Photoplay Cookbook: Virginia Valli’s “Eggs with Pate de Foie Gras”

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.

Virginia Valli
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.

virginia valli 2
Sadly, Virginia was unable to find a hat with more feathers.

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.


  1. geelw

    I’ve actually tried foie gras when I was in France back around 1995 and while indeed quite tasty, I’d not realized how it was made and thought it was more like overly lavish chopped chicken liver. Oh well. Anyway, good to see this was a success. There’s a vegan product made here called Faux Gras that might go well in that dish. I may need to track that down one day. Not a fan of poached eggs myself, but I’m sure I can alter the recipe to something like an egg salad thing…

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I will have to look into the Faux Gras, thanks for the tip. The sweet potato and lentil pate is to die for, though. I think it will be my go-to substitute.

  2. Michael Kuzmanovski

    Pate de foie gras is not something I would eat; I don’t eat liver in any shape our form. I don’t like the way it tastes. The stuff you made seems good Fritzi. It probably added a star to the recipe. At this point it seems like you’ve got more winners than losers from the Photoplay Cookbook.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Same for me. Pates and organ meats are just not my thing.

      Yes, I have been pleasantly surprised by quite a few of the recipes. Thank goodness! I am not sure I could handle another Joan Crawford disaster.

  3. unterwasser

    This doesn’t sound too dissimilar to Scotch Woodcock, which is Gentleman’s Relish (an anchovy paste) on toast then covered in buttery scrambled egg. I think substituting scrambled egg for poached with a white sauce would have a similar result.

  4. Joe Thompson

    This sounds like the best one yet, Fritzi, with your adjustments. I’m glad you used sourdough. I just got back from New Orleans and my only problem was the problem I have whenever I travel away from the Bay Area, no sourdough bread.

  5. Le

    The recipe of your pate sounds delicious… hum, sweet potato! Your pictures also made me crave for this dish, even though I dislike poached eggs.
    By the way, Frances Marion’s nut salad was great! I tested it, but unfortunately not with cherry tomatoes.

  6. Mistlake

    Monster that I am, I’m quite incapable of resisting foie gras when I’m offered, but I don’t buy it myself. The recipe sounds and looks equally irresistible.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      It’s really good, no matter what your pate preferences are. I actually prefer it to Eggs Benedict

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