Plasma, hearts, spleen:
A deep red ribbon
Whirring in his blender.
Extruding from his grinder.
Laid upon his table
That bad Hannibal! He really knows how to keep a food stylist running. Now he’s having a whole bunch of friends for dinner – and that’s not counting the guests.
In the production meeting, we discuss the massive food scenes: Freezing Frenzy - Hannibal stashing his ill-gotten groceries in his Sub-Zero mini-morgue; Frying Frenzy - Hannibal cooking for a huge party: Feeding Frenzy - Hannibal presenting a lavish dinner for eight. The organ tally is mounting. I'll need organs going into the freezer, out of the freezer, onto the chopping block, through the grinder, into the ovens and onto the dinner table. More meat every way all day.
|Layout of platters proposed for the dining room table|
At the abattoir, my boxes of carefully culled “hero” organs are ready. Also, a pail of pig’s blood which I need for a scene where Hannibal separates blood in a centrifuge so he can use the clear plasma in a tomato broth. My guy at the plant tells me pig’s blood is not used for food much these days, but it’s more in demand by non-food industries. His company ships barrels of it all over the world to make iron supplements. Then he tells me something I can hardly believe: many slaughterhouses sell their blood to cigarette companies to put into the filters. Something about the high protein binding qualities of hemoglobin make it excellent at trapping toxins, keeping the poisons from getting into smokers’ lungs. I shake my head. Why not just eat bacon? Smoky and delicious.
|Every head cheese should have a cucumber tiara studded with radishes - in the foreground, wild boar pate and king and shiitake mushrooms|
I just get my offal beauties vacuum-pack for the freezer insert shots when I find out - of course, there is a last-minute change in the shooting schedule. We are shooting the dinner scene in two days! I need more organs!!!! There’s no time to requisition them from the abbatoir. I have go to the ethnic butchers and work with what’s on the racks.
I stop in at the Italian butcher who has gut, heart and liver but is horrified by my request for lung and spleen and rushes me out of his shop like I’m Rosemary’s Baby’s godmother or something. My humiliation is complete in Chinatown, where I ask for lungs, heart and liver in mangled Cantonese. “Gee yeoh…gee whang lei…gee sie,” I sing-song which sends the men at the meat counter into spasms of laughter. They are killing themselves guffawing and gasping for air as I pound my chest like Celine Dione trying to communicate “lung”. They supply me with some of the body parts on my list and I move on, hoping to find more and better specimens elsewhere. Thank goodness for the Sino-East-West Indian shops out in the suburbs where they display everything in rows of styro trays.
|Heart Tartare in vol-au-vents - a great suggestion by Robyn Stern from Jose Andres ThinkFoodGroup|
Shoot day is a killer with nine food scenes. One of my assistants, Kristen Eppich, goes on-camera as a cook’s helper in the big kitchen scene. My 1st assistant, Ettie Benjamin and I stay in the trenches and handle the food prep. Our prep tables are covered in bloodied cutting boards, wads of plastic wrap, mixing bowls and pots and pans. Emerging from this mass -- a headcheese the size of a volleyball wearing a cucumber tiara, platters of galantine, liver en gelée, blood sausages, carpaccio, sopressatta and wild boar pate. Not a leafy green in sight. The director wants a meat-only dinner. And you and I and millions of viewers know what kind of meat. There are only eight people in the world who don’t - and they are applauding Hannibal as the credits roll.
|The dinner scene: A hand (and a leg and a lung) for Dr Lecter photo: Brooke Palmer/NBC|
I had to pvr Hannibal this week so I could throw octopus at the tv while I watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (I just happened to have about 20 lbs of octopus on hand for a scene I’m prepping for Dr Cabbie, the movie I’m working on right now.) So I will view it on the weekend. This gives me time to whip up a tray of canapés to snack on while I watch it with friends. Here are a couple of recipes adapted from Hannibal’s dinner so you can do the same:
Brain and Tartare Canapés
Here are two fillings for puff pastry tartlets. You will need 24 mini pastry shells which you can buy ready-to-use or frozen and ready-to-bake. If neither are available, buy blocks of frozen puff pastry and prepare as described below.
Tomato Brain Barquettes
Tomato Brains are the discovery of Jose Andrés, our brilliant culinary advisor. They are a lesson in seeing the unusual in the ordinary. If you gently tear away the flesh from a tomato, you will reveal the seed jelly clusters which shimmer within every tomato like handfuls of ruby cabochons – or the brains of tiny Martians, depending on how your mind works. He suggested stuffing them in pastry shells for our grand banquet. I’ve added a schmeer of tapenade to add a bit of zing.
12 barquettes or tartlet shells
3 to 4 large ripe plum tomatoes
2 Tbsp prepared tapenade or chopped Nicoise or Kalamata olive
freshly ground pepper and sea salt
chervil, parsley or chive
1. Cut off the top ½ inch of the stem end of a tomato. Leaving the seed jelly clusters intact, gently tear away the tomato flesh to reveal a wedge-shaped cluster of seeds. Slide the tip of a sharp paring knife under the seed cluster to release it from the core of the tomato. Carefully set aside on a plate. Repeat until you have 12 to 16 clusters.
2. Spread 1/2 tsp of tapenade in the bottom of 12 of the prepared pastry shells, Slide one or two tomato brains in to shell. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a leaf of chervil, parsley or lengths of chive.
|Lobotomizing tomatoes for your pastry shells|
Beef Tartare Tarts
For the Dinner For Eight, Hannibal served Heart Tartare. The recipe here is for Beef Tartare although if you want to add more flavor, texture and frisson to your canapé tray, instead of beef, substitute fresh veal heart, trimmed of fat and tendons and chopped very finely. For the half-hearted, use a mixture of ground sirloin and minced heart.
12 barquettes or tartlet shells
4 Tbsp good quality olive oil
1 Tbsp finely diced cornichon pickle
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
8 oz beef sirloin, ground OR heart, very finely minced
4 Tbsp minced shallots
1 tsp orange zest
freshly ground pepper and sea salt
truffle oil (optional)
1. In a large mxing bowl, combine olive oil, pickle, mustard and Worcestershire. Add beef, shallots and zest. Season to taste with pepper and salt. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.
2. Just before serving, fill 12 pastry shells with beef mixture. Mound remaining mixture in the centre of serving dish and surround with filled tarts. Drizzle with truffle oil and garnish generously with capers.
To make 24 Pastry Shells:
1 – 14 oz pkg frozen puff pastry
¼ cup melted butter, optional
1. Thaw dough according to instructions. Pre-heat oven to 400°. On floured board, roll half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness into a rectangle that is about 9 x 7 inches . Press into small barquette tins or shape shells as follows: Cut dough into rounds using a 2-inch cookie cutter. Using a 1-inch round cutter, press an impression in the middle of each 2-inch round. The impression should be as deep as possible without cutting through the dough. Prick inside round with fork tines. Repeat with remaining dough.
2. Place rounds on baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool as you prepare fillings below.
3. Prepare the rounds for filling by pulling out a few layers of the center round from each, leaving a 1/4-inch wall around the outer circumference of each shell, thus forming a well for the fillings.
4. Brush shells with butter for flavor, if desired.
A lot of you have been asking about the High Life Eggs from the Episode Formerly-Known-As-4 which was pulled from broadcast and only available on line. I’ll post the recipe and details in a couple of days.
Also, details about a Hannibal Dinner that is being held at a pop-up June 18.