This week I’ve been under the spell of two very different but equally delightful things. A favorite movie and a grand old restaurant. All the magnolias surrounding me, in the house and as I drive through Médoc keep taking me back to my walks in Palais Royal. This special place in the middle of Paris, so full of history and beauty is at its most poetic in March when the magnolias blossom. The crown jewel of Palais Royal is Le Grand Véfour, which someone described as the “Most beautiful restaurant in the world”. I wouldn’t argue with that. The plush red velvet seats, the gilded decorations, the ghosts of Victor Hugo and Napoleon himself. And a sophisticated and soft-spoken maître d’ who always reminds me of Christopher Walken.
It’s where I had my wedding lunch, a very small and intimate affair filled with happiness and opulence. It was one wonderful plate after another of the most delicate and luxurious food you can imagine. It was a good day. I think all of us had the pigeon prince Rainier III, at least I did, a big classic at this restaurant that’s been on the menu for decades. Deboned pigeons, filled with truffles, foie gras & veal. These pigeons have been on my mind all week, it started with a flower but as so often is the case with me, ends with a craving for a certain taste or dish.
This week the kids have been on holiday and as a little treat we’ve tried to end each day by watching a classic movie together (it was my husband’s idea as he says he can’t take any more Barbie movies – lot of girls in this family). The two winners so far have been “Some like it Hot”, and one of my all time favorite food movies, “Big Night”. Two scenes from that film take my breath away: when the chef describes how he feels about ragù Bolognese and the timbale. Just the sheer idea of that dish, a whole dome filled with the most desirable ingredients, made with such reverence, served with expectation and caution. I’ve never made a timbale, one day I will, but this week I needed to satisfy my cravings, for foie gras & pigeon and for something so special that it would put me at ease after having watched Big Night. So I went in the classic French direction and made an old-fashioned pie filled with everything I wanted. Fresh pigeons from my butcher, a small piece of foie gras, sausages from Queyrac, savoy cabbage, a single carrot, pieces of veal and bacon drenched in Cognac along with the usual suspects of shallots, onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaves.
It’s such a great feeling when you really know what you want and then you get it. It fills me with satisfaction and serenity so what better way to end the week than after a beautiful drive through the vineyards of Pauillac, past blossoming mimosa trees and pink cherry blossoms, to find myself in the town’s church. It wasn’t a planned visit but we had some errands to run in Pauillac and went our separate ways. When I was done with my duties I wound up in the main square and saw that the door of the church, usually closed, was open. It was so inviting that I had to go in and take a peek. The church was beautiful and completely abandoned except for one person, my husband who’d had the same idea and was already photographing the surprising sailboat hanging from the rafters.
It’s at moments like this that you think, I want nothing more … except perhaps another pigeon pie.
For the pastry:
500 g/ 4 cups plain flour
250 g/ 1 cup unsalted butter (cubed & at room temperature)
3-4 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
Mix all the ingredients together, start kneading until you get a good soft dough. Make into a ball, cover with cling film and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
For pie filling:
2 large pigeons
120 g/ ¼ pound foie gras (sliced into 8-10 small slices)
3 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
1 onion (sliced finely)
2 shallots (sliced finely)
3 good-quality pork sausages
150 g/ ¼ pound veal (chopped as finely as possible)
100 g/ ¼ pound bacon (chopped very finely)
30 ml/ 1/8 cup cognac (or dry white wine, dry sherry, Armagnac)
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf (crumbled)
½ savoy cabbage (chopped finely)
1 carrot (diced very finely)
Salt and black pepper for seasoning
Eggwash (for pastry)
1 tbsp full cream
1) Chop, dice, slice all the vegetables in the ingredients list. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, mix the uncooked sausage meat (slice the sausages and squeeze the meat out), veal, bacon, cognac, thyme and crumbled bay leaf. Add 1 egg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper very lightly as the sausages and bacon are quite salty. Set aside.
3) Rinse the pigeons in cool water and pat them dry. Slice the filets off the pigeons, keep the livers and set aside.
4) In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and fry the onion, shallots and garlic until slightly golden and soft. Set aside. In the same pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and brown the pigeon filets and livers until golden for about 45 seconds on each side. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside. Brown the carcass in the same oil and remove any pieces of meat fit for use and set aside. Discard the pigeon carcass. (It’s easier to remove meat when the pigeon is slightly cooked). Chop the liver finely.
5) Again, in the same pan, add 1 more tbsp of olive oil, fry the cabbage and carrots for a few minutes, cooking them al dente. Season with salt and pepper.
6) Add the cooked garlic/onion/shallots to the bowl of uncooked sausage/veal/bacon/egg mixture and mix gently.
7) Roll out 2 pastry discs to fit your pie dish. Line the pie dish with the first disc, leaving 2 cm overhang.
8) Add a layer of meat mixture (sausage/veal/bacon/onion etc), followed by a layer of cabbage/carrots, then place the pigeon filets all over. Add a layer of the foie gras slices over each pigeon filet, then finish with the remaining meat mixture, shredded meat and liver from the pigeons and cabbage/carrots.
9) Prepare the eggwash – Whisk egg with one tbsp of full cream and brush the edge of the pastry lining. Cover with your second pastry disc and seal together by pressing firmly on the side of the dish with your thumbs. Cut off excess pastry dough and re-roll to create 5-7 leaves to decorate the pie. With the back of your knife, press lightly all around the edge.
10) Prick a hole in the center of the pie (I use a chopstick).
11) Brush the pie with the remaining eggwash.
12) Bake in a preheated oven (210°C/410°F) for 10 minutes then lower heat to 180°C/350°F and bake for a further 45-50 minutes. If the pastry starts to brown too fast, cover with aluminium foil. Leave pie to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
36 thoughts on “Prince Rainier’s big night”
I wonder what a good substitute would be for pigeon as I’ve never seen it here in the states.
Bonjour! You really got me there! Do you have access to any game birds – that would be a good substitite. If not, I would suggest to make the pie without the pigeon – it’s such a wholesome pie. Have a lovely week-end! Mimix
I think that Cornish rock hens (game hens) would make a nice substitute for the pigeons, though they are a bit larger, and they’re available everywhere in the US. I’ve also seen pigeons in Asian markets, here.
The pie sounds absolutely decadent, Mimi! How many people would you say one pie serves?
Hi Rebecca! I am not too familiar with Cornish hens but I don’t think they will have as much flavour as pigeons, but it’s well worth a try. As for serving, I’d say a good 6. Have a lovely Sunday! Mimix
Hey, everyone! I think in the states, pigeons are referred to as “squab” (bigger than cornish game hens). They’re not that easy to find, but you can order them online at D’Artagnan (http://www.dartagnan.com/51194/Squab.html). Hope that helps!
Mimi, I just started reading your blog and I love it! Can’t wait to make this and many more recipes. Xx
Bonjour Kim! Thanks so much for your help. Living in France I am not too familiar with American produce, so any tips are greatly appreciated! I hope you will enjoy the recipes. Mimix
Anyone who loves good food and cooking should see Big Night . It’s a gem of a film and I can watch it again and again. I love the ship!
Ooh, pigeon pie! I love both of those films, good choice.
You have a very talented husband, your post photos time and again and beautiful….but then again his subjects are as well. What a beautiful family you have been blessed with! as to the recipe, I would think when in NY I would use maybe a cornish hen? I have yet to try pigeon in NY or in France.
Thank you so much for your kind words Maryanne. I just responded to a few readers regarding Cornish hens. I would definitely give it a try! Bon dimanche! Mimix
Finding your husband in the church with his camera sounds like a scene from an old romantic movie.
I love your blog so much, Mimi. Just when I thought I was done reading blogs, I stumble upon yours. So magnificent and full of gratitude, which seems all too rare nowadays. Thank you!
Absolutely true and exactly what I would have wanted to say… And the Photograph with wine, pie and glass looks like a chiaroscuro painting from the Old Masters…. Wonderful! Have an nice Weekend!
Oh thank you Yushka! Enjoy the week-end with your big family! Mimix
Bonjour Lauren! Thank you so much for reading my blog. I appreciate your kind words so much. We cherish our lives here in Médoc! I hope you will get a chance to try a few recipes. Bon week-end, Mimix
How funny I wouldn’t think of that movie as a classic!But I guess it is to a younger generation!Beautiful photos as per the norm with you and your daughter!!GORGEOUS!How many children do you have?I agree with the woman above…….you are “full of gratitude”.
Bonjour! I hope you are having a great week-end. Whenever I watch ‘Big Night’, I get hungry and impatient to cook! To answer your question, I have 6 children. Gunnhildur (17), Thorir (15), Mia (10), Hudson who’s 7 today, Louise (in the photo – 5) and Gaïa Johanna who’s turning 2 next month! We are a big family! Mimix
You don’t look much older then your oldest SON?HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHING DAY to a BEAUTIFUL WOMAN!
Bonjour Mimi, Sunday morning here and delighted to wake and find a Manger post to start my days reading. A very cool morning at last and have a real appetit for something delicious….one of Mimi’s recipes.!!! Pigeon may be a bit tricky to find locally. I would have to travel up to Melbourne to the Victoria Market…one of the worlds best and worth the drive. As it’s Sunday and the family is home it will definately be your Date and Almond cake for afternoon tea. Mimi, I walked through the Palais Royal last October with my husband…tres romantique. I pressed my face up to the window of Le Grand Vefour. I wished I spotted the Christopher Walken lookalike waiter!!! Bonne journee et Bon Weekend Mimi. Anita xx
I had to laugh, we sat down to our own chicken and leek pie and when I told my family about this one they gasped aloud and demanded that we make it but the kids refused to have pigeons because they are too used to seeing mangy ones skulking around the city. I will try to get proper pigeons, though…widen their palate…
All the best from NYC.
I adore your little adventures! Reading about your French life is like reading a novel. I appreciate your style of writing. I look forward to every post! Merci!
Mimi, thank you for a truly exquisite read and always with stunning pictures. I would love to try the pie but don’t know if I could obtain the pigeons (but I will try!). You are amazing being such a wonderful cook and coping with such a large family. Happy weekend. Sue P
I really love your blog, the design and the photos and the writing; everything comes across beautifully! This pie looks absolutely delicious too :} Thanks for sharing the recipe although yeah I think I could only ever try it without the pigeon.
I genuinely enjoy reading your blog and immersing myself in its splendid photography. Thank you for the delight! Big Night is one of my favorite food movies, too and I am wondering if you are familiar with the beautiful Stanley Tucci’s “The Tucci Cookbook”. You might love it. Greetings from Canada.
Bonjour Sylvia! Thank you so much for your kind comment. Great to hear you love Big Night too, every time I watch it I fall in love with the movie all over again. I have heard of the Stanley Tucci’s cookbook and I can’t wait to buy it. It’s on my ‘to buy’ list next time I go to Paris! Thanks, Mimix
Love reading your posts, I can picture myself in Medoc everytime. I’ve not watchedBig Night for years. My sous chef at the first restaurant recommended I watch it. I loved it instantly, the food amd the shear passion it evokes!! Such a beautiful story of how food can feed your soul and break your heart at the same time
Your blog and your life are truly an inspiration! Just when I think it can’t get any more magnificent, thoughtful and compelling…it does! Lovely, lovely.
Thank you so much! Mimix
I’m another fan of Big Night.
Primo’s passion for cooking is always inspiring. I love his disgust over the limp, old basil he’s offered by one of his vendors.
Bonjour Berta! Glad to hear you also love Big Night! Our kids love this movie too, and often request to watch it (perhaps a hint they want Italian food?). I promised myself to make a timbale soon, just like in the movie! Mimix
I have just discovered your blog and what a treat!! I’ve spent the better part of my evening reading fabulous recipes, seeing your beautiful family and learning of your new venture. What a great life change and wow, the photography…stunning. So hope you two are planning a book…count me in!! Thrilled to be your newest follower ~
Your posts are simply magic. And they get me craving for my kitchen, every time. Suvi
I am new to your blog and just love it! I had a strange coincidence happen just after reading your post and your reference to the surprising sailboat in the church you visited. I have been reading a new edition of the Saint Thérése of Lisieux autobiography and came across a line where she refers to the world we live in as a ship rather than our home… I burst out laughing and thought ‘that’s Mimi’s ship!’
Thank-you for making life more interesting!
Your dogs r really cute!!
The last photo’s of your dog reminded me of Totoro’s tree spirits with the black and white heads that tilt *just* like your dog! So cute. Something makes me think your children would enjoy the movies Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, if they haven’t already seen them!
Hi Tunie! Oh yes, they love Spirited Away (even though they are a little bit scared of it!), and Ponyo is also one of their favorite movies. They haven’t seen Princess Mononoke, so thanks, I will get the movie asap! Mimix
Your terrier’s face is just the perfection of Nature.