Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson – 1995) B+

The first film by Wes Anderson is a delight. It has his signature quirkiness and some of the perfectly setup scenes but it really succeeds based on the charm of the leading character, Dignan, played by Owen Wilson. He is a screw up, a nutty dreamer but you love him and go along with the crazy plan to pull off a robbery. You know it’s probably going to blow up in everyone’s face but what the heck…he’s your buddy. There’s a sweet love story in there too between Luke Wilson’s character and the motel room cleaning lady. Sh speaks no English and the busboy has to be the go-between interpreter…it’s much funnier than it sounds.

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Moonlight (Barry Jenkins – 2016) A-

I’ve got no proof but i just know that Moonlight can be equally good with no dialogue. It would be great to watch with just the excellent soundtrack playing and nothing else. This one has one hell of an awesome score. It’s told in three chapters and is the story of Chiron, a gay black kid in Miami growing up with a junkie mom in a tough neighborhood. We see him as a kid in elementary school, a high schooler and then as a grown man. My favorite chapter is probably the first one with the perfectly portrayed relationship that grows between him and a gangster who becomes a father figure to him.

It (Andy Muschietti – 2017) A-

I grew up reading Stephen King and if i had to pick a favorite American author it would be him. I love his writing style and distinctly American characters with few exceptions (Dreamcatcher? Cell? oh boy…). The movies based on King’s novels though can be divided into 2 camps: garbage or really damn good. No real in-between. Too bad the majority fall in that first camp. So, i was very happy to see how good this adaptation of It turned out. The film gets it. It’s about the interaction of the characters, their friendship and childhood.

It’s an interesting decision to focus only on the children portion of the story as opposed to switching back and forth between the children and adults the way the book does. So, I am looking forward to Chapter II of It that will surely be done next year. Since it is only the first “half” of the huge novel, with the characters as children in Derry, Maine the actors have to be good. They are, all of them do a fantastic job here and they are all age-appropriate. We do not have any weird 20 somethings playing high schoolers. The demon-clown, Pennywise, is perfectly portrayed. His design, the drooling, his eyes and his shifting between menace and creepy friendly tone are all excellent. It’s really well made, with great direction and script and is a fantastic looking movie. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a good Salem’s Lot adaptation from Muschietti at some point too.

Burnt (John Wells – 2015) C

Over the top scenes and a real uneven character development in this one. It tries to be both a serious film about the obsession of the high-end cooking craft while also making a limp attempt at building a character with some background in substance abuse. Our anti-hero chef played by Bradley Cooper (doing a good job when not overacting) crashed, then shucked 1 million oysters as penance and now he is back to take the 3 stars. He is a hot head obviously but but very talented. His ex-dealer shows up twice for some money he owes him still. He takes digs at modernist cooking. Then he is convinced to start sous vide-ing some stuff, then not…He has a couple of blowups at the kitchen staff. He even has an archenemy played not so well by Mathew Rhys who runs his kitchen like a lab…which is bad I suppose. Still, I obviously like the topic and setting. It also has some good scenes in the restaurant kitchen and on the line.

Paella with Halibut, Shrimp and Chorizo

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All kinds of delicious stuff happens we you have awesome seafood stock in the freezer. I’ve been cooking sous vide for years. In the early days I’d find any reason to use my immersion circulator to cook anything. It was new to me and very cool. Now, I still use it a lot (and it is still cool) but not everything goes in the water container to be precision cooked. Sometimes it makes more sense to pan fry or roast or simmer a dish. One of the preparations that might seem ill-suited for sous vide is making stock. I agree that making beef, pork or poultry stock sous vide is not a great idea, a good pressure cooker (the opposite of the lower heat sous vide!) is best for that.

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Rice-Stock

For seafood stock though, using my immersion circulator makes a fantastic brew. The idea to use sous vide for seafood stock is from Modernist Cuisine and it makes sense. Seafood and fish stocks need a gentle lower heat than other types of stock. So, bagging the protein (I routinely freeze shrimp shells and fish bones and save them up to make the stock) with a bunch of vegetables, a vermouth or white wine reduction and some herbs results in a deeply flavored, concentrated and clear stock of amazing quality. Another stock that benefits from this treatment? Vegetable stock also from the good folks of Modernist Cuisine. After straining, I package the stock in FoodSaver bags and freeze flat until ready to use in soup, risotto or paella.

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Paella-Vegetables

Apparently chorizo is not supposed to be in a proper Spanish Paella as I recently read in a Saveur article. It’s too strong. It overpowers the rest of the dish. You lose the delicate notes of Saffron, paprika and seafood…I do not give a crap says I. I actually made this paella because I had a link of homemade dry-cured Spanish chorizo that needed to be used up and a good stash of the aforementioned seafood stock.

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Paella

I’m also betting that the articles author might not like me using halibut much in this dish. It’s what looked best at the store when it came to white firm fleshed fish. Since the halibut is in nice thick pieces it held its shape very well, remained juice and ended up with a nice flavor and excellent texture. The first step is to sear the fish on the Paella pan to get some good color on the fish. After that I sautee chopped garlic and grated tomatoes along with smoked paprika in a good helping of olive oil.

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Meanwhile, I added saffron threads to the seafood stock and let it infuse. When the garlic-tomato base was ready I added the chorizo and the rice. This got tossed really well and then I added the stock. A Paella is not risotto. The goal is not a creamy soupy rice dish. It’s not a pilaf either where you get a drier but still “steamy” rice dish. Paella is a dry rice dish, it is cooked with no stirring as the stock gently simmers away and the bottom browns and forms the much sought-after Socarrat.

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When the rice is 90 percent cooked through I added garlic-marinated shrimp, roasted peppers and the seared fish for everything to finish cooking. That takes a few minutes and then I covered the whole pan up with aluminum foil to make sure the rice is fully cooked and the stock is all absorbed. A good aïoli is very strongly recommended with this. The easiest way to make this garlic flavored mayonnaise? A stick blender and narrow container, I make mayonnaise no other way and I’ve posted about it before here.

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This was delicious and beautiful. Paella is another one of those dishes that I always wonder why I do not make it more often every time I cook a batch up.

Get Out (Jordan Peele – 2017) B+

What a good surprise from director Jordan Peele, half the comedy duo “Key and Peele”! Chris, an African American, is on his way with his white girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time. They are affluent, the own a lovely big house in the woods, they seem overly nice and her mom is a psychotherapist who practices hypnosis. What could possibly go wrong? What happens next is a mix of well-made thriller and social commentary. The plot might be preposterous but it works very well on both levels. Peele’s a good director, develops smart characters and creates an atmosphere that keeps us on edge from the moment the couple get on the road to the parents’ house till the crazy finale.

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman – 1973) B-

Elliott Gould plays Marlowe as a chain-smoking, mumbling but very cool gum shoe detective. There is a case he is on involving his missing actor friend, a rich lady and her husband, a conspiracy with a psychiatrist but that’s besides the point. Altman’s film is all about the meandering detective, his hippie neighbors and his cat. It’s a coooool movie.