Cucumber Mousse

Oh, Nero.

Here we are again, enjoying another Nero Wolfe-inspired recipe from the delightful little cookbook based on the Nero Wolfe mystery series.  If you are not familiar with our stout genius, have a gander here.  Otherwise, read on.

This cucumber mousse shows up in one of my favorite Nero Wolfe mysteries, Death of a Doxy.  Always the consumer of fine foods, Nero sets himself down for a light-for-Nero lunch that includes a summertime mousse. Set in 1958*, the novel centers on the death of a showgirl but the Rosenberg trial looms large around the dinner table:

"Business is taboo at the dinner table, but crime and criminals aren't, and the Rosenberg case hogged the conversation through the anchovy fritters, partridge in casserole with no olives in the sauce, cucumber mousse, and Creole curds and cream."--Death of a Doxy

Perhaps distracted by the Rosenbergs, Nero and Archie aren't fully prepared for Julie Jaquette (played by the always delightful Keri Matchett in the A&E series) to dance into the brownstone and steal the show away from the Rosenbergs, the cucumber mousse or the anchovy fritters. I am always delighted by this particular novel because it's one of the few where Nero sees eye to eye with a woman, and Julie is just that woman. 

*In the A&E series, they move the time period forward a bit to include some mod fashions, a hell of a dance number to "Cowboys and Indians," and a hilarious poetry reading complete with a horse-faced man intoning his works from the interior of an egg-shaped chair.  Good stuff.  Seriously, check out that red and black striped cap. 

However, let's talk mousse.  There are those of you out there who like their jello with cream and wine and cucumbers in it.  I, however, am not that person.  Jello, in my book, should come shaped like a race car or a rabbit (I believe those were the shapes of the Jello molds my mother purchased for us), be a lurid shade of red or orange, and for fancy occasions include carrot shavings, mandarin oranges, or celery.  Yet it seems that some of you out there would prefer your gelatin a little more sophisticated.  If you count yourself among that number, I give you this recipe.

The mousse is light, and I used a chardonnay purchased this summer from a great little winery visited while I was at Steinbeck Camp (seriously, camp that includes wine stops.  Can't go wrong).  Do choose a good wine because the taste is prominent in the mousse.  Plus, you get to drink the rest of the bottle while you cook and have dinner.

All things considered, this is a fine, light mousse, if you're into that sort of thing.  I find I am most into that sort of thing while sitting on the couch with the husband watching A&E.

One Year Ago: Pasta with Beans and Greens

Cucumber Mousse
Adapted from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook

4 Servings

3 large cucumbers
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope gelatin
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoon wine vinegar
2 pimientos

1.  Seed 2 of the cucumbers, and chop them coarsely.  Do not peel.  Puree them in a blender or food processor.  Add the wine, onion, salt, pepper and mayonnaise to the puree, and mix lightly.

2.  Soften the gelatin in the hot water, and add it to the cucumber mixture.

3.  Whip the cream until stiff, and fold it into the cucumber mixture.

4.  Pour into an oiled, chilled timbale mold or 4 individual molds.  Chill until firm.

5.  In the meantime, marinate thin slices of the remaining cucumber in vinegar.

6.  Unmold the mouse on a chilled platter, and garnish with the marinated slices of cucumber and pimiento strips.


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