We are going to "Jump For Joy with Myrna Loy".
Myrna Loy started as a dancer before making the transition to small films roles in 1925. In the early years she was cast the vamp or exotic temptress. Her most famous role as Nora Charles in "The Thin Man" changed her career. She went on to make six films in the series and became lifelong friends with her co-star William Powell. A 1936 fan poll named her "Queen of the Movies" alongside the "King of the Movies" Clark Gable.
During WWII, Myrna Loy worked with The Red Cross. She was a spokesperson for UNESCO, involved in the Civil Rights movement and spoke out in opposition to the House on Un-American Activities. She considered her performance in "The Best Years of Our Lives" to be the finest of her career. Shockingly, she was never nominated for an Academy Award, but was given an honorary Oscar in 1991.
This recipe comes from the 1930s cookbook "125 Recipes of Famous Movie Stars". The copy I have didn't include this recipe, but my friend Krista Lawler's found it in a different edition. They must have published several different versions of it in markets across the country.
The original recipe doesn't list an oven temperature or a suggested size for the baking dish. Many of these older recipes are so vague and I'm sure they must have been written for women who knew what they were doing in the kitchen and needed very little guidance. I am not that woman. I tend to need all the help I can get. Besides I had not heard of Rhubarb Fanchonettes until Krista sent me this recipe. It must have been much more popular long ago. **The blog A Hundred Years Ago lists a Rhubarb Fanchonette recipe from 1919 and the writer has mercifully outlined a far more detailed method for making it. Her recipe is listed below.
5 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1 tablespoon grated orange peel (I used lemon juice.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
2 egg yolks, beaten
pie pastry (Enough for a 2-crust 9-inch pie – more may be needed if pre-rolled sheets are used. I re-rolled pastry scraps several times to make all of the small fanchonette shells.)
Place rhubarb pieces and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil using medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until the rhubarb is tender while stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and strain to remove excess liquid. (It is okay if there is still a little liquid after draining). Measure the cooked rhubarb; there should be approximately 2 cups. (Excess rhubarb can be sweetened and eaten as stewed rhubarb.) Return to pan. Stir in lemon juice, sugar, salt, and flour. Quickly stir in the egg yolks. (If the rhubarb is still very hot, stir a small amount of the cooked rhubarb to the beaten egg yolks while stirring rapidly to avoid coagulation of the yolks; then quickly stir the egg yolk mixture into the remaining rhubarb.) Set aside.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Roll pastry dough and cut into pieces. Fit each piece into a small pie pan; trim and flute edges to make the fanchonette shells. (I used a fairly shallow muffin pan to make the fanchonettes.) The number needed will vary depending upon size, but approximately 12-15 should be enough to hold all the filling.
Fill each fanchonette shell with cooked rhubarb mixture. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Continue baking until the rhubarb comes to a slow rolling boil. Remove from oven, and top each fanchonette with a heaping tablespoonful of Meringue (see recipe below). Spread Meringue to edge of fanchonette. Bake at 325° F. for 10 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar
Place egg whites in a bowl, and beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat.
In spite of my efforts, I have not yet mastered the art of making meringue. My friend and collaborator Mary Stanford made some meringue and brought it over the episode.
Alison Macor is a freelance writer and former film critic for the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. She has a PhD in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin. She is the author of Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas and Rewrite Man: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren. Her most recent book is Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation.
Follow Allison Macor on Twitter and she will be posting a discount code very soon if you would like to order a hard copy.
The Final Result
I went ahead and made the original recipe attributed to Myrna Loy, but the orange juice was overpowering. The gelatine also gave it a more jelly type texture, so it turned out more like an orange marmalade with a hint of rhubarb.
The recipe I found on A Hundred Years Ago was excellent. When I looked up photos of Rhubarb Fanchonettes, I noticed that most of them were bright red. The rhubarb I found was red and green. My friend Kenton has cooked with it before and said the color won't impact the taste. I was tempted to add red food coloring, but he warned me against it. In addition to meringue, you can garnish these with a variety of things including an orange peel, mint leaf or basil leaf. After several test batches this week, my friends will be getting LOTS of Rhubarb Fanchonettes to sample.
Fortunately there are TONS of Myrna Loy movies on DVD, Blu ray and on Turner Classic Movies!
Angelica Huston presented Myrna Loy with an honorary Oscar in 1991.
Myrna Loy at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1988
Julianne Moore paid tribute to Myrna Loy for Turner Classic Movies.
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