5.17.2014

Dinner and a Movie

Many years ago, Mark and I started hosting "dinner and a movie" parties. As you probably can imagine, I never do anything simply.

Although the word dinner comes first in my title, it was always the movie that drove the evening festivities. The story of the movie had to be centered on food (I bet you didn't see that coming!).

Big Night.  Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.  Woman on Top.  Tortilla Soup.  What's Cooking?  Like Water for Chocolate.

For the most part, I cooked the meals seen or referenced in the movies, and friends came to enjoy both the movie and, I hope, my recreation of the movies' menus.

Among many fun evenings, one stands out as my favorite. It was the night that a group of us recreated Babette's Feast.

One day, I said to Towny and Susan that I wanted to make Babette's Cailles en Sarcophages, and that I had clipped a recipe by Molly O'Neill printed in the New York Times magazine.

They thought it sounded like fun, and suggested that when Towny's sister, Lisa, came to town we should do it as a sort of potluck. The fictitious Babette is probably rolling in her grave at the thought of her Feast being called a potluck!

Of course, there was no “luck” to it: I would make the quail dish, Towny and Susan would make the turtle soup and Baba au Rhum, and another friend would bring the blini with caviar. There were "pots," but there was also a plan.

The date came, and we decided to intersperse the courses with watching the movie. Rather than eat all at once, we paced ourselves, from mid-afternoon to past midnight, which worked out beautifully.

I made square sarcophagi the first time around. Photos courtesy of W. T. Manfull
Every one of the dishes was exquisite, and I am so grateful Towny was taking photos. You can see from these photos how I made it years ago; we all had a wonderful time.

Originally, I made Molly O'Neill's sauce with figs & foie gras. Photos courtesy of W. T. Manfull
Recently, I was in Seattle and was able to procure a one-ounce black truffle. Black gold. These puppies are selling for $399/pound! I immediately started to dream of what dish I would make. (Note - I made the recipe for 2, but the instructions below are for 4.)

Prepping blini. Guilty faces & empty glasses. Lisa having fun! Photos courtesy of W. T. Manfull
I searched online and found some really good ideas, but then I remembered Babette. The quail recipe called for fresh, thinly sliced black truffle.

And, thus, today's post was born. This is the first time I have made the dish since that dinner party, and I wish I lived closer to the source of fresh truffles so I could make it again soon! It is so delicious! Molly O'Neill's recipe from the NY Times is not truly authentic to the movie - there were no figs involved, and the other sauce ingredients are different, as well.


I watched this dinner clip on YouTube several times to see exactly what Babette did to make this dish. What struck me is how the recipes I found online created in honor of this film are generally much more complicated that what I saw; the dish is quite simple in its preparation and execution. I think we often work hard to complicate dishes, when their simplicity is their beauty.

Though I changed a few things (I did fully pre-bake the pastry shells and I used pâté de foie de canard as I couldn’t get foie gras), my version is much truer to Babette’s version. Regardless, both Molly's and my versions are pretty fantastic.

From Babette, to Molly, to me, to you... Bon appétit!

~ David

Cailles en Sarcophages, Sauce Périgourdine
A pastiche of found recipes and personal creativity based in the film.

14 ounces puff pastry, fresh or frozen (defrosted in refrigerator) *
4 semi-boneless quail
salt
freshly ground white pepper
12 ounces pâté de foie de canard, divided
2 ounces black truffle, fresh, frozen, or jarred
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup Madeira
1 cup prepared demi-glace

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut 8 4.5-inch rounds from the pastry. Cut 3.5-inch circles in the center of four of the 4.5-inch rounds; place each outer ring atop one of the remaining 4.5-inch circles and set them aside. Reserve the 3.5-inch disks for another use (I made strawberry tartlets). Bake on a Silpat® or parchment-lined baking sheet for 18-22 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Set aside to cool. (See photo above for hints on how this will look.)

With a very sharp paring knife, cut around the raised rim to create the tops of the sarcophagi. Be careful to take only the top layer of the pastry as shown in the photos. (Babette didn’t do this, but Molly did. I simply served the tops on the side to dip into the sauce.)

Raise the oven to 450°F. Season the inside of the quails with some salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Mash the pâté and divide into 8 pieces; form each piece into a lozenge-shaped disc. Using a truffle slicer or very sharp knife, cut 12 slices from one of the truffles. Lay 3 slices of truffle on each of 4 pâté disks. Cover them with the remaining disks of pâté and stuff into the cavity of each quail. Truss the quails.

Slice remaining truffle and set aside.

Season the outsides of the quail with salt and a few grinds of white pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Sear the quails, starting breast-side up, for 20 to 30 seconds per side. Place the pan in the oven (with quail breast-side down) and roast for 8 minutes. Turn the quails breast-side up and roast for 5 minutes more. Remove quail to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Place the skillet over high heat on top of the stove. Pour in the Madeira and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 1 minute. Pour in the demi-glace and reserved truffle slices and simmer for 2 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the remaining tablespoon butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, put each quail in a pastry nest, and drizzle with sauce, spooning sauce around the sarcophagi, as well.

Serves 4.

* I no longer need to rail against frozen, commercial puff pastry. I have recently learned one of the reasons I never liked it. The brand most readily available here (Pepperidge Farm®) is not made with butter. Whose idea was that? It is great for vegans, but... well, whatever.

** I recently found Dufour-brand®, all butter, frozen puff pastry and love it. Homemade is always best but, if you aren't up for it or don't have the time, Dufour® is a great alternative!

45 comments:

  1. I adooooore this post and this recipe and Babette's Feast! It's one of my favorite movies. Your idea of having your own feast with food from the movie all those years ago is brilliant. I hope you enjoyed the dish this time as well. What a great job David!!

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    1. Thank you, Magda! It really is fun recreating the meals, and tasting each and every course. I think I will continue with Babette's recipes later in the year!

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  2. Such a lovely post...and what an amazing idea of hosting such terrific parties...and oh those pies with truffle...can smell their subtle aroma by looking at those clicks...we feel so inspired,thanks :-)

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    1. You are so kind, Rakesh and Swikruti! You should try doing one with East Indian food - that would be a dinner I would to attend!

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    2. Dear friend, we feel so happy you like Indian cuisine, it is an honor reading,learning and often trying out these wonderful recipes you post....send you loads of delicious East Indian Thali virtually...hope you try them out sometime...and that sweet potato curry you posted looks beautiful,vibrant with such colors and flavors,thanks...Have A Great Day!!! :-)

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    3. Indian cuisine is absolutely one of my favorite cuisines! The combination of spices is thrilling each time. I will be trying a thali soon... just wish you were here to teach and share! I am glad you liked the sweet potato and chickpea curry... I am always afraid to post on Indian food for fear I might make mistakes... My other favorite post was the Baingan Bhartaa - http://cocoaandlavender.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-subject-of-subjis.html - so good!

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    1. Barbara - just let me now when you are heading this way! :)

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  4. A favorite movie of mine too - I always wanted to curate a food film festival - and include all you listed, plus Big Night and the Timpano as finale. Bravo Chef D.A.!

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    1. I have made the timpani a couple of times, Karin. It is actually quite simple - and the risotto tricolore, too. When you come visit, we will have a Big Night!

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  5. "Dinner and a Movie" with David--and the other friends and family--was indeed so much fun and so delicious. Babette was the best--and David's Cailles en Sarcophages were out of this world!

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    1. Really, Susan - that night will always stand out as the most special in my memory. Come visit so we can do another soon!

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  6. Hi David, what an elegant meal you prepared, and the truffles, oh they sound wonderful. Your dinner and movie day sounds like a lot of fun, love events that evolve around food.

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    1. Cheri - I have noticed that anytime people gather around food events, everyone is smiling. Makes perfect sense to me! :)

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  7. Theology + gastronomy = my favorite movie EVER!
    Plus, Babette's wardrobe was Chanel...(swoon)
    Thanks for more drooling moments!

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    1. Susan - I never knew her wardrobe was Chanel! But it makes perfect sense - the lines were incredible! Glad you enjoyed the post! xox

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  8. What a stunning post! And what a glorious meal you cooked up with your friends. Your quail dish would thrill the most discerning epicure. and I am sure Babette would be proud. (As an aside, can you believe the price of truffle? Through the roof, I say!) We find sources of inspiration for food in so many places, but your idea of films is really wonderful. I enjoy reading great works of literature, and have often thought as I read, that I ought to recreate a meal from the various sources. You have inspired me. Bravo!

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    1. Thanks, Adri! I am glad you are inspired! Your thoughts about recreating meals in literature could be expanded... I am thinking evenings based on meals on film, in books and on canvas!

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    2. Oh, and YES! The price of truffles is simply silly... No other word describes it!

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  9. Oh my gosh. I was staring at that shaved truffle... and then staring at the shaved truffle (did I mention the shaved truffle?) before encountering that fig and foie gras sauce. Wow. Love seeing some images of your 'cooking concentration face' behind the scenes! You have infinitely blessed friends David - to have your and Mark's friendship, the incredibly thoughtful, delicious food and an evening of entertainment. The quail looks divine. Your presentation is impeccable... I am so impressed! Can I say that again? So impressed! x

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    1. You are so sweet, Laura! It was really fun to do and I think Mark and I have to revive the "dinner & a movie" nights here in Tucson.

      I hear there is a truffle festival in Australia - are there easy to find in your area? Still outrageously expensive?

      It would be fun to get a group of bloggers together for a dinner like this...

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    2. Yes there are a couple of truffle festivals I think. I don't think truffles are 'native' to this part of the world but the climate in the Southern part of our state has proved to be perfect for them. There's now a truffle farm down South and Aaron and I visited a couple of times. As for price, yes - still ridiculously expensive!!! I hear it's a labor-intensive process to cultivate and harvest them and crop yields are low. Aussie truffle is even more expensive than imported in some places. I have some truffle oil (with little truffle 'specks' down the bottom!) but haven't purchased any shaved pieces as yet... sigh, maybe we'll do that when Aaron and I reach our 10 year wedding anniversary! ;)
      I would love to have a blogger dinner like this. Oh to live closer together..!

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    3. How much time till your 10th? That might be a long time to wait for a truffle! I want to try the dish with jarred truffles... easier to get year-round. I was actually surprised that my one truffle was only (ONLY) $25! Definitely worth the investment.

      Yes, if only we lived closer...

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  10. Stunning. And I'm sure the neighbours just heard me gasp when I scrolled down and saw that gorgeous truffle. I love the candid kitchen photo's!

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    1. Too funny, John! Was it a gasp or a shriek? I generally don't like photos of me but since I was a lot younger, thinner and had a bit more hair, these were not so bad... :)

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  11. I would have driven to Tuscon to be invited to this party. GREG
    PS Lisa looks like a young Hilary Clinton.

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    1. I should have let you know in advance, Greg. My bad... I will tell Lisa about your comment - I know she will enjoy it!

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  12. What sophisticated dish. David, you never stop impressing me!

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  13. What a fabulous idea! And, you really did go all out! I wish we lived closer - and not for the first time!

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    1. Thanks, Susan! One of these days I will get over there for work and have some extra time to play! It would be so fun to cook with you and John!

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  14. Dear David, I am in total awe..you are a real food artist, dear friend - I love, love that picture of the quail, the second to last picture is my personal favorite. Your themed dinners sound exquisite and I would love to be invited, at least once, please...for now I shall sigh at the sight of your food, I believe this is a tad too sophisticted for my younger taste testers,,,more sighs...
    Ganz liebe Grüsse und noch einen wunderbaren Donnerstag,
    Andrea...

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    1. It would be so wonderful for you to be here for one of the dinners and a movie, Andrea! What would your favorite one be? Maybe we could find ones for your wee taste testers, too! Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, perhaps?

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  15. Wow! SO impressive, David! I've never seen Babette's Feast but it's not on my list! Fantastic post! CC

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    1. Christina - you need to watch the movie soon! Actually, as most of it takes place in the dark, cold winter, it makes for a great summer movie!

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  16. I join all the others in my admiration for your beautifully prepared meal. Wonderful, wonderful!

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    1. Thanks, Karen - and thank you for all your attempts to post comments even when Blogger makes it so difficult!

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  17. This looks beyond amazing! Perfection. Love, love Babette's Feast, and really every food movie you mentioned.

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    1. Valentina - I completely forgot to mention Julie & Julia! Glad you liked the post!

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  18. This is just wonderful, David... love it totally!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! The fun part is that it was so simple, I may just do it again (if I can find a truffle!). Did you get any at your local truffle festival?

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  19. Dinner and a movie is such a brilliant idea for a fun night. I am not sure I would be so adventurous as to try cooking quail but maybe the movie chocolat might be more up my street

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    1. Oh, Karen - you should definitely host a Chocolat evening! I would almost be willing to fly to Australia for that!

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  20. I loved that movie, and love your movie and food themed nights! Wish I lived closer ;o)
    As you can tell, after a few busy weeks, I am trying to catch up on all my reading. Love your last posts.

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    1. I have been playing catch up, myself, on blog posts. Sometimes things get so busy! Glad you enjoyed this post - I am planning another movie night soon - probably Big Night, or Like Water for Chocolate - where we will all spend the entire day cooking and eating!

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