All posts by enassar

Another Woman (Woody Allen – 1988) B+

This feels like Woody Allen doing Ingmar Bergman. Allen did several movies that overtly mimic the Swedish director’s work whom he really admires. I do not think I’ve seen too many of those but I will focus on them soon. This one is the story of Marion, an author, who is writing a book but becomes entranced by a series of conversations she can over hear through the pipes of her old NY apartment. The conversations are those of a pregnant woman talking to her psychiatrist. These seem to cause her to examin her marriage, life choices and her future decisions. Typical of many of Allen’s movies from that time it focuses on relationships, love and fidelity. Ultimately it is not as solid as something like Hannah and Her Sisters but it is another good work by one of my favorite directors.

Chicken Roulade, Tomato Gravy and Crispy Roast Potatoes

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Free range chicken like the ones I get from Yonder Way are delicious. These are birds that were never caged and are free to roam around and be as active as they like. The result is tasty chicken but not one as tender as the fryers you can get from the grocery store. These are a bit leaner too. All that means that I cannot just plonk a chicken in the oven and roast it high and fast and it’s good to go. I usually have to cook them a bit longer or use them for fricassees or stews and such. In this instance I had some time to play around a bit, so on spur of the moment while getting ready to joint the bird I ended up just deboning the whole chicken.

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I had not planned on this dish so I was not sure what the end result will look like. I figured I’ll just choose the flavor profile as I go along. Since the chicken was not going to be “stuffed” with anything like this awesome duck I needed to make sure that the final result is completely encased in skin. So I could not just roll it like a jelly-roll or else I would end up with skin rolled up with the meat where it will never crisp and render. In this case after the bones are removed we end up with more skin that we need. So, what I did was leave the skin attached to one side of the chicken after it was deboned. After seasoning the meat side I rolled it tightly with the skin and cut off the extra flaps. What I had was a nicely rolled chicken with a perfect encasement of skin.

Looking in the fridge and spice cabinet for flavors I ended up with a Spanish profile. I had chopped garlic (of course), smoked and unsmoked paprika, parsley and last but not least home-cured Spanish chorizo. I had cured the chorizo a couple months back from the book Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain by Jeffrey Weiss and still had a 4 inch piece left. I sliced the sausage thin and laid it in two rows down the length of the chicken.

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Cooking the chicken sous vide was the was to go here. It will make sure the chicken is perfectly juice all the way through. I used the Sous Vide Dash app to know for sure when the center of the chicken roll is cooked and pasteurized based on the diameter of the meat in a 150 F/65 C water bath. Before serving I patted the chicken dry very well and cooked it on all sides in a mixture of oil and butter until the skin is crisped and golden brown. This last step would be even more awesome if I had deep fried the chicken roll for a few minutes. I might try that next time around.

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While the chicken was happily cooking I had to think about what to serve it with. Recently I have been very interested in the new Southern cuisine of chefs like Sean Brock and John Currence. Their focus on ingredients, tradition and flavors that pop has been an eye-opener as to how amazing this type of cooking can be beyond fried chicken and okra (although these are awesome too!). Sean Brock’s episodes on Mind of A Chef  are some of the best food television I had ever seen and learned from. In his book (one with the most striking cover BTW), Heritage, Brock has a recipe for tomato gravy that is served with roasted pork, creamed corn and roasted onions. I love that sauce and have made it several times already. So, that’s what went with my chicken.

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The tomato gravy starts like all gravies, with a starch cooked in a fat – a.k.a roux. In this case cornmeal cooked in bacon fat. Then good quality canned tomatoes are added and the mixture simmers and thickens. The only seasoning here is the bacon fat and some salt and pepper  but the gravy gains a lot from the cooking of the cornmeal and the excellent acidic San Marzano tomatoes. It is so good I could really eat it by itself with a spoon or on some rice. I also made the onions from the same recipe. I prefer to use smaller spring onions for these but I had none on hand. I quartered yellow onions and baked them in foil along with butter and thyme until tender. Before serving I charred the onions in a very hot pan to add some color and caramelized flavor.

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Potatoes would go good with this dish, specifically Heston Blumenthal’s amazing crispy fluffy roast potatoes. The trick here is to boil the potato chunks till they are almost falling apart. This obviously cooks them but also creates a lot of crevices, nooks and crannies that will get very crispy later on. After a cooling period, the potatoes are cooked in a baking pan with a good bit of oil in a hot oven. The process results in amazing crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside golden brown potatoes and they worked great with the lovely chicken and robust tomato gravy.

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Chef’s Table (Various Directors – 2015) A+

6 unique chefs from Piedmont to Melbourne are documented in this remarkable Netflix series. This is not a cooking show or an educational food show, it’s rather a portrait of these individuals, what inspires them, their background, cuisine and passions. It looks amazing and is done with such finesse that I cannot wait (and hope that there will be one) for another season. This is the kind of show that Food TV or Cooking Channel should want to produce instead of the utter garbage they churn out.

Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh – 2014) A-

A favorite type of movie of mine is one like this. It is not exactly a biopic, but more of a snapshot of a character framed, acted, paced and shot beautifully. There is not a lot of plot or drama here, just a perfect embodiment of the 19th century painter by Timothy Spall. He is eccentric, not particularly nice but is fascinating to watch. We learn a lot about what inspires him and how he paints. He was perceived as a genius mostly and sold a lot of paintings to the rich and powerful. He had a close and sweet relationship with his father who acted as his assistant and a pretty dysfunctional relationship with the women in his life. This started to change a bit when he meets a widow who runs an inn in a port town that he retreated to and that relationship was one of my favorite parts of the movie. Turner seems to have been one of those who loved art for the sake of art. Painting made him happy and he saw what he does as a gift. One of the highlights of the film is when he refuses to sell his work for a crap ton of money to a rich Londoner. When asked why on earth not, his answer is that he plans to gift it…to the British people.  I do not know if this is factual or not but it was a very lovely touch.

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright – 2007) A

I think  Hot Fuzz might be my favorite of the Corentto Trilogy. In this one the Simon Pegg character plays a super London cop with the cool movie name of Nick Angel. He gets transferred to a small English town because he is basically “too good” at his job and is making the Metropolitan police department look bad. Similar to The World’s End, the small town is not as sleepy, quaint and lovely as it seems. When brutal murders start happening well, Angel and his small-town hapless/drunkard of a partner (played with the series regular Nick Frost) are on the case.

This is the trilogy’s ode to buddy cop movies, complete with fast cuts, one liners, crazy action, crazier conspiracies and the long-time tradition of the mismatched partners. It’s social commentary is, like the rest of the series, deftly wrapped in a very funny cadre of characters who deliver their sharp and witty performances with great finesse.