Game Of Thrones: An Evening's Feast

Monday, April 25, 2016

Well our house was just as excited as most last night with the premier of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. The Hubby threw down a challenge: make a feast worthy of the premier. Challenge accepted.

Taking inspiration from the books and show, I also mitigated with some straight up medieval recipes I have in my repertoire from my studies ages ago. The resulting menu was fitting, presenting beautifully, and most of all was super tasty.

A Feast for Game Of Thrones Season 6 Premier

"Oysters with Vinegar" 
"Baratheon Drumsticks"
Sausages with Stewed Apples and Horseradish Mustard
Spring Pie in the Style of House Stark
Assorted Pastries

We began the meal with an assortment of raw local oysters. Living in Seattle, we're fortunate to have access to some killer seafood, including a variety of oysters, so this was definitely going to be on our list. I got inspiration from the scene in last season's episode where Arya goes around selling oysters and cockles to people in Bravos. I did a simple, classic mignonette sauce to go with (finely chopped shallot, red wine vinegar, and a sprig of thyme).

Also wanted to have some classic meat dish for the feast. I took inspiration from medieval recipes and decided on "Baratheon Drumsticks."  Based on a classic medieval recipe, the drumsticks were turkey legs marinated in a medieval spice blend and roasted until perfect.

The kids wanted hot dogs for dinner (naturally) so I mitigated their request with the theme and ended up grilling some bratwursts instead of the traditional American hot dog. To go with, a bit of stewed apples in brandy and cinnamon. The sweetness of the apples complimented the herbs in the sausages. And to go with, a bit of horseradish mustard (not pictured). This and the drumsticks went perfectly with the beer.

The main course was a pot pie using spring ingredients. Tender white chicken with a gravy of carrots, celery, onion, spring garlic scapes, and spring herbs all baked with a flaky buttery crust flavored with fresh thyme was filling and tasty, making the house smell wonderfully. On a whim, I decided to decorate a pie a bit and freehanded the Stark sigil using my fondant sculpting tools. I was pleased to find the decoration withstood the baking process. It made for an absolutely stunning and beautiful presentation. I'm excited to work with decorating pastry in the future!

Working with the dough right out of the fridge after it had sufficient time to cool made the drawing process easy.
I used a fine needle and scalpel shaper tool normally used to shape fondant for this and it worked beautifully.
The key here is to make sure the dough is very cold; as soon as the dough begins to warm it is more
difficult to draw. Refrigerate as needed while you draw.

Here are the recipes to recreate the meal. Enjoy!

Baratheon Drumsticks
4 turkey legs
4 Tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp garlic powder*
1/2 tsp paprika

Take a gallon size Ziploc bag and place the turkey legs inside. Add the olive oil on top, salt and pepper to taste, thyme, garlic powder, and paprika. Close bag and massage marinade over the turkey legs to evenly coat. Place in refrigerator and let stand at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees (if using convection oven, set to roast). Place turkey legs out in a baking dish -- ideally you want one that can keep the turkey legs comfortably snug together -- and place in middle of oven to roast. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally so all sides can get browned. Depending on the size of the legs, you may have to cook a little bit longer.

Remove and let stand to cool 5 minute before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs if you like.

*The reason we're using garlic powder as opposed to fresh is because we're roasting; using fresh garlic when we're roasting when exposed to the top of the meat (as opposed to being stuff under skin or inside) will burn the garlic; using the garlic powder prevents that burning.

Sausages with Stewed Apples
4 large bratwursts
neutral oil for frying (if using)
2 apples -- granny smith, fugi are best for this
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp granulated sugar
splash of brandy
pinch of good cinnamon
pinch of salt

To make the sausages:  Preheat your grill (if using) and grill sausages, turning frequently, until evenly browned about 10 minutes. Remove and cut into serving pieces.

If frying, heat about a tablespoon of neutral oil (vegetable, peanut, safflower; i.e. not olive oil) in a pan. Add whole sausages and cook on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned. Add the lid on top in between turning to help cook the sausages through (adding the lid will steam the sausages, ensuring they'll be cooked all the way through). Cook the sausages, turning often, about 10 minutes. Remove onto paper towels when done, then cut into serving pieces.

To make the apples:  Peel and core the apples, then slice into thin slices. Heat the butter in a sautĂ© pan and add the sliced apples. Season with a pinch of salt, and the sugar and mix to combine. Cook about 3 minutes careful to stir often so the sugar won't burn. Turn the heat on low and remove the pan from the stove; add a splash of brandy then return the pan to the stove. We don't need to flambĂ© here so that's why we're taking the pan off the stove when adding the brandy, making sure it won't catch on fire. Stir to combine and cook for about 3-4 minutes on low-medium heat. Add the cinnamon and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve the apples warm with the sausages and a side of spicy horseradish mustard.

Spring Pot Pie
1 large chicken breast, bone in and skin on
freshly ground black pepper
1 large bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
fresh sage, chopped (to taste)
1 small white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic scapes, chopped
olive oil
1 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and roast in oven until golden and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Use two chicken breasts if you can't find a larger one.

While the chicken cooks, make the base. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and scapes and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes on medium heat until vegetables are softened. Add the herbs and mix to combine. Turn heat on low and add the flour, then mix to coat. Add the chicken broth a little at a time and mix in; you'll notice the flour will thicken. Bring mixture up to a medium heat and cook stirring occasionally with lid on about 20 minutes. When the chicken is ready, take the skin off and discard. Tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add directly to the vegetable mixture together with any juices that accumulated from the chicken roasting dish.

Taste and adjust with seasoning if needed. Add the cream and mix to combine. Cook another 3 minutes then turn off heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, transfer pot pie mixture to a baking dish of your choice (I used an oval shaped ceramic dish for this) and set aside.

While the pot pie mixture cools, make your pastry.

For the Pastry:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (picked off the stem)
4 Tbsp ice water

Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is cut into the flour and is the size of peas. Add the salt and thyme leaves. Then with the processor on, remove the feeder tube at the top and add the ice water a table spoon at a time. The dough will come together into a ball on its own. Turn off immediately when the dough comes together into a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

When ready to make the pie:  Transfer your pot pie mixture into a baking dish (with juices and gravy and everything; I even include the herbs still inside).  Take the dough out of the fridge and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until about 1/4 inch thick. Take the rolled out dough and gently place it over the baking dish. Crimp any sides up and over the side; don't worry about it being perfect, you want it to be rustic.

*You want to make sure you choose a baking dish who's circumference will not be too big for the dough to cover!

Take a bit of the cream or a lightly beaten egg and brush the top of the dough with it. This will give it a nice golden color when cooking and help it brown nicely.

At this point you can either pop it right in the 375 degree oven or take you sculpting tools and draw your image. Make sure the dough is quite cold before you draw; you may want to pop the pot pie back in the fridge for 30 min before drawing.

Bake the pie in the oven for about 50 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve hot.

Comfort Food: Mediterranean Style Beef Tender Roast

Friday, February 26, 2016

It's been ages since I've blogged. One part taking a break, two parts busy life, I found myself for the greater part of the past two years mired down in just surviving the day-to-day of a working mom of three little ones, let alone having time to properly research recipes, experiment, and blog about any of it. But just as quickly life got unexpectedly so busy, the love for cooking came back.

We had just gotten back from a week-long trip to Anaheim for a Greek dance competition. It was a classic end of winter/early spring day in Seattle -- dark, stormy, and begging for the fireplace to be stoked-- and the thought of eating more restaurant food in a stale booth made me physically ill. I ached from the physical fatigue of dancing and running up and down the hotel at early morning hours to make practices and costume calls, and the mental exhaustion from competition left me bereft of any ability to consciously create a peanut butter sandwich, let alone a meal for my family.

As exasperation set comfortably in again, I was thunderstruck by something. That moment when something hovering somewhere between this world and an unseen but still felt other, literally slaps you in the back of the head and you physically snap out of your funk. My mind (which I affectionately call The Nebula) was immediately filled with images of colorful tuna tartare, a perfectly cooked steak with oven-roasted truffle potatoes, and a spring salad of apples and sharp, tangy goat cheese. My mouth watered and my husband's fell to the floor when I said I'd be right back; I was off to Whole Foods to grab some food to make dinner.

My ingredients purchased and my nerves undeterred, I quickly set to task making the tartare first. I gambled and decided to make it from memory, despite it being some five, even six years hence that I'd made this dish, and one ingredient forgotten or a too big a splash of this would ruin the $20 ahi I just bought. To my satisfaction, it came out perfectly. I still got it. And thus, has rekindled my spark for cooking and blogging.

I begin here not with the tartare (no pictures, I'll blog it soon, though, I promise!) but rather with a related dish I made some days later. Echoing the theme of comfort and welcoming of "coming home," I give you a pot roast. Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, red wine, and earthy oregano and garlic permeate this one-pot meal. It is hearty and filling without sitting heavy. And served with mashed potatoes or crusty bread is the perfect late winter, early spring comfort food meal. Enjoy it. And nice to see you all again.

Mediterranean Style Beef Tender Roast
1 (3 1/2 lb.) beef chuck tender roast
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large stalks celery, ends trimmed and cut into small chunks
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 large bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups beef stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season the beef roast liberally with salt and pepper all over.

Heat about 1 tablespoon's worth of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add roast and begin to brown, turning so all sides of the roast get caramelized and browned. This takes about 7 minutes total. Once browned, remove roast to plate and set aside. 

Turn heat to medium. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Add onion, carrot, celery to pot and season with a little salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook vegetables about 10 minutes or until softened.

Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and thyme and stir to combine.

Add the wine and using the liquid and a sturdy wooden spoon, scrape up any "brown bits" at the bottom and sides of the pan; this adds flavor. Add the beef stock and stir to combine.

Gently add the roast back into the pot together with any juices that have accumulated on the plate, and scoop a little bit of the vegetable and sauce mixture on top. Doesn't have to be covered, just a little bit to help to begin flavoring the roast. Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn off stove and cover with lid. Place Dutch oven into the oven to bake for about 3 1/2 hours, or until roast is fork-tender. The vegetables and liquid will thicken a little during cooking as the vegetables begin to break down, making a thinner sauce.

Remove from oven and let stand to cool 5 minutes before cutting.

To serve, slice roast into 1 inch thick rounds and serve on plate with scoops of the vegetable mixture if desired.

I love making a batch of mashed potatoes with some freshly grated horseradish for this dish, but buttered potatoes, noodles, pasta is great as a side or base to make a dish or just serve some freshly baked bread.