Category Food Writing

Game of Thrones Style Memorial Day Feast

Summer unofficially kicks off with the celebration of Memorial Day. Beaches and pools are open, the weather (generally speaking) starts to cooperate, and grilling related commercials dominate television. For the first time, we can actually say that “winter is NOT coming.” No celebration would be complete without ample food and drink, but sometimes we’d rather just skip the menu planning and move onto the part where we devour delicious food in between the clinking of glasses.

This year, we’re going to try and make your party planning easier, by designing a feast suitable for any party celebrating the beginning of the summer season. And when planning a feast, where else would we take inspiration from than Game of Thrones?  What does George RR Martin’s epic have to do with Memorial Day? Nothing, but who says  we can’t celebrate both? Also, considering what is on the horizon for that show, we may all need a bit of a pick me up afterward.

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Cook’s Recipe: Beer Braised Pork Tacos

The mood in the Thespian Hall is raucous. Another long Athasian day has ended, and the merchants and adventurers finally taking shelter from the oppressive heat are restless. Atrix dodges back and forth among the tables, refilling ales and trying to settle customers who claw at her, some of them literally. The drink will only sustain them for so long, Atrix retreats to the kitchen to find her father curiously doting over several large pots.

“Father, we’ve no food to serve. You said the bounty was great this evening, but nothing’s left the kitchen all day.” Her father holds up a hand. “Peace Atrix. The world – well, what’s left of it – isn’t going anywhere, and sometimes glory comes to those with patience.” As he speaks he extracts a long fork from one of the pots and begins shredding a gargantuan slab of meat. The juices flow off of it as the meat falls to pieces, the smell of spice and ale wafting up to Atrix’s nose. Her father smiles,”Time, a stout fire, and the finest cuts of mekillot in Balic are all we need to quell the hunger of the masses. Come, bring the platters and don’t forget the sauces! The Elven chiles were especially fresh…”

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Cook’s Recipe: Green Chile Crema

My love for green chiles is well documented. And while using them as a topping for everything from a cheeseburger to eggs Benedict is great, eventually you start looking for more creative ways to incorporate them. Enter, the crema – a term for a cream based sauce that is generally the consistency of thin yogurt. It usually involves steeping or cooking various flavors in a base of heavy cream.

In this case we’ll be using green chiles, which work fantastically in a crema because the cream and the heat from the chiles balance each other nicely. You’ll still get the heat from the peppers, but then immediately the refreshing cool of the cream.

Remember, dairy counterattacks Capsaicin really well because of the fat molecules. Add in a few more flavors to round things out and you’ve got the perfect green chile delivery system. It also acts as a nice ying and yang with a good barbeque sauce.

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Cook’s Recipe: Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

I really like to try and make everything from scratch. It isn’t feasible with every ingredient, but things like barbeque sauce are really simple. I’ve had plenty of great sauces, but being able to craft a specific flavor profile for a dish just gives you so much more control as a cook.

This sauce is based around the chipotle pepper, a smoked and dried pepper that has decent heat, but also a rich savory flavor brought on by the smoking process. I’m particularly fond of it because it isn’t just a one note pepper, there to deliver spice.

The end result of this recipe is a smooth sauce with a good tang, the right balance of sweetness and enough heat to provide some bite, but not overwhelm. It really complements cooling ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise or a nice crema. The sauce has limitless applications, but I enjoy it most as a topping for braised pork, or with a burger.

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The Cook’s Method: Homemade Green Chiles and Feeling the Burn

I absolutely love green chiles. I don’t know what it is, I don’t remember when it started, but anytime I can have green chiles added to a dish, I jump at the chance. I’m particularly fond of them as a cheeseburger topping, and I’ll never understand why more establishments don’t offer them as a standard burger topping. Green chiles are a fantastic delivery for heat and spice, as well as a variety of textures depending on how they are prepared and served.

Yet, green chiles are one of those ingredients that we often use pre-prepared, when making them at home is actually unbelievably simple. Scratch cooking in general often can seem like a daunting task. The thought of creating an ingredient just to be used in a dish can often feel like you’re over-complicating things, but when the opportunity presents itself it should be embraced, not avoided.

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Two Little Red Hens Bakery: Grown Up Cupcakes

I decided I was finally an adult the day I realized that I could eat cupcakes for dinner. And not just any cupcakes, but the best red velvet cupcakes in New York City, or anywhere else as far as I’m concerned, from Two Little Red Hens.

Working long hours and late nights in financial services meant that meals were pushed off entirely, or relegated to a quick snack to be shoveled in mercilessly between spreadsheet updates. On one especially arduous evening, I forewent dinner, in hopes of getting home earlier. Weary, but back uptown I passed Two Little Red Hens and decided that tonight, I would sup on cupcakes.

After all, I had a job, two degrees, and I paid my rent on time. One bite into a sumptuous red velvet cupcake, and the day’s events washed away. For a brief moment, all was right with the world. I knew, in that moment, that a cupcake can indeed be therapy. A cupcake can indeed make the world a better place.

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Origin Story: Boston Cream Pie from the Omni Parker House

I’m a big fan of trying to find the original versions of popular foods. Not necessarily because the original will always be better, but because it provides great perspective on how a dish has evolved over time. Some dishes have been around so long, and gone through so many permutations that chasing down the “original” would be difficult for anyone who isn’t a food historian.  Also, it’s just cool to be able to say that you’ve had the original hamburger, or visited the original Nathan’s hot dog stand, or that you ate pizza from the country’s oldest pizza oven.

So you can imagine my excitement, this past Christmas, when my sister showed up with the original Boston Cream Pie in tow. One of my favorite desserts it was certainly a staple of my college years in Boston, but somehow I had never actually gotten around to eating it at the place it was invented – The Parker House in Boston. I have no excuse, but luckily that mistake has now been rectified. I’ll get into whether or not it was worth all the fuss, but first a tiny history lesson.

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An Unexpected Party: the Feast

Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and then Bilbo remembered! He rushed and put on the kettle, and put out another cup and saucer, and an extra cake or two, and ran to the door.

“I am so sorry to keep you waiting!” he was going to say, when he saw that it was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark green hood.

Hobbits love food and we at Castles and Cooks are huge fans of both food and the Hobbit, so we’re pouncing on this opportunity to make some recipes that Bilbo Baggin’s would approve of. When the dwarves overtook Bag End that day, Bilbo did all he could to continue their never ending feast.

In the span of a chapter, Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves devoured all they could including eggs, scones, mincepies, roasted chicken, pickles, sausages, cheese, bread, tea, ale, beer, porter, coffee, red wine and more! Many of those are simple enough to make or buy (scones were one of our first recipes). But three of them felt worthy of their own new recipes.

If you’re looking for a complete Hobbit feast, you’ll have to wait until after the movie where we will dissect the whole scene, but until Friday: eat, drink and be merry.

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Kickstarter Round-Up Epic Kitchen Edition: A Sword-Pan & Horn Goblet

Usually when we do Kickstarter rounds up, it is for great looking board games. This week though, we’re going to the kitchen for two that I automatically pledged my support for.

Combat Kitchenware

Status: Funded!
End date: December 13, 2012
Minimum Pledge to get it: $45 for a pan
Expected release date:  January 2013

What is it: A frying pan with a sword handle. And it it’s dishwasher safe! IT IS A SWORD-PAN!

Why you should pledge: What part of IT IS A SWORD-PAN didn’t you understand? I originally thought our Baker’s battle-whisk and our Chef’s frying pan buckler were good, but a sword-frying-pan? That is absolutely absurd but so incredibly perfect.

If you don’t want a Teflon coated pan, stainless steel and cast iron are available – and there are two different handles to pick from: the hero and the villain. As a project, I give them my highest praise: I wish I had thought of this.

As an added bonus, there are a limited number of cast iron Christmas pans available for a holiday release.

Das Horn: the Definitive Drinking Horn

Status: Funded!
End date: December 12, 2012
Minimum Pledge to get it: $35
Expected release date: February 2013

What is it: a plastic horn goblet with a stainless steel rim

Why you should pledge: I can’t be the only one who wants to be a viking. While I regularly feel like I was born in the wrong century, this is  the kind of chalice that deserves to be in your kitchen. Besides the fact that it holds almost two beverages (and it is shaped like a horn), it’s genius in its execution. Oh, and it comes with a neck strap since you can’t set it down.

With enough support, it will also include a display stand that will make this an epic accessory on your mantle. So go pledge your support!

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Library Review: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Cookbooks are a weird business. How can you tell when one is good? Is it because the recipes are new and innovative or because the directions actually make sense? It gets even weirder when cookbooks are inspired by works of fantasy. But that didn’t stop The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook from seeing print.

Long time readers of Castles and Cooks know we’ve dabbled in our own Harry Potter inspired recipes, like Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer. So when I received this book as a gift, I was quite excited to open it up and discover what secrets it held – especially in comparison to my own recipes! Would their Butterbeer be similar to mine or a completely different take?

That’s when the first realization of this book sunk in: this book takes almost every mention of food from the Harry Potter series and has recipes for them. But that includes the most mundane and muggle recipes, like mashed parsnips, buttered peas and fried eggs with bacon. These aren’t the recipes I’m after – how would you cook a blast-ended skrewet? Or what about all those fantastical ice cream flavors at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour? Hell, one of the recipes is just crispy fried bacon. While another recipe is a gammon of bacon and another is scrambled eggs with bacon. I love bacon, but how many different times do I need to see it?

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