The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for December 2009

NFL Week 16 Menu: Bye Week

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I hardly caught any football yesterday. That’s because I was stuck in a car driving 900-ish miles (more on that later) to get home from my parents’ house. As a result, all the food I ate was the ‘on the road’ variety. So I took my bye week. I’ll be back in full force next week.

Written by the bee dub

December 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Hermit Cinema: The Hangover

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Vegas serves as a perfect setting for the fulfillment of many men’s more adolescent fantasies. Perhaps the ultimate example comes from the movie Go! where the character Simon goes to Vegas, steals a Ferrari, gets in a shootout with strip club bouncers using a stolen 9mm, sleeps with two women at once and then dodges bullets as he and his friends make a narrow escape out of town.

Here’s another Vegas movie whose sole ambition is to make you laugh. No more. No less. Based on that this movie hits a home run. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud watching this; my wife too. It’s got a great premise. What if you had such a great, wild night in Vegas that you couldn’t remember a thing about it? Thus begins this tale that, unlike most movies in this locale, really focuses on the city in the bright, unforgiving glare of visible sunlight.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married in a couple of days so his two pals Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) take him to Vegas, along with his future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Phil’s the bad-influence type. Stu is a repressed dentist with an overbearing girlfriend who likes to present himself as a ‘real doctor.’ Alan is the wildcard future in-law, who becomes part of the gang in no time.

After checking in, they make their way to the roof of Caesar’s Palace where they do a round of shots to kick off the evening. That’s the last thing anyone remembers. Cut to the morning. Stu wakes up on the floor without a tooth. Alan discovers a tiger in the bathroom, then a baby. Phil, like all of them, is nearly paralyzed by a hangover. Doug is nowhere to be found. As time goes by, they realize they have no idea where he or how to track him down.

As they recreate their steps, they cross paths with Mike Tyson, a stripper named Jade (Heather Graham) and a very bizzare Chinese man who carries himself like a flamboyantly gay gangster. This movie isn’t out to give you a new perspective on your worldview. It is out to make you laugh and if that makes a world a better place, then there’s more to this movie than most people will give it credit for.

I had a debate with many people at work who compared this movie to I Love You, Man. Many felt this wasn’t quite as good as that Bromance. I thought this movie was stronger. I laughed out loud more often, though perhaps not as hard. So it’s really six of one, half dozen of the other. The Hangover had a bit of hype and buildup for me but it delivers. Do yourself a favor. Don’t expect anything. Just enjoy the kind of adventure most of us wish we could look back on one day.

Written by the bee dub

December 26, 2009 at 11:35 am

Happy holidays from the road

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I’m about 950 miles into a 1900 or so road trip. Just wanted to wish everybody out there a happy and safe holiday. Enjoy the company of family, no matter how dysfunctional. Enjoy your meal, no matter how bland. Enjoy the time of year that makes America, America.

I’ve seen more than a couple of very hairy near-miss collisions on the highways. So enjoy what you have. It’s never as good as you want it to be and never as bad as you fear, either.

Written by the bee dub

December 25, 2009 at 6:58 pm

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NFL Week 15 Menu: Chicken Sausage & Asparagus Penne

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Every once in a while I like to just wing it and make something up as I go along for dinner. (That’s what passes for adventure in my life these days.) Sometimes this ends in an unmitigated disaster. Luckily, this was not one of those times. I was in the mood for pasta and had some chicken sausage already in the ‘fridge so I figured I’d just see what happens.

I got some asparagus, an onion and some garlic for the vegetable component of it all. All else that was required was some white wine, chicken broth and whole wheat penne pasta. I started out by boiling a large pot of water and throwing in the penne. The package said it would take about eleven minutes until al dente, which was a perfect amount of time to get everything else going.

In a large frypan, I heated some olive oil and added the garlic, stirring it around the oil for about a minute.

Then I added a thinly sliced, large onion. Stir that around for a while until the onion begins to turn translucent.

I threw in my asparagus, again stirring it around constantly.

I had two pre-cooked chicken sausages that I had sliced into thin discs and I threw those in and stirred it all around until the sausage was good and heated through. Now I added a splash of white wine and a splash of chicken broth. If I had to guess I’d figure it was about a third of a cup of each.

I stirred that around until the liquid had evaporated a bit. At this point the pasta was finished, so I drained that and threw that in for a minute or two, so the flavors in the pan cooked into the pasta for a bit.

Now it was time to serve it in a large bowl. I grated some parmesan cheese on top to finish it off. It was really good. If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d cut back on the onions and use a half an onion instead of a whole. But I had no problem polishing off my bowl, that’s for sure. This was a quick and easy meal and one we’ll surely make again.

Written by the bee dub

December 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: Public Enemies

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John Dillinger was one of America’s most wanted enemies during the ‘Public Enemies’ era, along with Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, The Ma Barker Gang, Alvin Karpis and others. Here, Michael Mann does a great job of bringing that era, if not the Dillinger character, to life.

The commitment to period detail is so strong that to me, even the way the actors all carried themselves physically helps transport you into a different time and place. Of course, there’s no real way for someone like me to know if people actually carried themselves this way back then, but it does feel authentic. It’s also a very convincing look into how their world works; where they stay, how they live, and how they organize themselves for jobs.

This is another movie that opens with a serious, fully-engaging bang. It’s 1933. It’s the Great Depression. And it’s the Public Enemy era of American crime. The story begins with a brazen and daring ‘job’, organized by Dillinger (Johnny Depp) that ends with the gang playing instant judge and jury over another criminal.

It is a great encapsulation of the men’s violent approach to living. Now Dillinger is free to rob with others in his gang that includes Homer (Stephen Dorff), Pete (David Wenham) and his lethal and trusty sidekick Red (Jason Clarke). I consider Dorff a fairly recognizable actor and again, I never even knew it was him until looking over the credits. Same goes for the Giovanni Rabisi’s first scene as Alvin Karpis. I was shocked when I was later able to recognize him.

Pursuing Dillinger is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), an accomplished member of the newly formed FBI. He’s dispatched by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who is fighting to build the FBI; it’s image and operational budget.

In fact, much of the movie can be summarized as a pursuit of public image. Dillinger sees it both pragmatically and egotistically. He needs public sympathy so he can hide among the public, who is more than willing to eat up the stories about him telling bank customers to, “…put away your money. It’s the bank’s money we’re after, not yours.” Hoover is also all too aware how success feeds public image which will feed the Bureau’s budget.

As the pursuit goes on, Purvis realizes they need to be more ruthless in their methods to be successful. This involves bringing in men more experienced in gunfights and a willingness to bend the rules, not to mention their moral boundaries. This seems to weigh on Purvis who never really seems to show much sense of accomplishment as he hunts down the Public Enemies, one by one. Hoover is all to willing to encourage, even direct their amoral approach.

Meanwhile, there’s the ‘necessary’ romantic storyline. Dillinger goes gaga for Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). This relationship, as well as Dillinger’s character, were the weak points of the movie for me. Neither seems to develop beyond the traditional cliché. Their attraction is nearly instant as is their devotion. I think Depp does what he can with the material he’s given. Dillinger is living only for today. The scene where he walks into a police station out of curiosity seemed out of place and contrived.

Nonetheless, this movie far exceeded expectations. It was exciting and interesting despite the fact that you likely have a good idea how it all ends. It did feel a bit long, probably because the romantic relationship and main character never completely won me over. But like most Michael Mann films, it was an interesting and fun ride.

I do wish he would go back to shooting a movie in film once in a while. I find the visual range of video to be limiting, especially during scenes that take place at night. It gives much of the film a darkness that I found a bit frustrating.

Nonetheless, I give this otherwise well-executed movie a solid B.

Written by the bee dub

December 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

NFL Week 14 Menu: Turkey Meatloaf & Tomato Gravy

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It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s meatloaf. Today was the kind of day I had to stay in all day because it’s awful outside. Our dog who normally gets a good hour-long walk on a weekend day looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust. But we’re making the best of it because this meatloaf kicks some serious ass.

It starts, like many things that kick serious ass, with onions. Take two medium to large onions and dice them. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the onions with a teaspoon of fresh thyme, fresh ground pepper and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Continue heating until the onions turn translucent, about fifteen minutes or so.

Remove from heat. Now add just under 1/2 cup of chicken broth, just under 1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of tomato paste and a good amount of hot sauce (don’t tell my wife, the hater of all things hot sauce). Mix well and let it cool to room temperature.

Letting it cool is key. Otherwise when you combine it with the ground turkey it starts cooking the turkey and trust me, that isn’t pretty. You can also put it into the ‘fridge to cool it but make sure to take it out and let it warm a little to room temperature in that case. If you don’t the mixture is so cold that when you mix it with the ground turkey, it’s so cold it actually starts to hurt your hands. Seriously, I kid you not. Once cool, start putting together the meat loaf. Combine 2 1/2 pounds of ground turkey, 3/4 cup of bread crumbs and a well-beaten egg in a very large bowl.

Now add the onion mixture.

Mix that by hand until everything is nice and mixed throughout. Place it on an ungreased baking dish or pan and form it into a rectangular shape. Spread some ketchup evenly over the meatloaf. Place into a 325-degree oven for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, start your gravy. Take 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and heat in a saucepan until foaming. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, mixing it while it cooks for a minute or so. then add whatever chicken stock you have remaining from the onion mixture, another can of chicken stock, a can of stewed tomatoes, a dash of salt, plenty of ground pepper, a teaspoon of fresh thyme and a tablespoon of sugar. Once my wife leaves the room, I add some hot sauce. Normally I’d add a tablespoon of tomato paste leftover from the onion mixture too, but I forgot this time which made for a runnier gravy. It was still plenty good though.

Bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and leave partially uncovered. After it’s been simmering for an hour, use a hand or an immersion blender to break up the tomato chunks and smooth out the sauce. If everything works out right, the gravy should be simmered down and thick right when the meatloaf is ready to come out of the oven. Slice the meatloaf, spoon your gravy over the top and be glad you have food and shelter.

Written by the bee dub

December 14, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: I Love You, Man

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Once again, this is a movie that sat on my entertainment center for far too long. My friend Ryan, who shall heretofore be referred to as Wired Tight because he has a preternatural ability for cheapness (yet I digress), kept telling me how funny it was and I didn’t doubt him. My enthusiasm just seemed to lose any momentum. Finally a few nights ago we popped it in and it was hilarious. This is no think piece. This is the kind of movie where one guy pukes right into someone’s face and another espouses his philosophy about jacking off, so if you don’t think that’s funny, look elsewhere. (But if you’re like me, both instances are so ridiculous they’re awesome.)

The story starts with Peter (Paul Rudd) and Zoey (Rashida Jones), newly engaged and heading full steam towards marriage. Over a dinner with Peter’s family, Peter’s brother reveals to Zoey that Peter’s always been a ‘girlfriend guy’: constantly with a girlfriend but never with any guy buddies. Then Peter overhears Zoey talking with her gal-pals about his lack of guy friends and he becomes determined to find himself a new BFF & best man for the wedding.

From there, things only get more awkward. After all, making friends is a lot like hitting on someone without the intention of getting into their pants. There’s a lot of screening and criteria involved, that’s for sure. Finally, he seems to form a near-instant bond with Sidney (Jason Segel). Only the bond becomes too instant and too deep for Zoey. So where do things go from here? Nowhere you wouldn’t expect but that doesn’t hurt this movie in any way.

The gags here are crude and hilarious. I laughed out loud more than a few times. My wife, who seems to dread trying to watch a movie these days, also got totally sucked in. She said her only complaint was that it dragged a bit in the middle but I didn’t get that feeling. After all, this is a Bromance, bee-0tch! She’s lucky I don’t kick her out of the man cave. Actually, I have no man cave but if I did, she would definitely have limited access for a while.

If you want a movie that just makes you laugh whether you want to or not, this is a solid choice. For me, I give this movie an B-plus, plus. That’s right, I’m using the double-plus. You got a problem with that?

Written by the bee dub

December 11, 2009 at 6:39 pm

NFL Week 13 Menu: Korean Beef Stew / Galbi Jim

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Check it out Mark, potatoes AND rice. That's how we roll.

When done right, this dish will make you want to slap your Korean mama. Making this is one of those experiences where you realize how easy a mother can make something look, yet when you try it you realize the difficulties and time commitment are pretty much overwhelming. So basically I’d like to say, “Word to my mother.”

I started at this at about 7:30 this morning. I shit you not. This is because there’s this middle step where you have to let things cool off in the ‘fridge for a while. Last time I didn’t give this step enough time and wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

Start with 3 – 4 pounds of beef short ribs. Trim off as much fat as you can and score it with a knife. As an added bonus, doing so will make you feel like a real man. Seriously.

Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven. Add your meat, in batches if necessary. Brown/sear meat on every side that you can. Use a splatter guard if you have one. I’ve had white-hot oil splatter up right next to my eye.

Return all meat to the pan. Add water until the meat is covered 3/4 of the way.

Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove cover and let everything cool down. Add cover and then put it in your refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. This will allow a lot of fat to harden on the surface. While this is happening, make your sauce. Start with some garlic.

This here is ten cloves of garlic, minced as well as I’m willing to tolerate. The recipe calls for way less but I can’t get enough garlic. Anyway, add that to 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1 or 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of Mirin cooking wine (not as exotic as it sounds – I get mine at Walmart) and 3 to 4 chopped scallions. Combine all in a bowl and mix well.

Now that a few hours have passed, take the meat out of the ‘fridge. Scoop or spoon away all the hardened fat. This recipe can get a bit greasy so it’s best to do what you can to cut back on the heart attack/saggy-man-breast factor. Once the fat is removed, add water if necessary, add sauce and one chopped onion.

Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and then let simmer for a couple of hours. Spoon some sauce over the top of the meat every once in a while if needed.

While this is going on go ahead and prep your vegetables. We’re talking stew vegetables, not namby pamby hydroponic dandelion greens. You’ll need 4 – 5 gold yukon potatoes peeled and halved, 5 – 6 peeled carrots sliced into big 1-inch chunks and 3 – 4 onions very coarsely chopped.

Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer. Cover. Let it simmer together for about an hour.

Look how those potatoes have sucked in the sauce. Booyah.

You can always let it simmer longer. About half an hour before you want to eat, get some rice going. I used brown rice because I’m trying to get all healthy and shit. Which is fine because the rest of the meal is hardcore meat and potato awesomeness.

Written by the bee dub

December 7, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: Star Trek

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This is a movie that comes loaded down with a ton of baggage but ends up proving, yet again, that seemingly everything J.J. Abrams touches turns to entertainment gold. As the person behind what is easily the best installment of the Mission Impossible franchise and the TV series LOST (to name just a couple of his accomplishments), he clearly understands how to bring you to the edge of your seat. Here, he does it again with a great balance of action, character conflict and humor.

As a new spin on an established franchise, they’ve come up with some genius ways to take it on. First of all, all those other Star Trek movies with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy? They’ve already happened. See, this new movie follows the familiar characters after an alternate path of time, space and reality has been opened up by some bad guys. Genius, no?

We also see a nod to every cliché we come to expect with a Star Trek. You get Spock’s over-reliance on logic. You get the classic lines from Bones (“Dammit man I’m a doctor, not a physicist.”) and Scotty (“She’s giving you all she’s got.”) You even get the random, unestablished character in the red uniform who almost immediately meets his doom. In different hands, all this could easily make you roll your eyes but it’s handled so deftly, it only makes you root the movie on even stronger.

In this alternate reality, Kirk (Chris Pine) is a rebellious genius who is recruited into Starfleet by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Pike admired Kirk’s father who’s courage in the face of disaster, not to mention the impending birth of his son, opens the movie. Once at Starfleet Academy, Kirk is at loggerhead with Spock (Zachary Quinto) who resents Kirk’s emotional and intuitive approach to problem solving.

When a Romulan ship, captained by Nero (Eric Bana), attacks the planet Vulcan with similarities to the manner that Kirk’s father was attacked at the movie’s opening, all the cadets are called into action. That is, with the exception of Kirk who is secretly brought on board the new ship U.S.S. Enterprise by his friend Bones (Karl Urban). Pike is in command, assisted by First Officer Spock, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho of Harold and Kumar fame) and a 17-year-old Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

So what happens? Nero goes on a seemingly unstoppable a tear against the Federation. Spock and Kirk butt heads. Kirk discovers the rift in the time-space continuum as well as Scotty (Simon Pegg), whose genius is yet to be recognized. You even get a cameo from Leonard Nimoy as…Spock. This movie is a top-flight roller-coaster ride, just hang on and enjoy the intergalactic action.

Just make sure you don’t hit play until you’ve gone to bathroom and have a drink and snack handy because you won’t want to hit pause for anything.

This is not heady material but is as good as a popcorn movie gets. I give this a solid grade A.

Written by the bee dub

December 1, 2009 at 11:37 am

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