Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ep 9 Trou Normand: Tenderloin and Lotus


A tower of powerless

femurs, fibulas and spines.


Red blood on

White snow

Soiled like a bone china plate.

I’m flipping through the Production Draft of 109.  There are so many dead bodies in this episode. I need a couple of Will’s aspirins.

The images are macabre: a monstrous totem pole sculpted from the broken decaying bodies of ten victims. Erected as the culmination of a killing spree like a gruesome end-of–festival Burning Man.

Jack is getting colder and Will is getting crazier. I just want Beverly Katz to march into this script right now and solve the whole thing so I can relax and think about dinner.

So I plug “Hannibal’s Dining Room” into the script’s search function and go immediately to the food scene.

The meat of the matter is mid-way through the script. Hannibal is serving a red-blood meat dish to Will,  Abigail and that rascally Miss Lounds. But surprise! She is a vegetarian. (Miss Lounds, not Lara Jean Chorostecki who plays her.)
sketch for dinner scene with Freddie, Will and Hannibal 
That Freddie Lounds isn’t afraid of anything and though she may have dodged a bullet by ordering salad from Hannibal, I want her leafy greens to be even more menacing than the oozing meat on the Will and Hannibal’s plates.

For the salad, I’ll use white asparagus that will suggest finger bones when I cut the stalks into thumb and finger lengths. Lotus root slices will look like Munch "Scream" faces when juxtaposed with bird skulls. What could be more meatless than a clean-picked skull?
Skull salad for all - on bone china plates, of course
Sketch that up.

Get approvals.

Get bird skulls.

Hmmmm. A bit trickier than I thought – there are so many headless chickens in the shops, shouldn't there be an equal number of disembodied heads somewhere? I ask around and find a woman in a back street of Chinatown who will sell me a big bag of chicken heads. My work here is done, I think. But no, it’s only just beginning. While attempting to boil off the flesh, I realize it is not going to just fall off the bone. This is why every good food stylist needs an able assistant. Ettie, with her usual aplomb and great attitude, patiently cleans the eyeballs, skin and brains off the little craniums, while I reconstruct and bleached them into museum-quality specimens.
Roasted Tenderloin with Pomegranate blood spatter

Hannibal and Will have beef tenderloin. The morning of the shoot, I’ve roasted 8 filets. Of course, I worry that the roasts will be too well-done too look bloody. Or too rare for the actors to eat. On set, as I slice into each roast, I am relieved to find they are all medium-rare. Lucked out again. A little squirt of pomegranate reduction and the beef slices ooze with the “blood” that the director asked for.

Side dish of Anchovies writhing in the Capers
Sadly, madly, the on-set daily (a person who is hired on a film for the day, not for the duration of the series) had chucked the bird skulls into the garbage while cleaning the plates between resets. By the time I discover this, the little bones have been buried in the plate scrapings and we were left with only four – rotating them just adding to the challenge of keeping the reset plates flowing for the multiple takes.
Bones, bones, bones: phalanges salad with yellow and candycane beets on bone china. Now, where is that bird skull...

A confession.

I don’t have any recipes for you this week. That’s because I am working on this:

                                                                                                  Photo courtesy Brooke Palmer NBC

A shameless self-promo: 
The venerable Cookbook Store in Toronto's Yorkville is doing a pop-up dinner in their Studio Kitchen inspired by the food I've been creating for Hannibal. It’s going to be a great evening of food and fun.

Brilliant Matt Kantor is the chef for the evening. He’s done pop-ups for elBulli (a 24-course dazzler), Australian pop-ups and the amazing Rush tribute dinner – to name a few.

The menu will feature 7 or 8 tasting plates such as Brain Ravioli with Beurre Brun, Deep-fried Lamb Intestine on Panisse, Flambeed Spleen with Apples, Lamb Tongues en Papillote, Humano (veal) Tonato, Blood Sausage Cassoulet, Chocolate Blood Tarte.

If you’re in Toronto June 18, why not join us!

Wait – I do have a recipe!

For all of you who have been asking for the High Life Eggs recipe.

Thanks to wonderful Robyn Stern, Jose Andre's culinary researcher who sent these photos of the pages of Jose Andre's antique copy of Practicion, the 19th century culinary guide written by Angel Muro. Here is the recipe as it is in Spanish from the original text.  I’m experimenting with it next week using duck eggs and will post my findings. In English.

Huevos high-life recipe pg 1

Huevos recipe continued pg 2
from Jose Andres library

Next week: Jamon Iberico and Spanish tapas.


  1. you are a genius and i wish i was in toronto to go to this pop-up feast. we all pause the screen when your food is on display to read the clues.
    the lotus reminded me personally of nicholas' chest post-mortem. ooh boy!

    1. Funny how our imaginations work - a simple sliced vegetable can take on so many dimensions... like a rorschach test in your salad!

  2. i love your articles always. but i do have a question. How do i tell what i'm supposed to eat and what is just their for garnish? Is there some sort of etiquette for that? I am uncultured this way.

    1. You are right to question this: all garnishes should be edible, but unfortunately, all chefs do not always follow the rules of etiquette so it's Diner Beware. (Think of big flowers on cakes or plastic grass on sushi or elaborate vegetable carvings that you can be certain have been reused.) With Hannibal, I use inedible garnishes for dramatic effect - it underlines the amoralness of his food offerings - his food is always pushing the boundaries.

  3. There are no words for how much I wish I was in Toronto for that. Your blog has already inspired me to create my own Hannibal-inspired culinary dishes for friends, and engage in a more playfully sinister aspect to presentation.

    Also, I immensely look forward to the High Life Eggs with duck eggs next week.

    1. I'll post photos from the event - and recipes. If your Hannibal-inspired cooking is leaning toward Nose-to-Tail cooking, I would recommend Jennifer Lagan's cookbook "Odd Bits". It's great for techniques for offal and unusual cuts like ears and feet (of piggies, of course).

  4. I was hoping we'd see what Hannibal would do when faced with a vegetarian -- and it may be one of the most visually striking and unexpected dishes so far. Thank you as always for such entertaining and informative posts.

    1. Hmmm-do you believe Freddie Lounds is really a vegetarian? I thought there was a possibility that she was just saying that to provoke Hannibal because he serves the meat so proudly. Anyway, I put the skull on the salad platter to remind all that there is ox bone in the bone china.

    2. I hadn't even thought of that possibility -- and it's fantastic. I really love that she's a character who doesn't bother to ingratiate herself with anyone, even with people who it'd be well worth her while to be on the good foot with for her job. It's like the opposite of what Hannibal does, where he's courteous to everyone on the surface and so manipulative underneath. Freddie is so clumsy with her niceness and so sparing with who she uses it on, and so it's sometimes easy to forget that actually being a trashy muck-raker is incredibly small potatoes in the character-flaw department when compared to Hannibal.

      I bet that if he could, Hannibal would find a way to make the china out of people too, ha.

  5. Janice, I love your aesthetic sense with the presentations and garnishes. The various animal skulls and feathers and such are lovely, and I enjoyed reading about your efforts to clean the chicken skulls. A tip you may find helpful: to get perfectly clean, white bones, use Dermestid beetles. There are lots of websites that describe how to do this. It takes a little planning ahead, but I'll bet Hannibal has beetle colonies on standby to create pure, white, perfect skull garnishes for him whenever he likes. :-)

    1. OK, I tried to Google Dermestid beetles but had to turn away - I couldn't possibly take the risk that flesh-eating beetles would take over the world, HQ - my studio. But thanks for trying to help me. Maybe I will get the nerve to try the beetle thing next season. (then do I have to get an army of frogs to neatly clean my studio of beetles? then lizards? then what?)

  6. I was thinking Freddie said she's a vegetarian just to screw with Hannibal. My eyes were on Freddie's plate to see how Hannibal would handle vegetables AND on Abigail to see if she notices that was human meat! I think her eyes went wide for a second then she looked at Will, or maybe I'm projecting.

    Gosh. I love this show.

    By the way, I'm going to share your salad and blog on my work's Facebook. White Asparagus is coming into season. This would be a perfect serving suggestion!

    1. Oh I meant to say was that I was focused on everything else I didn't even see the tapanade plate!

    2. I'm amazed that you catch the food as well as you do. When I watch the show, stuff flashes by so quickly or at such an odd angle that I have to guess at what it is. Of course, when I watch the broadcast, I generally have my hands over my eyes because I can't take the gore.

  7. I assumed the salad dressing was people.

  8. Please please please please please please please release all of these recipes into a book. This page and it's insights are absolutely fascinating.



    Derby, UK

  9. Was there any vinaigrette on the salad? This was such a fabulous show, and the food aesthetic was phenomenal. I hope we get to see more in season 4! ;)

  10. Glad I found your page to go along with the episodes. You can truly find anything on the internet. Wonderful possible, beautiful.