Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Counting Crowes II: The Man With Two Brains

May 26, 2009

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I think the Academy felt guilty about snubbing Ron Howard’s superior Apollo 13 back in 1995 and that’s why they voted A Beautiful Mind as being 2001’s best.  Not that A Beautiful Mind is bad, it’s just not that great.  It sort of reminded me of one of those 1930-1940’s MGM melodramas where no one believes Greer Garson could discover radiation and she ages or no one believes Jennifer Jones sees visions or Irene Dune conquers rustic Oklahoma and ages.  This time Russell Crowe (as John Nash)discovers some complicated theory whilst going a bit schizoid and ultimately (after aging) wins the Nobel prize.  And Jennifer Connelly gets to be supportive and impossibly beautiful.

This movie made me feel like 1994’s Teen Talk Barbie (“Math is Hard”) because I didn’t understand what John Nash’s theories were all about and all the scratches he left on the windows left me scratching my head.

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The movie is a bit slow but just like Ms. Connelly it’s very pretty to watch.  Princeton University looks amazing.

Othe films nominated that year: Moulin Rouge (oh, how I wish this one had been picked it’s such a favorite of ours), The first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of terror (I’m dreading 2003, I really am.  I just don’t get all that Middle Earth stuff) Gosford Park (that’s a good one, too.  And they should have thrown one Altman’s way; now it’s too late) and In the Bedroom (meh).

For dinner we had dorm food.  But not just any dorm food: we cherry picked from what they were serving for dinner at Princeton that day.  Let me tell you, those Princeton University students eat some tasty food. And the following salad was the one Jim and I had at our wedding dinner 20 years ago. Fancy stuff Princeton

Spinach and Warm Bacon Salad

  • 8 ounces young spinach
  • 8 pieces thick-sliced bacon, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large white mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 ounces red onion (1 small), very thinly sliced

Remove the stems from the spinach and wash, drain and pat dry thoroughly. Place into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Fry the bacon and remove to a paper towel to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

Transfer the fat to a small saucepan set over low heat and whisk in the red wine vinegar, sugar and Dijon mustard. Season with a small pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper.

Add the mushrooms and the sliced onion to the spinach and toss. Add the dressing and bacon and toss to combine. Divide the spinach between 4 plates or bowls . Season with pepper, as desired. Serve immediately.

and for dinner:


Gnocchi Bolognese

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 oz. finely chopped onions
* 1/2 oz. finely chopped carrots
* 1/2 oz. finely chopped celery
* 1 lb. ground meat – mixture of pork, veal, & beef
* 2 lb. Italian potato gnocchi
* Handful of fresh basil
* 6 cups of marinara sauce
* Handful of Parmesan cheese
* Pinch of salt & pepper

Preparation:

Sauté onions in frying pan with olive oil. Add celery and carrots. Add ground meat and marinara sauce and cook in frying pan for about 15 minutes. Cook gnocchi separately in boiling water for 6 minutes. Stir constantly. When gnocchi rises above water, they are done. Drain water. Combine gnocchi with meat/ marinara mixture and add Parmesan cheese, basil, and a touch of salt and pepper.

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Praise the Lawn and Pass the Asparagus

April 28, 2009

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American Beauty, the last Best Picture of the 90’s,  is a masterful, dark satire of American (suburban) life.  Ahead of its time, American Beauty mocked suburbia before those housewives got so desperate.  Everyone on Robin Hood Trail has a beautiful house with a beautiful lawn.  Carolyn Burnham keeps her roses looking good with help from eggshells and Miracle Gro.  And everyone seems to be a completely different person than they appear.  Look closer indeed.

 

Written by HBO’s Six Feet Under scribe Alan Ball and directed by first time director, Sam Mendes American Beauty is a rare bird for best picture winners:  it’s a comedy.  A dark comedy or “dramedy” yes, but a comedy nevertheless.  And it’s got a stellar cast.  I love Kevin Spacey, I think he’s a truly gifted actor.  Same goes for Annette Bening:  she’s perfect here.  I love the scene of her singing along and performing  “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in her car.  I do that too–same song, different singer–I like the Barbra Streisand Funny Girl movie soundtrack version the best.  Interesting to note, Carolyn was singing in her car to the Bobby Darin version; a few years later Kevin Spacey portrayed Bobby Darrin in the biopic Beyond the Sea.

A couple of before they were stars moments:  John Cho, Harold from the Harold and Kumar movies ( a guilty pleasure, sure) has a tiny role as a prospective home buyer.  1980’s pop sensation Paula Abdul (“Straight Up’ “Forever your Girl”) and future American Idol flibbertigibbet choreographed the cheerleader scene. And before she won a Tony as the terrific Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray and before she danced on Dancing With the Stars a peppy Marissa Jaret Winokur showed up as the Mr. Smiley’s Counter Girl.  She’s got one of the movies’ best lines, too.

Other movies nominated in 1999:  The Insider, The Cider House Rules,  The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense.  They did good that year American Beauty is the best of the bunch.

For dinner we dined at a combo of Mr. Smiley’s and the Burnham’s house.  I made burger’s ala an In-and-Out Burger.  I only wish I could have made beef and cheese pot pie on a stick. LOL.

1/4 pound ground beef
1 fresh hamburger bun
Dash salt
1 tablespoon Kraft Thousand Island dressing
Large tomato slice (or 2 small slices)
Large lettuce leaf
2 slices American cheese (Singles)
-or- 1 slice real American cheese
1 whole onion slice (sliced thin)

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat.
Lightly toast  the hamburger bun, face down in the pan.
Set aside.
Form each half into a thin patty slightly larger than the bun.
Lightly salt  patty and cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side.
Flip it over and immediately place slice of cheese on.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Assemble the burger in the following stacking order from the bottom up:
bottom bun  dressing/tomato/lettuce/beef patty with cheese/
onion slice or grilled onions/top bun.
Makes one hamburger.

Serve with a side of OreIda Fries (I wish I would have remembered Smiley fries) and some steamed asparagus (break off spears’ end, steam for about 3-4 minutes–serve with lemon slices).

For dessert we had a home baked frozen apple pie (once again, not on a stick). How American.

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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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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.

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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.

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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

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A Boy Named Sioux

December 5, 2008

Years ago, after Dances With Wolves won the best picture Oscar for 1990, the late, great Spy Magazine had a little blurb comparing Dances with Wolves to the old cheeseball sitcom F-Troop. Spy Magazine claimed that the two plots were identical. Spy Magazine was right. To wit: The hero becomes a Civil War hero by accident, and goes out west to discover Indians are kindly and the cavalry is cowardly and corrupt. Can you tell if this describes the movie or the TV show?

In our effort to make this blog about Best Pictures the best blog out there we actually netflixed an F-troop DVD and watched a couple of episodes on Thanksgiving. We then watched Dances on our regular Sunday. I liked F-Troop better. It has a healthy dose of cynicism that Dances seems to lack. Besides, Larry Storch is a lot funnier than Kevin Costner. In the second episode we watched Don Rickles played an Indian. Does it get better than that?

1990 has one of the gravest injustices Oscars have ever been part of (oooh injustice). 1990 was the year of Goodfellas. How the Academy could pick this overblown feather-brained new age crystal-y “western” over the genius that is Martin Scorcese is beyond me. The fact that up until this time, no Western movie had won a best picture since 1931’s Cimarron puzzles me too. Why now? Why this one? Westerns are not up there as a favorite of mine but I know genius when I see it (well most of the time). Genius Howard Hawks never got one for any of his Westerns (Red River, hello!) he was only nominated once (for Sergeant York). Oy vey and Kevin Costner has a best director’s Oscars.  Genius John Ford, the guy who pretty much elevated the Western won 4 best director Academy Awards. None of his were for Westerns. So why this one Academy, why? OK, the buffalo stampede is pretty cool. And Mary McDonnell’s Ralph Lauren-esque Indian costumes are really pretty. But Goodfellas is a masterpiece. I wonder if Martin Scorcese felt like that guy from the old pollution PSAs– you know the guy—him ci

ci1Timing is everything, though. Because our viewing of Dances With Wolves was right around the time we in America celebrate Thanksgiving I decided to go with the feast that the Indians first taught us way back when and what we’ve bastardized since then. And since we watched this on the Sunday following Thanksgiving we had Turkey leftovers. So appropriate:

We had a Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving with a little Williams-Sonoma thrown in. I bought a pre-brined turkey from TJ’s (brining make the bird juicier)

  • 1 fresh turkey, about 16 lb., neck, heart and gizzard removed (reserved, if desired)
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off and discard the excess fat. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400ºF.
melt the butter and add the maple syrup to the pan

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Loosely tent the turkey with foil, then reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF and continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices. After about 2 1/2 hours of total roasting time, begin testing for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh, away from the bone. The breast should register 165°F and the thigh, 175°F. Total roasting time should be 3 to 3 3/4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Stuffing was from a TJ’s mix.

Gravy was from a great Williams sonoma gravy base (I hate fussing over gravy–this was so easy)

Cranberries:

1 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar

1 package fresh cranberries (never use that canned crap. Never)

dissolve sugar into the juice and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and lower the heat until the cranberries start to pop. Remove from heat, the sauce will thicken. I always add some chopped walnuts.

For dessert we had a TJ’s pumpkin tart.

All of these make great leftovers.