The Patriarch is the tenth book (in a series of twelve so far) of a popular mystery series set in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. The main character serves as Chief of Police of a small town called St. Denise. Benoit Courreges--called Bruno--is 40-ish, a former soldier and very into food and cooking in between and around solving crime in his town and region. In this book the mystery involves the supposed murder of a guest at a birthday party for one of Bruno's childhood heroes, a former World War II flyer known as "the Patriarch." Although the death is at first written off as an accident, Bruno has his suspicions that the death of this longtime friend of the Patriarch was not accidental and there seems to be some collusion and cover up going on within the Patriarch's family and involving the dead man's Soviet ties. There is also a subplot of a local woman 'hoarding' wild deer on her property, along with relationship challenges for Bruno to deal with.
It took me a long while to start and get into The Patriarch, probably because I have a "thing" about not reading series books out of order and with this being the tenth book, there was no way I was going to fit the previous books into my reading schedule. I like to have the characters' back stories and nuances and to see relationships unfold--especially when there are many characters to keep track of, as there often are in police procedural mysteries. Add to that the complexity of understanding the hierarchy and roles of the French police and justice systems--there is some explanation of the roles in the book but I still found it a bit confusing to keep track of who was who and who did what. Once I did get clicking along in the story, I enjoyed it and I can see why my co-host Claudia likes these books and Bruno. The food descriptions are good and made me long for a trip to the French countryside. It's hard to resist a man who cooks as well as Bruno appears to and although he has his flaws, he is a character who is both interesting and likable. The other characters are not as deeply drawn or explored in this single book and the ending was a bit too abrupt for me--I wanted more details, motivations of different characters, and a longer wrap-up, especially given I had the perpetrator pegged from the beginning of the book. But overall, I did like the book and would look to going back to the start of the series if I can work them in and my library has them available.
There is quite a lot of food to be found in The Patriarch--Bruno is a foodie, cook, maker of homemade pâté and jams, hunter, and wine connoisseur--among other things and food descriptions heavily pepper the book--my favorite part of reading it. Mentions included lamb with Monbazillac wine, rosemary and mint, smoked trout with horseradish and cream, Rillettes de Canard (duck pâté), roast chicken, petits pois (peas) with carrots, crème brûlée, lasagna, omelette, smoked salmon, foie gras, flammkuchen (a pizza-like tart from Alsace), tomato-basil and lettuce and chives salads, croissants and coffee, pickled mushrooms, cream of mushroom, cold vegetable and carrot-ginger soups, homemade raspberry jam, fish pie with mashed potatoes and cheese, pavlova with hazelnut meringue, citron presse, steak frites, pizza, wild boar with herbs, baked potatoes, bread, venison, enchaud de porc with Pommes de Terre Sarladaises (potatoes with garlic and duck fat) shaved truffles, and a picnic spread of a whole salmon, ham, salads, cheese, lobster tails and claws.
Reading about a lunch Bruno attends, "It's a simple lunch, salade Nicoise, bread, cheese, and fruit." (sounds pretty perfect to me) I was soon craving a Nicoise salad. It's one of my favorite composed salads (here's an Indian-inspired ahi version I made and loved) and I love the grilled ahi tuna Nicoise that Nordstrom Cafe serves. I was going to go with an Ina Garten recipe that included grilled tuna and a potato salad on the plate but then I saw her Roasted Salmon Nicoise Platter and knew I wanted to make it. Towards the end of the book, a whole salmon makes an appearance and Bruno seems to be open to adaptations to classic foods if they taste good, so it seemed like a good choice.
Ina's recipe feeds twelve but I cut down the recipe to feed 3 or 4--giving me enough for leftovers. In addition to the salmon fillet (I splurged on a piece of extra oily and delicious New Zealand King Salmon), I grabbed an ahi fillet (not shown) to cook the next day and change up my leftovers. Since I was working with just one salmon fillet, I pan-seared it instead of roasting. I love the blackened crust the marinade gives--which when cooked right and not over-cooked, yields a buttery moist interior. So delicious.
Salmon Nicoise Platter
Very Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten via FoodNetwork.com
4 lemons, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lbs skin-on fresh salmon fillets
3 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 pounds haricots verts, stems removed
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (6 small tomatoes) (I used cherry tomatoes)
12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
1 bunch watercress or arugula (I used arugula)
1/2 pound large green olives, pitted
1 can anchovies, optional (I omitted & used anchovy-stuffed green olives)
1/4 cup champagne vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil (I used mac nut oil)
For the marinade, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, mustard, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 tablespoon pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the salmon on a sheet pan that has been covered in aluminum foil, and drizzle the marinade over the salmon. Allow the salmon to sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in thick slices and set aside.
Place the salmon in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it is almost cooked through. Remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and break into large pieces. (Note: I marinated the salmon as directed then cooked it in a pan on the stove with a bit of mac nut oil, searing the outside and cooking it until not quite cooked through.)
Blanch the haricots verts in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Drain again and set aside.
For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Set aside.
Arrange the salmon, potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes, eggs, watercress, olives and anchovies, if used, on a large flat platter. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.
Notes/Results: This salad is delicious--simple but full of color, flavor and texture and it is visually stunning--always a bonus. Ina's marinade went well with the salmon--giving it a nice lemony flavor. There's a bit of prep involved with putting together this salad but it is not hard and things (like the hard boiled eggs) can be prepared ahead of time. Ina recommends pairing this platter with a Chardonnay but I like a crisper, fruity wine with the oily fish and served it with a crisp Pinot Gris. I did buy baguette to serve with the salad but I forgot about it for the pictures. Also, since the entire salad wasn't going to be consumed in one sitting, I didn't drizzle the vinaigrette over the platter, just served it on the side to pour over the individual plates. I was happy with the way this turned out and would happily make it again.
The deadline for this round is on Thursday, November 30th and Claudia will be rounding up the entries on the CTB site soon after. If you missed this round and love food, books, and foodie books, join us for when we will be Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.
And I'm linking it up a bunch of places: ;-)
This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs our theme is A Table To Be Thankful For--Ina Garten dishes that we would be happy and thankful to have on any table. Check out the picture links on the post to see what everyone made.
And it's my eleventh entry for Foodie Reads 2017. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.
I'm also linking it up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Finally, it's a salad so I am linking up to Souper Sundays--hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.