Monthly Archives: April 2014

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Dinner in Westros

Okay, I am going to admit it. I have a nerdy side. I enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” long before HBO premiered “A Game of Thrones” and I will enjoy it long after people stop jumping on that bandwagon. I Like Dungeons & Dragons, The Lord Of The Rings, and lots of other “nerdy” things as well. And judging by the success of most of those in pop culture, I’m guessing a lot of you like it too but are afraid of admitting it. If you were to look at my Facebook feed, you would probably think that all I cared about was role-playing games, Doctor Who, and politics.

So by now you are probably wondering what all this has to do with food or dating. Well the truth is, a lot.  If you read A Song of Fire and Ice you will find an extremely varied and exciting food culture. You will also find a lot of great don’t for dating, such as “don’t cut your date’s father’s head off and then force her to look at it.” Today we are interested in the food though, and not the extremely complicated and often disturbing love lives of Westros’s rich and famous.

Before I begin, I must give credit to The Inn at the Crossroads, an incredible website that does a great job of chronicling the food of A Song of Fire and Ice. All the recipes I am sharing in this post come from that website, with a few tweaks of my own.

So about two weeks ago I decided to make a Game of Thrones themed meal for my girlfriend. She loves to have me cook for her and it gave me an excuse to try out some new recipes. So let me tell you what I did.

For the appetizer I went with garlic mushrooms. This recipe was first mentioned in A Dance With Dragons. That means that you folks who only watch the show won’t have heard of it, and as the circumstances of the meal constitute some huge spoilers, I won’t share it here. I will say however that it is a southern dish often enjoyed in Pentos. The recipe is delicious and you should definitely try it.

So, to make garlic mushrooms first you take a pound of white mushrooms and lay them out on a baking tray. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the mushrooms and then sprinkle three cloves worth of minced garlic over the mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and just before you slide the mushrooms into the oven, top it with three tablespoons of butter, chopped into small pieces. Bake the mushrooms for 15 to 20 minutes and then serve them. This should keep you and your friends happy while the rest of the meal is cooking.

Next up, for the side dish, I made spiced squash. This recipe came from A Clash of Kings and was enjoyed by Serr Janos Slynt right before Tyrion Lannister exiled him to the Wall. So this dish comes from King’s Landing, which fits with the theme of taking a culinary tour through Westros and beyond.

First you need an acorn squash. This is a smallish squash with a tough skin and it takes a long time to cook. The original recipe called for sugar pumpkin, but since those are hard to get except at Halloween, I went with something a little easier to procure. Split the squash and scoop out the seeds. Rub butter on the inside of each half and then season the squash with 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; if you turn down the oven after making the mushrooms, you shouldn’t have to wait at all. Now, bake the squash for one to one and a half hours, until the squash in very soft and the top just starts to turn brown. The squash can be served in halves if there is just one or two of you eating or it can be cut into cubes and served that way.

Finally, we get to the main dish, honeyed chicken. This is a dish fit for a king, and was served when King Robert I visited Ned Stark at Winterfell in A Game of Thrones.  First we start with the chicken. The recipe calls for whole chickens, but it is more economical and leads to less waste to use leg quarters. Lay the chicken out in a pan and rub it down with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt. It has to cook in a 400 degree over for an hour to an hour and a half just like the squash, so it is best to cook the together.

Now while the chicken is roasting, it is time to do the honeyed part of the dish. In a small sauce pan, combine 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup of honey, mint, and 1/8 cup of raisins. The amount of mint that you need depend on whether you are using fresh or dried mint. With fresh mint, you want to use about a teaspoon. Dried mint only takes 1/4 teaspoon. Simmer the honey/vinegar mixture on the stove until the raisins plump and the sauce reduces slightly. When it’s done you want it to have a syrupy quality to it. Take the sauce off the heat and let it sit until the chicken is done. When the chicken comes out of the oven spoon the sauce and raisins over the chicken. The sauce will melt slightly and form a delicious glaze.

Now for dessert, go with something simple like store bought sherbet. This is something that was enjoyed in Dorne, so it fits the theme and is simple to prepare.

There you go, a culinary tour of A Game of Thrones that is fit for a king and yet economical and easy to prepare. Why not have some friends over to watch the show and give these recipes a try. You will be glad you did.

Heading South of the Border

So yesterday, I decided I was in the mood for some carnitas. For those of you who don’t know what carnitas is, it is a tasty Mexican style of pork that is slow cooked in oil so that it has a crispy crust on the outside and is tender and juicy on the inside. Then it is chopped up and mixed with cilantro, onions, and jalapenos for a tasty treat. However, making it the traditional way is very time consuming and not exactly healthy either. For the busy successful single guy, both are important issues.

So to make it healthier and simpler, I came up with this recipe. It tastes just the same as traditional carnitas, but is healthier and doesn’t require as much work on your part. First you take a pork roast, 2 to 3 pounds should be good, and put it in a slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker you should get one. It is one of the best tools that a single guy can have in his kitchen. Once the pork roast is in the slow cooker add o roughly chopped onions (One half of a medium sized onion should work), diced jalapenos ( 8 ounces,fresh or canned), a tablespoon of minced garlic, and about a half cup of salsa verde. It will take 4 to six hours to cook on high or 6 to 8 hours on low so plan accordingly.

Once the pork has become tender enough that you can shred it with a fork or your fingers, use a slotted spoon and scoop it out of the liquid it has been cooking in and let it cool in the fridge for about a half hour. Leave the liquid and veggies in the slow cooker, While it is cooling, take the time to put together any toppings or sides that you enjoy. I serve my carnitas with refried black beans, sliced tomato, diced green onion, fresh made guacamole, Greek yogurt, and Taco Time brand taco sauce. Once the pork has cooled, go ahead and shred it. At the same time you should be heating some oil in a pan. I use two tablespoons of canola oil in a cast iron skillet.

Once the oil is hot and the pork is shredded, dump the pork into the pan and let it get brown and crusty on one side of the meat. Once it has crusted on one side, dump the reserved liquid into the pan with the pork and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Let every thing simmer together until most of the liquid has evaporated out. Then turn off the heat. Take a warmed tortilla, spoon in some refried beans and then top that with the carnitas. Spoon some of the guacamole over the top of the meat, add some yogurt over that, then layer on the tomato and green onion. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese and then top it all with the taco sauce. There you go; you have a nice tasty carnitas taco that is a meal all on it’s own. This recipe makes enough for five or six tacos so you can even share them with friends or put leftovers away and warm them up later. A few margaritas and some chips and salsa and you have yourself a fiesta!

Now, as a bonus I am going to give you the recipe for homemade guacamole. You need at least two avocados, but you can use more if you like. The avocados should be soft, but not so soft as to be rotten. A good mix of some really soft avocados and some that are more firm give you a nice chunky consistency. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the shell and into a medium sized bowl. Next, measure out a tablespoon of lime juice and dump it over the avocados. The lime juice has acid in it; that stops oxidation and keeps the avocado from turning brown. Mash the avocados with the back of the spoon until they reach the consistency you like.  Now for my secret ingredient, simple store bought salsa. If you can get freshly prepared salsa then that is the best. If not Herdez brand salsa works the best. The ratio of salsa to avocado is 1/2 cup of salsa for every two avocados. Mix everything together and walla, homemade guacamole.

Takeout At Home

One of my favorite types of food is Chinese takeout. My family used to joke that I was born in the wrong country, that is how much I love Chinese. The problem is that Chinese takeout can be so expensive and by the time you drive to the restaurant and pick it up, you haven’t really saved any time at all. So instead, just make it at home and you can save time, money, and make it as healthy as you want it to be. So today, I offer you this, my healthier version of Mandarin Chicken.

You start by taking four frozen chicken breasts. Thaw them and then cut them into one inch cubes. Meanwhile, in a rice cooker combine two cups of uncooked rice and four cups of water. Turn the rice cooker on and let it do it’s thing. If you don’t have a rice cooker then you should get one; they are incredibly handy tools.

In a wok or large skillet preheat two tablespoons of olive oil and a half teaspoon of sesame oil. Sesame oil adds an authentic Chinese restaurant taste but too much will overpower the dish. Once the oil is hot enough that you can swirl it around like water add four cloves of minced garlic (a half teaspoon if you use minced garlic from a jar) and saute for about 30 seconds. Any longer and the garlic will burn and turn bitter. Then add the chicken and stir-fry until the chicken has cooked clear through. It should be white with some slight brown charring on it.

Slice up half of a red onion and add the slices to the chicken. Stir-fry until they turn soft then add six ounces of mushrooms and six ounces of whole raw green beans. Cook them until the mushrooms start to get soft and the green beans start to char. Then add one bottle of Panda Express Mandarin Sauce, which should be available at your local store, and a teaspoon of Sriracha if you like your food spicy. Simmer the chicken/veggies mixture in the sauce until the rice is done cooking and then spoon some rice on to a plate and then top the rice with the mandarin chicken. This recipe makes about four or five servings so you have plenty to share with a girl, some bros, or even to pack up and take for lunches at work or school.