Archive for the ‘Fun Links I like’ Category

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Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day…

April 8, 2009

Or perhaps to a puddle. You, Shakespeare in Love, are just about as pretty as a summer’s day but as shallow as a puddle.  This movie is like Academy Awards for Dummies. There is no substance here. It’s fake, fake, fake.  Or as real as the ridiculous wig Viola De Lesseps (hey,  that’s the Countess’s name from a guilty pleasure of mine, Real Housewives of NY) wears to cover-up her fifty pounds of long blond hair as “Thomas Kent.”  Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare in Love is a light, likable movie, the first real comedy to win Best Picture since 1977’s Annie Hall.  It’s just that it’s so wrong, and kind of dumb that this feather-headed movie was considered 1998’s best.   Sort of insulting, too.  Great cast though, a veritable British who’s who of current film stars hamming it up:  Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Simon Callow, Colin Firth, Dame Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everett, and, of course,  little miss faux-Brit herself Gwyneth Paltrow.

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This tiny wig covered up this ginormous mane I don’t think so ( I kinda like the mustache, though)

And, yes, the Academy missed honoring a masterpiece this year, Saving Private Ryan. Words, I don’t have them.  I don’t even think Shakespeare would’ve had the words.

Eating was sweet sorrow.  Glad I made lots, for there’s leftover’s tomorrow:

I found a great book about Elizabethan dining: Shakespeare’s Kitchen. I made the roast chicken with onion stuffing.  Nothing easier and better than roast chicken:  Actually it’s a capon.  A Capon is a rooster (cockerel) whose reproductive organs have been removed at a young age (caponisation).Yum.

  • 1 Capon (6 lbs)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1T melted butter
  • 2 large Vidalia onions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 3 cups whole-wheat crusty bread
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 T five color peppercorns
  • 1 cup chicken stock

1. sprinkle the cavity & skin of the bird with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Brush the skin with melted butter.

2. preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Saute the diced onion in the olvie oil for 20 minutes.   Raise te heat to high and cook for 2 minutes until golden brow.  Add 2 T of the wine and cook unti wine is absorbed.  Remove from heat and fold in the bread crumbs, zest, juice and peppercorns.  Season with salt and spoon into the capon.

3.  Place the capon on a greased roasting pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 and 1/2 hours until leg juices run clear (internal temp should be 180) Baste with juices every 10 minutes for the final 30 minutes.

4. When the chicken is done, as it is resting for a few minutes before carving, degalze the pan with 1/2 cup of wine.  Strain through a sieve or chinoisie and return to the pan.  Add the stock and cook for 5 minutes until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter.

5.  Place the capon on a serving platter and serve the sauce in a small side dish.

For dessert we had cakes with strawberries and cream.  Now that’s British

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A Long, Long, Long Night to Remember

March 12, 2009

“Near, Far, Where…..Ever you are!

I cant believe it’s been over ten years since all the Titanic hoopla.  Leo! King of the World! I’m Flying! ! Hundreds of millions to make! Billions at the box office!

1997’s best, Titanic is a truly BIG BIG BIG(and did I mention loooong?) movie that deserves most of its 11 Oscars. Especially for Best Picture. Certainly Titanic is the most perfect date movie. Ever. Just in case you forgot the plot: Spunky gal (with a keen eye for art) longing for some independence meets vagabond artist (with a keen eye himself) falls in love, defies mustache twirling fiance, witness the iceberg of doom, defy death several times, sorta, reunite at the end, sorta. So it’s romance, action, romance–plus there’s some science and a major piece of jewelry added to the mix.

Some fun facts:

Dr. Bombay, Calling Dr. Bombay!  That great British character actor, Bernard Fox (Bewitched’s Dr. Bombay!) was in two of the three major Titanic movies  he played uncredited iceberg dead ahead spotter Frederick Fleet in 1958’s A Night to Remember and Col. Archibald Grace in 1997’s epic. Oh, and p.s. 1933’s best picture Cavalcade doesn’t count as a Titanic movie because their Titanic portion of the film is so slight and Cavalcade remains a really bad movie.

The 1953 movie Titanic won only one  Oscar: Best Screenplay. The only nomination (seemingly) that 1997’s Titanic did not get:   Best Screenplay.

Titanic also marked a big return for 1930’s actress Gloria Stuart as the 100 year old Rose.  In July of 2010, god willing, Ms. Stuart will be 100 years old in real life.

Titanic clocks in at 194 minutes (that about 3 hours 24 minutes) but it’s not the longest Best Picture, not even close. That other great date movie Gone With the Wind is still the champ at 224 minutes (3 hours 44 minutes).

For dinner we decided to go First Class and dine as they did on the Titanic.  I found a terrific book from my local library Last Dinner on the Titanic:  Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner. and prepared a 5 course feast.  No wonder thay sank : I tell you, these people on fancy ships liked to eat–there’s a lot of butter and eggs and cream in these recipes, so if the iceberg hadn’t gotten to them the cholesterol probably would’ve.

First course:

Smoked salmon in a mouselline sauce.

a mouselline sauce sauce is a hollandaise sauce that has some whipped cream folded in.  The best and easiest way to make a hollandaise without all that whisking and double boiler fuss is with a hand dandy blender.  Eric Ripert does it that way too.  Or so he said on a recent Top Chef episode.

Blender Hollandaise:

3 egg yolks
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 c. butter

Put egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in blender jar. Heat butter in small pan until bubbly. Do not burn. Cover blender and whirl at high speed for 2 or 3 seconds. Remove center section of cover or entire cover and at high speed pour in hot butter in a thin, steady stream. It will take about 30 seconds.

fold freshly whipped cream into the hollandaise, put sauce on plate with a little smoked salmon and some fresh dill sprigs as garnish.

Course two: Asparagus Salad with Saffron-Champagne Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs asparagus
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 sweet red or yellow pepper, finely diced

Directions:

  • Holding asparagus halfway up stalk, snap off woody ends at the natural breaking point and discard.
  • In a wide, deep skillet or large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes or until they are tender but not limp.
  • Drain the asparagus and run under cold water until completely cooled; drain well.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir saffron into 1 teaspoon of boiling water; let stand for 2 minutes or until the threads have softened.
  • Stir in champagne vinegar, mustard and sugar. Whisking, drizzle in olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add asparagus and diced pepper; toss to coat. Serve in individual dishes.

Course 3

Romaine Punch–kind of a palate cleansing sorbet

6 cups crushed ice
1 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)

2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine
1 cup White wine
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons White rum (optional)
Orange peel slivered (optional)

Simple Syrup:
2 cups sugar 1 cup water

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until syrup is clear. Remove from the heat and cool.
Makes 2 cups-Syrup can be stored in a sterilized container in the refrigerator for up to one month

Directions:

In a blender combine the crushed ice, simple syrup, champagne, white wine, orange juice, and lemon juice. Blend until mixture is well combined.
Spoon the mixture into individual dessert cups

Course four:

Leg of Lamb with mint sauce (my favorite moustache twirler sans moustache Cal actually orders this in the movie)

Mint Sauce:

1/4 c. water

1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 c. malt vinegar
Leg of Lamb
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Or 2 tsp. dried crushed rosemary
2 cloves crushed garlic
4 to 5 lbs. leg of lamb
Make the mint sauce first. Combine the water and sugar in a 1 quart saucepan, and bring to boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the mint leaves and vinegar. Taste and add up to 1 more tablespoon sugar if desired. Set aside at room temperature for 2 or 3 hours. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Combine salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary to form a paste. Using the point of a small knife, cut slits in lamb and fill slits with spice mixture. Transfer lamb to rack in roasting tin. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and roast for about one hour longer. (20 minutes per pound). Transfer lamb to a heated platter and rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Stir mint sauce, pour into a sauceboat and serve separately with the lamb.
Fifth course:
Waldorf Pudding

2 large tart apples
1/2 cup sultana raisins
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp crystallized ginger
1 tbsp butter
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar (granulated)
4 egg yolks
pinch of nutmeg
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup halved walnuts

1. Slice apples and stir in raisins, lemon and ginger. In skillet melt butter over high heat; add apple mix and cook one minute. Stir in 2 tbst of sugar. Cook, stirring often for 4 minutes or until apples are lightly caramelized. Scrape apple mix and syrup into a baking dish.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, add milk, whisk in eggs until well-incorporated. Add nutmeg and vanilla and mix well. Pour over apple mixture.
3. Set baking dish in large roasting pan. Add water to the roasting pan. Set the oven at 325 degrees and roast for 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool and sprinkle with walnuts.


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A Turn For the Nurse

March 5, 2009

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.

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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.

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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
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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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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.