How do you cook and serve a human? Hopefully, this is not a question you have ever needed to answer, but it is one that Janice Poon–food consultant and stylist for NBC’s Hannibal–has spent much of her time considering. This holiday season, Janice has teamed up with Freddie of Tattle Crime to produce a batch of cookie recipes that even the fussiest of foodies will love.
I was able to try out some of the recipes myself, and to speak with Janice about her work on Hannibal and her advice for any aspiring chefs who have been inspired by Hannibal‘s culinary command.
The Hannibal Holiday Cookie Recipe Cards come as a set of six and use beautiful illustrations and calligraphy that mimics Hannibal Lecter’s own recipes on the show. I chose to try out four of the seven recipes, ranging in difficulty from the super easy to the decidedly tricky.
Super Easy (No Bake): Wendigoreos
What could be easier than a recipe which requires no baking at all? The Wendigoreos use Oreo cookies and chocolate covered pretzels to make reindeer and/or ravenstags. I made them with my six-year-old after school one afternoon in just a few minutes. We cheated a little by using Cadbury’s pretzels which come already coated in chocolate, eliminating yet another step. We also used red Smarties for the noses instead of icing, making them into perfect little red-nosed Rudolphs. These cookies are easy enough to make quickly as Christmas party food, or to make together with a group of kids. My son loved using the piping icing to draw increasingly bizarre faces on his cookies!
Easy: Gingerbread Friends
For novice bakers, gingerbread is a great first step into recipes that actually require the oven to be switched on! Janice’s recipe calls for molasses which is unavailable where I live–however, black treacle and/or golden syrup works perfectly as a substitute. Depending on which liquid you use, or the ratio of one to the other if you choose to mix the two, your resulting gingerbread will be subsequently lighter or darker in final color. This could come in very handy for one of Janice’s presentation ideas below! The original recipe card used only a standard person
suit shape cutter (with a leg removed!), but as a regular baker I own dozens of cutters and used others to create a range of Hannibal themed designs including Will’s clock, a ravenstag, and an Erlenmeyer flask for Team Sassy Science. I used leftover pre-coloured icing and off-the-shelf piping icing for decoration, however if you plan to turn your gingerbread shapes into tree decorations, stick with royal icing.
If you want to present your gingerbread with real flair, the Eye of God uses dough from the gingerbread friends (leftover cherry pie cookies dought can be used too) to recreate the infamous mural from season two. By varying your liquid element from the darker black treacle to lighter golden syrup, you can create a variety of different “skin tones”, and using a pie dish to shape the final creation produces an edible bowl which can be filled with other treats.
Medium: Reba’s Cherry Pie Cookies
In season three, we are introduced to Reba McClane, co-worker to the Red Dragon and lover of cherry pie. These cookies are designed to resemble mini cherry pies and use cherry jam as their filling. The recipe is easy to make, with the difficulty lying in decoration. Make sure you have a circle object with a flat bottom that is just smaller than your circle cutter, as you will need to create an indentation to fill with your jam before weaving your miniature lattice over the top. I discovered that I hadn’t rolled my dough thinly enough, which made the cookies much thicker than I would have liked at the bottom. Next time I’ll remember to keep them as thin as possible–and to add much more cherry jam! Of course, these particular cookies would be great for Supernatural and Twin Peaks fans too–they’re damn fine if I do say so myself.
Macarons are notoriously difficult to master, and I was nervous to approach them for the first time here. For those accustomed to more traditional baking, the recipe feels strange as it uses no flour and forms a much wetter consistency than most cookie mixes. I messed up one batch entirely by forgetting to reduce my oven temperature at the right moment, resulting in macarons which more resembled fried eggs than the classic French treat, but my other batches turned out well, if not entirely even in size. The macarons were easier to make than I anticipated, and I intend to brave them for my contribution at an upcoming Christmas party buffet, although I have purchased a silicon macaron tray to try to get more even results next time.
After testing out the recipes, I was able to ask Janice some questions about her career, and get some extra baking advice.
GeekMom: How did you first get into food styling? Can you describe how your career path ended up with you working for Hannibal?
Janice Poon: My first real job was as an art director in a big ad agency and three of my accounts were food (McDonald’s, Kraft, and Maple Leaf). There, I learned how food was manipulated for the camera. Later I became the art director of a food magazine and styled most of their photography based on what I had observed at the agency.
I never really did food styling as a career–it was one of the things I did for a change from painting and sculpting, which was the mainstay of my work until I started writing. I was working on my third children’s book and my editor had asked for another re-write. So I was staring glumly at a blank screen when a call came in–asking if I was interested in food styling for Hannibal. I had never seen or read Hannibal, but ten years previously, I had really enjoyed styling for Nero Wolfe–series about a post-war detective who loved gourmet food and orchids. And I was really struggling with my rewrite. So I leapt at it.
GM: What has been the most challenging and rewarding aspects of creating food designs for Hannibal?
JP: Collaborating with Bryan Fuller has been exhilarating. He is insanely creative and original with impossibly high standards, yet he is open and receptive to your ideas (as long as they’re brilliant). This encourages you to push your own limits and bring your very best. His scripts describe the most impossible things, which of course you have to actualize under the most onerous timelines AND it has to all be edible. It is incredibly challenging working this way but of course, so much more rewarding when you accomplish the seemingly impossible task.
GM: Which still-living character on the show would you most like to design a meal around, and how would you cook them?
JP: I would choose to cook Hannibal himself. Because of course he didn’t die when they went over that cliff. Hannibal is not a meal you cook and devour quickly. He is so complex and our relationship with him is so conflicted, he would need be savoured in many varied ways: Chili-miso marinated fingertips, honey-braised cheeks, torchon of liver in cognac, seared heart–it would take some time…several seasons at least!
GM: What advice would you give to aspiring chefs and home cooks who have been inspired to get into the kitchen because of the show?
JP: Cook with love. Love your ingredients and those you are feeding–especially yourself.
And one other thing: Take an extra few minutes to garnish the food and arrange it attractively on the plate. Garnishing is like gift-wrap: It makes the diner pause for an admiring moment and reminds them that you took time to make this food and they are in for a very special treat.
If you would like to try your hand at some Hannibal Holiday Cookies, you can order the Hannibal Cookie Package for $45 (including shipping) containing all six recipe cards, two sheets of stickers, a greeting card, and some extra treats from the Tattle Crime website or by emailing Janice herself. The kits are strictly limited, but if you miss out then the recipes alone will be published on the Feeding Hannibal blog where you can also contribute your advice to an ongoing discussion. Janice will be publishing more Hannibal-inspired recipes in Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook, which is scheduled for release in winter 2016 via Titan. I can’t wait to read it!
GeekMom received this item for review purposes.