Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Agnes Moorehead’s Lobster Mousse

I was bewitched by this recipe

"So you see, Samantha, that's why you bake the lobster mousse in a bain-marie!" Image via 20th Century Fox.

In 1970 Agnes Moorehead was shooting episodes of “Bewitched” (she played Endora, Samantha Stevens’s mother) on-site in Salem, MA, and sat down with a wire service and gave a little chat about herself. It is kind of eye-opening. Before we get to that, a little background, courtesy of wikipedia:

She was born in the Boston area and her father, a Presbyterian clergyman, whisked the family off to St. Louis. She graduated with a degree in biology from Muskingum College (Ohio) in 1923. Her father, meanwhile, relocated the family to Wisconsin, and Moorehead taught in the public school in Soldier’s Grove for five years. What she taught is unclear. English, by the sounds of it, as she was also going for a master’s in English at the University of Wisconsin, but maybe biology. Meanwhile, she was a keen student of religion and later in life showed up on the set of “Bewitched” with “a script in one hand and a Bible in the other.”

Moorehead pre-“Bewitched” had a pretty good acting career. She was one of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater Players and played his mother (she was 15 years older) in “Citizen Kane.” On it went and then she lands the role as Endora and, to Moorehead’s horror, she realized that no one would ever think of her as anything but Endora, another victim of a special kind of typecasting that befell quite a few actors in the era. 

So she gives the interview from Salem, MA, talks about her love of entertaining, her farm in Zanesville, OH (!), and some of the difficulties she encounters when, because of her love of entertaining, she entertains at her 14-room Mediterranean villa in Beverly Hills where she throws large brunches and serves up cheese soufflés and lobster mousse. It is during this interview that she unleashes her lobster mousse recipe.

Through some dark twist of fate I was consigned the relatively dreary life I have, because I would like nothing more than to have a 14-room Mediterranean villa in Beverly Hills and serve lobster mousse for large brunches.

Agnes Moorehead’s Lobster Mousse

1 lb. fresh lobster meat

A few drops fresh lemon juice

Salt and white pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tbsps. sherry

3 egg whites

Shrimp or truffles to garnish

Parsley sprigs and lemon wedges

1. Chop lobster meat finely. Put through fine blade of chopper; then pound in a mortar until smooth. Sprinkle lightly with a few drops lemon juice; place in sieve to strain off lemon juice.

2. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Gradually beat in cream and sherry with wire whisk. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; gently fold in egg whites.

3. Butter a large mold. Turn lobster mixture into mold; place in pan filled with hot water*. Garnish with whole shrimp or bits of truffle. Bake in preheated 350 degrees F. oven 20 minutes (or until firm). Or poach over hot water 35 minutes. Wait a few minutes before turning out on large platter. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Serves 4 to 6.

*Agnes doesn’t tell us this, but you put the mold in a pan of water, also called a bain-marie, to help the mousse bake evenly and not dry out. 

I actually made this once and it was very good. I had no bits of truffle lying around so I used some small shrimp to garnish. I didn’t have any sherry so I used dry vermouth. I also don’t have a mousse mold, and note to self: it’s about time I get one, so I used a small Bundt mold.

You know what else I didn’t have? A 14-room Beverly Hills Mediterranean villa

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5 Comments

  1. I love everything about this. I fondly remember Ms. Moorehead from the television of my childhood. I also am in awe of anyone willing to spend the money on lobster that gets converted into a spread, with the possibility of waste or screw up. It sounds delicious.

    • There was a minor story arc from when the series was running out of ideas and everyone, including Elizabeth Montgomery, was getting tired of it. There’s a flashback episode to the Salem witch trials which is…something. My favorite parts of this arc is when they are shown in their rental car: a convertible the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Parking streetside in downtown Salem with no problem.

      • I was in Salem once, and I didn’t realize the kitschy tourist stuff was relatively new. I guess it makes sense because that area is pretty old school and tony.

        Then again, I suspect the kind of benefits a town gets from day tourists isn’t always that much, so I can see why they may not have been that enthusiastic.

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