Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,

April 25, 2008

Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

1975’s best, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was the first Academy Award winning movie to take all the major awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress) since 1934 and It Happened One Night. But, is Cuckoo’s Nest as good a movie as It Happened One Night? Don’t be crazy. It’s not even as good as some of the other nominees: Nashville–just a complete a flat-out masterpiece (and Louise Fletcher was the inspiration behind the Lily Tomlin character), but Robert Altman was pretty much always overlooked by the Academy. Jaws, ehh too popcorny. Barry Lyndon, ok, secret confession time–I don’t really like the over-rated Stanley Kubrick (except for Lolita), Dog Day Afternoon–a personal favorite but I (married to a banker) like bank robber movies. Also, a great one, Shampoo, not even nominated. Hmmm

Cuckoo’s Nest does, however, pack some powerhouse performances. Jack Nicholson is in his prime here. The 1970’s era Nicholson (Chinatown, Last Detail) is the best Nicholson, before he got too cartoony. The American Film Institute ranked Louise Fletcher’s portrayal of Nurse Ratched as one of the top 10 villains of all time (she’s between the Wicked Witch of the West and It’s a Wonderful Life’s Mr. Potter). She’s so great and so cold and so manipulative. She totally deserved her Oscar. And her acceptance speech was one of the most poignant speeches, ever:

There are also a couple of castmates from the 70’s sitcom Taxi–Danny Devito & Christopher Lloyd (making his film debut).

One personal memory from watching the Oscars that year. No one, no one thanked Cuckoo’s author, Merry Prankster, Ken Kesey. Shame on them: always thank the writer. Writing’s hard.

For the dinner I went a little crazy and a little nutty and a bit looney:

From Rachael Ray: Red Snapper in Crazy Water (Acqua Pazza)

2 1/2 pounds red snapper fillet with skin, cut into 3-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning blend (recommended: Old Bay)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 jar flat anchovy fillets
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 5 or 6 pieces (not in oil, available in produce department, packaged in pouches), coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
3 scallions, chopped
1 quart chicken stock, available in paper containers on soup aisle
A handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Crusty bread, for serving
Season fish pieces with salt, pepper and seafood seasoning. Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and anchovies. Melt anchovies into oil. Add snapper, skin side down and crisp the skin. Turn and brown the fish in oil 3 mintutes. Add wine and deglaze the pan (lift up drippings) then add sun-dried tomato pieces, capers and scallions and stir in chicken stock. Stir the stew/soup or “stoup” gently so you do not break up the fish. Bring the broth to a simmer and cook another 3 to 5 minutes to combine flavors.Serve fish in shallow bowls with plenty of crazy broth. Garnish with parsley

This was served with some Smoking Loon Pinot Grigio. Crazy, nutty looney stuff
For dessert I went with a cookie (almost typed cuckoo) recipe that featured Nutella, made from hazelnuts. Hazel nuts mostly come from Oregon. Oregon is where they filmed Cuckoo’s nest. I’m working this! I was hoping that the Hershey’s kiss wouldn’t melt as much as it did, making the cookie look like a witches’ hat–since Nurse Ratched was so witchy, but alas it melted into a delicious chocolate center

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup orange sprinkles, or orange sugar
1 (9-ounce) package of chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped (recommended: Hershey’s)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, place the chocolate hazelnut spread, butter, and both sugars. Using a hand mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 3 minutes. Add the
egg and vanilla and blend until incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls. Rolls the balls in the orange sprinkles or orange sugar, pressing to adhere. Place the cookies on a heavy cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Quickly place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Yum

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