Carrot Noir

Aug 14, 2012
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Whenever I drive through Monrovia, I can’t help but smile as I think about the hard boiled novelist Raymond Chandler living there with his wife in a sweet little bungalow. (Yes, it’s true. Chandler lived in Monrovia!) I always wondered what they cooked in that sunny kitchen while Philip Marlowe’s dark fate waited on a blank sheet of paper in Chandler’s typewriter? (Angel food cake, perhaps?)

Author and smart aleck Mark Crick gives us a better idea in his fantastic book Kafke’s Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes. All the recipes in Crick’s book are delightful, but I am partial to the one included below. Okay, wise guys. Let’s eat:
Lamb with Dill Sauce (à la Raymond Chandler)

1kg lean leg of lamb, cut into large chunks

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, cut into sticks

1 tablespoon crushed dill seeds, or 3-4 sprigs fresh dill

1 bay leaf

12 peppercorns

Half a teaspoon salt

850ml chicken stock

50g butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 egg yolk

3 tablespoons cream

2 teaspoons lemon juice

I sipped on my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved. I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat. I wanted them to boil slowly, just about as slowly as anything can boil. An hour and a half and a half-pint of bourbon later they weren’t so tough and neither was I. I separated the meat from the vegetables and covered it. The knife was still in my hand but I couldn’t hear any sirens.

In this town the grease always rises to the top, so I strained the juice and skimmed off the fat. I added more water and put it back on the heat. It was time to deal with the butter and flour, so I mixed them together into a paste and added it to the stock. There wasn’t a whisk, so using my blackjack I beat out any lumps until the paste was smooth. It started to boil, so I let it simmer.

I roughed up the egg yolk and cream and mixed in some of the hot sauce before putting the lot back into the pan. I put the squeeze on a lemon and it soon juiced. It was easy. It was much too easy, but I knew if I let the sauce boil the yolk was gonna scramble.

By now I was ready to pour the sauce over the meat and serve, but I wasn’t hungry. The blonde hadn’t showed. She was smarter than I thought. I went outside to poison myself, with cigarettes and whisky.

–Mark Crick

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