Casablanca: A French Moroccan Feast

Casablanca

Could you get a Royale with Cheese at Rick's Cafe American?

Ever wonder what the patrons of Sam's Cafe American were eating while waiting for their exit visas? We know they drank: Martinis, good brandy and straight bourbon. But with what did they chase those drinks down?

Everyone in Casablanca, the movie, speaks impeccable English, even the Nazis. Once the opening expository shows us Casablanca on the map, it is easy to forget how far removed Casablanca was from Paris or New York. Its local flavor comes through in accents: Sidney Greenstreet's fez, the arches of Rick's cafe.

But, Casablanca was an international port; Morocco's biggest city, but under French control. It was also the home of displaced refugees fleeing Nazi oppression, who - no doubt - desired their own favorite dishes from "home", where ever they came from. This cultural diversity gives us real opportunity for creativity in imagining dinner at Rick's.

Perhaps Rick's Cafe American served American burgers and steaks, but I think it is more likely that the food was a mash-up of French and Moroccan with accents from the entire Mediterranean. (Of course, if you have a guest who you know in advance simply won't go for the foreign tastes - you have the perfect excuse to serve up a "special order" of the "American" food of your choice.)

For my New Year's Eve Feast to accompany Casablanca, I wanted to breath some technicolor into the movie with nothing less than a dazzling palate of tastes and aromas inspired by the film.

This menu is for a huge amount of food. For less intense, but no less delicious or special, dining experiences you could serve any of the appetizers with any one of the the meat, fish, or poultry courses.

This was my New Year's Eve feast for الدار البيضاء! (That's Casablanca in Arabic.)

A French Moroccan Feast

I wanted a feast that would capture the flavors of Morocco and also the film (and city's) French influences.

A mezze plate

I started with a mezze, a middle eastern assortment of appetizers. Humos, baba ganoush, and tabouli salad were served with toasted pita breads and olives.

B'stilla

The first course was individual B'stilla, spiced chicken, egg and almond sugar, baked in phylo pastry, finished off with sugar and cinnamon. I served the B'stilla with a cold Moroccan carrot salad.

Lamb Tagine

The meat course was a Moroccan Lamb Tagine. Tagines are slow cooked dishes that usually blend meat and fruits. Tagine also refers to the conical pot in which the stew is prepared. You don't need a tagine to make tagine (any dutch oven will do), but it makes the presentation so much more special if you have one. Can't you imagine Sidney Greenstreet's Ugarte sitting down to a tagine?

Bouillabaisse

For most evenings, this would have been enough. But for New Year's Eve I wanted to go to the next level!

I took my cue for the main course from Rick's remark that he came to Casablanca "for the waters".

 

Inspector Renault correctly replies, "Waters? What waters? We're in the Desert." To which Rick responds, "I was misinformed."

Of course, Casablanca may not have had a spa, but it was a port on the Mediterranean, so it makes sense that at Rick's Cafe you might have been able to order up bouillabaisse, the delicious French seafood dish - dressed up for New Year's Eve with crab and lobster.

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