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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On an IMAX screen this looks formidable and all-immersive as we follow three timelines leading up to the evacuations of British soldiers from Dunkirk during the early years of WWII. It opens with a spectacular shot of pamphlets falling from the sky letting the soldiers know that they are surrounded. That’s all we need to know. It ends with another great shot of a plane gently gliding and landing on a beach…yes this was made for a huge screen and it is worth it. We have a soldier on the beach, a fighter pilot providing some air cover in amazing dogfights and a small boat with a father and his son heading to help with the evacuations. War really sucks and we feel it in every moment here. Dialogue is sparse and the plot is very simple. The Germans bomb the beach, sink the ships from the air and from u-boats and there seems to be no way off.
We meet a lot of people in this emotional and sweet true story but it really is about one person and his search for himself. Good performances and good pacing serve the story very well. He was 5 or 6 when he was lost in Calcutta and by various miracles and luck he managed to not get nabbed by the seedy underbelly of that place. He ended up in an orphanage and soon after adopted by a very nice Australian couple. As an adult Saroo has these memories of a brother and a mother in a poor distant Indian village. He keeps telling himself that he is Australian but the memories keep seeping through and he spirals into depression. It’s not that he does not care for his mom and dad but it’s like an itch that needs scratching really bad. To go back, to try and find that place whose name he cannot even remember correctly.