Wrong Country for Young Men

June 23, 2008

The Deer Hunter was 1978’s choice as best picture. Lean year, that 1978. The Deer Hunter is full of some great performances–With his soul burning intensity, Robert DeNiro holds this movie together. The Deer Hunter has some great young performances: Christopher Walken–who won best supporting actor for this movie was only 25 when Deer Hunter came out–look for him dancing during the wedding scenes, he’s a great dancer. Also, John Savage, who plays another naive going to Viet Nam soldier in one of my favorites, 1979’s Hair–. Meryl Streep in a somewhat thankless role, looks gorgeous and impossibly young. I can’t believe she’s been around for thirty years and is still going strong. But, The Deer Hunter is a flawed epic. Brutal and, at times, horrific. And at other times, jingoistic. It’s also a good example of, what I call, a pillow movie. What is a pillow movie? It’s as simple as it sounds: as soon as the action gets to be too much for me (I hate violence) I put a pillow over my face. Just when did the pillow go over my face during theThe Deer Hunter ? Umm, Viet Nam. While I loved all of the beautifully simple Pennsylvania scenes (let’s drink, get married, goof around, hunt deer, live life) I pretty much missed a good 92% of the Viet Nam scenes. (Hey, what happened to Christopher Walken? I missed it) . But Deer Hunter was, also, reluctantly, the best of the bunch. Some of the other movies from 1978: An Unmarried Woman, Coming Home, Interiors, Grease, Midnight Express. They all seem so dated to me.

One of the saddest real life stories from The Deer Hunter concerns that actor who played Stanley, John Cazale (you might remember him as Fredo from The Godfather and The Godfather Part II). When cast for this movie John Cazale was diagnosed with bone cancer. Deer Hunter‘s director, Michael Cimino filmed Cazale’s scenes first–but when the studio found out about the cancer, they wanted John removed from the movie–Cimino said no. And Meryl Streep (whom he was engaged to at the time) threatened to quit. John Cazale died five months after the movie’s completion.

But, on a happier note, I read somewhere (I forget where) that the great “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” bar scene was one of the first influences that the inspired the people behind Broadway’s big hit The Jersey Boys. Way to go, Deer Hunter!

For dinner we tried to dine, culinarially speaking, as close to Viet Nam as you could possibly get whilst still living in the Midwest. But our beverage of choice to wash down our feast was straight outta Pittsburgh: Michael’ s(DeNiro’s character) favorite beer, Rolling Rock.

All of the recipes are from From Jean-Georges Vongerichten cookbookAsian Flavors of Jean-Georges

Chicken wings with ginger and caramel sauce

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

4 shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, trimmed

1 piece (1-inch long) ginger root, julienned

2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns plus more for garnish

6 sprigs cilantro

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put the sugar in an oven-proof casserole; add just enough water to wet it, about 1 tablespoon. Shake the pan to distribute the sugar and water; cook over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sugar is golden brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes.

2. Carefully add the fish sauce to the caramel, watching for splatters; return the pan to heat. Add the shallots and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken wings, turning to coat with the sauce. Stir in the ginger and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the chicken browns slightly, about 4 minutes. Cover; cook 7 minutes. Transfer to oven; cook until wings are a rich caramel color, about 45 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and additional pepper, if desired.

Spicy Noodles with Vegetables

¼ cup soy sauce

Pinch salt

2 t cornstarch mixed w/ 1 T water

1 T corn or grapeseed oil

4 garlic cloves minced

½ lemongrass stalk trimmed and minced

¼ t minced fresh green Thai chile

Mix together the soy sauce, salt, cornstarch and 1 cup water. Set aside. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, lemongrass and chile and sauté until golden brown (1 minute) add the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the noodles

1 pound egg noodles

2 broccoli stems, julienned

8 asparagus stalks cut into 2 inch lengths

3 T oil

1 small bunch garlic chives

2 t crushed red pepper flakes

½ red pepper, julienned

½ orange pepper, julienned

2 carrots, julienned

½ T chili sauce

2 T hoisin sauce

1/3 cups sesame seeds, toasted

Boil noodles until done, drain, set aside. Prepare an ice bath for the veggies. Boil broccoli & asparagus for two minutes, drain and shock them in the ice bath. When cold drain again. Heat 1 T oil in large sauce pan or wok add the chives and pepper flakes and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add peppers and carrots and sauté for about 1-2 minutes . Add the broccoli & asparagus, noodles, vegetable sauce, chili sauce and hoisin and cook until warmed through. Top with sesame seeds and serve.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

So easy.

1/2 cup milk

1 vanilla bean halved lengthwise and scraped ( didn’t have a vanilla bean so I used some vanilla paste–it’s a fairly accurate substitute)


3 cups heavy cream

1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup Vietnamese coffe or Cafe Du Monde

7 egg yolks

bring the milk, vanilla and half the cream to a simmer in a large sauce pan. Remove from heat.

Make the caramel: put the sugar in a small sauce pan and add about 1 T walter. Shake the pan to distribute the water. Caramelize over medium high heat, shaking the pan. The sugar should turn brown and liquidy in about 5-7 minutes. At this point carefully pour into milk mixture. Then return to the heat, stirring until mixture returns to a steady simmer. Whisk the egg yolks and add about 1/2 cup of the coffee cream mixure. Return that mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and cool the mixure in a refrigerator for several hours. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze accordingly. Amazing.

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