Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rosebud was Her Biscuit

My quest to catch up on some of the most iconic movies of all time has already paid dividends. In the last week, I read an article about the Cold War referencing specific characters in Dr. Strangelove and listened to a episode of my new favorite podcast, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, in which the machinations of Addison DeWitt from All About Eve were discussed. (Although the list is always getting longer, in the past 48 hours, Geoff has asked me "You haven't seen Clockwork Orange, have you?" and "Oh, I guess you haven't seen Demolition Man?" and "You don't recognize the theme from The Natural?").  

Citizen Kane is, according to the American Film Institute, the greatest movie of all time; however, all I knew about it going in was that (do I need to call spoiler alert for a 70 year old movie?) rosebud was his sled.  I had no idea why that mattered or really what the movie was about.  In truth, though the quest to understand the meaning of rosebud is the driving force of the plot, you can know the answer from the beginning without a losing much.  This is evidenced by the fact that that my version of the DVD features a sled with "Rosebud" on the menu screen you have to look at to play the movie.

Overall, I was surprised at how funny it was given that it is a critique of wealthy man (based on William Randolph Hurst) whose money can't buy him happiness.  I'm not much of a cinephile and I don't generally notice things like how a shot is framed, but there were several times where I was taken in by a particularly clever detail that would be innovative even today.  For example, the passage of time is shown not by the (now cliche) changing of the seasons out a window, but by the changing seasonal puzzles one of the characters puts together.  Geoff pointed out that there are a number of other elements that have become commonplace in modern films, but would have been completely novel in 1941.  (Google research indicates that Citizen Kane  was among the first movies to use flashbacks, particularly in conjunction with unreliable narrators and to put the entire depth of field in focus.)   Not to mention that Orson Welles was 25 years old when Citizen Kane came out and had never directed a movie before.  I'm no expert in film (thus the need for this 30 by 30 goal) so I'm not in a position to determine if it is or isn't the greatest film ever made; so all I can say is that I was as entertained by this 70 year old film as anything that came out in 2011.

So I've mentioned in the past the difficulty of picking a meal inspired by a film I've never seen.  However, some early searches suggested that there is a pivotal breakfast scene in the movie.  While a wealthy man in the 1940s would have servants to make his breakfast, busy working people today tend to stop for a breakfast sandwich from a drive-thru.  I decided to take my inspiration from this more modern morning meal - spicy pan-fried chicken on a biscuit.

For four servings, I cut two large breasts in half and brined them in pickle juice with two serrano chopped up, seeds and all.  I left them in the brine for about 8 hours before draining and coating them in flour. To cook, I added a small amount of butter and oil to a cast iron pan over high heat.  Once seared on both sides, I slid the pan into a 400 degree oven alongside a pan of biscuits (PSA: check the expiration date on your baking powder, my biscuits came out flat!).  Both were done in about 12 minutes and ready for a quick dinner.  Pepperjack cheese is a nice addition to kick up the heat even more and a bowl of sweet summer melon to cut the spice.  This was my first experiment using pickle juice as a brine and I wasn't sure what to expect.  The chicken was extremely moist and not particularly pickle-flavored.  It's nice to use up something you would otherwise dump down the drain, but I think a regular brine would work just as well.  Remember, money can't buy happiness, but it can buy breakfast!

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