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!

Thursday 18 April 2013

Episode 3: Stag Party

Limbs and antlers

A horrid tangle.


Matted hair.



No one dines tonight.

The script for episode 3 is totally horrifying: there’s no food!!!! It’s a food stylist’s worst nightmare.

But there are stags and does galore bounding in and out of the corridors of the mad minds in this episode. So it seems right to give you a recipe for venison stew to ruminate over.

Then, to fill up the rest of this week’s entry, I’ll share with you some shots and stories from the amazing shoots that SonyNBC did for their Hannibal promos and EPKs (electronic press kits).

Get Set

Here is the set being prepped. Eagle-eyed fans of the show will notice that the dining room is not quite the same as Hannibal’s. We completely re-created the set in another studio so the camera would see exactly what was in the art director’s eye.

Some of the dishes on Hannibal’s table: Octopus and its babies eating crow; Kidney and sausage pie (to honor the pies of Bryan Fuller’s wonderful Pushing Daisies): Papaya spewing Heart Tartare onto pastry puffs.


Playing with your food

It’s the unspoken part of the food stylist’s professional work ethic:  –  you must play with the food after the shoot. So here I am, hamming it up and strumming the $2,000.00 Jamon Iberico from Episode 7.  The famed black hoof has, sadly, been cut off by customs  so, for our shoot, I sculpt a fake foot for the salted beast out of wax and shoe polish. With the red cord that identifies the Jamon as top grade, the leg could almost be that of a Spanish dancer wearing a patent leather Manolo Blahnik stiletto.

photo courtesy Sharon Seto

Hannibal cleans up en Espanol

This promo (click here) just makes me laugh. Something about that tiny Dyson removing invisible crumbs is so perfect for Hannibal. And it is such a contrast to handling mountains of dishwashing and lugging of tubs of water and bagging pails of garbage and incinerating offal and hours of scrubbing and sweeping that go on in my studio kitchen and the set kitchen every time Hannibal lifts that fork of his.

As promised, a recipe for your stag party:
Venison Stew
This recipe will serve 6 to 8. You could serve half of it as stew with buttery mashed potatoes and a warm crusty bread and then make the rest into Pot Pies to freeze for another day. Stagger the stag so to speak.

2 cups      red wine
1 cup       red wine vinegar
1/2  cup       gin (optional)
½ cup       olive oil
1 Tbsp     chopped garlic
6              juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp         black pepper, crushed
1 tsp         Italian oregano, rubbed
¼ tsp        rosemary

3 lb          venison cut into 1-inch cubes

3 Tbsp     flour
8 slices     bacon cut in 1-inch pieces
3 Tbsp      olive oil
2 cups       veal stock
1               medium onion, cut in ¼-inch slices
3               medium carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
3               medium parsnips, cut in 1-inch pieces
½ cup       chopped pitted prunes

1. In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and add venison. Marinate in fridge for 4 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 325º. Drain venison, reserving liquid. Pat venison dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour. In a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat, add a third of the venison and fry just until brown. Remove to a Dutch oven or other large, heavy baking dish with lid. Repeat until all venison is browned. Add reserved marinade liquid, beef stock and prunes to baking dish, cover and bake for 1 ½ hour or until meat is tender.
3. In sauté pan, fry bacon over medium-high heat until fat is rendered. Remove bacon and set aside, leaving fat in pan.  Add onions to pan and sauté until golden and translucent. Set aside. Add carrots and parsnips to pan and brown lightly. Add to baking dish along with bacon and onions. Add water if necessary – liquid should just cover the meat. Return baking dish to oven with lid on and bake for another ½ hour or until vegetables are soft and meat is tender. Add salt if necessary.

Next week:  Foie pas -- forcing liver on the dinner guests

Thursday 11 April 2013

Hannibal feeds Jack

Hannibal feeds Jack
a meal of thighs for two.
Others wait in rooms beyond.
Boned. Wrapped tight. Frozen.
Meals for another day.

Reading the production draft of Amuse-Bouche, Episode 2 of Hannibal, I get drawn into the action – the fear, the shock, the sudden plot turns. I forget I’m the food stylist – I’m supposed to be looking for the food scenes. I break into a nervous sweat when I read the part where the mushroom men are discovered.

I don’t mind occasionally examining a piece of toast to see if I can see the face of Mary, but after reading this script, I am afraid to look in my fridge in case I see a nose in the box of Shemeiji mushrooms I've been harbouring.

But I must look, because I need to check out the pork loin I’m using to simulate a Roast of Girl.  I am designing the menu for Hannibal’s dinner with Jack – a roast loin of pork, he lies. I am learning that Hannibal lies about everything – except perhaps when he invites Jack to bring his wife over, saying, “ I‘d love to have you both for dinner.”

I call my nephew who is a sports medicine intern. “Hey Jay, are there any muscles on a woman that are big enough to make into a roast?” Thighs, he thinks. OK. I email my  niece who is a physiotherapist. “How big is the thigh bone?” About 1 ½  inches diameter by 18 inches long, Chantelle says. Check. Of course, I cross-reference with Dr. Google.

To simulate a woman’s thigh, my pork roast will be about 3 inches in diameter by 10 inches long. Made from 3 different thigh muscles, it will be stuffed and bound.

Jose Andres has gone over my sketches and menu and made some mouth-watering suggestions (crystallized apple garnish, Cumberland sauce) and sends me an inspiring photo of his glorious bone-in rib roast.

I decide to stuff the roast with a spinach/mushroom crumb to honor the mushroom men who are growing in the backs of fridges everywhere. Then I’ll completely wrap the roast with slices of proscuitto – to make it look like it has a thin skin.

Maybe a pear compote to dress the table, some scorched red tomatoes clinging to their burnt stems. And some frenched green beans.

A food stylist always has to include something that the actors can eat take after take after take -- usually a vegetable cut in small pieces so they won’t find themselves with a mouthful of food when it’s time to say their lines. Green beans will work here. Lawrence Fishburne, who is playing Jack Campbell, can’t eat nuts, kiwis or eggplant. Mads Mikklesen, our Hannibal, will eat anything – with great relish.

 OK, OK - I know this is from episode one but I just got the link today and it’s so pink!

Enough, watching Mads cook. Get out your knives, it’s time to cook along with your favourite cannibal.

Here’s my recipe for episode 2:

Roast Veal stuffed with Spinach and Mushrooms.

Why veal? Because, according to William Seabrook, that’s what human flesh tastes like. Back in the 30s, he was a reporter for The New York Times and, in researching cannibalism, asked a friend who was interning at the Sorbonne to procure for him a piece of healthy human flesh. He cooked it up and promptly declared it to be stringy but delicious – and tasting exactly like a good piece of veal. So instead of the pork that Hannibal claims he is serving to Jack, we are substituting veal. With zeal. To the kitchen!

serves four

3   8-oz bags of spinach, washed and trimmed
½  cup butter
1 ½ lb mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch
¾ tsp crushed garlic
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp  ground pepper
1 ¼ cups dry breadcrumbs
1 2-lb veal strip loin
2 oz thinly sliced pork fat

1. Place a half bag of spinach in a plastic zipper bag. Zip partially closed, leaving opening for steam to escape. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove to a strainer to drain. Place drained spinach in cheeesecloth and squeeze dry.  Set aside. Repeat with remaining spinach.
2. In a sauté pan over high heat, melt 2 – 3 Tbsp butter and add about 1 cup of  the mushrooms. Cook until moisture is released from mushrooms and re-absorbed. Season to taste with garlic, salt and pepper. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining mushrooms.
3. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. In a food processor, combine half of the spinach, mushrooms and breadcrumbs. Pulse until finely chopped and combined.  Remove and repeat with remaining.
4. With a sharp slicing or boning knife, slice a pocket in the veal to within ½ inch of the sides. Season inside of this pocket with salt and pepper and stuff with spinach/mushroom mixture. Transfer to a roasting pan and place slices of pork fat on top.
5. Roast for 20 minutes or until veal is medium-rare. Rest for 15 min before slicing. Serve with Cumberland Sauce.

Cumberland Sauce

1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed and pressed through a sieve to remove seeds
1 orange Juice and zest
2/3 cup port
1 Tbp red currant jelly
pinch cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Lower heat to simmer until reduced by a third.

Next week: A groaning table of Head Cheese, Liver Pate, Galantine of Girl, Carpaccio and a delightful Charcuterie Platter showcases Hannibal’s culinary talents. You'll enjoy his skill as gracious host. Unless you are a vegetarian. Or a slim young brunette with a wind-chaffed complexion….

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Hannibal Dines Alone

I was having a bit of trouble with re-writes of my current children’s book, so when the food styling job for Hannibal came up, I jumped at it. Nice way to blow the cobwebs out of my brain, I thought.

Hannibal dines alone, 
but in the darkness beyond 
toil a crew and many cooks.

Gravel crunched as I steered my battered hatchback into the compound. Behind me, the chain-link gate rumbled closed with a thud. Above, the guard eyeballed my license then waved me on as if I were an annoying insect.

Visiting the family felon at Folsom? No. This high security is all about pork.

“Here to pick up the lungs,” I said, thrusting my documents at the gatekeeper.

“Food stylist?” He seemed oddly familiar with the term.

“Yes, for a new tv series we’re shooting called Hannibal,” I said, knowing the words “tv” “shoot” and “Hannibal” will open all doors. In this city, people love the film industry and will bend over backwards to help. Several horror films are being shot locally and I’m probably not the only one shopping at the neighborhood slaughterhouse for fake brains and human-sized organs.

“Hannibal,” he considered. “Like, the cannibal? He eats people, right?”

“He’s a connaisseur of human offal and a gourmet chef,” I said defensively. I had read an early draft script of the Hannibal pilot and was thrilled with the character I was to help portray through the food he cooked and ate. Urbane, educated and rich but unforgivably evil. He’s intriguing.

Watch out, they say:
 Hannibal will steal your heart 
-- and your liver and lungs…

The script called for close-ups of fresh human organs. Well, almost human. Thank goodness pork hearts, lungs and livers are almost indistinguishable from those of people. I could use them in the show to stand in for Dead Girl de Jour parts. Lucky for me, there’s a pork abbatoir 5 minutes from my studio. Anyway, I had made the hundred phone-calls, signed the mile-long paperwork in triplicate, shown my ID, given my first-born and was here for my hot lung. (Hot is what they call it when it is fresh off the kill floor. I did the crossword with the guard while I waited for it to chill to regulation temperature.)

The best thing about cooking for Hannibal is the challenge of the unknown. My studio kitchen has been full of discovery. The lung turned out great. Not surprising, as it is wonderful in German Sour Lung Soup, as well as Dinuguan, a yummy dish my Filipini neighbor makes.

If you decide to cook up some lung, a warning: if you frighten easily, don’t try to vacuum-pack any fresh whole lung you may have left over. It balloons up in a way that threatens to blow up the house. I know, who has leftover lungs? But you buy them in pairs and you might not want to cook both lungs. Just wrap ‘er up and hello, Frigidaire. Three months later, when your loved ones are clamoring for more Lung Bourguignonne, you’ll have spare body parts at the ready! For those less likely to love lung, I’ve also included a recipe for liver.

TV Dinners :
Get out your pans
for a serial cook-along
with Dr Lecter

Lung and Loin Bourguignonne

Veal lung is best for this dish as it its more delicate in flavor but it is not as widely available as beef lung which is sold by most Asian butchers. Pork lung is great if you can get it. Or just skip the lungs and double the amount of beef tenderloin. For the first episode of Hannibal, celebrity chef Jose Andres, our illustrious food consultant, has Hannibal cooking Lung au Vin based on Julia Child’s Coq au vin. The “au vin” recipe here is simpler and based on Beef Bourguignonne. Prepare the lung for cooking by soaking it, cubed, in salt-water overnight in the fridge. Squeeze out the water before cooking. Serves 4

Wine sauce:

¼ lb thick cut bacon , cut in ¼-inch strips
4 Tbsp   butter
4            shallots, minced
2 cups    red wine
2 cups    veal stock
1/4 cup   flour
to taste    salt, pepper

Lung and Loin

4 Tbsp     olive oil
1 lb          veal or pork lungs, trimmed of tracheal tubes and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 lb          beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
2 cup       Portobello mushrooms, trimmed and cut in ½-inch slices
12            baby red onions, peeled and par-boiled
1 cup       baby carrots, par-boiled

1. In a large deep frying pan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add bacon and fry until lightly browned and fat has been released. Add shallots and sauté til soft.
2. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until lightly browned.
3. Stir in wine and stock, whisking to smooth out any lumps of roux and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Set aside.
4. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil. Season beef with salt and pepper, add to pan and sauté til medium rare. Remove from pan. Wipe pan dry with paper towel and return to heat with 2 tsp olive oil. Add lung and brown, stirring constantly til browned but not releasing too much liquid. Remove from pan. Wipe pan dry and return to heat. Add 2 tsp olive oil and half of the mushrooms. Saute til mushrooms begin to release moisture. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining mushrooms.
5. Return wine sauce to heat and bring to boil. Add pearl onions and carrots and simmer til tender. Add lungs, beef and mushrooms and simmer just til heated through but beef still medium-rare.
6. Serve with herbed rice or buttery mashed potatoes.

Photo credit: Paul Rozario

Lung: done.

Next: liver die trying.

By Scene 45, Hannibal, ever the curious gourmet, has ended up with a bit of liver that he needs to make into something meaningful. We’ve all done that – compulsively picked up something interesting in the shops and now, at home in the kitchen, staring at that exotic purchase thinking: OK, how will I work that into the kids’ dinner? Maybe I’ll just tell them it’s chicken…

Tandoori Liver

A spicy twist on an old favorite, Liver and Bacon, this dish is sensational served with saffron rice and a cooling dollop of sour cream or yoghurt. Tandoori spice mix can substitute for smoked paprika.
Serves 4

1 lb         sliced liver, veal or pork, soaked in milk for 4 hours in the fridge
2 Tbsp  smoked paprika or tandoori spice mix
3 Tbsp  sour-milk kibe, ghee or cultured butter
1 Tbsp  finely chopped shallots
to taste  salt
2 oz  braised pork belly, in 1/8-inch thick slices
3 Tbsp  orange marmalade jelly
2 Tbsp    lemon juice

1.  In a small bowl, combine marmalade and lemon juice. Set aside. Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat and brown pork belly slices on both sides. Add marmalade mixture to pan and toss to coat evenly. Heat until marmalade starts to bubble and reduce. Set aside in warm oven.
2. Drain liver and dredge in smoked paprika, coating both sides heavily. Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the butter. When butter is bubbling, add liver slices to the pan and fry for 1 minute, turn and fry other side for an additional 2 minutes, or until meat is medium-rare. Remove from pan to a covered warm platter. With a paper towel, wipe sauté pan clean of any burned spices and repeat with remaining slices.
 3. When all liver slices have been cooked, arrange on serving platter, top with pork belly slices and drizzle any remaining marmalade glaze over liver slices.

Next week: Lovely loins for two in a red, red sauce