Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food for the Soul

Please welcome guest blogger Dean (Miranda) James to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

In my “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries the amateur sleuth Charlie Harris is fortunate to have a housekeeper, Azalea Berry, who not only keeps his house in great shape but also cooks wonderful Southern food. Azalea intimidates Charlie a bit – she intimidates most people a bit, actually – and she doesn’t seem all that fond of Diesel, Charlie’s Maine Coon cat and constant companion. Despite this one defect, however, Charlie accords Azalea considerable respect.

The only downside to Azalea’s cooking, Charlie discovers, is the tendency for his waistline to expand. Old-fashioned Southern cooking isn’t precisely cholesterol-conscious or “lite” anything. If it were it wouldn’t taste so darn wonderful.

In the latest book in the series, Out of Circulation, Azalea plays a bigger role than she has in previous books. She’s a murder suspect, and that complicates everything, since it’s her own daughter, Kanesha Berry, who is the official homicide investigator in Athena, Mississippi, where the series is set. Once again Kanesha has to accept help from Charlie, because they both know Azalea wouldn’t have committed murder – no matter how much she despised the victim.

Azalea’s Can’t-Fail Country Fried Steak with Gravy

1 tenderized round steak (per person, or cut into smaller portions if desired)
2 beaten eggs
1/8 cup milk (2 tablespoons)
salt/pepper/garlic powder

3 tablespoons flour


Season meat, cut into serving size.  Place a cup or so of flour into one shallow bowl and mix in salt, garlic and pepper to taste.  (Note: for a spicier taste, use a touch of cayenne).  In a second bowl beat the 2 eggs and add milk.  Mix them together.  Dip meat in flour, then in egg mixture, then in flour a second time.  Shake off any excess flour.  Fry in cast iron pan with about 1/4 to 2 inch of  heated oil.  (Note: make sure the pan is hot enough to fry but not too hot to burn the oil.)  Cook until meat is done and coating is a deep golden brown.

Next you make the milk gravy by using 3 tablespoons of the grease used to fry the steak and add 3 tablespoons of flour, mix well and add milk to the consistency of gravy you like.

Add some homemade biscuits, green beans and iced tea, and you have a great Southern meal.


Dean (aka Miranda) James is the New York Times Bestselling author of the "Cat in the Stacks" series. He is a medical librarian by day and kills people for fun and profit in his so-called "spare" time. He has two cats, way too many books, and wishes he could play bridge more often.


  1. Sounds delish Dean! I'd love one of those biscuits right now for breakfast. Does Azalea make biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast? that's one of the things I miss about the south!

  2. This sounds so good, Dean! Especially the milk gravy. Wouldn't it be nice to have a housekeeper like Azalea? Well, maybe not the intimidating part! Great picture of you!


  3. I thought Maine Coon cats had long(ish) fur. The picture on the cover shows a cat with short hair. He does look properly large, however.

    1. Libby, you are correct. I argued with the art department over the cover cat, and guess who won? At least he's a very handsome kitty!

    2. Ah, yes, art departments. Let's not have reality interfere. And I say this as an artist myself. Just seems like cover accuracy should be allowed.

  4. Lucy/Roberta and Krista, thanks! It is delish! Azalea does make biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, as mother did. Wonderfully fattening...

  5. Delighted to see you in the Kitchen, Dean (Miranda). Marc and I love Charlie and Diesel. You're so right about Southern dishes. They are such a treat--and, yes, a bit of a guilty pleasure. Marc is a sucker for country fried steak, and once I get my first taste from his fork, well, I have to admit, I want to eat the whole dang plate! While we've eaten it at restaurants, we've never made it at home, which means this one's going into our keeper file. Thanks to you (and Azalea) for sharing it, and continued congrats on the success of your fabulous Cat in the Stacks series!

  6. Lovely to have you here, Miranda (Dean) :)

    Can't wait to read the latest in Charlie's adventures.


    Your other "brother" Daryl. :)

  7. I love Country Fried Steak, your recipe sounds so good! =)

    I have several of your books on my to be read shelf, they sound great!