Sleuthing Is Hungry Work


Obviously, and a full day of genius requires a solid and inspiring start, preferably with a spread dreamt up by a novelist.  Once again, we turn to a favorite, the Nero Wolfe canon, and from its pages we learn what Wolfe’s private cook, Fritz Brenner, has prepared for the great detective’s breakfast.  The Mother Hunt describes mornings in the residence, as observed by the narrator:

The house rules in the old brownstone on West Thirty-fifth Street are, of course, set by Wolfe, since he owns the house, but any variation in the morning routine usually comes from me.  Wolfe sticks to his personal schedule: at eight-fifteen breakfast in his room on the second floor, on a tray taken up by Fritz…

I descended a flight to Wolfe’s room, tapped on the door, and entered.  He was in bed, propped up against three pillows, just ready to attack the provender on the breakfast table…  There was orange juice, eggs au beurre noir, two slices of broiled Georgia ham, hashed brown potatoes, hot blueberry muffins, and a pot of steaming cocoa.

Of course, while Fritz applies his talents throughout the series, the actual recipes were imagined by the writer, Rex Stout, himself quite a cook.  Later he recorded his ideas in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, from whence today’s submissions came.

Most of the items are familiar to the modern reader, though they reflect their time and place, and are what would’ve been enjoyed in an upper class household in mid-(twentieth) century America.

The eggs are the only item requiring much explanation.  To begin, beurre noir (French for, “black butter”) clarifies itself somewhat when translated.  The eggs are shirred, a preparation not seen much today.  Essentially, eggs are poached until the whites just set and the yolks are “over-easy.”  Therefore, eggs au beurre noir are lightly poached eggs with butter.

Allow some license for the ham, as it’s what was available at the market, and consequently, it comes not from Georgia, but from its neighbor, North Carolina.  The blueberry muffins appeared, separately, in theses pages before; now, they’re part of a larger spread.  Finally, as clementines approach perfection this time of year, they, and not oranges, were squeezed for juice.

Those relatively minor changes aside, this is a breakfast that ignites Wolfe’s genius in the morning, as it’s  been imagined by an epicurean.  Think of what it’ll do for you, in the real world.

*****

Eggs au Beurre Noir

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sherry

Preheat the broiler.  Melt one tablespoon of butter in each of two shirred-egg dishes. (*1)  Add the eggs, yolks unbroken, two to a dish.  Cook over medium heat for  1 or 2 minutes until the whites set.  Put the dishes under the broiler for another minute, until the yolks film over.  Remove from the oven and put in a warm place.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the remaining butter.  Pour through a cheesecloth, which should trap most of the solids.  Return the clarified butter to the saucepan and increase the flame to medium.  When the clarified butter begins to scorch and turn medium brown, add the sherry (*2) and stir well. Pour the sauce over the eggs.

NOTES:

1 – As mentioned in the introduction, shirred eggs (and their dishes) are rare nowadays.  I wasn’t about to spend $60 to special-order a set, especially not when it became clear ramekins work just as well.

2 – Carefully.  The sherry and the butter react rather violently to one another at first.  After they come together, though, they play nicely.

*****

Broiled Georgia Ham

  • thin slice of Georgia ham (*3)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon currant jelly
  • 1 grinding fresh black pepper

Soak the ham in the milk for about an hour.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and heat.  Drain, dry and broil the ham for 3 minutes per side.  Pour the sauce over the ham and serve.

NOTES:

3 – As the text above explains, these aren’t the Georgia hams, “cured to Mr. Wolfe’s specifications” called for in the cookbook.  Oh well.  When one can’t get Georgia hams, one makes do with what’s available…

*****

Hashed Brown Potatoes

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups diced raw potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium heat.  Mix together the potatoes and shallots and add to the skillet.  Cook, without stirring, for four minutes.  Once the bottoms have turned golden-brown, flip the potatoes so that the opposite end browns.  Fold potatoes onto plate, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro.

*****

Blueberry Muffins

  • 1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a muffin pan with muffin (or cupcake) liners.  Cream together the butter and sugar until it’s fluffy.  Beat the eggs and add to the butter mixture.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Remove the mixer bowl and alternatively add a little at a time of the dry ingredients and milk, mixing between additions, until both are used.

Gently fold in the blueberries, so they don’t break.  Pour the batter into each muffin tin until it’s 2/3 full.  Bake for 25 minutes.

 

77 thoughts on “Sleuthing Is Hungry Work

    1. Thanks, Angela – I quite agree!

      Many took up the Nero Wolfe canon for the mysteries. I did it for the food.

      Also, for the scintillating descriptions of lives lived with refinement and wit.

      For example:

      NW: “Archie, do I ever intrude on your private affairs?”

      AG: “Yes, Sir. All the time, actually, but you like to think you don’t, so go right ahead.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol thanks for that compliment Keith, much appreciated!

        I was invited to host a prompt on d’Verse, the poetry challenge, but what do I know about poetry …. I enjoy the challenges as my way of learning more 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. What do you know about poetry, Kate? Aside from writing it, effervescing it, appreciating it and living it, absolutely nothing.

        Obviously, in drafting you, those who run d’Verse also know good quality when they read it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Unfortunately, Kate, one of those challenges is the new format WP is making everyone use now.

        I’m trying to make a honest go of things, but oh my, does it resist my efforts.

        Anyway, Kate, I definitely appreciate what you’re writing. Blogging would take up 25 hours every day if you’d let it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. lol would never give anything that much control 🙂 No I am using the backdoor thru WP admin rather than their new editor but guessing they will close that down soon too 😦

        Life has got busy so backing off the blogging, done it five years now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. lol I am really not tech savvy so between WP and internet gremlins I just want to give up when they don’t go my way … many things are worth fighting for, learning new skills and rising to each challenge but getting more than five thousand views a month feels like I’ve conquered that mountain 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. 5,000 views a month, Kate?

        (Gulp!)

        You know how much this site has had, total, since it came into the world in August 2016? Not five thousand, that’s for sure.

        Sure, pure accumulations are nice, but the real draw for me are all the people, like you, I’ve met.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. yes it’s the genuine ppl I enjoy so much … but as my blogging sister said there are many who do a nominal comment purely because they know I will read and make a genuine comment 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Pretty good idea, Kate.

        The article draws to a close, and we despair at going cold-turkey until you post again.

        A few among us, though, have learned that a mere “Cool.” or a smiley emoticon will buy another dose of Kate.

        My, the experts know all the tricks of the trade, don’t they?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. In my defense, I had just been thinking of a different character — one “Wolf” Larsen, from “The Sea Wolf” by Jack London. I’d actually been thinking of that book because it involves the morally questionable captain of a ship rescuing a sheltered young(ish) bookworm from what would’ve been a watery grave, only to force him to work on the ship.

        My mind went there from conversation about you and Rosy. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice, Rachel! Oh, the flights that stir the mind of letters, the mind of words!

        Our vibrant imaginations supply plushness to many a verse, many a paragraph, yet still, so much is left over, the merest suggestion loses us in reverie for hours.

        From there, universes are created. Just look at the worlds we’ve populated for Rosy – and it all started with a limerick.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Could be, Rachel. Could be.

        Of course, you have to admit it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to go toe-to-toe with Rosy, Writer. For one thing, “ahoy” makes up, what, close to a third of the words he chooses?

        In fact, get rid of all the “ahoys, “shiver me timbers” and “scurvy dogs,” and his entire memoir is, like, seventeen words.

        Ever since it got that glowing write-up in the Times, though, Rosy’s book became the hottest thing to read. Or at least, well, to carry.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It’s not about the pieces, but the whole. There is a certain art to Rosy’s creative use of a limited vocabulary, to conveying so much with so little. I doubt I could compete on my own. But with my co-writer, we’ll write such entrancing tales of adventure, that Rosy will go to school just to be able to read it!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Rosy gotta learn him his cypherin’!

        Your comment about a limited vocabulary brings to mind something I read once about Cantonese. Apparently, it’s possible to construct a sentence using just the word “li.” Something like,

        “Grandmother walked down the road to buy pickles in the market.”

        Obviously, in Cantonese and in related tongues, words change meaning depending on the speaker’s tone, inflection, etc. As has been observed elsewhere, Cantonese isn’t spoken so much as it’s sung.

        Therefore, if anyone can vary the way he hisses “scurvy dog” to construct a compelling narrative, it’s Rosy.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Fascinating! Cantonese now officially added to my bucket list of languages to learn.

        Fair point. Rosy has done much more incredible things, after all. Creating his own language? That’s good winds and clear skies by comparison.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Just the fact you’d contemplate learning Cantonese earns you major props, Rachel. That mind of yours never stops expanding, does it?

        Is Rosy’s creation a language, though, or just a collection of expressive tones? Much in the same way a dog’s “Bark!” can mean anything from “So glad to see you!,” to, “Let me at ’em! Let me at ’em!”

        Alas, I’m afraid our hero’s expressiveness may be no more sophisticated than the noises one of those old-school dial-up modems made.

        Maybe I’m selling our Cap’n short, though. The man did design a pretty mean brassiere, after all.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Well, I’m not so sure how much “expanding” my mind actually does, but it certainly likes the IDEA of expanding. Someday.

        Language is a fascinating thing. It is a representation of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. If Rosy’s expressive tones successfully represent things, then is he not communicating in some sort of language?

        Besides… I think I’ve heard of people doing a bunch of crazy things with old modem sounds and the like…

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Once again, quite true, Rachel.

        When you think about it, what is language but a series of sounds we all agree mean certain things? “Ahoy!” means “Thar be somethin'” “(chock-lit)” signifies good food, and “(Am-I-Dreaming?)” signifies someone reading your poetry.

        Therefore, perhaps Rosy’s contributions to the language may earn acclaim yet. That could be a “Final Jeopardy” question, circa 2120 – “After Rosy’s swashbuckling days, and before he reconfigured the language, he was famous briefly for designing this racy attire.”

        Liked by 1 person

      10. True, but most wordsmiths greet dissent with a sigh and a “Tsk-Tsk.”

        Or a “Harumph!,” depending on the continent.

        Cap’n Rosy, though, will be a bit more exacting. Slip up once in his presence, and “To the plank with ye! I’ll teach you to take Rosy’s name in vain!”

        Am I wrong? You remember how touchy he got, years ago, when deckhands speculated about his wardrobe.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Ha, aptly parried, Rachel!

        See, it’s wit like yours that confounds the Cap’n. Surely, he does count a few skills as his own, but deep thinkin’ ain’t one of them.

        Honestly, it’s a wonder you survived aboard that ship as long as you did. Just ten seconds or so of conversation with you, and Rosy’s head would be spinning. Sputtering orders to swab the deck, walk the plank, etc.

        Maybe before he got through to carrying that last aggression, you snuck ashore just outside Maracaibo and thus, won your freedom.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Technically, I think the final orders he gave were “swab the plank,” and “walk the deck; ” he was half rage, and half befuddlement. And who can blame him? I can be a frustrating conversationalist.

        He was in such a state, he didn’t even bother sticking around to see whether his orders were followed. Naturally, I decided at this point that a vacation from the seafaring life might suit me for a while… So, I left a note (which I later found out he never got; I really shouldn’t have left it up on deck…), “borrowed” a boat, and off I went.

        Of course, we’re on good terms now. Though I think part of the reason for his devotion to bejeweling my birthday present is to make amends.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Aye, those jeweled barnacles clinging to the journal be your share of the loot.

        No wonder Rosy’s friendly now. Your final showdown with with him made him realize the vexatious life is no kind of existence for a sensitive sort like him. He did some pondering, and he recalled you rhapsodizing about silk, and he realized lingerie would provide him the future he wanted.

        However, when the Cap’n considered he just had sent you to Davy Jones’s Locker (or so he thought), remorse filled his soul. Imagine his delight, then, when he learned months later you very much were alive. He knew he had to make amends. Not only that, but he needed to express his gratitude too.

        Now, as you know, Rosy is painfully shy (funny trait for a pirate, but there you have it). Thus, he couldn’t make a public show of his regard. Still, he made arrangements for an extravagant birthday gift. Still, being the retiring type he is, he wanted to remain anonymous. As such, he let people assume it was your sister who had glittered up the journal. Heck, even I was fooled for a while.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Indeed. 😂

        Are you SURE you’re not Rosy’s personal scribe? Because you’d fill the position quite nicely. And with the Cap’n being repentant and all, there’s the added bonus of him probably thinking twice about throwing you overboard!

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Oh, how certain are you, Rachel, I’m not Rosy?

        Ever since Rosy ransomed Kingston’s fate for a couple thousand barrels of rum, he never was the same. Once the Cap’n started sampling the haul, “Arr!” and “Shiver me timbers!” soon gave way to other…words.

        Or, maybe, the grog gave Rosy a new respect for the scribe. Eventually…perhaps…he and I traded places. and now it’s Rosy behind the computer, while the Terrified Amateur hums a jaunty air as he sails the Seven Seas.

        Could be. Will the world ever have a clue? Only Rosy and I will know for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Hehe… Reminds me of the Princess Bride (and that can’t be a bad thing). Is Rosy’s last name Roberts, do you think, and do they happen to call him (you?) by the epithet “Dread Pirate?”

        Well. I suppose I may never know. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      17. Inconceivable!

        Yep, the mantle has passed to me, and I’m the current Dread Pirate (Rosy) Roberts. In a few years it’ll be somebody else’s turn. How about yours?

        By the way, as you asked (and, no actually, you didn’t), “Bride” is one of those movies I’ll watch any time my path and its cross. As such, it joins an odd and eclectic collection which includes…

        “The Shawshank Redemption,” any John Hughes movie (hey, I used to live in Chicago), any Bond movie (hey, I’m a guy), any Eastwood flick (hey, doubly so) and “Dangerous Liaisons” (hey, I’m a history nerd, and I’m a sucker for all things 18th-century).

        That was my deepest and darkest. How about you, Rachel? Which movies make must-see TV for you?

        Liked by 1 person

      18. Wait a moment… I thought the mantle had passed to Felix, and I was actually taking to Rosy! 😵😆

        Hehe… Interesting picks, thanks for sharing.

        As for me, well… Spaceballs (don’t ask), Serenity (the 2005 sci-fi one, not the one with McConaughey), a couple of M. Night Shyamalan movies (primarily Signs, Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable), and pretty much any Hallmark movie if it’s on (and it’s a movie I haven’t already seen fifteen times).
        And, of course, The Princess Bride.

        Liked by 1 person

      19. Good choices, Rachel, though I have two questions…

        Did you comb the planet? And…

        What kind of idiot uses 1-2-3-4-5 as his luggage code?

        A crafty idiot, actually, because nobody ever is going to guess anything so obvious. Like a guy in my office. His PC’s sign-in password? “Password.”

        Liked by 1 person

      20. No, when planet-combing duty came up, I… deserted. 😝 I then skedaddled over to Pizza the Hutt’s and hatched a plot with Vinnie. People think Pizza’s death was a sort of accident. What it really was, was delicious. 😈

        Hehe… I must be Nobody then, because those two are some of my first guesses, along with “TrustNo1” and “OpenSesame!”

        Liked by 1 person

      21. Ha, but was disposing of Pizza as delicious a task as splitting a Mutton, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich with Billy Crystal’s character in Bride?

        And when somebody logs into my colleague’s computer to order 1,762 MLTs, I’ll know just where to look

        By your leave, Mlle.

        Liked by 1 person

      22. Hmm. Well, bigger serving size. But then, you can’t beat an MLT for quality.

        Hehe… Well, WERE someone to do such a thing, I’m sure there would be 881 sandwiches that might find there way to a deserving, sufficiently… discerning, personage. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much obliged, Rachel!

      Yes, it takes quite an appetite to sustain Wolfe’s “seventh of a ton.” Of course, with Fritz in the kitchen…

      The cookbook makes for great reading, as the author introduces most recipes with a corresponding paragraph or two from the novels. It’s quite easy to lose oneself to reverie, snapping to only upon realizing these are actual working recipes. Then, the temptation to try them is irresistible.

      Dine just like they do in the old brownstone, though without the live-in staff and the 10,000 orchids in the greenhouses on the roof. Still, the style and elegance are yours to savor.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Why, thank you, Tamara! Ham really isn’t among my favorites, either, thus I appreciate your sentiments.

      Everything else is pretty straightforward, though I was uncertain I’d be able to prepare the eggs as described in the cookbook, as Shirred Eggs really haven’t been in the home cook’s repertoire for sixty years now.

      Fortunately, the instructions were good, and before long I too started the day with elegance and flair.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Omg, sitting and waiting for my Dr. (routine checkup, nothing alarming) and seeing some of my favorite comfort foods. Just makes things all that more torturous. Hope your happy! Seriously, looks delicious! 😋

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, greatly appreciated, JoAnn!

      For me, the whole Nero Wolfe canon delights the dreams. Refined, yet comforting. Like a silk throw pillow. When reading, I often forget about the mystery and spend hours imagining the exquisitely, contented lives that magnificent brownstone furnishes.

      Imagine, reading about all that food, and in a waiting room too. The only thing worse would be writing about all that food!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, Crystal, that’s what we’re missing.

      About fifty years ago we stopped making shirred eggs every morning, and look what happened.

      Send people to the moon again? Not when starting the day with Eggos and Toaster Strudels, we won’t.

      Like

    1. Thanks, Kally!

      Though the recipe does present the basic facts, I had to look elsewhere to learn exactly what shirred eggs are. As far as I can tell, they really haven’t been part of anyone’s breakfast lineup for half a century now. A bit complicated a production, but it was worth it to taste exactly what would’ve started the day for the upper classes, circa-1955.

      Oh, the odd things which obsess a foodie!

      Liked by 1 person

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