Rebecca!–I’ll Be There, And How!*

November 6, 2006

Hooray for Hitchcock!

Rebecca will be the only one we’ll see from the master, unfortunately. But, fortunately for us it’s a doozy. So much intrigue. So much drama. So much mystery. So much ooky underwear peeking at from Judith Anderson. Creepy. And, finally, thankfully, a little comic relief from Dr. Watson, errr, Nigel Bruce. In total Rebecca is such perfectly unexpectedly spooky-ooky movie for Halloween. And all seasons. Thanks, Hitch. Thanks, Mrs. Danvers. And, please, Danny, burn in hell, alongside Manderley.

For all of us Rebecca was the biggest hit of all, so far (just be patient, Casablanca, it’s almost your turn.) Joan Fontaine was just so perfect as the perpetually nervous no-named character. Laurence Olivier was moody and broody enough for everyone. Rebecca the movie just follows Rebecca the novel (and I have the book; first edition, too) to the tee. Those screenwriters in the 30’s and 40’s, wow. Thanks, Robert Sherwood; that Algonquin Round Table sure paid off. And what a great relationship Ms. Du Maurier has (had) cinematically with Mr. Hitchcock. Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, The Birds. Has there ever been such an amazing author-filmmaker team?

We dined geographically as the movie progressed. The movie starts in the south of France, Monte Carlo. We had:

French Onion Soup: a traditional recipe.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 medium onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, picked and chopped or poultry seasoning
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups beef stock
4 thick slices crusty bread, toasted
2 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Heat a deep pot over medium to medium high heat. Work next to the stove to slice onions. Add oil and butter to the pot. Add onions to the pot as you slice them. When all the onions are in the pot, season with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon fresh thyme. Cook onions 15 to 18 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender, sweet and caramel colored. Add bay leaf and sherry to the pot and deglaze the pan drippings. Add 6 cups stock and cover pot to bring soup up to a quick boil.Arrange 4 small, deep soup bowls or crocks on a cookie sheet. Preheat broiler to high. Once soup reaches a boil, ladle it into bowls. Float toasted crusty bread on soup and cover each bowl with a mound of cheese. Sprinkle remaining fresh thyme on cheese and place cookie sheet with soup bowls on it under hot broiler until cheese melts and bubbles. Delicious.

And then we dreamt that we went to Manderley last night, which is in Cornwall, where we partook in the traditional Cornish Pasty (that’s passty, not paste-ie like a stripper’s nipple cover thing.) Passsstie. Basically a meat pie, but not a Sweeney Todd like meat pie.
fun to make but a little dry.

Finally, for the inquest, we went to London. For Nigella Lawson’s London Cheese Cake. The best cheesecake I’ve ever made. And I’ve made dozens of cheesecakes. And I live in Chicago the land of the overrated Eli’s cheesecake. London Cheesecake kicks serious ass. Light, fluffy, flavorful. If there was an ultimate fighting match for cheesecake, this cheesecake could be a serious contender.

London Cheesecake

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons or 5 ounces graham crackers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or very soft
20 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
8-inch springform pan
heavy-duty aluminum foil

3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Process the crackers until they are crumbs at this point, then add the butter and pulse again.

2. Line the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the crumbs in with your hands or the back of a spoon. Put the pan in the refrigerator to set, and preheat the oven to 350.

3. Beat the cream cheese gently until it’s smooth, then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, then finally the vanilla and lemon juice. Put the kettle on.

4. Line the outside of the chilled pan with foil so that it covers the bottom and the sides in one large piece, and then do the same again and put it into a roasting pan. This will protect the cheesecake from the water as it is cooked in its water bath.

5. Pour the cream cheese filling into the chilled base, and then pour hot water from the recently boiled kettle into the roasting pan around the cheesecake. It should come about halfway up; don’t overfill, as it will be difficult to lift up the pan.

6. Put the roasting pan into the oven and cook for 50 minutes. It should feel set, but not rigidly so: You just need to feel confident that when you pour the sour cream over, it will sit on the surface and not sink in.

7. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla for the topping and pour over the cheesecake. Put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

8. Take the roasting pan out of the oven, then gingerly remove the springform, unwrap it and stand it on a rack to cool. When it’s cooled down completely, put it in the refrigerator, removing it 20 minutes before eating to take the chill off.

9. Unmold and when you cut into it, plunge a knife in hot water first.

Recipe serves 8. Fabulous.

*The title of this post is from a note to Rebecca from the character Jack Favell, played by the totally sublime George Sanders, AKA Shere Kkan to my everlovin’ Disney lovin’ kids. Thank you all.



  1. Rebecca the movie just follows Rebecca the novel … to the tee.

    Afraid I gotta disagree with you about that one. There’s one BIG difference that I won’t mention here for the sake of those who have not read the book. The book is a great read though.

    I agree that the movie is also fantastic. It’s been a favorite ever since I saw it for the first time, probably 25 years ago on TV, lying around with my mom in her bed. We would snuggle up and watch a couple of old movies almost every Saturday night on Elwy Yost’s Saturday Night at the Movies (was that only in Canada?) ’till I became an older teenager who couldn’t do that kind of thing anymore.

    Thanks for the memory.

  2. Wow! So Maxim did do what I thought he did, only not in the movie. Thanks, I thought I was either remembering wrong or just going crazy. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book or seen this movie–and I actually said while watching the movie “Doesn’t Maxim you-know-what her.” But other than that itsy-bitsy detail (lol) the movie does follows the book rather well.

    We had late night Saturday movies here in Chicago, too: they would come on right after SNL and SCTV. Great ones too, and some really campy ones. I think they showed Valley of the Dolls, a lot.

  3. I LOVE that movie! i have seen it so many times!!

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