Jack’s wife’s liver
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.
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 en 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.
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
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.