Stand by Me (Rob Reiner – 1986) A+

I love it and love watching it every time. Nathan, my 11 year old, was very surprised that this film was “that old”. It really has a certain timelessness to it even though it is almost 30 years old. It captures the beauty of friendship, the perceptiveness of children and portrays those relationships that we forge early on in life that can just never be duplicated. It’s a perfect little gem this one.

The One I Love (Charlie McDowell – 2014) A-

A couple are having troubles in their marriage. After trying multiple avenues to fix their relationship, their counselor advises them to go to a particular retreat. From that point on, the movie goes places that I completely was blindsided by in the best possible way. It’s a movie that is tough to categorize. The closest that comes to mind is maybe the feel of a Twilight Zone episode. It is much more than that though, it tackles long term relationships from a very interesting angle and poses some challenging ideas. What would one really do if they can fix up their mate and make them perfect? Is that something we should strive for or just love the imperfections that we get as part of the deal? There are only two characters in the film played by Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass and they do tremendous work here in demanding roles. This is one of those small films that might not be perfect but is made with a lot of care and skill. I can spend a long time thinking about why it would not work but I really do not care and would rather just appreciate it for what it does so well.

Guardians of The Galaxy ( James Gunn – 2014) A-

What a blast this one was. When I first saw the trailer months ago I had zero interest in seeing a racoon, a talking tree, a green lady and a “star lord” in a space adventure. This film works though. The characters are interesting, funny and have great chemistry. It looks great and Gunn injects just enough of his style to make this funny but not cheesy and really appealing to both myself and my 11 year old son. Looking forward to the next installment.

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.