BC&B: Poulet Mistral le Prieuré w/ Tarte aux Pommes Françoise Potel

This is it: The final post in this exciting blog series, where I cook two dishes from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking book (sequentially), and read one book from the shelf that had the most recently acquired books. (Yes, it makes no sense as a blogging concept.)

I’ve only made it about… a fifth? of my way through the cookbook before I ran out of books, so I’ll have to come up with a different, fresh exciting concept to get me through the rest of the book. But today we have… chicken with garlic? Yes. Chicken with garlic.

But first we have to make chicken stock, which has these ingredients.

It’s butchering time! So I basically cut away all the stuff that’s going into the chicken dish itself…

… i.e., these bits…

… so I’m left with the rest of the carcass in a pot.

Then bring it to a boil, and skim skim skim until all the scum is wiped off the streets, I mean the broth, and then dump a bunch of herbs and veggies into the pot.

And then simmer for two to three hours. Looks tasty, eh?

Well, OK, it doesn’t look as yucky once the solids have been removed.

And then the chicken dish itself. It’s got very few ingredients: Basically just chicken, garlic, chicken stock and wine.

As usual, the chicken bits are roasted thoroughly to give them some colour and flavour.

Meanwhile, it’s garlic clove cleaning time. Do you know how much time it takes to de-skin approx. forty cloves?

About the same time it takes to do all the chicken bits, since I have to do them two at a time.

Then the cloves go into the pan…

… and then the chicken bits go back into the pot, along with some wine and chicken stock. Smells dee lish.

Hm… well, the chicken is super dooper juicy, and it’s got a good sear on it. And I love garlic; I do, but — the flavours are pretty one note, which… isn’t surprising. But there’s, like, no shock of deliciousness here… the flavours just seem kinda un-evolved.

I mean, it’s good chicken, but I’ve made several chicken dishes from this book that have been fantastic, and this isn’t. Fantastic.

But this was supposed to be accompanied by a book, and the final book on the shelf was:

Blå by Maja Lunde. I… think I was given this as a Xmas gift? Probably… the year before last? The author’s written a previous best seller which I haven’t read, but let’s read the first three pages together:

Haha! It’s in Norwegian, so you can’t read it anyway. So let’s make dessert instead:

So it’s an apple pie I mean tart.

Pâte-Demi Feuilleté sure sounds more fancy than “rough puff pastry”. On the other hand… “That is sure some rough puff pastry, boy!” So it could go either way. Anyway, that’s the recipe for the tart shell, and it sounds… absolutely tasteless?

Anyways, these are all the ingredients.

The puff pastry basically flour, ice water and butter.

The recipe says that I should be making this on my marble slab. But what do you know! I forgot where I put my marble slab! As one does! Well I never.

So I make a crater of the flour, and dump the ice water and the chilled butter into it…

… and then work it into a dough. That looks like a dough, right?

And then wrapped with saran, and into the fridge for fifteen minutes. I’d forgotten how much waiting is involved when making pies I mean tarts. It’s something to do with the glutens in the flour: If it’s not properly chilled, it tenses up and retracts and you don’t want that.

So some time later, more chilling, I roll it out and pop it over a pie I mean tart pan. This dough is a lot easier to work with than some of the previous doughs this book has made me make: It’s not very sticky at all, and rolls easily without snapping back too much.

So, of course, then it goes back into the fridge for half an hour.

The recipe said to do this! Double the edges. Looks horrible…

And then foil it all up and add some cooking beans to press it down, and then into the oven for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, I core and de-er-skinify the apples. I should get a new apple corer: It works fine at the actual de-coring thing, but then it’s just impossible to remove the core sample from the de-corer.

And then into a pan with some butter and some sugar.

Meanwhile, the shell has finished baking. And… man, does that taste basic. It’s like… tasting drywall.

Then the cooked apples into the pan. (Which I surrounded with foil just in case the shell is all leaky-ey.)

And then add the filling, which is eggs, sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract. The filling tastes delicious, but… it thing going to turn out to be an omelette with some apples inside!?

Into the oven for half an hour…

It inflated!

And then deflated a bit.

It made it out of the pan! This pastry isn’t puff, man — it’s rough. I mean tough.

Oh, wow. This has much more complex flavours than I thought it would have.

It’s the scorched apples, I guess? It’s got a caramelley sweet thing going on, while still being quite tart. And the egg stuff? Delicious! It’s egg and sugar and butter and vanilla, and it goes so well with the scorched apples.

This is really delicious! I’m so surprised!

The shell is basically inedible, though. It’s super duper tough, but even if you put in the effort to chew it (which is certainly possible), it tastes like… a void. It’s a taste void.

And speaking of voids: The book is kinda really OK totally bad: Every scene is what a sympathetic reader would call “cinematic”, but since I’m basic and nasty, I’ll call those scenes teeveeactic: Every chapter seems designed to be turned into a New Age Of Quality TV scene. It’s horrible! It’s gruesome! OK, so the scenes with the old woman were tolerable, but that guy? I just couldn’t.

So I ditched the book around page 80.

It’s offal! I mean awful!

And that concludes this blog series: There are no more books in the most-recently-bought part of my bookshelf. (Well, the part of the bookshelf that was that part when I started this blog series IT”S ALL SO COMPLIMACATED!)

I do want to make the rest of the dishes in the Bistro book, though, so I’ll have to come up with some other stupid blogging concept to motivate myself to actually do that.

This blog post is part of the Bistro
Cooking & Books
series.

Into the Vortex Redux

I’m not quite sure why I’m doing these (re-)reads of 80s comics. Surely I should have better things to do? Right? RIGHT?

But I guess it kinda just amuses me? And it’s comics from an era that’s mostly pre-Internet. It’s under-documented on dar intartubes, so it’s somewhat different from writing yet another blog about er The Mandalorian?

ANYWAY.

I started off claiming that Vortex was the best publisher in North America: Not because they’d published more great comics than anybody else, but because they’d 1) published great comics, and 2) hadn’t published anything that’s bad.

HA HA HA.

Well, that didn’t turn out to be true: The stuff I’d missed the first time around turned out to be pretty dire.

So I withdraw the claim.

Still, you have to hand it to publisher William P. Marks: He did publish some great comics. Did that happen because he’s got great taste, or was it sheer luck and proximity to some emerging talent that hadn’t been snapped up yet?

I think you can make the case for both interpretations. The biggest splash Vortex made initially was with Mister X, a comic conceived by Dean Motter — who worked next door to Mark’s successful design company.

But then Marks showed extremely good taste in hiring the Hernandez brothers to actually do the comics, and the results were pretty spectacular, I think. And then, of course, he neglected to pay them, which is probably what most people remember about Vortex Comics, if they remember anything.

(He did finally pay them everything he owed them a few years later, so it’s not really a straight-up tale of villainy.)

The most important book that Vortex published was, without a doubt, Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur: It was hugely influential, and totally brilliant. Brown lived in the same city, though, so that speaks of the “proximity” factor. But then Marks stood by the book through all the travails: It was a very controversial book, and the biggest distributor at the time refused to carry it. Marks even planned on setting up a separate shell company just to be able to continue publishing it, but that didn’t turn out to be necessary.

Other notably controversial comics were Black Kiss (very racy for its time) and Those Annoying Post Bros (very violent for its time). Vortex were not gun shy, and reading interviews with the creators, you get the impression that Marks never interfered with the books editorially in any way.

Even the final book Vortex published, Nocturnal Emissions, is really great.

But then there’s those NASCAR comics.

Oh, well. But I think the evidence points to Marks having really, really good taste in comics, and was a strong publisher who supported the books enthusiastically.

Anyway. It was fun (re-)reading these comics.

What next?

V2018: Hellmington

Vortex (2018)
by Justin Hewitt-Drakulic (as Jay Drakulic), Alex Lee Williams and others

Hellmington. Justin Hewitt-Drakulic. 2018.

[two minutes pass]

Well! Perhaps I should just get all the films Vortex has produced? Wolfcop was a barrel of laughs, and this starts off really well.

[twenty minutes pass]

Or… perhaps not? This is like a compilation of all low-budget scare-jump horror movies ever? I mean, it looks pretty good, but this is… it’s pretty risible.

[thirty minutes pass]

Oh god is this dreary. The lead does a really convincing job of playing a depressed cop… The cinematography OK; lots of angles and tight shots… But this is incredibly boring. There’s nothing here of interest: It’s just a collection of clichés, and I’ve kinda lost interest, which doesn’t help.

At the start of this I was thinking “well, even if this is kinda boring, perhaps it would be fun to get all the Vortex movies anyway? As a kind of survey of Canadian independent filmmaking?” This movie didn’t have to do a lot to sustain that impulse, but this is just brutal.

Brutally boring.

I like the music, though. The music earns the movie a instead of a .

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.

V2014: WolfCop

Vortex (2014)
by Lowell Dean and others

“What’s this then? A MOVIE?!?! BUT THIS IS A COMICS BLOG!”

Once again, dear reader, I can read your mind. But you see, after Vortex Comics stopped publishing comics, they… Well, I don’t quite know what they did at first, but they ended up as an independent movie producer called Vortex Words + Pictures:

Just read the about page:

As far as I can tell, the first movie they produced was in 2005? And it’s all cheap B movies, mostly horror and horror comedy stuff. Their most famous movie is this one, which is apparently about a cop who’s a werewolf?

Sure, I’m aboard for that.

Hm, no, that’s probably not correct: They also did Trailer Park Boys, which I’ve heard is actually pretty good? But I can’t watch cringe humour stuff, so I’ve just seen five minutes of one of the episodes…

Oh, Vortex just did the two live shows, not the TV series itself. OK, that makes more sense:

Let me first preface this review by stating that I am a big fan of the Trailer Park Boys TV show. I have all the seasons on DVD, as well as the blu-rays of their feature movies, as well as their direct-to-video movie. And as a fan, I must warn every and all TPD fans to avoid this “special” at all costs. Unless, of course, you’d like to have your memories of the classic show tainted by this garbage.

[…]

Honestly, I couldn’t even get through this travesty in one sitting. I’d be constantly wincing and invariably switch to a different movie or show just to cleanse my palate. In total, it took me 6 sessions to get through this 90-minute torture session, and I really had to force myself to power through.

Sounds fun!

And: No, I’m not going to watch all of the Vortex movies, just a couple. I’m … curious. Yellow.

OK, let’s roll… WolfCop!

Wolfcop. Lowell Dean. 2014.

Oh, my. The cop’s name is Lou Garou. OK, this is gonna be the best movie ever!

[five minutes pass]

It’s very modern. It’s got generic heavy rock music playing all the time, and never more than a couple of seconds between an edit. But it does seem kinda fresh? It’s already had a couple of gags I smiled at.

I was going to say that I liked the makeup on Lou (the cop), especially the eyeliner, which presages his werewolfness, but then:

His boss also wears eyeliner, so perhaps that just what the makeup artist does with all the actors?

[the end]

OK, my plan was to liveblog this movie while watching it, but I was so amused by it that I ended up just watching it instead.

It’s a fun movie! There’s so many things in here that are genuinely original… the plot is pretty clever, with reversals that are actually surprising.

They’re not trying to hide the Canadian origins, either. There’s a whole scene where the buddy is trying to convince the cop to take off his gitch for the camera, for instance.

And… well, I’ve never seen a werewolf transformation like that before: It starts with the guy peeing, and then we see the transformation from the penis up.

It’s funny!

It is!

But, OK, this is a low-budget movie… It’s very bloody… but it’s a lot of fun. I LOL-ed out loud several times. I liked all the actors. The editing was a bit too hyper-active for my tastes, and the music was too rocky, but for an unpretentious B movie, it’s excellent.

What did the critics and public think?

It’s mixed!

“Micturating.” OK, dear.

Funnily enough, non-critics seem to dislike it:

Reading between the lines, I think nerds were kinda grossed out:

I could do without seeing werewolf dick, though. The sex scene was bizarre but probably the closest thing to a successful gag in the movie. The premise of this movie was great but the execution was a fail.

Oh, yeah, the romantic scene was fabulous! Suddenly there were all these candles in the cell when they were fucking! The movie uneasily trod a line between being a slightly silly werewolf horror comedy movie, and being out-and-out Zucker/Abrahams total anything-goes, but I think they navigated those waters admirably.

That didn’t happen, but “Another Wolfcop” was released in 2017, and I’m definitely getting it.

There’s a “making of” on this bluray that’s almost as long as the movie itself. It turns out that Wolfcop won a reality show thing in Canada where the prize was getting (some) financing to do the movie. It’s got shots like these:

And:

Vortex is really getting back to their penis-mutilation roots!

“The weather turned on you like a bad bouncer at a bar.”

That’s a saying I haven’t heard before.

OH MY GOD!? THIS WAS SHOT IN SEVENTEEN DAYS?!

These people are geniuses.

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.

V1991: Nocturnal Emissions

Nocturnal Emissions (1991) #1-4
by Fiona Smyth

Welcome back to the blog that covers all your NASCAR sports racing comics needs. Today we’re… we’re…

HANG ON! THESE AREN”T SPORTS COMICS!

Yes, Vortex had one last hurrah in the midst of all the NASCAR comics they suddenly started selling: Fiona Smyth’s Nocturnal Emissions, and if there’s anything less like a Herb Trimpe-drawn comic about cars, it’s this.

Vortex contains multitudes.

Seth provides the introduction, which makes you wonder: How did this book end up at Vortex instead of Drawn & Quarterly, where both Seth and Charles Brown I mean Chester Brown ended up at? And D&Q had already started publishing Julie Doucet by this time, I think, so it’s all quite strange? Anyway, let’s read the first three pages:

Man, that looks awesome. It’s so strong, visually, what with the expert black spotting and the squiggly lines and the attractive characters. It’s just kinda excessively gorgeous?

These aren’t comics I had to buy for this blog series; I bought them at the time, while being a student. (Except for the fourth issue, which took me years to find.)

It’s one of those comics that’s perfect as a pamphlet: It’s such a joy to stumble onto something as odd and compelling as this, and in book form it’s just not quite the same. (I mean, I’d buy it in book form, too, and I have; this series was collected and reprinted by Koyama the other year, and I bought that one too.)

Smyth encourages readers to send her their dreams.

And she illustrates a bunch of her own dreams. Here she is Burt Reynolds, drunk. We all know how that dream ends!

I hadn’t really planned on re-reading this series now since I’ve just read it in collected form, but there’s something irresistible about these comics.

But is that a true story or a dream?

In the third issue we get a longer story (well, part of a story) that seems like it’s older? It’s more scratchy… still very pretty, but very different.

OK, here even I think she’s gone too far: There’s absolutely nothing here for the eye to latch on to. It’s like a migraine on paper, and you have to make your eyes read the text by force. READ THOSE LETTERS< DAMMIT!!!1!

And here we have an ad for Dirty Plotte, which makes sense.

The fourth and final issue was possibly published in 1994, which is a couple years after the previous issue, and has to be the final thing Vortex Comics ever published. It has a different paper stock and no indicia, so I’m guessing they kinda… pushed it out there because they really wanted to, even if they were otherwise out of the comics business.

It’s a good issue graphically, but by this point there’s… four? continuing serials, all pretty surreal, and they all advance by … not very much, so it’s a frustrating read in some ways.

It’s still a pleasure to look at and it’s kinda funny.

And we get a letters page chock full of readers’ dreams. I’m not sure that’s a real dream, though. Some people!

And you could buy one of her dreadlocks if you had $300.

Those are some good-looking back covers.

So: There we are. I love how jam-packed these issues are: Smyth fills up almost every page; no house ads or anything. Now that pamphlet comics are a thing of the past (except for mainstream stuff), these are the sorts of things we don’t see in comics stores any more.

Oh, well.

J. Hagey writes in The Comics Journal #147, page 44:

Toronto artist Fiona Smyth takes great
pleasure in gently invading your dreams and
twisting them into subtle nightmares. In what
she writes, there are two texts. Text I is reac-
tive, moved by indignations, fears, unspoken re-
joinders, minor paranoias, defenses, scenes.
Text II is active, moved by pleasure. But as it
is written, corrected, accomodated to the fic-
tion of style, Text I becomes active too, where-
upon it loses its reactive skin, which subsists
only in patches (mere parenthesis).
The most important aspect a comic can have
is visual style; an immediate impact of its visuals
upon the senses can whet the reader’s mind —
not only as an onslaught to the eyes; the nose
and throat are besieged as well. Fiona Smyth
is just such a stylist.
One might suspect Smyth’s switch from her
bold painting technique to the black and white
of Nocturnal Emissions to be difficult, but she
makes the transition seem only a minor inconve-
nience. Throughout NE the artwork is charged,
firmly packed. It momentarily brings to mind
Julie Doucet’s work (but not in emulation; in-
stead, tangency). Smyth has taken that same
anarchistic, hard-polished gutter as Doucet, but
obviously careened off some fauve/surrealist
cliff. The little pictures are so dense they make
eyes bleed and senses numb. And I do not think
Smyth is sorry for what she has done.
The stories are aggressively anti-narrative in
both presentation and plot. A phenomenon
discussed at length by Roland Barthes seems to
apply. His idea of “drifting” in the text, and the
accompanying pleasure, aptly applies to Noc-
tumal Emissions. While you read along your
mind may take a tangent away from the text bas-
ed on something you’ve read. Contrary to the
usual fears that you are not “paying attention,”
Barthes claims great things can happen, liber-
ating things. The numerous distractions in each
frame of NE become the Story and the plot the
distraction. The flowing lines and the volumin-
ous abberations roam from thought to fantasy
in fabulous simplicity. If any comic illustrates
the beauty of Barthes’s “drifting” it is most cer-
tainly Smyth’s.

The first issue was presented at a gallery showing Smyth’s paintings:

Here’s a review of Somnambulence, the collected (and expanded) edition:

For those new to Smyth, it may take a few dozen pages to get with the flow of her absolutely singular vision, but once they do, I predict they’ll have a hard time putting the book down. Her thick line is extremely clean and intense, and the same is true of the visions she transcribes onto paper — the “intense” part, at any rate.

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.