Reader-created – Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Thoughts:

A while back I asked followers on Facebook to take a look at the compilation of food words from the Song of Ice and Fire series, and construct their own plausible Westerosi dish. Everyone then voted on their favorites, and there were two clear winners: Rita’s “Spiced Orange & Saffron Cakes bathed in sweet wine syrup and served with a refreshing lemon cream” and Ann’s “Roasted mushrooms stuffed with Caramelized onions, sausage, goat cheese and nuts” As promised, I’ve taken a crack at turning those descriptions into real dishes. First up is the stuffed mushroom recipe… It was declared in the kitchen by Mr. Innkeep (who can be horribly honest-to-a-fault), that these were possibly the best stuffed mushrooms he’d ever had. Not entirely believing him, despite all prior experience with his truthfulness, I popped a small one in my mouth to test it myself. He was right. They’re wonderful. The texture is mostly soft, with the occasional crunch of a bit of nut. The goat cheese’s tanginess is a flavorful counterpart to the buttery sausage and mushroom elements. A tinge of bitterness from the remaining beer is not a bad thing because the sweetness of the onions is there to balance it. So many complimentary ingredients come together to create this delicious snack that is gone far too quickly after coming out of the oven. My only remaining question: Where in Westeros do you think we would find this dish? I feel it belongs somewhere with forests, but it would be fun to see it someplace from which we’ve gotten little or no food descriptions, like the Stormlands, or somewhere in the Westerlands. Thoughts? Also, I’ll be recapping this fun experiment, so take a look at that word-cloud, and save up some great suggestions!

Recipe for Ann’s “Roasted Mushrooms stuffed with Caramelized Onions, Sausage, Goat Cheese and Nuts”

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. button mushrooms
  • ~1/2 cup sausage meat (haggis also makes for phenomenal stuffed mushrooms)
  • 1-2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ~ 1/2 cup ale
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, plus a little extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts for this recipe)
  • hearty pinch of smoked salt
  • 1-2 tsp. chopped parsley

Start by removing the stems of the mushrooms and setting them aside. Place the mushroom caps on a lightly greased baking sheet, and chop the stems finely. In a skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until it’s browned and crumbly. Scoop the cooked sausage out and place in a bowl, leaving the grease in the pan. Turn the heat down to low, then add to the pan the shallots and garlic and let them cook in the oil. )If you are working with lean sausage, add a bit of the butter early.) When the onions are soft and a nice dark brown, pour in the ale. Let this mostly cook off, around 5 minutes, then add the butter and the chopped mushroom stems. Cook for another few minutes, then remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Gently spoon this mixture into the mushroom caps, pressing into each and heaping it up in the middle. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350F, and allow to cool slightly before devouring.

Cards Against the Realm

At this year’s premiere party, thanks to the suggestion of my friend Alix, our guests and I collaborated to create a Westeros-themed version of the hit game Cards Against Humanity. One of the coolest things about the original is that it is under a creative commons license, which means that the creators encourage sharing, playing, and adapting the game, so long as no profit is made.

Which is completely awesome, because it enabled us to play several uproarious rounds of our own version. When I mentioned this game on my premiere party blogpost, a number of you expressed hope that I would create a playable deck. I’ve finally gotten to it, and many of the cards are as funny as I remembered. Because it was a new game, we had on hand a bunch of blank cards, and everyone could write in their suggestions as we played, so the deck grew organically. I suggest you do the same, and once you have a good number of new card ideas, you can use this generator to make them.

In case you haven’t played before, here are the rules to the game. Basically, one player flips over a black card, on which is printed a sentence with at least one blank. All the other players choose the funniest card in their hands, and the winner gets a point. For example,

“In his next book, GRRM will spend 500 pages devoted to describing ______”

  • the truth about Jon and Sam
  • lemoncakes
  • her weight in sapphires
  • etc.

So there it is, in a nutshell. If you manage to fill in another whole page of these ideas, send me the pdf so I can combine it with those already here. Let’s build the greatest set of cards the North has ever seen!

*warning: some cards are vulgar- not for the timid and faint of heart!*

catr

 

Hotpie’s Wolf Bread, take two

Hotpie's wolf bread

Hotpie’s wolf bread, round two

Thoughts:

Alright. You remember last season, when Hotpie made this lumpy bread in the shape (ummm… sorta?) of a direwolf for Arya? That was a super cute moment that has now been topped by it’s own epilogue, in the form of a much prettier direwolf loaf:

HBO's wolfbread

Naturally, I had to update things. I got in touch with Karyn Booth, the food stylist for the show, for some tips. She told me that this version is more scone-like than bready, to help keep the dough from rising too much and spoiling the shape. Her ingredients included Irish brown soda flour, whole meal, baking powder, honey, and buttermilk. She also recommended a very sharp knife. Deliciously simple!

This version turns out basic and hearty, full of earthy, wheaty goodness. A little boring on its own, the rustic scone texture is perfect for a schmear of salted butter, or a nice dollop of honey.

I hope you enjoy this updated version!

 

 Hotpie’s Wolfbread, version 2

This recipe makes about 3 wolves. Form any leftover scraps into a biscuit shape and bake alongside the wolves- it will give you something to nibble while you admire your handiwork!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup coarse meal
  • 3 cups wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • 4 Tbs. honey
  • buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water, for the wash

Combine the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter. Stir in the honey, followed by the buttermilk, just enough at a time, until you have a nice soft workable dough. Roll out to around 1/2″ thickness, and carefully cut into the direwolf shape with a sharp knife. When you’re satisfied, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush all over with the beaten egg.

Bake at 350F for around 20 minutes, or until a lovely golden brown.

wolfbread template

Ramp Butter

ramp butter

Thoughts:

This was my first year foraging for ramps, and I have to admit that I’m hooked. The sheer number of tasty amazing things that can be done with them boggles the mind. My favorites so far, apart from this, are ramp grilled cheese and a ramp pesto with pasta and fiddleheads.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ramps are little wild leeks that grow in damp shady places in the spring, and have a smell and flavor somewhere between leeks and garlic. While they can be found on your own, folks often are somewhat loathe to share their foraging spots. Fortunately for me, a couple of neighbors were good enough to point me in the right direction. We trudged out into the woods with tall boots, buckets, and shovels. I gathered up a bunch of the little things, and headed for home.

This butter is wonderful. It helps preserve that wonderful pungent essence of springtime throughout the year, provided you freeze it well. The better the butter you start with, the more amazing this becomes. Enjoy it on anything savory for which you would normally employ butter. Personally, I think it’s incredible on warm biscuits, fresh from the oven.

Those skinny little ramps in the photo were all I had left for staging. Too small for eating, I’ve planted them in shady parts of the yard. With any luck, I’ll have my own ramp patch in a few years…

compound ramp butter, using wild-foraged ramps

Ramp Compound Butter Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful ramps
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • pinch of sea salt, if using unsalted butter

Clean your ramps, if wild foraged, by washing the dirt from them and peeling away any slimy outer skins, leaving the white shoots. Cut off the very bottom of the ramp, where the little roots stick out. Place your ramps in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them- this helps keep that nice green color. Let sit for about 20 seconds, then remove and pat dry.

Slice the ramps: I usually cut the green parts in slightly larger strips to give the butter some visual interest, but mince the white parts. You can eyeball the proportions. Add the prepared ramps in with the butter and salt, and mix until combined.

Divide the butter into several parts, roll in parchment paper, and place in a freezer bag. Slice off a small part at a time, and enjoy!

Walnut Pie

seriously, no photo could do justice to this pie...

seriously, no photo could do justice to this pie…

Thoughts:

I’ve decided that I’m going to make an effort to put more information in my blog posts, starting now. I’ll include a little about my process for developing the recipe, potential kitchen mishaps, and where applicable, historical tidbits.

With all my recipes, I begin by examining where in Westeros the dish appears. I then search for historical counterparts from our own world that seem to jive with what I know of the the dish’s origin, taking into account trade, climate, and so on. This dish was mentioned casually in episode 4.5 of the HBO show, but my ears perked up when I heard it. In this case, there is no visual, actual pie, so some extrapolating was in order.

In the show, the character Locke is the one who mentions it, saying they will “carve them up like walnut pie”. Locke is a northerner, apparently loyal to the Boltons. He is somewhat a reimagining of the book character Vargo Hoat, who hails all the way from Qohor.

So I had a bit of a conundrum. To make a pie that would be comfortable in a Northern hall, or something more exotic? In the end, I think I toed the line. Most recipes I found for walnut pie, including the historic ones, seemed to be a variation on pecan pie, with a sort of gooey caramel filling. Which I’m sure is delicious, but not especially interesting.

This pie is more like an enormous baklava, down to the flaky crust and syrup. Sweet and heavy, with spices that hint at a foreign flavor, it’s wonderful on its own. But add the maple whipped cream, and it becomes near ethereal. The light fluffy clouds of cream counter the density of the nuts, while the maple, cinnamon, and vanilla meld together so neatly that you’ll find yourself eating bite after bite, just to see if the next bite tastes as amazing as the last.

One question I wanted to answer, given the quote from the show, was how easy was it to slice a walnut pie. Since it’s sliced before baking, the answer is: quite easy. But as the knife slides through, it occasionally catches on a walnut with a soft crunch, which is a tad sinister, give Locke’s comparison. I guess that’s appropriate!

In any case, this is one of the best desserts I’ve made in a long time. Everyone who had a slice was quick to assure me that they could help eat the next one, if need be. It’s a fast favorite, and something I look forward to making again!

Walnut Pie Recipe

Prep: 1 hour       Baking: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz. package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 10 oz. finely chopped walnuts (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Ingredients for syrup:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pinch of saffron

Heat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Brush the bottom of a pie dish with melted butter. Carefully unroll the phyllo dough and lift the top layer off. Place this in the buttered pie pan, smoothing it down and letting the excess flop over the sides. Butter the top of this piece, and lay another on top of that. Repeat this until you have 8 layers on the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the walnut mixture over this. Top with another 4 layers of dough, buttering in between each. Add another layer of walnuts, then another 4 layers of dough. Spread the last of the walnuts over these layers, then gradually fold the excess phyllo dough corners in over top of the pie, buttering as you go. Do this with several layers of excess, then carefully trim the rest off even with the edge of the pie dish. If you would like a neater look, add a single layer of phyllo over top of the folded-in corners, cut in a circle to match the pie’s shape, and buttered on top.

Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into 8 even slices. Bake for 40 minutes. While the pie is baking, make the syrup: Combine the honey, sugar, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, then add the cinnamon stick and saffron, and let sit to cool.

When the pie is done, gently pour the cooled syrup over it, making sure most of it gets down into the cracks. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes, then serve with a dollop of the maple whipped cream. The pie can be kept for several days in the refrigerator, but don’t cover it, as that will make it soggy. Enjoy!

Maple Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it thickens. Add the maple syrup, and sugar, if using, and continue to beat for a few more minutes. The end result should be a nice thick whipped cream with a hint of maple flavor. Best served immediately.