Saturday, November 07, 2009

Follow Up: Monthly Family Dinner - November 2009

Our Monthly Family Dinner went really well. Mom, Dad, Christine, and Karlie (for a bit - until the Saints game started) joined Carlos and me.

Carlos took care of course #1 and #4. I handled #2 and #3. We had so much fun cooking and chatting. In January, Carlos and I will start having Cooking Challenge dinners again.

Here are the recipes we used.

Course #1 - Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce
(Picture from Food Network. Actual picture of Carlos's food to come.)

1 cup crustless 1-inch bread cubes, cut from thickly sliced, firm-textured country
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
16 fat asparagus, tough ends snapped off,stalks peeled
4 large eggs
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a pie plate, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and season with salt. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Transfer the bread cubes to a sturdy plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until coarse crumbs form. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Meanwhile, bring a large, deep skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a large gratin dish.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Pour off the water and gently shake the saucepan to crack the egg shells. Fill the saucepan with ice water and let the eggs cool for 5 minutes, then drain. Carefully shell the eggs and transfer them to a plate.

In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until it smells like roasted hazelnuts and the milk solids are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the brown butter cool slightly.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer over moderate heat. In a blender, combine the egg yolks and the 11/2 tablespoons of hot water; blend for 2 seconds. With the blender on medium speed, gradually add the hot brown butter, a few drops at a time at first and then in a thin stream, until fully incorporated. Add any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the lemon juice. Season the hollandaise with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Reheat the asparagus in the oven. One by one, carefully lower the peeled whole eggs into the hot water in the medium saucepan and warm just until heated through, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, arrange 4 of the asparagus spears on each of 4 plates. Pat the eggs dry and set one on top of each plate of asparagus. Spoon the hollandaise over the eggs and asparagus, sprinkle with the crushed croutons and serve right away.

Course #2 - Scallops Grenobloise

2 slices white bread
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil -- or canola oil (divided use)
1 medium lemon
16 large sea scallops, whole -- rinsed under cold water to remove any sand
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons capers -- drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter -- (3/4 stick)
1/4 cup mushrooms -- (about 3) diced (1/2-inch); white mushrooms
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- coarsely chopped, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch dice and toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Set aside.

Peel the lemon, removing the skin and the white pith underneath. Cut between the membranes to remove totally clean segments of lemon flesh. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces until you have about 2 tablespoons diced lemon flesh.

Remove any adductor muscles still attached to the scallops. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt, pepper and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the scallops. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. They should be nicely browned. Arrange 4 scallops on each of 4 serving plates and sprinkle on the lemon pieces, capers and bread cubes.

Heat the butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter browns lightly (this is called noisette butter). Add the vinegar. Spoon the sauce over the scallops, sprinkle the parsley on top and serve.

Course #3 - Potato Gratin with Cream

8 lg. potatoes, cooked & shredded
1 pt. whipping cream
1 lg. pkg. cheddar cheese, grated
1 lg. onion, diced
Parsley, dried or chopped
Paprika, salt & pepper

In casserole alternate layers of potatoes, cheese, onion and parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour whipping cream over the top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 12.

Course #4 - Jam Tartines with Fruit Sherbet

Pound cake cut into pieces with assorted jams on top, served with fruit sherbet


Tonight, Carlos and I are having a light dinner at Le Madeleine with Debbie and Bart. The restaurant has one of the best French Onion Soup in the city.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

French Bloggers Use Lily Allen To Fight Homophobia

A story from The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (UK):

Using Lily Allen's 'F*ck You' track from her latest album, blog visitors have submitted mimed videos to the track, which have been edited together to form a tremendously uplifting anti-homophobia video.

The video has been fully approved by Lily herself (and her record company Parlophone). She says of the song, 'it's not a direct attack at anyone, it was originally written about the BNP in the UK but then I felt this issue has become relevant pretty much everywhere. The future is up to us... hate hate."

A huge well done to all involved at - you made our day with this amazing video, and truly deserve a Homo Heroes Award! We encourage you to link to this in all your social networks!


Bonus: It's a very catchy song.

The original story can be found here in English or here in French.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Carlos and I spent the Halloween weekend watching scary movies.

Friday night, we went to Jason’s house. He had Shawn of the Dead picked out for us to watch. Everyone at the party was too involved in conversation to really watch it. Since most of the people had already seen it, it was the perfect movie for that part of the party.

We then figured out how to stream movies from Netflix. After some discussion, Julie recommended 1974’s Black Christmas. (She had seen the remake, but not the original so the movie was new to everyone.)

The synopsis: It's time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don't express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?

The movie stars Olivia Hussey (earlier in Romeo and Juliet with Leonard Whiting), Keir Dullea (Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from Superman), and Andrea Martin (from SCTV). Debbie said that she looked like Howard Stern.

Trivia: Andrea Martin is the only actor to appear in both the original version and the 2006 remake.

Jason’s internet connection messed up four minutes before the end of the movie. We don’t know how it ended. I think the man in the fur coat is the killer. Carlos and I are going to watch the finale later today. I’ll post an update.

Jason’s version of his party can be found here.

For Saturday night, I picked one movie that both Carlos and I have seen before, but scares the shit out of us – The Descent.

The synopsis: A caving expedition goes horribly wrong.

I purposely made that very brief. I don’t want to give anything away.

He and I watched the first hour of the movie with just a few candles burning – all the lights off. We agreed to then turn the movie off. We were getting too freaked out.

Carlos said that I should finish watching the movie during the day – after he is gone. I think that misses the point of a scary movie. I have shipped it back to Netflix.

One day, we’ll get through the whole thing.

There is a sequel coming out in 2010. All six of the original actors are listed as being in the cast of the new movie. Hmmmm. There must be a lot of flashback sequences.

Carlos and I then watched Trick r Treat, recommended to me by one of the members of a Yahoo Group I’m in called Queer Fear. Great recommendation! Though I think I liked it a bit more than Carlos did.

He did like that one of the stars was Tahmoh Penikett. He's a huge fan of Battlestar Gallactica.

The synopsis: Five interwoven stories that occur on the same block, on the same night. A couple finds what happens when they blow a jack o' lantern out before midnight, a high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer, a college virgin might have met the right guy for her, a group of mean teens play a prank that they take too far, and a hermit is visited by a special trick or treater.

The tone reminded us of the 1982 movie Creepshow. (Did you know there was a Creepshow 2 in 1987 and a Creepshow 3 in 2006?) The movie was definitely scary and gory, but had some humor about it too.

Here are the trailers for the movie -

Trailer #1:

Trailer #2:

Grades (out of 10):
Black Christmas – 6
Shawn of the Dead – 7 (based on past viewing)
The Descent – 9
Trick r Treat - 8