A Nero Wolfe Valentine’s Day February 14, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken, Drinks.
Of course, Nero Wolfe wouldn’t believe in such a silly thing like Valentine’s Day. First of all, he is suspicious of all women, and believes they are almost incapable of (rational) thought, and secondly, he would view a day as an excuse for crass commercialism – as many people do today.
However, I’d like to think that Fritz would still like to do something nice for Wolfe on Valentine’s Day. The traditional colour for Valentine’s Day is of course red or pink. What if Fritz decided to make a meal for Wolfe using Wolfe’s favourite colour, yellow?
I decided to put together a meal for Valentine’s Day loosely based on the colour yellow. The main part of this meal was chicken pie.
I started by making the pie dough. I generally use the shortcrust pastry recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion. Stephanie calls for mixing the pastry together with a pastry scraper, but as I don’t have one of those new-fangled inventions, I mixed it together with my hands.
Once it was mixed together, I put it in the fridge to make it easier to handle. Stephanie recommends refrigerating it for 20-30 minutes but I have found that 30-60 minutes is better.
I’d like to be able to say that while the dough was in the fridge, I went and lay on my chaise lounge and was fanned with palm leaf fronds and fed grapes, but the truth was that I went and mopped the floors and did the ironing. Romantic!
I also set about preparing the pie filling. I started with a bunch of spices: curry powder (it’s yellow!), mustard seeds, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. After cooking them for a couple minutes I added an onion.
I then added some sweet potatoes, the chicken pieces, and some water – not having any chicken stock on hand. I simmered these ingredients for 10 or so minutes, until the sweet potatoes were soft.
Once that had simmered for a while, I added leeks which had been chopped and washed thoroughly. After I’d mixed these around, I put the lid on to let the leeks cook.
While that was cooking, I retrieved the pastry from the fridge, rolled it out, and baked it blind for 15 minutes. I usually use split peas as my weight when baking blind, because I always have so many in my house! They must multiply in my pantry.
When the pastry was in the oven, I made a roux from flour and butter, and added a small amount of milk. I added this to the pie mixture to thicken it up and give it a sense of creaminess. When the pastry was done, I put the mix into the shell, and added a pastry top. I then baked this for another 15 minutes. Here’s the end result:
OK, OK, I know I said that Nero Wolfe wouldn’t believe in Valentine’s Day, but I’m having way too much fun with my cookie cutters and I couldn’t miss this opportunity. You’ll also notice that I forgot to put an egg wash on the pastry top so it doesn’t look as nice as it could. Oh well – it still tasted good!
As this was a special Valentine’s Day dinner, I made a cocktail to start with – a yellow one of course. I used this recipe to make a bee sting – gin, lemon juice, honey syrup and peppercorns. The lemon and honey balanced nicely to ensure the drink wasn’t too sweet, and the peppercorns added a little spiciness to the drink.
We had French champagne to drink with the main part of the meal.
As well as the pie, I made a side dish of sunburst squash and yellow capsicum, which I cooked in some soy sauce and fish sauce. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it while I was cooking it, but you can see it off to the side in this photo of half-eaten pie.
I was very happy with how the pie came out – the curry powder and cumin gave it some more unusual flavours than usually found in chicken and leek pie. While the vegetables had been simple to cook and used minimal flavourings, they matched nicely with the flavours in the pie. I didn’t cook them for long and the capsicum was still a little crisp which provided a nice textural difference to the pie.
Now, the dessert doesn’t really fit into the Valentine’s Day theme so I haven’t posted it here. For those who don’t know, my partner collects memorial and sentimental jewellery...so I decided to make him some memorial cookies. I used the chocolate graham cracker recipe here to make the cookies. If you’re interested in seeing the full collection, click on the photo below – I did have fun doing the descriptions!
While I don’t ‘believe’ in Valentine’s Day, it was a good excuse to try out some slightly unusual things and challenge myself to come up with a yellow meal. Who knows, maybe this was a meal that even Nero Wolfe would enjoy!