With the two latest movie adaptations of Romeo and Juliet and Great Expectations opening soon in the Tampa Bay area, it's time to celebrate with a taste of the classics.
It's true there was never "a story of more woe," but Romeo and Juliet also has a lot of festive moments. Feasts. Masked balls. Did I mention the feasts? Now that Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) has adapted the play for the big screen, we can expect gorgeous costumes and lavish sets. It's the perfect inspiration for a 16th century Italian dinner party. (Good news! In the 1500s, Italians realized forks were a great idea, so there's no need to eat the pasta with your fingers.)
At an actual Italian banquet, you would invite everyone — except the Montagues — and ply them with courses ranging from pork livers to whole roast game. But (wild guess) since you probably don't have an entire kitchen staff preparing your feast, stick to an intimate dinner party. Candlelight and rose centerpieces will create a romantic atmosphere. If you want a hint of a masquerade, give guests glittering masks.
For your main course, serve spaghetti carbonara, with a creamy Parmesan sauce and crumbles of crisp bacon. It's authentic and easy to make — you can whip it up thirty minutes before guests arrive. Of course, no Italian meal is complete without sliced baguettes and olive oil. Have a fresh green salad on the side. For dessert, you can treat your guests to warm orange-muscat pears drizzled with a sweet syrup, over vanilla ice cream. Not only is it an unusual dessert, it's also something that Romeo and Juliet might have eaten at their feast.
If you don't have time for an elaborate dinner party, you can still celebrate authentically. Just bring some hazelnuts and apple slices to the movie theater with you. It's what the Elizabethans would have snacked on while they watched the first production of Romeo and Juliet. And if you don't like the movie, you can follow the Elizabethans' example and chuck your snacks at the screen.
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Most people overlook the pork pie in Great Expectations. You probably did, too. But the entire plot pivots on this "beautiful, round, compact pie" — it's even more important than Miss Havisham and her famously decaying Satis House.
You don't believe me, do you?
Stop for a second and think about it. If Pip's aunt had not baked that particular pie — if she had not placed it on the pantry shelf where young Pip finds it — and if he had not given it to a starving convict in the marshes, the entire course of the book could have been very different.
It's really because of this dish, with its flaky pastry crust and delectably seasoned pork filling, that Pip gets his great expectations at all. The convict is so impressed by this meal that he makes Pip the inheritor of his fortune. Some pie, huh?
So it's only fitting that we celebrate the release of this latest film adaptation with a recipe for pork pie. Admittedly, it's a modernized version of the traditional British meat pie, which consists of roughly chopped pork and pork jelly sealed in a crust pastry and eaten cold.
This recipe serves about 10. If you want more time with guests, you can make the pies the day before, stick them in the refrigerator without baking, and then place them in the oven before your company arrives. Traditionally, pork pie is served with pickles on the side.
For dessert, try a grand raspberry trifle. It's oh-so-British, and super easy to make. (I could have suggested the plum pudding from the novel, but I'm not going to make you do that much work.) Just layer store-bought pound cake with whipped cream and raspberries, and you'll have a treat that could earn you a fortune.
Or maybe you'll have to rely on the pie for that.
1 pound spaghetti
½ pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
½ cup half-and-half
Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Salt boiling water generously; add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan and half-and-half. Set aside.
Drain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to egg mixture. Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from the pasta will cook the eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkled with more Parmesan cheese.
Makes 4 servings.
1 bottle sweet muscat wine, like muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
6 pears, ripe but not soft
Slivered zest of one orange
1 tablespoon honey
Pear or orange sorbet or vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Before preparing the pears, select a deep, ovenproof, nonreactive saucepan that will hold the pears snugly when they are standing upright. Pour the wine and orange juice into the pan.
Then, peel the pears, taking care to leave the stems intact. If desired, remove the cores, digging them out with the point of a vegetable peeler or knife. As the pears are peeled, place them upright in the saucepan, coating them with the wine mixture.
Place the saucepan in the oven and bake the pears for 3 hours, basting occasionally, until they are very tender.
Remove the pears from the oven and carefully transfer them to a dish that will still hold them upright.
Add the orange zest and honey to the saucepan and boil the remaining liquid until it is reduced to about ⅓ cup, turns a caramel color and becomes very syrupy. Toward the end of the cooking, the syrup will start to boil up in the pan; remove it from the heat and allow it to settle to determine whether it needs additional boiling. Do not allow the syrup to scorch. Pour it over the pears. Refrigerate them until serving time.
Serve the pears in chilled goblets or dishes, with sorbet or ice cream on the side, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.
8 ounces bacon, cut into medium dice
2 pounds ground pork
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
2 cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped celery leaves
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh savory or equal parts chopped fresh rosemary and oregano
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Pastry for a double-crust 10-inch pie (homemade or ready-made)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp; remove to a plate. Add the pork and a pinch of salt and brown for 2 minutes; remove to a plate. Add the potatoes, celery, celery leaves, parsley, savory, garlic and onions and sweat for 3 to 5 minutes. Deglaze the skillet with 1 cup of water, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the pork and bacon back to the skillet with the cinnamon, cloves and a large pinch of salt, and simmer until the liquid has evaporated, 20 minutes.
While the mixture is simmering, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a 10-inch pie plate with one of the pastry rounds and fill with the meat mixture; cover with the remaining pastry. Trim and crimp the edges to seal, and cut small steam vents. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg yolk and milk mixture.
Bake until the crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes and serve warm.
Serves 8 to 12.
Source: Symon's Suppers
Grand Raspberry Trifle
English trifle can be made in one large dish or several small ones. To make individual raspberry trifles, use 10 glass serving dishes or wineglasses, making only two (instead of three) layers in each glass.
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
4 cups raspberries
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ pounds favorite pound cake
In saucepan, boil ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and lemon juice, stirring to dissolve sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool.
In a small bowl, combine jam with 3 cups raspberries, mashing slightly. In a large bowl, whip cream and 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff peaks.
Slice pound cake ¾ inch thick; brush both sides of slices with lemon syrup.
Fit ⅓ of slices snugly in the bottom of a 4-quart trifle dish or other glass bowl, trimming edges if necessary. Gently spread top of layer with ⅓ of raspberry mixture, and then ⅓ of whipped cream. Repeat to make two more layers; garnish with remaining cup raspberries. Refrigerate until serving, up to 24 hours.
Makes 10 servings.
Source: Martha Stewart