Wednesday, March 19, 2008

murder with a culinary twist

What's the best way to get rid of a murder weapon?

A. Throw it into a very large, very deep body of water.
(Recommended for firearms.)
B. Clean it well and hide it in plain sight.
(Not recommended for firearms.)
C. Use a giant icicle to commit the murder.
(It'll melt away with no trace.)
D. Roast at 325F for twenty minutes per pound.
(Serve medium rare.)

Although options A through C have probably all cropped up on the trashy crime procedural television shows I won't confess to watching, it is option D that is embraced by the main character in my inspiration for the Spring 2008 edition of Novel Food.

Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a devilishly dark, clever tale of how a police detective's wife gets away with murder. I won't give you all the details (you can find the story here), but let's say that you'll never look at a leg of lamb quite the same way again.

The menu presented in "Lamb" consists of roast leg of lamb, tinned peas, Idaho potatoes, and a storebought slice of cheesecake. Using this basic menu as a guide, I prepared roast leg of lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary, frozen peas with mint and olive oil, classic mashed potatoes, and a simple lemon cheesecake. I had vegetarians in attendance, so I also added leek tart to the menu.

I have dim recollections of my mother trying to prepare roast lamb when I was a child, but this was the first time I ever tried it myself. I used a fairly small bone-in roast, weighing around two and a half pounds. I seasoned the lamb with salt and black pepper, rubbed it with olive oil, and stuck it all over with slivers of garlic before tucking sprigs of rosemary into the string around the roast.

Google and conventional cookbooks all offered similar advice for cooking: fifteen minutes at 400F, then twenty minutes per pound at 325F, for a total cooking time of one hour and five minutes. The meat came out more medium well than medium, but it was moist and tender, so I'm not complaining. This is the roast in the oven, along with the leek tarts:


I'm afraid we were all very hungry by the time the food was ready, so no-one remembered to take more pictures until we'd already started eating. Clockwise from the fork: mashed potatoes, peas, lamb, leek tart, fresh crusty bread.


Fortunately, we were better about remembering to take photos of the cheesecake. I think there's something almost retro about this one:


But I won't make any jokes about fifties housewives. We've seen what happens when you piss them off.

Lemon Cheesecake

I like my cheesecake dense and not too sweet. This one is perfumed with lemon zest, and the almond extract makes for an interesting change from the standard vanilla.

(Serves one, for a week.)

Preheat oven to 350F.

First, the crust. Take one package of Lorna Doones or some similar shortbread-like cookie, put them in a Ziploc bag, and whale on them with a rolling pin until they've been properly pulverized. This is excellent stress relief if you've had a long, frustrating day.

Mix the crumbs with half a stick of melted butter. Press into an eight-inch pie pan and bake for ten to fifteen minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, take twelve ounces (a block and a half) of cream cheese at room temperature and pull the blocks into small pieces. It sounds odd, but it'll almost tear into neat chunks. Drop them into a food processor and add two-thirds of a cup of sugar and the zest from one lemon. Pulse for a few minutes, until the cheese and the sugar have made a grainy mess. Then add one egg and a few drops of almond extract, and leave the machine on until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon into crust. Bake for twenty-five minutes, or until filling puffs up slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Chill in fridge for at least one hour before serving. Fruit compote makes a good accompaniment, but if you'd rather emphasize the lemony quality of the cheesecake, you can mix up a thin glaze with fresh lemon juice and a little icing sugar.

22 comments:

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Everything you make sounds fantastic. I think you should bring leftovers for the class.

adele said...

Uh-oh. How did I get caught?

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Law students are crafty.

adele said...

I guess I'm going to have to start watching what I write.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Oh god, please don't. I sure won't.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

But now you have to update more often because this property class is so boring. Reading each other's blogs i all we've got.

adele said...

I thought Scrabulous was the default activity.

Googie Baba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Virgin In The Volcano said...

It was, but I fear I can no longer play anymore scrabulous, scramble, or spider.

Googie Baba said...

I deleted my comment when Virgin (virgin my foot) pointed out my spelling error. Just ignore me. I'm an idiot.

adele said...

Uh-oh. More people?

adele said...

This exchange may need to move away from Blogger. The comment thread is getting a little ridiculous.

Ann said...

So back on topic... :-)

Loved your post (and the story, Dahl is the best!). It does rather change the way I think of leg of lamb, but it won't stop me from eating it.

adele said...

It's a great story, isn't it? I remember reading somewhere that grew out of a discussion Dahl had with another author about which items in his freezer would make good murder weapons. :)

Karyn said...

I love that you used that Roald Dahl story!

I adore his adult fiction, though I think his children's books might be a tad more frightening. The Witches? With a boy who becomes a mouse and think it's great because he won't outlive his Granny? Weird.

Simona said...

This is a really fun read, perfect for a Monday morning. It certainly made me want to read the story. I really like the way you describe the recipe. I guess a rolling pin as a weapon would be dealt with under option B. Thanks for participating in our event.

adele said...

Yep, rolling pins probably fall into option B. Thank you for hosting!

Lisa said...

Oh, this is wonderful. I must read that story ASAP. Very intriguing. Your lamb, the tarts, the cheesecake—they all look delicious (and not a bit death-inducing, except maybe by pleasure!). I'd like to try that lemon cheesecake recipe.

Thanks much for this fun addition to our event. I love it when I find out about interesting new things to read. Look for our next event in June, and again I apologize for Gmail's dumping of your message into my SPAM folder—grrr.

adele said...

Oh, Gmail. I guess "basil queen" may have been just statistically unlikely enough to catch the spam filter's attention.

Roald Dahl's short stories are a lot of fun. A bit dark and twisted, though...

librariane said...

Fantastic! I've mostly just read Dahl's children's stories, and think this short story is quite clever (and yes, not as dark as some of the kid's stuff--have you read The Twits?). You even made the whole meal that was mentioned in the story!

Anonymous said...

I swear there is an episode of Alfred Hitchcock that has that same plot. It terrified me when I was little.

adele said...

There is. Hitchcock adapted it for TV.