“An American in Paris” was not supposed to win the award for Best Motion Picture of 1951. “Streetcar Named Desire” was. Or, “A Place in the Sun.” or “The African Queen.” But, wow, win that best picture award it did. And I’m soooooooo glad. Because , selfishly, I’m so tired of drama and intensity. I need some lightness and fluff. And American in Paris is a perfect souffle of a film. I love Gene Kelly. The effortlessness of Gene Kelly’s dancing made me want to dance, too. My Fair Lady’s Alan Jay Lerner wrote the screenplay; I love him, too. I’ll especially love him in about 13 years. And I love the Gershwins. Music does not get any better than the Gershwins’. I think, after debating and distilling stuff with my 15 year old daughter (a kindred old soul who loves Broadway musicals), that we came to the conclusion that the perfect team, the dream team per se, of Broadway musicals would be George Gershwin on music and Lorenz Hart on words. But we’ll take Ira.
Thing we want to remember:
- According to Jim: Leslie Caron has freakishly large teeth and cat eyes.
- Again, according to Jim: Go with the chick who’s paying. She’s not that bad.
- I just realized I’m married to a bad Jim Belushi sitcom.
For dinner, I took my own advice (see sidebar) and made a very nice retro dinner of beef bourguignon and crepes suzette. The Beef recipe was from the best American in Paris ever: Julia Child.
4 oz Bacon
2 lb beef stew meat
1 Sliced Carrot
1 Sliced Onion
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 oz Plain Flour
1 pints (500ml) Red Wine
1/2 pint (250) Beef Stock
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
1 Garlic Clove Mashed
1/2 tsp Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
16 Small Button Onions or Shallots Peeled
2 oz Butter
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
12 oz Button Mushrooms
Pre-Heat the oven to 450F
Slice the Bacon into lengths 1/4 inch wide. In a large Casserole heat up the Olive Oil and cook the Bacon strips until lightly brown. Spoon them out (leaving as much oil remaining as possible) and set aside in a covered bowl.
Re-heat the remaining Oil and Bacon Fat until very hot – almost smoking. Add the cubes of Beef, in batches, and fry them until they are brown on all sides. Spoon these out and place in the bowl alongside the Bacon.
Now add the Sliced Carrot and Sliced Onion and fry briefly while constantly stirring. When done, pour or spoon out any excess fat.
Add the Beef and Bacon back into the Casserole. Add the Salt & Pepper and shake everything well. Sprinkle with Plain Flour and shake again. Place the Casserole uncovered into the oven on the middle shelf and baked for 4 minutes. Give everything a stir and return for another 4 minutes.
Now reduce the oven temperature to 325F
Stir in the Red Wine and enough Beef Stock to just cover the meat. Add the Tomato Puree, Garlic and Herbs. Bring to boil on the stove then cover and place back into the oven for 3 to 4 hours.
While this is cooking prepare the Shallots and Mushrooms.
Heat up 1 oz of the Butter & 1 tbsp of the Olive Oil in a small saucepan and when it starts to bubble add the Onions or Shallots. Gently fry them over a medium heat for around 10 minutes until softened and brown – occasionally rolling them around so that they brown evenly. Set aside in bowl.
Do exactly the same with the Button Mushrooms and likewise set aside in bowl.
When the meat is ready and tender sieve the contents of the Casserole into a saucepan. Wash the Casserole, place on the stove top and place back the Beef, Bacon, Carrot and Onion. To this tuck in the cooked Onions or Shallots & Button Mushrooms.
Skim any excess fat from the remaining strained gravy in the bowl. There should be around 1 pint of liquid. Boil and reduce down to the level where the sauce will coat a spoon.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Check the seasoning.
Cover the Casserole and simmer for around 3 minutes, basting the meat with the juices several times. When ready decorate with the Parsley Sprigs and serve immediately from the Casserole.
Dessert was just plain fun for me and incredibly delicious. It’s been years since I’ve made crepes. And I loved it. If a Magic Pan Restaurant should happen to open in my humble suburban town, I would probably want to get a job there as a master crepetician. Crepes are that fun. And Crepes Suzette are the prefect French 1950’s kitschy American dinner party dessert. And they taste good, too!
This recipe is from a great cook book called Retro Desserts: Totally Hip, Updated Classic Desserts from the ‘40S, ‘50S, 60s and ’70s , It’s available at Amazon. I highly recommended it.
For the crepes:
½ c water
½ c milk
1 c flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Cut about four 12”x12” pieces of waxed paper into 4 even squares.
Combine all the ingredients except butter and put in a blender and process until smooth, about 10-30 seconds. Add the butter and blend some more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours-overnight.
To make the crepes: heat a non-stick 7-8 inch pan over medium high heat. Add ¼ cup or less of batter to pan. When the crepe starts to bubble and the edges turn brown, flip over using a spatula or lift an edge and use your fingers (it’s easier this way). Cook the other side for about 45 seconds – one minute more. Slide onto a plate and cover with a piece of waxed paper. Continue making crepes until you’re out of batter.
When you’re ready to make the dessert, fold the crepes into fourths (triangles)
For the sauce:
½ cup sugar
1 large orange
2/3 stick of butter
1 small “airplane” sized bottle of Grand Marnier (4 oz)
Put the sugar in a bowl and grate the zest of an orange-use a micro planer, they’re fantastic- into the bowl. Use the back of a spoon to incorporate the zest into the sugar. Squeeze and strain ½ cup orange juice.
Set a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and orange-sugar mixture to bubbling. Place the crepe triangles into the pan and baste them with the sauce. Add the Grand Marnier carefully. If the pan is hot enough, it will flame spontaneously. If not, have a lighter or long match handy and light the liqueur until it flames for a few seconds. Put 2-3 crepes on a warmed plate and add vanilla ice cream. S’Woonderful.