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A 10 Course Meal? That’s Not a Degustation, That’s Disgusting

June 25, 2009

When was the last time you saw 10 good movies in a year?  Just sayin’

from Oscars.org

82nd Academy Awards® to Feature 10 Best Picture Nominees

Beverly Hills, CA (June 24, 2009) — The 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today (June 24) at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

“After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Ganis. “The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.)

Currently, the Academy is presenting a bicoastal screening series showcasing the 10 Best Picture nominees of 1939, arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest film years. Best Picture nominees of that year include such diverse classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” commented Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

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And All That Jazz

June 10, 2009

The last time a musical won best picture was Oliver! in 1968.  It took the academy 34 years to honor another musical, 2002’s Chicago. They picked a great one.  The tale of Chicago is an oft told tale from different sources: Originally a Broadway play from 1926 called Chicago, Hollywood made it into a Ginger Rogers film, Roxie Hart. Kander and Ebb and Bob Fosse brought the musical to Broadway in 1975 with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera (who for a brief, brilliant moment is in this movie.  Chita is a goddess.  It’s a shame Gwen Verdon passed away in 2000, I bet they would have fit her in, too.) where it did ok, but withered in the shadow of 75’s monster hit A Chorus LineChicago was revived on Broadway in 1996–where it’s still playing–go see it! and finally made it onto the screen for 2002.

A treat from youtube!

The 1950’s and 60’s were rich in musicals.  Although a lot of the great ones (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) used the singing talents of Marni Nixon for the leading ladies.  What’s amazing about the current crop of musicals is that the actor is not dubbed.  That’s really Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta Jones singing.  And not too badly, either.  Not too surprised about Richard Gere’s singing chops, though:  he has a musical past–He played Danny Zuko from Grease in London.  All the performances are great in this movie.  Chicago’s own, the busy John C. Reilly is perfect as Amos.  Lucky penny Reilly is in three of 2002’s best picture nominees Chicago, Gangs of New York and The Hours, but the movie really belongs to the mesmerizing  Zeta Jones, she deserved her best supporting Oscar, and how!

The last time a movie set in Chicago won best picture was also a 20’s 30’s period piece 1973’s The Sting.  Chicago the city is an interesting place today, too filmmakers.  We’re more than gangsters and pinstriped suits and liquor and jazz.  And hot dogs and pizza.  To prove how cool Chicago is today I prepared a meal from recipes from a current crop of Chicago based but internationally renowned top chefs.  For a delicious fruit salad I went with this great Charlie Trotter recipe :

CANTALOUPE, MANGO AND ASIAN PEAR SALAD WITH KEY LIME-VANILLA BEAN VINAIGRETTE

Serves 4

FOR VINAIGRETTE

3 tablespoons key lime juice
pulp of 1 vanilla bean
7 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, vanilla bean pulp and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

FOR SALAD

1 cup large-diced cantaloupe
1 cup large-diced mango
1 cup large-diced Asian pear
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup watercress, thick stems removed

In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss with Vinaigrette and serve.  Delicious and your hands smell great afterwards, too–all lime and vanilla-ey.

For dinner I was surprised to find this simple but exquisite Macaroni and Cheese dish from Mr. Molecular Gastronomy himself, Grant Achatz.

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  2. 6 thick slices of bacon (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  3. 1 medium onion, minced
  4. 2 bay leaves
  5. 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  6. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  7. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 6 cups whole milk
  9. 1 pound elbow macaroni
  10. 1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (5 cups)
  11. Salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
  2. Add the onion and bay leaves to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, and cook until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes, whisking frequently. Discard the bay leaves.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and boil until pliable but undercooked, about 4 minutes. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot.
  4. Stir 4 cups of the cheddar into the hot sauce, add the bacon and season with salt.Add the sauce to the macaroni and mix well. Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining 1 cup of cheddar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

For dessert I went with the queen of Chicago pastry chef, Gale Gand and her cream cheese stuffed chocolate cupcakes–I was amazed that these turned out so good–there’s hardly any egg in the batter–but the recipe worked great!

  • Filling
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cupcakes
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. hot water
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant cofee crystals (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the filling, in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl often, and then blend in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the sugar and chips and mix for a few seconds on low to fold them in.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 (12 cup) muffin tins with cupcake paper liners.

To make the cupcakes, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee, and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are a few lumps).

Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full of batter. Drop a heaping tsp. of the cream cheese filling into the center of each.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cupcakes have puffed on top and are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the tins.

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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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Counting Crowes: The Gory that Was Rome

May 12, 2009

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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!)

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

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

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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.

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Praise the Lawn and Pass the Asparagus

April 28, 2009


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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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.