Oscar food, recipes, those braised lamb shanks, brunch, cocktails...
Movies, books and more...
Tomorrow, the Academy Awards air. My wife, Ann, loves to celebrate them, to watch the awards, the celebs, the clips of the movies. And eat. But what to serve?!
I’m very curious what people’s picks are—please feel free to share in the comments. There are several best picture nominees that I simply don’t get. Even though I understand Drive My Car is brilliant, I kept looking at my watch after the credits rolled—halfway through this three-hour movie. Licorice pizza? Terrible! Dune? So glad I didn’t see it in a theater so I could just turn off the television. It’s better than the mid 1980s version at any rate.
But: CODA, this 1000% predictable movie, I’ve seen twice now and it was more powerful the second time around. A beautifully crafted movie, and Troy Kotsur deserve best supporting actor. The movie is not original enough for a best picture win, but it’s a terrific movie, with great performances all around.
For best picture I want another movie I also watched twice, the first time baffled and bored, the second time, riveted and moved. Power of the Dog. The cinematography should win. The performances are amazing. Both Jesse Plemons and especially Kodi Smit-McPhee eminently worthy of their nominations. I’m rooting for Power of the Dog for best picture, best actor, best director.
If this is what you hope for too, then you should make my rosemary buttermilk-brined fried chicken in its honor, shown above in a most excellent cookbook, Genius Recipes by the good people at Food52 (a site we love). Fried chicken is served early in the movie. Recipe and video here. If you’re having a crowd, use just wings.
If on the other hand, you think Nightmare Alley should win (and it’s a fabulous, classic noir film), which is what Ann is rooting for, something carny—corn dogs! Or these nachos. From NYT Cooking, excellent.
If you want Licorice Pizza, then that’s exactly what you should serve.
Best actress. Nicole Kidman, for all her talents, isn’t in the caliber of her fellow nominees here, if only because the others are so extraordinary. Penelope Cruz and Jessica Chastain, amazing as Tammy Faye Baker are my faves. Ariana DeBose in West Side Story for supporting.
And I’m hoping best original screenplay goes to the wildly satirical Don’t Look Up. For best adapted—I’m back to Power of the Dog.
Regardless of your choices, I hope if you watch the Oscars you’re in the company of good friends and good food.
Braised Lamb Shanks…
These were so good—one of the best dishes we made this winter—I had to publish the recipe (link to printable version below).
The first time I braised a lamb shank, ever, first time I’d really braised anything knowing that it was, in class parlance under Chef Pardus’s tutelage, a “combination cooking method,” high dry heat (searing floured shanks in oil) and low moist heat (finishing the shanks in a low-temperature liquid environment).
I returned to that very recipe in our CIA textbook, The New Professional Chef (5th ed.), and the page remains dogeared to this day. The New Pro Chef recipe relies on a miraculous substance hiding behind the dreary name, Brown Sauce, a veal stock reduction, thickened with roux.
But the great thing about a braise is you don’t need brown sauce, you can make that liquid anything you wish (red wine and hoisin sauce for short ribs), vegetable stock, a can of whole tomatoes for this lamb. And the process of braising, generates the sauce.
As I’ve written, Ann and I are fans of Ferran Adria’s potato chip omelet for a Sunday Brunch (recipe in this newsletter). But a couple Sunday’s ago, Ann, a devotee of the NYT Cooking site, simply said, more to herself than to me, “We’ve got all the ingredients.” I turned away from my iPad (on which I read each day’s Times) and said, “For What.”
“Shakshuka,” she said.
“I’m game for that,” I said immediately.
Minutes later, the smell of cooking onions and peppers wafted in from the kitchen. This classic Israeli dish (Ann’s Italian family would have called it eggs in purgatory) was simple and delicious: onion and peppers in a cumin-paprika-scented tomato sauce (28-ounce can of whole tomatoes), enriched with feta. Simply crack the eggs into the sauce once it’s cooked down a bit and pop it in the oven. Happily we had some excellent sourdough from Seven Stars Bakery for thick delicious toast, which really completes the meal. (Here’s Melissa' Clark’s recipe from The Times.)
Speaking of books …
I published Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, a book about the liberating power of proportions and how they can guide you in the kitchen, 13 years ago. I mention this only because the publisher, Scribner, has not only has kept both hardcover and paperback in print, but is now offering a special deal for it on Kindle for $1.99. The special seems to have worked—it’s the #1 kindle title in baking. The special will remain until the end of the month.
I’m really proud of this book and am grateful people continue to find it valuable (and thank you for all the wonderful comments about the book on Facebook and Instagram). It has led to my current work, a cocktail book, based on ratios.
Speaking of which …
I was delighted to see this Pink Lady cocktail on the menu at Ned Baldwin’s restaurant Houseman, in the northwest corner of Soho. This is a cocktail from the early years of the 20th century and combines gin and applejack with citrus and grenadine, a recipe first published in the bar book of the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1913.
David Wondrich, in his excellent Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails, writes, “Despite its pedigree, the gin-applejack Pink Lady never quite made it into the cocktail renaissance’s list of approved drinks. That is regrettable.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fabulous cocktail:
1 ounce gin
1 ounce applejack
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/2 egg white (about a tablespoon, or 1/2 ounce)
Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake hard to froth the egg white. Add ice to the shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into chilled coupe, or over ice in an old-fashioned glass and garnish with the cherry. (You can also use a whisk or a hand blender if you don’t have a shaker.)
Books we’re reading…
I always seem to be on the heels of my wife, Ann. Now it’s Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel, Oh William!, which she recommended. It’s quirky, eccentric and delightful, really an exploration of marriage and grief told from the vantage of Lucy Barton, the central character in her 2016 book My Name Is Lucy Barton, who grew up abused by her parents and the kind of poverty that she can’t shake. Strout writes at the end that the idea of the book came from an off-hand remark by Laura Linney, who played Lucy Barton in the stage adaptation.
But really, the new recommendations from Ann are likely to keep me on her heels for some time because she flies through so many excellent books. Here she is:
Two books these past two weeks that I love and admire greatly.
The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut reminds me of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American in many ways. A story of a young, optimistic doctor and a cynical, older doctor in a rural hospital in post-Apartheid South Africa, it’s chilling and brilliant.
When I read The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys long ago, her other novels weren’t available. Now they are, and I’ve started with After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, a 1931 novel about a desperate woman in Paris. I cannot put it down, and cannot wait to read my way through Rhys’s books.
And on audiobooks…
Having recently had a lovely Clover Club (gin, lemon, raspberry syrup, egg white) with Mr. Wondrich at The Clover Club in Brooklyn, I bought his book Imbibe (revised edition, 2015) and it’s a pleasure to listen to his own personal opinions but thoroughly researched chronicle of the cocktail, an original American art form.
And from Ann:
I’ve just started listening to Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel laureate and author of Remains of the Day, another great one), beautifully read by Sura Siu. A meditation on love and loneliness.
Great things we’ve been watching…
We were able to catch half the short documentaries nominated for an Oscar (the rest today). I especially liked When We Were Bullies, in which the filmmaker’s chance meeting with a man in his fifth grade class in Brooklyn sparked a journey to understand the cause and meaning of a single day when he and his fifth-grade class bullied an unliked fellow student.
We also saw the animated shorts nominated for Oscars. Described by wildly diverging (and brilliant) illustration styles, the shorts are dark. So much so that after the first, a cheerful British film, Robin, Robin, about a Robin who is taken in by a family of mice (traditional, sweet, fun), the screen announced that the following films were not appropriate for children so there would be a pause for parents to take their kids out of the theater! We were not forewarned by the IFC theater. All thought provoking, and yes, some disturbing, especially Beastia, the psychological horror story, based on true events, that takes place during a murderous Chilean dictatorship.
When we’re together at home on a Sunday morning, Ann and I often watch a movie after a thorough perusal of The Times (and Spelling Bee/Wordle) with brunch (see above). Most recently we went somewhat retro with I Love You, Man, from 2009, with Paul Rudd as a guy who has no guy friends and therefore no best man for his wedding, and so goes after one. He finds Jason Segal. Very funny and sweet—watch it before it leaves Netflix on March 31.
Thursday night we saw an early preview of American Buffalo, David Mamet’s 1975 play about three low-lifes in a junk store planning a robbery. I loved it. We both thrilled to see Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne, and Darren Criss up close from second row seats, but Ann felt this high testosterone Mamet dialogue, utterly unique in the 1970s, was simply not relevant today. I recommend it for the amazing performances. (Here’s a New York Live feature on the actors and the play.) Add Sam Rockwell to the list of actors I will watch in virtually any movie just to see them work.
I should also mention Yellowstone, even though it’s not “great.” In fact, I found it so off-putting with its subterranean conservatism (it stars Kevin Costner as a big business rancher) that I turned this modern day western, which takes place in Wyoming, off only an hour into its first episode. How can there be four seasons of this thing? I would urge instead that you watch another yellow, Yellowjackets, which Ann watched and loved.
Links we’re liking…
We've been loving the Instagram feed retronyc: Here’s Bleecker Street from the 1970s. Or this colorized film of NYC from 1920. And the New York State Fair from the 1960s. Turn your volume on for the music for latter.
Every summer we go to Dingle, Ireland, where Ann and some of her fiction writing colleagues teach. I wrote about this excellent food town for Saveur some years ago. It was here that we met Sean Daly, of Dingle Crystal, who owns the last remaining company that still hand-cuts each piece of crystal. He and his family have been chosen to create the Shamrock Bowl to be given to President Biden on behalf of the Irish people. (Also via Instagram.)
The excellent food writer and historian Bee Wilson, discusses Indian curry in The London Review of Books.
We loved these extraordinary drone photos of Vermont (via NYTimes).
Long time NYT Book Reivew editor Pamela Paul is leaving to become an NYT op-ed columnist.
The best of Sam Rockwell:
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