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
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!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,