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Nero Wolfe’s Lamb Loaf August 19, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb, Wolfe recipe.
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My first reaction when seeing this recipe was, “Nero Wolfe eats meatloaf?!”. While Wolfe is of course known as a gourmand and a lover of fine food, it should not be forgotten that this is the same Wolfe who also appreciates a fine chili and other forms of – shall we say less formal cooking. In making this meatloaf, I thought it best to celebrate the heyday of the meatloaf and make one in the style of the 1950s or 60s – indeed, when the book that refers to the lamb loaf (Plot it Yourself) was first published (1959).

To start, I minced up lamb meat and a bit of pork meat, and blended them together. To this I added eggs, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, chopped shallots, basil, salt and pepper. Confession: I was meant to use green pepper, but had none and substituted red pepper instead – which I finely diced and also added. I added some white wine and then mixed it all together, before shaping the mixture into a delightful shape.

I then mixed Worcestershire sauce and some melted butter together, to form a sauce/glaze which I then brushed onto the meatloaf. I did a few layers to make sure it was well covered and then put the meatloaf in the oven.

While the meatloaf was cooking. I chopped and peeled potatoes, which I then boiled until they were soft. I mashed them until they were in fairly small chunks, then added what can only be described as a large amount of butter. I mashed the potatoes again until the butter had melted and combined, and then stirred in 2 eggs.

Once the meatloaf was done, it was time to decorate! I was instructed to add the potatoes to a piping bag, then pipe the potatoes around the loaf “being as decorative as [I] like”. Well, I like decorating cakes – surely the principle is the same…

If you are interested in replicating my fabulous potato design, I used a Wilton IM tip to pipe the ruffles around the base and over the top. I wanted to still be able to see the meatloaf – and of course keep it in the retro style.

I put the meatloaf back in the oven to brown the potatoes slightly, before it was ready to serve.

And the verdict – well, it was meatloaf. Delicious, Nero Wolfe-worthy meatloaf – but still meatloaf. The potatoes, on the other hand, were very very good. They were incredibly rich from the butter and eggs, and also very smooth.

I like to think of this recipe as something that Wolfe would primarily eat as a snack or a light lunch/late dinner rather than as a full sit-down, formal dinner. Archie, of course, would eat this late at night when he gets back from investigating a suspect – or maybe from one of his many stints in jail. If you’re going to eat a meatloaf this is certainly a great one to try, particularly if you make the mashed potatoes too.

Nero Wolfe’s roast lamb February 29, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb, Wolfe recipe.
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One of my favourite moments in the Nero Wolfe A&E series is at the end of the Before I die episode. Once the murderer is revealed and life is getting back to normal in the Brownstone, Nero Wolfe receives a package. It turns out to be lamb chops and Fritz and Wolfe debate about how they should be prepared. I really like the interactions between the two characters, as they throw ideas at each other before deciding to rub them with ginger, olive oil, mustard – and thyme. While the A&E series is generally very faithful to the books, in this case this scene does not appear in the book (part of the Trouble in Triplicate collection).

However, a similar recipe appears in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, from Fer de Lance, the first Nero Wolfe story. In this case, Fritz happily rubs a leg of lamb with garlic and other spices. Indeed, the recipe I followed was very simple. I started by making a marinade/rub of mustard, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, olive oil, and thyme of course. I cut up an onion for the lamb to sit on, then rubbed the lamb as well as I could with the marinade.

Now it was simply a matter of putting the thing in the oven until it was done. It took about an hour, as it was a relatively small leg of lamb, and after it was done I let it rest for about 15 minutes while I prepared a simple salad to go with the lamb. I admit I forgot to take a photo of the lamb when it came out of the oven, but here’s a shot after we’d cut a few pieces. The mustard rub had formed an almost crispy layer on top of the lamb.

This was certainly simple to prepare – but simple doesn’t mean it can’t be complex in flavour. The meat was perfectly cooked, and I think the layer of mustard helped seal in the juices. The mustard marinade had permeated throughout the meat, with the flavours of mustard, ginger and thyme coming through the most strongly.

The lamb was also excellent the next day as leftovers and in sandwiches, with the mustard crust adding a lovely flavour. While the recipe in the Cookbook only mentions Fritz, I would like to imagine Nero Wolfe and Fritz working on this dish together, each contributing different elements for the whole dish.


Grilled lamb kidneys December 11, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards, Lamb.

So Charcutepalooza is all finished and the first thing I post after Charcutepalooza is more innards! Of course these came about on a whim when I saw lamb’s kidneys for sale at the butchers’. Flicking through the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I saw the perfect recipe for my lamb’s kidneys.

Of course to start with, I had to split the kidneys and remove the inedible tissue.

While I’m definitely getting better at this, it’s fair to say I ended up with a variety of different sized and shaped pieces, rather than neat halves of kidney.

I made a marinade of olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, mustard powder and nutmeg (I was meant to use mace, but had none – I thought nutmeg was a decent substitute). After this was all mixed together, I added the kidneys and left them to marinate for about 30 minutes.

While they were marinating, I mixed some worcestershire sayce, cayenne pepper and lemon juice into some softened butter. At the end of the 30 minutes, I took the pieces of kidney and threaded them onto skewers. It was at this point I swore at the person who had made such silly-shaped kidney pieces, and had made it so hard to get them onto the skewers!

Now it was simply a matter of brushing the kidneys with the flavoured butter I’d made earlier, and sick the under the grill. After a few minutes, I took them out, flipped them over, added more butter and returned them to the grill until they were done.

I made a simple sauce with the drippings from the kidneys plus the rest of the flavoured butter, and made an endive salad to serve the kidneys with.

This was a really nice way of cooking kidneys. They weren’t rubbery or hard but instead were still soft, and were very flavoursome. The marinade and butter worked really well together to provide some spiciness and acidity to contrast with the flavour of the kidneys. The thyme also came through strongly and provided a great earthiness to the kidneys.

Once again Nero Wolfe has provided me with a great method to cook something – in this case, kidneys. I think kidneys are often added to stews until they go almost hard and rubbery, whereas in this case, they were soft and juicy. I’ll definitely be cooking kidneys like this again.

Sous-vide experiment 2: Lamb rack January 18, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb.

A while back, I attempted an experiment using the principles of sous-vide, or using a water bath to cook meat under vacuum. My experiment involved cooking chicken in my largest (and heaviest) pot, over a low burner, constantly monitoring the temperature over the few hours it took to cook. Which is do-able for the 1.5 hours it takes to cook chicken using this method, if one has the time on a weekend afternoon. However, for most sous-vide recipes, a longer cooking time is required – and temperature fluctuations over a longer period of time may be problematic.

The solution, as proposed on the Food Lab, is to use a beer cooler (ie esky) to maintain the water temperature over the time required to properly cook different types of meat. Having acquired an esky, I thought I’d try this method by cooking a rack of lamb.

To start with, I prepared the pieces of lamb rack. I split my rack into two sections, and put each one in a ziplock bag along with rosemary and thyme.

Next, I filled the esky with warm water. I was looking for a temperature of around 55°C but wasn’t that fussed if I got it a bit higher than that. I used the thermometer from my BBQ set to monitor the temperature – it has prongs in it so you can stick it into meat but at least it has a digital output! And yes, I will invest in a proper digital thermometer… Here’s the setup with the lamb in the esky.

I sealed the bags almost all the way and then put them in the water, letting the pressure from the water push out as much air as possible. It wasn’t as good as a proper vacuum seal of course, but I did succeed in getting most of the air out.

Once I’d got the water to the correct temperature and the lamb pieces sealed in their bags, I wrapped the esky in towels to help insulate it, and left it to cook. I tested the temperature every 20 minutes or so, as it was the first time I’d used the esky and I wasn’t sure if it would hold the water’s temperature or not. Luckily, it only lost a couple of degrees after an hour, and I was able to top it up with warm water to bring it back up to the correct temperature.

The recipe stated that the lamb must be left in the water for a minimum of 45 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours. To be safe, I left the lamb for 2 hours. Here’s what it looked like after it came out of the water.

I took them out of the bags and dried them off. They still felt a bit soft to the touch, but not to the point of rawness. I cooked them quickly in a pan on the stove, to brown the outside and add a bit of crust, and served them with a mixture of onions, squash and carrots.

Now, you might be saying, that’s all very well and good, but how can the effectiveness of this method be judged without seeing a photo of the inside too?

As you can see, it was evenly cooked all the way through. I used a temperature which was on the medium-rare side; to get a proper medium piece, the temperature of the water just needs to be increased a little. And as for the taste: the texture was fantastic – soft and melting while still retaining shape and body. For some reason the lamb flavour seemed more concentrated or rich as well.

I would highly recommend this method of DIY sous-vide for anyone who wants to see what sous-vide can do for meat. It won’t work for some of the super long cooking times (24 or 48 hours) but smaller pieces of lamb, chicken and fish can be cooked in a few hours. I feel that Nero Wolfe would approve!

Zombie Nero Wolfe October 31, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Pork.
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For my final piece of Halloween cookery, I decided it was only fitting to combine the concepts of Halloween with Nero Wolfe. The only logical conclusion to this was for me to create a zombie Nero Wolfe.

Zombies, as we know, are reanimated corpses of the recently deceased, brought back to life by magic or other means. In this case I would like to think of a zombie Nero Wolfe stalking the streets of New York, angry because there are crimes going unsolved and hoping to eat brains that have been prepared by a gourmet…

To make a zombie, it seemed the easiest medium to use was meatloaf. I decided to grind my own meat and add spices as I went, to be able to better control the flavours and appearance of the meatloaf.

Clockwise from back left we have: Chicken, flavoured with basil and sundried tomatoes, beef with onion, parsley and pepper, lamb with rosemary, pepper and parsley, and pork with basil and fennel seeds. Using the principles outlined in Charcuterie, I also added some ground up pork fat to the lamb and beef minces, as they were quite lean. I figured there was enough fat in the chicken and pork minces so I didn’t have to add any additional fat. I added salt to all of them.

Once everything was minced up, I turned them into meatloaf with the addition of breadcrumbs and egg – I didn’t bother to add tomato sauce or anything like that, as I was hoping the mince mixtures would be flavoursome enough without it.

Once the meatloaf mixes were prepared, it was time to start sculpting. Now here I must definitely acknowledge the work of H, who took over at this point and did all of the sculpting. He has far more artistic skill than I do!

Zombie Nero Wolfe had a body of beef, hands of chicken and a head of pork. Once this was sufficiently shaped, his clothes were added.

You might not be able to tell from the photo, but another layer of meat was added. Now Nero Wolfe has a suit jacket and shoes of chicken, suit pants of lamb, and hair of pork.

Once he was sufficiently sculpted, I put the meatloaf in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180°C. When it was ready, I added some finishing touches…and here I present to you: Zombie Nero Wolfe!

I was pleasantly surprised how well the different meat colours showed up and how the sculpting had remained throughout the cooking process. Nero Wolfe, even when he’s a zombie, still likes orchids, so I cut a flower out of capsicum for him to wear on his lapel. Small rounds of pickles served as suit jacket buttons, and he stares with malevolent pickled onion eyes…

As well as being scary and creepy, zombie Nero Wolfe is also delicious! I was very pleased to note the different flavours of the various minces coming through, with the beef with onions, parsley and pepper probably my favourite, with the chicken being a close second. However, all the meats were superior to a standard meatloaf, being juicy and flavoursome.

I hope everyone has a brilliant Halloween, and rest assured that no zombie Nero Wolfes will be following you, as he has been consumed and will be wandering the streets no more!