Meals for Monsters: APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (2001)

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (2001)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

The first time I saw APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) was in high school.  I went to a friend’s house while it was playing, and I saw the last half hour.  Needless to say, I was bewildered but intrigued.  Once I finally saw the whole thing and had some context for the ending, it became one of my favorite films.  Then in 2001, a recut version aptly titled APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX was released to theaters.  I went to a late showing on opening night.  It was a full house, the air conditioning was busted, and I was seated next to someone with serious digestive issues.  Still, those three hours were some of the best I have ever spent inside a movie house.

For those of you who reside under a rock, APOCALYPSE NOW is Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness.”  In Coppola’s version, Captain Willard is in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.  He is sent with four sailors down the Nung River to assassinate a Colonel Kurtz.  Once one of the best and brightest of the army, Kurtz has gone rogue and rumored to be building his own nation of primitive warriors. The farther Willard and his men travel, the farther they sink into both the darkness of war and of the human psyche.  By the time Willard has found his prey, nothing good or innocent has survived, and he must answer the question, “Was it worth it?”

The REDUX  version adds almost an hour of footage.  There are amusing scenes, talky scenes, and considerably more sex.  While this contributes little to the basic plot, it makes the characters more real.  In the original, they were barely more than archetypes.  In the recut, they have complex personalities and resemble true people.  Their added humanity makes the ultimate ending much more powerful.

And what says “the heart of darkness” better than a light, fruity drink?

Actually, the inspiration for this cocktail is twofold: first is the delicious limeade served at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.  Secondly, I was surprised to learn how much vodka is produced in Vietnam.  Hence:

NUNG RIVER WATER

Ingredients:
6 oz limeade
6 oz coconut juice
1 shot vodka

Directions:
Pour all three ingredients into a tumbler.  Mix well.  If you can’t find Vietnamese vodka, any brand will do.

****

Pho, a traditional beef soup, is one of the most popular street foods in Vietnam.  It takes extra time to prepare, but is worth it to build a more complex flavor and, ultimately, a better meal.  Sounds familiar…

PHO

Ingredients:
Two pounds beef soup bones
3 onions, peeled and halved
1 head garlic, halved
6 inches of ginger root, halved
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp peppercorns
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Either 3 tubs concentrated beef stock and 14 cups water OR 3 quarts beef broth and 2 cups water
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 to 1 ½ pounds boneless beef ribs
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pkg rice noodles

OPTIONAL: sliced jalapenos, basil leaves, limes, bean sprouts, cilantro

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450.  Toss the first four ingredients in the oil and put on a rimmed baking sheet.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Put in a very large pot.

Toast the peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and coriander for three minutes in a dry sauté pan.  Add to pot.

Pour in the liquid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and let simmer for 2 and a half hours.  Strain the liquid well.

(All this can be done the night before and put in the refrigerator.  In fact, if you do so, you can skim off the fat once it’s cooled and solidified on the top.  If you don’t have the time to make this ahead of time, not a problem.  Just skim off as much fat as you can).

Freeze the meat for three hours.  It will be slightly hardened, but not totally frozen.  This makes it easier to slice.  Cut the meat as thin as you can.

Bring the broth to a rapid boil.  In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil for the noodles.  Only cook them 10 to 60 seconds, depending on the width of the noodles.  You want them floppy but not cooked all the way through.

When the broth is boiling, stir in the sliced meat and onions.  The beef, if sliced thin enough, will cook almost immediately.  Put the noodles into bowls and top with the soup.

Depending on your tastes, garnish with basil leaves, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts or jalapeno slices.

****

Not only are meringue cookies popular in Vietnam, but they came to mind with one of the longer additions to the REDUX cut—the “French Plantation” sequence.   And, as long as you’ve got limes left over from dinner:

LIME MERINGUE COOKIES

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 ¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Zest from 2 limes.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a cookie sheet.

Whip the egg whites on high for about 3 minutes, or until good and foamy (I would definitely recommend using either a hand or stand mixer, as your wrist will be in serious pain by the time you are done).

Slowly add the sugar while mixing, and continue mixing for another three minutes.

Fold in the remaining ingredients until just combined.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet (they will spread, so leave room between cookies) and bake for 12 minutes.

****

APOCALYPSE NOW  is one of the few times I liked the movie better than the book.  Granted, it’s been over a decade since I last read it.  The main thing I remember is how dry Conrad’s writing was.  The movie, on the other hand, has fascinating characters, amazing visuals, and a pace that doesn’t leave you bored (quite a feat for a three hour plus film).  If you have never seen it, stop reading this column and go rent it.  If you have, hopefully these recipes will bring new life to this classic.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

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