Elsa Maxwell is one of the reasons I have stopped reading so much fiction. Clearly, one could simply never conger up such a character. In today's book-to-screen environment, there is clearly no actress who could even come close to playing Elsa Maxwell -- OK maybe Nathan Lane -- but no actress -- Wait...maybe Kathy Bates -- yes, I think it could be the best biopic ever. But we both know this will never happen.
Moving on...Elsa has been on my mind lately as I have been reading Sam Staggs wonderful book, Inventing Elsa Maxwell.
At the very same time, I received an e-mail from someone searching for a recipe. It seems that her client, a woman of a certain age, remembered a recipe from Elsa Maxwell for a soup with a chicken base and tomato purée. One might serve it hot or if chilled it would make a gelled consommé. I do love a challenge.
I grabbed my copy of How To Do It by Maxwell and found only a few recipes. My first guess was this gazpacho, though it is never heated.
Andalusian Gazpacho a la Joan FontainePlace the following in a bowl: 4 small cucumbers, seeded and finely chopped; 6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped; 1 green pepper, finely minced; 1 clove garlic, finely mashed; 2 tablespoons grated carrot; 2 tablespoons grated onion. Add cold water to cover with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or lime juice (I greatly prefer the latter); I teaspoon dry mustard, dash Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste. Chill thoroughly at least 8 hours. Serve in individual bowls with a dab of sour cream -- about 1 tablespoon -- on top.
The closest match was a consommé without tomato one. It is a spinach consommé that can be served hot or cold. For proof that Elsa Maxwell was from another generation, she lists the recipe as belonging Mrs. T. Reed Vreeland, known to subsequent generations as Diana! Maxwell notes that Vreeland acquired the recipe from Elise de Wolfe.
Mrs. T Reed Vreeland Consommé Vert- Pré
Make a very good rich bouillon. Add enough spinach juice to color it green, and just before serving add finely chopped fine herbes. Serve hot or iced.
Neither fit the criteria of the requested recipe. Since Maxwell mentioned de Wolfe, I thought I would try there. It is not a great stretch to think that someone who was familiar with Maxwell's recipes might also know de Wolfe's.
I checked Recipe's For Successful Dining. The recipe for Consommé Vert- Pré was identical to Elsie de Wolfe's with the only difference being de Wolfe's was Consommé Vert- Près and she called for "a little" juice to "make" it green. Spelling and word choice aside, I continued looking at the list of
Make a good chicken consomme. Add one tablespoon tapioca to each pint of liquid. Add finally a puree of tomatoes which has been strained through a cloth, and before serving add raw tomatoes cut in a a small dice and leaves of chervil.
This was, indeed, the long lost soup that our châtelaine had been craving. Everyone is happy.
Think about it...Kathy Bates as Elsa Maxwell... you would definitely go and see that movie. Sam, if you are reading this...call me.