Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lunt & Fontanne’s 10 Chimneys and Lunt’s Cumberland Sauce with Venison Tenderloin

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne at 10 Chimneys
Have you ever heard of Ethel Barrymore or Helen Hayes or Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne? You're not alone if you haven't.  As a history fan I am frequently stunned by the way that our culture’s pool of knowledge about our past is contracting exponentially.

The individuals in question have all had Broadway theatres named after them and most people who attend them these days don’t have a clue who they are. Barely 50 years ago, they were as famous as could be. They were Broadway royalty. Although Hayes and Barrymore had a good body of work on film (and in Hayes case, even on television), the Lunts were never comfortable on the silver screen where they might have achieved the immortality that the medium provides –– although they were exhaustively courted by Hollywood they only made one film together in 1931 (The Guardsman). They hated film acting and felt their talents were best suited to the stage not the screen.  Because of that, they are largely forgotten today.  That's just a crime, they were a brilliant couple.

10 Chimneys 
They knew everybody and were legendary entertainers at home as they were on the stage. This is all the more remarkable because anyone who was anyone came to their house in Genesee Depot Wisconsin –– yes –– Wisconsin, not Park Avenue.  They decamped there every summer and even had it written into their contracts that they would not perform in summer months and miss their time there to recharge and renew.  They retired there permanently in 1960.

The Lunts with Noel Coward in Design for Living

The Lunts with Noel Coward at 10 Chimneys

Even though their country place, Ten Chimneys, was in a 1-horse town in Wisconsin, stars from New York, London and Hollywood took the train from the coasts to luxuriate in the quirky charm of their compound at Ten Chimneys.

Laurence Olivier, Vivienne Leigh, Noel Coward, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford were among the legions of famous folk of stage and screen that would join in the fun and remember their stays there as some of the best times to be had anywhere.

Katharine Hepburn said: “Every time I was visiting with the Lunts in Genesee Depot, I was in a sort of daze of wonder… the dining room, the table, the china, the silver, the food, the extraordinary care and beauty and taste… a sort of dream, a vision."  Joan Crawford marveled at the thoughtfulness of the couple. The 10 Chimney's blog reported that Crawford had said in her memoir, My Way of Life, "When I stayed with Lynn and Alfred on their lovely farm in Wisconsin they told me that their custom – a very nice one for a guest – was to give the breakfast order the night before, and then ring when it was wanted. There was never a sound until I pressed the button that told the kitchen “I’m up. You can prepare it now.” They would never let a houseguest go down for breakfast.  Then I would appear whenever I felt like it. If I had a script to prepare I just stayed in my room."

Although the house had been built in 1916, it was constantly being enlarged and refined with additions and out-buildings. Their friend, a theatre designer and fine artist named Clagett Wilson  (who had designed their famous production of Taming of the Shrew) worked for 2 years at Ten Chimneys in the late 30's –– painting their home like a set. The result is a whimsical folly perfect for country idylls and an escape from the stress of 8 o clock curtains and 5 am calls.

The photos you see here are from the 10 Chimneys website –– you can visit the house May to December.

The superlative cuisine at Ten Chimneys was the purview of Alfred Lunt.

Although cooks, maids and caretakers took care of much of the day to day work, Lunt loved to cook and farm.

Lunt's diploma, courtesy Lucindaville who wrote about the Lunt cookbook

He got his Le Cordon Bleu degree at age 65 and was thrilled with the accomplishment as much as for his many acting awards –– he had been cooking for his friends for decades before the piece of paper acknowledged his prowess in the kitchen. Noel Coward said the Lunts “are deeply concerned with only three things: themselves, the theatre and food –– good hot food." Even on the road, their accommodations had to include a kitchenette –– no ifs ands or buts about it.

It was expected that Lunt would collect his recipes together for a cookbook and he did get that far but he wouldn't publish them.   Although he was a master in the kitchen, Lunt was not comfortable with his skill as a cookbook writer.  He went to no less than Truman Capote to ask for advice, "Will you tell me how, when you make a pie crust, just describe this?  I want it in words.  How would you 'do this, now do that' in a few words...' I asked.  'I could show you but put it in words...' and he couldn't".  A perfectionist, he would not put his name on a cookbook that wasn't the best cookbook it could be –– for Lunt "is the artist whose soul has gone into the soufflé you eat.  He is the soul of torment, hanging on your opinion of a sauce" –– so it languished on a shelf for many a year till the foundation that took over the house found it and published it as The Testers Edition of Alfred Lunt's Cookbook (most of the quotes here come from this book).  The "testers" part is a gentle way of saying no battery of test kitchen cooks have gone over these recipes to see if they work so you are on your own.  Honestly, although some are missing detailed instructions, most appear to be good solid recipes.

I loved the book and its stories and photos but fell in love with his take on Cumberland Sauce.  I LOVE Cumberland Sauce and couldn't leave it off my Sauce Series list.  Lunt adds a touch of magic in his version by the addition of a bit of horseradish.  Best I ever tasted. Although I have always associated it with venison, it  would be great with any pork (chops, loin, tenderloin or even sausage or ham) or a game bird (duck to grouse and pigeon) and even would work for vegetarians because it is amazing on sweet potatoes (sans the demi-glace).

If you like venison, run, do not walk to D'Artagnan for the best venison tenderloin ever.  It was butter tender and full of flavor –– I made it rare and loved it that way. It is also extremely lean so best not to cook it too much.  Dr. Lostpast gave this one an A+ with reason –– the combination is superb.  The sweet and savory combination with a bit of heat from the horseradish and cayenne is masterful and you understand why this sauce has been a favorite for generations (something like it has been used since at least the 18th century).  The best part?  It takes about 15 minutes to make and can be done ahead of  time.  That means a world-class dinner could be ready in 1/2 an hour. It's low in fat and high in flavor, how cool is that?

Also, I want to introduce you to Aftelier's new Chef Essence Sprays.  I used thyme for this recipe and it was splendid. It's really the best thyme ever, if you ask me and its sensual muskiness is brilliant with venison.  The sprays also come in citrus (lemon and lime and blood orange) and spice (pepper, cumin, ginger and cinnamon) as well as herbs (basil, and spearmint with the thyme) and even raspberry and chocolate.  Just a spritz gives you the heart of each element.  Great for accents on cooked food, desserts and drinks.  You will love them as much as I do.  I've told you about Aftelier chef's essences already (and there are over 50 to choose from like my favorite rose and jasmine), the sprays are a great new way to use the essences. Aftelier's chef essences have transformed the way I cook, that's the simple truth –– mad for them!

Venison Tenderloin with Cumberland Sauce (serves 3-4)

1 c red wine
2 t juniper berries
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 bay leaf
2 sprays of Aftelier thyme spray or 1 t dry thyme

2 T butter or oil

Cumberland sauce
Steamed sweet potato ( I hit mine with a spritz of Aftelier Blood Orange spray and they were divine!)
sauteed spinach

Combine the wine and spices and marinate the venison overnight. Remove from the fridge. Dry the meat and heat the oil in a skillet. Add the meat and sear on all sides. Cook for about 5 more minutes for rare. Tent for 5 minutes, slice and serve with Cumberland sauce and sweet potato and spinach.

Alfred Lunt’s Cumberland Sauce (serves 4)

1 t chopped shallot
1 T orange peel in fine julienne
1 T lemon peel in fine julienne
¼ c port
2 T D'Artagnan demi-glace (optional)
1/3 c currant jelly
juice of 1 orange
juice of ½ lemon
½ t dry English mustard
dash of cayenne
1 t freshly grated horseradish with 1 t sherry vinegar or 1 t prepared horseradish*

Boil shallots for 2 minutes in a little water and strain and reserve. Do the same with the lemon and orange peels. Melt the currant jelly and add the rest. Reduce till thickened and serve warm or at room temperature.

* I am kind of crazy about horseradish so I added a bit more after the sauce had cooked for extra kick

PS the wonderful Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella has a book out... go over to Amazon and take a peek!


ArchitectDesign™ said...

I'm dying to go up there to see their farm sometime -aren't you? And I also want to come to your house for dinner! haha

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh now that was a comfy story and equally comforting recipe! The photos, the TIME, the décor and recipe are from a time and place that inspired ME as a child in the 60s, to be an actor and dancer. It seems that there were more husband and wife teams that stayed together, at least that's what it seemed like. The "family" of artists and their digs, their glamorous. And that home! Similar to those of bygone days here in Minneapolis. Oh Deana, you are going to make a splash hit for the France party, I KNOW IT! Sock it to 'em my friend...we are going to love ya.

Have a super weekend! Anita

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I dearly wish that I could push a button and go back to these times as they look wonderful! I'll admit that I only knew of Ethel Barrymore or Helen Hayes though-oh dear! And thank you so much Deana for mentioning my book, I'm so honoured! :D

Diane said...

As ever an interesting post with lots of info. That venison tenderloin is making my mouth water LOL. Have a good weekend, Diane

Barbara said...

Yes, I've heard of them and know them all. So I guess my answer to your first question underlines my great age. :) Besides, I find it disappointing when young people don't know the history of the theater, but I always excuse it because perhaps they've never had the opportunity to see a live performance.
I absolutely LOVED the photo of the ceiling being painted from a chair...with the legs crossed. Too bad Michelangelo didn't think of that.
Did not know Alfred Lunt was such a chef. Really, Deana, you've outdone yourself with that venison dish. Delicious flavors and such a presentation! You speak often of the chef's essence sprays. I really must look into them.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I've often thought about visiting 10 Chimneys but still haven't gotten there. It's probably less than an hour from my home, so shame on me.

Thanks for bringing attention to this wonderful, Wisconsin landmark and The Lunts. It must have been wonderful to be a guest there.

What a delicious dish! I can imagine this would be wonderful with beef tenderloin also.

mandy said...

What a fantastic post Deana, you have outdone yourself with your lavishly detailed photos & writing, and world-class cooking! And you are such a star user of the new Chef’s Essence Sprays – thank you so much for featuring them!
xo Mandy

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

Yum yum yum. Venison and a story.

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

How FABULOUS! I knew almost nothing about Lunt and Fontaine, except that they were often parodied on Carol Burnett. But, Lunt went to the Cordon Bleu, and "almost" published a cookbook? What a great backstage story!

Zach said...

Your photos are stunning and your recipes sound delectable. We would love for you to share them at The Feasting Eye is still a bit new, but I think you will like what you see :-).

Karina A. Fogliani said...

Ten Chimneys sounds like a great place to visit.

La Table De Nana said...

I sometimes see my parents in those older photos:)..
I have never even heard of Cumberland sauce before you..nor 10 chimneys..10 romantic fireplaces:)
You have access to great products..and you style them so well ..
Have a great week.

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My spouse and i dearly wish that we might force some control and get back to now because they look good! I'm going to confess i only realized regarding Ethel Barrymore or perhaps Helen Hayes though-oh precious! Along with thanks a lot Deana with regard to mentioning my personal guide, I'm consequently honored! :Deb
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Fred J. Lauver said...

The late actress Jean Stapleton and her husband, stage director Bill Putch, were great admirers of Lunt and Fontanne. In 1978, I appeared on stage with Jean and Broadway and television actor Edmund Lyndeck in a production at their Pennsylvania summer theatre retreat. It was a production of _The Great Sebastians_, a play made famous by Lunt-Fontanne. Jean was best known for her 1970s television role in _All in the Family_, but she played a variety of stage roles. She had all the charisma, range, and sophistication of Lynn Fontanne or Ethel Barrymore, two actresses she respected highly.