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Holiday Dinner Party Menu Day 2: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

19 Dec

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larrson

No, this novel isn’t a sweet, heartwarming Christmas tale; but you can compile and eat a sweet holiday meal out of this bestseller!

Appetizers
There are not a whole lot of appetizers to work with on first glance; but I think it could be a neat idea to use the sandwhiches that are mentioned throughout the novel as hors d’oeuvres. Bite sized creations based on crostini instead of sliced bread. What do you think? I think this would work especially well for a rye crostini topped with a thin slice of hardboiled egg, cheese and a small spoonful of caviar. Decadent!

Sandwiches
Cheese sandwiches with pickles
Cheese, caviar and egg on rye
Roast beef or turkey or avocado on bagels
Pickled herring in mustard sauce and egg sandwich
Cheese, liver sausage and pickles on rye
Liver pate and cucumber sandwich

First Course
Venison Stew

Main Dishes
Christmas ham
Roast hare
Lamb cutlets
Moose steak
Lamb chops sautéed in red wine

Sides
Potatoes
Currant jelly
Potatoes in cream sauce
Beets
Fried Sausages
Apples

Desserts
Fruitcake
Christmas cake
Pastries
Sponge cake
Coffee cake

Drinks
Caffe latte
Red wine
Aquavit
Reimersholms brandy
Coffee
Aberlour scotch
Cognac

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Holiday Dinner Party Menu: The Hunger Games

18 Dec

Hunger Games Holiday Dinner Party

Whatever District you hail from; I think we can all agree that during the holidays it’s ok to indulge like they do in the Capitol.

The Hunger Games trilogy makes for a great dinner party theme because the food is versatile. It’s easy to go upscale for a lavish dinner party, or use your imagination and create a swank cocktail party (make sure to serve plenty of wine; you never know where Haymitch Abernathy will show up!), and there is plenty of food if you would rather do a nice holiday buffet. No matter what choices you pick from the menus below, your guests will not go Hungry.

For ease of your pick-and-choose, I’m listing out a general guide to appetizers, first courses, mains, sides and desserts. Additionally, I’ve come up with some suggested menus and provided references to the appropriate book in the trilogy. This is not an exhaustive list, so feel free to add if you think I forgot something party-worthy.

Appetizers

Oysters (Catching Fire)
Cheese (Catching Fire)
Fruit (Mockingjay)
Live Pate (Mockingjay)
Crackers (Mockingjay)
Goose liver and puffy bread (Hunger Games)
Goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves (Hunger Games)
Sliced bread with goat cheese and blackberries (Hunger Games)

First Course

Creamy pumpkin soup with slivered nuts and seeds (Catching Fire)
Fish cakes with creamy lime paste (Catching Fire)
Pea soup (Mockingjay)
Cod chowder (Mockingjay)
Thick carrot soup (Hunger Games)
Green salad (Hunger Games)
Cream and rose petal soup (Hunger Games)

Main
Roast pig with apple in mouth (Hunger Games)
Lamb stew with dried plums (Catching Fire)
Lamb chops (Hunger Games)
Chicken and oranges in cream sauce (Hunger Games)

Sides

Peas and tiny onions (Hunger Games)
Flower shaped rolls (Hunger Games)
Mashed potatoes (Hunger Games)
Mashed turnips (Mockingjay)
Stewed garlic and squash (Mockingjay)
Cheese buns (Mockingjay)

Dessert

Cake with alcohol so it lights on fire (Hunger Games)
Fancy cakes with flowers (Hunger Games)
Chocolate custard with cherries (Catching Fire)
Peppermints (Catching Fire)
Cream filled cookies (Mockingjay)
Mint tea (Hunger Games)
Coffee (Hunger Games)
Hot chocolate (Hunger Games)

Suggested menus……

Formal dinner party #1
Appetizers
Oysters (Catching Fire)
Cheese (Catching Fire)
Liver Pate (Mockingjay)
Crackers (Mockingjay)
Sliced bread with goat cheese and blackberries (Hunger Games)

First Course
Creamy pumpkin soup with slivered nuts and seeds (Catching Fire)

Main
Roast pig with apple in mouth (Hunger Games)
or
Chicken and oranges in cream sauce (Hunger Games)

Sides
Flower shaped rolls (Hunger Games)
Mashed potatoes (Hunger Games) or mashed turnips (Mockingjay) (serve with roast pig)
Cheese buns (Mockingjay)
Green salad (Hunger Games)

Dessert

Fancy cakes with flowers (Hunger Games)
Mint tea (Hunger Games)
Coffee (Hunger Games)
Hot chocolate (Hunger Games)

Formal dinner party #2

Appetizers
Oysters (Catching Fire)
Cheese (Catching Fire)
Liver Pate (Mockingjay)
Crackers (Mockingjay)
Sliced bread with goat cheese and blackberries (Hunger Games)

First Course
Fish cakes with creamy lime paste (Catching Fire)

Main
Lamb stew with dried plums (Catching Fire)
or
Lamb chops (Hunger Games)

Sides
Peas and tiny onions (Hunger Games)
Mashed potatoes (Hunger Games) or mashed turnips (Mockingjay) (serve with chops)
Cheese buns (Mockingjay)
Green salad (Hunger Games)

Dessert
Cake with alcohol so it lights on fire (Hunger Games)
Mint tea (Hunger Games)
Coffee (Hunger Games)
Hot chocolate (Hunger Games)

Cocktail and hors d’oeuvres party

Soup “shooters” are a popular party trend. Just serve soup in shot glasses (or very small water glasses):
Creamy pumpkin soup with slivered nuts and seeds (Catching Fire)
Thick carrot soup (Hunger Games)

Fish cakes with creamy lime paste (Catching Fire) (serve like you would crab cakes)
Oysters (Catching Fire)
Cheese (Catching Fire) and Crackers (Mockingjay)
Liver Pate (Mockingjay)
Goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves (Hunger Games)
Sliced bread with goat cheese and blackberries (Hunger Games)
Fancy cakes with flowers (Hunger Games) (make mini cakes)
Chocolate custard with cherries (Catching Fire)
Peppermints (Catching Fire)
Cream filled cookies (Mockingjay)

Holiday Buffet

Cheese (Catching Fire)
Fruit (Mockingjay)
Crackers (Mockingjay)
Goose liver and puffy bread (Hunger Games)
Green salad (Hunger Games)
Peas and tiny onions (Hunger Games)
Flower shaped rolls (Hunger Games)
Roast pig with apple in mouth (Hunger Games)
Lamb stew with dried plums (Catching Fire)
Fancy cakes with flowers (Hunger Games)
Chocolate custard with cherries (Catching Fire)
Peppermints (Catching Fire)
Cream filled cookies (Mockingjay)

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

19 Nov

The “Game of Thrones” series (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin is a rare find. Where many writers leave us wanting more at “soup”, Martin often tells us in elaborate detail exactly what goes into a particular soup; including the spices. Martin is clearly a man who loves his food and drink, and God bless him for that. There is a lot of eye candy in his novels, and I’ll do my best over here to do him justice.

“This evening they had supped on oxtail soup, summer greens tossed with pecans, grapes, red fennel and crumbled cheese, hot crab pie, spiced squash, and quails drowned in butter. Lord Janos allowed that he had never eaten half so well.”

– A Game of Thrones

So, hot crab pie. Close your eyes – what do you see? I’m torn; at first I see cutting into a browned, flakey crust to reveal a crabby version of a pot pie. Big chunks of crab meat, a gravy of sorts (and boy do I love gravy), maybe a few simple veggies. Hot, hearty and filling. Reminds us all that winter is indeed coming.

On the other hand, Martin clearly has set the scene with “summer greens” and grape salad; the description of which takes the chill of winter away…for a time. What does a summer hot crab pie look like then?

My grandfather (on my mother’s side) was a Colonel in the US Army through World War II and Korea – a career military man. One of his posts was to Alaska, and my mom, uncle and grandparents lived there for several years in the 1960’s. Astoundingly enough, or disappointingly enough, they could not see Russia from their backyard.

My grandfather loved to fish and would often trade fish and crabs for moose meat with other men stationed there. One of my grandmother’s most famous dishes is her recipe for “crab casserole”, which is baked in a pie pan and served in pie shaped wedges. It’s lip-smacking good either hot or cold. (Do you see where I’m going with this?) It’s a fantastic light summer supper or hearty lunch, especially when paired with a salad.

I can’t be sure what Martin saw when he wrote “hot crab pie”, but I think he would approve of this version nonetheless.

Grandmother Moore’s Crab Casserole

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup mayo (Hellman’s low fat is great for those of us counting our calories)
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 6 oz. or more fresh crab
  • 1 sleeve of saltine crackers, crushed
  • thyme, salt and pepper
  • 1 egg

What you’ll do:

  1. Sautee onion and celery in a little butter or olive oil.
  2. Mix everything together and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and cooked through.

 

Summer greens salad:

Get inventive….grapes, crumbled cheese, pecans and summer greens….

I used a mix of greens and goat cheese from our farmers market, some pecans and a simple balsamic/olive oil dressing.

 

Spiced squash:

Summer squash sliced and sauteed up in a little butter and spiced to your liking.

 

 

Don’t be afraid to get creative with these meals…in this Game, there are few rules

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

9 Nov

“Just as the frying-pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. . . Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs. Beaver to dish up the trout. . . There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr. Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much a he wanted to go with his potatoes.”

                                                       Chapter 7: A Day with the Beavers

 

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Or; that time I didn’t make Turkish Delight.

If you ask a room full of people about what they remember about food in TLTWTW (why would you ever do that?), you’ll hear a lot about Turkish Delight. I was read this series when I was just a wee glutton, and yes, I remember the Turkish Delight all these years later.

Guess what, though? These is A LOT of other delicious food in TLTWTW! Like, Turkish Delight is only a twice-mentioned blip on the fresh-caught trout, toast, sardines, onions and hams hanging from ceilings, butter and high tea filled radar!

Santa Claus even whips a full tea service out of thin air for Christ’s sake, because apparently that’s exactly what all good little British boys and girls want for Christmas.

It’s funny; when the movies came out several years ago and there was all this blah blah blah about religion, I was all “lol wut?” because I remembered the novels being just a super cool fantasy land with an evil witch, good and not-so-good woodland creatures, a dude who was half deer, and a fabulous lion. Yeah…rereading them as an adult was a trip. How did I miss how overtly religious, and sexist these novels are?!?! They hold up though, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was an immensely fun read.

What you’ll need:

  • Bacon ends to make drippings
  • Trout (1-2 per person depending on size, cleaned)
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • Potatoes
  • Good butter
  • All-Purpose flour

What you’ll do:

  1. Chop potatoes into large chunks. Boil water, add potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes; or until just tender but not falling apart.
  2.  While you cook the taters….
  3.  Cook bacon in large skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from skillet.
  4.  Add chopped leeks to pan.
  5.  Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Coat flesh side of fish with flour; shake off excess. Add fish, flesh side down, to skillet. Cook 2 minutes. Turn fish over. Cook until just opaque in center, about 2-3 more minutes. Transfer cooked fish to two plates; dizzle with leeks and a bit of the bacon grease.
  6.  Drain the potatoes, add to the plates and garnish liberally with butter, salt and pepper.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

30 Oct

“We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here we stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up in some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina). I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.”

Chapter 1: Jonathan Harker’s Journal

Image

Happy Halloween! (or, Halloween Eve).

Here’s a great recipe to curl up with after shuttling your little goblins and ghouls up and down the neighborhood in search of the elusive full-size-candy-bar-giving-out-house. Our little one is going to be a ladybug this year; and since she’s too little to gum herself a Snickers, I plan to just go ahead and take one for the team and finish her candy for her; like the selfish selfless mama that I am.

Dracula is the 1897 gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker; and it is a welcome refresh from some well…more sparklier and teen-angst filled versions of the genre. Its a fantastically spooky read; and if you want to go ahead and picture Gary Oldman as the Count while you read, well, don’t worry; you won’t be the only one.

My favorite character in Dracula (and one of my favorites in all of literature) is Mrs. Mina Harker. What a heroine! Described as having a “man’s brain”, she is definitely binder-worthy. She earns her own income prior to marriage and is well educated. She keeps up with her husband’s law studies at night for the fun of it, after working all day. For the fun of it, people. Both she and her opinion were respected and valued.

Also, Quincy Morris? Aw yeah, he’s an American all right! Me likey.

So, onto our recipe then. 

I went about internet sleuthing (my favorite way to sleuth) to determine exactly what paprika hendl was, and compared German, Romanian and Hungarian chicken dishes. I think this is probably a fair representation of what J.H. dined on on his way to Castle Dracula. This dish is warm, comforting and heavy on the garlic; which are all good things, especially if you are on your way to chat London real estate with the undead.

Jonathan Harker’s Paprika Hendl

What you’ll need:

  • Chicken with skin-on: 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 things (or some other combo you like)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 24 oz. tomato puree
  • 6 oz. sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons Hungarian Sweet Paprika (I recommend Penzey’s Spices)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Brown the chicken in a deep skillet under the fat begins to render; then remove from the skillet and remove remaining skin. Set chicken aside.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute or two. Remove skillet from heat and stir in paprika. The paprika will darker and release some oil – this is what we want!
  3. Add the tomato puree, bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back in, cover and cook for about 30-40 minutes (until chicken is cooked). 
  4. Remove from heat, fold in majority of the sour cream – reserve several spoonfuls for garnish – and serve over egg noodles, dumplings or potatoes. Top with a spoon of sour cream and dig in.

 

The onions, garlic and paprika, melting together…..

Image

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

25 Oct

“The fish and greens are already cooking in a stew, but that will be for supper. We decide to save the strawberries and bakery bread for this evening’s meal, to make it special we say.”

– Part I: The Tributes, Chapter 1.

The Hunger Games is an embarrassment of riches for me. Between the constant fight against starvation in District 12 and the over-the-top culinary indulgence of the Capitol; almost every chapter brings us a new meal. There will be many posts dedicated to this trilogy; as we have much to eat.

In this meal in the novel; Katniss trades for her bakery bread, so in the spirit of the novel;, I did the same. I traded some money for bread, and I think both I and the Standard Baking Company made out like Greasy Sae at the Hob.

Use a hearty green like kale, collard greens or chard that can stand up to a good simmer. The last thing you want is to spend all afternoon at the Reaping, crossing your fingers your children don’t get seleced to battle to the death and then return home to a stew full of sickly greens. No bueno.

So, besides fish and greens – what does this stew look like? To be true to the novel, you can’t just add whatever you like; because District 12 doesn’t necessarily have whatever you like. So, here’s my thoughts on this fish stew:

We know that potato-like tubers grow in District 12; as Katniss is named after them. It seems to me that if the terrain and atmosphere of District 12 support tubers and wild strawberries; you might also be able to find some member of the wild onion family growing. Wild leeks grow well in much of the coal-rich Appalachian areas f today; so let’s include them in our stew. Coming from New England; many people’s first thought upon hearing “fosh stew” would be a chowder – but I don’t see that. Although the Everdeen gals have access to milk thanks to Prim’s goat; I just can’t imagine Katniss indulging so many resources in one meal – even a celebratory one. She is ever aware that she has a family to feed and provide for every day of the year; not just on the evening of the Reaping.

So, what I envision is a very simple fish stew made with fish, whatever sort of greens you can find groing in your District, and perhaps small quantities of tuber (potatoes for most), onion or leek, and garlic.

Katniss’ FIsh Stew with Greens

What you’ll need:

  • 4 cups seafood or fish stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups of greens – I used chard, but kale and collard greens should work well too
  • 1 cup of potatoes that have been chopped to bite size
  • 3/4 pound of white fish, cut into 1″ by 1″ chunks
  • tiny bit of butter or olive oil
  • light seasoning to taste: salt, pepper, herbs

What you’ll do:

  1. In a soup pot, warm the stock and water while, in a separate pan, you saute the leeks and garlic in a bit of olive oil or butter just until fragrant – take care not to burn the garlic. When they are done, add to the stock.
  2. Season to taste with choice of herbs, salt and pepper.
  3. Add in your potatoes and greens and simmer for about 30 minutes; until potatoes and greens are tender.
  4. Add fish to simmering stock; cook until fish is just cooked through (just a few minutes), then turn off heat.
  5. Adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. Serve with warm bakery bread and wild strawberries. Hug your children.

“I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.” – The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

23 Oct

This blog is dedicated to the  various meals, drinks and feasts found in literature of all sorts. Whether you go in for chunks of charred meat and onion roasted over an open fire, or you start your day off with a scotch and soda like Philip Marlowe; I hope you enjoy this journey as I eat my way through literature, one page at a time.

In addition to literature; I also plan to eat my way through art, history and cinema. Stay tuned for lots of delicious dishes!

I also plan to highlight some of the mini foods I make – 1/12″ scale polymer clay food made for adult dollhouse collectors. I am a member of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans; and enjoy making wee meals as much as I enjoy making “big” meals.

A note about the recipes you’ll find here: cooking isn’t an exact science (um, thank god!). Meals are the manifestation of raw materials, imagination, attention and love; and so, no two dishes will ever be exactly the same. I’m not much of an exact science kind of gal, and so while I’ll do my best to provide you accurate measurement…sometimes you have to just go on faith. Taste as you go, trust your instincts and of course, trust your gut (heehee). If you think your dish needs a little more garlic and a little less onion, then by all means – adjust it. Cooking should be fun.