Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vincent Price and Pheasant Under Glass

I know, many of you will go “What the???” when you see Mr. Price’s face and wonder if I had taken a wrong holiday turn and misplaced a Halloween post  … but you’d be as wrong as I was when I was a kid and heard that Price was an art collector.  I thought the idea risible (he was hawking his collection at Sears, after all) but the joke was on me.  Mr. Price was a respected collector of fine art as well as a renowned gourmet and host. An invitation to his Hollywood home was much prized -- as was his good humor and charm.

Often, when you see lists of great American cookbooks, his 1965 A Treasury of Great Recipes: Famous Specialties of the World's Foremost Restaurants Adapted for the American Kitchen is on it and with good reason. I got my copy many years ago from my ex’s wonderful mother,  have loved cooking from it and especially loved looking at the amazing menus and photos that really capture an enviable mid-century lifestyle beautifully.

Vincent and his wife Mary loved to cook and entertain, with a kitchen that anyone could only dream of… I mean is that an island or is that an island?

Not only did he entertain, boy did he know where to eat!   The book is a collection of menus and recipes for the great cuisines of the world from all the most famous restaurants of the day... from Paris’s Tour d’Argent and England’s Woburn Abbey to Chicago’s Pump Room and New York’s Trader Vics.  Thank heavens Vincent Price used his celebrity shamelessly. When he asked for recipes at incredible places, he got them.

Price came from a good deal of St. Louis, Missouri money (his father was president of The National Candy Company and his grandfather invented a popular cream of tartar baking powder).  He went to Yale majoring in Art History and was a member of the famous Courtauld Institute at University of London (founded in 1932), one of the premier centers for the teaching of art history in the world (said my friends at Wikipedia). Although he seemed to relish his career in theatre and film (especially in campy horror films), I think he enjoyed the fine art of living even more.

Faisan sous cloche, or pheasant under glass appears in a 1940 menu from Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans (where my parents went for their honeymoon a decade later!).   From what I understand, the dish evolved over time from Escoffier’s famous Mushrooms sous cloche.

 Le Guide Culinaire 1903, Escoffier

Charles Ranhofer’s The Epicurean has a similar mushroom recipe in 1894 (an homage to Escoffier perhaps?) … with a lovely illustration.

I tried to find where the transition was made from mushrooms to pheasant (my theory is that it’s an early mid-20th century American invention to evoke high-style to provincial American clientele) but came up empty.  I did find that as late as 1920, a creaky delight by James Lane Allen called “On the Mantelpiece” still referred to mushrooms under glass… the pheasant was a stuffed curiosity perched under a glass bell on a table.

“Who loved the domestic canary, and the owl if perched on a bookcase
And the pheasant With its young and its nest if well arranged on a table-
Served sous cloche like mushrooms.”

Ranhofer’s pheasant is still sans cloche even though he had done the mushrooms that way in 1894.

 The pheasant sous cloche preparation is different from the mushroom method in one significant way.  The mushrooms are cooked inside the cloche, keeping all of the precious aromas within the glass until the moment the fortunate diner removes the lid.  The pheasant is prepared beforehand and then the finished product is covered -- but the effect is the same -- the diner will open the lid and enjoy the dizzying aromas of truffles, cognac and Madeira in a potent blast of scent not unlike today’s magic pillows of fragrance created by gastro-geniuses like Grant Achatz.

I read a charming 2001 article by Jonathan Reynolds in the NYT’s in which Reynolds recalled eating pheasant under glass as a youth on an outing with an elegant uncle at The Westbury Hotel in NYC in the 50s (I am guessing -- he wasn’t clear on the year). I believe this was the heyday of the dish.  I remember films of the 30s and 40s always made pheasant under glass seem like the sine qua non of cuisine (funny I always remember it being ordered but never arriving!).  By the time I was old enough to enjoy it, it had gone the way of the dinosaurs but I have always wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Everyone in old black and white movies ordered pheasant under glass at fancy soirees… me too, please!

I based my recipe on the Jonathan Reynold’s version principally, and it is similar to one from the Greenbriar Hotel in WV (how long ago it was on the menu, I do not know) but added the truffle because I think it is essential for the effect to work properly.  Morels are great but they don’t knock you off your feet like the scent of a truffle does, Vincent knew best on that one (although I remember tasting truffles in a sauce as a kid in a fancy joint and they tasted like dirt… I think they were from a jar… blech!, I wonder if Antoines were the real deal?).  I did love the Antoine’s toast with pheasant liver idea so threw that in since it is a classic French technique when serving game birds.  The Antoine’s sauce wasn’t my cup of tea but I’ve included it for you to decide which you like.  All and all, great dish and a real show stopper if you have cloches (I used the top from a cake stand).  I can imagine the Pricean glee when young Vincent enjoyed the ceremony at Antoines nearly 70 years ago, bathing his famous face in the celestial steam to enjoy it to its fullest.

Oh yes, I got my pheasant from D’Artagnan and it was raised in NJ!!!   If you have never had raised pheasant, it is mild and like chicken and not dark like duck… every so slightly pink is the ideal degree of doneness.  The wild version is darker but equally superb! I have another recipe for it that is related, but with foie gras and truffles called Pheasant Souvaroff that you can find HERE.

Pheasant Under Glass for 2
1 whole large pheasant breast from D'Artagnan, split and boned (Duck or chicken would work too) *
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus 2 T for sautéing livers)
1 T brandy
1 T Boston Bual Madeira  from Rare Wine Company 
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
2 shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 small crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 t. brandy
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 small truffle from D'Artagnan, sliced   or a few drops of good white truffle oil from D'Artagnan 
 Pinch cayenne pepper.

pheasant liver (optional, if you have one, mine did not)
2 pieces toast (optional)

I used arugula for a garnish and loved the flavor with the rich sauce… you may want to use it as an edible side dish.

1. Flatten pheasant breasts slightly with a mallet or rolling pin, then rub with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with black pepper.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat in a 9-inch skillet. When it foams, sear the pheasant, skin side down, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, cover and keep warm (raised pheasant breast is light like chicken and not like duck… every so slightly pink is the ideal degree of doneness).
3. Steep the dried morels in ½ cup hot water, cognac and madeira for an hour. Drain and strain them, reserving the soaking liquid. Discard stems and slice caps thinly.
4. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes, until golden, then add the morels and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
5. Boil the reserved soaking liquid with the brandy and white wine until reduced by 1/2, about 1 minute, then whisk in the cream and demi-glace and boil about 1 minute, until sauce is thickened and smooth. Whisk in the remaining lemon juice and the cayenne.
6. If you have one, sauté the pheasant liver in butter, season and add 1 t cognac and then spread on toast.
7. Place the pheasant breasts skin side up on your toast on a hot serving plates and top each with half the mushroom mixture, then the sauce and shaved truffles or drops of truffle oil.
8. Enclose with a glass cover.  It is classically served with wild rice. 
* You will have many pheasant bits left after removing the breast.  What I did was brown them and cook them for 6 hours in 6 c stock at the lowest heat possible.  I will be using the legs for a holiday cassoulet ( and Petunia the St Bernard gets the rest)!

And now, another holiday drink for you via Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks.  Those slushy punches are hot again.  Mark Bittman did a version in the NYTs  this week.  I have done one before HERE . A version of Punch Romaine (and there are many) was served on the Titanic’s last night as a palate cleanser between courses. I can tell you, they are delish… boozy and refreshing all at once.  I’ll keep ‘em coming till New Years.  They really knew how to drink in the 19th century!  Oh yes, drop over and visit David Solmonson at 12 Bottle Bar  if you want to find out more about great cocktails… I’m a novice at mixology having been a wine person most of my life.  He tells great stories with lots of history and is doing a 12 days of Christmas drink special.

Ponche á la Romaine, á la Hall

2 c pineapple syrup*
2 drops essence of orange peel (I used Aftelier’s essence of Bergamot )
a few gratings of orange peel
a few gratings of ambergris from Ambergris Co. NZ   (optional)
2 cups dry sherry
2 c cider
4 egg whites in an Italian meringue**
½ c rum

Put the pineapple syrup to warm in a pan.  When it is quite warm, add the ambergris and orange essence.  Cool the mixture, then add the peel, sherry, cider, meringue and rum and freeze.  Unless your freezer can go very cold, the texture will be like a stiff, albeit boozy slushy.  If you’d like, you can dollop any leftover meringue you have on the top or put fresh fruit in the bottom ( I tried raspberries and they were delicious and cut the sugar… it is a sweet drink!).

*Pineapple Syrup 
2 cups cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 small pineapple

Combine sugar with water and stir. Skin and cube a small pineapple, add the fruit to the sugar mixture and muddle somewhat.  Let stand for 24 hours. Put the mixture in a blender for a moment to put some juice into the mixture. Stir to dissolve any residual sugar and pour the resulting syrup through a strainer or cheesecloth-lined funnel and let it drip through for an hour. Add a small dash of vodka as a preservative. Keep refrigerated for up to a month.

**Italian Meringue

1 1/3 c sugar
4 egg whites
¼ t cream of tartar

Combine sugar with 1/3 c of water and bring slowly to a boil and continue cooking till it reaches 238º. 

Beat the egg whites till foamy, add cream of tartar and continue beating till stiff.

Add the syrup slowly while beating the eggs for 10 minutes until cooled.  It will be smooth and glossy.

* If I may recommend, a great foodie gift for the holidays (or a treat for you!)  would be a selection of chef's essences from Aftelier. The fir has just come out and it is TO DIE FOR!  I had it in a gin drink at Astor Center and felt faint from pleasure... 

**Tis the season to give… to WIKIPEDIA!!  It’s a great service that most everyone uses and it is done out of the goodness of many hearts.  Fill their holiday coffers, won’t you??
Donate a few bucks to keep them going. 
Thanks to Gollum for hosting foodie friday!


2 Stews said...

Perhaps it is the romantic fascination with the presentation, but I too, always dreamed of having someone present a tasty meal from from under a dome. Then again, maybe I just wanted room service! This sounds amazing. Thanks for putting it together. All of the ingredients are favorites of mine. I'd probably have to settle for the chicken option, though.

El said...

This is a wonderful post. I used to love watching Vincent Price on UHF on Sunday afternoons. It's nice to know he was "normal" at home. And his kitchen is amazing. I would love to have this kitchen! As for the meal, you are remarkable. I don't know how you do it but this is always a pleasure to read!

Emily said...

I'm jealous of Vincent Price's kitchen and can just imagine all the amazing things they prepared there. I can't believe your culinary knowledge and ideas you find. The pheasant under the glass looks truly remarkable, although this time I'm more smitten with the drink as it's the party season. So pretty!

Diane said...

You always find such interesting subjects and I always learn so much from your posts. I often see pheasant at our local butcher so must try this out. Not of course forgetting the Ponche á la Romaine, á la Hall. Problem with cooking in the UK is that I have a tiny kitchen and no work space. I have a lovely island in my kitchen in France, not quite up to Price standard but I love it none the less. Diane

Ana Powell said...

Wow, this is such great post.
You are well creative and do so much researching on all your posts.
Outstanding work.
That kitchen is so special and beautiful (The kitchen of the Gods) ♥

Joanne said...

Wow I had NO idea that vincent price was a foodie, among so many other things! I guess you DO learn something new every day :P

Pheasant under that's somethign I've heard of but never seen before. Sounds quite delicious.

La Table De Nana said...

I had read years ago that Mr Price loved to just brought back a memory:)

Your exquisite presentations.. are so appreciated..always..You are unique in this blog world..
And I love cloches..

Jamie said...

Fascinating! It has taken me a while to get back on the blog visiting circuit but when I saw your blog name alongside mine on Lorraine's interview I had to come and read. And I love it! And love Vincent Price! I knew he was a gourmet and very into the arts but I have absolutely loved reading all your tidbits about him. I always loved him as an actor and now I'll savor him as a gourmet. Stunning pheasant under glass! I am so impressed! Wonderful post.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a fabulous post! I never really knew much about Vincent Price-for some reason I'm always surprised when I hear an actor is interested in food. I'm not sure why! And that is a stunning recreation of the dish :) And don't we all wish our fathers were president of The National Candy Company? :P

Barbara said...

I'm loving this post, because Vincent Price's first wife was Edith Barrett, my FIL's sister! The Barretts were a famous acting you know. Sargent's portrait of Lawrence Barrett (Edith's grandfather) hangs in the Players Club next to Booth's. He was one of the original Incorporators of the club and a great friend of Booth's.
My daughter met him years ago at an art event (another of his great interests) and went right up to him and said : Uncle Vinnie! And then explained who she was. He was charming and asked all about his ex wife's family.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I really enjoyed this post. Not only was he a gourmand, he was an art collector with some very important works tucked within his collection. I loved reading this through the eyes of someone so much younger than my self. Great job! Blessings...Mary

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

How interesting about Vincent Price! I didn't know anything about his background before. With such a privileged upbringing I'm not surprised he was an art collector and an entertainer and cook...but a horror film actor?

What a beautiful dish you've prepared - as usually exquisitely!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said... really are splendid and you PUSH THE ENVELOPE of foodie blogs...really...I WANT THAT ISLAND OF VINCENT PRICE'S!!! I NEED IT! Whoah...out of control here....teeheee! GIve me a copper pot and let me show you what I can do! AND THAT PHEASANT UNDER GLASS is elegant and I a sure quite scrumptuous! Thank you dearest for coming to visit my twinkling post. I am sucker for sparkle, but a lover at heart, and I wish you the most DIVINE Christmas ever with those you love. What is on your menu for the BIG DAY? Chez moi, COQ AU VIN!

BISES, Anita

Anna's Table said...

Deana,the title of your blog drew me in. I'm so pleased to have discovered such a fascinating blog. I really enjoyed your well researched post on such a multifaceted man. I had forgotten about this private side of the actor. For many, Vincent Price is only remembered for his starring roles in classic horror movies. Your post was a nice reminder of the full life led by this interesting man. The photos gave us a glimpse into his private life and his passion for food.

Sarah said...

Interesting man. Great post! I drooled over the Aftelier gift set. I might have to buy that with my Christmas bonus.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Amazing! I have never seen pheasant under glass depicted before. You did a superb job. And, Mr. Price had one amazing kitchen!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Glad to see pheasant cooked here. Such a lovely bird that I rearly see cooked in the blog world.

Bravo to you...

Tasty Trix said...

Were we separated at birth??? I have loved Vincent Price since I was a little girl, but I am thoroughly ashamed to admit my ignorance at this cookbook, which I now MUST find. I even had a fabulous can once (RIP) who I named Vincent thanks to the pattern on his coat, which seemed to create a dapper hairdo with a center part. ... Well as you know I am quite behind in my blog reading, and I am so sorry I missed your blog anniversary : ( Thank you so much for your comment on my post about Pete. I remember you writing about having lost your dog. ... and I am happy for you that you can think of him with happiness. I look forward to being in that place.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I love that you reintroduce recipes from antique sources. This looks might fine with the medley of wild mushrooms and brandy and madeira. The pheasant under glass is such a stunning and novel presentation, I think everyone should try this recipe.

Unknown said...

I have heard of pheasant under glass before, but have never seen it. Leave it to you dahling, to present it on your blog. It looks positively lovely.
*kisses* HH
p.s. VP's kitchen really was fabulous!

blackbookkitchendiaries said...

i really love this post..very interesting:) i really love reading your blog...and the pheasant looks so lovely i love the presentation! thanks for sharing:)

A Canadian Foodie said...

What a FANTASTIC READ!!!! Interestingly - and thrillingly - I have two large pheasant breasts (wild) in my freezer just gifted to me last week. My parents both mentioned that I should make Pheasant under Glass and then twittered away, not having a clue what it was. I had heard of it too - probably those movies you talk about. I LOVE THIS idea - and will make it. I need a small truffle - have everything else - love my white truffle oil.
BUT _ How did it taste????

Faith said...

Wow, who knew! This was such an interesting read, Deana...and I would love to get my hands on a copy of that cookbook! Your pheasant under glass is absolutely stunning!

Becky said...

Now I want to tackle quail, though the ponche seems more my speed in some ways. Sounds like heaven! Fascinating as per usual.

Magic of Spice said...

That is my favorite photo of Vincent Price...
Wonderful post, beautiful dish :) And the Italian
Meringue...happiness :)
Wishing you a most wonderful Holiday!

Philip Isenberg said...

Okay, I have never been a big fan of blogs, with their self-indulgence and self-importance and going off on long, wordy tangents that fulfill some deep subconscious need of the author but no one else.
And yet...
This is the single greatest blog entry I have ever seen. I have skimmed through the whole thing and will go back and devour it in detail.
In the meantime, I am running out to get Vincent Price's cookbook. I surfed on in here because I just shot three pheasants and I have a fond memory of my late father and mother taking me to dinner at the restaurant at the top of the Sears Tower back in the early 90s where I had pheasant under glass. And at least one of my fresh birds here needs to be under glass! Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.

Deana Sidney said...

Philip -- that is sweet of you to say -- I have a lot of game recipes because D'Artagnan is a friend and neighbor -- hope you enjoy making them. The Price book is out again I think -- the old copies are very pricy.
I'm from around Chicago too but came east for college and stayed -- so many great meals. I envy Price his star leverage for sure!

Glad you found me. I write about anything that appeals to me -- and I do it for myself - but have made a lot of friends along the way which has been great. I only wish I had more time to do it ( I took time off for a few years when I started it and it was creatively liberating). Hope your pheasant turns out well --