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 I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from an actor whose sartorial flair matched his fame as a performer.
If you asked the average moviegoer of the twenties or thirties to name the best dressed man in America, Adolphe Menjou would likely be their answer. The Pittsburgh native hit the big time playing European sophisticates in the silent era and his reputation for adding that touch of class spilled over into his real world persona.
Menjou is also notable as one of the stars who not only kept their career at the same level in sound film but also kept on playing exactly the same roles. Need a man about town? An ambassador? A charmer in a tuxedo? Random royalty? Menjou was your man. His career took off in the early twenties with roles in The Three Musketeers and The Sheik. As a matter of fact, Menjou was the only performer in the latter film to emerge with his dignity intact.
Menjou’s dapper persona aged well and he found work in character roles for the rest of his life. His final movie part was in the supporting cast of Walt Disney’s treacly classic Pollyanna. Alas, Menjou’s legacy is marred by his pedal-to-the-metal support of McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist.
We know Menjou can act and we know he can put together a mean spring ensemble but can he cook? Let’s find out!
Okay, first question: What the heck is a “bouchée case” and where am I supposed to get them? I mean, is it just me or does it sound like a piece of furniture? Well, one quick Google search later, I discovered that in America, a bouchée case is just a puff pastry shell. (Menjou’s advice to use puff paste points if the bouchée cases are not available confirms this.) I used the Pepperidge Farm brand, which is available at most grocery stores in my neck of the woods.
Next, frog legs. Now these are available from my local meat counter but I rather like frogs (I have a small colony living outside my front door) and so I substituted shrimp. I guess shredded chicken would have worked as well. Everything else was easy to obtain, though I have to wonder if Menjou knew there was Prohibition on when he wrote this recipe. Sherry, Mr. Menjou? Tsk, tsk. Also the recipe does not specify whether or not the sherry should be sweet so I used dry because that’s most often what is used in recipes. (I always keep sherry on hand because I drink like a nonagenarian. Now pass me my gin sling, you whippersnapper.)
The recipe went together smoothly (Menjou gives very clear instructions). If you are nervous about scalding the cream, here are some simple tips. Just keep the temperatures moderate, obey the instructions to stir frequently and don’t leave the stuff unattended as it cooks. Before starting the project, I pre-baked the puff pastry shells per the manufacturer instructions on the box, cooled them to room temperature and had them plated and ready to receive the saucy filling.
Okay, you can say it. It kind of looks like vomit.
Actually, it really looks like vomit.
Taste Test Video:
Score: 2 out of 5 stars. This recipe is something a fifties housewife would make to show the hubby’s boss that they are all classy and stuff. It’s exactly the sort of fussy, fatty cuisine that would be right at home in mid-century, middle class establishments. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was actually tasty.
The problem is that the sauce is so heavy, so boozy (the sherry didn’t cook off as much as I expected) and so salty that the protein doesn’t really matter. I could have used chicken or squid or emu and it wouldn’t have made one crumb of difference. Sauces are supposed to enhance and complement whatever they are enrobing, not overwhelm them. Further, the sheer weight of the stuff was at odds with the delicate puff pastry and the shells began to slump after a few minutes.
This recipe was edible and didn’t make anyone gag but hardly anyone finished their plate. My testers and I ended up nibbling on the leftover puff pastry shells. Yum! So I guess the winner of this taste test is Pepperidge Farms.
Hmmm. Unsalted butter an half the salt may have helped here. That and amusingly enough, I wondered if “sherry” was somewhat watered down back then because of Prohibition. Still, puff pastry tends to collapse under saucing after a short while. I’m chicken about frog’s legs, so I’d probably substitute chicken. Buk-aw!
I always use unsalted butter in recipes but I do think that half the salt would help matters. Half the sherry too, for that matter. This is why puff pastry shells do best with filling that is more of a mousse or whipped cream consistency as they hold up rather nicely if the filling is light enough.
Sorry the receipe did not meet today’s taste-buds, but I still found it interesting. Menjou attended our wedding in 1957. He was a pleasant, surprise guest. He was a client of my bride’s father’s law firm. A very nice gentleman in every way.
Yes, it definitely is a “you had to have been there” kind of thing.
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