Judy Alter is the author of three previous series—the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, Blue Plate Café Mysteries, and Oak Grove Mysteries. Irene in Danger is the second in her new Irene in Chicago Culinary Mysteries, Learn more about Judy and her books at her website. judyalter.com
A wedding in jeopardy and Salade Niçoise
Irene Foxglove is back in Chicago, Henny and Patrick are getting married in a week, there’s cocaine floating around, and someone wants to kill the diva chef. Once again, Irene brings murder and mayhem to those around her.
Henny spent a year as gofer for “Madame,” helped solve her husband’s murder and save her kidnapped daughter before Irene scooted off to the safety of France. Patrick thinks it charming of Irene to return for their wedding, but Henny believes, deep in her soul, that Irene will ruin the biggest day of her life, upstage the wedding couple, and perhaps force them to postpone the whole thing. Little does she know how right her instincts are.
Madame wants to cater the wedding. Henny has contracted with the head chef at the Palmer House Hotel for the small wedding dinner she wants. Desperate to distract Irene, she suggests a bridesmaids’ luncheon with Salade Niçoise, overlooking the fact that there are to be no bridesmaids. She’ll worry about that later.
Salade Niçoise is a composed salad built around tuna—in France, undoubtedly fresh tuna, but a high-quality, canned variety is perfectly acceptable. Henny likes to do it with canned albacore in olive oil.
Olives, green or ripe, are traditional, but Henny omits them because olives are on the short list of things she just doesn’t eat, along with bell peppers. If you like them, you may want to add strips, preferably of red peppers. Anchovies are a truly French contribution to the salad, and if you like them, they add a wonderful zing. Julia Child added an anchovy filet, twisted, on each hard-boiled egg quarter and scattered capers and chopped parsley on the finished salad.
The thing about this main-dish salad is you can create it to your taste. Choose the vegetables you prefer, but with an eye to color and appearance. Suggestions include tiny baby potatoes (peeled, boiled, and cut in quarters, if necessary), haricot vert (those tiny French green beans), thinly sliced small red onion or green onions, parboiled baby carrots, artichoke hearts quartered, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes Henny adds tender, young asparagus spears if in season. She believes in simplicity—too many vegetables spoil the presentation.
Pour a little dressing over the potatoes when they are warm—they’ll absorb it better. Each vegetable and the tuna should be seasoned with a little dressing before becoming part of the arrangement. Lay out the vegetables and tuna in an attractive pattern, either on a platter or individual plates, on a bed of lettuce. Some cooks group ingredients; others prefer a more casual arrangement. Pour any remaining dressing over. If you need another batch of dressing, make it. You don’t want soup, but you don’t want a dry salad.
Vinaigrette is the traditional dressing for Salade Niçoise. Here’s the one Henny frequently uses (enough for two individual salads):
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
And for the wedding dinner? Passed hors d’oeuvres, pear and Brie salad, Lobster Thermidor, and chocolate mousse cake.
Irene in Danger
An Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery, Book 2
Irene Foxglove is back in Chicago, Henny and Patrick are getting married in a week, there’s cocaine floating around, and someone wants to kill the diva chef. With one week until her wedding, Henny James is convinced Irene’s arrival from France will ruin the biggest day of her life. One week to save Irene from the trouble she brings with her and save the wedding.