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Reader request – eggs with beurre noir April 14, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken, Wolfe recipe.

I think twitter is great. Not only does it allow communication with a wide range of people, it also allows almost instant access to news, conferences and general interesting things. So I was gratified that I received a request / question from someone on twitter. I was asked if I’d tried the eggs in black butter, served regularly at the brownstone for breakfast.

Well, I hadn’t – and it was the first recipe in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. Since it was eaten so regularly at the brownstone, it was only right that I try it as soon as I could. The recipe itself was fairly straightforward, only requiring eggs, butter and dry sherry.

I started by spreading some melted butter into two ramekins (the recipe instructed me to use shirred egg dishes, but I didn’t have these so figured ramekins would be an OK substitute). Then I cracked two eggs into each one, ensuring I didn’t break the yolks.

I heated the oven grill (broiler) and put the eggs underneath. While they began to cook, I started to prepare the sauce. Again this was a fairly simple process. I melted about 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, and heated it until it began to froth on the surface.

While the froth had risen to the top, the milk solids in the butter had fallen to the bottom. I poured the remaining butter into a bowl and removed the milk solids from the saucepan, and then put the clarified butter back into the saucepan to continue cooking it. I cooked it until it started to turn brown. Incidentally, although I followed the instructions in the recipe for clarifying the butter, most instructions for clarifying butter advise that you strain the butter – not just pour it off as I did. I think I probably didn’t get it as ‘clear’ as it could have been. Here’s a photo taken as it was browning.

Once the butter was browned, I added some dry sherry and stirred it until it was combined. By this time the eggs were done, and scooped them out of the ramekins and put it in a dish (thankfully the eggs came out super easily thanks to the earlier application of butter). I poured the sauce over the top, and added some parsley as a garnish.

This was an interesting dish to try and highlights how different cooking techniques can turn even a few mundane ingredients into something else. The first thing to note was that I absolutely loved the eggs cooked this way. The whites had gone crispy on top, but the yolks were still runny in the middle.

However, I was less keen on the butter sauce. Maybe the sherry I used wasn’t dry enough, but I was expecting more of a vinegar-y kick from the sauce. Instead, it seemed that the taste of the butter (which was nice, but very very rich) overwhelmed the sherry , which didn’t really come through at all. While I’d put the parsley on the top mainly for decoration, I actually found it helped to provide contrast and a bit of relief from the sauce.

Occasionally, it seems that Nero Wolfe makes this dish using wine vinegar rather than the sherry. I’d be interested to try it with the vinegar rather than the sherry, and see if a more balanced sauce can be achieved. I’ll definitely be making the eggs again – but perhaps with a different sauce next time.

Incidentally, if you want to see me cook something specific, shoot me an email or contact me on twitter (scroll down on the about page for these details). I’m always happy to try wild and wacky recipes – or even, as in this case, something new for breakfast!


1. Virginia Lee - April 14, 2010

Excellent! Thanks so much for doing this. I’ll be scouring my NW books for more ideas. In the meantime, I can’t recall the title, but do you remember the book wherein Wolfe _left the brownstone_ in search of the new crop green corn that was supposed to be delivered but wasn’t? I can’t immediately recall if the corn he got was bad or if he didn’t get it at all, but I do remember he went to Rusterman’s looking for it and found there’d been foul play and IIRC, murder. There was a special recipe he lived for every year involving that corn. How about that one?

gs - April 15, 2010

Ms. Lee, I think you’re remembering _Murder is Corny_, one of the novellas. I’m a member of a mailing list devoted to discussing the Wolfe mysteries, and while this isn’t regarded as one of the better stories, it is infamous for Wolfe asking Cramer how his wife prepares corn on the cob, and when told that she boils it, Wolfe pronounces something to the effect that American housewives who boil corn should be boiled to death themselves. To those of us on the discussion list, this has seemed like kind of an extreme position, even for Wolfe, and also he seems to absolve husbands who boil corn, which hardly seems fair, but the bottom line is that to Wolfe there’s only one way to prepare corn on the cob, and that’s to roast it in the oven quickly at a very high temperature. Quite a few people on the mailing list that I mentioned have tried this recipe, and almost everyone has been disappointed, complaining that Wolfe’s recipe left the corn dry and tough. As I recall, though, there were one or two who suceeded in roasting wonderful corn using Wolfe’s recipe, but as I also recall they were able to use ears freshly picked right from the stalk and shovelled into the oven. For the majority of us who can’t walk out our back doors and snap an ear of corn off the plant to eat right then, I’m not sure how well Wolfe’s roasting recipe works, but I’m open to ideas.

pat knopp - August 2, 2013

Soak the ears of corn in a pail of water for a minimum of half an hour. Then follw the earlier directions. Still not a good as freshly picked corn but it does resolve the issues you had noted.

inspiredbywolfe - April 15, 2010

As gs has said, I believe the recipe you’re thinking of is the freshly roasted corn. I haven’t tried it – and gs’s comments are leading me to think it’s not worth the effort! However, I do also recall that Fritz makes corn fritters out of the ‘inedible’ corn (when it arrives late and not to Wolfe’s specifications) – so they might be worth trying instead of roasting the corn!

2. Cathy Pepper - April 15, 2010

I would love to hear more regarding Nero Wolf’s recipes!

inspiredbywolfe - April 17, 2010

Cathy, the main (centralised) source of information about Wolfe’s recipes is in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, which is linked in the list of links on the sidebar. I’ve also just added a “Wolfe recipe” tag to individual posts here where I’ve cooked a specific recipe from Nero Wolfe’s (and Fritz’s!) creations to make it a bit easier to find them on here!

pat knopp - August 2, 2013

The Nero Wolfe cookbook is available through Amazon. I’ve tried a number of recipes, grape-thyme jelly, corn fritters, scrapple, corn on the cob, and they make perusing the book worthwhile.

3. Timothy E. Wall - January 23, 2015

The best version of this dish that I’ve made uses red wine vinegar. You need to brown the butter thoroughly, agitating the pan constantly over a moderate burner until a burnt sienna color and a nice nutty aroma develop. Add about an equal volume of vinegar and continue agitating over moderate heat until the sauce is unctuous. Then add a teaspoon of drained capers, agitate briefly, and pour over the cooked eggs (I prefer mine over easy) and enjoy.
I too enjoyed the Nero Wolfe novels and the cookbook. Cornmeal pancakes with black currant jam are a favorite…also the chicken fricassee with cheese dumplings. And, didn’t a recipe for imam bayildi (the stuffed, olive-oil sautéed eggplant dish) appear there too? That’s very good.

4. Timothy E. Wall - January 23, 2015

I need to “clarify”: the butter should NOT be clarified…it is the butter solids and not the butter oil that you’re browning to create the color and aroma that are necessary to success here.

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