Today’s entry is all about what I’ve been cooking lately. If you’ll recall, some friends of mine (who are THE BEST) got me Janice Poon’s Feeding Hannibal book for Christmas. Within its glossy pages are essays on cooking, entertaining guides, food styling anecdotes from the show, and best of all, recipes! There’s also some absolutely stunning photography of the food and settings. Just the thing to get a depressed food nerd through the holidays!
Below the cut* you’ll find pictures of some of the meals I’ve made recently, including recipes from the book and elsewhere. All the meals were made for me, my significant other, and my friends – just so you don’t think I’m making these and then eating them alone. I haven’t managed to ask my friends if I could post images of them for the feature, because ‘Can I take a picture of you for my blog entry on cannibalism’ just sounds wrong no matter how you slice* it.
So, let’s dig* in!
Roast Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Port Wine
First up is a recipe I got from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, but which sort of appears in Hannibal when Abel Gideon is served his own leg in season 2. Although that recipe in its entirely appears in Feeding Hannibal, I used this CI recipe because I was already familiar with it and because I am a philistine who can’t manage things like banana leaves and potter’s clay. Even without those things, this was a pretty involved recipe whose costs slowly rose over time – especially since I used Port Wine. A good bottle of that is about 20 bucks. I used Sandeman, from Portugal, because I like it and it was one of the first wines I ever drank. It’s very raisin-y, which goes very well with the dried figs.
On the left you can see the raw loin. You have to get it double-butterflied so that it opens up like a pamphlet, and I always feel like a super-cool person asking for that at the Publix butcher and they are like ‘Oh wow, that’s unusual, what are you making?’ Getting it cut like that also requires you to tie it up with string, which also makes me feel fancy. You spread salt, melted butter, and garlic on the inside, sear the roast in olive oil, and then roll it in Herbes De Provence. And how do I pronounce herbes? With an H so it sounds like HURBS, because as Doctor Abel Gideon himself, Eddie Izzard, once said in a comedy routine, “There’s a Fucking H in it.”
In case you think I am living the high life because I own some Le Creuset cookware, I bought that stuff five years ago with tax return money and haven’t been able to afford any since. I intend to be buried with it.
Here it is after it’s all done cooking for three hours. Two hours? I forget. You do the whole thing in a Dutch Oven, which makes for convenient clean-up. There’s a last step where you make a sauce to go over it that I am usually too lazy to complete, and since the meat is juicy enough I don’t see the point. Next time I’ll definitely give it a try, though.
The butter isn’t there to go on the roast, I’m not that crazy. The butter was for… I think I made a baked potato for my significant other. I think I made green beans amandine as a side dish… I’m pretty sure I did. Later I made roasted Brussel Sprouts with browned butter and hazel nuts, and it all went together very well.
Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Seed Ball
In the book, naturally, this looks amazing and perfectly formed. The lighting is subtle, the colors pop, and the composition perfectly balanced. Just looking at it makes you smile, especially the ruby glow within the pomegranate seeds, as if each one were a tiny red light bulb.
The best you can say about my cheese ball is that it looks edible…
All right, it looks like something a drunken dung beetle might roll up, but still! It was good. Take four ounces of goat cheese and four ounces of cream cheese, throw in some pepper and herbs if you like, and… I can’t remember if I heated it or just left the cheese out. I might have left it out, covered with Glad wrap. Don’t listen to me, get the instructions from somewhere because I’m sure I’m garbling this. Anyway, leaving it out brings the cheese to room temperature so it’s pliable. Mix it up, form it into a ball, and put it back in the fridge. While it’s cooling, peel and de-seed a pomegranate. That is WAY fun, but messy. And weirdly relaxing. Put the pomegranate seeds out on a rimmed tray, roll the cheese ball gently over them, and try not to sing the Katamari Damacy song. Plot twist: You CAN’T. The finished product is delicious and probably some kind of super food, what with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and… and whatever. Whatever health benefits goats give you. +1 Ability to Digest Wood Plants, probably.
Cherry clafouti is a French dessert dish that is something like a cross between pie and cheesecake. The texture is spongy and it contains dairy, but it also has a sort of crust and is sweet. The closest I can come to describing it is a cheesecake/spongecake amalgam. It does not appear in the Feeding Hannibal book but since it was French and Hannibal is prone to cooking things I have never heard of, it seemed apt. And when you split and pit the cherries, they look kind of like blood clots.
Again, I got this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I had heard about clafouti from Alton Brown years before and sort of forgot about it until I saw the recipe in the magazine. It was fun and tasty to make, although I might try to make it without the sugar and wheat flour next time. I’m thinking either almond or arrowroot flower, and either leave the sugar out or try it with stevia. I’m insulin resistant, so I try to keep my carbs down. And if I have this in the house I will WRECK. IT.
I took this to a friend’s house for a wake. There had been a death in their family and the funeral the day before had been very grim, so the wake was intended to be more relaxing and positive. I thought taking a dessert might be appreciated, especially since the family in question are all foodies. It was very popular and nobody could remember the name. I think I might just call it ‘Cherry Nonsense’ in the future. Cherry Thingy. CHERRY WHATEVER. There we go.
This was easily the most complicated and difficult of the recipes I’ve tried recently. Again it doesn’t come from Hannibal, but I could see him making it and adding some brilliant twist, like sea urchins instead of pearl onions or psilocybin mushrooms instead of porcini. I saw the original recipe on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen on Netflix, and wrote it down in a frenzy of inspiration. It came out all right when I made it the first time, but when I tried to reread my notes a year later they made no damned sense. I tried to find the same episode again, only to find the show was no longer on Netflix. Luckily, I found a blog where someone who actually worked on the ATK show had recorded the whole process. Hurray!
My car was in the shop that weekend, so I walked down to the grocery store for everything I’d need, a trip of almost four miles total. Here is a photo of everything I carried back. I put most stuff in my backpack and the cold stuff, like the meat and frozen onions, in my insulated bag. I discovered that if you are walking alone and want to dissuade yahoos from honking or shouting things at you, listen to some very funny comedy. Laugh loudly, and if possible, maniacally. Stagger now and then. Repeat random lines as loudly as you can, especially if they are disturbing (Patton Oswalt’s comedy is great for this). Basically, act psychotic and no one will mess with you.
Unfortunately I was too dopey to remember to take a photo of the finished product, but it came out GREAT. The gravy was velvety, the meat succulent, the flavors complex and layered. I made mashed potatoes from scratch with ALL THE BUTTER and the meal was complete. It would probably be even better if I had used good wine instead of cheap stuff, but there was only one Burgundy at my Publix and I was tired.
So that’s a little of what I’ve been up to! I’m always cooking something up. I used to post stuff on Instagram but I’ve gotten lazy about that, so maybe I’ll start doing that again.
*HURRRRR… meaning, “Oh you know there will be stupid puns today, so settle in!”