vegetables are tender.  Stir in flour and cook and couple of minutes, stirring.  Add wine and half of the stock, stirring and working out any lumps.  Add remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low, add herbs, salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes.  Pour into deep pie dish or 8×8 baking dish and set aside.

    The recipe called for a homemade biscuit to be baked on top of the pie.  I cgi-ed a bit and used refrigerated biscuit dough and baked it for 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

    I also CGI-ed the carrot cake: I used a mix.  And canned frosting (I never do that). I did bake it in a bundt pan so it looked like a forbidden secret ring.  Preciousssss