Archive for the ‘lamb’ Category

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Is That Your Final Movie?

October 10, 2009

slumdog-millionaire

Well, yes, sadly, it is. For now. But we’re really going out with a bang and not a whimper.

2008’s best picture Slumdog Millionaire, I hope and somewhat predict, will go on the list of greats that the Academy has picked for best picture.  It’s a firecracker of a movie.  I loved that the last movie used a game show as a conduit for telling the story.  I love game shows (if they’re good ones–Jeopardy, What’s My Line and not crappy ones– Deal or No Deal;  and can someone kill Family Fued already, please?) for the most part) and I love movies so this movie is perfect for moi.

2008’s best was a good choice from a bumper crop year:  The Reader (Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar), Milk (pretty good–James Franco was great) Frost/Nixon (totally underrated–incredible performance by Frank Langella, he deserved the Oscar more than Sean Penn, in my opinion) Benjamin Button (ghastly, ghastly,ghastly).  And Revolutionary Road was robbed.

We watched Slumdog, our last Oscar winner about 10 days ago and I haven’t had the heart yet to post.  I’m a bit too reluctant  to end this journey of  film watching.  All good things end, so they tell me, so I guess that goes for things that are great, too.  Bad movies included, (except for you, Cavalcade, you really sucked) Sigh, I really loved doing this project.  Planning the meal, cooking the meal, eating the meal and watching, for the most part, some terrific movies was always a highlight of my week.  But we’ll forge on; there’s been talk about doing movies that should’ve won (e.g. Some Like It Hot, GoodFellas) and that would be fun, but it’s in the “We’ll see” pile for right now.  The 10 nominations thing is going to drive me crazy, too; I might just go to an Oscar party and have someone else do the cooking.  That would be fun!

For our last meal (sounds kinda like we’re on Death Row here)  we went with the fine cuisine of India.  Cooking Indian food is a blast: there are so many different spices and textures and smells, well, it’s just heaven.  Luckily for my wallet, whole foods sold pretty much all of these exotic spices in bulk instead of those expensive jars. I think I drove the store cashier a little crazy with my tiny bags or cardamom seeds and fenugreek seeds, but it was worth it. For dinner we went with a Lamb Vindaloo recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. I wish it was possible to google smells, because this meal was a treat for all senses:  yes, it even felt great.  To eat.

  • 2 t whole cumin seeds
  • 2-3 hot, dried red chili peppers
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • 1 t cardamom seeds (take seeds out of the pods)
  • 3-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1½ t whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 t whole fenugreek seeds (if available)
  • 5 T white wine vinegar
  • 1½ to 2 t salt
  • 1 t light brown sugar
  • 10 T vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into fine half-rings
  • 1 1/3 c water (or broth/stock)
  • 2 lb boneless lamb (or pork or beef) shoulder meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small, whole head of garlic, with all the cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • ½ t ground tumeric
  • Grind cumin seeds, red chilies, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds in a coffee- grinder or other spice grinder. Put the ground spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Mix and set aside.

    Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium flame. Put in the onions. Fry, stirring frequently, until the onions turn brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and put them into the container of an electric blender or food processor. (Turn the heat off.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the blender and puree the onions. Add this puree to the ground spices in the bowl. (This is the vindaloo paste). It may be made ahead of time and frozen.)

    Dry off the meat cubes with a paper towel and remove large pieces of fat, if any.

    Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of water and blend until you have a smooth paste.

    Heat the oil remaining in the pot once again over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the lamb cubes, a few at a time, and brown them lightly on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl. Do all the lamb this way. No put the ginger-garlic paste into the same pot. Turn down the heat to medium. Stir the paste for a few seconds. Add the coriander and tumeric. Stir for another few seconds. Add the meat, any juices that may have accumulated as well as the vindaloo paste and 1 cup water (or stock). Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for an hour or until meat is tender. Stir a few times during this cooking period. Serves 6.

    For a side we had some spinach fried rice
    1 cup Basmati Rice
    1 cup chopped spinach(frozen)
    1/2 red onion finely chopped
    2 green chillis
    1clove garlic
    1″ pc ginger
    1tsp canola oil
    1tsp ghee
    1tsp jeera
    1 tsp garam masala powder
    salt to taste

    Preparation:

    Cook basmati rice with 1 1/2 cups water.let it cool and separate the grains.
    Meanwhile blanch the frozen spinach.Allow it to cool slightly
    In a blender make a thick paste of the spinach,green chilli,ginger and garlic.
    In a anon stick skillet heat oil and ghee.Add jeera and saute onions
    Add the spinach paste and saute for 4-5 mins.
    Mix the rice evenly with the spinch mixture in the skillet.

    And for dessert, we dabble a bit with the world’s most expensive spice, saffron.
    Saffron Poached Pears w/ a Champagne Sabayon
    poached_pears

    Pears
    6 cups water
    5 ½ cups sugar
    ¼ cup lemon juice
    1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
    Zest of 2 oranges, in strips
    1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
    4 Bartlett pears

    Champagne Sabayon
    4 egg yolks
    ¼ pound sugar
    1 cup champagne
    ¼ teaspoon white pepper, finely ground
    Method:

    For Pears:
    Bring all ingredients to simmer, then remove from heat and steep 10 minutes. Discard orange zest and vanilla pod.

    Peel, halve, and core pears and put them in saffron syrup, covered with double layer of parchment paper to keep pears submerged. Poach at very gentle simmer 15-20 minutes, or until pears yield to paring knife. Cool pears and syrup separately, then store pears in poaching syrup.

    For Champagne Sabayon:
    Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl set over simmering water until fluffy, thickened, glossy, and hot. Use immediately, or chill in ice bath, then fold in ½ cup cream, whipped to soft peaks, and chill up to 1 day.

    To Serve:
    Spoon warm or cold Sabayon over poached pear half, and garnish with pomegranate seeds or a few chopped pistachios.

    Well, I guess this is it,  the end. Fin. It’s a wrap. To borrow from 1965’s best picture “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!” or even better, here’s someone who always says it best:

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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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    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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    Awkward Silence

    December 15, 2008

    I’m not the biggest fan of scary movies. And Silence of the Lambs is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Back in 1991 I remember being too afraid to see this movie in the theaters. I almost went though, when it was really hot and the free air-conditioning would have been nice; I decided to have my baby instead. I did, however, see it later when it came out on video. We probably rented it alongside what maybe should have been 1991’s best–Beauty and the Beast and probably another movie as well because the video store we frequented, BP Video made you rent 3 movies at one time. Threeforfive.

    But as scary movies go, Silence of the Lambs is a classic. It’s an amazing movie that holds up really well. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster have an amazing amount of chemistry. They both deserved their Oscars. As did director Jonathan Demme; his Oscar speech is a classic how to not give an acceptance speech speech. It’s aslo a shame they had to return to the Hannibal Lecter character in subsequent films (Foster and Demme didn’t return). It cheapens it a bit. Hey, did you know that Martha Stewart once dated Anthony Hopkins. She broke up with him because his Hannibal character gave her the willies. Now, that’s scary.

    Friends of ours once joked about what were we going to cook up for Silence of the Lambs. Well, it could’ve have been awkward, but fortunately no one here is a cannibal . It was actually somewhat easy to come up with food ideas for the film. —It’s helpful that one of the most famous lines ” I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” is from Silence. We did the beans (unfortunately not in season we had to use frozen) and the chianti and some nice lamb chops. Luckily we didn’t hear the screams.

    From Alton Brown @ food network

    Cranberry Chutney:
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    2 tablespoons honey
    3 cups cranberries, divided
    1 cup water
    1 medium red onion, finely diced
    1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
    1 serrano chile, finely diced
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves

    Grilled Lamb Chops
    8 (4 to 5-ounce) porterhouse lamb chops
    Olive oil
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Cilantro leaves, garnish
    Finely chopped chives, garnish

    For the Cranberry Chutney:

    Combine the sugar, honey, 2 cups of cranberries and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the cranberries pop and become soft and the mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the onion, ginger, chile, garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until thick about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining cranberries and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    For the Grilled Lamb Chops:

    Heat the grill to high or a grill pan over high heat. Brush chops on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides and cooked to medium doneness, about 6 minutes total. Remove lamb from the grill, loosely tent and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve on a plater with cranberry chutney and cranberry sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

    Sauté of Fresh Fava Beans, Onions, and Fennel

    1/3 cup olive oil
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in spice grinder
    1 1/3 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
    4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
    1/2 cup chopped pancetta*
    1/2 teaspoon dried savory
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Cook fava beans in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, cool and peel outer skins (do not cook or peel lima beans).

    Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel bulb; sauté 5 minutes. Add favas or lima beans and fennel seeds; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 cup broth and 2 tablespoons dill; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in pancetta and savory, adding more broth if mixture is dry. Simmer until favas are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

    * Pancetta, Italian bacon cured in salt, is available at Italian markets, some supermarkets, and some specialty foods stores.

    P.S. Even though he prepared this week’s feast (and did a great job) Jim almost got himself kicked off the Oscars in Order crew this week. Why, you ask? Because he would not shut up during the whole movie. Don’t you hate when someone keeps saying “this is the scary part” two to three minutes before anything scary happens. And he did it constantly And I’ve seen the movie before, Jim–you were there. Well, that was Jim during Silence of the Lambs. But don’t fear Jim didn’t remain unforgiven for Unforgiven.