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Blue in the Face

January 22, 2009

“The Citizen Kane of talking pig movies” was how one critic described 1995’s best picture nominee Babe.  I love that blurb. It’s kinda true, too:  Citizen Kane didn’t win best picture, either.  That honor went to How Green Was My Valley. But 1995’s winner, Braveheart is nothing like the tame Welsh family movie we watched back in 2006 (see a rarebit of Welsh). Braveheart is brutal, violent, simplistic.  A Mad Max for the 13th century.  A Lethal Weapon prequel perhaps–and there are all sorts of lethal weapons in this movie:  rocks, spears, fire, swords, the rack, Mel Gibson’s muscles.  Mel Gibson (who also directed Braveheart, got an Oscar for that, too) is not shy about the violence, either.  My favorite part:  the brilliant and befuddled Patrick Mcgoohan’s  (RIP) Longshanks up and throwing his son’s friend out of a window.  I wonder  I am  preferring the  villians of these movies over the heroes?  Hmmm, a puzzlement.

As much as I love the movie Babe (and I do) there were other Oscar worthy films that year:  Apollo 13 (how great would that movie be for me to plan a meal around–Tang & Space food sticks! fun stuff!) .  Sense and Sensibility would have been a marvelous choice, as well.

No how, no way, No haggis.  Back when we started this whole shebang and we were spitballing movie-dinner themes about Jim (who loves loves loves Braveheart; he’s been looking forward to this one for a long time) said we should make haggis for this one.  And if you’re reading this, yes, you did, Jim.  I remember.  Haggis is an acquired Scottish taste.  And by acquired taste I mean really gross inedible food.  To wit,  from Wikipedia: Haggis somewhat resembles stuffed intestines (pig intestines otherwise known as chitterlings or the kokoretsi of traditional Balkan cuisine), sausages and savoury puddings of which it is among the largest types. As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour.”  Maybe haggis is why the Scots invented Scotch.  And golf.  And kilts. The Scots are a goofy people, and I can say that, cuz I’m part Scottish.

As a nice Scottish-English appetizer we had an English cheddar cheese atop some rather blah Scottish oat crackers (the Scots are very fond of oats apparently) For dinner, however a perfectly bleak lamb stew with artichoke:

3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder meat, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth

1/2 lemon
6 -18 baby artichokes (about 1 3/4 pounds) (or get frozen–much easier)

Place trimmed lamb in large bowl; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Combine 1 cup chopped parsley, minced garlic, and grated lemon peel in small bowl. Reserve remaining 1/4 cup parsley for garnish.

Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Working in batches, add lamb and cook until well browned on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to medium bowl. Add leeks and onion to drippings in pot and sauté until softened, about 7 minutes. Add chopped parsley mixture and thyme; stir 30 seconds. Return lamb and any accumulated juices to pot. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until lamb is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

We washed this down with a really good, really strong beer–from the people at Three Floyds Beer –Robert The Bruce beer.  How festive it is that we drank a beer that shares it name with one of the characters from the movie! This was actually my favorite part of the meal.

We found this beer last summer when we attended an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner. If the OITF folks swing by your town you should try to go. It’s an amazing time.  It’s very expensive, but if your into food like Jim & me it’s worth every penny.

For dessert we had butterscotch pudding (I tried to make some from scratch, but it wouldn’t set so I used trusty old Jell-o pudding mix) and a delicious butter cookie from Scotland that we bought (along with the lamb, crackers & cheese )at a somewhat local Treasure Island store.  I thought it would be appropriate to shop there since Treasure Island, the novel, was written by one of Scotland’s most important writers, Robert Louis Stevenson. And it was fun, too.

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