Archive for the ‘Award shows’ Category

h1

For Your Degustation, Oscars 2010

February 15, 2010

I love Oscar night.  I love coming up with ideas for food for Oscar night. But, jeez I was dreading the 10 nominations thing.  Turns out I was a little bit right about the difficulty with coming up with ideas for the fete.  But, I have.  So, here goes my list for the 10 for 2010.

For Avatar–a silly, big, dumb movie that was just silly,  big & dumb and blue–bring on the tequila and the Curacao,  we’re making  blue margaritas:


>1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces Tequilla
2 ounces Triple Sec
2 ounces freshly-squeezed
lime juice
2 ounces blue Curacaco
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 (1/4-inch) slices star fruit for garnish (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.

Place Tequilla, Triple Sec, lime juice, blueCuracaco, and sugar in the shaker; shake hard for 30 seconds.

Serve in martini glasses with coarse salt on the rims of the glasses. Strain the Blue Margarita into the glasses. Garnish each with a slice of star fruit or a lime wedge.

For A Serious Man, the first best picture nominee ever based on both the Book of Job and Schrödinger’s Cat.  (This movie was too smart for me.  I’m not into Bible stories or physics, sorry Coen brothers.) we’re making matzo appetizers.

Matzo Spanikopita
• 12 Prepared matzo
• melted butter or margarine for brushing matzo
• 5 boxes (10 oz size) frozen spinach squeezed dry
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (do not pack)
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (do not pack)
• 3/4 pounds feta cheese crumbled
• 2 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste (not too much salt, because feta is salty)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Saute onions until soft. Mix together with spinach. parsley, dill, feta and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Trim all sides of prepared matzo as close to the edge as possible. Brush matzo with butter or margarine on both sides. Make strips by cutting matzo in thirds following the grain. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach mixture on the end of each strip and fold up like a flag to make a triangle. Place seam side down and bake on a buttered parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until browned.

Leftover spinach mix can be frozen.

For The Blind Side, a movie I liked a lot.  Probably more than I should have.  Because Leigh Anne would have $18.00 salads with her friends in a fancy Memphis restaurant I’m making a Hearts of Palm salad  from the fanciest hotel in Memphis, the exquisite Peabody Hotel.  I got a chance to stay in this hotel about 10 years ago; it’s pricey, but the duck show makes it worth the money.

Hearts of Palm Salad With Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Also, we gonna add some cold, cooked shrimp to this salad–this is for District 9.  The creatures are derogatorily called “prawns.”  Thank God.

1 1/2 pounds baby string beans, preferably haricots verts

4 to 6 ounces vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, chanterelle and oyster

Salt and white pepper to taste

4 medium shallots, finely chopped

2 pounds hearts of palm, drained

1/2 cup Walnut Oil Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Trim ends of beans and clean vegetable. Blanch in boiling, lightly salted water for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook; beans should remain crisp and green.

Drain beans and immerse in ice water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Heat 1/3 of the oil in an 8-to 10-inch skillet. Add a teaspoon of butter. The butter should brown immediately. Be careful pan does not flame.

Add one variety of mushroom.

Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Saute until brown and crisp on the outside but moist inside. Just before removing mushrooms from pan, add 1/3 of the minced shallots to the pan to release their sweet onion flavor.

Repeat with remaining varieties of mushrooms. Drain on paper towels.

Slice fresh heart of palm 1/8 -inch thick. Toss with Walnut Vinaigrette to keep them from turning brown.

Mix beans, hearts of palm, warm mushrooms and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette. Mound on a plate

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

1 egg yolk

Salt and white pepper to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

5 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

1 pint walnut oil (available in gourmet shops)

In a stainless steel bowl, whip egg yolk to blend smoothly. Incorporate mustard, salt, white pepper and red-wine vinegar. Add oil in slow stream, beating liquid as you proceed. Unused vinaigrette may be refrigerated in a closed container for 10 days. If it becomes too thick, thin with a little wine or water.

District 9? Seriously? Now would probably be a good time to mention to the Academy how nice and convenient it would have been for them to nominate Julie & Julia–the only movie about food and a cookbook.  I could have had class, I could have made Boeuf Bourguignon, but no, instead for our entree I’m combining elements from 3 nominees.

For Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds and Precious I’m making a peanut (Up in the Air), and popcorn (A lot of the action in Inglorious Basterds takes place in a movie theater) encrusted chicken breast (spoiler alert: Precious steals a bucket of chicken). How’s that for a stretch of the imagination?

Thai Peanut and Popcorn Crusted Chicken
  • 2 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 (1 3/4 lbs.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Here’s How:
For the Thai Peanut Sauce: Mix 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce in a small bowl until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Process popcorn in a blender or food processor until ground. Pour ground popcorn into a shallow dish; stir in peanuts and set aside.

In another shallow dish, whisk egg, soy sauce, garlic and hot pepper sauce until blended; set aside.

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Dip chicken breasts first in egg mixture and then in popcorn mixture until well coated. Place in skillet and brown on both sides; about 3 minutes per side. Place skillet in oven 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Thai Peanut sauce.

This is a lot of food.  We need to cleanse the palate a bit.  Also, combining the Englishness of An Education and the Up-ness of Up, we’re having a Strawberry Sorbet.

1 qt. fresh, ripe strawberries
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Wash, hull and dry strawberries. Place in a bowl, mash, sprinkle with 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Toss well and let stand 1 hour, tossing occasionally. In small saucepan heat orange juice, lemon juice and remaining sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Puree strawberries with liquid in blender until smooth. Add orange and lemon juice mixture and freeze according to above freezer tray method for a sorbet.  Using a melon baller, make small scoops of the sorbet and place in a chilled martini glass full of 7-up.  Yum.
For our final movie, and right before we slip into a food coma, we’re making, for The Hurt Locker, truffles with pop rocks.  A delicious and dangerous dessert.

2 cups bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup cream

7 Tbsp. butter, room temperature

1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

2 packages Pop Rocks

Chop the chocolate fine and place in a 2-quart metal bowl. Add the cream to the chocolate and place over a double boiler with gentle heat. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture just until the chocolate is melted, then immediately remove from heat. Do not overheat it. Whisk in the butter until combined. Stir in the Grand Marnier and then the Pop Rocks. Refrigerate until cool and somewhat firm to the touch.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe bite-sized pieces onto wax paper, or scoop out portions with a 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop. Chill until firm.

Quickly roll the truffles between the palms of your hands to form balls. When all are shaped, toss them with cocoa powder and chill. Warm to room temperature for serving.

Should be a fun evening. I hope they go back to 5 nominees next year.  Also, if Avatar wins, all this food might not go down the right way.

h1

I Love That Dirty Water….

August 15, 2009

Finally.  A quarter of a century or so after his first Academy Award nomination and several  subsequent nominations later, Martin Scorsese, probably the greatest American filmmaker of the past half century, finally won the Academy Award.  The Departed is not his best movie by far; I think that one is probably Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Casino or Taxi Driver or even The Aviator (my personal fave: I abhor violence).  But beggars can’t be choosers:  Do you think John Ford thought that How Green Was My Valley, 1941’s best picture, was his best picture?  Probably not.  And it’s odd to me that this Martin Scorsese film that won wasn’t set in New York and Robert DeNiro wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  The Departed is set in Boston.  And the lack of DeNiro does not really matter; this movie is lousy with top drawer actors:  Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen.  Certainly a murderers row if there ever was one for acting.

It was a great moment at the Oscar ceremony when a bunch of his peers presented him with the award.

oscars01One of the best things about a Martin Scorsese film is his use of music.  Did you know that Bernard Herrmann, Citizen Kane’s and also Alfred Hitchcock’s great composer’s last movie scored was Taxi Driver? I absolutley flove the soundtrack to Scorsese’s  New York, New York (and not because of the ubiquitous title song, the New York, New York soundtrack is a great big band jazzy kind of record–Liza Minnelli never sounded better and Robert DeNiro can’t sing).  The Departed soundtrack is great, too.  Scorsese sagely added that great Boston band Dropkick Murphys to the soundtrack.  We saw them open for Offspring this summer. ( I know what your thinking: yes, the Oscars in Order team does have some rather eclectic tastes.  You’re right, we do! ) And Dropkick Murphys rock.  You gotta love an Irish American Celtic punk band that, yes, has a  bagpipe player.

For dinner we did all things Boston.

Boston Baked Beans (of course)

2 cans (about 15 ounces each) navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/2cup beer (not dark beer)
1/3 cup minced red or yellow onion
1/3 cup ketchup
3tablespoons light molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2teaspoon ground ginger
4 slices bacon
Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place beans in 11X7-inch glass baking dish. Combine beer, onion, ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and ginger in medium bowl. Pour over beans; toss to coat.
2. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces; arrange in single layer over beans. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and bacon is browned.  So easy, so delicious, so much bacon.
We had a simple salad made with Boston lettuce

For our dinner entree we went somewhat Italian for Marty and had a lobster ravioli with a lobster cream sauce.  I was lucky to have some lobster shells in my freezer.  Paid off nicely.

The pasta I got at Trader Joe’s.  Follow package directions and put sauce on top.
Saute some onion and celery together in some olive oil. Add the lobster parts and saute until they are red and fragrant. Pour in some sherry to deglaze. Add some low-salt chicken broth and simmer for about an hour with a bay leaf, some sage, and a few whole peppercorns. Strain. In the original pan, saute some shallots and some prosciutto in butter. Add the lobster stock, and equal parts cream, then whisk in a dab of tomato paste and a beurre manier (butter and flour in equal parts–about a tablespoon each) and reduce to about 2/3 the original volume.  Salt to taste.  Add some freshly chopped parsley and sage.
For dinner we went with the classic Boston Cream Pie.  From Gale Gand.  Sinful.
Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pastry cream, recipe follows
  • Ganache, recipe follows
  • Pastry Cream Filling:
  • 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Ganache:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream, boiling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg white mixture and fold in. Gently pour the batter into a 9-inch greased pie pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Invert the pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Pastry Cream Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.

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 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)

Ganache: In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.

To assemble pie, remove the cake from the pan. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Place bottom layer on a serving plate or board, and spread with the pastry cream. Top with second cake layer. Pour chocolate ganache over and down the sides of the cake. Store in refrigerator.

h1

Counting Crowes: The Gory that Was Rome

May 12, 2009

1541__gladiator_l

It’s unusual, to say the least, that a leading actor (or actress)  stars  in two consecutive Best Picture Oscars winning movies. Clark Gable did it in 1934 and 1935 with It Happened One Night and Mutiny on the Bounty. Meryl Streep did it as a supporting actress in 78’s The Deer Hunter and 79’s Kramer Vs. Kramer.  And Russell Crowe did it with Gladiator and 2001’s A Beautiful Mind.  And I love that these double winners (all of them) are soooooo different from each other.

Gladiator is an old fashioned yarn about the ups and downs and ins and outs of a Roman gladiator.  Director Ridley Scott has added some modern touches–mostly CGI stuff.  The cast is phenomenal.  Russell Crowe is the perfect blend of tough and tender. Sigh. Joaquin Phoenix is great as the villainous Commodus.  My favorite bit of casting you ask?  It has to be the triumvirate of old 1960’s British actors on their last legs:

Oliver Reed as Proximo (remember him, Bill Sykes from Oliver!)

oliver reed


David Hemmings (so beautiful in Blow-up, so bloated here) as Cassius

dhdhg

And Richard Harris (post Camelot, pre-Dumbledore) as Marcus Aurielius.

camelotrichardharrisdumbledorema

Sadly, all three of these great actors have passed on.  Gladiator was Mr. Reed’s last film.

Gladiator is a fairly good movie, but little by little I’ve been re-watching the 2000 Oscar telecast lately and I am really surprised from the tone of that evening that Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic did not win.  Also,  Julia Roberts was really annoying that night.

For dinner we tried to stick to a gladiator’s style of diet: lots of protein, walnuts and honey.  For dinner we adapted a recipe from the beautiful and talented Giada De Laurentiis. However, no way has she ever eaten anything “poached in oil” before.  Poached in oil is fancy chef-speak for deep fried.
Halibut  with Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Broccoli Rabe Pesto: (if you can’t find broccoli rabe, swiss chard is a nice substitute)
  • 8 ounces broccoli rabe (about 1/2 a bunch)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Halibut:
  • 1/4 cupolive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces halibut
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Broccoli Rabe Pesto:

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked broccoli rabe to an ice bath and let cool, about 3 minutes. Shake off the excess water and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, walnuts, honey, salt, and pepper process until smooth. With the machine running gradually pour in the extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Cover and set aside.

For the Halibut:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the halibut and cook until brown and crispy  1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and place in the oven for a few minutes (3-4) until done.

To Serve:

Place about 1/2 cup of Broccoli Rabe Pesto on a serving plate and gently smooth out to make a bed for the fish. Using a slotted fish spatula gently transfer the cooked fish from the poaching oil to the serving plate, placing the fish on top of the bed of pesto. Serve immediately.

h1

For Your Degustation, Oscars 2009

February 3, 2009

It’s hard for me to believe that this is the third time I’m posting an Oscar night tasting menu.  But I am. And this year it was extremely difficult to come up with food ideas that match these films.  But I did.  And yes, they’re pretty much a stretch.

For Frost/Nixon –we’re gonna start with cocktails, as all proper Oscar parties should.  Did you know there’s a drink called the Nixon? neither did I.  According to Wikipedia,  The Nixon was created by Joe Gilmore, the Head Barman of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, to mark American President Richard Nixon’s visit to Britain in 1969. The cocktail was mixed at the American bar and then sent to Claridge’s where Nixon was staying.

For the Nixon:

– 1 – 2 oz rum (spiced)
– 6 oz soda (7-up, sprite)

Pour the spiced rum into a collins glass filled with ice cubes. Fill with 7-Up, stir and serve.

Serve in “Collins Glass” Garnish: No

For the Frost

A strawberry-cranberry frosted drink

4.0 oz. sliced, frozen Strawberries
4 oz. Cranberry juice
2.0 oz. Vodka

Directions: Put all ingredients in a blender with 3 oz. crushed ice. Blend until smoth. Pour into a large goblet.

The reader in The Reader last name is Berg And Benjamin’s is Button so therefore (stretch) for The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we’re going to have sliders (mini-hamburgers) with sauteed button mushrooms.

2 pounds ground sirloin
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil ( divided
10 to 12 medium button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry
16 miniature buns

Preheat broiler or oven to 400ºF.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix it all up with your hands and then pat the meat down in the bowl and use the side of your hand to roughly score the mixture into four equal portions. Scoop one portion out of the bowl and divide that into four equal parts. Shape each part into a small patty and reserve on a plate. Continue dividing and shaping the remaining meat until you have 16 patties.

Place one medium and one large skillet over medium-high heat with  about 2 tablespoons of olive oil each. When the oil is hot, place the sliders into the large pan (as many as will fit comfortably, don’t crowd the party!). Cook until golden brown on the outside and cooked through inside, 3-4 minutes per side. Removed the cooked sliders from the pan to a dinner plate and cover them with foil to keep warm while the others cook.

While the sliders are cooking up in the large pan, place the sliced button mushrooms into the other pan and cook until softened and caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Season the button mushrooms with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then remove the pan from the heat and add in the sherry. Return the pan to the heat and cook away the liquid, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula to free up all those tasty bits that are stuck to the bottom.

While the burgers and button mushrooms are cooking, split the buns in half and place them onto a baking sheet. Toss them into the oven or under the broiler for a few minutes to toast them up.

For Slumdog Millionaire (my favorite is the front runner for the first time in a long time!) we will be preparing a simple vegetable dish using the most expensive spice there is, saffron.  I love saffron–the smell, the color, the taste.  Remember a little goes a long way.

SAFFRON VEGETABLE RICE MEDLEY

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter
3 cinnamon sticks, broken
6 bay leaves, broken
1/2 tsp. whole cumin
1 c. chopped onion
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 c. peas
1 c. sliced carrots
4 c. long grain rice
4 c. boiling water
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
Almonds

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium high heat. Add cinnamon, bay leaves and cumin and saute. Add onion, cloves and turmeric and continue sauteing until onion is golden and coated with spices. Stir in peas and carrots. Blend in rice, water, salt, saffron and bring to boil. Stir through several times, then cover and reduce heat to lowest setting. Cook until water is evaporated (check after 30 minutes), about 35 to 45 minutes. Turn onto shallow platter and garnish with almonds and silver leaf. The fragrance and flavor of saffron, released only by cooking the spice in hot liquid (cooking saffron in oil will destroy it) adds an exotic touch.

Finally, for dessert, for  Milk a tres leche cake (that’s three milks)

1 yellow cake mix (with pudding) baked as directed in 13 by 9-inch pan

For topping:

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup rum (or to taste)

to finish:

Whipped cream, to cover cake
5 ounces sweetened coconut

    Poke holes in the cake with a fork all over. Pour topping mixture over cake. Let mixture absorb completely in refrigerator.

    Cover with whipped cream or cool whip and sprinkle sweetened coconut over top of cake.

    OPTIONAL: Add macadamia nuts, cherries and/or pineapple.

    Should be a delicious night!

Inspired by Party Girl– a twinkie tirimisu recipe

ESPRESSO SYRUP
1/3 cup water
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup strong brewed espresso coffee
¼ cup Italian brandy (optional)
Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, cool and add coffee and opt. brandy

MASCARPONE FILLING

1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. mascarpone cheese, room temp.

Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold cream into softened mascarpone.
12 Twinkies, sliced ½-inch thick

Cocoa powder for light dusting
ASSEMBLY

1. Place a layer of the Twinkie slices in the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish.
2. Drizzle with half the espresso syrup.
3. Spread with half the mascarpone filling.
4. Repeat with remaining twinkie, syrup and mascarpone filling.
5. Smooth top with spatula.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

h1

Oscar nominations 2009 or is it 1994?

January 23, 2009

Nothing all that exciting about this years’ nominations.  I was hoping for a Dark Night best picture nomination so there’d be a ratings spike in the broadcast.  Or a nomination for Hamlet 2’s “Rock Me. Sexy Jesus” so there’d be some controversy.  Oh, well.  This video from the Funny or Die folks is fortunately, very funny.  It really tells you everything you need to know about Benjamin Button.

more about “Oscar nominations 2009 or 1994?“, posted with vodpod
h1

Singing Songs About the Southland

January 17, 2009

1994 was another golden year for the Oscars. Almost as good as 1939. Almost. With the exception of one clunker, any one of the other four nominees could reasonably have been best picture that year. The golden four? Forrest Gump (winner), Pulp Fiction (great movie) Quiz Show (one of my all time favorites), The Shawshank Redemption (gets better every time I see it). The clunker? Well, I hate naming names, but what the heck is Four Wedding and a Funeral , clunk, doing on this list? The only award it should have been nominated for would have to be Best Performance by a Big Black Hat.

I remember there being a great rivalry between Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction that year. Gump is certainly more crowd pleasing. Pulp Fiction is for more eclectic tastes. This shows in their respective soundtracks as well. Forrest Gump is like listening to an ordinary classic rock station: The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd et al. Pulp Fiction digs a little deeper and goes a little further: Dusty Springfield, The Statler Brothers. On musical soundtrack choices alone Pulp Fiction should have won.

But Forrest Gump is a lot of fun and has some great performances: Tom Hanks (winning his second Oscar) Gary Sinise (I went to the same high school as he did; only he’s much older) and Robin Wright are all great. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should. This was also one of the few times in recent history that we all were able to watch the movie. Eleven year old girls get bored easily.

My favorite Gump Scene: I laughed for days when I first saw this–the drinking Dr. Pepper (nice product placement) in the White House Forrest meets JFK “I gotta pee.” scene. Hilarious.

The Gump scene that makes me admire Sir Richard Attenborough: The above pictured Washington monument scene. A lot of the “people” in the “crowd” scene were just CGI trickery. All those people in the Gandhi crowds were real people.

For dinner we went to Savannah’s renowed Paula Deen for advice and recipes. We ate at Lady & Sons on a trip to South Carolina a few years ago (before she got so Food Network famous). The restaurant is lovely. And so is her food.

Shrimp Cocktail–(cause you know we had to use shrimp)

  • 1 pound medium or large shrimp, in the shell, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Cocktail Sauce,from a jar
  • Lemon or Lime wedges

put some cocktail sauce in a martini glass, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Put cold shrimp around the edge of the glass. Serve with lemon or lime wedge.

Easy Gumbo casserole (cause you know we had to use even more shrimp)

Gumbo:
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 cup chicken or fish stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
10-ounce package frozen cut okra
2 cups shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined

Topping:
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk
12-ounce package corn muffin mix

In an iron skillet, saute onion and celery in oil. Add bay leaves, thyme, lemon-pepper seasoning and House Seasoning. Pour in stock and add tomatoes and okra. Cover pot and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in shrimp.To prepare the topping, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together egg and milk, add to muffin mix, and combine until just well-blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls on top of hot shrimp mixture, leaving the center uncovered. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

for dessert we had Life is Like a Box of Chocolate brownies. So easy, so fun. You never know what you’re going to get. This was a smash hit.

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, melted, plus a little more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 9 pieces of chocolate box chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 by 13-inch cake pan (aluminum is fine) with butter. Beat the 1 1/2 sticks butter and the sugar together in a large bowl until blended. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then stir in water and vanilla. Sprinkle the salt and baking powder over the mixture, then mix in. Do the same with the cocoa. Finally, stir in the flour until just blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Push a chocolate into the batter about 2 inches apart, until the chocolate is covered. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center is set, the edges look a bit crusty, and the top of the brownies start to crack a little. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

h1

He’s the Rootinest Tootinest Cowboy in the Wild, Wild West

December 28, 2008

unforgivenI’m mad at Clint Eastwood. I’ve gone on record as being non-western loving. Never saw one I really liked. Certainly not 1931’s snore-fest Cimarron or 1990’s new-agey fakery that is Dances With Wolves. And when it comes to answering movie trivia questions, be it the cool game Scene It or the quiz show Jeopardy! I always cross my fingers and hope that it won’t be a question about westerns, because I don’t like them, so I don’t know much about them. And I know everything about movies (so people who play these games with me think). Well, along comes 1992’s Unforgiven. And, take a deep breath, I liked it. A lot. Clint Eastwood spins a damn good yarn. I think it helped that the women in the story weren’t so school marmy. These prostitutes were the straw that stirred this drink. And the acting was great, too. Morgan Freeman is wonderful, as always. And nobody plays a better more evil, more fun villain than Gene Hackman –see Bonnie and Clyde or, especially, his Lex Luther in the 1970’s era Superman. He won a best supporting actor Oscar for Unforgiven bravo, Gene!. So now there’s a western that I like. Thanks, Clint.

Also nominated in 1992: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End (great movie), Scent of a Woman (winner of the Golden Globe for best picture that year. Snerk. Foreign press guys who rule the Golden Globes, you slay me.)

I also should take the time to thank Clint Eastwood for his marvelous Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel, California. We stayed there on our San Francisco trip about 3 summers ago. It’s a great place to take the kids. Old fashioned, rustic and beautiful. Great piano bar, too.

mission-ranch

In honor of our first Clint Eastwood best picture (Million Dollar Baby is coming up) we went with his old genre for dinner. The Spaghetti Western. And for dessert, in honor of the prostitutes, we had lemon and cranberry tarts.

Spaghetti Western

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 3 slices smoky bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can, chopped or crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounces) can, tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar
  • 4 scallions, chopped

Directions

Heat a pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and salt the water. Cook to al dente or with a bite to it.

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and bacon. Brown and crisp bacon, 5 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon. Drain off a little excess fat if necessary. Leave just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add beef and crumble it as it browns, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, garlic and stir into meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Add 1/2 cup beer and deglaze the pan. Cook 5 to 6 minutes more then stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Add hot spaghetti to meat and sauce and combine. Adjust seasonings and serve up pasta in shallow bowls. Grate some cheese over the pasta and sprinkle with scallions. Garnish with crisp bacon