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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – If you’re looking for a holiday of a different kind, try this Finnish Christmas tale of the original Santa Claus. He’s not as kindly and jolly as the later stories claim, and you should really watch out for his elves. A December archaeological dig in the outer regions of Finland, on the Russian border, unearths something that should have best stayed hidden, and it’s up to one studious and determined little boy and his father (a butcher) to ensure that their tiny community doesn’t lose all its children by Christmas morning. Don’t swear, don’t drink, and wash behind your ears, or else, watch out! An instant holiday classic that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

Sage Butter Fried Potatoes

In need of a late-night dinner, one quick to prepare because I was very hungry, I stared down the lone Golden potato left from my Thanksgiving produce. And lo, I found some remnants of fresh sage; not quite so fresh now but not dried out yet. Butter, a voice said, fried potato and sage butter, and who am I to argue with my stomach at such a time? I recommend using your best butter here, the really good stuff.

Sage Butter Fried Potato: Slice the washed potato into thin half moons, and quarter the halves. Give the slices a quick boil, in just enough water to cover them, until just tender. Say, 10 minutes maybe. Meanwhile, heat a generous pat of butter in your cast-iron skillet or pan, let the butter melt and brown a bit, add the chopped sage, and a little sea salt. Drain the just-tender potato slices, make sure they are dry, and add them to the pan. Fry over medium or medium-high heat until crisped and browned, but take care not to burn the sage. When the potato has your preferred degree of crispness, plate it, and serve with a wedge of cheese, if you have any, or possibly some rustic bread, or even a fried egg on top. Or just enjoy the fried potatoes and the sage in their own right. Simple and delicious.

Black Water

Black Water (2007) –  This Australian movie, in the vein of The Reef and similar based-on-true-events predator movies like Open Water, should have had all the ingredients to grab hold of me and nail me to my seat. We have the small group of people, stranded in  a hostile environment devoid of other humans, with limited resources, and stalked by an extremely dangerous natural predator that calls up one of our deepest fears from the primal well (great white sharks, giant crocodiles, etc.) – in this respect, Black Water follows all the usual creature feature tropes of recent vogue.

And yet, I didn’t spend nearly as much time peeking cautiously at my TV from between my fingers and cowering in my chair as I did while watching The Reef.  Maybe because I find the open ocean more terrifying than watching people trapped in a tree in the mangrove swamps. Still, the movie delivers its share of tense moments, and the giant saltwater crocodile is quite menacing, in part because you don’t get to see very much of it. This is a recommended watch if you like realistic creature features. Although it could have been improved with the addition of a flame thrower, perhaps.

One Sweet Potato Is a Meal

On days when I just don’t want to expend a lot of thought on dinner  – and yes, there are those days – I turn to my fall and winter standby, the sweet potato. One medium sweet potato is a meal, and requires very little fuss. My favorite go-to preparation is to scrub the potato and then cut it either into slices (like fries) or rounds or wedges; whatever seems easiest depending on the tuber’s shape.

Toss the pieces with olive oil and the spice of your choice. I really like going spicy with sweet potatoes so I usually opt for smoked paprika or chili powder, often in combination with cumin. But curry powder or any Indian spice combo would work just as well. As might nutmeg and cinnamon, I suppose. Salt and pepper, and spread the pieces out on a baking sheet – use parchment paper to make clean up even easier – and roast/bake at somewhere around 350 or 375 degrees until crispy and browning. Depending on your oven and the size of the potato this should take about 30 -40 minutes or so. If you’re feeling industrious, flip the pieces about half way through.

Serve this with a herb yogurt sauce. Continue reading