By Melony Carey
Food by the Book
Herman Koch’s dark social satire, “The Dinner” (Hogarth, 2012), can be gulped down all in one sitting. On the exterior it seems like a modern Dutch commentary on the lengths to which today’s parents will go to keep their children from taking responsibility for their actions. A few chapters in and it becomes much more terrifying than enabling parents, liberal society, or the lives of bourgeois Dutch politicians.
Paul Lohman, who relates the story in Koch’s five course novel, is not just an unreliable narrator, he is a well-educated psychopath. When he is thinking right, Paul has some cogent things to say about family dynamics, society, wealth and the common man.
Paul, his wife Claire, and their 15-year-old son seem like the epitome of a happy family. In fact, Paul’s favorite quote is Tolstoy’s opening line of Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The story unfolds at a posh restaurant over dinner as Paul and Claire join Paul’s brother Serge, who is about to declare his candidacy for Prime Minister, and his wife, Babette. Serge has something he wants to discuss with the family. From the aperitif through the digestif, the couples slowly unravel the horrific actions of their 15-year-old sons, Michel and Rick, who have killed a homeless person sleeping in an ATM. A YouTube video posted in an extortion attempt by Serge and Babette’s adopted son, an orphan from Burkina Faso, helps cook up a shocking conclusion.
Koch is a well-known television comedian in Holland, appearing on shows that poke fun at the government and Dutch society. As disturbing as “The Dinner” is, it would provide book clubs with some juicy topics into which to sink their teeth. Sink your teeth into this dinner menu based on Serge and Babette’s main courses in the novel.
At the dinner Serge has “filet of guinea fowl wrapped in paper-thin sliced German bacon.” This chicken dish cooked up by a friend more than 30 years ago is a great substitute.
4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
1 jar Armor dried beef, rinsed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
4 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a shallow baking dish with dried beef. Mix sour cream and mushroom soup together and pour over dried beef. Wrap a slice of bacon around each chicken breast and place on top of soup mixture. Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until chicken is tender. Serve with mashed potatoes on the side.
4 slices, country-style bread
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread on a work surface and using a 3 inch cookie cutter. Cut a round crouton from the center of each slice of bread. Brush both sides of the croutons with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place the croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Tournedos and Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 beef fillet steaks, about 6 ounces
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound shitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Season the fillets with salt and press the coarsely cracked black pepper onto 1 side of each fillet. Place the fillets pepper-side down into the skillet and sear until golden brown, turn the fillets over and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Remove the steaks to a plate. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the fat in the pan and return to high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the broth and cook until reduced by half. Whisk in the mustard and butter and cook for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place each fillet on top of a crouton and spoon some of the sauce over. Source: Bobby Flay, www.foodnetwork.com.
1 pound fresh or frozen haricots verts (French green beans), trimmed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
If you are using fresh haricots verts, cook in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes; shock in ice-cold water, drain and set aside. If using frozen, thaw and drain.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter until bubbling but not browned. Add the shallot and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and toss a couple of times. Add the salt and pepper and continue to sauté until all is hot throughout, approximately 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
From Holland’s neighbor Belgium comes La Dame Blanche, better known as the hot fudge sundae.
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
2 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring the cream just to a boil then add the brown sugar and stir just until it dissolves. Add small pieces of butter until mix until completely melted then stir in the chocolate chips. Wait 3 to 5 minutes so that chocolate is very soft before folding it in with a spatula. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract and blend until well incorporated. Let cool for 15 minutes; it will thicken as it cools. Serve over 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream and top with whipped cream.
Source: Paula Deen at www.foodnetwork.com.