Thursday 27 June 2013

Hannibal Dinner, Popped

Terror paused, 

Blood staunched,

Hannibal's gone.

A hangover. 

The cure?

Hair of the Dog:

A Fannibal foodie feast!  

What shall we do with our Thursday habit for fear and feasting now that Hannibal's final episode has aired? Well of course, we do what we always do in a crisis -- go to the fridge for something to eat.
Bone-in Iberico Jamon in front of the vegetarian cookbook section
We did more than that last week at our Hannibal Pop-up Dinner. Hosted by Allison Fryer at The Cookbook Store, we wined and dined on Lector's delectables -- a dinner of small plates prepared by Chef Matt Kantor and inspired by my season of feeding Hannibal.
Gathered at The Cookbook Store in Toronto's Yorkville
Take an equal measure of Foodies and Fannibals, toss in a talented chef and Hannibal’s food stylist. Stir them together within the book-lined walls of a venerable old book store and what do you get?

An evening to dismember  remember.

I decorated the tables with runners of film strips,  feathers, roses and candlesticks made from marrow bones.
The meal was made up of Jamon Iberico followed by seven small plates: Blood Sausage with Saffron Butter Beans; Spleen with Bacon, Red Onions and Sage; Lung a la basquase; Brain Cannelloni with Chanterelle Mushrooms; Loin with Tuna Sauce, Tongue en Papillote; and Blood and Cocoa Pudding with Chantilly Cream.               (Event photos by Brilynn Fergusen.)
Blood sausage with saffron butter beans
Lamb's tongue en papillote with tomato and mushroom
Brain cannelloni with chanerelles

Chef Max Kantor thrilled us with a continuous stream of small plates that were designed with Hannibal’s offal habits in mind.
Chef Matt and his crew cookin' at The Cookbook Store kitchen
As we feasted on everything from spleen to lung and brain and blood, matching wines flowed: Spice Route Chakalaka 2009, South Africa; Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2010, California;
Hermanos de Domingo Molina tTorrontes 2011, Argentina; Studet-Prum Graacher Himmelreich Reisling Kabinett 2011, Germany
Veal Loin in Tuna sauce (Serf and Surf)
A veal dish, Loin with Tuna Sauce, was included to represent a young girl’s thigh. As William Seabrooke’s readers discovered from his 1931 book on cannibals, “Jungle Ways”, human flesh tastes most like veal. He learned this not by dining with his African tribe, but by spit-roasting a morsel of man when he got back to Paris. He obtained it from a friend who was studying medicine at the Sorbonne and was able to purloin a chunk from a recently deceased but otherwise healthy patient.

Hmmm. Pretty sure I wouldn’t go that far for truth in writing. I justify vast quantities of what I eat as research but usually it falls more in the killer dessert category rather than the dead patient group. 
Tweeting Blood Pudding

Stirred not shaken

Everyone at the Pop-up dinner had a great time. The thrilling food, the enthusiastic guests, the wonderful music. No one wanted to leave. It was a magical evening under the spell of Hannibal. Or maybe it was that cocktail.
Chesapeake Ripper
Inspired – or haunted- by the mushroom men from Episode 4, John Kruusi from the Cookbook Store designed a great cocktail he dubbed “The Chesapeake Ripper”.
Here’s John's recipe:

The Chesapeake Ripper

Scotch and lemon-thyme cherries:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cold water
A few sprigs of lemon-thyme or regular thyme
1/2 cup scotch
1/2 cup good quality dried cherries (If you can, try to find ones without any additives or preservatives. If not, rinse the dried cherries under cold water in an attempt to remove any oils that may be clinging to them)

Combine the sugar, water and thyme in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the scotch and cherries. Cover cherries and leave to plump for approximately 30 minutes. Once plumped, pack the cherries into a resealable jar and refrigerate until ready to use. This also works well with other spirits such as bourbon or rye.

Shiitake infused scotch:
15g dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup blended scotch

In a clean jar add mushrooms and pour over scotch. Cover and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Strain mushrooms through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth, to ensure all mushroom particles are removed. These proportions can be easily multiplied for larger batches. I used Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend Scotch because of it’s reputation for working well in cocktails. It plays well with other ingredients and is less expensive than a single malt.

To make The Chesapeake Ripper:
2 ounces shiitake infused scotch
1/2 ounce Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce Sherry
3 dashes Fee Brother’s Black Walnut Bitters
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6 
scotch infused cherries for garnish (skewered on a thyme sprig, if you like)

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add the scotch, sherry, and both bitters. Stir to mix and strain into a small tumbler over ice. Garnish with the cherries.

You'd better not drink that on an empty stomach...

Now that you have slaked your thirst with a smart cocktail, you can satisfy your summer-between-seasons hunger for Hannibal by watching all those missed episodes you PVRed. Or by reading along with the Red Dragon reading group which will start on Tumblr in July. In any case, you will definitely need nibbles.

Here is a recipe from our Hannibal Pop-up Dinner. And, yes -- it's spleen. You know you want to try it.
My favorite plate of the evening - Spleen.

Rolled Spleen

This recipe is based on Fergus Henderson’s famous dish that he served at his London restaurant St John. If you get your spleen from a natural butcher, you might have to remove the outer membrane which peels off easily.  Asian markets usually sell them with the outer membrane removed. The very thin skin of the spleen and the fat that runs its length do not have to be removed. The taste is like mild liver and the texture is like tender kidney. Really delish. I bought 4 spleens, rolled some and made the rest into a rough country terrine that was great spread on toast.

for two or appetizer for eight

2             pork spleens
4             slices of bacon
1             sprig sage
1 cup       broth (chicken or vegetable)

salt, pepper to taste

1.  Heat oven to 300°F.

                                                         ( JP working reference shot)
2.  On a cutting board, lay a spleen out flat, fat side up. Layer on half of the bacon and place sage leaves along the length. Roll up tightly, jelly-roll fashion and secure with toothpicks. Repeat with remaining spleen.

3. Fit spleen rolls closely together in a small baking casserole. Pour in stock to cover. Cover tightly with lid or foil. Roast for 2 hours. Cool in roasting liquid and drain when cool, remove toothpicks and slice each spleen in four. Serve as a main with boiled buttered baby potatoes and Parsley Salad (below) or as an appetizer with thinly sliced red onions, radishes and cornichons.

Parsley Salad

1 cup       chopped parsley leaves (flat)
1 Tbsp     capers
! Tbsp      chopped red onion
1 Tbsp      chopped cornichon pockles
juice         half lemon
1 tsp         olive oil
salt pepper to taste

Toss ingredients together. This salad is also great with roasted bone marrow.

Next week: At last, the full story on Huevos High Life and a few more recipes from our Pop-up Dinner.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Ep 13: Savoureux - Tete de Veau

Stag hewn.


The movie screen;

The back of your mind:

Head rolls.


Stark.  Raven.  Mad.

We are almost at the final wrap. This last episode is nightmarish – not because of anything in the script -  it’s because we are also shooting tons of scenes from other episodes. It’s our last chance to pick up scenes and inserts and reshoots needed to edit into the final cut of all episodes.

We’ve been shooting now for 7 months and my level of paranoia has been edging into Will-territory: imagining what trouble that evilmeister Hannibal will cook up now. He seemed like such a nice low-maintenance guy back in Episode 1 when we first started shooting…

But now it’s the last episode. So important to hit this one out right of the park.

Waiting is a mind game

Waiting for the script to come in, my mind goes to the Edge of Foodstyling Darkness. What would the worst thing be? Brain. Raw brain being cut into and cooked. Because, guess what – even Zeller’s brain is about 3x bigger than a cow’s brain and 10x that of sheep or pig. No natural animal substitute will do for the human brain. 

I had done a bit of footwork in the brain-faking department last month when I got a call from the Set Decorator of a zombie/vampire series being shot in town. Enrico needed for brains to stock an immense “Brain Shed”. Sort of a zombie’s dream Costco: rows and rows of shelves of brains stored in glass jars in a vast warehouse. It would be shot like one of those Ed Burtynsky photographs except instead of blue-clad factory workers, it would be endless rows of brains in jars. How many brains did they need? Thousands. When did they need them? Next week. 

I worked around with the costs on various possibilities til the dollars made everyone come to their senses and the scene was dropped. 

And I turned my attentions back to my favorite omnivore.

So I’m checking my email every hour expecting the script supervisor to send me the production draft. There’s a production meeting today but I wasn’t called in.  So I’m thinking everybody is on board except me. I feet like when I was four and my whole family got into the station wagon for a weekend drive, accidentally (?) leaving me behind. Luckily for them, I was still sleeping when they dashed back for me. Or I really would have made them pay.

I call the Prop Master.

No, there is no food in the current outline draft of the last episode.

Wha…no food???!!!

I am relieved but slightly miffed. Move along, no food scene to see here, m’am. Fine. Well maybe there was so much plot to pack into the last episode to create that all-important end-of-season cliffhanger that there wasn’t enough bandwidth to luxuriate in a Hanibalicious food scene.

But I keep checking the scripts as the revisions keep coming in. A dinner scene after all! Hannibal is dining with Bedelia at her place. And he's bringing Take-out.

Relax, the guy has gotta eat.
Tete de Veau Roulade (Rolled Veal Head) under glass

Then Bryan Fuller emails:  Hannibal may be serving veal in a scene with his therapist. Any suggestions for veal recipes and fun veal details?

I suggest: What about the cheek of that veal, Abigail? Bruised -- I mean, braised in sherry and mushrooms...

Jose checks in: Also smoked with dry hay, like a funerary ritual where the dead where burnt. But here hay imparts a unique smokey flavor to the meat and to the room! The smell of death but also the smell of a reborn, you become something else by burning and becoming part of the cycle of life!  Veal head! Will be awesome to do that! Paul Bocuse has a great recipe! Whole head on the table, boil! With the broth....amazing!

Robyn, his assistant sends me a recipe "Tête de Veau en Sauce Verte"  by Paul Bocuse in  French with a Google translation into English. She curses Google Translate but I love it. To me, Google Translate English is like Japanese T-shirt English and it makes me giggle.

Great! I say. The pale skin of the Bocuse preparation of poached boned veal head would look delicate and deadly against the parsley sauce, like a corpse on the cemetery lawn.
my production sketch for Tete de Abigail

Smoke from the hay-smoking is nixed because of the problems it would create in shooting. Problems in shooting? This never seems to hold anyone back from asking the impossible but I now know where the demarcation of difficulty is No Smoking. Period.

Pulling Tete de Veau out of a hat

I turn my attention to putting together the Tete de Veau while I’m still working on food for  Episode 12. In Paris, every other shop carries Tete de Veau and you can pop in and buy a couple slices on a whim. But this ain’t Paris, Toto. Now, with limited time, do I really want a knife fight with a whole veal head? Pig head, maybe. Cow head, not so much.

I make a call to Mike, the pate guy at Sanagan’s down in Kensington. He has cheerfully saved me before by providing an emergency Head Cheese within 24 hours so I’m hoping he can make me another miracle with Tete de Veau. I explain the size and shape and the next day, what should appear but 2.5 kilos of rolled poached “Tete de Veau” mocked up from a giant pork belly he luckily had in the cooler.
A slice o' Tete with parsley sauce, quail eggs, gerkin slices, capers, red potatoes, red onions, thyme and salt

The shoot is the usual complication of shooting on location. I set up my kitchen in the laundry room of the rambling suburban home they have rented and redecorated as Bedelia duMaurier’s home office. I try not to get lost as I run back and forth within the warren walls created in corrugated cardboard sheeting (put up all over the house to protect the walls and woodwork from us film cretins) up and down the stairs from the set, to my basement prep area, to my car, to the craft table, and around and around in a circular house a million miles away from anything familiar.

But we get the shot.

I have a debate with the director about whether or not to have a skull on the platter of Tete de Veau. I think it needs the skull to indicate that the bud vases are actually bones. And I like the head/skull relationship. And also because I think Hannibal and Bedelia have this kind of pissing match about who’s cooler and who’s scarier. The director says the skull is out so it’s out. He’s OK with the lengths of thigh bones though so I email continuity photos to Fuller and we shoot the thing fairly smoothly in spite of the added difficulty of running the resets up and down the stairs and the obstacle course of cables, crew and carts between my prep area and the set.

Tray of Tete - Skull relegated to the back supply bin
Four hours later, we have the shot. I pack up my stuff  and load out of the location. Out of the drizzling cold and into the car. Then back to my studio to curry the pasta for tomorrow. Chiltern will be coming in so we will be back at the sound stage to shoot the curried guts for Episode 11.

There are lots of little pickup shots and insert shots to do over the next few weeks before final wrap. But Laila, one of the regular dailies, is going to handle them. I teach her how to say Pig Lung and Pig Spleen in Cantonese. And let go.

At last - an end to the madness.

Wrap is a mixed blessing. It’s great to finally be able to sleep but it’s sad to say goodbye to the assortment of idiosyncratic people you have worked with day and (mostly) night toiling together over something that may go unseen or unappreciated or most certainly misunderstood.

But thanks to overwhelming response from all you wonderful Fannibals, foodies and friends, my work -- our work has not only been seen, but appreciated well, and understood.

Thanks to you, Hannibal got renewed and production on Season Two starts this August.
We will all be back for seconds!

Thank you.

Next Week: Pictures and recipes from our Hannibal Pop-up Dinner: wish you had been there!


To come: at long last...the lowdown on the High Life Eggs!

Friday 14 June 2013

Ep 12: Releves – Silkie soup

Consuming consommé:

Restorative rest or rant?


He offers you 

Clear broth 


Cloaked intentions.




A week in the life food styling for Hannibal:

Feb 15 - Preliminary draft, unnumbered

This script has not yet been broken into numbered scenes, so I mindfully ignore that page 35 has a two-page scene with Hannibal serving Abigail a lemony dish of what looks like veal. I’m still wrangling sheep’s gut for the previous episode and haven’t got time to sketch up a veal picatta.

However, while I sleep I dream of veal noisettes mingled with char-grilled lemon halves nestled in leafy lemon boughs woven like a laurel crown on the antlers of a black stag. 

I wake up and sketch. Mid-way through the script, Will is hospitalized. Hannibal brings him a steaming Tupperware container of a restorative breakfast.

Feb 16 – Preliminary sketch
Sketch for draft version of the script

Feb 20 - Preliminary Production Draft released 

Poor Will is in hospital – Hannibal brings him a Tupperware container of amaranth porridge garnished with cruciferous vegetables, legumes and grains. This does not mean he is too busy to make dinner – a guy’s gotta eat - but now his guest is Bedelia, not Abigail. And although the script is being totally rewritten and the Dining room scene is represented only with sluglines, I’m saddened because I know that now, Hannibal’s going to have to do the dishes himself. Madame duMaurier is not the kind of woman who helps you wash up.
Sketch for draft script

Feb 20- One-Liner issued with only Day One and Day Two bookable

Prop Master says “get the ball rolling” – meaning the conversations with Jose Andres and OKs from producers.  OK on the hospital scene. It will be a Chinese medicinal soup my father used to make. That was decided last night in a volley of late night emails between Bryan Fuller, Robyn Stern and myself. Which is a good thing because it is first up on Day Two.  Not so OK on the Dining Room Scene which is nowhere to be seen in the One-Liner – the day-by day shooting schedule.

Chinatown shopping - full of fun surprises 
I spend the morning gathering fresh black chickens from Chinatown. I need four and each shop I visit has zero to two. I guess black silkie chicken is not a really big item right now, unlike inverted pig rectums – which are everywhere.

Returning to my kitchen studio, I email Mike, the Prop Master. Script asks for steam on the soup I ask him if I should prepare for that or can steam be done in Post.  But I already know that post-production special effects are too costly. Not surprisingly, Mike says to give the director real steam options.

Back in the day, we used to blow cigarette smoke through straws onto the dish when we wanted steam. Nice! Smoke drifts up because heat rises. But pesky health nuts have driven cigarettes outdoors and now lighting up on set is unheard of.  I can but dream of the series of commercials I once shot for Rothmans cigarettes where daily, the suits brought cartons of their product to the studio and gently encouraged us to chainsmoke throughout the sessions.

Here's the Silkie chicken before I made him into broth. That's white fungus clumped around him.
                                                                                                                                       (Photo courtesy Brooke Palmer Sony/NBC)

Feb 22 - Day Two of Eight 

Late at night, I pack up my little car which fails to start. Give my battery a jump-start and cross my fingers. In the morning, it starts like a charm. Thank goodness because my food scene is first up:
Black Silkie Chicken broth with red dates, wolfberries, bok choy, ginseng and white fungus. That plate garnish is a Silkie chicken foot tied with pea shoots. 

About that steam...

Food styling photographs with steam is no problem. For stills, you can use any number of toxic chemical combos to great effect. But for steam in an eating scene, I regret to say the usual solution is tampons. (T28s in crew-talk). You camouflage them with food coloring, soak them in water, microwave them just before shooting and stuff them under the food. Voila, steam.

Tampons - nay; pompoms - yea!
trimming pompoms to put in mushrooms for steam effect
But I don’t like the potential for embarrassment or misogynistic snickering. Plus there’s nowhere in a clear broth to hide a honkin’ big tampon. 

So I make my own little steam-poms. Fat pompoms made out of several shades of brown cotton wool, soaked in water, stuffed into Chinese black mushroom caps that have had the stems and spore gills scooped out.  I give the wooly pompoms little brush-cuts so they resemble the excised spore gills. 

Then, just before each take, we microwave them under plastic wrap and float them in the broth. 

Wow, did you see that steam billow off the soup!!!!! You didn’t? Really? No? On the cutting room floor, you say? C’est la vie...

Done like Dinner

By Day 4 of 8 it looks like the dinner in scene 26 is out. The dialogue has moved to Bedelia’s home. I can relax for the rest of the week. Except the sheep gut scene for the previous episode still has to be shot, along with some food scenes to reshoot for Episode 6 and the draft script for Episode 12 will be popping up in a few days. Other than that, I’m all resto-relaxo.

Time to stew up a restorative broth!

Here's a recipe for you so you can personally test the efficacy of a tasty broth with wolfberries - a herbal remedy that has been used in China for several millennia to increase virility. 

Wolfberries in Tomato-Beef Broth

Wolfberries aka Goji berries are small dried red berries that can be found in Asian grocery stores and health food stores. This recipe is beef-based but you can use regular chicken instead - or Silkie chicken if you can find it - it's tough so you must slow-cook it to tenderize it, and it tastes a bit gamey but makes a rich delicious broth. Substitute cubes of boneless chicken for beef and add strong chicken stock instead of water.

½ lb               beef round or sirloin, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp           butter
1 lg                onion, sliced
1 lg can          plum tomatoes, crushed.
½ oz               dried wolfberries
2 cups            water
1 lg                 carrot, cut in chunks
½ cup             fresh green peas
salt, pepper     to taste

1. In a heavy pot with lid, heat butter over medium-high heat and add beef cubes, stirring til brown. Add onions and stir til lightly browned. Add tomatoes, wolfberries and water. Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is tender.

2. Add carrots and simmer for 20 minutes. Add peas and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve.

Next week: Tete de Veau - Two sneaky shrinks dine on Rolled Head of Girl  Veal.

Friday 7 June 2013

Ep 11 Roti: Curried Chitterlings

Gut feeling:


His head on a plate 

Magnetic images 


Dashed home last night to watch the Roti episode broadcast and somehow missed my food scene. It’s like when you’re at the ball game and you’ve been sitting through six innings and no one has come close to home plate so you decide you need a hotdog but by the time you get back, the score has jumped to 4-0 and you missed all the action while you were deciding if gravy goes with spicy fries.

Never mind. The whole episode had been going sideways for me from the very beginning when I first read the production draft script:


Hannibal ENTERS carrying GALLINEJAS, corkscrew shaped battered morsels, lovingly displayed on a platter.

Hmmm Gallinejas. Chickens in rubber boots?  Small female gondoliers? I just don’t know enough (any, actually) Spanish to go much further in my menu-planning for this episode.

Just ask Chef Google

Good for Google. She always has an answer – or more like two thousand answers – you decide which one is the right one. Scrolling multiple pages tells me that Gallinejas are sheep’s entrails prepared in the Spanish manner -- deep fried and served with with fried potatoes. Well, you lost me at “entrails” but got me back at “deep-fried”. Is there anything on earth that doesn’t taste better deep-fried?

Pasta? It looks like sheep intestines to me.

Chef Google also gives me recipes with cheerful remarks such as 
“Be very careful to wash the intestines thoroughly because the contents of the gut can be toxic.”


“Preparing Gallenejas is quite labor-intensive but the results, although not to everyone taste, can be very good.”  

But I am not discouraged until I read Chef G’s helpful hint, “Don’t be put off by the smell when you are boiling the sheep gut -- a bit of airing-out and your kitchen will smell fresh as before.”


I call my pal at Torito, a great tapas place in Kensington and he offers to make me a big batch for the shoot. I'll just pick them up.

Great. Like a big bucket of Take-out.

I love Take-out. I think it was invented by Chinese-Americans so  it is actually my right by heritage and tradition to employ it.

Phoenix nests form a cracked cranium spilling Gallinejas between horns on the platter Hannibal serves to Chilton. Gallinejas are usually served with French fried potatoes,  hence Chinese Phoenix nests made of crisp-fried julienne potatoes.  And it's Blood Orange season, so perfect for blood spatter on the salad platter.

So I’m set with the Gallinejas. Until I get a call from Jose Andres. We can’t use Gallinejas because it’s a Spanish dish and we did Spanish in the previous episode. Too much Spanish! His intrepid assistant, Robyn Stern emails me her suggestions of unSpanish sheep gut dishes. How about Chitterlings? (No, if this was for Blind Lemon Hannibal, it would be OK, but this is Dr H Lecter. No chitlin circuit for him.) Wugen Chang Wang – Taiwanese Stew of pig intestines and blood? (No, we need to keep the sheep metaphor in the script.) Lamb Fries or Rocky Mountain Oysters? (No. Just say No to balls on a platter.)

Jose suggests a refined dish of intestines in dashi broth with delicately sliced daikon and Bryan Fuller loves it! Done.

Or are we?
Sketch of revised Chitlins for Chilton
No final decisions yet because we can’t shoot the food scene. It will have to be picked up later because Raul Esparza who plays Dr Chilton has to go back to New York to shoot an episode of Law & Order.

By the time the food scene can be rescheduled we’ve moved on and shot all of Episode 11. It’s got a Chinese Herbal Medicine soup. So now, Japanese soup is out. Midnight decisions on what sheep gut dish to make.

Kudal in a banana leaf bowl - a riff on Sri Lankan Lumpries - decorated with a young Protea flower that hasn't developed its hard thistles...yet.

I suggest a nice curry. We haven’t done South Asian food yet and there is a lovely coconutty sheep gut curry called Aatu Kudal Kulambu (or “Kudal” for short). It would be a great opportunity to showcase that wonderful cuisine.

As I prep for the scene, no one on the crew wants to sample my curry, even though I reassure them I have used the pasta pictured at the top of this post which I coloured and snipped to look like sheep intestines.

People, it's not's not even sheep's intestines. Sometimes pasta is just pasta!
Plate of banana leaf bowl of curried "sheep intestine" pasta, rice, pomegranate pani puri, purple sweet potato crisps on a cupped banana leaf decorated with a banana flower.

A platter of baby samosas and bindi bhaji, decorated with ladyfingers, baby eggplant and slivered onions
On set, we were debating the best wine to serve with the Kudal and Mads suggested a frosty glass of Hannibal’s homebrewed People Beer. Perfect!
Cauliflower brains - one rubbed with tumeric and the other tandoori spice garnished with a banana flower

Time to get cooking!

So don’t just sit there watching everyone else eat, cook your own delicious curry noodles!

Panthe Kow Swey
This gently spiced chicken noodle stew is the national dish of Burma and my recipe is from actor Sandra O”Neill, national treasure. Besan (black chick pea flour) is called for in her recipe but it’s optional.

If you want to go Hannibalistic, substitute thin strips of cooked tripe for half of the chicken. Tummylicious!

serves 4

one-half        chicken, boned and cut in pieces about  1” x .5” x .5”
2 Tbsp          crushed garlic
1 Tbsp          grated ginger
1 large          onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp            chili powder
2 tsp             turmeric
¼  tsp           salt
¼ cup           oil
1 cup            coconut milk
½ cup           chicken cooking liquid or water with ½ tsp Besan mixed in (or not)

2 cups               warm, cooked, drained thick rice noodles or egg noodles

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. In a bowl, mix together chicken, garlic, ginger, onion, chili, turmeric, salt and oil. Heat a large heavy pot over high heat. Add chicken mixture and fry, stirring lightly (do not brown). Remove from heat and add enough water to cover meat. Bake uncovered in pre-heated oven for 30 min. Remove chicken from cooking liquid, strain cooking liquid and reserve 3/4 cup, adding water if necessary.
  3. Combine chicken, reserved cooking liquid and coconut milk in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. When ready to serve, place a portion of noodles in four large soup bowls, add chicken pieces, spoon liquid over that and serve. Place the small bowls of accompaniments in the centre of the table, encouraging guests to generously sprinkle accompaniments on top of their Kow Swey as they eat it.


1 small bowl     chopped tomatoes
1 small bowl     chopped green onion
1 small bowl     chopped coriander leaves
1 small bowl     boiled egg, diced
1 small bowl     lime wedges
1 small bowl     pan-fried dried whole chillies
1 small bowl     crisp-fried onion bits
1 small bowl     crisp-fried garlic bits

I hope you try this dish. It is easy to make and really really really good.

Next week: Silkie SoupChinese Herbal Medicine in a bowl is probably not potent enough to make up for what’s happening to poor Will. Why are the writers so mean to him? Fight back, Will, fight back! You've got to make it through Season 2 now that Hannibal's been renewed....

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Ep 10 Buffet Froid: Jamon Iberico




Salt in the wound.

He can smell the disease you can not see.

Deadly perfume.

As first light breaks, I approach the windowless warehouse. No one in sight, so I try the door. It swings open to a darkened stillness. I slip inside, eyes straining for light and make my way to the waiting crates.

Then I see it - the silhouette of a severed leg.

I grab it and stiffly swing it around. It topples against me, dry skin and bare bone brushing my arm. But my eyes have adjusted to the darkness and I can see the Apparatus just beyond. With all my might, I push back on the leg and heave its fleshy thigh onto the massive spike at the base of the Apparatus. With what strength I have left, I twist the ankle into Apparatus’ spiked metal cuff. Steady now... turning  the bolt, I clamp the leg in place.

I know have the upper hand, now - finding the knife, I raise its curved blade to the beast.

Having a little nightmare? No. Just getting the leg of bone-in Spanish ham into the ham holder stand. My big food scene is first up and I have arrived an hour before call time -- way before any of the crew so the house lights are not on yet. Just a few dim task lights dotted throughout the vast studio in the maze of flats that make up the various sets of Hannibal.

When you purchase a whole Iberico Jamon, the hoof has been removed to comply with import regulations so  I did what Hannibal might do if somebody's foot gets sawed off while you are making her leg into a nice ham: I built a fake hoof out of wax, putty and shoe polish and attached it to the cut end of the bone, drape on a nice decorative rope and voila! No one the wiser...

I love the stillness in the sound stage before call time. The calm before everyone arrives. Then, gradually the day begins: first, the house lights come on, the bins and crates start rolling across the floor, Set Dec arrives to put final touches on decor and Props begins laying out and organizing the multitude of carefully chosen items that actors will handle as the day of scenes spools out over the next ten hours. Hair/Makeup and Wardrobe begin to work their magic on the actors whose drivers are dropping them at their trailers one by one.  Electrical/lighting crews arrive and start heaving cables and heavy equipment. The activity and noise level rise to a steady hum. Sound, the only silent department. Slowly, the Beast has come to life.
Just about ready to go to camera. Jamon looking like a ballerina - hoof looking like a  size 4 Manolo Blahnik

First break of the day...
I’ve set up my food styling station so, looking for a bite of breakfast and a cappuccino, I step outside to the craft truck, a compact mobile kitchen full of munchies run by Craft Service. They are the caterers who provide us with meals, snacks and substantials (bigger than snacks smaller than meals). What would we -- the sad, complaining, sleep-deprived worker bees -- do without their steady stream of food: muffins, potato chips, bananas to break the monotony of waiting for your scene to be shot; cappuccino, juice and diet coke for refreshment on the run; lunch buffet to mark the middle of our day – which often starts in the dark of night.  And for the food stylist, Craft Service can be a godsend - a fridge to raid when you need just one more tomato to get through the retakes or a can opener when you forgot to bring one.
First draft food sketch

The food scenes of this episode have gone through a number of changes. The unspecified dinner with Jack has turned into a cozy fireside foodless drink and a two-page beef dinner with Dr  Sutcliffe has changed to a three page dinner with ham.
Goldenrod revision script food, revised to add more assorted tapas platters
Hannibal uses the Jamon Iberico Bellota as a conversational metaphor, exposing his dinner guest’s glib attitude toward connoisseurship. Sutcliffe scoffs, Facts have nothing to do with quality - if you say something is superior, it becomes superior. Well, we know that this facile remark is going to make Hannibal stew – or at least par-boil. Connoisseurship is made through the long process of understanding the details - the many small facts that each incrementally distance the superior from the merely OK as inexorably as cream rises to the top. Well, if you are a Hume-ist , not a Rousseau-ian.

And about that superior ham....

“The Jamon Iberico is everything I’ve read about and more.”

Just one line in the revised script had propelled me once more, late into the fray. Several trips to the farmers market, a half-dozen long distance phonecalls, favors from local chefs called in and lots of red herrings until at last I locate someone who can deliver a whole bone-in Jamon Iberico Bellota – in 2 days because that’s when we are shooting. Fermin is the sole importer in North America of the prized Jamon Iberico Bellota de Embutidos Fermin. Serrano is their distributor locally. In partnership with Jose Andres (would it have killed someone to tell me this and saved me a half-day of food sleuthing) they worked for over a decade to get through the USDA and bring this buttery nutty melt-in-your-mouth ham to North America. It is the Rolls Royce of Spanish gastronomy. 
Additional tapas to serve with the Jamon: Octopus salad on a bed of salted seaweed
The day before the shoot, Jose had given me a phone tutorial on slicing ham in the manner he invented. Cut the top third, but just the top layer, he urges. But I am too dense to understand, No, leave the fat. Just cut the top part off flat, then the top part-way down. I wish I knew what he was talking about. Send me a picture, I plead, knowing a picture is worth a thousand cellphone minutes.  Happily, Mike who delivered my ham has given tutorials on ham slicing and came equipped with a video, a pamphlet and a full kit that included an apron that is, curiously, spit up the middle below the waist. If I were a butcher, this is the area I would most wish protected. But just goes to show, how little I know of these things.

The market price for this whole bone-in ham with a sleek Jose Andres designed ham holder is around $3500.  Pretty pricey, but if you’re looking for just a taste of this ham, it sells by the slice – or better, shavings for $20 to $25 for 100 gm. (yes, this is the kind of thing you buy by the gram). But make sure it is real Iberico Jamon Bellota. Sliced off the bone, if possible. A lot of salumerias sell a boneless product so they can slice it super-thin like proscuitto on their electric slicer. Anyway, it’s all delish but if you can, go for the best – if only once.

More tapas: A shrimp boil garnished with purple and green brussel sprouts
Time for you to eat!

But instead of a recipe, this week -- a guide to buying Jamon Iberico Bellota and why you should.

Spanish Ham 101:

Jamon Iberico is made from the Iberico pig, a breed in Spain that descended from wild boars. They are dark grey and have long legs with black hoofs, which is why they are sometimes called Pata Negra. After their first birthday, they are released into fields of ancient oaks to roam free and feast on plump acorns as they ripen and fall to the ground. They enjoy this idyllic life until til the vareador has nudged the last acorn off its branch and the season ends. (This is the guy whose sole job is to wander among the oaks with a long pole and shake the acorns out of the trees for the happy pigs. I know I should put this information in a link but I’m going old-style parentheses for lack of computer skill. And also, a link doesn’t give me an opportunity to say that I just realized that being a vareador is the one job that might be better than Hannibal Food Stylist. Where do I apply?)

The best pigs are born in October because when they are old enough to release to the acorn fields, nuts are just beginning to ripen so these piggies can graze for the full season. Lucky by birth date like hockey players or race horses born in January.
Use a super sharp long thin slicing knife to artfully slice your bone-in ham into thin curly shavings.

Buy the Bellota
The best grade is Bellota which means the pig was able to double its weight in the acorn-grazing phase. This weight allows the pork, once salted, to cure for three years or more. It will have a red cord or label to mark it. The dark pink flesh will have a generous inclusion of dots of cream coloured fat.

The best Bellota is the Jamon, or hind leg. It usually has a red cord twisted behind the hoof to label the quality. You can also get a Paleta, the foreleg, which is smaller and not quite as fatty but is not as costly. I’ve seen them with a dark grey cord.

Cebo, pronounced "Say-bow", not cheap-o
Cebo is another grade of Iberico ham but it is made from pigs that did not double their weight so were only able to cure for two years. Also delish but not sprinkled through with as much melty specks of fat as the Bellota. Less expensive, this ham often is marked by a yellow/green cord or label. I’m not so sure about the colour-coding on cords - there is definitely a status message there but it is as unknowable to me as handkerchiefs in jean pockets.

Serrano for show
Serrano is a lighter, less fatty ham that has been aged for 12 months or less. The flavour is not as complex and not speckled with fat but is quite nice and also comes bone-in so if you want to have a party with an authentic Spanish ham centerpiece for a couple hundred dollars, this is your baby.

Eat it with your fingers with crusty bread, good green olives (bella di cerignola!) and salted smoked almonds. And a bone-dry Manzanilla or Fino sherry, slightly chilled.

Good fat not bad fat
Don’t worry about all that fat – it has crystallized in the years of curing into a fat that is good for you. 

Next week: Sheep's entrails! Chewin' on chitlins while Dr Chilton chats.