Nero Wolfe’s (and Fritz’s) starlings February 5, 2012Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game, Wolfe recipe.
I have committed two blasphemies in this recipe. First, I have not used starlings for this most-loved meal of Nero Wolfe’s. Second (and even worse in Wolfe’s opinion, I dare say), I have not just followed his beloved recipe of starlings and sage, but have also attempted Fritz’s recipe of tarragon and saffron. Where WILL the horrors end?!
While Nero Wolfe has a dedicated starling supplier (The Golden Spiders), I am not so fortunate. I’m not even sure it’s possible to eat the starlings we have here in Australia. Instead, I used quail, figuring they were the closest approximation I had access to. I also decided to try Wolfe’s preferred recipe (with sage) as well as the recipe which caused him to have such a fit of ill humour – tarragon and saffron.
I started by preparing individual foil packets for each of my quail – the recipe said I could use foil or wrap them tightly in the sage leaves, but I thought that foil was safer.
I added salt and pepper to each bird, the finely chopped some fresh basil and sprinkled half the birds with it.
I also finely minced some tarragon (gasp) and sprinkled this with some strands of saffron onto the other half of the birds.
Now, in the TV adaptation of The Golden Spiders, Fritz mentions there is a glaze added to the tarragon/saffron birds. However, there is no mention of this in the book, and I decided to prepare both types in the same manner, to better judge the difference between them.
I next melted some butter and added some sherry. I brushed both sets of birds in this mixture, and added sage leaves to the half I’d previously sprinkled basil on.
I wrapped each bird up tight in the foil, and cooked them for about 25 minutes.
In the meantime, I prepared some polenta to go with the finished birds. When the quail were properly cooked, I took one of each type and arranged them on top of the polenta, and poured the juices over it.
H and I sat down to objectively assess which quail flavour was better. The one with sage was very savoury, providing the quail with depth and earthiness. The one with tarragon and saffron was lighter and sweeter, with the tarragon adding some spiciness. Overall, I’d say that the saffron/tarragon provided a nice contrast to the quail, while the sage provided more depth to the actual quail flavour.
In the end, we both agreed that the quail with sage was superior – but only just. The tarragon/saffron quail was also delicious, and certainly not worth throwing a tantrum over, as Wolfe did. While Wolfe himself is a great cook, we can never underestimate the skills or recipes developed by Fritz – even when Nero Wolfe disagrees with him.