Why Hello there, AND PLAY THAT BOOMING DRAGON MUSIC, SUCKERS!
BUM BUM, BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM, BUM BUM BUM
Yes, Welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes where today we’re making some special dishes in honor of the last season of Game of Thrones. Now, if you’re not that into the show or you’ve never seen the show, I get it, it’s not to everyone’s tastes. And while I don’t THINK I’ll make a ton of references, I’m notoriously unpredictable. As such, you can just jump via this link straight to all FOUR of today’s recipes, which I believe is a record for the site. For the rest of us, let’s talk about Pork Pies, Santa Fe, and DRAGONS.
A Fantastic and Fatal Journey
IN case you’re purely unaware, due to the not-uncommon entrenchment effect where people say “Oh my god, you’ve never seen X!? You’ve GOT to see it!” leading you to avoid the show, let me give you a basic breakdown.
Game of Thrones is an HBO TV show based on a series of novels titled “A Song of Ice and Fire”. The first book in the series is titled “Game of Thrones”, hence the show name. (I’m sure there was also market research, and other factors that led to the choice, but whatever.) The series is a (initially) low-magic medieval fantasy setting: dragons went extinct centuries ago; no one has DONE real, obvious magic in the main continent for decades; etc. It mostly follows the political and military actions of a particular house of nobles, The Starks, and the forces they oppose or ally with. It’s notable for being a much more cynical and ‘gritty’ portrayal of the medieval-style world: there are plenty of cowards, bullies, inhumane sociopaths, and so on in the series, often as important characters. And the morally righteous characters have an unfortunate habit of getting…as the kids say, “wriggity rekt”.
One fun thing about making references to shows people may not know: the lack of context they have for the reference.
Are these good guys who get wrecked? Are they bad guys? You don’t know!
It was written, according to the author’s own words, to oppose some of the “Disneyland Middle Ages” that other authors had adopted from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, by adopting aspects of historical fiction, and history itself: some royal characters commit incest, there are arranged marriages, and marriages with young girls still in their adolescence. One of the biggest changes the show had to do was literally just age up every child character, since some of these characters are in SEX SCENES fairly early on in the series.
If that sounds interesting to you, you may want to check it out. Personally, while I had HEARD of the series for years, I didn’t actually try to read it until after the first season aired. Yes, surprisingly, your big bearded know-it-all of a writer wasn’t ahead of the nerd curve on this one. No man can know EVERYTHING, as the doctors keep trying to tell me.
I’m not going to lay out why Game of Thrones got popular, as that is a multifaceted argument that will likely be better analyzing by cultural historians or some other job I don’t legally have. But it is HUGELY popular, and people are excited for the final season of the show (which has actually outpaced the books: while the series was started in the mid 90’s, Martin actually hasn’t written the last 2, while, as noted, the show is ending this year.) And, since my brother and I watched it just like seemingly everyone else in their mid-to-late 20’s, we wanted to commemorate the show with a feast fit for a king! But where would we find such a feast?
Tomes of Terrible and Trembling Temptation
Actually, there’s several Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones cookbooks to choose from, as is inevitable. The modern world’s love of merchandising and franchising entities makes cookbooks rather unavoidable. Breaking Bad was a show about dealing drugs in New Mexico, and IT has multiple cookbooks.
That is NOT what this line refers to.
However, food is MUCH more prominent in the Song of Ice and Fire. Martin notes that the food in a scene is as much a part of the setting and themes as the clothes and furniture, and is a great tool for literary exploration. A family that has fancy furniture but eats meagerly, for instance, implies a once-rich family that has fallen on harder times, while you can convey all sorts of character traits by what foods a person does and does not like to eat. As such, Martin has devoted dozens, maybe even hundreds of pages in his work to descriptions of food. (The fourth book in his series was almost longer than the Lord of the Rings. No, that isn’t a typo: ONE of his books almost as long as Fellowship, Two Towers, and Return of the King COMBINED. 410,000 words vs 480,000) And people have noticed. In fact, there’s been a blog dedicated to making dishes from Martin’s books, TheInnAtTheCrossroads.com, which started…apparently a couple months before I wrote my first Catastrophe on Facebook. That’s…not at all kind of sobering and a little disheartening, since they have published multiple books…I’ve made myself sad.
JUST LIKE CERSEI DID AFTER THE SEPT OF BAELOR INCIDENT, AMIRITE?!
Seriously, it’s so much fun.
Is this Cersei? What’s a “sept”? Is it that smoke?
Moving on from my existential crisis, the point is that Martin writes a lot about food, so a blog started, they made the OFFICIAL Game of Thrones cookbook, I bought it, and I made recipes from it. Let’s talk about them, because, holy crap, I have four recipes to fit in this sucker. I don’t have TIME for more spoilers!
We went with pork pies for the primary entrée of our feast. I’d like to claim this was some sort of reference, or that we had some kind of artistic drive. But that would be a lie. What happened was I asked my mother and Nate what they wanted to eat, and we agreed that pork pies sounded fine. I made two, as a recurring theme in the cookbook/blog is the idea of “updating” recipes: the authors will make a recipe in a medieval style, like how it would have likely been made in the book’s era, and then they often make a more modern version. I thought this was a novel concept, so we made both Medieval and Modern pork pies.
Now, the most complicated part of making a pie is really making the crust, as the mixture of butter, water, and flour can be tricky to master. But I hate baking, so I’m sure as shit not making my own pie dough for a meal that ALREADY has 2 recipes, so I just bought pre-made crusts.
I cut these slits, and made the pie underneath, but the crust itself came as-is.
After that, the pies are…very straightforward. Like, the medieval pie is basically 3 steps: brown pork, mix with other ingredients, and bake in the crust. What makes it notable is the ingredients themselves. See, while modern recipes tend to treat Meat as a purely Savory ingredient, medieval recipes treat it as an EXPENSIVE ingredient, meaning that if you’re eating a lot of it, you can afford to mix it with other fancy things, like sugar. Or this little batch of interest
Yes. That certainly LOOKS…interesting.
That is not, as the picture might make you think, chopped bacon, but rather, chopped dates. Dates are a fruit that’s fallen out of favor in the general American home, if it ever really HAD a place, but they’re very popular for smoothies, and at more up-scale fancy places. That’s because pitted dates have an interior gap about the size of a man’s thumb, meaning they can be stuffed quite easily. They’re very high in sugar as well, with natural food stores selling date sugar as a substitute for brown sugar. I actually quite like dates, despite how few of them I get. (BA DUM TISH.) The recipe also calls for currants, another strange little fruit, if you’re American, because our country actually banned growing blackcurrants back in 1911 or so, because it was spreading a disease that damaged white pine, and fucking with the lumber industry in the early 1900’s America was a big no-no. We only lifted the ban in a couple states right around 2000, so we’re startingng to see production again, but they’re still somewhat hard to come by. Hell, even knock-off ‘currant raisins’ were out at the store when I checked.
But, yeah, this pie is just a mixture of cooked pork, dried fruit, honey, egg yolks, and a couple spices. We cooked it in a 9 inch pie dish, and the result looked a little like we got confused trying to make a quiche.
Or like a weird batch of granola.
The Modern pie was marginally more complicated, in that it was “cook ONIONS, mix with pork and other ingredients, and then TOP with a couple things before baking in a pie.” This recipe basically makes a ”porkloaf”, in that it mixes ground pork with sautéed onions, crushed up crackers and spices for a consistent and somewhat dense texture. The biggest part of that worth mentioning is that we decided to up the pork flavor of our porkloaf for our pork pie. (And yes, I am trying to make pork a meaningless string of letters, how did you guess?) Because recently, Nate saw a box of Garlic Butter Ritz, and said to himself, “Hey, I want that.” And then he saw the box next to it was Everything flavored, and said “Hey, Jon would want that.” And then, since the boxes were on sale if you bought THREE, we got a box of Bacon ritz. Which is why we have 3 boxes of crackers on our dining room table, and how we were able to crush up a sleeve of Bacon ritz to flavor our porkpie porkloaf.
Porky crushed dust for our porkloaf.
Then, you plop your porkloaf into the pie shell, which, for reasons still as-of-yet unknown to me, my mother insisted we should use a DIFFERENT type of pan for, so we used a springform pan. Then you slather it with barbecue sauce, shingle on thinly sliced apples, sprinkle on cheddar cheese, and then drop another pie shell on top.
They both bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, unless you’re using an old oven like ours, and trying to bake both of them at the same time, in which case they take like, 80-90 minutes .
WHILE THAT HAPPENS, LET’S WORK ON THE OTHER HALF OF THIS FEAST.
A Spritz and a Side
Filling though meat pies are, we have to note they don’t provide a lot in the way of vitamins and nutrients. So we made a side dish. Seeing how we had two pies full of pork, we reasonably decided our side dish should be Beans and Bacon, medieval style.
This recipe is, like the medieval one, rather simple: you fry up some bacon, sauté onions and garlic in it, then stir together some white beans, the fried bacon, the onions, and Poudre Douce.
A process I only took one picture of, because I was…indisposed.
What’s that? You’ve never even HEARD of Poudre Douce? Well, that’s because you don’t do much medieval cooking. Poudre Douce, which literally translates as “sweet powder”, is one of a series of “poudres” used in medieval cuisine, which are basically just spice mixes. Like how REAL curry powder is a mixture of spices, toasted and ground for the meal, versus the stuff you buy at the store. In this case, poudre douce is mostly sugar, mixed with cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and grains of paradise.
If this is what paradise looks like, it’s a little disappointing.
Also called melegueta, Guinea pepper, or mistaken for Aligator pepper, Grains of Paradise are a West African spice, that’s related to Ginger and cardamom, and tastes kind of like sweeter black pepper. Alton Brown is a big fan of them, counting them as a pantry staple. I myself found them at a higher-end supermarket near me, and bought some knowing they were used both in Alton’s recipes, and in medieval ones. (For a time, it was cheaper to get Grains of Paradise from West Africa than black pepper from India) If you can’t find it, you can replace it with a little black pepper and ground cardamom or ginger.
So basically, Poudre douce is just “jazzed up cinnamon sugar”, as the keen-eyed might have guessed from the first picture.
Seen here, with a slightly different cropping. Why? Because it’s the ONLY PICTURE I TOOK.
With a starchy side to go with our pies, our last step was something to drink. And when I looked at the pies of meat I had assembled (3 pounds of pork went into those two pies!) and the starchy side, I decided I needed something sharp and acidic to cut through the meal. So we made lemonsweet!
Lemonsweet is a drink only mentioned in the Dorne chapters of the books, and therefore trapped in the part of the story MOST BETRAYED by the Show. (Seriously, the speeches Doran Martell gives in the novels are fucking FANTASTIC, and the fact that they stole the gut-punch ending of one of his better speeches and gave it, with far too little preamble, to Varys in season 6 STILL upsets me. )
Yes, that is the face I have.
Y’all SCREWED SIDDIG OF SOME GREAT DAMN LINES, YOU MONSTERS.
My Doran of Dorne distaste divested, I have to admit that Lemonsweet is just fancy Lemonade. We went with the medieval recipe, which is just the juice of 6 lemons and 2 oranges along with the zest of half of a lemon and half of an orange, mixed with 2.25 cups of powdered sugar and 2.5 cups sparkling water. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
I took my picture before adding the sparkling water, because I just liked the weird almost-Creamsicle look of the juice and sugar.
And then, everything was gathered together, and we had our FEAST!
Alright, yes, if you don’t eat a LOT of the Pie, it’s basically just a modest meal. But that didn’t have the right ring to it.
Here’s a dish by dish breakdown:
The Medieval pork pie had a very unusual texture, being as it was basically twice-cooked ground pork. The yellow of the egg yolks had suffused the meat, and gave it an exotic look. I liked the flavor well-enough, which was fairly sweet.
The Modern pork pie was more universally enjoyed, though we noted the cheddar cheese was either very subtle or overwhelmed by the other flavors. I actually quite liked the pie over all, especially when served with sauce, as it is meant to be.
The Lemonsweet was the star player of the night, however. The slight effervescence of the sparkling water, the not-quite the same sweetness of powdered sugar, and the mixture of orange juice made for a very enjoyable drink. Even my mother, who by her own admission doesn’t like orange juice OR lemonade quite liked it.
The beans I thought were fine, but Nate raised the complaint that they were poorly matched to the season: the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg of the Poudre Douce made him feel they would be an excellent side in, say, December, when one expects those flavors, but were out of place in April. Had I thought of it, I assure you I would have made another Winter is Coming joke, but I was distracted at the time.
My greatest commendation for the meal I can give is that, despite it taking longer than intended, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and that I was legitimately quite upset, and willing to court food poisoning, when I fucked up the whole thing afterwards.
Because of course, there’s a sudden tragic ending to the whole affair. This is Kitchen Catastrophes, and we’re talking about Game of Thrones: the “oh fuck, oh no” moment was guaranteed to happen. Which is super lucky, because I’d already made myself sad twice this post, so getting a third one in locks in the comedy. The tragedy is simply one of waste: see, due to the delay in getting the meal done, the pies hadn’t cooled enough to refrigerate by the time my mother went to bed. I said I’d handle them, when I came up to refill the water for my humidifier later that evening. A task I completely forgot. So the pies sat out, insides exposed to the open air, from 9 PM to 5 AM, when my mother got up and saw them. As such, we ended up throwing them out, rather than risk food-borne pathogens, with only about 1/3 of each pie consumed.
Still, we might make them again someday, and the Lemonsweet at least is getting a heavy mark for “try with others later.” So as far as tragic season finales go, this is more Season 2 than season 3. Right, Game of Thrones buddies? We all remember Robb Stark’s wonderful Red Wedding! Now I’ve made all of YOU sad too! Perfect Game of Thrones closer.
PLAY THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE, IGOR!
SING ALONG, EVERYBODY! REMEMBER TO KEEP IT SLOW AND DIRGE-LIKE!
If you’d like to help Jon afford HBO so he can watch the last season, rather than lurking outside people’s windows like a Suburban Cinematic Sasquatch, check out our Patreon, where you can support the site, and Jon’s ongoing self-flagellation via humor, for as little as $1 a month. Or just like and share our stuff on social media, since everyone should get a chance to make pork pies, right? Seriously, am I right? I mean, I suppose Jews and Muslims don’t want to, given the whole “impure” thing, but everyone else? I don’t know.
THURSDAY: WE TALK ABOUT THE BOOK THAT WREAKED THIS TRAGEDY ON MY TABLE, THE GAME OF THRONES COOKBOOK
MONDAY: I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT I HAVE PLANNED, I’M ALL HOPPED UP ON PORK PRODUCTS. IT WAS EITHER THREE RECIPES FOR POLENTA, OR TWO FOR EGGS. I THINK I’LL DO…EGGS.
Let's unfold all of the
Medieval Pork Pie
1.5 lbs ground pork
½ tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2 tsps ground ginger
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup honey
½ cup dried currants (or dried cranberries, with reduced sugar)
½ cup chopped dates
2 pie crusts, 9”, unbaked.
1. Preheat your oven to 375. Line a 9” pie plate with one of the crusts.
2. Brown the pork over medium heat in a skillet. Let cool slightly, then add to a bowl with ALL other ingredients except pie crusts. Mix well, and pour into pie plate with crust.
3. Top with remaining crust, seal along edges, cut steam holes, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown.
Modern Pork Pie
Serves another 6-8
2 pie crusts, 9“, unbaked
1 onion, diced
1.5 lbs ground pork
1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers (preferably Bacon), crushed, roughly 1.5-2 cups
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper
1/3 cup spicy barbecue sauce +more for serving
2 Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Hot sauce and ketchup, for serving.
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking vessel with one of the 2 unbaked crusts.
2. Over medium heat, light brown the diced onions. Dump into a bowl and mix with the pork, crackers, and seasonings. Place in the prepared pie crust.
3. Brush the pork mixture with the barbecue sauce, then cover with the sliced apples. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the apples, and top with the remaining crust. Seal edges, cut steam holes, and place in the oven.
4. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown. Serve with choice of additional barbecue sauce, hot sauce, or ketchup.
White Beans and Bacon
Serves 4 to 6
4 slices bacon, roughly chopped
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight, or 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp Poudre Douce
Combine 1 cup sugar, 4.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground grains of paradise, a pinch of nutmeg, and some ground galangal if you have it (an extra pinch of ground ginger if you don’t), shake to combine, and store in an airtight container.
1. Fry the bacon over medium high heat until done to your liking. Remove from the pan, leaving bacon fat.
2. Saute onion and garlic in bacon fat until soft.
3. Lower the skillet to medium, and add beans, bacon, and poudre douce to softened onions, stirring to combine. Heat, stirring, until mixture is hot. Serve immediately.
2.25 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
2.5 cups still or sparkling water.
1. Zest half of one lemon, and half of one orange.
2. Juice the fruits into a large bowl, then add the reserved zest, and the sugar. Stir to combine, muddling slightly. Strain the mixture into a pitcher, and add the water. (This is to prevent fruit zest or seeds in the final beverage. If you’ve juiced carefully and don’t mind zest, you can just juice straight into the pitcher, adding the rest of the ingredients and stirring to combine.