Posts Tagged ‘Westerns’


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.


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


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


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


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)


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.