All posts by enassar

Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu – 2014) B+

It’s been more than a couple of weeks since I’ve seen Birdman. I wanted to let it sit and see how that ending …sits with me. The good news is that the film is very good. It’s such a refreshing entry in Iñárritu’s filmography. I just could not care less for anything after the great Amores Perros. This one is fresh on many levels. It is fun, it has an effective style that puts us right “there” it seems . You get to be a proverbial fly-on-the-wall during the days leading up to a Broadway opening of a play. That play is the last effort of a once famous super hero movie star played brilliantly by Michael Keaton who is trying to do something meaningful. The actors are all great here especially Edward Norton who almost steals every scene he is in. Even the sparse soundtrack (basically just drums) works very well. As for the ending, well, I am not crazy about it. It just could’ve ended 5 minutes earlier and the movie would’ve been better for it.

A Terrine of Teal

Teal Terrine5We shot a limit of teal (small ducks) this year on one of our trips. It was two of us and my buddy did not want to take his share and deal with the clean-up. I was happy to take his share of the hunt (even if I am never happy about the cleanup of about 12 ducks). In any case I had a good mess of birds in my freezer, mostly plucked clean but with several skinned and portioned out into small legs and breasts. It’s also been a while since I made a terrine of any sort and it really is the season for that kind of stuff. So a terrine of teal (and one bigger bird from last season) it was.

wild duck

I have tons of recipes for terrines and pates, but for this one I looked to a little book that I love reading and cooking from, Richard Olney’s Simple French Food. The late Olney is also the author of the many of the Good Cook series of books including one I’ve mentioned before and own called Terrines, Pates and Galantines. His writing in Simple French Food and The French Menu Cookbook is clear and passionate. These are really classics with no frills, no pictures, great opinionated essays and recipes that teach and work. Either one is a great addition to any foodie’s bookshelf.

Olney does not have a recipe for teal terrine in his book but he does have one that caught my eye for Terrine de Lapin, rabbit terrine. I could have used one of several other recipes from other books including Terrines, Pates and Galantines, but as I mentioned before I just love reading and cooking from Simple French Food. It’s that kind of book that makes you want to get in the kitchen and make something. I basically used the duck in place of the rabbit. Some other changes I made was to make the seasoning a bit more aggressive since duck, especially wild duck, is more gamy than rabbit. Instead of marinating and grinding all the duck, I followed Olney’s instruction to marinate the meat in a mixture of white wine and herbs but I reserved the breasts after marinating and seared them to use them an inlay in the center of the terrine. The remaining duck meat was ground up with some pork shoulder to start making the forcemeat.

Marinating duck

Terrine Meats

The terrine usually needs a small amount of a liquid-ish component. This can be composed of milk, cream, stock or even water mixed in with seasoning and bread to make a paste (known as panade). For this recipe I used the duck carcasses to make a stock in my pressure cooker. I first roasted them and then deglazed with Madeira and a bit of Sherry vinegar before cooking with mirepoix and thyme on high pressure for about an hour. This made about 4 cups of stock. I then reduced it to about half a cup of concentrated meaty goodness. This got mixed with a mashed a garlic clove and chopped up bread to make the panade.

Forcemeat

Teal Terrine Teal Terrine3

I ground up the mixture into both fine and coarse portions that got mixed together along with pork fat, pate spices, panade and pistachios. I used the KitchenAid mixer to get the forcemeat really emulsified and bound together well. Half of that went in a plastic wrap-lined terrine pan and then in went the seared duck breasts and then the remaining forcemeat mixture.

Teal Terrine4

Traditionally a terrine is cooked in a bain marie (basically a water bath in the oven). The idea, just like cooking a flan or custard, is to gently heat the mixture and not allow it to break with all the fat and juices running all over the place. Well that is really sous vide cooking old-style. So for the past couple of years I’ve been using my immersion circulator for that. I wrapped the terrine with plastic wrap and then vacuum packed the whole thing using a FoodSaver. The package cooked at 63.5 degrees C for about 3.5 hours. The other plus with this method is that the finished terrine is already wrapped and pasteurized. It can be cooled in an ice bath and go into the fridge. It also needs no pressing with a weight to compress the meat and remove any air bubbles.

Teal Terrine7

We ate this over a period of a week or so with good bread and various accompaniments like mustard, ale chutney and cornichons. I also loved it served up with pickled prunes, homemade coarse mustard and fermented pickled okra. The strong pickle flavors worked very well with the mildly gamy meat. I do want to add some curing salt (Sodium Nitrite, Cure 1,…) next time around to give it a more attractive pinkish hue and cured flavor. I forgot to do that this time around.

 

About Time (Richard Curtis – 2013) A

I loved this film, the characters, the style, the dialogue, every actor,..really everything about it. It’s a movie that has time travel but has very little interest in that aspect or its mechanics. Instead we get a sweet story that tackles love and human connection wrapped with the candy of “time travel”. What is most important to our lives? If we can go back in time and live any day we like, would we really choose to go and see the French revolution or the toppling of the Berlin wall? Or maybe just go back and be there again when our 5-year old comes back from his first day of school? Or maybe to that nice walk on the beach with a loved one? Like his Love Actually, Richard Curtis manages to make a film that I can ignore every flaw or plot hole it  might have and just watch it over and over.

Buckwheat Cake, Honey-Almond Semifreddo and Red Wine Poached Apples

Buckwheat-Semifreddo-Apples3

Buckwheat is such an assertive flavor with a unique earthy and somewhat grassy flavor. It is not a flavor that you can use as a background in dishes. Some people like that while others really cannot stand it. I fall in the first camp firmly and have enjoyed it in desserts ever since I first tried it as an ice cream flavor in this Alinea dessert. We eat buckwheat flour regularly in pancakes as well mixed in with grated apples and white flour. It is such a fall-ish flavor and I wanted to use it in a dessert again.

Honey Semfreddo

I had already had the honey-almond semifreddo prepared and in the freezer when I thought of the rest of this dish’s components. The semifreddo is a classic combination of three different foams – a custard, a meringue and whipped cream. Here it is flavored with honey in the custard and it has some roasted almonds stirred into the mix before pouring it into a loaf pan and freezing it.

Honey Semifreddo

David Lebovitz in  Ready for Dessert has a recipe for a buckwheat cake served with cider poached apples. As soon as I saw the recipe I knew I had the remaining parts of this dish. The apples in  my case got shaped into spheres with a melon baller and poached in a mixture of spiced red wine and sugar (lemon zest, cinnamon, clove). When the apples where cooked I let them sit in the syrup in the fridge until I was ready to finish the dish.

To finish the apples I took them out of the syrup and cooked that down to thick sauce consistency then tossed the apples in to coat them. This warmed up the fruit and gave me an intense rich sauce that is drizzled around the plate.

Red Wine Apples

The cake contains no wheat flour and gets all its texture and structure from buckwheat flour, ground almonds and eggs – both yolks and whipped whites. It ends up tender and fluffy with an assertive buckwheat flavor.

Buckwheat Cake

To serve it I sliced the semifreddo loaf and then used a cookie cutter to cut it into rounds. It melts very quickly and it is very airy so I had to work pretty fast here. This went right next to a slice of cake and the poached warm apples. I needed some more texture in the dish so I made a streusel from almonds, butter, sugar and flour and baked it in a thin layer. When  it was cooled I  broke it into small pieces around the cake. The flavors and textures were very nice. The dessert really worked for me mostly. The semifreddo was maybe too light in here and an ice cream with a denser texture set in a loaf pan and cut the same way could’ve been a better alternative.

Buckwheat-Semifreddo-Apples2

 

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan – 2014) A-

A couple of months ago I went t NASA with a couple of cousins who were visiting from overseas. I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole visit. I was awed by the last few decades of space travel and the shear human achievement of it all. It’s simply amazing that we have been to space and landed on the moon. I don’t think we give this as much thought as we should. It really is a testament to what humans can achieve at their best. Then a few days before seeing this film an unmanned ship lands on a moving asteroid! That’s brilliant stuff! Interstellar at its core has this idea, that space exploration and discovery is not just “nice” but is essential to the human race’s survival. I love it for that. It is a really spectacular piece of movie making with gorgeous set pieces that I am so glad I got to experience in  a movie theater.

Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey in yet another strong performance, is an ex NASA astronaut who is forced to leave his daughter and son behind on a mission to explore the viability of three separate “worlds” that are exposed via a wormhole close to Saturn. I don’t care much of the science is “accurate” or not. This is not a college course. I did like how it handled the idea of relativity. When Cooper and Brand (Ann Hathaway) are debating which planet they should explore, they have to seriously consider that an hour there is about 10 years on earth! Time is really of the essence. As they waste time on a planet people back on earth are aging and dying. One particularly heartbreaking scene is right after they get back from one of those planets and Cooper is going through years of messages from his family. 

Interstellar is spectacular as I mentioned and it has many flaws -mostly script and dialogue- but it is so worth seeing because it is done so well and when it is firing on all cylinders it really is great. It’s a film that we do not see much of anymore. I am curious to see how this one ages. Will I see it again in 10 years and admire still? I hope so.

 

Big Hero 6 (Don Hall, Chris Williams – 2014) C+

Typical decent animated movie. Looks good with a predictable plot. I like the mashup of San Francisco with Tokyo in the setting here…called fittingly San Fransokyo. It’s an origin story of sorts and features a really cool robot that looks unique and is quiet funny. All in all it makes for a fun time for the kiddos.

The World’s End (Edgar Wright – 2013) B+

It’s funny and charming in it’s own British way. I like that a lot. This one is the third in what is known as the Cornetto Trilogy and it’s a very good entry. The premise is that five high school buddies, now in their middle age, brought back together by the leader of the pack (Simon Pegg) to do what they failed to do on their last day of high school. They need to go on the 20-pub crawl in one night in their quaint hometown ending in the pub known as The World’s End. The comedy works and the film has many funny moments but it really is a bit more than that. The character played by Pegg, Gary King, is the only one who never changed out of the group. He still wears the same clothes, talks in the same manner and even drives the same car. He’s the guy who peaked in high school and never went anywhere in life. The idea that going back and finishing the pub crawl will fix everything is really his. It’s his way of “doing something”. Everyone is different by now though including their hometown and it’s residents.

This is a concept most of us are familiar with. We like to think that we can go back home and do what we used to do exactly the way we used to do it as if that mythical home town is stuck in some time warp and never changes. The World’s End takes that idea to the extreme and plunges our heroes into a literall war to save mankind all wrapped in a funny charming package.