The Film: 36 Quai des Orfèvres [36th Precinct]
Gritty, violent, and intriguing. Inspired by real events and stories from his time as a cop writer/director Olivier Marchal’s experiences bring a thick layer of reality to the script.
Pitted against each other, two giants of French film Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu play rival cops vying for the same promotion. This seemingly simple conflict becomes the match that lights the dynamite plot. The story demands your attention but makes it worthwhile with engrossing setups and payoffs. It is intensely, and artfully directed with the sensation of a page-turner.
The most impressive thing is it manages to never make the characters seem like movie cops. It feels solid. The world of the script is complete, even the small characters have large roles. The story itself is worth the recommendation. I haven’t seen a film like it since Heat. Masculine, intelligent, suspenseful. Add to that the grounded acting, the sharp directing make it a dramatic action-thriller tour de force.
There are two great scenes that showcase the directing, the heist on the highway and the emotional police ceremony. The ending of the film is a great showcase for the acting and the dramatic motivation to the plot becomes a great story of it’s own toward the end. Sometimes, there’s just nothing like a dark, solid film. And this is it.
(As a bonus, on the disc there is an interview with Marchal and a wardrobe test which is interesting but the crème de la crème of extras is the visit to a real life arsenal to procure weapons for the film. In the short piece Marchal and his team discuss which gun would be good for which character — a great insight into filmmaking. And it’s hilarious too.)
The Food: Mendiants
As a part of the late night Christmas Eve dinner le réveillon, 13 desserts represent Christ and his apostles. There are many items to pick from, both the sweet and the savory. The mendiant is a disc of chocolate with nuts and dried fruits which represent monastic orders.
Since I didn’t think I could get my hands on the white and dark nougat, I used white and dark chocolate. And since I only felt it necessary to reference the traditional recipe, I didn’t use the traditional toppings. Instead, I candied my own ginger, lemon, orange, and tangerine peel. I used almonds on the white chocolate and hazelnuts on the dark. I also used dried cranberries on some and golden raisins on others.
I won’t lie, I don’t know a thing about working with chocolate. Two years ago I made Nigella Lawson’s Christmas puddini bonbons. They were amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed melting the chocolate and creating the little pudding replicas. That was the extent of my experience working with chocolate. I did learn a few harsh lessons but when I saw the recipe for the mendiant I couldn’t resist. I’m glad I didn’t.
Parchment paper worked fine for me, no sticking issues at all. The entire dessert did take quite some time but most of that was preparing the toppings. I didn’t candy the ginger and citrus peel in the usual way, however. I added the peel in a small sauce pan, a little water, a little sugar. Boiled it on low until the liquid was nearly gone, then tossed it in some more sugar. The recipes I read talked about blanching the peel and cooking it for 45 minutes+. I, personally, like the zip of the peel. I don’t need it to taste like orange sugar. So while my method was a bit rough, it resulted in a nice pop of taste.
Though I must admit, I mostly winged it — here is a recipe from Dessert First who has great tips on working with chocolate and how to make the mendiants.
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Melt and temper
1 pound bittersweet chocolate
Drop small spoonfuls of tempered chocolate onto the baking sheets. The chocolate should spread out into circles; use the spoon to fix any misshapen rounds. Gently place on each chocolate round
1 cup dried fruits and nuts
Place baking sheets in refrigerator to let mendiants set, 15 to 20 minutes. Store in an airtight container between layers of wax paper in the refrigerator for up to one week.