Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Episode 5: Coquilles with Foie Gras

Jack’s wife’s liver

Foie gras
faux pas.
Pass on that cruel plate

Take a pass
or pass away?

I cheat when I’m reading mystery novels, skipping to the last chapter to find out whodunit. So it’s not surprising that when I go through a new script, I read all the Kitchen and Dining Room scenes first. To a food stylist, the most suspenseful part is wondering how many scenes have food. Slaying? Flaying? Betraying? Who cares…cut to the food!!!

No need for sneak-peeking at the “Coquilles” script. The forks are out in the teaser (that scene just after the titles that hooks you before you have a chance to change the channel).

But before I get into this week’s food, I want to explain that the episode that was scheduled to air as episode 4 is now being shown only on-line. It’s not being broadcast on TV so I want to show you fotos from one of its scenes wherein a family (you guessed it) mass-murdered at their dinner table. Here’s the roast they were about to dig into before their situation became so very grave:

And below, here’s the roast as it was when the bodies were discovered, weeks later - caked with blood and face-down in the soup. Faking furry mold on this dish was the most fun I’ve ever had styling a rib roast with tile grout and spray glue.
Not yummy
Now, back to “Coquille”.

During the production meeting, I get a clues of the gruesome images that our talented special effects crew will create for this episode as director Guillermo Navarro selects “heros” from the items Michael Genereaux, our property master, has assembled: gutting knives, guns, guy wires. All the props are carefully chosen to flesh out the personality of the characters who use them. Maybe you are what you eat but you are also what you wear, drive and wield…as well as that cheesy motel you stayed in last night.

“What about the severed testicles?’ asks Guillermo, scanning the display for a prop required in Scene 16.

 “Oh we can ask my wife,” deadpans Michael, “She keeps mine in her purse.”

My sketches of possible food presentations for plates and platters

The opening scene finds Hannibal and Co. enjoying a meal in the serenity of the cannibal’s elegant dining room.  A quiet moment savored slowly – sustenance before our plunge into this week’s murderous rampage: there’s madman (what, only one?) out there making angels out of men.

At Hannibal’s table, Jack’s wife, Bella refuses her plate of foie gras. She’s offended by the animal cruelty that produces the fatty liver. Well then, Bella how about a little slice of Foie de Jeune Fille which is more likely what Hannibal is serving...

Faux foie for two
Jack and Bella – Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres also married in real life, prefer not to eat real foie gras. I find this out after I have begged, pleaded and cajoled my supplier, Keir into hand-delivering enough Quebec-grown duck liver in time for me to prepare it for the shoot. (Let’s see: 2 3/8  pages of dialogue with 3 people would be about 4 takes per character plus establishing, cover shots = about 15 takes x 3 plates x 3 slices = 135 slices ÷ 20 pc/lb = 6.5 lb of foie. Food styling is more math than cooking). So on top of the real foie, I now need to make fake foie torchon for their plates. I adapt a tamale recipe for this and steam ahead.

Fresh and dried figs with pomegranates  
Foie gras is dizzyingly delicious but it is controversial. Traditionally, geese and ducks have buckets of feed repeatedly crammed down their gullets in order to engorge their livers with silky unctuous fat.  This force-feeding is quick but painful, hence the controversy. But foie gras can be produced in the natural way…humanely. Geese naturally gorge in autumn to fatten for the autumn migration and their livers get fatty and engorged – sort of like Jack as he happily gobbles down double portions of the dish.

Brioche to accompany the foie gras

OK, gather around the stove -- it's TV Dinner time: here are your recipes for this week's Cookin' with the Cannibal!

Seared Foie Gras with Plum Basil Sauce

This is a quick version of the appetizer Hannibal serves Jack and Bella. Searing foie is a much easier prep than toiling over a torchon. Hannibal serves a Fig Vidal sauce; the recipe here is Sage Plum Berry.
Serves 4 generous appetizer portions

½ lobe           duck foie gras  (about ½ lb)
¼ cup            flour
to taste          sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp             butter
optional         balsamic vinegar glacé

1. Remove foie from refrigerator and let stand 30 minutes or just until pliable. Using the tip of a knife, carefully cut out veins and discard, keeping liver intact. Cut in ½-inch slices. Dredge in flour and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to sear and serve.
2. Ten minutes before serving, heat sauté pan over high heat. Add butter and, just as butter browns, add 5 or 6 slices of foie to the pan – do not crowd them. Sear quickly, just til browned on both sides. The slices will release some fat but should still be rare in the middle. Repeat with remaining slices.
3. Drizzle with reduced balsamic glacé. Serve immediately with Sage Plum Berry Sauce and toasted brioche.

Sage Plum Berry Sauce

1 cup         fruity red wine
½ cup        cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp       red wine vinegar
3                prune plums pitted and cut in quarters
2                red plums pitted and cut in sixths
1 cup         blueberries
2 sprigs     fresh sage
½ tsp         orange zest

1. In a small saucepan, reduce wine over high heat to half-volume. Stir in cramberry sauce and vinegar. Add plum chunks, blueberries, sage and orange zest. Reduce heat to low and simmer until plums are softened but not mushy.
2. Serve cool if with seared foie gras or warm if with torchon slices.

Foie Gras au Torchon

This takes time and effort but the smooth texture is really worth it. Don't overcook it or you will be left with a sad tiny piece of liver and a big pool of duck fat. If you have a sous vide cooker, this is the time to bring it out.

½ lobe    duck foie gras (about ½ lb)
1 cup      Madeira, port or brandy

1. Marinate liver in Madeira in a zip-lock plastic bag overnight. Remove liver and pat dry. Allow to soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Remove veins with the tip of sharp knife. Keep the liver intact. Using a clean linen towel, (that’s the “torchon” part – French for towel) roll the liver, using the towel to press it into a cylinder shape about 2 inches in diameter. Pull away the towel and wrap the liver in plastic wrap, rolling it tightly in 4 or 5 layers. Twist the ends closed and tie tightly with kitchen string. Wrap again with a few more layers of plastic wrap to seal the liver in a watertight casing.
2. Over high heat, bring water to boil in a pot large enough to contain the liver roll. Reduce heat to maintain a water temperature of 130°. Put liver roll in water and poach for 20 minutes. Remove and refrigerate at least 4 hours until firm. Peel off plastic wrap and cut liver in ½-inch slices. Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with balsamc glacé. Serve cold with warm Sage Plum Berry Sauce and brioche toast. 

Lamb Fries 
Because someone is careless and loses his testicles in Scene 16.
And because you may only have one pair of testicles but you can't have too many testicle recipes. 

Tenderly chewy in texture and tasting like lamb-ish sweetbreads, these are deep-fried and actually, pretty tasty. (Well, no big surprise -- anything deep-fried is delicious. Especially with a side of French-fried potatoes and – might as well do some while the oil is hot – onion rings.) Confession: I didn’t have time to test this recipe (will edit this post when I do) – so I’m not sure of quantities but you can use this recipe as a guideline. As is often the case in life, the size of your testicles will determine in part how it all pans out.

I pair           lamb’s testicles
2 Tbsp        flour for dredging
1                 egg yolk with water added to yield ½ cup
¾ cup         Panko Japanese breadcrumbs or other soft breadcrumb
¼ tsp           salt
                   lemon wedges

                   oil for deep-frying

1. Heat oil to 375º
2. Cut testicles in ½-inch slices and peel off and discard the thin membrane. Dredge in flour. Several slices at a time, dip slices in yolk mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside on cookie sheet until all slices are coated.
3. Deep-fry in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges.
Bone appetit!


  1. Ok, it is driving me insane, can you please tell me what were the additional ingredients used on the torchon plates that made it in the episode? One was a white ball with suction caps all over, looked like an exotic sea urchin/ weird mushroom/ flower? And underneath it, there was another white-ivory piece, almost emanating from the weirdly beautiful ball, it has ridges at one end which made me think of teeth on a piece of human jaw. I really don't know how to describe it, it seemed to have the consistency of an oyster mushroom or a very delicate piece of sole fish.
    Please put me out of my misery, I've been looking everywhere!
    I'm so glad I called the feathers! People said I was crazy.

    1. That white ball is a dried flower decoration made from wood peelings of a tapioca plant. It's called a Sola Crepe Ball. I thought it looked mushroomy too. The other piece is an animal jawbone that the set decorator brought in - we figured it's a from a fox. And yes, you've got a good eye -- those were feathers flying out of petals of ornamental kale.

    2. Ahha! That's awesome. I was wondering the same thing!


  2. Thanks for letting us behind the curtain! Any chance you'd post the faux fois gras recipe?

  3. It's a tamale recipe but I wrapped the dough up (without filling) in plastic wrap instead of a corn husk and added food coloring to match the colour of the real foie. You've given me a good idea for a future post ... recipes for food styling fakes.

  4. I'm so glad I Google-stalked you from the NBC tumbler account to this blog! I absolutely love the show for the story and now I'm even more enthralled because of your plates. Looking forward to more dishes to come!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to find my Feeding Hannibal blog. I must remember to send out a Hannibal hashtagged tweet when I post these blogs but after writing the recipes, I'm usually hungry so I head immediately to the kitchen for something to eat instead of following up! Next episode Hannibal is serving Lamb Tongues en Papillotte with duxelles.

  5. Loving these insights into the making of the series. Watched episode four twice now, once as webisode and the full cut and the eggs in the pan for the eggs and sausage, was there something special about them? I couldn't catch if it was a particular recipe or cooking method, they looked very well cooked and fluffy but with the runny yolks...? Can you enlighten us?

  6. Those were High Life Eggs - a recipe created by Angel Muro who in the 19th century, wrote "Practicon" the Spanish equivalent to Escoffier's "Ma Cuisine". Sound pretty haute? Nope. They're just Egg-inna-Hole, but shallow-fried. Cut a hole in a slice of brioche, place in a hot pan with 1/4 inch of olive oil. Drop an egg in the hole, fry til the white is semi-set, flip over and fry the other side. I used twisted brioche buns for a more voluptuous look. Pan-fried in a bit of butter not swimming in olive oil. Also sprinkled some paprika, fried onions and parsley on top of the egg for colour. I think that scene was reshot three times on different days -- we made those eggs so many times we started calling them Low-Ebb Eggs.

    1. I love the site, the sketches and the amazingly detailed food. Fantastic! One question: I've tracked down El Practicon. What is the name of High Life Eggs in Spanish?

    2. Funny thing -- they're called High Life. I spend hours looking for Huevos Buena Vida.

  7. I fell in love with Hannibal's beautifully ritualistic approach to cooking and (yes, even) ingredient sourcing, and then, saw the silkie chicken soup he clucked out from under a dripping tupperware lid for poor Will, which led me to a hunt of the food aspect of the show, which has led me to your fabulous blog! Thank you for all the weird and wonderful and visually sensual food scenes in the show!
    I like the idea of fake meat dishes, for the fun and cleverness of it, and the reminder to us that fantastic food need not be meat based. My favourite fake meat dish is a mock duck stew I had as a child, served over some fried vermicelli. The mock duck was made of mushrooms and beautifully savoury and textural. But visually, certainly nothing like how your take on it would look!
    I'm home sick right now, and waiting on mom to bring over some herbal chicken soup. Believe me, I requested a black chicken soup, but we don't have them readily available here in Australia.
    Onward, as I wind my way through your posts back to episode 1... thanks for the ride, Janice!

    1. Hope the life-saving soup cured you - I like to think my Silkie soup helped Will to "visualize" the truth about Hannibal in the final episode - although I fear for his mortality in Season 2 -It is is not really a good career move to challenge a serial killer whose name is the title of the show.

  8. Love your blog. And the show. With Halloween around the corner I was wondering if you could explain how you were able to get the mold effect on the roast. It'd be really fun to recreate that effect for some decoration ideas I have.

    1. Yikes- replying just barely in time for Halloween - but alas, the "mould" was not edible (made from tile grout, cotton balls, flocking fuzz and plaster of Paris). You could try using candy floss (I've seen it sold by the bag - comes in blue ) and pull it apart gently using a couple of forks and lay it down on the food in fluffs not letting it touch anything wet or it will melt. Or maybe use instant mashed potato flakes and sprinkle them on the food in the areas you are "moulding" then spritz them with warm water you have coloured with blue and black food colouring. That might work. I'd love to see what you end up doing - send photos to and I will post them on a new page I'm compiling of Hannibal food people have made from my recipes and their own. Have fun!

  9. In episode 4 when Hannibal is feeding jack at the dinner table, telling him he needs to bring Bella by for dinner, What does he feed him. i can't find a post about it. I can't make out what he say completely but it sounds like "a modified boud amoix from alabas gastromy pratique" clearly I have no idea what he said but what is that food? It's white with a yellow top and looks like some shells beside it? Thank you, love the blog!

    1. The modified boudin noir is a dark(hence the noir for black) blood sausage, with rabbit(human, actually) as the substituted meat. Ali-Bab is the pen name used by the engineer Henri Babinski.

      Unfortunately, Hannibal does not define anything else on the plate. Hopefully Janice Poon can fill us in on it.

    2. It would appear to be some sort of potato pavé.

    3. Thanks, Sound Insect and Steve for answering Christine while I was in the weeds. You are both right, of course. Gastronomie Pratique is a wonderful classic cookbook written by "Ali-bab". The little white puck is potato, leek and cheddar pave -- one of my favourite ways to make potatoes.

  10. Hello Janice, big fan of the blog, I love to see how much effort actually goes into the show itself and just seeing the sheer amount of work that goes into the food alone gives the show a big boost. On the otherhand the figs on Hannibal's Foie Gras au Torchon look exemplary, how did you manage to dry them and make them look so elegant and just downright brilliant?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Also in reference to cooking the sauce, may one substitute the fruity red wine for a late harvest vidal as Hannibal says in the script?

  11. Yes! Always a good idea to experiment when you are cooking and add your own touches to recipes.


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