Pesto Chicken Hash for this month’s Movies & Munchies: The French Dispatch

Welcome to February’s Movies & Munchies feature film, The French Dispatch.  Palatable Pastime is hosting.  

I have always enjoyed Wes Anderson’s films.  Back in the Food ‘n Flix days, we were inspired by Moonrise Kingdom.  I remember The Royal Tenebaums  and Rushmore fondly.  Then came this round of Movies & Munchies .  You see, I mistakenly thought the February film was The Life Aquatic.   One Sunday afternoon in late January, we sat down to watch it.  Maybe it was the lack of food inspiration or maybe it was because the film started with a lethal shark attack, but I was highly disappointed.  I decided I was going to pass and even had logged into the group’s FB page to comment with my regrets.   Luckily, I was slapped in the face that the movie I  SHOULD HAVE WATCHED was The French Dispatch.  Whew!

I am back to being a Wes Anderson fan.

There is a lot of food and drink references in the film so that was a relief as well.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot….The French Dispatch revolves around an expat literary magazine editor.  This curmudgeon is played by Bill Murray (an Anderson staple).  The film is comprised of  vignettes from his most popular writers.  Each article (and reporter) is as eccentric as you would expect.

From the opening credits, there’s a tray of beverages being delivered for the editorial meeting.  As the waiter makes his way up numerous stairs, he carefully balances a tray laden with Chateau Schostal, aperitifs, absinthe, dry white wine, cola, affogato, an oyster shooter and Alka Seltzer.

What follows is a list of other food and drink from the numerous reporters’ files:

  • Stack of toast
  • Turkey
  • Sazerac (as a name)
  • Candied chestnuts
  • Cake in artist’s cell
  • Still life of bowl of fruit
  • Side of beef
  • Corn at the Liberty Kansas State Fair
  • Powdered eggs
  • Cream of millet 
  • Champagne
  • Spaghetti
  • Beer
  • Peeling stale potatoes
  • Coffee
  • Banana and fruit along with cafeteria trays 
  • Burnt toast

Of course there’s an enormous amount of offerings shown in “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner.”  Not only is there the finest of food featured on the Commissioner’s table, there’s a whole school of thought to this cop cuisine:

Gastronomie Gendarmique:  “Police cooking” began with a stake-out picnic and paddy-wagon snack but has evolved and codified into something refined, intensely nourishing, and, if executed properly, marvelously flavorful.  

Fundamentals:  highly portable, rich in protein and eaten with the non-dominant hand only, the other being reserved for firearms and paperwork.  Most dishes are served pre-cut.  Nothing crunchy. 

Quiet Food.

Sauces are dehydrated and ground to a powder to avoid spillage and the risk of the tainting of a crime scene.

Diners are expected to provide their own fourchettes de poche, often engraved with the arcane motto and off-color sayings of their respective precincts.  

During these scenes, we see…

  • A milky, purplish aperitif
  • Soup 
  • Deviled Eggs of the precinct canary served in shells of its own meringue
  • Kidneys poached with plums from the mayor’s rooftop arbor
  • Minced lamb bon-bons in pastry wrappers
  • Blase oyster soup
  • A magnificent city-park pigeon hash
  • Tabac pudding with quadruple cream
  • Blackbird pie and radishes
  • An omelette a la policer, wrapped in a day-old search warrant

I almost went with a radish dish, just because of the way Nescaffier, the commisioner’s chef, describes the dish he sends to thwart the kidnappers:  “They had a flavor….The toxic salts in the radishes…they had a flavor.  Totally unfamiliar to me. Like a bitter, mildly, peppery, spicy, oily kind of earth.”  

Then there was the birthday cake: “Don’t light the candles; he’s dead.”

Obviously, there was that lovely tray of potent potables from the beginning of the film (and you know how often I post a cocktail for these movie clubs.)

I really wanted to make something savory and something from Nescaffier’s Gastronomie Gendarmique.  Most of the food from his menu was made up or too gourmet for me.  I focused on the “magnificent city-park pigeon hash.”  Not wanting to go pigeon hunting, I decided to create a chicken hash (with help from Ina Garten).

Pesto Chicken Hash

A quick meal with a gourmet (yet homey) feel.


  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 4-5 mini bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 lb, red potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. tomato paste
  • 2 T. prepared pesto
  • 1/4 c. water
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • parsley


  1. Heat 1 T. olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Sauté chicken until browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet and wipe pan clean.
  2. Add 1-2 T. olive oil to skillet, add peppers, onions, and potatoes.  Sauté, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are done.
  3. Add garlic, tomato paste, and pesto and cook for 30 seconds.   Add chicken.   Add water to deglaze pan.  Cook for five minutes.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and parsley to garnish.

Serves: 4

This was delicious and highly adaptable.  You can throw in whatever veggies you have.  Add more pesto if needed.  If I had had white wine open, I would have used that instead of water.  I’m not sure if Nescaffier would approve.  It’s not too portable and the sauce is not powdered but we did enjoyed this meal.

I also used Ina’s suggestions from the original recipe when eating some leftovers and added some grated cheddar and sour cream.  OMG!  This recipe will be revisited.

The other vignettes from The French Dispatch do need commented on:

I just loved seeing a bereted Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac (!) cycling through the city.

In “Revisions to a Manifesto,” Krementz (Frances McDormand) seeks out the revolutionary youth of a recent protest.  She reports,  “The children are grumpy.”

And, we must discuss the typos.

For “The Concrete Masterpiece,” Swinton seems to be channeling Jane Lynch as Berenson, the art lecturer.  

I really did think this was Jane Lynch.

I loved the idea of  Elisabeth Moss’ character and her job at The Dispatch, that of grammar and sentence diagramming expert.  (Moss has mostly a cameo appearance.)

Finally, is there any better advice given to reporters (or all writers) than this:

“Try to make it sound like you wrote that way on purpose.”–Arthur Howitzer, Jr.

Even if you’re not an Anderson fan, please check out the roundup (posted soon at Palatable Pastime).  If for nothing else but the food!   Thanks for hosting, Sue.

Wendy is hosting Off the Menu for March.  Interested?  Check out Movies & Munchies.  

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