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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Defendant Yusef Salaam walks into courthouse flanked by police officers in Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s "The Central Park Five.". (Photo courtesy of NY Daily News via Getty Images. Courtesy of Sundance Selects/IFC Films)

Filmmakers Sarah Burns and David McMahon, and Raymond Santana, one of the falsely accused men featured in their documentary, “The Central Park Five.” Corey Olsen explains why J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has become one of the most widely read and best-loved books of the 20th century. Deb Perelman talks about turning her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, into a bestselling cookbook. Plus, we’ll examine how newspapers reported the American Revolution.

The Central Park Five

Sarah Burns and David McMahon, who produced, wrote, and directed the documentary “The Central Park Five,” along with filmmaker Ken Burns, talk about the film, about five young men who were wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. The filmmakers are joined by Raymond Santana, one of the five men who is featured in the film. "The Central Park Five" is playing in NY at the IFC Film Center and at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and will be playing on demand December 7.

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Exploring The Hobbit

Corey Olsen talks about what makes The Hobbit is one of the most widely read and best-loved books of the twentieth century. In Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, he brings a thorough and original new reading of this great work, chapter by chapter, revealing the stories within the story.

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The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Deb Perelman talks about her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, and the long-awaited The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Like her blog, the book is all about approachable home cooking. All the recipes include simple ingredients that yield amazing results in a minimum amount of time. She explains how to lose your fear of cooking for a crowd and shares the essential items you need for your own kitchen.

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Reporting the Revolutionary War

America's leading Revolutionary War newspaper archivists Todd Andrlik explains how the Revolutionary War unfolded in the newspapers at the time, and how everyday people witnessed thousands of little moments form an epic conflict over 20 years. Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News is a collection of primary sources, mixed with modern analysis from 37 historians, showing how the American newspapers of the 18th century fanned the flames of rebellion, igniting the ideas of patriotism and liberty among average citizens who had never before been so strongly united.

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Deb Perelman's Plum Poppy Seed Muffins

She hasn’t said so in so many words, but I have a hunch that my editor thinks I should explain why it took me no fewer than seven muffin recipes to stop fussing and find the perfect one to tell you about. Are muffin recipes that hard to come up with? No, not really. Do we perhaps just enjoy eating muffins so much that I looked for excuses to make more? Unfortunately, not that either. Am I really so terribly indecisive? Apparently, yes, but only in what I believed to be the quest for the greater muffin good. Okay, fine, and when I’m choosing earrings.

What finally led me here was, innocently enough, a basket of boring- looking lemon– poppy seed muffins at a bakery one morning; they got me wondering when poppy seeds would come untethered from lemon’s grasp. Poppy seeds are delightful on their own— faintly nutty bordering on fruity— but they also play well with fruit that is richer in flavor and texture than lemon. Inspired, I went home and, a short while later, finally pulled a muffin out of the oven I’d change nothing about. Poppy seeds, plums, browned butter, brown sugar, and sour cream form a muffin that’s rich with flavor, dense with fruit, and yet restrained enough to still feel like breakfast food. Seven rounds and six months in, I bet somewhere my editor is breathing a sigh of relief.

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Deb Perelman's Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies

Over the years, we’ve had a lot of dinner parties. I’ve made mussels and fries and red pepper soup; I’ve made meatballs and spaghetti repeatedly; brisket and noodles were on repeat until I got the kinks ironed out of the recipe in this chapter, and there was this

one time when I decided to make nothing but delicate flatbreads for dinner. It was a terrible idea. Don’t do this unless you want to spend three days making doughs and mincing vegetables, only to have everyone leave hungry.

I’m pretty sure if you asked my friends what the very best thing I’ve ever served them was, they’d still go on about chicken pot pies I made from an Ina Garten recipe all those years ago. People, it turns out, go berserk for comfort food— especially comfort food with a flaky pastry lid—doubly so on a rainy night. I liked them too, but the chicken— which often ends up getting cooked twice— has always been my least favorite part. What I do like is the buttery velouté that forms the sauce, and it was from there that I decided to make a pot pie I’d choose over chicken, peas, and carrots any night of the week.

You really have to try this for a dinner party, especially if your guests were expecting something fancy. The crust and stews can be made up to 24 hours in advance, and need only to be baked to come to the table; this means that you could spend that time getting cute, or at least making pudding for dessert. And if people are expecting the same old same old beneath the lid, this will be a good surprise— the lid is so flaky, it’s closer to a croissant than a pie crust, and the pancetta, beans, and greens make a perfect stew, one you’d enjoy even without a bronzed crust. But, you know, it helps.

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Deb Perelman's Tres Leches Rice Pudding

yield: serves 8

1 cup (180 grams) long- grain white rice
¾ teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
One 12-ounce can (1½ cups or 355 ml) evaporated milk
One 13.5-ounce can (17/8 cups or 415 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
One 14-ounce can (1¼ cups or 390 grams) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) heavy or whipping cream, chilled
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Ground cinnamon, to finish

My list of rice pudding loves is long. There’s the Danish risalamande, with chopped almonds, whipped cream, and a sour cherry sauce, usually served at Christmas with a prize inside— one that I never win, not that I’ve been trying for thirteen years at my best

friend’s house or anything. There’s kheer, with cardamom, cashews or pistachios, and saffron. There’s rice pudding the way our grandmothers made it, baked for what feels like an eternity, with milk, eggs, and sugar. And there’s arroz con leche, which is kind of like your Kozy Shack went down to Costa Rica for a lazy weekend and came back enviously tan, sultry, and smelling of sandy shores. As you can tell, I really like arroz con leche.

But this—a riff on one of the best variants of arroz con leche I’ve made, which, in its original incarnation on my site, I adapted from Ingrid Hoffmann’s wonderful recipe—is my favorite, for two reasons: First, it knows me. (That’s the funny thing about the recipes I create!) It knows how preposterously bad I am at keeping stuff in stock in my kitchen, like milk, but that I seem always to have an unmoved collection of canned items and grains. Second, it’s so creamy that it’s like a pudding stirred into another pudding.

The rice is cooked first in water. I prefer to start my rice pudding recipes like this, because I’m convinced that cooking the rice first in milk takes twice as long and doesn’t get the pudding half as creamy. Also, it gives me a use for those cartons of white rice left over from the Chinese take- out I only occasionally (cough) succumb to. Then you basically cook another pudding on top of it, with one egg and three milks— coconut, evaporated, and sweetened condensed— and the end result will be the richest and most luxurious rice pudding imaginable. But why stop there? For the times when the word “Enough!” has escaped your vocabulary, I recommend topping it with a dollop of cinnamon- dusted whipped cream, for the icing on the proverbial cake.

 

Cook the Rice
Put the rice, 2 cups of water, and the salt in a medium saucepan with a tight- fitting lid. Bring to a boil— you should hear the pot going all a flutter under the lid and puffing steam out the seam. Reduce to a low simmer, and let the rice cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove the rice pot from the heat.

Once the rice is cooked, whisk the egg in a medium bowl, and then whisk in the evaporated milk. Stir the coconut and sweetened condensed milks into the rice, then add the egg mixture. Return the saucepan to heat and cook the mixture over medium- low heat until it looks mostly, or about 90 percent, absorbed (the pudding will thicken a lot as it cools), about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, then divide the pudding among serving dishes. Keep the puddings in the fridge until fully chilled, about 1 to 2 hours.

To Serve
Whip the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop a spoonful of whipped cream on top of each bowl of rice pudding, dust with ground cinnamon, then enjoy.

Cooking Note
If you have 2 cups of leftover white rice, you can skip the first step, and jump in with the egg and three milks.

 

Excerpted from THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2012 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

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