Sunday, April 17, 2016

Staff Review: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

If you're a fan of mystery novels, I'm willing to bet at least one of your favorite authors has a recipe in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Just pulling from our staff reviews on this blog, there are recipes from James Patterson, Laura Joh Rowland, Gillian Flynn, and Richard Castle. Yes, the best-selling fictional mystery author Richard Castle shares his recipe for "Morning-After Hotcakes."

Some of the recipes are drawn from the pages of a given author's novels, while others are personal favorites. Each recipe is accompanied by a short anecdote from the author explaining its significance, and a few of the recipes are almost like reading a very short story. In my opinion, the best part is that there are recipes for culinary experts, and recipes for those of us more interested in eating something than in making it. So obviously, I had to check this out and try a few myself (with a little help from my partner in crime)!

Appetizer: Male Chauvinist Pigs in a Blanket by Nelson DeMille
Even without having read DeMille's series following the adventures of anti-terrorism expert John Corey, I can say with certainty that I have a good feel for the character after trying this recipe. This is some straightforward, beer and sports, bachelor style cooking.

We did make a few changes to the recipe: we used cocktail sausages instead of  cut up hot dogs because that's what we had, we skipped the yellow mustard because neither of us like it, and we watched cartoons instead of a sports game.

The Verdict: Simple, tasty, and fast. We weren't sure how much impact the beer marinade had on the overall flavor, but that might be due to the hot dog substitution.

Entrée: Kinsey Millhone's Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich by Sue Grafton
I followed this recipe exactly. Both because Sue Grafton is very, very clear that substitutions are not allowed, and because this recipe made me realize that reading A is for Alibi as a teen is probably when I started eating peanut butter and pickle sandwiches myself. My variation calls for kosher dill pickles, a slice of hard cheese (horseradish cheddar if you can get it), and a little hot sauce.

My partner was less enthused by the idea of a pickle and peanut butter sandwich, but he was hungry enough to be willing to try something unexpected. Especially since it's such a quick recipe to assemble.

The Verdict: I could eat this sandwich every day (or a variation thereof). The pickle chips were very drippy, and you'd probably do well to pat them dry on a paper towel first, especially if you are making your sandwich to eat later in the day. We were split on the pickles; I found them very sweet, my partner thinks that substituting actual sweet pickles is the way to go.

Entrée: Innocent Frittata by Scott Turow
Scott Turow is another author whose books I haven't read (yet), but I've always wanted to try my hand at a frittata. The fact that Turow's recipe includes information on how the frittata could be used as a murder weapon just makes it even more delicious.

This was the most complicated of the recipes we tried, but even so it only took about 40 minutes from start to finish to put together. Rather like a quiche with no crust, this is a solid base recipe that opens itself up to endless variations.

The Verdict: We liked it! Seriously, my "dramatic" picture doesn't do it justice. My partner in crime didn't even mind the artichoke hearts (he's not a fan, but I love them, so we compromised and halved the amount called for). The only other change I'd make is to use fresh, rather than canned, mushrooms.

Overall, I highly recommend that anyone who loves food and mystery novels check out The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook to try their hand at some deviously delicious recipes! And if you happen to find yourself looking for even more recipes from mystery novelists, check out The Cozy Cookbook, which focuses on recipes by cozy mystery novelists.

~Sarah, Adult Services

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