Featuring Curator Dr. Julia Skinner
When you think of a famous cookbook author, Salvador Dali might not top the list. Largely known for his surrealist art, larger-than-life personality, and a penchant for melting clocks and abstract figures, Dali also ventured into the world of cookbooks. His fanciful, quirky Les Diners de Gala, a copy of which lives in the Bentley Rare Book Gallery and is accompanied by a similar publication about wines, was published in 1973 by Felicie/Draeger. Dali dedicated Les Diners de Gala to his wife to showcase an extravagant, erotic banquet in her honor. This vibrant gastronomical journey is framed within Dali’s philosophy of food, an intricate perspective you can learn more about in our exhibition opening in January 2017, Culinary Memory.
At the Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, we quickly developed an
obsession fascination with Dali’s Les Diners de Gala, so the only thing to do was to strap on aprons and try to emulate the master. Over the next few months, we invite you to join us as we experiment with Dali’s recipes and persuade our friends to come over and try the finished product.
We start with “Land and Sea Rolls,” which on the surface appeared to be stuffed fish and twice baked potatoes. Sounds pretty simple, right? Dali intended for both the Land and Sea Rolls to be roughly the same size and shape – and swaddled in aluminum foil – so you reveal which is which when you unwrap your foil packets at the table. This would work amazingly well if we were able to find the right-sized fish (we weren’t). While our packets were incredibly easy to tell apart, and the sheer volume of butter and heavy cream startled us, Dali’s creation (despite our botchiness) overall proved to be delicious. Follow along below to see the step-by-step process as we took lots of photos and ate lots of butter…
In “Les Diners de Gala,” we find our first Dali attempt: Lenten Rolls, consisting of both Land and Sea Rolls.
Coffee: The first step of any successful cooking project.
Chef Julia artfully posing with Grassroots Coffee in hand.
And so it begins.
Kate Daly shows off her spectacular cooking prowess and beet peeling skills. Disclaimer: This was written by Kate.
No fingers were harmed in the making of this photo blog.”
Nothing like another coffee break after 7 minutes of hard work.
Potatoes were harmed in the making of this photo blog.
Curator/Chef Julia Skinner explaining our first roadblock: the local market only sold whole whiting, which means our fish are extraordinarily large in comparison to the potatoes.
The potatoes for our Land Rolls await baking on a beet-bloodied cutting board.
Coffee break #3. We might have a problem.
Anna: “Are you sure the recipe says to use this much butter?”
Julia, moving at lightning speed to chop shallots.
Yes, the Sea Rolls recipe does call for this much butter. Why Dali, just… why.
So much butter.
The Sea Rolls filling is almost complete: shallots and butter. Mmmm.
Chef Julia adds in pureed beets to round out the Sea Rolls filling.
Skepticism is currently sinking in among the cooking party.
Okay, on to the Land Rolls. Parsley. We can get on board with this.
In goes parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, paprika, cayenne pepper, yogurt, and … oh, half a cup of heavy cream. Naturally.
We return to prepping the fish for our Sea Rolls while the Land Rolls’ heavy cream/cayenne mixture sits ominously in the fridge.
Okay, that actually looks kind of delicious.
Julia saves half the heavy cream/cayenne as gravy for the Land Rolls.
Turns out the filling for the potatoes is just the gravy mixed with more potato. Bye diet.
Chef Julia poses with our glorious Land Roll filling.
Detail shot of the glorious Land Roll filling.
The wait begins.
Julia removes the Land Rolls from the oven. Here, our fish-size issue returns: Dali intends for the Land and Sea Rolls to be nearly identical in shape, so the unwrapping is a surprise for the diner. We think (hope) it’s pretty obvious which is which with our version.
Ta-da! Land and Sea Rolls. Ha, get it?
Anna exhibits more surprise than is necessary. I mean, come on. Disclaimer: This was written by Anna.
The progression of Kate’s feelings for this dish.
Kate attempting to not dump an entire bowl of gravy onto her Land Roll.
Julia Skinner, amazing cook and perfect hostess.
As our first Dali cooking experience draws to a close, Chef Julia’s guests overstay their welcome. ‘Please get out of my house. Now.’