This latest novel, Black Diamond, (that I've read as yet) of Martin Walker's mystery series, "of the French Countryside", was another winner. I really enjoyed all the information regarding truffles, that elusive and tempting fungi (especially for someone living in Hawaii). His hero, Bruno, Chief of Police in a smallish town, also shares with me a delight in growing things for his kitchen. Only a small village policeman would be able to keep chickens, a vegetable garden, truffle oaks, and go hunting with his friends. He does all that, as well as butchering his catch, hanging up the herbs to dry and ham to cure, not to mention coaching rugby to the town kids and teaching tennis. What a guy!
All of which add immensely to the plot, especially a particularly wonderful description of the wake dinner he prepares for a murdered friend, his truffle growing mentor and hunt club buddy. The tradition is to fix food for a grand send-off, using meat that the friends have hunted together. In this case, it was the venison, truffles and more.
Chief Bruno's venison casserole, with sausage, mushrooms, shallots, wine, etc. is brought to a simmer, herbs are added, and then the pot is nestled into a hay box, topped with a thick bed of hay and left for the remainder of the day. A perfectly splendid, rustic slow cooker, I'd say. I did mine in my Le Creuset.
He also prepares a soup with turnips, leeks and potatoes, stock, cream and herbs from the garden, all topped before serving with grated black diamond truffle. For dessert he makes Crème brûlée, infused with black truffles. There are full descriptions of all the preparations, mixed in with police action, conversations with other inspectors, a rugby game and his own musings on the crime's solution.
As the flyleaf states: "Something dangerous is afoot in St. Denis. In the space of a few weeks, the normally sleepy village sees attacks on Vietnamese vendors, arson at a local Asian restaurant, subpar truffles from China smuggled into outgoing shipments at a nearby market -- all of it threatening the Dordogne's truffle trade, worth millions of dollars each year, and all of it spelling trouble for Benoit "Bruno" Courreges, master chef, devoted oenophile, and most important, beloved chief of police. When one of his hunting partners, a noted truffle expert, is murdered, Bruno's investigation into the murky events unfolding around St. Denis becomes infinitely more complicated." A very satisfying read, highly recommended.
His hunter's casserole inspired one of my own. Bruno's had sausage, shallots and mushrooms (of course he forages for and dries his own) as well as the venison they had hunted, but no beans. Not having venison, I thought mine might include a nice Bratwurst sausage, apples, some duck sausage meat a friend gave us, butter beans, shallots and mushrooms. Had they been in season, I would have used guavas instead of the apples, for a more locavore touch. This is a pretty flexible recipe.
1/2 lb. bratwurst, sliced 1/4" thick (I used Pederson's organically raised and prepared)
Note: if you do have venison, that would make it even more authentic, add cubes to the hot fat and brown
l/2 cup lardons, or 1/2" chunks pork belly or thick bacon
1/4 lb. duck sausage (or other) crumbled
4 tablespoons duck fat
4 shallots, peeled and halved
1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks
4 mushrooms, cut into thick slices
3 largish cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 slices from a baguette, crumbled
1 cup red wine (approx.)
15 oz. can butter (or other white) beans (or cook your own up ahead)
Herbs: 4 sprigs thyme; 2 bay leaves; salt and pepper; 1/4 cup parsley
Prep all your ingredients, and heat a casserole pot on medium high. Toss in the lardons or bacon and when rendered a bit, add some duck fat (or other), the sliced sausage, crumbled sausage, shallots, apples, garlic, mushrooms and herbs. Simmer for about 1/2 hour, then add in the bread crumbs, wine and beans. Simmer for another 15 minutes and serve, topped with the parsley.
My post will be sent over to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event. Be sure to visit for lots of cooking and reading ideas. Or, if you'd like to join in with your own post, of something food related, please do.