What’s Old, Pussycat?

September 21, 2007

No, not him

Tom Jones is one of the more notoriously bad Best Picture Oscar picks. But,1963’s pickin’s were reaaallllly slim: Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field, & America America were Tom’s competitors. They’re all kind of meh, if you ask me. And where was Hud? It won two top actor awards (Patricia Neal & Melvyn Douglas) but no best picture nomination. That’s a shame. Larry McMurtry’s stuff will have to wait until the 80’s (and 2005).


Tom Jones wasn’t so bad: Tony Richardson did a marvelous job putting this film together. Lively is how I’d describe it. There are a few tips of the hat to the French New Wave cinema and few tips to the silent era of film (the use of hand held cameras and old fashioned Keystone Kops devices). Some of us *cough* Jim* *cough* Roxane thought it a bit long–a bit dated–a bit Benny Hillesque with its use of fast forwarding to make the action look funnier: Jim and Roxane joked around about singing ” Yakety Sax” when they would speed up the action. Well, at least the action was sped up—David Lean could learn a thing or two about directing from Tony Richardson.

Interesting Tidbits and things to remember:

  • John Osborne, (no relation to Ozzy, Jim) who was one of those “Angry Young Men” playwrights wrote the screen play.
  • If People Magazine ran their insipid “Sexiest Man Alive” cover thing back in 1963, hands down it would’ve been Albert Finney
  • That poor little deer

For dinner we had the classic British dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding. I think this is the meal that gave England it’s reputation for blah food.

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Roast Beef:
1 pound per person
Dry mustard

Yorkshire Pudding:
1 1/4 cups of milk
4 eggs
Scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly milled black pepper
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon of beef dripping or vegetable oil to taste

Roast Beef: I think many people underplay how much meat you need. For six people, I wouldn’t consider getting under five pounds, which, in other words, is about a pound per person. A roast is a sad prospect without the possibility of leftovers. For a rib, you should add on about two pounds extra here.

For rare meat, you can either cook the beef at 475° F for 15 minutes and then turn it down to 350° F for about 15 minutes per pound–or cook at 425° F throughout for about 15 minutes per pound. I usually do 15 minutes per pound and then add on an extra five minutes, so that those who don’t like rare meat have a bit of slightly more cooked beef from the ends. Those who don’t like blood don’t have to get it; the rest of us gratifyingly do. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness exactly. The internal temperature for rare beef is 120° F; for medium-rare, it is 125° F-130° F; for medium it is 140° F.

All I do to the beef is massage it with dry mustard powder after I’ve taken it out of the fridge. I use a knob of dripping for the pan, but you could use whatever fat or oil you have at hand.

Yorkshire Pudding: The oven should be heated to 450° F. Mix the milk, eggs and salt and add pepper, beating all well together. I use my freestanding mixer, the fabulous KitchenAidTM, but any hand-held electric mixer (rotary or balloon whisk) will do. Let these ingredients stand for 15 minutes and then whisk in the flour. Meanwhile, add the dripping to the pan and put it in the oven to heat for about 10 minutes. Into this intensely hot pan, you should put the batter and cook for 20 minutes or until well puffed and golden. Bring it, triumphant, to the table.

But for dessert we had an English trifle. Yum. And thanks, again, Gail Gand

6 cups pound cake scraps and crumbs
1 cup simple syrup (2 parts water, 1 part sugar brought to a boil and allowed to cool to room temperature)
1/4 cup sherry or orange flavored liqueur
Vanilla pastry cream, recipe follows
Brown sugar whipped cream, recipe follows
1/2 cup nuts ground with 1/2 cup sugar
2 pints strawberries, cut up tossed with 1/4 of cup sugar

In a large bowl toss together the cake scraps, simple syrup, and liquor to moisten the cake.In a trifle bowl or individual glass stemware, layer the ingredients in the following order: cake, Vanilla Pastry Cream, Brown Sugar Whipped Cream, nuts and strawberries, repeating until the container is full, ending with whipped cream as the top layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. (Can be made a day in advance up to this point and is actually better if allowed to sit over night.) Decorate with more fruit and finely chopped nuts, or rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.

Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole, 2%, or 1% fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. 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 two hours. (The pastry cream can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)Brown Sugar Whipped Cream:
2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Whip the cream and brown sugar until stiff.

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