Sunday 26 July 2015

Hannibal S3 Ep8 The Great Red Dragon

Vide cor muem 

When you see the beauty of my heart

You no longer see the beast

Blood-red black in black of night. 

Empowered by the moon

But longing to burn in the fire of the sun.

Vide cor meum “See my heart” is from Dante’s sonnet to Beatrice, his unrequited true chivalric love (why are these objects of epic love always called Beatrice?). He only saw her twice but was devoted to her long after her death.
Dante and Beatrice before the Eagle of Justice (c1450)

Eating your heart with flaming lips  

According to Benjamin Daniels, Dante, in a dream “sees the vision of Love holding a woman (Beatrice) who is wrapped in a veil. Love says, "I am your master." In one of Love's hands there is a heart on fire and he says to Dante, "Vide cor tuum: See your heart". Then Love wakes Beatrice and feeds Dante's burning heart to her which she reluctantly eats. Love, then, becomes very sad and takes Beatrice with him up toward heaven.”

Vide cor meum, the Musical 

At the request of  Dino DeLaurentiis, Vide cor meum was written by Irish composer Patrick Cassidy for the film, Hannibal. It was to be the aria sung at an opera attended by Lecter and Pazzi and was used at the end of our season one and two.

While we are in Florence portion of the Memory Palace, let's enjoy Botticelli’s painting of Fortitude one of the Seven Virtues. He painted this, one of his first important commissions when he was 24. Hannibal sketches it with Alana’s face.
Fortitude by Botticelli

Art, art, art. Where's the beef? 

I tell you all of this because there is not much to say about the food in this episode. Why I hardly had to run around at all! Because it’s all hopeless.

This time I had to fake the white Alba truffles Here they are made out of plastecine and cocoa

Truffle Surprise

White truffles are no longer in season and I really can’t believe I spent over $700 on fresh truffles a month ago when we shot a scene where Alana shows Verger all the luxury comestibles that Hannibal is consuming in Italy.  They were barely seen. (Dark….far away…out of the frame) Now there’s a truffle close-up and the truffle-hunting boars have all left the building. So I have to make one out of modeling clay and cocoa. I have some truffle oil that I rub on it so that Mads will get something to sniff at in the scene and really, no one is the wiser. 
Yet another out-of-season request from the writers' room.

But how about a chilled glass of beer with good old Alana?

In that same scene there’s only wine now, not beer which the Old Alana used to love. But now having been thrown from a window, Involved in fratricide, got a girlfriend and still-birthed a baby, she is the New Alana. Cool, wiser, tougher -- not up for the infatuated three-ways of her youth.
Remember back in Season One, having a beer with Hannibal in his kitchen? Times were simpler then...
Speaking of beer, the Doubters have been voicing concerns that beer does not have anything remotely people-ish in the recipe. Well, I don’t know much but I do know that recipes were meant to be altered.
Sweet bliss of innocence enjoys a tall cool one
This image borrowed from
I always thought that Hannibal had barrel-aged his beer for Alana in an oak wine barrel that had previously held body parts (eau de Mirium Lass’ arm?) but if you have any suspicions that he would stop at that, just check out these few breweries for the possibilities: Walking Dead tribute by craft beer-maker Dock Street:

This fine craft beer is made with smoked goats' brain to celebrate the Walking Dead. And cranberries of course for a nice red colour.

Drippy, sticky, scary but delicious

And Right Brain Brewery’s Mangalitsa Pig Porter made from pig faces. A nice accompaniment to Verger Stew.
Porter.  Pig parts. Party.

OK ...who's been in my beer stash?

Meat me half-way...

Another possibility, albeit remote (oh, the first three recipes aren’t?) is that Hannibal could have made glycerine from bones, cartilage and fatty tissues of his victims by boiling them to render the fat and collagen. Then, to extract the glycerine, he would have boiled the fat with lye and salt then strained off the glycerine that separates out. (what remains is soap) He would add the glycerine to his beer to add a velvety texture to the beer and to stabilize it so it keeps longer. But this is not likely since glycerine is not something you would add to a quality hand-crafted beer.

Sanguinaccio with Ladyfinger biscuits and fresh berries

But don't get me wrong, there was a food scene

Bryan Fuller, our genius showrunner/creator/god wanted to show that Hannibal could still have a gracious life in prison. Feeding Dr Chilton was one way of maintaining his pattern of sensuously cooking to classical music and serving Dinner with a Speech. So we had to do something that was simple to make but beautiful. Writers Nick Antosca and Steve LIghtfoot did a lot of practical research eating out in LA and found Sanguinaccio Dolce on a menu of one particularly posh place. It is an old Italian recipe that calls for fresh blood and dark chocolate cooked in milk. 
Soundies sampling sanguinaccio on set - Ao and Sean

Everyone loved it, not the least because it references "Blood and Chocolate" a horror movie from a decade ago that stars a very young Hugh Dancy as a graphic novel writer who gets involved with a werewolf (Kids these days -- what are you gonna do?).

Chris Hargadon, Head of Costumes holding Red Dragon's silk robe
Of course rest of this season is all about the Red Dragon. And although he has the teeth to chew his way through anything I could concoct, I am sad to say he’s more into tattoos than tasty treats.  So I give up. Here’s a lovely picture of his robe – since I know you were inspecting it closely and annoyed that he dropped it to reveal his muscled inked posterior. 

For those of you who would like a closer look. (Hey, eyes, my robe is up here ^)

Robeless Red Dragon

By the way, I can see why Richard Armitage has such a loyal fan base. Not only is he a gifted and dedicated actor, he is a wonderful man. All the crew adored him - especially Hair Department's - talented Karola Dirnberger and Make-up's sweet Katie Brennan. (Hello: daily tattoo application/removal)

NEXT WEEK: Dinner at the Dolarhydes’. Keep your fork – there’s pie.

stole this carved watermelon dragon right off This is Colossal

Hannidinners: Too many to post but a few select ones from Australia

Thank you Aussieannibals! I will plug in your names as soon as I get them from eOneANZ.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Hannibal S3 Ep7: Digestivo

I don’t find you that interesting...

 A bullet inscribed

I won’t miss you

Hits its mark.

The pain, a chill.

 You will.

Poor Will. Death by a thousand cuts – it’s six hundred sixty-six and counting. He’s been beaten, shot and thrown from a train, sawed in the brain* and operated on without anesthetic.  Reading the latest script is draining to say the least. As the bodies hang upside down...I can barely read on.

The last page of the script breaks the bad news 

This is where Hannibal goes to jail.

We all knew Hannibal would end up in the Big House. It’s right there in Thomas Harris’ books and the Hannibal movies. It has been the only thing I have feared more that a brain-eating scene because, as every food stylist knows, there are no smart dinner parties in jail. Unless you’re like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas...faint hope for that.
Mafia meals in jail with Ray Liotta (Goodfellas)

More oysters; more flavour

So I make the most of my one food scene: Verge feeding oysters to Hannibal – in the same way that Hannibal fed Bedelia with his own tastes in mind, not hers. Verger is fattening Hannibal up so he can eat him.

Getting Oysters and Salsa ready for Mads
I decide upon Oysters Rockefeller for this scene because Cordell would think that dish to be quite posh when really, it’s a bit over-produced to bake oysters (which are best eaten raw) in that rich Pernod-scented sauce – and pretentious because Rockefeller was nowhere near the chef or his New Orleans restaurant in 1899 when the dish was invented as a substitute for hard-to-get escargots. (Maybe they all went to Hollywood to get jobs as background snails in Episode 1 to 4.)

If not Now, then When?

Odd to find this in the kitchen sink? Not really. It's Hannibal.

Head Table

What would be perfect for a Hog Magnate’s table? A showy roasted pig head centrepiece. I don’t want to make it too lovely – in spite of his confidence and workmanship, Cordell’s cooking is not and never could be as exquisite as Hannibal’s.  I garland the glazed pig head simply with cauliflower and sausages (or overcooked penises – however you prefer to perceive them) to make the point. But I can’t resist wreathing Ms Piggy’s forehead with a pepper and radish flower crown as a wink to Fannibals.

Speaking of Miss Piggy, Hannibal writer Angelina Burnett tweeted this gem: BBHMM. Who would have thought Kermit could take on Mads' role with such aplomb.
A flower crown for Verger's Roast Pig's head

Yes, that fat-testing knife thing that Verger did to Hannibal is a real thing.

Pig farmers used to stab a very sharp knife into the back of the live pigs to measure the thickness of their backfat. The fat is much softer than the muscle so the farmer could tell by the resistance to the knife where the fatty layer ended and the muscle tissue began.

Although Google will tell you that modern pig farmers now use MRIs to measure fat, I suspect there might be a bit of this knife-in-the-back thing still going on as I can’t imagine most profit-minded factory farms and feed lots are willing to pay the high cost of fat analysis by MRI. Why are we so cruel to the animals we raise as food? Is it because we fear if we cared for them we wouldn’t want to eat them? Especially pigs which are very smart animals – much smarter than the dogs we so cherish.

I swear, this show is turning me into a vegetarian.

And reading this book hasn’t helped.
Great new book by Mark Essig on the history of pigs and pork

Everyone should have an insane Fairy Godmother with a rifle-wand.

Chiyoh is making pheasant pie out of everyone this episode. The girl is everywhere with that shotgun. She’s like Inspector Clouseau’s Cato, jumping out to assassinate people when least expected. Or an omnipresent one-woman cavalry. There was a crazy fight scene in Sogliari’s  elevator between Chiyoh and Jack that was scripted but unfortunately, wasn’t shot due to time issues. It would have been so much fun to see. I just love Jack when he gets mad. (USE THE LADIES ROOM!!!) Another reason we need Season 4 - to see Jack go mano a mano with everybody in the cast.

One of my early layouts for Hannibal cookbook proposal with Hokusai woodcut "Pearl diver"
Earlier in the cookbook planning, I wanted to make an octopus recipe for Murasaki because I would use any excuse to show my favorite Ukiyo-e by Hokusai that illustrates an ancient poem about a pearl diver's encounter with an octopus father and son. But then Murasaki became Chiyoh and now she's indelible as our very own crack-shot pheasant hunter. So now, a  recipe for Chiyoh Pheasant Pie is in the works. Which reminds me – I must end here and get back to work on that cookbook as I’m reporting in to Titan Publishing next week.

Next week:  Meeting the Red Dragon will shock, astonish and exhaust you so you’ll need something sweet…even if it’s made from blood.

Hannidinners are all Australian this week

It's all part of last month's contest from The which I am judging this week and will post results after Episode 8 for all of you to enjoy.

 *thank you Stevi Deter for that "train-brain" couplet you live-tweeted yesterday

All content copyright of Janice Poon and Feeding Hannibal. Photos by Victoria Walsh/Feeding Hannibal

Friday 10 July 2015

Episode 6: Dolce

Circle closes

Noose tightens

Night falls

Up side umop

Our end becomes our beginning.

Dolce: figs, almond cake, comb honey, dates, pomegranates, dried apricots and seasonal fruits
All the sweet things that would have been on the table at the Last Supper are on the table for Will's Last Meal

Food? At a time like this? 

Of course no one wants to talk about the food styling until after we dwell on the bathtub scene for a few quiet moments…
Bathing the Bad One's wounds - Dr Bedelia Nightingale

Wet hot steamy dreaming...

A dreamy soak in a copper tub is the image I have in my head when Stephen, the Props Master shatters my repose with a call: what I would suggest for Pazzi’s “spilling guts”. The obvious answer is “guts, spilling.” By that, I mean although because of food safety laws, he cannot purchase or handle uncleaned eviscera, he can easily buy a variety of natural sausage casing or bung – which is cleaned gut – and fill it with oatmeal. Cuz that’s just what we do here with porridge and food colouring. It often stands in for partially digested food. He did prepare real guts but in the end, Francois made prosthetic intestines for Pazzi. Not as messy and easy to reset – they bounce instead of splat.

Bucket - o - guts

Ripped Carla's tweet right off the interweb- thank you Carla!

But to meat of another kind: Fingers and toes pigtails.

chopped up pig tails 

Cordell tests his Hannibal Fingers recipe on pigtails.

We all had quite a time running around getting pigtails for this episode. They just don’t make them like they used to. Now that pigs are raised in vast factory farms they get quite crabby (not “happy as a pig in shit”) and bite each other’s tails. So instead of giving them better conditions, industrial hog farmers just dock the piglets’ tails.
One of the dishes that I took out to the set.

The dish as it appears on the monitor hidden completely by a lid. OK.  Fine, that's just fine.

Pig tales, continued 

Ergo, when I open the 50 lb box of pigtails I ordered, I discover only 5 decent tails. The rest were sad stubs. (Just what I need right now - another dreary metaphor for life.) I make an emergency cross-town Chinatown dash to buy up all the pigtails I can find. For various reasons, we re-shot this scene so many times that eventually, I found a Jamaican grocer who stocks piles of pails of lovely salted pigtails. I go to him often now – pigtails have featured prominently in several interviews I’ve done for Season 3 -- it amuses the grocer hugely when I stress how I need the l-o-n-g ones to make a movie so he doesn’t mind fishing through barrels of pigtails to find the most lurid ones.
Pigtail pointing with the French film crew doing a Hannibal documentary for 13eme in Paris

Hot Dogs and Hot Docs 

I have made stand-in fake pigtails as well for Joe Anderson, who is our new Verger behind that prosthetic face, because I didn’t want to inflict all that pigtail fat, skin and bone on him in the multiple retakes of the eating scene. So I made little edible “bones” out of dough and pushed them into lengths of chicken wieners which I wrapped in winter melon “skin” and brushed with mustardy ketchup. Tah-da! Hot dog heaven! Except he can't get them in his mouth because of the prosthetic. So emergency measures...I grab some apples off the craft table to make little bones and push them into the wieners I had brought along for just-in-case. Now he's got mini-tails to eat comfortably and we shoot the scene without further ado. And another note

Faking the fake pigtails which are Cordell's fake fingers.
A little footnote about the ringing charcoal that Cordell speaks of as he's describing how he will roast Hannibal: it's called Binchotan and is high carbon coal made from very dense hardwood that has been kiln-charred slowly. It is odorless and pure and burns for a long time hence is highly valued by Japanese yakitori chefs. It's referred to as white charcoal and when you strike it, it rings like a bell.

photo of White Charcoal from

And another footnote about the Tibetan Singing Bowl that Cordell offers to Verger: These are gorgeous bronze or copper bowls that sit on a lovely silk cushion. They ring like a bell when struck and have been used since 500BC for meditative healing with sound. It is so like Verger to spit pigtail bones into something so sacred.

Buddhist Singing Bowls are used for healing and rebalancing 

Hop Sing goes to the store with Annie O'Toole

Director Vincenzo Natali, whom I adore, makes a little request after shooting the pigtail scene. He has an idea that Verger will hold a bit of Peking Duck on his fork as he is imagining Peking Mads stretched out on the table. So of course, he turns to me and says "I'd like some Peking Duck, Janice. In about 20 minutes?" Well, wouldn't we all? I'd like a Day at the Spa but we are on location at The McLaughlin Estate in the middle of Hamilton, not downtown Toronto. Even if we were, it would still take at least an hour. But this is the movie business and "No" is not an option. I don't know Hamilton except that it is full of one-way streets. So I do what I have to do. I grab the Museum curator, Samantha George and force her to drive me to the nearest Metro where I know they sell roast chickens to go. Luckily for me she is Steve McQueen and Wonder Woman rolled into one and she gets me to and back with chickens in 12 minutes flat, laughing all the way. I have 8 minutes to glaze and colour those babies into pieces of Peking Duck. 

But I know I don't have to tell you that just as I pull off this Miracle of the Duckflesh, Vincenzo changes his mind and we don't want the Peking Duck after all. He's going to have Verger dip his fingers in Hannibal's honey glaze instead. Because he's not immobilized in a wheelchair - it's an imagined scene. My fake Duck-chicken gets mobilized into the trash.

Supermarket roast take-out chicken on the left, Peking Faking Duck on the right

Yah, Friends of Hannibal - it's the way we roll...

Can you believe the wheelchair count in this season? This show is maiming all of us. I know I sure could use a sit-down and the location is littered with them -- actors were bobbing in and out of their wheelchairs at various times to stretch their legs and get snacks from the craft table.
Cordell (Glen Fleshler) and Verger (Joe Anderson) have a break at the craft table

The Cook, His Boss, The Prisoner and His Bestie

At last to the scene we have longed for all our food styling years: a homage to Peter Greenaway’s monstrous marination of Helen Mirren’s boyfriend in The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover. In the script, Verger was imagining Hannibal roasted like a Peking Duck. The director asked me if I wanted to work on Mads or if we should get a prosthetic body double. With a heavy heavy heart (sobbing!!!) I said it would be too onerous for Mads to endure being naked, covered in glaze and laid out naked on a table while I drape his nakedness with fruit. So on set, I glaze and garnish the Man-o-Latex instead of the Man-o-Dreams. 

Making tiny last touches in the fruit garnish as the camera crawls along the length of my latex Peking Man.
photo by Brilynn Ferguson

DUCK! It's Hannibal!

The fun we have goofing around with the prosthetic Mads head almost makes up for not having Real Mads in for the scene. (Did I mention "nakedly draping his naked body with fruit?")
I apologize to Karola, the head hairstylist and wizardly wig-maker, for getting BBQ sauce on Mads’ oven wig.

If you can't take the heat, get your head out of the oven.
Here's incredibly talented director Chris Byrne burning Peking Hannibal's head..
photo by Brilynn Ferguson

Hey - what’s that buzzing?

Do you hear the squeal of a bone saw? Oh no, here’s the scene I have always dreaded:  brain alive, sautéed at the table. I knew it would come one day…

I can't stop myself from mentioning that the prop bone saw was fake (well not surprisingly, we couldn't use a real saw - Hugh already had his haircut) and the fake blade kept falling off which took a bit of the gravitas off the scene. Oops.

This episode was all about coming full circle along a tortuous winding way, face to face with your frenemies. 

I think back to when I first got the call to be Hannibal’s food stylist and, unfamiliar with the books or films, I searched Google for “Hannibal food images”. All I got was Anthony Hopkins sauteeing Ray Liotta’s brain. Which was too grisly for me to watch but the idea of it threw me into a long search for a fryable brain substitute. For the first year of shooting, I experimented in my spare time with gluten, poached fish paste, transglutaminase, steamed eggplant, pain perdu made in a custom mould. In over 3 years I still haven’t found a decent stand-in for brains. 

And now I read the scene…my fate on a page in front of me.
Some of my brainier efforts

Happily, a few pages down, I’m delighted to read the very last topsy-turvy scene: the Vergers’ meat delivery system has whisked Hannibal and Will away from Florence to Muskrat Farms USA and averted my having to fry anybody’s brains. Especially my own - metaphorically of course and as always...

After all, it’s never ever been people, has it?

Here's an Eel in Black Bean coiled in a dish I had last week. Damn! If only I could have cooked Verger's eel like this!
photo by brilliant cookbook author Lucy Waverman

What, still no recipes?

Normally, I sadly tell you here that I am unable to include recipes and sketches in this recap because of the wishes of the publishers of my forthcoming Hannibal cookbook. Then when Hannibal didn’t get renewed by NBC, I thought perhaps the cookbook would be axed as well. Now, I am ELATED to tell you there will be no recipes here and no sketches because publisher Titan has confirmed they are committed to the Hannibal cookbook and it will be available next fall! Yay!! I will be unable to show you sketches and recipes til then. Yay - with a soupcon of sadness, of course.

And Hannidinners?

There are a couple of your Hannidnners that I have lost among the floating files on my messy messy desktop. But I promise to get them posted. Just as soon as I get clear.

Here's one that just came in today:
Stephen B made this horn-ucopia of delicious looking Sun-dried Tomato Gnocchi for 210-Naka choko
PLUS: This is an Australian food styling competition I’m judging. And I'll be posting entries weekly to tempt any Aussieannibals into giving it a shot!

Here's the link - but it's open only to Aussies -
If you are not among the lucky who live in Australia, lobby your local station to have a contest.
Details of contest are at the end of this article:   

Here's one of the early Aussie entries! (love that left eyeball!)

Next week:

Birth. Death. Blood. Escape. Capture. Murder. Mayhem. Oh, and oysters.

All content copyright of Janice Poon/Feeding Hannibal, except where noted.
Photos (except where noted) by Victoria Walsh, copyright Feeding Hannibal.