Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Episode 10 Naka choko

Cat and mouse.

Claw.  Tooth.  Fang.

When mouse becomes mouser
and brings its catch
to drop at the feet of its master

Mouser becomes master.

    This episode is named for Naka choko, a course in a Kaiseki dinner. It is a citrusy soup that cleanses the palate to refresh the overexcited taste buds and make the diner ready to receive the completely new sensations that will be offered in the following final courses.

     I am on tenderhooks awaiting the next draft of the script of this episode. I’m fascinated by the unfolding drama with Margot and Mason Verger. And with all these mad killer pigs running around, there’s bound to be a suckling roast on the menu...eventually.
My first concept sketch after reading the production draft script. Before the changes. At first, Hannibal refuses Mason's offer of a freshly killed pig from his man-eating herd. This gets rewritten so I deal with the pig roasting later....

More redhead jokes

Lara Jean has a sly smile carrying the Carrot top slaw. Her hat matches the sea urchin shell.
    The production draft has some irresistible “chopping the ginger” lines that have me very worried about the mortality of Freddie Lounds. I have always liked her blunt honesty and her nerves of steel. I have a recurring mental image of her hurtling off a loading dock strapped in her wheelchair engulfed in flame. But that’s just me. When I see LJ on set, I think BBQ. But no worries – even after almost 2 seasons of shooting Hannibal, I have not yet become a psycho-empathetic. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m just saying, Freddie’s fate hangs in the balance in this episode but I remember how many episodes it took for Beverly to finally meet her baker, so I’m not firing up the barbecue just yet.

Food sex food sex food

    My first food scene on the schedule is a tense “menu a trois” between Will, Alana and Hannibal featuring a little piglet that didn’t get away. Roast suckling pig, of course.
Metamorphosis: Lotus chip and skeleton leaf "butterfly wings" in a peach half "body" with red onion "claws"

   I love suckling pig. I roast my first when I was about 13. My eldest brother had gone off to chef’s school and on his weekends home, he would teach me some of the things he had learned. We made textbook things like “Chicken Cordon Bleu” and “Steak Diane”.  Then one weekend he decided we should make a Roast Suckling Pig. Whaaat? But we got right down to it, trussing the thing up and readying it for the oven. It was simple to make—he showed me a few tricks of the trade like putting crumpled tinfoil inside the belly so the pig would sit upright. And a ball of foil in its mouth to be swapped out later for an apple. And foil-wrapping its tail and ears to keep them from burning. When it emerged from the oven it had a tan that would have impressed George Hamilton. It looked like a sculpture and tasted fantastic – crispy skin and velvety textured meat of the most delicate flavour. It was a revelation to me. After that, nothing would seem too difficult to attempt.
Getting ready for the retakes: A line-up of spider butterflies scraping blood onto the plates

But back to Hannibal.

     The evening before the suckling pig shoot, the script changed. Of course. The scene was originally mid-meal, (we always love a mid-meal scene - the resets are so simple) But now, Hannibal is to bring out the whole roast and then cut it up to serve to Alana and Will.  Sounds good if you are a script writer. Sounds bad if you are a food stylist. Do I roast 7 or 8 pigs so Mads can have a fresh one to carve for each new take? No. I just can’t go there. It is not easy – even for Mads – to carve a whole pig without making a giant mess all over his gorgeous mahogany table. And it’s just a little late for me to get – much less roast – seven identically sized piglets. The director and the prop master are worried about how Mads is going to carve and serve whole pig with ease for the many re-takes.

The director loves the idea!
     This sets my head spinning but luckily, my racing mind trips and falls into the Mud Puddle of Bright Ideas: I realize if I hollow out the saddle of the roast pig and fill it with rice pilaf and pre-cut cubes of crackling and pork, it will simplify the resets. Mads can simply wheel the rice-stuffed roast into the dining room and ladle out the servings. Then all we have to do for resets is refill the same pig with more rice and pork cubes over and over and over.

     I send this idea out to the heads of Departments and everyone is happy.
Roast suckling pig stuffed with rice crawling with langoustine and spilling sausages on a cart of fruit

When pigs fly…

     Except me --  I just don’t have an oven big enough for a 40 lb roly-poly pig – the size I need to make biggest visual impact on screen. So I call up Bernard, my elfin 92-yr-old “lechon” maker and he agrees to roast me up a fat piglet. Well, two. Always back up your work – it wouldn’t be the first time a roast suckling pig broke his crispy little ears off flying across my car’s dashboard in a sudden stop.
Piggie on set being made into a serving bowl
     On the day of the shoot, prep is unusually dissonant –just next to my work tables, the Theremin instructor is teaching Mads and Caroline how to play the instrument. If you have ever endured the sounds of a person earning to play the violin, multiply the earache by five and that’s two people learning to play the Theremin. Add to that the sound of steady hacking as my cleaver chops up the roast piggies and you have an oddly unsettling auditory snapshot.

Carrot top Slaw emerging from a sea urchin shell stabbed with porcupine quills and wreathed with hydrangea stems and spider mums

Hannibal: “Will, you slice the ginger”

     Will’s answer, “I already have” was dropped from the early script but when Hannibal and Will cook their first “I know it’s people” meal together, can you doubt that it’s Freddie?

     Maybe it is...why else would I make Carrot Top Cold Slaw wreathed with bloodless white flowers....
Of course I got help with the carrot curls from Lara Jean's on set Hair stylist, 
     Or maybe it’s just a red herring…which I hint at with a platter of Red Snapper in Singing Rice with crispy skin. 

Red Snapper with crisped snapper skin on singing rice
My clue to you is the fan of porcupine quills: the quill is mightier than the sword.      
Lomo Saltado with spicy curly fries, the writer's quills and carrot slaw

Want Fries with that rice?

Long before Wolfgang Puck popularized Asian fusion, Lomo Saltado was invented in Peru by Chinese slaves brought in to work the sugar plantations and guano mines (and you thought you had a shit job…) They blended stir-fry and rice with yellow potatoes and peppers to create a favorite that is cooked up daily in Peruvian homes and Chifas (Chinese-Peruvian restaurants). Made from soy-marinated beef sautéed with onions, tomatoes and yellow Aji peppers, it’s topped with French fried potatoes and served over rice. Double carbs and deep fried? How could it not become a classic? Of course, I add a dash of Freddie and use Spicy Curly Fries as homage to her hair.
baby corn and baby purple, yellow and Roman cauliflower in a horn

a bit of the script

And now to the kitchen for the cook-along pig:

     Two recipes this week – since you may not want to wrestle a 20-lb pig into your 8-lb baking tray, I’m also giving a recipe for Lomo Saltado which will fit into a pan of any size.

Roast Suckling Pig

     This looks hard but is really easy. The hardest part is getting a pan to fit the pig to fit your oven. You could try putting two shallow sided pans side by side and covering them as one with several layers of tinfoil. The pig you can get by calling an Italian butcher or a local farm that raises organic pigs. 

1 Tbsp dried rubbed rosemary,
1 Tbsp dried rubbed Italian branch oregano
1 tsp. rubbed dried sage
2 Tbsp coarse sea salt

1 suckling pig, about 15 to 20 lb (or to fit your oven)

2 Oranges halved
1 Lemon, halved
4 shallots, halved

1.  Preheat oven to 300°F and line the baking pan with parchment or foil.
2.  In a small bowl or large mortar, mix together rosemary, oregano, sage and salt.
3.  With a large heavy knife such as a cleaver, make a vertical slash through the skin and meat of the pig’s neck along the vertebrae between the shoulder blades ( about 4 inches long) This is to keep the skin from cracking when it browns and crisps. Turn pig over and sprinkle herb-salt mixture liberally in the chest cavity and rub onto the entire interior surface.
4.  Place the pig on its side on the baking pan and stuff the chest cavity with the orange, lemon and shallots. Pig should be room temperature at this point to ensure even cooking.
3.   Place in oven and roast for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, basting occasionally, then turn the pig over on its other side being careful not to tear the skin. Roast for an additional 1 ½  hours or until thermometer reads 150°F. Baste occasionally. Skin should be very soft and meat just undercooked at this point.Turn the oven up to 450°F. If possible, turn the pig so it is sitting upright. Roast for another 45 min to 1 hr or until skin is golden brown and crisp. (Total roasting time about 12-15 minutes per pound)

6. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least an hour before serving.

Lomo Saltado

Will used “Long pork” for this. Peruvians use beef. You can substitute chicken strips or Portobello mushrooms for the beef in this recipe. 

For four portions served over steamed rice

12 oz sirloin steak cut in strips ¼ “ x ¼ “ x 2 “
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger, optional
½ tsp crushed cumin seeds, optional
3 Tbsp oil
½ red onion, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, in thin wedges
1 Tbsp aji sauce or other hot pepper sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen spicy French fried potatoes
2 – 3 sprigs cilantro, chopped

1. In a small bowl, mix steak strips, vinegar, soy, Worchestershire. garlic, ginger and cumin. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Heat Spicy Fries in oven as per instructions on the bag. Keep warm in oven.

3. In a large frying pan or wok over high, heat pan til very hot. Add 1 Tbsp oil and onions. Stir-fry on high heat until onion slices have browned in places and are turning translucent. Do not overcook – they should still be slightly crisp. Return pan to heat and add 1 Tbsp oil and half of the beef slices. Do not crowd the pan or meat will not brown. Stir-fry for 2 – 4 minutes or until meat has browned but still medium-rare. Add meat to bowl of fried onions and repeat with remaining oil and beef.  With a paper towel, wipe pan clean of juices. Repeat with oil and meat. Add tomatoes and aji sauce to hot pan and stir-fry until skin starts to peel away and tomatoes start to release their juices. Add beef and onions back into the pan and mix well until heated through. Add hot French fries and toss until everything is well coated with the juices. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve over steamed rice. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Next week: Ortolan: Several little birds will sing no more...

And now, more fantastic Hannidinner cook-alongs: 

You've been busy cooking but not too busy to share with other hungry readers by sending me ( photos of your creations inspired by my Hannibal recipes!

Joshua adds to the circle of inspiration
Here's a photo sent a few months ago by Joshua, a French-Canadian taking fashion in France. He said my Hannibal dinners inspired this photo he shot for an assignment. This episode's plates show how his photo inspired me right back. Hannibal thanks Joshua!

Raja K masters the trout-tail fold!!!!!
Raja wrote: ...stuffed the trout with garlic and onion, fresh basil and rosemary, lots of butter and cooked it on a frying pan for a short while. I then placed it in the oven to get the whole fish to cook. It came out HEAVENLY DELICIOUS.

John N's pork roast came out moist and looks utterly delicious, Hannibal style!
 John wrote: Every week we get the family together for dinner and the latest episode.  I thought I would share one of my creations: Pork loin with a raspberry sauce, rosemary bread, and a spinach kale salad. 
Everybody loves Hannibal's Huevos and here's Evren's yummy late-night version
Evren the daughter of a food photographer I've grown up seeing food stylists work   Huevos High Life with some brioche loaf slices and tomatoes for a cheeky midnight snack.

Vegard from Norway made this - check his cucumber feather garnish...beautiful
Vegard writes: inspired by liver omelette from Suziikana. Very similar to the one in the episode, but with a different garnish (cucumber leaves and tomato roses to go with the tomato salsa). The filling is chopped chicken livers glaced in concentrated meat stock, herbs, spinach and potato. Quite delicious! 

Tee, shocking and rocking the supermarket says: people kinda freaked when I asked for live fish--gotta settle with just the "fresh" ones and not live ones...also made scallop quenelles 
Tee W made trout and baby octopus - here's her luscious photography of that dish!

Thanks again for sharing all those lovely pictures!

All content copyright Janice Poon 2014 unless otherwise noted


  1. Seeing as how the show is set in the Chesapeake region, and also that winter should be coming to an end soon, is there any chance that Hannibal might cook up some shad roe? Seems like the sort of thing he'd love: rich, scarce, and not for the squeamish.

    1. Shad roe is a good idea! I'll have to try to incorporate it next season. the weirdly sausage-like roe sacs are creepy and delicious! Mabe Will can send him some in an unmarked brown package.

    2. I'll be on the lookout for it! I prepared it for the first time this spring, and it was almost too rich--almost. Hannibal seems as though he could go on at length about the symbolism in eating countless eggs--potential lives--from a fish whose flesh is too inconvenient for most to eat.

      Thank you putting so much effort and inspiration into both the food on the show and these glimpses into the process.

    3. Thanks for the symbolism ideas. I think shad roe has a lot of literary references too. Like Leopold Bloom eating them in Ulysses and I remember making them for an episode of Rex Stout's detective stories "Nero Wolf"

  2. So impressive, all the fan's food styling too! Loved Tee's dishes :)

    1. It's great to see how inspired so many people are! I love seeing these photos of what everyone is making!

  3. This is so interesting to know what goes on behind the scenes, as well as how much research and detail goes into each cooking segment. I was wondering what the knife brand is used on the show? I haven't seen the knives and block used in Hannibal's kitchen before.

    1. Hannibal uses all brands of knives - we have one that is particularly beautiful -- a hand made watermarked Japanese knife. He also has a couple Porsche knoves and some Global but we have to be careful about not showing the logos. Hannibal doesn't do product placement. You will not see him knocking back a Coke or using a knife with the brand emblazoned on the side. The wooden chopping block is fantastic. Alana used it in the first scene she was in of Season 1. It weighs a ton and the crew hate moving it around but usually there isn't enough room for it in the shot. Even the ham holder which had Jose Andres logo on the side had the logo hidden - and he's a producer!

    2. extra points for no product placement - i do appreciate that as a viewer. i want to be engrossed in that world and not distracted. i have global knives, and thought maybe it was a new model, but couldn't find them - so thank you for answering my question and sharing your work with us. looking forward to seeing what's in store next both on and off their plates!

    3. The Globals are better if you are chopping a lot .. my gripping fingers got tired with the Porsche. But they look gorgeous.

  4. I love your blog Janice. If you ever make a Feeding Hannibal cookbook I will be first in line to pick one up. I was looking for the baked in clay recipe everyone keeps asking for and stumbled across this one. It used foil and salted dough instead of lotus leaf and sculpting clay, but I think using the lotus leaf and sculpting clay instead would elevate this recipe. Let me know what you think.

  5. Very good article! As for clay vs salted dough, I think the taste would be similar although the lotus leaf adds a subtle herby flavour. The browning would no doubt add flavour (clay baking doesn't usually start with searing but there's no reason to not - other than loss of some fat). Clay would keep the moisture in more than bread but the foil would take care of that -- so I think it's a draw -- Clay and leaf more about presentation and tradition (using yard mud to encase the roast - flour and salt would have been too costly to waste). My salt dough recipe: Mix 1 cup salt with 4 cups flour and stir in 1 1/2 cups water. If it's too soft, knead in more flour.

    1. I have not been on here for a while so it was a happy surprise to see your reply. I will definitely try the yard or sculpting clay with the lotus leaf. I'm a recent culinary arts graduate and I'm always looking for ways to test my skills. What would you recommend for temp and time for a pork tenderloin in clay and leaf? And thank you for the salt dough recipe, I'll add that to my tool box as well :-)

    2. Hi Joshua-
      Bit late in replying - we are on hiatus right now shooting season 3 - and I thought I'd better update the ol blog.
      Nice idea to use tenderloin! Temp for it would be 325 as the idea of claybaking is slow-roast. But I would sear it first just to give it nice colour. It shouldn't take much longer than 20 minutes as the searing will warm it up but just to be sure, once you have encased the tenderloin in clay, cut a dime-sized hole in the top of the clay casing, then cover it with a quarter-sized piece of clay to keep the moisture in, Then after 20 min of roasting, pop off the quarter-sized clay piece and stick a meat thermometer into the tenderloin through the hole in the clay casing to see if it's ready.

  6. Hello Janice,
    I want to congratulate you on your incredible work. Hannibal is, in my opinion, the most aesthetically profound show I've ever seen, right up there with many of the best films I've seen. I can't really distinguish them. Your culinary artistry is such an incredible and essential element of this show.


    Now I have a question: In the forth episode of season one, Oeuf, Hannibal serves Jack a boudin noir, but there's something next to it on the plate. I can't place it and all I know is that I want to eat it very badly. Would you be able to tell me what it is? I'm terribly hungry and I don't know how much longer I can hold out.

    1. Well another year has passed and I really forget what was on that plate. On the platter, the blood sausage was on a bed of fffffava beans. But I can't remember what was on the individual dinner plates and we never did see that episode because it didn't air over the regular broadcasters.Sorry to reply so late -- I guess you must have gotten a snack by now.