How to Actually Cook Salvador Dali’s Surrealist Recipes: Crayfish, Prawns, and Spitted Eggs

The sen­su­al intel­li­gence housed in the taber­na­cle of my palate beck­ons me to pay the great­est atten­tion to food. — Sal­vador Dali

Look­ing for an easy, low-cost recipe for a quick week­night sup­per?

Sal­vador Dali’s Bush of Cray­fish in Viking Herb is not that recipe.

It’s pre­sen­ta­tion may be Sur­re­al, but it’s not an entire­ly unre­al­is­tic thing to pre­pare as The Art Assign­men­t’s Sarah Urist Green dis­cov­ers, above.

The recipe, pub­lished in Les Din­ers de Gala, Dali’s over-the-top cult cook­ery book from 1973, has pedi­gree.

Dali got it off a chef at Paris’ fabled Tour d’Argent, who lat­er had sec­ond thoughts about giv­ing away trade secrets, and balked at shar­ing exact mea­sure­ments for the dish:

Bush of Craw­fish in Viking Herbs

In order to real­ize this dish, it is nec­es­sary to have craw­fish of 2 ounces each. Pre­pare the fol­low­ing ingre­di­ents for a broth: ‘fumet’ (scent­ed reduced bul­lion) of fish, of con­som­mé, of white wine, Ver­mouth, Cognac, salt, pep­per, sug­ar and dill (aro­mat­ic herb). Poach the craw­fish in this broth for 20 min­utes. Let it cool for 24 hours and arrange the craw­fish in a dome. Strain the broth and serve in cups.

Green, the Indi­anapo­lis Muse­um of Art’s for­mer cura­tor of con­tem­po­rary art, sol­diers ahead with  a Sty­ro­foam top­i­ary cone and a box­ful of Fed-Ex’ed Louisiana cray­fish, mask­ing their demise with insets of Dali works such as 1929’s Some­times I Spit with Plea­sure on the Por­trait of my Moth­er (The Sacred Heart).

Green, well aware that some view­ers may have trou­ble with the “bru­tal real­i­ties” of cook­ing live crus­taceans, namechecks Con­sid­er the Lob­ster, the heav­i­ly foot­not­ed essay where­in author David Fos­ter Wal­lace rumi­nates over ethics at the Maine Lob­ster Fes­ti­val.

Green may seek repen­tance for the sin of poach­ing lob­sters’ fresh­wa­ter cousins, but Dali, who blamed his sex-relat­ed guilt on his Catholic upbring­ing, was uncon­flict­ed about enjoy­ing the “deli­cious lit­tle mar­tyrs”:

If I hate that detestable degrad­ing veg­etable called spinach, it is because it is shape­less, like Lib­er­ty. I attribute cap­i­tal esthet­ic and moral val­ues to food in gen­er­al, and to spinach in par­tic­u­lar. The oppo­site of shape­less spinach, is armor. I love eat­ing suits of arms, in fact I love all shell fish… food that only a bat­tle to peel makes it vul­ner­a­ble to the con­quest of our palate.

If your scru­ples, sched­ule or sav­ings keep you from attempt­ing Dal­i’s Sur­re­al shell­fish tow­er, you might try enliven­ing a less aspi­ra­tional dish with Green’s whole­some, home­made fish stock:

Devin Lytle and Jared Nunn, test dri­ving Dali’s Cas­sano­va cock­tail and Eggs on a Spit for His­to­ry Bites on Buz­zfeed’s Tasty chan­nel, seem less sure­foot­ed than Green in both the kitchen and the realm of art his­to­ry, but they’re total­ly down to spec­u­late as to whether or not Dali and his wife, Gala, had a “healthy rela­tion­ship.”

If you can stom­ach their snarky, self-ref­er­en­tial asides, you might get a bang out of hear­ing them dish on Dali’s revul­sion at being touched, Gala’s alleged pen­chant for bed­ding younger artists, and their high­ly uncon­ven­tion­al mar­riage.

Despite some squea­mish­ness about the eggs’ vis­cous­ness and some reser­va­tions about the sur­re­al amount of but­ter required, Lytle and Nun­n’s reac­tion upon tast­ing their Dali recre­ation sug­gest that it was worth the effort:

Cas­sano­va cock­tail

• The juice of 1 orange
• 1 table­spoon bit­ters (Cam­pari)
• 1 tea­spoon gin­ger
• 4 table­spoons brandy
• 2 table­spoons old brandy (Vielle Cure)
• 1 pinch Cayenne pep­per

This is quite appro­pri­ate when cir­cum­stances such as exhaus­tion, over­work or sim­ply excess of sobri­ety are call­ing for a pick-me-up.

Here is a well-test­ed recipe to fit the bill.

Let us stress anoth­er advan­tage of this par­tic­u­lar pep-up con­coc­tion is that one doesn’t have to make the sour face that usu­al­ly accom­pa­nies the absorp­tion of a rem­e­dy.

At the bot­tom of a glass, com­bine pep­per and gin­ger. Pour the bit­ters on top, then brandy and “Vielle Cure.” Refrig­er­ate or even put in the freez­er.

Thir­ty min­utes lat­er, remove from the freez­er and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass.

Drink… and wait for the effect. 

It is rather speedy.

Your best bet for prepar­ing Eggs on a Spit, which Lytle com­pares to “an her­by, scram­bled frit­ta­ta that looks like a brain”, are con­tained in artist Rosan­na Shal­loe’s mod­ern adap­tion.

What would you do if you dis­cov­ered an orig­i­nal, auto­graphed copy of Les Din­ers de Gala in the attic of your new home?

A young man named Bran­don takes it to Rick Harrison’s Gold & Sil­ver Pawn Shop, hop­ing it will fetch $2500.

Har­ri­son, star of the His­to­ry Channel’s Pawn Stars, gives Bran­don a quick primer on the Per­sis­tence of Mem­o­ry, Dali’s famous “melt­ing clocks” paint­ing (fail­ing to men­tion that the artist insist­ed the clocks should be inter­pret­ed as “the Camem­bert of time.”)

Bran­don walks with some­thing less than the hoped for sum, and Har­ri­son takes the book home to attempt some of the dish­es. (Not, how­ev­er, Bush of Cray­fish in Viking Herb, which he declares, “a lit­tle creepy, even for Dali.”)

Alas, his younger rel­a­tives are wary of Oasis Leek Pie’s star ingre­di­ent and refuse to enter­tain a sin­gle mouth­ful of whole fish, baked with guts and eyes.

They’re not alone. The below news­reel sug­gests that come­di­an Bob Hope had some reser­va­tions about Dalin­ian Gas­tro Esthet­ics, too.

We intend to ignore those charts and tables in which chem­istry takes the place of gas­tron­o­my. If you are a dis­ci­ple of one of those calo­rie-coun­ters who turn the joys of eat­ing into a form of pun­ish­ment, close this book at once; it is too live­ly, too aggres­sive, and far too imper­ti­nent for you. — Sal­vador Dali

You can pur­chase a copy of Taschen’s recent reis­sue of Les Din­ers de Gala online

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

What Makes Sal­vador Dalí’s Icon­ic Sur­re­al­ist Paint­ing “The Per­sis­tence of Mem­o­ry” a Great Work of Art

Walk Inside a Sur­re­al­ist Sal­vador Dalí Paint­ing with This 360º Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Video

The Most Com­plete Col­lec­tion of Sal­vador Dalí’s Paint­ings Pub­lished in a Beau­ti­ful New Book by Taschen: Includes Nev­er-Seen-Before Works

Sal­vador Dalí’s Tarot Cards, Cook­book & Wine Guide Re-Issued as Beau­ti­ful Art Books

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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