Cookbook #39: The Nero Wolfe Cookbook
Recipe: Planked Porterhouse Steak
If I continue to eat meals like this, I will begin to look like Nero Wolfe. Nero Wolfe? you say. Allow me to introduce you, if you are not yet acquainted. Mr. Wolfe is the corpulent, New York City detective who solves all of his cases between the hours of 11 and 1 or 2 and 4, because he is otherwise occupied with tending his prize orchids or eating his prize meals, cooked by none other than the Swiss chef Fritz Brenner.
Around our house, Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin are not to be trifled with.
For another birthday for the husband, I purchased this little cookbook. While our book is a recent reprint from the 70s, the cookbook is out of print again. However, I imagine that it will cycle back around in time. The book is quite delightful, and every recipe comes from one of the murder mysteries. The book is divided into chapters on "Warm-Weather Dinners" or "Cold-Weather Dinners" or into collections of recipes of meals that Fritz has served for guests and associates or into meals cooked at Rusterman's Restaurant (a restaurant owned by Wolfe's best friend and later by Wolfe). Page 210 falls within the "Nero Wolfe Cooks" chapter: a section devoted to the foods that Wolfe himself has cooked. Luckily, the page had something appetizing, for page 211 has Creole Tripe--while I am willing to make a lot of food, I am not yet ready to commit to tripe. Not to be put off, however, other chapters boast recipes for Bacalhau, Pumpkin Pie, and Pork Stewed in Beer. Yum.
Allow me an extended quotation to give you a sampling of Rex Stout's writing and to set the recipe for last night's dinner. In Too Many Cooks Nero Wolfe is giving a lecture entitled Contributions Américaines à la Haute Cuisine to Les Quinze Maîtres (a group of 15 of the finest chefs in the world).
Upon hearing the title of the talk, Jerome Berin, the chef at Corridona in Sam Remo, snorts: "Bah! ... There are none.... I am told there is good family cooking in America; I haven't sampled it. I have heard of the New England boiled dinner and corn pone and clam chowder and milk gravy. ... Those things are to la haute cuisine what sentimental love songs are to Beethoven and Wagner."
"Indeed." Wolfe wiggled a finger at him. "Have you eaten terrapin stewed with butter and chicken broth and sherry?"
"Have you eaten a planked porterhouse steak, two inches thick, surrendering hot red juice under the knife, garnished with American parsley and slices of fresh limes, encompassed with mashed potatoes which melt on the tongue, and escorted by thick slices of fresh mushrooms faintly underdone?"
"Or the Creole Tripe of
While I neither escorted the planked porterhouse with fresh mushrooms nor whipped up a batch of Tennessee Opossum, I did make an incredibly decadent dinner. Rest assured that the cookbook has recipes for all of these mentioned (yes, even the opossum), and if you like your literature and dinner to intersect, you should rush out to your local used bookstores to begin your own search for Rex Stout mysteries and this cookbook.
On the final note, Nero weighs a seventh of a ton (or 286 pounds); while I still have a ways to go, this meal certainly shifted me a pound closer. (By the way, I did not eat the entire steak. But the husband did.)
1 Porterhouse steak, two inches thick [we clearly used two, and they were not that thick]
2 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 cup melted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 slices lime
1. Procure [!] a porterhouse steak of fine-grained texture, bright red in color and well-marbled with fat. Trim off the excess fat and wipe with a clean cloth. Grill the steak over a hot charcoal fire for three minutes on each side.
2. Take a well-seasoned oak plank which has never been washed but which has been kept scrupulously clean by being scraped with a dull knife and wiped with good olive oil. Lay the steak on the plank, surround with a border of fluffy mashed potatoes, and put in a hot (450 degree) oven. After nine minutes, brush the potatoes over with half the melted butter and salt and pepper the steak.
3. Return to the oven for five minutes, remove, paint with butter, sprinkle with parsley, garnish with the slices of lime, and serve at once.