Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte”

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes that I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.)   This time, we are trying a recipe from a popular screenwriter, Jeanie Macpherson. She is most famous for her work with Cecil B. DeMille but she was also a pioneering director and actress.

Macpherson in The Tarantula, which she also directed.
Macpherson in The Tarantula, which she also directed.

She wrote the original Ten Commandments and famously got into an onscreen catfight with Geraldine Farrar in Carmen.

Macpherson in the twenties.
Macpherson in the twenties.

Stuffed veggies were quite the thing for the first half of the twentieth century and the Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte involves a seafood salad inside a, you guessed it, tomato. “Ravigotte” is defined as “A vinegar sauce seasoned with minced onion, capers, and herbs, used with boiled meats or fish.” As you will soon see, there are no capers or herbs to be had so I think we can safely just call this a stuffed tomato. Here is the recipe:

Jeanie-Macpherson-Stuffed-Tomato

Jeanie is a girl after my own heart! I detest sweet pickles and sweet seafood, potato or egg salads. I was also pleased by the amount of cayenne called for. It gives the recipe much more kick than one would expect from recipes of this era.

I ended up making a few changes to the recipe. I added some sour cream to the crab salad to that things would hold together a little better. As one of my tasters does not eat shellfish, I used imitation crab. (Sacrilege!) I also used Vlasic Dill Relish instead of chopping up a pickle. (I told you I hate sweet pickles. I go through dill relish like mad.) As the tomatoes at my house are not yet ripe, I was obliged to use store-bought toms. The mustard was just plain old French’s. I used finely minced onion instead of onion juice.

Here is what it looked like when I was done.

Top view
Top view
The big picture
The big picture
Side angle
Side angle
Sliced in half
Sliced in half

Here is the taste test video.

My Rating: 4 out of 5. My testers all agreed that this was pretty darn tasty.

The cayenne really put the thing over and the bell pepper sprinkled on top was both pretty and delicious. The recipe has a nicely balanced combination of flavors, though you may wish to tone down the mustard a bit, especially if you are not used to such an amount of the yellow stuff. The salad can be challenging to eat. I ended up handing out sharp knives and letting everyone slice it up for easy consumption.

Stuffed veggies are pretty rare these days and I think it is high time that they made a comeback. It is a healthy, tasty and attractive way to serve salad. As the recipe says, it can easily be the main course of a light luncheon. Serve the stuffed tomato, some crusty bread and butter, maybe some lemonade or mineral water and voila! A very civilized lunch, ideal for writers of semi-sleazy biblical epics.

Can it be improved? I am planning to make this recipe again once my tomatoes are ripe. Home-grown tomato? Yum! I am also considering substituting egg for crab. I think the recipe could stand a bit less mustard and a bit more creamy stuff. You know, sour cream, mayonnaise, Vegenaise, something like that.

Variations: If you are vegan, you might try an “egg” salad. Or just a nice chopped veggie salad. Just remember to use the killer combo of cayenne, onion and bell pepper. Carnivores might enjoy a chicken salad inside the tomato. Just follow the recipe and substitute cold shredded chicken for crab.

17 Replies to “Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte””

  1. As someone who loves crabmeat (spending many years in the D.C. area has that effect), this has some potential — though I might alter things a bit, eliminating the pickle, making the mustard Chinese-style and most important, putting it in a stuffed (hot) potato rather than a tomato. Either way, it’s a winner.

  2. Well, that was a better video than the Crawford banana deathtrap, so I’m glad this one was enjoyable! I’d substitute some Colman’s English Mustard (buy the powder and mix your own. Just a TINY bit, as it’s strong stuff) for the French’s for an added kick if you like things spicier.

    1. Sounds tasty! I definitely think mixing up the mustard would make things fun. I toyed with using whole-grain German mustard but decided to keep things “vanilla” for the taste test 🙂

      1. Oooh. That German mustard sounds as if would be wonderful in terms of adding texture. I’ve had a few types of it in the past and have never been disappointed.

  3. I like that you make your videos for these more than just a simple “point the camera and shoot” thing. You include music and everything.

  4. This sounds like a wonderful summer lunch as you stated…chicken, egg, or tuna salad would suffice. Thanks for bravely trying these recipes…glad you found a winner this time.

  5. This looks like a winner, Fritzi. I look forward to seeing the crab boars off the coast every year. I second the recommendation of Coleman’s or some other strong mustard. You mentioned that stuffed vegetables are no longer common. I’m lucky my mother still stuffs zucchini, peppers and onions.

  6. You see that Joan Crawford? THAT’S what a type of real salad looks like!

    That stuffed tomato looks good. It looks like tasty summertime food, maybe as part of a barbecue meal. Count me among those who don’t like sweet pickles or relish. I tried sweet relish once and I didn’t like it at all. I like mustard. I decided to make my own egg salad from Easter eggs back in April. It’s not something I normally eat. I decided to use a mixture of mustard and mayonnaise with the eggs. If I do it again I’ll add cayenne pepper.

    Thanks to this recipe I now know why onion juice exists.

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