The first time I saw 1996’s The English Patient it took me five days to watch the whole movie. Granted I was (for the second time) mother to a newborn baby at the time (welcome, Natalie!) so my time to watch 2 hour and 42 minute movies was going to be naturally schizoid. Back then I didn’t get why this movie was such a big deal. I was like Elaine in that Seinfeld episode: I hated The English Patient. And she’s right, sex in a tub does not work.
I was sort of dreading watching it this go round, too. But, really, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s really quite good. It feels like an Oscar winning movie: Long, sweeping, dramatic. Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas make a nice romantic duo. Juliette Binoche is lovely as the French Canadian nurse (she won best supporting actress for this role. Supporting actress though? she has more screen time than Kristin Scott Thomas . Poor Colin Firth, though. Who would cuckold Mr. Darcy. Not me. And Willem Defoe is great as the mysterious, thumbless (great grizzly scene) Mr. Caravaggio. So, unlike Elaine I didn’t mind watching this movie twice. But I had the benefit of a 12 year break.
But the academy did overlook a masterpiece that year. Fargo. The first time I saw Fargo I watched it in one sitting. And I’ve seen it a dozen times since then. I cannot think of a better movie from the 1990’s as Fargo.
For our dinner we went with a nice soup made from Nova Scotia (Canadian like the nurse and Mr. Caravaggio and our old pal Carpus) smoked salmon and cream cheese. From The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook:
6 T butter
1 1/2 C chopped yellow onion
3/4 c chopped fresh dill
2 ripe tomatoes, seed and chopped
8 oz smoked salmon finely chopped
2 T flour
8 cups water
black pepper to taste
2 C fresh spinsch
16 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup vodka
2 T lemon juice
Melt the butter is a medium sized stock pot over medium heat add the onions and saute until soft (10-15 minutes). Stir in the dill, tomatoes and smoked salmon. Cook 3 minutes then add the flour and cook 1 minute more. Gradually stir in the water. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Season w/ pepper. Stir in the spinach & simmer 5 more minutes. Stir in the cream cheese 1 oz at a time, allowing each bit to melt. When all the cheese has been added and the soup is smooth, stir in the vodka and lemon juice. Adjust for seasonings. Serve immediately.
And in honor of Willem Defoe’s missing fingers character we had a lovely pecan crusted chicken fingers:
1/2 cup ground unsalted cashews, plus 1/4 cup chopped
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sweet paprika , recipe follows
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch thick strips and patted dry
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more as needed
in a shallow bowl, combine the ground cashews, bread crumbs, and chopped cashews and mix well.
In another bowl, season the flour with paprika. In a third bowl, beat the eggs with the water to make an egg wash.
One at a time, lightly dust the chicken strips in the seasoned flour, then dip in the egg wash, and coat with the cashew mixture, turning to coat on all sides.
In a large saute pan or heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken strips in batches to prevent overcrowding and cook, turning, until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining strips, adding more oil as needed to coat the bottom of the pan.
We washed down this fine repast with a selection of Canadian beers: Labatt’s and Fin du Monde
Editing to add: Completely forgot I made this classic dessert of burnt sugarbecause of the patient in The English Patient being a burn victim:
Simple Creme Brulee
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 quarts hot water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.