Police procedurals have never been my cup of tea. I much prefer a cozy type mystery with an amateur sleuth such as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. However, because I am presently into an all-things-Paris mood, I couldn’t pass an opportunity to read a culinary mystery set in that city, even if it is a police procedural.
Capucine Le Tellier is a papa’s girl, coming from a bourgeois Parisian upper-class family, married to a high-profile gourmet and restaurant reviewer (who ostensibly sports the same name as the book’s author), she could have a glamorous life, just as her husband repeatedly tells her, full of caviar and comfort, but chooses instead the dark world of “la crim” in the streets of Paris.
|Jacques Le Divellec and his lobster press|
The plot is no short of red-herrings in this novel, sometimes too many of them, which made it necessary to do a second reading. It will also prove definitely useful to have a map of Paris at hand, as a car chase through the Bois de Boulogne and into Paris’s chic 7ème arrondissement take the reader into a frenzy of streets and roundabouts.
Capuccine’s investigation is dizzying to say the least, and the book does not offer many culinary options, as I would have expected in a culinary mystery. Mainly, the victim dies of saxitoxin, a poison found in spoiled shellfish that causes paralytic death. The medium were, apparently, oysters, which were served in the form of a sorbet in-between meals to Prèsident Delage during his last dinner at Diapason.
|Perrier-Jouët champagne is ideal to accompany oysters. It has a hint of fruityness without being totally dry.|
Ingredients for 20 oysters:
· 3.5 oz finely chopped shallots
· 1 Tbsp. of butter
· 2/3 cup crème fraîche
· Freshly ground white pepper
· ½ tsp. curry
· 1 Tbsp brandy
Shack open the oysters (preserving the water), leaving them in the lower half of the shell and
discarding the other half. Put the shallots with the water from the oysters in a pan, add butter and reduce by half.
Heat the broiler.
Add the crème fraîche to the sauce, season with white pepper, curry and brandy. Reduce by a third while stirring.
Yet another option to serve oysters had me a bit skeptical at first I must admit, due to its slightly Mexican twist. After all, anything Mexican means spices and chili, something oysters shy away from. However, I need not have worried. The Aleppo chile just adds the necessary hint of flavor without being spicy, and the chile oil rounds up a mouthful of soft vinegary flavor that washes away the day’s worries.
Oysters with saffron-pickled cucumbers and Aleppo:
Ingredients for a dozen oysters:
· 1 cup white wine vinegar
· 1 cup water
· 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
· 1 Tbsp. Himalayan pink salt
· 2 tps granulated sugar
· ½ English cucumber, two opposite sides peeled and cucumber sliced into ⅛-inch strips, stacked and then sliced crosswise into ⅛-inch matchsticks
· 2 pinches saffron threads
· 2 tps. finely chopped fresh dill
· 2 cups coarse salt or coloured gravel
· ½ teaspoon Aleppo chile
· Chile oil