Monday, July 13, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird, Whale Milk, Omar Sharif,

I was persuaded by Michelle, or Pinky of Pinky Poinker to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know I saw the movie many, many years ago but I thought I had never read the book. I remember Gregory Peck so well as Atticus Finch. But all I really remembered was a black person was accused of a crime against a white person and Finch defended him. So, I have just finished reading the book. I have a vague idea I may have read it before, but so vague I couldn't be sure. If I did, I am surprised I didn't remember it. The whole book is told from the point of view of the very young daughter and was a fascination insight into small town Alabama. The prejudicial attitudes are very much in the forefront of the story and the whole book really surprised me. The love of a father for his two children and theirs for him came through loud and clear as well as the staunch support and love of their black servant. I loved it. Thanks Pinky for persuading me to read it - again? Matt and I love to listen to Mockingbirds when we are in the south. They are so very clever with their song and imitate so many different birds and these days imitate human sounds too such as lawnmowers and motorbikes. I guess the Mockingbird in the story was not too obvious to me until the end. But I am notoriously slow.

What a coincidence, I hadn't realised Harper Lee had a new book (which she apparently wrote before Mockingbird) being released right now. Go Set a Watchman. On Good Morning America they said the main thing about the book was the radical difference in Atticus Finch who had appeared not to be prejudiced. In fact, having just finished the book, I don't think he was unprejudiced exactly, he took the defense job because he was ordered to do so and was a fair man who did his job the way he thought it should be done without prejudice in the legal sense. It also appears Jem, the brother, is dead (comment was he just dropped dead one day) and Scout is now grown up and having love problems. Obviously will be worth reading.

Bit of odd trivia I picked up from How to Geek the other day Whale milk is incredibly high in fat (up to 50 percent fat) which gives it a toothpaste like consistency and keeps it from breaking up or dissolving in the water before the whale calf can consume it. I just had to share it as I thought it was interesting.

I was so very sad to hear that Omar Sharif died as he was a favourite of mine. A very handsome man and I have just learnt from John Holton at The Sound of One Hand Typing that he was also an ardent and top class bridge player as well as something of a ladies man, a love 'em and leave 'em type. I remember hearing a while back that he had Alzheimer's and was very sad to hear it. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. This is the way I always think of him as he appeared in Lawrence of Arabia although he had the lead in Dr. Zhivago which was made in 1965.

Saturday night I decided to do Steak au Poivre for our supper. It is one of our favourites, not that I do it very often, but... I only had one kind of peppercorns mind you. It turned out very well.

Steak au Poivre

2 thick-cut well-marbled fillet steak, about 1 pound total weight, and 1 1/2 inches thick
2 Tbs mixed whole peppercorns, including black, white, green, Szechuan and Jamaican (whole allspice)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbs vegetable oil
butter
Pan sauce
2 Tbs minced shallots
2 Tbs cognac (or bourbon or red wine)
½ cup flavorful dark stock
1 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
Garnish
Chopped parsley
Watercress

1. Crush the peppercorns using the bottom of a heavy skillet.

2. Sprinkle salt to taste on the top and bottom of the steaks; then press each side into the cracked peppercorns, encrusting the steaks lightly or heavily, as you prefer.

3. Heat the oil and the butter in a heavy sauté or frying pan over high heat. When the pan is quite hot, lay the peppered steaks in. Fry for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the undersides are well seared. Turn the meat and cook the second side for about a minute. Press with a finger to test for the slight springiness that indicates rare. Cook to desired doneness and remove to a warm platter.

4. Making the pan sauce

5. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté briefly, stirring with a spoon to scrape up the drippings. Lean away from the stove (averting your face) and pour the cognac into the pan; tilt the edge of the pan slightly, over the burner flame, to ignite the alcohol. The cognac will flame for a few seconds as the alcohol burns off; cook for a few moments more and then add the stock. Bring the liquid back to the boil, and cook about 1 minute to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning. Finally, add the soft butter, swirling the pan until it melts and incorporates with the juices.

6. When blended, pour the sauce over the steaks. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley and garnish each plate with sprigs of parsley or watercress.

Servings: 2

Author: Julia Child and Jacques Pépin

Have a great day
 

40 comments:

  1. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird in my "youth". I think I read it at least 20 times the summer between my 8th and 9th grade. I'm not sure I'll read her new one; I'll wait and see about the reviews.

    betty

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    1. It sounds as though it would be a good book Betty. I think I will read it when I get the chance.

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  2. Jo, I love To Kill a Mockingbird and lucky me, I get to teach it every year as it's on the school curriculum of many local schools. I avidly read the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman when it was published online and can't wait to read the rest of it.

    I'll always remember Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago. Great movie, as was Lawrence of Arabia, of course.

    Denise :-)

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    1. Pinky is a teacher in Oz too Denise, so maybe she gets to teach it as well. I hadn't even heard of the new story til yesterday.

      Me too, great movies.

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  3. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird - movie and book - and I'll be interested in the sequel.

    It's sad about Omar Sharif but Alzheimer's or any other form of dementia is a terrible thing so it may have been a blessing.

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    1. I thoroughly enjoyed it Helen. Silly I don't know if I read it before.

      Alzheimer's is terrible

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  4. I read TKAM as a young teen when the book came out. Surely I borrowed it from the local library. I've never re-read it, but do plan to read her new book. Shariff's bridge column used to be printed in the local paper. It was a card game I could never get the hang of even after taking many classes.

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    1. Like I said Denise, I think I may have read it before. Certainly plan to read the new book when it comes out.

      Used to play bridge with my first hubby and friends, but Matt didn't play the game so never have done since.

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  5. Damn i wish I hadn't read your post. :( I have been looking forward to Watchman and now you revealed a major league spoiler about Jem.

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    1. Don't blame me, blame Good Morning Amerca JoJo. I got the impression it was very much a side issue and may not even happen in the book but before it takes place.

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  6. I knew she had another book coming out, but I don't think I've ever read her first one.

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    1. Oh you should Alex, it's an excellent story.

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  7. Interestingly enough, Go Set a Watchman was written long before she wrote Mockingbird. Her editor suggested she try something different, so she later wrote Mockingbird, which took place before.

    I'm a steak fiend, but I've never made a flaming one with cognac. I always assumed that was for show. Does it really enhance the flavor, that few moments of burning alcohol?

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  8. Yes I heard that Bryan - didn't know her editor suggested the change though.

    Can thousands of chefs be wrong? I think it certainly does. I had two recipes yesterday one with flaming one without. Hadn't realised there was that difference. I didn't flame just allowed it to reduce in the pan juices. It was delicious.

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    1. I suppose it depends on those thousand chefs. I probably wouldn't trust the opinions of the thousand chefs employed by Applebee's, for example. :)

      Steak is a weekly occurrence in this household, and I make mine almost exactly as above, except I use black Hawaiian lava salt (prefer the taste). I'm going to have to try it out with cognac and report back.

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    2. I don't really think of the people at Applebee's and other such places as chefs.The food is good, but not THAT good.

      Never heard of black Hawaiian lava salt. Interesting, must look around for it. But that isn't crushed peppercorns after all. Will be interested to know what you think about using the cognac. Try it with and without flaming.

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  9. Harper Lee's new book has been getting a lot of buzz and publicity. I'll have to read it and perhaps "To Kill a Mockingbird" again first.

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    1. Yes, me too Stephanie. Scout is grown up in the new book so I think I would definitely want to reread Mockingbird first.

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  10. Woah. I have learned two whale facts from you now :)

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    1. You have? I don't remember what the other one was Guy.

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    2. Oh yes, I'd forgotten those.

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  11. To Kill A Mockingbird" is one of my all time favourite books and I know I am not alone. I will be looking forward to her new book or first book i guess. Another recipe to mark down as I love a good steak. I will not use cognac since I had a, ahem, bad experience when i was 19 that has never left me. I, too am saddened by Omar Sharif's passing. He was soooo good looking and I had a crush on him when I was a kid. I loved him in "Dr. Zhivago" and "The Last Valley". He was a famous bridge player as well-tops in the field actually. He always maintained that his wife was the love of his life and he could never marry again which he didn't. I don't know what happened in the marriage but she was a famous Egyptian actress who died in January of this year

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    1. I think using 2 Tb of cognac won't hurt you but would spoil the recipe to leave out. Makes the sauce so rich. I would have thought a bad experience at 19 would just make you more careful.

      Didn't know anything about his wife Birgit, but he was known for being a womanizer apparently.

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  12. I heard there is some discussion about the new book as it addresses segregation. The steak sounds delicious.
    Susan Says

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    1. Yes I am sure it does, from what they said on TV Susan.

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  13. My sister used to have a big crush on Omar when she was a little girl after seeing Dr Zhivago. She liked Yul Bryner as well. She must have liked the older, foreign type of man. So glad you enjoyed Mockingbird. I don't work for Amazon Books or anything but if you're interested in whales and the Faulkland Islands you might like "Little Black Lies" by Sharon Bolton. I just finished it and loved it.

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    1. Your sister and I think alike. I used to love Yul Bryner. Did you know about the new book before? I will check out Little Black Lies.

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    2. Just ordered this book from the library Pinky.

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  14. P.S. Thanks for the shout out Jo :)

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  15. Love TKAM will have to read again and then the new book. I think all fuss right now is just to drive interest up. She's an amazing writer! Love the recipe!

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    1. True Yolanda, I wonder why she waited so long anyway. It was good.

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  16. I agree. It's a terrible thing to end up with. I wish no one ever got sick.

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    1. We had to read the book in school. Not sure if I'll read her new one or not.

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    2. I particularly hate Alzheimer's. It is an American classic Ivy, still don't know for sure if I read it before or not. Have my name on a waiting list at the library, I am #137 so goodness knows when I will get to read it.

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    3. I read her 1st novel in school, but her new one, right now, doesn't have me curious. Plus, I've got my nose stuck in allergy-friendly bakes and cookery fun.

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    4. I can see that would interest you more. It's going to to take so long before I get it from the library, I will probably have lost interest anyway.

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