The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch – 2019) B+

Jarmusch is definitely a polarizing film maker and this latest installment is not different. If one wants to see a zombie horror movie because they want to see a “scary” horror movie, this is not the right choice. On the other hand if you want a unique take on the zombie genre, a lot of homage to Romero that balances quirky with funny and downright gorry AND you have seen another Jarmusch film before, well, then you might like this. I did.

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A Quiet Place (John Krasinski – 2018) A-

Oh, this one is good. Set in a future not too far from hours where aliens monsters will attack and eat you if you make the smallest of noises. I assume they are aliens because the film does not care to tell us and I do not much care. What I do care about are the high terrible stakes for the family we are tagging along with, those stakes are set and made clear for us in the first 15 minutes. With most of the interactions done without words this movie grips us with its intense well-designed sequences, smart believable characters and tremendous performances by all involved especially Emily Blunt. It is not without its flaws and I do not buy some of the story conclusions but it works so well as a tight smart thriller.

Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard – 2018) B+

There is a type of movie that I really enjoy. A group of strangers stuck, for whatever reason, in a place. Maybe they are there for different reasons or the same reason or it’s a big explosive coincidence. The process of discovery as we learn why each is there, who is good or bad, maybe they are all horrible people, …is usually if done well a lot of fun. This one is done well and is that type of film. Our characters are all in this old hotel on the CA/NV border, so on the border that it has a line cut through it where you can stay in either state when you check in. The plot can be described as a bit slow but it held my attention due to the excellent set designs, confident story telling and really good performances by the likes of Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson and a really fun turn by Chris Hemsworth.

Homicide (David Mamet – 1991) B-

I randomly searched for David Mamet on the Criterion Collection app and started watching this. It mostly works for me as a portrait of a cop (played very well by Joe Mantegna) who seemingly does not know where he fits and what his purpose is. We follow him as he catches a run of the mill convenience store shooting that turns into a much bigger very personal case that tests his ethics, sense of self and responsibility. I did not get that trademark Mamet feel from this one though especially the fast stilted artificial (in a good way) dialogue. You see glimpses of it I suppose but I wanted more.

The Nomad: Scallop Seared with Parsnips and Grapes

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Parsnips and scallops are a delicious match. The coolest thing about this recipe from The Nomad Cookbook is the various ways it uses parsnips. I am especially fond of the cooking method and result of the “pressed parsnip planks” (say that ten time real fast!). I will be using that again for sure. Other than sweet nutty parsnips and shellfish we also have grapes for acidity, freshness and texture. It’s a winning combination fit for a nice quiet dinner.

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So let’s start with those pressed parsnips planks I liked so much. They are very easy to make. I just tossed 4 parsnips with salt and oil and put them side by side on a parchment lined baking sheet. I topped them with another parchment piece and another baking sheet then weighed them down with a heavy cast iron skillet. After baking them at 350 F for 1.5 hours they are tender, caramelized and flattened. Their texture after the pressed-bake is dense and soft. I cut those into even rectangular planks and before serving I seared them on the skin sides to crisp the skin and add more texture and flavor.

Parsnip Grape Puree

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The base for the scallops and vegetables is more parsnip. This one is a puree made from parsnips, sliced and sauteed in butter and cooked in milk until soft. The parsnips are strained and blended with more butter, green gapes and a splash of the cooking milk to get a smooth puree. The mixture is seasoned with white verjus (tart grape juice basically). To get a very smooth puree I passed it through a strainer and kept it warm.

I like the process that Chef Humm uses in Eleven Madison Park books and in the Nomad book to make seafood stocks. He sautees aromatics (fennel, shallots, celery,..) in oil till soft, adds white wine and allows it to reduce well. This is pretty traditional. Then he covers the seafood and aromatics with ice instead of water. I had never seen this before. The ice gently melts, extracts the flavor from the seafood and simmers for no more than 30 minutes. Done. For this recipe I am supposed to use lobster stock to make lobster nage.

Fish Stock

Not sure how to exactly define the French sauce category of nage. It really sounds cool and smooth and classy. Best way to think of it is an enriched stock made creamy with butter. In this case, I made fish stock (no lobster shells lying around) with red snapper carcasses using the Humm method. I strained it and “nage-ed” it by reducing it and emulsifying it with butter. Then I blended it with green grapes, a little lemon juice, and Xanthan gum. It got strained and resulted in a lovely rich seafood nage.

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Grapes feature yet again here. This time demi-dehydrated grapes. Green and red grapes are steeped in hot simple syrup for 5 minutes. They are then dehydrated in a 175 F oven until “wrinkled on the outside but still juicy”.  This took much longer than the 2 hours the recipe recommends, more like 4 hours.

Grapes-Syrup

Grapes-Dehydrated

What the hell is parsnip bark and why do we want it here? Well, first roast yet more parsnips -not pressed this time-  until very soft. Then carefully remove the skin in big chunks. That skin is the “bark” and after frying in oil and seasoning with salt it is crispy delicious stuff perfect for adding another dimension of texture to the dish. The problem is we kept snacking on them until we had almost none to actually put on the damn plate!

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Parsnip Skin

The scallops are probably the easiest part here, brined (I posted about this a couple times), sliced and seared in oil. A couple of more components include sliced raw red and green grapes tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and paper thin slices of raw parsnip. The parsnip sliced are soaked in ice water until they curl up and look pretty.

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To serve it, I put a thick smear of the parsnip puree on the plate and arrange a couple of parsnip planks on top. Next go the scallops, grapes, parsnip slices and the warm nage.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski – 2017) B+

He’s back and it’s still fun. I saw this pretty much back to back after the first one. It’s a similar formula but digs a bit deeper into the world of Wick and the assassins “community”. We learn a little bit how things work in this crazy over the top world and about the cool Continental Hotel. Yes, we also have excellent choreography and over the top violence filmed well. We even see how he dispatches three men with one pencil!