Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bloated and content...

Oh, sweet tryptophan!

Hope your Thanksgiving was grand. Mine was.

Ate lots. Then waddled home to make the trifle for tomorrow. Not too bad. Bit too much chocolate pudding and I could only find regular and chocolate loaves of pound cake. Polish black cherry jam dripped everywhere in the kitchen. The cocoa on top looks more like a muddy road than a "dusting" but it'll do. It may not be Nigella pretty but I am proud of my ugly child.

Here's the baby:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chocolate Covered Gluttony

Thanksgiving crept up on me, thanks to not being worked to death with holiday prep. For the first time both parents are in Ireland instead of just my dad, and I am spending Thanksgiving at my sister in law Andrea's family, just around the corner from me. My sister in law's mother is an awesome cook as is Andrea who is cooking the turkey this year. I've offered to bring food but was told just to show up and eat. I feel bloated already.

The other brother called me up out of the blue and invited me to his house for brunch on Friday. I am bringing my version of an incredible dessert from my one of my favorite chefs Nigella Lawson from her cookbook Feasts. Chocolate Cherry Trifle. Nigella writes "Let people fall upon it with greed and gratitude. They will go home happy."

She ain't kiddin'. I made this last year for work and got these amazed and blissful thank yous from my coworkers. Here is her recipe:

Chocolate Cherry Trifle:

2 (approximately 12 ounces each) chocolate pound cakes
1/2 cup black cherry jam
1/2 cup cherry brandy
2 cups drained bottled sour cherries (recommended: Morello)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, minimum 70 percent cocoa solids, chopped
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cocoa

3 cups heavy cream
1-ounce bittersweet chocolate
Special Equipment: Large wide trifle bowl

Slice the chocolate pound cake and make jam sandwiches with the cherry jam, and layer the bottom of a large wide trifle bowl. Pour over the cherry brandy so that the cake soaks it up, and then top with the drained cherries. Cover with cling wrap and leave to macerate while you make the custard.

Melt the chocolate on low to medium heat in the microwave, checking after 2 minutes, though it will probably need 4 minutes. Or you can place it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, ser aside while you get on with the custard.

In a saucepan warm the milk and cream. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa in a large bowl. Pour the warm milk and cream into the bowl whisking it into the yolks and sugar mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, scraping the sides well with a rubber spatula to get all of it in, and pour the custard back into the rinsed saucepan. Cook over a medium heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. Make sure it doesn't boil, as it will split and curdle. Keep a sink full of cold water so that if you get scared you can plunge the bottom of the custard pan into the cold water and whisk like mad, which will avert possible crisis.

The custard will get darker as it cooks and the flecks of chocolate will melt once the custard has thickened. And you do need this thick, so don't panic so much that you stop cooking while it is still runny. Admittedly, it continues to thicken as it cools and also when it's chilling in the refrigerator. Once it is ready, pour into a bowl to cool and cover the top of the custard with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

When the custard is cold, pour and spread it over the chocolate cake layer in the trifle bowl, and leave in the refrigerator to set, covered in cling wrap overnight.

When you are ready to decorate, softly whip the cream for the topping and spread it gently over the layer of custard. Grate the chocolate over the top. Let people fall upon it with greed and gratitude. They will go home happy.

You can substitute chocolate cake for chocolate pound cake to make it lighter, and good chocolate pudding for custard. I add Hershey's Cherry Cordial Kisses for decoration.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meteor over Edmonton

I saw this and yelled "ohhhhh NEATO!" I really did.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Scary Movie

When I was a kid, WPIX Channel 11 from New York would run Chiller Theatre from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, playing sci-fi and horror movies. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this mix of schlocky 60s Japanese monster movies and the bloodier baroque horrors coming from Europe.

WPIX would always show a trailer at 10 p.m. right before the nightly news for a horror movie opening that weekend. I can distinctly remembering being absolutely scared out of my socks by the trailer for Dario Argento’s 1977 horror movie Suspiria. Evidently I could only stand to watch the first 20 seconds, probably running to hide under my bed once the woman brushing her hair turns around to the camera, as THAT is the only part I remember at all.

For some reason, I never did get to see the film. It had a reputation for being another of those misogynistic slasher films that is more about half naked women trying to escape some slow walking maniac with a knife than anything with intelligence. But last weekend Turner Movie Classics showed Suspiria on its TCM Underground program and I stayed up to the wee hours watching it and found myself actually enjoying it.

Aside from the gory, elaborate colorful deaths (this was the last film made using the Technicolor process) there is a fairy tale aspect to this story of a young dancer being sent to a ballet school run by a coven of evil witches. Think The Red Shoes by way of The Omen. It has a wild soundtrack by the group Goblin, gorgeous set design and some pretty horrific scenes, like a woman falling into a room filled with razor wire. The film ends up on a lot of best of lists and while I would not compare it to more dramatically tighter horror films like The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby, it has a certain loud originality and charm that cannot be overlooked.

Susan: this is not a film for you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Two deaths and a Red Rabbit

Michael Crichton died on Nov. 4th and I did not mention it (bad Bookkook, bad!). Crichton was one of the world’s most popular, tallest and richest authors and if he did not invent the science thriller, he certainly was the master of it. I recommend Jurassic Park, The Lost World, most of Sphere, all of Prey and The Andromeda Strain. I also very highly recommend the medical thriller Coma, one of the several films he directed. About 10 years ago I met Crichton at a book signing I did at one of the local colleges. At 6’9” (2.06 meters) he quite literally stood out in the crowd, easily head, shoulders, armpit and chest above anyone else in the room. He was very guarded during the informal Q&A and after he complained how difficult writing a novel was, someone asked him why does he do it (this was after the huge success of Jurassic Park) he gave a 10 minute answer that came down to: “so my grandkids don’t have to work.”

Peruvian chanteuse Yma Sumac died Nov. 1st but I only just heard about it. Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo in Peru in 1922, Sumac had a five octave range singing voice and became a cult sensation in the 1950s with her “Incan” flavored lounge music. Her albums are a lot of campy fun so fire up the lava lamp, put on your best leopard print suit and have a few hi balls and zen out the groovy song songstress, Yma Sumac.

Someone who is not dead (last I heard) is my friend Pahl Hluchan. Pahl is a painter, filmmaker, sculptor – a general Renaissance man – who has made some interesting films about a bratty Red Rabbit and eggs. Barney by way of Freud. I'll have to find some of his paintings to post.

Years ago, Pahl took a tune I made up and added some lyrics and made a stop motion animated short using it. After putting the brain of a chicken into a toaster oven, some mutants broke out singing my tune like a post apocalyptic Busby Berkeley number. Fun little film which gave me a music credit in a film and had talking cheese.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Before and After

All politics aside, America - you did a very great thing last night.

You once again proved to the world that indeed your democracy works by showing how your government is ultimately answerable to its people and how that government can be changed by the articulation of the will of your people.

You also showed, indeed, “that all men are created equal” – one of the tenets of your very birth - and that which makes us different from one another does not define us alone nor does it limit us.

I am an American by choice and I have always loved you my adopted country. I have defended you to people who forgot how truly wonderful an Idea you are. I have also expressed my criticism of you when you needed it and when your actions were incongruous with your ideals.

But tonight you did something great, not only for yourself, but for the whole world. Today millions of African Americans descended from those you once enslaved are weeping with joy to see that the last barrier for them broken and that your promise of equality that took so long to get here, is true and alive. And your example shines across this world as it has often done again and again.

Our problems are not solved completely. We have not put behind us ages of bigotry and hatred. But after yesterday, no child born in America can say “I cannot do this” or I cannot be that” anymore.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Call me Kreskin, here's my prediction.

Going with the New York TImes interactive map and a host of polling sites, I'm calling swing states North Carolina, Florida and Ohio to Obama, Missouri and Indiana to McCain.

353 electoral votes to Obama, 185 to McCain.

Popular vote: 50% Obama, 43% McCain and I'm being conservative.



just found this link. Amazon posted a link of books the candidates say they have recommended or recently been seen reading:


Interesting that both are reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway