Hello there and welcome back! If you are reading this, I am assuming Frank and Claire did not have you put on ice. This week’s entry will be a little less depressing, a lot more hip (I can say that because I am 40 and therefore NOT hip) and with none of the grilling cheats.
For this week’s entry, we are going to combine the Netflix original program Master of None with Alabama’s own ‘St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ (it will make sense later). We will also be cooking some Salmon and Pasta in honor of Ariz Ansari’s character Dev and Dev’s love for all things Italian.
I think you are really going to enjoy this entry. Master of None definitely has an argument for best show on television and while I am not quite ready to quite call Ansari an Auteur, I would not be surprised if he someday won an Oscar for directing.
The three drinks this week will all be easy. Wine in a can is a new trend and is helping change the conventional thinking and delivery system of its industry (give The Hills Downtown a shot). The same can be said for Netflix because it is producing and distributing quality products, such as Master of None, much to the dismay of the traditional television industry.
For the prep, I recommend Underwood Pinot Noir:
Oregon wines have been über popular for the past few years, with the Underwood Pinot leading the way. Fruit forward with a medium body and a hint of spice, it deserves the praise it receives. However, be careful as the volume is equal to half of a bottle of wine.
Master of None Pasta:
This sauce is somewhere between a Piccata and a Marsala and is my own creation. It uses the lemon from a Piccata and the white wine from a Marsala, and the protein is not fried in a pan. This dish is easy to make and I am sure it can be tailored to your individual taste. For example, you may want to grill the Salmon as opposed to baking it, which I plan on doing next time.
- 1 lb salmon filets from Frank’s Seafood
- 5 oz cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 lb linguine
- 10 asparagus stalks
- 1 small onion diced
- 5 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup Pinot Grigio
- 1 14 ounce can beef stock/broth
- Parmesan cheese
- Chopped or dried parsley
- Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoons butter
- balsamic vinaigrette
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Add olive oil, garlic and onion to preheated pan
- Stir until onions start to brown
- Stir in flour and mix for 3 minutes
- Stir in wine and bring to boil
- Reduce heat to low and add stock/broth
- Stir often
After the sauce has completed:
- Spread 1/2 tablespoon of butter over each salmon filet and top filet with breadcrumbs
- Insert filet into oven and cook for 25 minutes
- Bring pot of water to boil and cook noodles
- Top asparagus with vinaigrette and put in oven after salmon has been baking for 10 minutes
- After noodles have cooked thoroughly, strain and add to sauce pan
- Cover noodles and stir occasionally
- Remove asparagus and salmon after completion
- Add quartered asparagus to sauce
Putting it all together:
- Plate noodles
- Top noodles with salmon
- Add halved tomatoes
- Sprinkle desired amount of cheese
- Top with a pinch of parsley
- Squeeze quartered lemon on top of dish for taste
I wish I had grilled the salmon or at least finished it in the broiler. You also do not have to add tomatoes (Megan did not) and you could leave the asparagus whole and serve as a side.
For dinner, I recommend the Underwood Pinot Grigio:
It is dry, but not too dry and will pair nicely with the salmon.
I really can not say enough good things about Aziz Ansari and Master of None. Season 1 was great, but season 2 made a stratospheric leap forward. Master of None is topical, diverse and smart and paints an honest and contemporary portrait of America.
If you are not familiar, Master of None is the brainchild of creator Aziz Ansari. Ansari plays Dev. Dev is hip, smart and young, lives in New York City, and is trying to break into the acting industry. He is also trying to find the right woman, which provides much of the drama, humor and human element in both seasons. Along the way he faces barriers and set backs, but handles them with dignity and wit.
Dev primarily has two best friends who accompany him in his journey. They are:
Arnold Baumheiser (Eric Wareheim) – Arnold is Dev’s best friend and partner in crime. The two have a classic ‘bromance’, are each others wingmen and spend a lot of time eating together. Arnold’s layered character is fancies himself a ladies man, is a giant teddy bear and provides much of the comic relief.
Denise (Lena Waithe) – Denise is Dev’s best friend from childhood. She is also an intelligent, black lesbian. Denise and Dev also serve as each other’s sounding boards and know each other in the way only people who have been friends since childhood can. One of the best episodes of Season 2 is based on the heartfelt story of how Waithe came out to her mother.
On this trip of self discovery, the trio commiserate on love, loss, food and what it means to be a single thirty-something adult. Some episodes focus on the difficulty of living up to societal expectations, while others focus on disagreeing with parents about religious practices. The moral of the story is that no matter your age or background, parents loom larger than life and guilt (whether deserved or not) about ‘disappointing’ them is universal.
Ansari is credited co-writing every episode in season 2 and directed the first two and last two episodes of the season, including episode 9 – the penultimate 58 minute (as opposed to 30 minute) episode of the season. Ansari incorporated many shots familiar to Italian film making and the series is richer for this influence.
Other clever episodes include plots where Dev takes different first dates to the same bar/restaurant. The phone app dating culture is mocked in this episode as Dev finds his date on the app while they are at dinner. Other women Dev encounters in this situation are a woman who is professional wrestling aficionado, a woman who loves cocaine, a woman who is completely inebriated and worst of all – a woman who is rude to wait staff.
Not being THAT far removed from the dating scene, I can relate to most of these situations as dating in you thirties is a mine field, which I believe Ansari was trying to relay in this episode. If you are single and dating in your thirties – much love and hang in there. If you are the parent or friend of a person in this situation, be supportive and show a little empathy. It is a difficult place to be in and I guarantee your loved one will appreciate your support.
The music that Ansari has chosen for this season also deserves recognition. The music is as diverse as the cast and fits seamlessly into each scene. Some standout selections are:
- ‘Can You Stand The Rain‘ by New Edition
- ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye‘ by Soft Cell
- ‘Time After Time‘ by Step by Step
- ‘You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing)‘ by Frankie Valli and The Four Season
- ‘I Can’t Let It Happen To You‘ by The Walker Brothers
- ‘Only God Can Judge Me‘ by Tupac Shakur
British Invasion, R&B, Synth Pop, Reggae, Doo Wop, 1970’s Slow Rock, and Hard-Core Rap? Sign me up.
Speaking of Music, let’s have a night cap.
I recommend sticking with the cans and opening up some Underwood bubbly:
Keep this one refrigerated, split it with a friend and warm up your turntable.
I picked St. Paul and The Broken Bones because they are unique and don’t check just any one box. Based out of Alabama, this band of R&B/Soul Rockers have a look and sound that predates their album release. If I HAD to think of a comparison, I would ask you to imagine Al Green fronting Sam & Dave.
I was first turned onto them on an episode of Austin City Limits, and have been a fan ever since. The band has A LOT of Soul and some serious R&B chops. The musicians are all talented and front man Paul Janeway is one of the most charismatic, energetic touring artists today. St. Paul and The Broken Bones are a force of nature and should be respected as such.
St. Paul has released two albums (Single Lock Records) – Half The City and Sea of Noise – and both are great. Feel free to pick any track of off either album, but start with their breakout hit ‘Call Me‘. I predict you will not be disappointed. I also predict that you will have difficulty remaining seated while listening.
I feel like this band would have been a natural fit into either season of Master of None. Eclectic, smart and influenced by a lot of great artists, Master of None and St. Paul & The Broken Bones are part of the same family. PLEASE check out both.
That should about do it for this week’s installment. I hope you like pasta and salmon and the diverse influences that are permeating into our contemporary culture – which is just a fancy way of me trying to sound cool.
ADDITIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS:
- Angela Basset is always great, stars in the Thanksgiving episode and was nominated for a guest star Emmy. I ran across this article this morning. Check it out if you have a few minutes.
- Bobby Cannavale takes a guest turn as an Anthony Bourdain type television chef and steals a lot of scenes. He and Ansari have great chemistry and I hope Cannavale returns for season 3.
- The episode New York, I Love You tells the tale of four intertwined stories: Dev and his crew, doormen at an exclusive New York apartment building, a sexually frustrated deaf couple and a group of immigrant cab drivers. It is an extremely entertaining episode and the end is executed perfectly.
- Ansari should also get credit for being the first (at least to my knowledge) Muslim lead in a popular American television program. He certainly has his finger on the pulse of his generation and his film making and messages takes brains, guts and character.
- Italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi plays Dev’s friend and potential love interest Francesca. She is beautiful and talented and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in more American projects.
- Watch St. Paul’s Tiny Desk Concert. They fight first and ask questions later.