My Signature Dish
by Stanley Tucci
He may play one of the main characters in The Hunger Games films, but there is no fear of hunger in the Tucci household. American film actor Stanley Tucci, who
plays Caesar Flickerman in the trilogy, is a self-confessed foodie and last month released The Tucci Table, a beautiful cookbook aimed at "capturing the true joys of family cooking".
The Emmy and Golden Globewinning actor, who has appeared in more than 50 films including The Lovely Bones, Julie and Julia, and The Devil Wears Prada, is married to British literary agent Felicity Blunt (elder sister of actress Emily Blunt) and the book is packed with recipes from Stanley's traditional Italian roots as well as those of his British wife.
The couple were brought together by their love of good food, says Stanley. "A few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Felicity at her sister Emily's wedding. Whenever we chatted during that weekend the conversation inevitably turned to food; what dishes we loved, where we had eaten, and ultimately, by the end of the wedding, where we would eat together. When that fateful meal did transpire I bore witness to a passion and appetite for food and wine that rivaled my own (and perhaps those of Henry VIII and Bacchus combined). I have never seen so slender a person enjoy her food so much. I was rapt."
Eating together remains an important part of their lives. "Both Felicity and I have a profound belief in the family meal, something that in our overscheduled lives is all but disappearing," he laments. "The act of eating together, no matter how modest the meal, is an act of communion and celebration demonstrating that we matter to one another. For us this also pertains to our wider family of friends and colleagues who have celebrated at the table with us over the years, some of whom have kindly shared their recipes and stories in the book."
Stanley has chosen a recipe that was originally cooked for him by his friend, the late actress Natasha Richardson. "My friend Natasha, who passed away far too young, was an extraordinary cook who threw some of the best dinner parties I have ever attended. Her sister and mother were kind enough to cobble together the notes that Natasha had made about this recipe, which was one of my favourites. I have it with a glass, or three, of rosé (which Natasha called "French water"), and remember my dear friend and the many great meals we had together."
Most of Suzi's cooking is done in France, as she's usually working when she's away from home. "We have a very large table outside so spend many lovely nights sitting with friends and family in the fresh air into the wee small hours, around the barbecue. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as the opportunity to just sit and enjoy the company of good friends with lovely wine and food in front of you."
>> Serves 4
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 1/2 to 3lbs onions, finely sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsly chopped
- Leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 sheet puff pastry or 1 portion pizza dough
- Flour for dusting if using pizza dough
- 16 anchovy fillets
- Handful of black olives
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and soften them for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme, and brown sugar. If your frying pan is overcrowded start by using two frying pans and transfer the onions to one once they have shrunk in size. Reduce the heat and continue to cook gently until the onions start to caramelize and are meltingly tender (this may be a good time to use a heat diffuser). This could take up to an hour or more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- If using puff pastry: Unroll the puff pastry and give it a quick roll with a rolling pin. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Then score a line about 1 inch from the edges
on each side of the pastry - this will give your tart a raised edge. Pile the onions onto the pastry, keeping them inside the scored lines. Place the anchovies on top in a diamond pattern, and place an olive in the middle of each diamond.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry edges are puffed and golden and the onions are hot throughout and beginning to brown.
- If using pizza dough: Make a portion of pizza dough and, when it has proofed, divide the dough into two portions. Lightly oil a 10-by-14-inch baking sheet and sprinkle it with a little flour. Spread out a portion of the dough on the tray, pushing it to the edges of the pan. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes. You can freeze the second portion of your dough for later use.
- When it has proofed again, remove the plastic wrap and spread the onions over the top, and finish as above with the anchovies and olives. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is cooked golden brown and the onions are hot.
Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.