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 silent leading lady who may no longer be a household name but who had a solid career under her belt, Virginia Valli.
Valli was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest leading ladies. She starred in The Pleasure Garden (1925). She was also the romantic lead of King Vidor’s Southern Gothic semi-horror, Wild Oranges. Valli retired from the screen in the early thirties but remained very much a part of the motion picture scene as her husband, Charles Farrell, remained a popular leading man.
Valli’s recipe calls for foie gras. As you may already know, foie gras is illegal in my state of residence, California, and I would not eat it in any case. As a substitute, I made a vegetarian pate out of sweet potatoes and red lentils. Let me tell you, this stuff was amazing! Half of my tasters were dedicated carnivores and organ meat aficionados and they raved about the stuff, if that gives you any indication. (The recipes can be found here.)
Here is Miss Valli’s recipe:
The recipe is essentially a variation on Eggs Benedict. It makes the cream sauce optional but as we were going the Benedict route, I decided to take the extra trouble and make it. It’s just a simple sauce made of butter, flour and milk. Nothing to it. Certainly easier than hollandaise. (Recipe here.)
For the toast, I used a long loaf of good sourdough. As for the eggs, I used silicon poaching cups. I do not like poached eggs enough to practice the “proper” way and these little cups are a real life saver. Other than that, I followed Virginia’s instructions to the letter.
Here is the result. I don’t pretend they are things of beauty (my skills as a food photographer are sorely lacking) but I was rather pleased overall.
And here is the taste test video:
My rating: 4 out of 5. Everyone at the table wolfed down their serving and most went back for seconds. This recipe is also nice as it is quite expandable. It can feed one, five or twelve people just as easily.
While the sauce is listed as optional in the recipe, I think it is actually an essential component to the recipe’s success. The light, buttery white sauce goes very well with the pungent pate and brings the flavors of the egg and bread together.
This is listed as a luncheon dish but I made it as a hot weather supper and it went over very well. It’s light and, apart from poaching the eggs, there is very little stove work involved. It’s lighter and less salty than Eggs Benedict and it seems to be a real crowd pleaser.
Can it be improved? I like the balance of flavors as-is but I suppose you could substitute shredded cheese for the sauce or spinach for the pate but that is starting to pull away from the basic concept of the recipe. I would leave it alone.