rom a reading of Thomas Harris' books it appears clear that Doctor
Lecter is a man with extravagant (to put it mildly) but also extremely
refined manners and tastes. A "Des Esseintes" of our times,
an aesthete who is morbidly sensual but above all is lucidly intellectual.
And all of this, in his search for pleasure through food, is conducted
in a perverse, even cannibalesque way.
Not even the extensive, appetite-whetting repertoire of French fin
de siecle cuisine (that he proves to be something of an expert in),
which is to the fore as far as horrid practices are concerned (ostriches
dressed and swallowed live; live lobsters in broth, tied up carefully
because they are still energetically throbbing; shellfish opened
up in a pan on a low flame) seems able to satisfy his cannibal cravings
hot situations. Maybe because such terrible culinary
practices are usually carried out on cold-blooded creatures, while
Lecter needs fevered heat to obtain the desired effect. This is
clear from the detail about how the "dinner" is served,
with the silverware taken directly from the food warmer so as to
generate tactile communication, human warmth for the object of his
attentions, the shapely Starling. And this explains why, in order
to fully attain his objective, he turns to another great culinary
tradition: in Oriental (particularly Chinese) cuisine, warm-blooded
animals are also the object of terrifying "attentions"
- a live monkey is held by a neck restraint, eyes wide open, while
its brain is extracted from the open cranium and put directly onto
the plate for preparation. Lecter clearly draws inspiration from
this in his 'live' real time preparation of the brain of Kendler,
the third participant (the one who supplies the raw material) in
Hannibal's extravagant, paradoxical, erotic-gastronomic-cannibalesque
Even the Florentine chef, preparing a tribute to the artists involved
in the transposition from novel into film, cannot help being infected,
cannot resist the temptation (just a little, and metaphorically,
with taste) to play Doctor Lecter, reworking in a Franco-Oriental
Hannibalesque manner one of his Florentine 'brain' recipes. Obviously
not that of a human, and not extracted from live animals, but bought
as normal at a butchers.
· Broth obtained by boiling a litre of slightly-salted water
for 15 minutes, in which there is a tightly-bound garnish made up
of a small bunch of parsley and another of fresh thyme. Leave to
cool and then filter through a cloth.
· 2 cow's brains, washed and carefully peeled, and left undisturbed
in icy-cold water for 2-3 hours
· 150 grams of exotic oriental dried fruit cut into small
· 4-5 large roughly-cut scallions
· peel (only the yellow part) of one lemon, plus its juice
and that of two other lemons
· 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
· 5-6 strongly aromatic sage leaves
· 50 grams of fresh ginger (avoid stringy bits)
· 4-5 green cardamom seeds
· 30 grams of almond flour
· 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
· 1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder
· 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
· 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
· 3 tablespoons of sugar
· 3 tablespoons of acacia honey
· 1 glass of dry white wine (with a floral bouquet)
· a knob of butter
· 4 + 10 tablespoons of sesame oil
· a delicate-flavoured meat stock cube
· fine salt
Bring the aromatic broth to a rapid boil in a saucepan.
With the removal of the skin, the two brains will now be in four
sections. Place them carefully one by one on a strainer and immerse
them in the boiling broth, making sure they are firmly on the bottom
of the saucepan and completely covered by the liquid so that they
maintain their shape and blanch evenly. Boil them with no lid on
for 5-6 minutes on a medium flame, then turn off the heat. Remove
the brains, allowing the excess liquid to drip off, and place them
to dry and cool slightly for a few minutes on a clean cloth. Dispense
with the broth.
Put the chopped scallions, butter, and 4 tablespoons of oil in a
large frying pan, add a pinch of salt, and gently cook the onions
on a medium-low flame for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently so the
butter and scallions take on some colour but do not turn brown.
Meanwhile cut the brains crossways into fairly thick slices (about
4-5 slices for each half), flour them lightly and when the chopped
onions are ready, place the slices on top, laid out carefully so
they are not on top of each other. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each
side, making sure they do not stick to the bottom.
When they are slightly browned, remove
them from the pan, allowing any excess liquid to drip off, and put
them to one side, keeping them warm while the next step is carried
Add the white wine, lemon rind and juice, garlic, sage, ginger,
cardamoms, and a large ladle of stock cube broth to the pan. Allow
the liquid to reduce for 5-6 minutes, stirring and scraping carefully.
Then remove from the flame, leave till it becomes tepid, and pour
into a blender.
In the meantime, take the slices of brain, lay them out once again
in the empty pan, and cover them evenly with the slices of dried
fruit. Then add the remaining 10 tablespoons of sesame oil to the
contents of the blender and blend at maximum speed until you obtain
a very light, frothy mix which is fairly emulsified. Taste for salt
and make sure there is a sweet/sour equilibrium, then pour the mixture
into the pan, covering the slices of brain and dried fruit evenly.
Shake the pan until the sauce is evenly distributed. Place on a
very low flame and heat until it is just simmering, then simmer
for about 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every now and then
so nothing sticks to the bottom or sides of the pan.
This second course recipe should be served piping hot without any
side dish, accompanied by the same wine used in the recipe: a fresh
delicate white, slightly sweetish, with aromas of white flowers
in bloom. Vivacious, spirited, almost bubbly.