You are on page 1of 6

Babette's Recipes by Leah A.

Zeldes Página 1 de 6

from Lerner Community Newspapers

on-line at: In The Loop

"Babette's Feast"
A taste of Theater Oobleck's unique culinary tour de force

Food Editor of In The Loop

Isak Dinesen did not provide the recipes for the dishes named in ``Babette's Feast,'' her poignant tale of a French chef
forced to flee Paris to Norway in the late 19th century. The members of Theater Oobleck, whose sold-out dinner-
theater adaptation of the story is currently playing at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, were
therefore forced to create their own.

The cast of the play prepares all of the food, which they serve to the audience in the course of the performance.

``I was very passionate in terms of the food being classic French food,'' says Teria Gartelos, who plays Babette, and
was the primary researcher of the menu, which includes the troupe's own versions of blinis Demidof, cailles en
sarcophages and turtle soup.

There is no classic French recipe called blinis Demidof. Blinis are pancakes. Prince Anatole Demidof was the
husband of Napoleon's niece Princess Mathilde. The dishes named for him are made with chicken.

However, the fuss made over the dish in Dinesen's story, Gartelos says, ``means there's got to be something
spectacular -- I figured if it's something special and it's got a Russian name, it must be caviar.''

Real fish eggs were too costly for this production, where tickets were $17 or pay what you can. A cast member
recalled a meal in a Russian restaurant. ``He said he'd eaten a mock caviar made with beets. That's all I need to hear,''
says Gartelos, who is partial to beets, and developed a topping of gingered carrots and beets for the yeast-risen

Cailles en sarcophages was the most difficult dish to develop, despite its straightforward name: ``quails in coffins.''
The company considered that quail was too expensive and troublesome for their purposes.

``I researched quails and everything I could about quails and puff pastry,'' Gartelos says. ``(Someone) had an idea
about chicken and mushrooms. I found out that in classic French cooking quails are almost always served with
truffles.'' So they went with chicken and mushrooms.

``That recipe was like childbirth, pulling that out. We tried poaching the chicken, baking the chicken -- `how do we
do this?''' They experimented with different fillings, different sauces.

Meredith Neuman, another cast member, learned to make puff pastry from scratch. ``I think sometimes it's good to go
into things without knowing what you're getting into,'' she says. ``I didn't know I was supposed to be afraid of puff

``I basically have all day to do it. The first thing I do is to make all three batches. The idea for the folding of it I saw
in a book on Russian pastry. I just played around with it.''

A layer of phyllo dough wraps the filling before it goes into the pastry coffin. ``It keeps the puff pastry from getting
soggy,'' Neuman says. ``I refer to the phyllo as a shroud.''

The pastry is shaped like a coffin, and the plate garnished with a black-rice tombstone and vegetables like a cemetery
bouquet. ``The whole idea is that the plate should look funereal,'' says Gartelos. ``We wanted it to look like a crypt.'' 27/10/2007
Babette's Recipes by Leah A. Zeldes Página 2 de 6

Cailles en sarcophages

``Quails'' in coffins

Theater Oobleck's version of Isak Dinesen's ironically named dish is chicken in homemade puff pastry. The group
adapted the pastry from Nick Malgieri's ``How to Bake.'' Nonpurists or short-of-time cooks may prefer to substitute
frozen puff-pastry sheets. The recipe should be started one day ahead. (Recipe by Meredith Neuman, Teria Gartelos
and Lisa Pawlik- with help from David Isaacson, Kate O'Reilly, Danny Thompson and Max Greenberg.)

Puff pastry:

15 ounces (3 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cups ice water


3 small chickens, cut up

Herbes de Provence

1 3/4 cups dry white wine

1/2 cup orange juice

7 teaspoons minced garlic

Truffle oil

1 1/2 onions, peeled

4 or 5 carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise

2 ribs celery, cut lengthwise

1 bay leaf

1 small bunch parsley

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Salt to taste

2 pounds white button mushrooms

1/2 cup butter

3 shallots, minced

1/4 cup sherry

1/4 cup flour 27/10/2007
Babette's Recipes by Leah A. Zeldes Página 3 de 6

To form the sarcophages:

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/2 package phyllo dough, thawed if frozen

Prepare the pastry: In a large bowl, cut 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) of the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until
the butter is more or less incorporated. Now coarsely cut the remaining butter into the flour mixture, leaving many
visible pieces of butter (about 1/4 inch in diameter should be fine).

Dissolve the salt into the ice water. Slowly drizzle the salted water into the flour mixture while tossing gently with a
fork. When all the water has been evenly distributed, there will remain many dry crumbs. Don't worry.

Empty the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. By folding up the four sides of the wrap and pressing, form a
rectangle of dough. Roll the dough out just a bit and fold the sides over the middle, forming a piece one third the
former size. Repeat, this time folding the top and bottom to the middle. The butter and flour will not yet be working
in harmony, so you will probably have to use the plastic wrap to aid you in the first few folds.

Puff pastry requires a somewhat Calvinist submission of the will and a confidence that layers will appear. Roll the
dough out again and repeat the folding, lightly dusting with flour between every layer. Discard the plastic wrap as
soon as the dough holds together on its own.

The dough will become progressively softer as you work on it, with an almost springy texture. After 6 or 10
repetitions of the folding and rolling, cut the dough into 18 equal pieces. Wrap each well in plastic wrap and let rest
in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Make the filling: Place the chicken legs and thighs in one baking dish, the chicken breasts in another. Rub herbes de
Provence under the skin of these chicken parts. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the wine with the orange juice, 4 teaspoons of
the garlic and a liberal sprinkling of truffle oil. Chop the onion half and add it. Pour over the chicken parts, cover and
refrigerate overnight.

Place the chicken wings, giblets (reserve the liver for another use) and remaining parts of the chicken in a large
stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam that rises to top. When the liquid is relatively
clear, add the carrots, celery, whole onion, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns and salt. Reduce the heat, cover and let
simmer at least 2 hours to make a hearty stock. Strain, discard the solids, and refrigerate the stock.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Skim any fat off the stock and pour enough over the marinated
chicken to cover. Bake the chicken until it's tender and the juices run clear, about 25 minutes for the breasts, a little
longer for the legs and thighs.

Reserve the juices from one of the baking dishes, skimming the fat off the top. Skin, bone and chill the chicken.

In a large skillet, saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat in 1/4 cup of the butter and the remaining wine with
the shallots and remaining garlic. Spoon out and reserve the mushrooms. Add to the mushroom juices in the pan the
chicken juices and sherry. Cook until reduced by half.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over low heat and sprinkle in the flour. Cook and stir until light brown.
Add the reduced juices and cook until very thick. (This should yield about 1 1/2 cups.) Combine the sauce with the
chicken and mushrooms.

Assemble and bake: Cut the stack of phyllo sheets in half and lay between two damp, clean towels. Lightly dust with
flour and roll each of the 18 pieces of dough to a diameter of 6 to 8 inches. Set aside.Place about 1/2 cup of the
chicken mixture into a half sheet of phyllo and wrap like an egg roll into a neat, tight package. Place the phyllo-
wrapped chicken on the rolled dough, and brush the egg white around it.

Fold the bottom of the dough up onto the phyllo to form the ``foot'' of the coffin. Then fold up the sides and top of the
dough, pinching it together to make a cross shape on the top. Repeat for each sarcophage. Cover and chill in the 27/10/2007
Babette's Recipes by Leah A. Zeldes Página 4 de 6

refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Brush the pastry with egg white and bake for 15 minutes, or till golden brown. 18

Blinis Demidof a l'Oobleck

Yeasted pancakes with gingered carrots and beets

Theater Oobleck adapted the blini recipe from Sheila Lukins' ``All Around the World Cookbook.'' The topping is
their own.

1 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/4 cups warm milk

4 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4-inch chunk fresh gingerroot, grated

4 medium beets, tops removed

6 to 7 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup grated carrots

Clarified butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, 1/2 cup of the flour and 2 cups of the milk. Cover and set aside in a warm
place for 30 minutes. Let the remaining milk cool to lukewarm.

Beat the egg yolks and stir into the yeast mixture with the remaining milk and flour and the 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter. Cover and let rest in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Cook the beets till tender in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Peel, then grate or chop the beets and combine them
with the horseradish, vinegar, orange juice and sugar. Set aside the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over low heat, saute the ginger and carrots in clarified butter till just warmed through.
Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. 27/10/2007
Babette's Recipes by Leah A. Zeldes Página 5 de 6

Fold 3/4 cup of the cooled carrot mixture into the blini batter.

Heat a nonstick skillet, brush lightly with clarified butter and cook a few blini at a time. Make them 3 to 4 inches in
diameter. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side about 1 minute, until puffed and golden.

Serve warm, topped with sour cream and the carrot-beet mixture. Makes about 40 blini, 10 to 15 servings.

Soupe a la tortue a la Louisianne

Turtle soup

Teria Gartelos' recipe is modeled after that served at restaurants such as Brennan's in New Orleans.


3 pounds turtle meat (available from specialty butchers such as Wild Game Inc.)

3 1/2 quarts water

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons salt

2 ribs celery

4 cloves garlic

1 onion

Coriander seed, peppercorns and dried herbs (basil, marjoram, rosemary and thyme) to taste


1 1/2 cups butter

2 cups chopped leeks, white part only

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup tomato puree

1 cup sherry

1/2 cup worcestershire sauce

3 eggs, hard boiled, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Juice of 1/2 lemon 27/10/2007
Babette's Recipes by Leah A. Zeldes Página 6 de 6

Prepare the stock: In a large stockpot, cover the turtle with the water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam that rises to
the top until the liquid runs almost clear. Add the remaining stock ingredients, reduce the heat, cover and simmer till
you have a nice, hearty stock, at least 2 hours.

Strain and refrigerate the liquid. Remove the turtle meat from the bones; cube and chill the meat. Discard the
remaining solids.

Make the soup: In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat and add the leeks; cook slowly until the leeks are
transparent. Whisk in the flour until thick. Add the tomato and cook 5 minutes.

Skim any fat off the top of the turtle stock and add 10 cups of it to the leek mixture, along with the sherry and
worcestershire. Cook 15 minutes. Add the turtle meat and the eggs and simmer 12 more minutes. Stir in the parsley
and lemon juice and serve. 15 servings.

Theater Oobleck also makes a vegetarian version without any cooking alcohol: substitute 2 pounds chopped button
mushrooms and 1 pound chopped portobella mushrooms for the turtle. Add a chopped apple and pear to the stock,
and substitute 1/2 cup cider vinegar for the sherry.

-30 - 27/10/2007