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.