Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Food in Film, Duck with Port and Cherries, Duck Ragout with Pasta and Cream Sauce (and other camera-ready delights!)

I discovered that movie food was different from real food pretty early in life.

I was in love with old movies, especially swashbucklers.  I loved watching them and reading about them.  The beautiful tables groaning with plate and goblets and gorgeous food made me want to eat like my favorite characters. My poor mother got some peculiar requests for her shopping forays to be sure.  I assumed that what we saw was real and delicious. 

Pouring over old movie star bios as was my wont in those days (I was under 12 after all), I was shocked to discover that Tyrone Power was nearly killed by a chicken.  Yes, a chicken. 

You see, there are 2 different types of food for film, the edible type and food for show.  It seems Power took some of the latter and that had been sprayed with DDT to keep the flies away.  He decided suddenly to eat the chicken… not a scripted move at all, and before a horrified prop could stop him, he had taken a few bites and was taken quite ill.

Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)

It comes out that much of the food on film set tables… food that has to sit for hours under hot lights or in the sun, is faux food or altered to give it staying power.  What is eaten is switched out between takes to keep it fresh and edible.

When I grew up and went into the movie business as a member of the art department (the department responsible for food) I learned all of this first hand.

I loved hearing set stories from films shot in NY and, as a serious foodie, was especially bowled over by the amazing work that was done by chef Rick Ellis (who also did the food for American Psycho--- quite a stretch!) to recreate late 19th century New York society dinners.  The scenes were further enhanced by a remarkable collection of china and decoration amassed by decorators Robert Franco and Amy Marshall (under the watchful eye of designer Dante Ferretti) on Scorcese’s The Age of Innocence.  It blew me away (believe me when I tell you what they did was heroic).

There are so many others like the great Babette’s Feast (which I’ve written about HERE) that I've actually cooked dishes from and is a particular favorite.


Another food-centric favorite was Vatel (a story of the baroque chef who committed suicide when the fish delivery was late) that featured extraordinary food scenes and decoration.

Marie Antoinette

That baroque style was featured once again in Sophie Coppola’s magical Marie Antoinette.

But movie food tells a story.  Sometimes the austerity of the table speaks volumes about what is going on in the film.  It’s not all about pomp and grandeur.  It's about telling a story about lives lived.  What and how we eat says a lot about who we are to quote Brillat-Savarin,  "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are."

Who can forget the genius of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane as the whole life of a marriage is shown in the changes at the dinner table, from this:

to this:

or how the relationships in Ordinary People

or American Beauty

can be enriched by the architecture of the dining room,  the design of the food, the decoration and even the lighting.

Seduction can come with only perfect lighting and a bunch of grapes... and of course Garbo.

As many of you know, I have taken a break from working in films to write this blog.  I did a return engagement for a director I love for a film he wrote and directed. It seemed only right that a major component of the film was a dinner.   I forgot what 14-hour days felt like!  I cooked and cooked and in the end it was a huge success.

All of the food was edible.  We had no DDT sprayed chicken! The days of shooting at a dinner table were made easier with oil lights from Firelight Glass –– not having to worry about candle continuity was a real pleasure.  The table came from Made of New York  and was magnificent.  I wanted a table with a lot of character to offset the shine of the dishes.  The table is made from wood from old NYC buildings and is a hundred years old or more.

The meal was written with duck –– a lot of duck in the described dishes –– so I called D’Artagnan – the best place on the planet for great duck!

First, a few weeks before shooting, I went through photos online to show the director so he could pick what he liked visually based on what he had written. We do this for all elements of the film with the director from furniture to paint colors to what’s on a table.  We call it show and tell.  For that, my input is added to what I have read in the script.  For instance, although the script said ‘duck ravioli’, I found a picture of an open ravioli (and a description of the dish from Walter’s Bistro reported by Kevingeats. ) to show him an open-faced ravioli because I told him you wouldn’t see there was duck ragout in a closed up one.  From dozens of photos he chose the ones he wanted.

I did have to make some changes to the recipes.  The food had to last through a whole day of lights and eating since we didn’t have the budget for multiples (actually, in a larger film, I wouldn’t be doing the cooking… outside my job description). 

The crayfish were on a base of canned cream of celery (the real thing would have separated in an hour) and was based on a picture from choosy beggars that the director had loved.  The canned soup stayed exactly the same all day long (it was never intended to be eaten, only seen).  The parsley oil did dissipate over the course of many hours and a crayfish being removed to a plate for 4 takes.

The foie gras was sautéed and placed on a swirl of apricot jam that stayed beautifully, sadly I didn’t remember to snap the picture till the end of the night!!

One picture taken in natural light, fresh on a plate… what a difference!

For the duck with cherries, I used plain old cherry pie filling cut with a little pomegranate juice.  I brushed the duck on the platter with oil to keep it moist and we added to the actor’s plates with fresh duck.  They did eat it all day and I was gratified that the kids on the set, who I was told were picky eaters, said they now loved rare duck breast… to the amazement of their mothers.  For the real recipe I would make my old standby, cherries and port… so good!

This is after 10 hours of shooting!

For the duck ragout pasta, I did make the ragout with duck confit and it was delicious.  I bought fresh pasta, boiled it and cut it into squares.  I laid down a bit of spinach with my handy giant tweezers and then some duck and Boursin cheese and covered it with more pasta and a drizzle of sauce (I made this from a description that went with the picture I showed the director… and it was delicious).  I then slathered it with bottled Alfredo sauce…  a necessity because homemade cream sauce would have separated in a minute.  Again, the store-bought stuff stood up beautifully and looked the same from beginning to end.  The only near disaster came when I left my cooking area and someone used a tea kettle, moving the platter of pasta I had placed there.  When they were done, they put the platter back but left the burner on super low instead of off!!!!  I caught it before it broke but had to so some repair as the middle had really heated up and the ragout was leaking out of the pasta in an unpleasant way.

For dessert I enlisted the aid of Erika Beth at Life’s Too Short to Skip Dessert  to make them, since I am not the queen of desserts.  Even while running the NYC marathon and prepping for an opera (she is an accomplished opera singer too), she stepped up to the plate and came through with chocolate cake and a lemon tart and cupcakes.  We had to make a few changes to make them more like the pictures the director approved (swirls on the cake and caramel on the lemons) –– something that often happens on shoots.  It was it great that she made them… the crew ate them up afterward!  I made madeleines for an extra plate on the table (4 days later they were stale as could be, but fresh they were perfect).

I read about the new  Dominic Ansel Bakery  on Spring Street in NYC and had to get some of his famous macaroons… they were wonderful and so colorful!

I used Daniel Boulud’s recipe for Madeleines courtesy of  Donuts to Delirium since I couldn't find the Elizabeth David recipe I usually used and they were just as good as she had promised!!


Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce

2 duck breasts from D' Artagnan
salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
With a sharp knife score the fat of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render the fat, about 6 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 1 minute. Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 7 minutes, until breasts are medium rare. Rest them for 5 minutes then slice.  (this technique is from  the food network),

Cherry Sauce with Port

2 shallots
1 T butter
1 c sour cherries (fresh or frozen are best)

½ c port
2 T basil jelly or current jelly
1 T cognac
S&P to taste
Pinch of 5 spice powder
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of cayenne

Saute the shallots in butter then add the cherries, wines and jelly and spices.  Reduce the sauce and pour over the duck.

Duck Ragout Ravioli with Boursin Cheese

Duck Ragout

2 T butter
1 m onion, chopped
2 m carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 duck confit legs from D'Artagnan, skin and bone removed and chopped coursely (or meat
from a whole duck cooked low and slow or even chicken thighs cooked low and slow)
1 glass red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 T armagnac
3 T tomato paste
2 T mixed fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the vegetables in the butter till soft.  Add the confit and the rest of the ingredients and cook for 45 minutes over a low heat.  What should be left will be thick and rich.

Boursin Cream Sauce

½ t minced garlic
2 T minced onion
2 t butter
2 c heavy cream
1 package Boursin Cheese
¼ to ½ t nutmeg
1 T madeira (Boston Bual from Rare Wine Co)
1 t cognac
2 T chopped parsley
s& p to taste

Saute vegetables in butter, when soft, add the cream, reduce somewhat then add the cheese and the rest of the spices and parsley.

1 bunch spinach, sautéed with salt and pepper, squeezed dry  and chopped
3 sheets  fresh pasta, boiled and sliced into squares.

Take enough of the pasta to cover the platter and place on a warmed up, heat proof platter slathered with a layer of sauce.  Top each square with some of the spinach and a T of the ragout.  Top with another square.  Spread the rest of the sauce over it and place in a 300º oven to warm for a few minutes… then serve.

Lemon Tart based on an Epicurious recipe 

Tart Shell:

  • 1/3 cup almonds (about 2 ounces)

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

  • Candied lemons:
    2 large lemons, sliced very thin on a mandoline
    3 c. sugar
    3 c. water (plus more for blanching)

    Lemon Filling:

  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

  • 4 large eggs

  • Caramel
    1 C sugar
    ¼ c water

    Tart Shell: 

    Finely grind almonds in processor. Add flour, sugar and salt and process until blended. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, add ice water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, and blend until moist clumps form, adding more water if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Fold dough overhang in, pressing to adhere and forming double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with fork. Freeze 20 minutes. Bake crust until set and light golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 30 minutes. Cool crust on rack 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

    Candied lemons:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You want to use a large pot so that your lemon slices aren’t crowded in the pot to ensure that the pieces stay in tact. Carefully add lemon slices, and blanch for approximately 3 minutes. Drain lemon slices, and repeat the process one more time.
    Bring 3 c. sugar and 3 c. water to a boil, and add blanched lemon slices. Simmer for 25 minutes, and remove to cool/dry on a cooling rack, piece of wax paper, or a silpat.

    Lemon Filling

    Whisk lemon juice and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Whisk in crème fraîche. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until well blended. Pour mixture into crust.
    Bake tart until filling is set, covering crust edges with foil if browning too quickly, about 35 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

    Remove pan sides, Top with candied lemons.

    Take the sugar and water and slowly cook to golden caramel.

    Spoon the caramel over the lemon slices and serve.

    Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Lambapalooza, The Many Faces of Lamb and a Great Dan Perrelli Party

    To celebrate my 2nd anniversary as a blogger… here is an unusual post for me… the recap of a magical party I attended in LA a while ago.    It seemed right to celebrate with a celebration!!  I want to add most of the photos were by Ben Anderson and Sarah Gim since my camera didn't work in the light and they are masters at this.  SOOOOO.....

    Once upon a time there was a man named Dan Perrelli who lived in the lush land of Los Angeles. One day he had a dream that a lamb would be slaughtered just for him so that there would be many parts, and from those parts he would make many dishes.

    To accomplish this task, others were involved to host the feast and to encourage the flow of wines from many lands to lubricate the festivities. And a gathering of lucky souls who loved wine and food would be assembled to partake of this meal on a night that would live in memory.

    Dan Perrelli

    For Dan, the event had begun in his mind months before.  He told me that the idea of  “a whole animal came out of my delight of Nancy Silverton and Chad Colby’s family dinners in the demonstration kitchen of Mozza2Go, particularly the Pork.  Inspirational.  So I posited a whole lamb dinner to Ben (Ben Andersen of the inestimable wine importer, Rosenthal Wine Merchant).  Without a beat he said “hell yes”.  And from there it just kept spinning out of control. “

    How, you may ask, did a right-coast girl find herself at such an event?  It happened that the hero of the lamb quest, Dan Perrelli, came upon my scribblings and felt we were kindred food spirits and that I should be a part of the lambapalooza even though I was on the other coast and we had never met.  He recounted,  “I had read lostpastremembered  before and had even mentioned it to Sarah (Sarah Gim creator of Tastespotting).  And once mania sets in there is no accounting for our impulses and I invited you. “

    I was enchanted, threw caution to the wind and accepted his invitation -- and so the fairytale dinner began for me.

    I really knew how the 3 wise men felt when they had to come up with a worthy offering for a great event.  Two of their three gifts were scented and I decided scents would be at the heart of what I would prepare.  Cosimo de Medici III’s hot chocolate with ambergris and jasmine would do honor to the occasion.  I had just enough ambergris left from Ambergris NZ  and enough of Aftelier’s Jasmine Absolute  to make the divine liquid.

    But wait, I learned there was Mutton that needed to be made and for this I needed some serious inspiration. I pondered, where would I go if I wanted something made with a fully-grown Ovis aries (that would be a sheep from the Old English scēap) if not the cradle of civilization? All roads led to Persia -- one the of finest and most ancient of world cuisines that I had known nothing about until I met Charles Perry this summer and was charmed by his accessible erudition.  I got his cookbook… well, his translation of the 1226AD manuscript called The Book of Dishes (Kitab al-Ṭabīḫ) . In this little gem of a book I found the recipe for Rutabiyya, a succulent lamb preparation that combined pistachios, almonds, dates, saffron & rosewater in an apotheosis of an Indian Korma.  I paired it with a pilaf of faro, barberries, pomegranate and lemon... a contrapuntal accompaniment to Rutabiyya (albeit a bit anachronistic) and topped it with the ultimate warm nuttiness of sautéed chanterelles. This is the divine fuel I imagine Scheherazade used to power the mighty engine of her creativity while she spun her stories of One Thousand and One Nights  … her rose-scented words beguiling her king.  

    Me and Charles Perry

    After pestering Mr. Perry with questions for a few days (he translated the recipe)… I asked my hosts to allow me to invite Mr. Perry to the feast and they loved the idea.  He lived in LA and was a food writer with the LA Times for many years… this was right up his alley and his first response to the invitation was, “I love mutton!” (after the dinner he said “I didn't know which was most imposing, the wide variety of lamb dishes (cold lamb breast!) or the high-flying wines… and so many of both!”).  I was terribly excited to make my version of this ancient dish for him… I even brought my madly delicious homemade murri (a kind of Persian soy sauce but not the most authentic version (I have barley rotting as I write this, Charles!!) that I will be sharing with you soon... it changes everything like magic. 

    For delivering my contributions I enlisted the aid of my favorite suppliers. MarxFoods  shipped my host a big box of chanterelles and some wonderful faro.  The ingredients arrived in perfect condition and on time (they specialize in supplying professional kitchens so they are old hands at delivering the goods on a tight schedule… did I mention I gave Justin Marx 2 days notice?).

    I still had a few things that I needed to smuggle in my suitcase.  I got my favorite perfume genius, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier to send me more of her rose absolute  for the Rutabiyya since it has spoiled me forever from using rosewater (it is the soul of the rose and you need just the smallest drop to flavor your food -- this is my second bottle!).

    I brought some of the more unusual ingredients like mastic and urfa biber pepper from my favorite spice store in NYC,  Kalustyans  so that the California contingent didn’t have to go on too much of a scavenger hunt for my ingredients (sorry about the barberries!) but I didn’t have one ingredient that had been enticing me since I’d read about it in the NYT’s  …. Manna.   I had to have it for the feast.

    After reading about its chameleon qualities (the Bible says that it tastes differently to different people), I knew I had to use it to anoint my Rutibaya, the Manna joining the already exotic camphor sugar on its golden saffron surface.  I contacted Beroush Sharifi, the Saffron King who sells exotic wonders from the Middle East to adventurous chefs.  He generously offered to deliver my manna to me.  He shares this legendary spices with some of the hottest restaurants in NYC (Corton uses Hedysarum manna on apricots with fresh wasabi and Kindai Kampachi and Perilla uses Shir-Kesht  manna with sea salt on Foie Gras with Marcona almonds and candied kumquats).  I was honored that I was met in Union Square with packages of the subtle sweet cooling Shir-Khesht and the sweet and nutty Hedysarum Manna.  I felt a little uneasy exchanging money for small packages on 14th  Street (once upon a time Union Square was an open illegal drug market not a famous Farmer’s market) but this stuff was in the Bible, for gosh sake!   We made the exchange without any police intervention and I greedily broke into the package the moment I got to the car.  Shir-Kesht was the one for me.

    I stuffed all my goodies in pockets and socks and shoes and headed for the airport, praying that some eagle-eyed inspector would not decide to detain my little treasures for further inspection.

    The menu developed organically after the lamb theme was locked starting with the very first thing on the menu. Dan Perrelli had an experience hiking up Nandi Hills in Karnataka (SW India)  on a hot summer day, “Along the path various refreshments were for sale, offered by wizened women hunched beneath makeshift palm frond awnings.  The most appealing item in the heat was peeled and sliced cucumber sprinkled with a dark red powder and salt.  I will never forget the burst of wet sweet bitter saltiness that instantly shocked my thirst away.”  This revelation was cucumbers with Sumac and salt. A perfect beginning, the cucumbers were a clear Baroque trumpet of flavor paired with lovely sparkling wines.  There would be 8 hours and 10 courses to follow.

    Speaking of pairings, let us not forget that the party was held at Ben Andersen’s house and that he and Dan Perrelli (who is with the Wine Hotel) are wine people. There were several sommeliers and wine buyers there from the finest places in LA.” Chris Lavin from XIV by Michael Mina (LA), Eric Railsback from RN74 in San Francisco, Sarah Clarke from Church & State Bistro (LA) Taylor Parsons, sommelier at Spago Beverly Hills.  Chef-wise, we had Jordan Toft, who will be the head chef at The Eveleigh, soon to open in LA… and Chad from Mozza. Blogger-wise, we had Sarah Gim of Tastespotting and Delicious Life   as the co-hostess and Brooke Burton of Foodwoolf . Alex Kakoyiannis was the incredible grill master of the evening, his experience with roasting whole beasts for family dinners won him the honor and boy, he was a champion.

     Ben shared the incredible liquid bounty of his firm, Rosenthal Wine Merchants.  The company champions the principals of terroir, a subject that is close to my heart.  Quick recap, the concept of terroir is that the product tastes uniquely of the place that grew it... it has a sense of place. More broadly, terroir is what gives what we drink (and eat) an individual taste that you can’t duplicate elsewhere.   Wine grown well tastes of the weather, the air, the water and the soil of where it is from.  Rosenthal celebrates this individuality in wines from all over the world (and a wonderful director that I worked with, Jonathan Nossiter, celebrated Rosenthal's high standards in a documentary on wine called Mondovino!).

    For the dinner we had an extraordinary flight of wines from Rosenthal.  Here’s a list to make you all wish you were there. 


    97 Montevertine "Le Pergole Torte" (Tuscany)
    06 Montevertine "Le Pergole Torte" (Tuscany)
    07 La Boncie Chianti-Classico "Le Trame" (Tuscany)
    05 Paolo Bea "Rosso de Veo" (Umbria)
    08 Danilo Thomain Enfer d'Arvier, (Vallee d'Aoste)


    05 Robert Michel Cornas "Le Geynale" (Northern Rhone Valley)
    05 Bernard Levet Cote-Rotie "La Chavaroche"  (Northern Rhone Valley)
    07 Guillaume Gilles Cornas  (Northern Rhone Valley)


    07 Hautes Terres de Comberousses "Roucaillat" (Coteaux du Landuedoc, South of France)
    07 Lucien Crochet Sancerre "Le Chene" (Loire Valley)
    99 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Perrieres" (Burgundy)
    05 Philippe Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec (Loire Valley)
    07 Mathieu Tijou Savennieres "Croix Picot" (Loire Valley)
    04 Michel Gahier Chardonnay "Fauquette" (Arbois, Jura)


    07 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol (South of France)

    The gorgeous Pilar Arias (of Mozza2Go) did a lot of shopping and the flowers & candles and Suzanne Shumway set up a lot of the garden lighting.  Then, on top of shopping till any normal human would have dropped, Sarah Gim oversaw all the decoration of the outdoor dining room with a gimlet eye and unerring taste as well as taking all the food photos with her amazing Canon.  She should be given a special award for wearing heels, looking perfectly put together and being vivacious for 20 hours!

    The menu was shopped in LA.  The ingredients came from their fabulous purveyors…………..  The lamb was followed from the ranch it was raised on to the L.A.  butcher Marcondas where it was sliced into its various parts.  Sarah followed this remarkable journey.

    After the meat arrived, Dan Perrelli took over, prepping many of the dishes in the days before the lambapalooza event.

    The opening lamb salvo was a brilliant carpaccio of leg of lamb that Dan said was “created in my head, made for the first time that night”:

    “Pounded tenderloin, sauce of fresh limejuice, grated green onion, walnut oil, salt and a touch of crème fraiche whipped mercilessly with blender stick.  Crushed pink peppercorns sprinkled” It was a brilliant start … a thin gauze of lamb with a spectacular citrus-y mayonnaise mellowed by the walnut oil with little firecrackers of pink peppercorn.

    The second dish was Cold Whole Lamb Breast, boned. -- an old Danish recipe from Dan’s grandmother that was such a surprise of cold texture -- like a subtle lamb pancetta that has that je ne sais quois flavoring of juniper :

    “You are going to make a “jelly-roll”, so arrange pieces into an elongated rectangle.  Rub with grated brown onion, spices (this time used dry ginger, allspice, Hawaiian red salt, black pepper).  Carefully roll up and tie off as if a rolled roast.  [heat whole spices in dry pan, then grind].  For the wet cure, boil about 8 cups of water, stir in ¾ pounds coarse sea salt, 10 whole cloves, 12 crushed juniper berries, a few sticks of cinnamon, bay leaves, etc.  and simmer for 10 minutes.  Cool the cure completely.  Cover breast in glass, ceramic or stainless steel vessel and cover completely with liquid.  Refrigerate for 10 days.  Remove from cure and simmer in fresh water for about 2 ½ hours.  Remove meat and place on dish/board with enough weight to deform the meat a bit, flattening it by about half.  Once cool, refrigerate to up to 3 days.  Serve sliced with plain crème fraiche and good mustard.”

    This was served with Fergus Henderson’s Green Beans with roasted garlic and anchovies that Brooke Burton prepared and a riff on Henderson’s ketchup on the side.  Oh that ketchup… it appeared throughout the dinner and I admit I am guilty of plopping it on my plate and taking little spoons of it throughout the evening (secret ingredients are malt vinegar and apples!).

    Fergus Henderson’s Green Beans with roasted garlic and anchovies

    The third lamb was done as Kabobs – “another conceptualization that seemed to work” said Dan.  Work it did, these were flavorful taste bombs. The bits of sorrel were an inspired addition, reining in the rich lamb and mutton before they got a good dunking in that spectacular ketchup.  It was served with a meltingly evil gratin of onions... sauteéd for hours and then baked with cream and cheese... to die for.


    3 parts ground lamb
    1½ parts ground mutton
    2 parts braised neck and fore shank, fine chop
    Sea salt
    Absolutely no pepper
    Fine dice of the following ingredients in loose volume equal to the ground meats
    Leaf parsley
    Fresh sorrel
    Brown onions

    Mix and form onto flat skewers for grilling.
    Serve with ketchup

    Onion Parmesan Gratin from Patricia Wells

    Lamb # four was a meltingly tender leg done with a secret technique. When I arrived the night before the dinner, there was a leg of lamb on the table enrobed in a thick caramel cream.  I was fascinated and watched it, warily all the next day as it sat squarely on the end of the table absorbing the rich flavors of the marinade.  Its recipe is simple but the effect is spectacular:

    Roast Lamb with a Creamy Coat

    “Cover with a liberal amount of:  equal parts dashi miso and Dijon mustard mixed with enough Japanese soy sauce to make the marinade runny but still viscous enough to coat the leg.  Keep at room temp uncovered for 24 hours, allowing the goo to thicken and adhere.  Roast on grill or in oven as you would any leg.  I like the outside to get black with a bit of bitterness to the crust while keeping the meat rare to medium rare.  We cooked it to medium to medium well, under foil on the grill without the burnt bits.”

    garlic anchovy toasts

    Serve with garlic anchovy toasts.
    Lamb # 5 was the daube that was an amalgamation of many typical recipes. It was slow cooked for hours in the extravagantly proportioned 12 Qt. black beauty of a Cocotte by Staub  that all the cooks in the group were green-eyeing wildly.  You could cook for a legion in this pot with its perky brass handle that shone on the expanse of flat black.
    lamb daube


    Lamb #six came via New York restaurant luminary, Daniel Boulud.  It was served at his wedding rehearsal dinner in Cannes -- made by the chef of Boulud’s Egyptian friends, the El Maghrabys.  You can see why he was so fond of it since it is so tender it dissolves on your tongue, filling your mouth with a luxurious spicy warmth. 

     Cleopatra’s Leg à la Daniel Boulud, with Couscous

    1 leg of lamb
    8 cloves of garlic, 3 cut into 6 sticks each
    S & P
    ¼ c olive oil
    3 cups onions, coarsely chopped
    4 cups carrots, coarsely chopped
    3 cups celery, coarsely chopped
    2 cups fennel trimed and coarsely chopped
    1 small jalepeño seeded and minced
    4 cups tomatoes cored and coarsely chopped
    6 cups stock (lamb and or chicken)
    ¼ c Italian parsley coarsely chopped

    Spice Mix – (reserve 1 T of spice mix for vegetables and ½ T for couscous)

    3 T cumin
    2 T Cinnamon
    1 t  allspice
    1 T ground coriander
    ½ t nutmeg
    ½ T fennel seed
    1 T ground cardamom
    1 t ground ginger
    ½ t ground star anise
    pinch of ground cloves
    1 t cayenne

    Make 18 incisions into the lamb and insert garlic sticks.  Season with 4 T of the spice mix, salt and pepper rubbed into the lamb.  Heat 3 T of oil and brown the meat…about 15 minutes. Remove and sauté all the vegetables save the tomatoes for 10  minutes.  Add the tomatoes, lamb and roast 1 hour covered, turning every 15 minutes.  Add hot stock
    And cook 2 ½ hours.   There should be 1 ½ to 2 cups of stock left.  Remove lamb and keep warm.  Add the rest of the olive oil and parsley to the sauce and serve over lamb.


    1 lb instant couscous,
    2 c chicken stock
    1 t honey
    ¼ c golden raisins
    3 T butter
    ¼ c pine nuts, toasted
    2 T chopped coriander leaves

    Put the couscous in a dish, then pour hot stock over it with honey and ½ T spice mix.  Put in 250º oven for 15 minutes.  Add the butter and coriander and pine nuts and keep warm till ready to serve

    The next dish, lamb # seven, was Adam and Eve ribs with pickled shallots in duck fat and chickpea tuilles.  At this point in the evening the lashings of great wines had begun to work their magic and the company tore into the perfectly smoked ribs with primitive abandon that was fun to watch.  And Stacy's chickpea tuilles were perfect!

    Adam and Eve Ribs

    Pickled Shallots in Duck Fat

    Chickpea Tuilles

    The final sheep, # eight on the menu, was mine… not lamb this time, but mutton because Dan had conceived of the meal as nose to tail and cradle to grave so the senior branch of the family needed a little representation.  I made my Mutton Rutibaya.  I had done a mini run-through back home since I had never made mutton before (a nice English lady that took care of me as a nipper made mutton and kidneys and the smell of them cooking had kept me from them ever since …until now).   I just loved the rose perfumed sauce made creamy by nut flours.  The camphor sugar and the manna have a haunting sweetness that I am going to use again. 

    The original recipe from The Bagdad Cookbook and my version:

    Cut red meat into small, long, thin, slices: melt fresh tail**, and throw out the sediment, then put the meat into the oil, adding half a dirham* of salt and the same quantity of fine-brayed dry coriander. Stir until browned. Then cover with lukewarm water, and when boiling, skim. Put in a handful of almonds and pistachios peeled and ground coarsely, and color with a little saffron. Throw in fine-ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon and mastic, about 2.5 dirhams in all. Take red meat as required, mince fine, and make into long cabobs placing inside each a peeled sweet almond: put into the saucepan. Take dates: extract the stone from the bottom with a needle, and put in its place a peeled sweet almond. When the meat is cooked and the liquor all evaporated, so that only the oils remain, garnish with these dates. Sprinkle with about ten dirhams of scented sugar and a danaq of camphor; spray with a little rose water. Wipe the sides of the saucepan with a clean rag, and leave to settle over the fire for an hour: then remove.
    (*a dirham is 3.2 grams, and 6 danaq = 1 dirham **Tail fat is from a variety of fat tailed sheep we do not have in the US…there is nothing comparable)

    Mutton Rutibiya

    1 lb. lean leg of mutton cut into cubes (or lamb cut into strips)

    2 T olive oil                                                                                                                           
    S & P                                                                                                                                       
    1 t ground coriander                                                                                                                
    1 c almonds, ground to a powder + 7 whole for stuffing the dates and 10 for the cabobs      
    1 c pistachios, ground to a powder                                                                                       
    ½ t saffron                                                                                                                             
    1 t cumin                                                                                                                                
    1 t cinnamon                                                                                                                             
    ½ t ground ginger 
    1 t. mastic, powdered in a mortar and pestle                                                                       
    10 dates, 3 chopped and 7 stuffed with almonds                                                                
    ½  T scented sugar (add a drop or pinch of camphor)                                                                     
    1 or 2 drops of Aftelier Rose Essence or 1 T of rosewater                                                                                                                             
    1-2 T Shir Khesht manna  , ground in a mortar and pestle   coriander or parsley leaves 

    1 lb ground mutton (or lamb)
    1 T Urfa Biber pepper
    ½ t each of coriander, cinnamon, cumin, and vanilla
    1 clove minced garlic

    Sauté the mutton or lamb in the oil and remove from the pot.  Sauté the cabobs till browned.   If using mutton, return to the pot, partially cover with water and add the spices and ground nuts and chopped dates and cook at 225º for a few hours till tender, adding the cabobs the last hour of cooking.  If the sauce isn’t thick enough, remove the meat and reduce.  Replace the meat and warm.
    If using lamb, sauté the cabobs, add water to partially cover, the nuts and spices, mastic and dates and cook at a low heat till the cabobs are done.  If the sauce is thick enough, add the lamb to warm, if not remove the cabobs and reduce. Replace the meat and warm.
    Stir the rose essence/rosewater into the mutton/lamb.  Plate the mutton/lamb with the sauce.  Sprinkle the camphor sugar and the powdered manna over the top with the coriander/parsley and serve it forth.
    3 T olive oil                                                                                                                          
    ½ cup barberries, soaked for 1 hour                                                                                        
    ½ c pomegranate seeds                                                                                            
    juice of 1 lemon                                                                                                               
    ½ - 1 T cinnamon        

    Cover Faro with water and cook until tender, 45 min to an hour.  Strain toss with cinnamon and put on a cookie sheet in a low oven to dry a little and bring out the nuttiness.   Toss with olive oil and lemon and set aside.  When ready to serve, toss in the barberries and pomegranate seeds.  Top with Chanterelles.

    2 T olive oil                                                                                                                            
    3 T butter                                                                                                                                 
    2 cups beef or chicken stock reduced till thickened slightly                                  
    pinch of saffron                                                                                                          
    pinch of coriander                                                                                                          
    pinch of thyme
    Parsley, chopped

    Take the chanterelles and toss them in the olive oil, S&P.  Smoke them on the grill for 10 minutes or on a rack, covered in a foil-lined wok (jasmine tea pine needles and brown sugar to do the smoking) for 10-20 minutes till the desired degree of smokiness is reached.
    Take the smoked mushrooms, slice and sauté in the butter.  Add the reduced stock and spices and serve over the faro.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
    Buttermilk sorbet with buttermilk cookies came from Sarah Clark from Church and State Bistro in L.A.  They were the perfect light ending to an 8 hour meat dinner and the slightly sweet-sour taste was just too good.
    We have arrived at the end of the lambapalooza.  The last thing on the menu were tiny cups of hot chocolate with jasmine ambergris.  It was made the day before and allowed to puff up, as Brillat-Savarin recommended.  A last quick shot of chocolate to send the ever so sated assembly on their way.

    Cosimo de Medici III’s Hot Chocolate

    6 ounces water, boiling
    1 oz 100% chocolate, shaved (around a ¼ c)
    1 ½ t sugar or honey
    ¼ tsp vanilla
    1 slight drop of jasmine absolute 
    Green pea size piece of ambergris from Ambergris Co. NZ

    To the boiling water add the shaved chocolate and stir till incorporated. Mash the ambergris into the sugar/honey and add to the chocolate. Stir to blend. If you have a cappuccino maker give it a minute with the steamer, then store, covered on the counter overnight. It will have developed a velvet texture that you may want to drink room temperature. If not, give it another go with the steamer or heat in a double boiler gently and whisk into a foam. Add one tiny drop of jasmine to the chocolate. Take care to gather up the ambergris that can deposit waxy specks that can cling to cups and pan as you pour the chocolate into two small espresso cups.  If you want to gild the lily, you can add a spoon of cream and cognac to the mix.

    I heard the revelry continued until dawn (the time difference got me around 2 am, drat!) with all in attendance delirious with pleasure.  Oh what a night!

    Dan summed up his feeling about the evening in an email:

    “Sometime in the early 1970's I lived in a big house with many guests.  One night the 4 year daughter of a former lover (1966) who was temporarily living with us blurted out "I wish the world was made of food!". About a week later she came downstairs for breakfast in the dining room.  The 10 ft by 6 foot table was covered by an entire world fashioned in food.  Jello rivers with apple and pear fish swimming under celery bridges leading to a small hamlet surrounded by forests of broccoli and kale, mayonnaise crowned bread mountains behind.  All shot on a Bolex 16mm ( Carl Zeiss lenses and 400' magazine).  After her joy had subsided we asked her if she was hungry.  She couldn't believe it,  "You mean, eat the world?  Can I?". And we all dived in destroying in five minutes what had taken six adults all night to create.  That was last night to me.

    So thank you all for indulging this cook.  Ben, for being the kind of friend who never keeps score.  Sarah G for a "kick ass" heart of gold.  Both for hosting in style with grace. Sarah C for taking a leap of faith and killer buttermilk everything.  Pilar for unfailing taste and constant good cheer.  Stacy for tuiles of a different color and constant encouragement.  Alex for superb grilling skills (saved my butt several times ) and not a harsh word.  Brooke for the best green beans in the universe and nothing but smiles.  Deana for the best "korma" I've eaten and utter balls.  Finally, Daniel for hard work, understanding and super carpaccio.”