Food Film: Babette’s Feast


One of the most amazing food films ever made and one I recently re-watched . Babette cooks up a feast, from humble peasant meals to full blown French gastronomy. I thought only the Chinese ate turtles, but apparently it was something on French menus too in the 19th century. Based on a short story by Danish writer, Isak Dinesen , I found the recipes of the courses that Babette served in the movie! Not so short analysis of the story here.

I wonder what the bottles of Veuve Cliquot vintage 1860 tasted like.. and I cannot believe someone actually attempted to recreate Babette’s Feast.

Notes on Preparing Babette’s Feast / T.W. Lapereau via lenakedlunch

As to other substitutions, it is probably beyond most budgets to supply 1/2 kilo of Beluga caviar. Any real caviar (sturgeon roe) is an acceptable substitute, but salmon roe or other “so-called” caviars are not. It is also legitimate to substitute smoked salmon for the caviar, so long as those that do this are aware that they are then serving Blinis Romanov and not Blinis Demidoff.

There are also some who may balk at devoting 18 hours to preparing the chaud-froid sauce for use with the quails. Those who do not feel up to this challenge may find nouvelle-cuisine versions of this sauce in many good general or French cookbooks. (The recipe in Julia Child’s book is excellent as a substitute. That in The Joy of Cooking is acceptable but not great).

Each of the recipes will serve 12, the number for which Babette prepared her feast.

The First Course :
I don’t eat turtles so this course makes me sad

(Green Turtle Soup)

This recipe was taken from the notebooks of Adolphe Duglere, the
best known chef of the Cafe Anglais.

1 live green turtle (about 5 kilos)
1 recipe for consomme (recipe follows)
1 recipe for chicken-meat stock (recipe follows)
Madeira (or sherry)
l bouquet garni (basil, marjoram, rosemary, savory,
thyme and parsley tied together in muslin)
l bouquet garni of peppercorns and coriander
4 medium carrots
l small cabbage
1 turnip
1 large unpeeled apple
salt and pepper to taste
croutons for serving (recipe follows)

1. Slaughter the turtle and hang it to bleed for 3 – 4 hours.

2. Butcher the turtle, setting aside separately the breastplate
and carapace, the meat and the innards. Clean the innards well.

3. Cut the carapace and breast plate into pieces and plunge these
into a large pot with rapidly boiling water. Let the pieces
blanch for 5 minutes. Drain rapidly, run the pieces under cold
water and remove and discard the outer shell that cover them.

4. Place the cleaned pieces in a large saucepan and cover
generously with the consomme. To the saucepan both bouquet
garnis, the vegetables and the apple. Over a high flame bring
just to a boil. Immediately lower the flame and simmer gently,
uncovered, for about 7 hours.

5. While the consomme is simmering, bone the turtle meat and cut
into 1 cm cubes. Place the meat in the chicken-beef stock, bring
just to a boil, reduce the flame and let simmer just until the
meat is tender (about 2 hrs). Keep the meat warm in the stock.

6. When the carapace and breast plates have finished cooking,
strain the soup through a cloth, heat through and add 2 cups of
Madeira (or sherry) to each litre of stock. Heat through. A few minutes
before serving stir in two-three tsp. of the Amontillado sherry to be served with the meal.

7. Immediately before serving place the turtle pieces in the
soup. Garnish with the croutons and serve at once.

Note: This soup should be served with a medium-dry Amontillado

Note: If using tinned turtle meat, follow all of the above steps
simply substituting additonal turtle meat for the carapace and
breast plates used in preparing the stock.


Consomme is nothing more than a stock that has been perfectly
clarified until completely clear and sparkling. The following
consomme (consomme blanc de veau) is considered ideal for making the turtle soup, above.

2 kilos uncooked veal bones, cracked
1 stewing hen, cut into convenient pieces
1 1/2 kilos uncooked veal shank meat
2 medium carrots
2 medium onions
2 stalks celery
l bouquet garni with 2 unpeeled garlic cloves and
2 whole cloves added to 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley,
1/2 bay leaf, 2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp salt

1. Place the veal bones and veal meat into a kettle, pour over
cold water to cover, bring to the boil and let boil very gently
for 5 – 6 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Rinse
the kettle. Return the bones and meat to the kettle, pour over
fresh cold water to cover and bring just to a bare simmer. Skim
and then add the vegetables, chicken, bouquet garni and salt.
Continue this bare simmer, partially covering the kettle, for 4 –
5 hours, adding boiling water only if the liquids evaporate below
the level of the ingredients. When cooking is completed discard
the bouquet garni and strain the stock into a clean bowl.

2. To degrease, let the stock settle for 5 – 6 minutes and then
skim the bulk of the fat from the surface with a large spoon. Draw
pieces of paper toweling across the surface of the stock to absorb
the last remnants of the fat.

3. Taste the stock. If it is to weak, boil down to concentrate
the strength. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken-Meat Stock

about 1 1/2 kilos each mixed meat and
poultry bones and meat scraps
2 medium carrots
2 medium onions
2 stalks celery
l bouquet garni (see recipe for consomme)
2 tsp salt

1. Place the meat and bones in a kettle, pour over cold water to
cover, bring to a bare simmer and skim the surface. Continue to
simmer, skimming often, until scum no longer rises to the surface.
Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer, partially
covered, for 4 – 5 hours longer, skimming occasionally if
necessary and adding boiling water if the liquids evaporate below
the surface of the ingredients. Before adding the turtle meat
discard the bouquet garni and strain the stock through a cloth.


The Second Course


This is a recipe that is Russian in origin but that was later
refined at the Maison Doree, a restaurant Count Demidoff
frequented with the many women to whom he paid court.

2 cups clarified butter (see note below), melted
1/2 kilo malossol (lightly salted) caviar, ideally Beluga
2 cups sour cream
2 cups milk, scalded and then cooled to lukewarm
l cup each buckwheat flour and white flour,
both sifted
4 eggs, separated
l envelope dry yeast (1 oz)
1 tsp each salt and sugar

1. In a large warm bowl soak the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.
After about 10 minutes, add l cup of the milk.

2. Sift both flours together. Resift the flours and salt and
stir 1 cup of this mixture into the yeast. Cover and let rise for
1/2 hour. Add the remaining milk and flour. Lightly beat the egg
yolks and add these to the mixture. Beat until smooth and then
let stand and rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Add 3
tbs of the clarified butter. Beat the egg whites until stiff and
then fold these into the mixture. Let stand to rise for « hour.

3. To make the blinis, use a cast-iron or other heavy 5″ (8 cm)
skillet. To the skillet add 1 tsp of the clarified butter and
heat. Pour in 1 tbs of the batter at a time and cook for 1
minute. Over the pancake spoon a bit of butter, turn and cook for
« minute longer. Remove the blini and keep warm in a low oven.
Continue cooking until all of the blinis are made.

4. To serve, place the blinis on a preheated serving platter.
On one half of each blini place heaping spoonsfull of the caviar.
Pour over the remaining clarified butter and then, on the second
half of the blinis, pile the sour cream.

Note: Such blinis are ideally served with the dryest possible of
Champagnes, very well chilled.


To Make Clarified Butter

To make clarified butter, very slowly melt about 1 1/2 times the
required amount of butter in a skillet. Let stand for several
minutes and then strain carefully, not letting the residue or
water pour back into the butter.


The Main Course
(Quails in Pastry Cases)

12 quails, dressed and half boned, with heads intact
1 recipe for game stock (mélange des fonds de la maison du gibier)
1 recipe for brown chaud-froid sauce (recipe follows)
12 pastry cases (recipe follows)
250 gr fresh foie gras (goose livers)
250 gr truffles, finely diced
4 large truffles, sliced thinly
36 large seedless grapes
3 tbs butter
2 tbs each Cognac and Madeira wine

1. In a heavy skillet melt the butter and in this lightly saute
the goose livers. When they are just beginning to brown, remove
from the heat. Let cool for several minutes and dice the livers
finely. Add the diced truffles and moisten with 2 tbs of the
Madeira wine. Mix gently but well and with this salpicon, stuff
the birds.

2. Wrap each bird in a piece of muslin cloth, folding the head
under a wing. Poach the birds in the game stock for about 15
minutes. Drain the birds and set them aside to keep warm.

3. Strain the liqueur in which the quails were cooked. With a
spoon remove most of the surface fat, and then, by running paper
towelling over the surface, completely absorbe the remaining
grease. Reserve half of this stock for use in making the chaud-froid
sauce (il n’en reparle plus). Return the other half of the stock to a saucepan, add the brandy and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and let simmer until
the stock is nearly jelly-like in consistency. Keep warm.
4. When the chaud-froid sauce is ready take the following steps:
a: Transfer the birds to the pastry cases, with the heads
proturuding from the cases.
b: Gently spread the birds with the now jellied stock.
c: Coat the birds with the chaud-froid sauce.
d: On the breast of each bird place 1 large, thin truffle
slice and three large grapes.
e: Serve on preheated plates.

For the Chaud-Froid Sauce:

2 cups meat jelly stock
1 1/2 cups sauce brune
1 cup fond de veau
3 tbs Madeira wine

Meat jelly stock
450 gr beef, cut in cubes
350 gr veal knuckle
350 gr veal and beer bones, sawed
into small pieces and tied with string
115 gr lean chopped beef
l calf foot, boned and blanched in boiling water
115 gr each butter and bacon rinds
2 large carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced
2 leeks, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig
thyme and 1 bay leaf, tied together)
2 egg whites
1 tsp each tarragon and chervil chopped
salt and pepper

1. In a large heavy skillet brown the beef, veal and bones
lightly in butter. Transfer to a large kettle and continue to
brown together with the carrots, onions, leeks and celery. Pour
over 9 cups of water. With a small amount of water dilute the
juices in the skillet in which the meat was browned and add this
to the stockpot. Bring to the boil, skim and add the bacon rinds
and calf’s foot. Add the boquet garni, season with salt and
pepper and simmer gently for 6 hours, skimmng occasionally.
Strain the stock through muslin.

2. To the strained stock add the chopped beef, egg whites,
tarragon and chervil. Whisk lightly over a moderate flame until
the mixture is lukewarm. Carefully skim off all the fat. With
strips of paper toweling blot off whatever fat remains on the
surface. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and then lower
the flame and simmer very gently for 35 minutes longer. Strain
the remaining stock through several layers of lightly dampened
muslin cloth.

Sauce brune
6 cups brown meat stock (preceding recipe)
1/2 cup each carrots, onions and celery,
all chopped finely
6 tbs clarified butter or rendered pork fat
1/4 cup flour
3 tbs boiled ham, diced
2 tbs tomato paste
l bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, l sprig thyme
and 1/2 bay leaf, tied together)

1. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and in this slowly
cook the vegetables and ham for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Into this mixture blend the flour and, over a moderately low
flame, stirring constantly, cook for 8 – 10 minutes, until the
flour has turned golden brown. Remove from the flame.

2. Bring the stock to the boil and using a wire whisk rapidly
whisk the beef stock into the mirepoix (the vegetable mixture).
Beat in the tomato paste, add the bouquet garni and simmer gently,
partially covered, for 2 – 3 hours, skimming as necessary and
adding addtitinal stock if the sauce becomes overly thick. When
the sauce is done there should be about 4 cups and this should
coat the spoon. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if
necessary and strain, pressing the vegetables with a wooden spoon
to press out their liquids. Degrease the stock, first with a
spoon and then with paper toweling). Set aside to keep warm
(ideally in a double boiler, over but not in hot water).

Assembling the Chaud-Froid Sauce:

1. In the saucepan, combine the remaining clear brown stock
and the sauce brune. Boil down over a medium-high flame, stirring
constantly wih a wooden spoon and add, a little at a time, the
jelly stock. Boil down until the sauce is at a consistency where
it can be used to coat the birds. Remove from the flame, stir in
the Madeira and coat the birds.

Croutes de Bouchees Feuilletees
450 gr butter, softened
450 gr flour, sifted
2 tbs butter, melted
2 tsp each salt and lemon juice

l. Sift the flour onto a well chilled marble or wood surface and
make a well in the center. Into the well place the salt, lemon
juice, melted butter and 12 tbs cold water. With the fingertips
mix these briefly and then, continuing with the fingertips, work
the flour in until the mixture atains the consistency of coarse
crumbs. If the mixture is too dry, add water, several drops at a
time. The dough should be well mixed but not kneaded. Divide
into two equal balls, wrap each in waxed paper and refrigerate for
1/2 hour. (Note: Each of the following instructions should be
followed twice, once for each ball).

2. Lightly flour half of the softened butter and flatten with a
rolling pin. When flattened fold in half and continue to flatten
and fold until the butter is pliable but not sticky and close to
the flour in consistency.

3. Shape the butter into a l5 cm (6″) square. Roll out the dough
to a 30 cm (12″) square and set the butter in the center of this.
Fold the corners of the dough over the butter, turn upside down on
the work surface and press with the rolling pin to flatten. With
the rolling pin roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 x 45
cm (8 x 18″). Fold the rectangle into thirds, turn the new
rectangle 90 degrees and roll out again into a large rectangle.
Fold again. Repeat this process so that the dough will have been
rolled out and folded 6 times in all. If, during the process the
dough becomes too soft refrigerate between rollings for 15
minutes. After all of the rolling out and folding process has been
completed, chill the dough for 2 hours before using.

4. Roll out the dough again, this time to a thickness of about 8
mm (about 1/3″). With a sharp pastry cutter cut out rounds about
10 cm (4″) in diameter. Place these on a damp baking sheet.
Dip another round cutter in hot water and mark out lids on the
pastry pieces that will be about 8 cm (3 1/2″) in diameter. Mark the
edges with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.
Cook the pastry rounds in a hot oven just until they begin to
brown. When baked remove from the oven and remove and discard the lids. Let cool for 10 minutes before putting the birds into the cases

Saveur also has a recipe here. Very classic French, I wonder if chef would make this for me, then again I am not excited by food that looks like the animal on the plate. :/

The Dessert


8 cups flour, sifted before measuring
1 recipe for Chantilly cream (recipe follows)
2 cups each milk and butter
2 cups seedless raisins
1 1/2 cups sugar
about 1 cup diced glazed fruits (optional)
10 eggs
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1/4 – 1/2 cup rum
6 packages active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon rind, grated

1. Let all the ingredients come to room temperature.

2. Scald the milk and then let cool to just lukewarm. Pour the
milk over the yeast and after the yeast is dissolved beat in 2
cups of the sifted flour. Set this sponge to rise in a warm place
until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

3. Beat the butter until it is soft and then gradually sift in
the sugar, blending until the mixture is light and creamy. One at
a time beat in the eggs and then beat in the salt. Add the
sponge, the remaining flour, the raisins and lemon rind. Beat the
mixture until smooth and elastic.

4. Divide the blanched almonds in the bottoms of two 23 cm (9″)
greased tube pans. On top of the almonds divide the batter and let
stand until again nearly doubled in bulk. Bake the cakes in an
oven that has been preheated to medium for 50 – 60 minutes (to
tell if the cakes are done, insert a sharp knife. If the knife
comes out clean, the cake is done). Let the cakes cool before
removing from the pans.

5. Just before serving sprinkle the cakes over with the rum, coat
generously with the chantilly cream and, if desired, decorate with
glazed fruits. Serve with well chilled Champagne.

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