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Saucisse Minuit June 15, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Charcutepalooza, Game, Wolfe recipe.
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Whenever I try a new recipe (and particularly, I must confess, when I’m trying recipes from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook), I ask myself if the end result is worth the effort. Most of the time, it is – but sometimes, it’s not. Usually, I don’t mind if a dish I’m trying for the first time is ‘just OK’ – it helps me learn more about food preparation, and I can analyse why I didn’t think the dish worked.

However, some recipes make me ask if the result is worth the effort more than others. It’s all very well to decide to make Nero Wolfe’s ultimate sausage recipe, but for me it was quite another when I returned from the market having bought both a goose and a pheasant to make this sausage.

For some reason, it wasn’t until I had the birds in my possession that I realised what an excessive undertaking this was! I had been so focused on the preparation and making sure I had everything that I’d forgotten the larger picture – roast a goose and a pheasant, and then grind them all up to make sausage. To me, this was completely over the top. Roast goose is almost a luxury item, to be enjoyed at Christmas time, and I am not used to thinking of sausages as luxury items.

To back up a bit: for Nero Wolfe, saucisse minuit, is *that* recipe – the one he does not know, and cannot deduce and replicate, although not for lack of trying. He first ate these sausages in the 1930s while travelling in Spain, and immediately “recognized that sausage as high art” (Too Many Cooks). Wolfe tried in vain to meet the creator of the sausage, and, over a number of years, attempted to recreate or even steal the recipe. Finally, in Too Many Cooks he gets his chance – the creator of the saucisse minuit is suspected of murder, and Wolfe agrees to try and free him, on condition that payment is in the form of the sausage recipe.

It must be noted that the recipe provided is illustrative only – it notes ratios of some ingredients to others, but states that the exact quantities are dependent on the weather, temperaments of the guests and the dishes to be eaten before and after. The main filling is provided by roast goose and pheasant, with a little bit of pork and bacon added.

With the same quantities of pheasant and goose to be used, I felt I was safe using some of the goose meat for our own roast dinner. So, after I roasted the bird, we had a Saturday roast of both legs and one of the breasts, with vegetables roasted in the goose fat. The next day, I removed the rest of the goose meat, and also all the meat from the pheasant. And of course I rendered all the goose fat down, and made stock from the bones after I’d stripped all the meat. Luckily, I ended up with exactly the same amount of pheasant and goose meat. I added smaller amounts of pork and (homemade) bacon, and ended up with about 2kg of meat.

The recipe is slightly unconventional in that the meat for the sausage is all cooked before forming the sausage, and also because a slurry is created from chopped onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, red wine and breadcrumbs to which the minced meat is then added.

Nero Wolfe feared that this recipe “was only an accidental blending of ingredients carelessly mixed” (Too Many Cooks), but three servings of the sausages convinced him it was not a fluke. I confess I was a little skeptical when I mixed everything together and ended up with a grey mush.

One benefit of making a sausage with previously cooked ingredients is that it is easy to sample the filling – too easy, some might say… And I was pleasantly surprised to find that although it looked like grey mush, it tasted very nice, and very goose-y. I still don’t love the Kitchen Aid sausage stuffer but found it easier to use than previously, and the casings were stuffed with no major issues.

I cooked some links up on a slow heat (as directed), and made a simple side dish of spinach and blue cheese. Using the same wine I used in the sausages, I made a reduction with thyme and garlic to go over the sausages.

To return to my original question: was it worth purchasing and roasting both a goose and a pheasant? Did the end result of the sausages justify the preparation and labour? The answer is simple: yes. Wolfe was correct. Sausages can be high art, this recipe is not an accident, and this is easily the best sausage I’ve ever tasted.

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Comments»

1. Celia - June 15, 2011

I love this so much! I know your travels must have been amazing…but I’m glad you’re back and posting for Charcutepalooza. 🙂 Great job weaving your story into Wolfe’s, and great job making a delicious-looking sausage!

inspiredbywolfe - June 16, 2011

Thanks Celia! There’s a lot of build-up in the books about saucisse minuit, and I was quite worried the end sausage wouldn’t live up to the hype – but it certainly did! It was a lot of fun to put together.

2. Kathy - June 17, 2011

These look wonderful. Also an awful lot of work 😉

inspiredbywolfe - June 20, 2011

I like to think of it as a ‘project’ rather than a lot of work 🙂 And we got at least 2 meals out of it, plus more sausages in the freezer and the goose stock – so a lot of work but hopefully with enough food/reward to make it work it!

3. Mrs. FoodieLawyer - June 21, 2011

Great post! Bravo for taking on such an elaborate cooking project — “high art” indeed!

4. Kevin - June 29, 2011

Wow! After the way Wolfe describes saucisse minuit in the books, I thought the actual end result couldn’t possible compare – congrats – that looks delicious! 🙂

inspiredbywolfe - June 29, 2011

Thanks Kevin! Yes I was concerned that the recipe wouldn’t live up to the description – but it really did.

5. gs - July 25, 2011

Sorry for the delay in commenting, but I was very happy to read your account. I’ve never had this delicacy myself, but I’ve read a couple of other accounts where the sausages were criticized for being dry. I suspect that the cook didn’t use the necessary amount of fat. Lean seems to be the trend these days, and I’m glad to read that you appreciate the importance of making sure there’s enough fat in a sausage to contribute to both the moistness and the flavor. Congratulations!

inspiredbywolfe - July 25, 2011

Thanks gs! The recipe gives no quantities for any of the ingredients and I suspect that may lead to some cooks adding minimal fat – and it really makes such a difference, especially to the texture, I find.

6. Dr Alice - September 21, 2011

This looks fantastic. May I ask, if one wasn’t up to making homemade bacon, what would be an acceptable substitute? I imagine standard American sliced bacon is not what is called for here. Also, is bacon all that difficult to make?

inspiredbywolfe - September 21, 2011

Hi Alice! I’d say you probably could add some store-bought sliced bacon, or even maybe substitute something like corned beef chopped into chunks and then ground with the rest of the ingredients. Having said that, making homemade bacon is not hard at all – it just takes time so you do need to plan in advance. Here’s an account of the first time I made bacon (now definitely a regular thing!): https://inspiredbywolfe.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/bacon/

7. Ooten Aboot - October 4, 2011

What are the chances of developing a low-fat version? (I can see Wolfe’s disgusted grimace and hear his “Pfui!” as I type.)

inspiredbywolfe - October 7, 2011

Hmmmm….i’m not sure about a low fat version. I think it’s a bit against the Nero Wolfe philosophy!

You could try using chicken or turkey instead of goose but I think you’d just end up using more pork fat to make the sausages edible. As gs mentioned above, if you don’t use enough fat the sausages would be quite dry. If you do develop a low-fat version, please let me know!

8. Alex - June 26, 2012

A question about bacon. I assume that saucisse minuit is not made with “American” bacon but rather with the more European versions, right? My favorite restaurant does English breakfast and the bacon, as they put it, is “proper English bacon.” I suspect American bacon would yield a different end result. Or am I being too particular?

(Also, just an aside…) Wolfe doesn’t ask for the recipe as payment until after he has secured the release of Jerome Berin. Wolfe attempts to turn down an offer of payment at first, and when pushed, tells Berin that the only payment that he (Wolfe) will accept is the recipe. He then really puts the screws to Berin by explaining that although he’d like to be able to eat saucisse minuit twice a month, he’ll settle for being able to remind himself, more than twice a month, that Berin owes him and won’t pay up.

I’d like to try the recipe (I sure won’t try the recipes involving brains; I have my limits) but, yeah, a pheasant, a goose, a sausage grinder. I’ll have to block off three days when no one else is at home: one day to go and get everything, the second day to make it, the third day to clean up.

How many servings does the recipe make?

inspiredbywolfe - June 26, 2012

Hi Alex,

I’m not sure if using English or American bacon would make a great difference – I used my homemade bacon which was belly bacon and thus American-style…I think the only difference would be the addition of a bit of extra fat if you use American bacon, which isn’t a bad thing in sausages.

As for preparation: I ended up serving about half the goose for dinner the day before I made the sausages, so while it takes a few days at least you can enjoy some of the meat while you’re going!

I think I ended up with about 2kg of sausages (or a bit more) which is about 4.5 pounds. I made fairly thick sausages but still ended up with lots of them!

9. bakingnotwriting - February 9, 2013

Thanks for doing this! I had NO idea what a complicated recipe it was — or that it was made with goose. I really have to start looking things up when I’m reading the Nero Wolfe mysteries. I wonder if American and British bacon were more similar in the 1930s? (Thinking of the comment above.) I’m so glad it lived up to Nero Wolfe’s feelings about it. I would have been super disappointed if it hadn’t. Because I am reading ALL of the books in order, sometimes I feel as if I’m living in that world. Glad I’m not alone! 🙂

Ken Sheffer - August 19, 2013

In England, ‘American’ bacon is often referred to as ‘streaky bacon’ in reference to the fat/lean. I believe that bacon in ‘Old Blighty’ is closer to what we, here, call ‘Canadian Bacon. But Rex Stout said that all the recipes he mentions in any of his books were tried out with the help of a friend who was a food critic/writer for one of the NYC newspapers. And regarding the necessity for the use of fat in making sausage, I believe the US product is the one called for.

On another note, I’m very glad to see that you have been making use of ‘The Cook Book’. Some of the recipes are quite involved. But ‘Fritz’s Pate’ for example, is certainly worth the effort—at least occasionally!

KS

bakingnotwriting - August 19, 2013

Thanks for your reply! I was waiting till I finished all of the books before cracking open the cook book. I finished every single Nero Wolfe mystery last month so I’m ready to start cooking!

10. Thursday Lit: Calling Nero Wolfe! | Clear Sight - August 22, 2013

[…] *** For Wolfe fans – Saucisse Minuit. […]

11. Hayford Peirce - November 23, 2013

A great article. I’ve dreamed of making this since I was about 14 years old, back in 1956. But never have had the courage or the requrequisite skills in general sausage-making. (I can and have made them, however.) The lack of a *precise* recipe has also daunted me. Do you have the *exact* a mounts anywhere? I couldn’t find an exact recipe above….

Best, Hayford Peirce

inspiredbywolfe - November 30, 2013

Hi Hayford,

I can’t give you the exact amounts but I can give you percentages- everything is done off the weight of the cooked pheasant meat.

Pheasant meat – 100%
Goose meat – 100% (same quantity of goose/pheasant meat)
Roast pork – 50% of the pheasant meat
Bacon – 25% of the pheasant meat
I ended up with about 2kg of meat in total.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5-6 pistachio nuts.

1 onion
1 clove garlic
about 1/4 cup of brandy
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
Pinch each of thyme and rosemary
Tiny knob of ginger (or grate a bigger piece 2 or 3 times)
A couple of gratings of nutmeg
1-2 cloves
I think about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (but I am guessing here – add slowly until you have a soft, runny mush).

I know this isn’t a full recipe but I hope it helps!

Hayford Peirce - December 1, 2013

Many, many thanks! I had been just about to start making some proportion/thought experiments of my own. All of the above info is VERY useful — and will enable me to make my own attempt at it one of these days.

A few further questions:

1.) I take it that you hand-diced the various fowls and meats? With a big, sharp chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver? NOT using a food processor on “pulse” — certainly a 1930s chef in a Spanish inn in the mountains would have been using a knife.

2.) The pistachio nuts. Are these roasted ones that you bought, or nuts that you bought and then roasted. If the latter, in a frying pan? Or in the oven. Did you then chop them, or mash them, or what. I’ve never cooked with them.

3.) I had been envisioning more onion than that. But the SIZE of onions can vary enormously! In all of my own recipes that include them, I have now put down the weight in grams so that I know what I’m doing the next time. Would you say that you used, oh, 250 grams, or maybe even a little more?

4.) For the grated or chopped fresh ginger I would have to do that by ear (eye) — I would think that 3 or 4 grams would be plenty. (I find it hard to picture a Spanish inn having fresh ginger to hand in the the 1930s….)

5.) There are so MANY kinds of breadcrumbs. Were yours fairly soft and not too dried out, or were they really, really dry? And fine, medium fine, somewhat chunky, or what?

6.) The recipe says “pig intestines”. The ones I find the most easily are lamb. Which I’m assuming are smaller. The cooked sausage in your picture (most delectable-looking, by the way) looks considerably plumper than the ones I’ve made with lamb. Do you think I could use lamb?

7.) When you put the stuffing into the casings with the machine, did you stop to tie them off individually (useful to have a friend to do this with you), or did you make one long sausage and then fiddle around with it to tie it into individual ones? I really haven’t made all that many….

8.) When you cooked them, did you do it under a slow electric (or gas) overhead grill (also called a broiler)? Or OVER some sort of heating element? The words “grill”, “broil”, “fry”, are used more or less interchangeably (and ignorantly), and can lead to confusion.

I hope that all of these questions are not too much for you! I’m just so pleased to find someone who has actually MADE this Platonic Ideal of all sausages!

A couple of years ago, a Google search for saucisse minuit led me to the report about a fairly recent meeting of the Wolfe fans somewhere in the United States, an annual event, I believe. At this particular one they said that the big meal prepared by a noted hotel chef was an enormous Sunday brunch/buffet WITH saucisse minuit on the menu. BUT, apparently, from what I could judge, shaped into patties and fried, not made into links. It would certainly be easier to make them this way! Do you know anything more about this particular meeting?

All the best,

Hayford

12. inspiredbywolfe - December 2, 2013

1. I chopped them up using a chef’s knife – I don’t trust myself with a cleaver!

2. I bought pre-shelled pistachio nuts, roasted them lightly in a frying pan, then chopped them roughly.

3. I probably only used 1 onion because I was too lazy to use another one! Also because there is only a tiny bit of garlic and ginger added. I just weighed an onion that seemed like a reasonable size and it was 210g. So I would suggest using about 210-250g of onion – however many onions that may be!

4. Yes, only 3-4 grams of ginger. I used a microplane to grate it, but that is probably not authentic…

5. I’d say they were medium dry – not very very dry, but not soft either. And also medium fine – not super fine, but not chunks either.

6. I’m sure you can use lamb intestines if you can stuff them OK – but they won’t be as big as the pig ones (and these ones were actually large pork casings – there are smaller ones available). I get mine from a local butcher but you could also see if you can buy them online – ebay or similar?

7. I think I twisted them into quite large individual links but you could also tie them into individual links which would be easier. I generally follow the method Michael Ruhlman demonstrates in this video (the stuffing/twisting starts at about 3 minutes): http://ruhlman.com/2010/06/how-to-make-sausage/ I do recall I had trouble with the casings breaking while I was stuffing these, so took it carefully and didn’t twist them into as many links as I would normally.

8. The cookbook says broil – which I would have interpreted as top-down heat. Which normally I would call grilling, just to be confusing! So I would say a top down heating element, but on a fairly low setting, turning the sausages so they cook evenly.

I don’t know anything about the meeting you mention but agree that shaping the stuffing mixture into patties would work very well too. But for me – given the complexity and time it takes just to assemble/construct everything for the recipe, adding the extra step of stuffing the mixture into casings isn’t that much more work.

I hope this all helps – please let me know if you end up making them!!

Hayford Peirce - December 4, 2013

Hi again,

Thanks for all the additional info and comments. With them, I think I’ll be able to make the recipe without too much trouble once I get the psychic energy to do so. I can buy frozen goose and pheasant in a couple of stores fairly nearby and I think I’ll do a pheasant first for myself and nibble a little of it as a single meal, then put away the rest for the sausage, using your proportions and suggested weights. I cooked a wonderful goose last Xmas with Julia Child’s recipe, which has now become a fairly standard technique, for my Tahitian-Australian family who were visiting and I guess this time I’ll have to round up some more guests to eat some goose with me!

I’m a guy who really wants to cook from a recipe, unlike you, who are guided by inspiration, and I have written a lot of very detailed ones for my own use. I did some food and drink writing for Wikipedia when it first got started, then a lot more for Citizendium, when it looked as if it would become a viable rival to Wikipedia. A typical one is about Alkaline Pasta, which I stole from Harold McGee, at: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Alkaline_pasta. It makes wonderful noodles and pasta. There’s link to the exact recipe at: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Alkaline_pasta/Recipes, with a related link to my article and recipe for Bolognese sauce: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Bolognese_sauce, which is mostly Marcella Hazan’s….

I think that most Americans use the word “broiler” to refer to a direct, overhead heat, but there are so many exceptions that it’s probably always best to specify more exactly.

A couple of years ago I learned that real Chinese cooks use *two* cleavers, the usual heavy one for meats and fowl, and one with a much thinner (although still large) blade for vegetables. I bought a cheap one that is easy to keep sharp and to clean and use it to chop a lot of veggies from time to time. I don’t dare use it to julienne anything, however, I don’t know how to hold it to do that!

The Nero Wolfe fan club called the Wolfe Pack had their annual meeting in 2007 at the Greenbrier, the famous resort in West Virginia that was the inspiration for the one in Too Many Cooks and where Sam Snead was the golf pro for a while. The chef served saucisse minuit as part of the big brunch one day: http://www.nerowolfe.org/htm/scrapbook/2007_Greenbrier/index.htm

All the best,

Hayford

13. Hayford Peirce - December 6, 2013

Here’s a very minor correction for the first part of your wonderful article. I just checked with the original edition, so I know that my info is correct. Too Many Cooks was published in 1938, and in the opening pages Wolfe says that he first tasted saucisse minuit before the First World War, when he was young, apparently slim, and an Austrian agent following a subject to Spain. He did not first eat it in the 1930s….

Hayford


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