From the Vault: Morbid Meals, Irish Wake Cake

One of the traditions of attending an Irish wake is to take something to feed and comfort the family during their grief. Even if the family doesn’t practice “sitting up with the dead“, a potluck gathering often is held to remember the deceased. One such dish is an Irish Wake Cake.

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EXAMINATION
This recipe is adapted from another one of my odd cookbooks, DEATH WARMED OVER, by Lisa Rogak. It is an interesting collection of recipes and customs surrounding feasts for funerals and for the dead themselves from 75 different cultures and religions. As a taphophile, I am fascinated by the many various practices of mourning the dead. Sharing food is just one way to ease the burden of those survive the loss of loved ones. Another interesting fact, pointed out in this book, is that most people eat a lot more food at funerals than they do at weddings.
So rather than talk about catering, instead, we return to a simple wake and the idea of bringing a dish over to visit, reminisce, and share a life and a meal together. This “Irish Wake Cake” is a fine variation of an Irish cream cheese pound cake. It is is simple, rich, and delicious.
ANALYSIS
Serves: 10
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 oz cream cheese
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted (roughly 6 oz by weight)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup dried currants or raisins
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Apparatus
Electric mixer with mixing bowl
9 inch loaf pan
Small bowl
Cooling rack
Procedure
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 F degrees.
  2. In the mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the cream cheese, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  5. Gradually add buttermilk and mix until you have a smooth batter with no lumps, then fold in the currants.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch loaf pan.
  7. Place the pan on the center rack in your oven and bake for about 1 hour 20-25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean for a test.
  8. Remove to a cooling rack and let the cake cool down for 15 minutes.
  9. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice, then drizzle that icing over the cake while it is still warm. Let the cake cool down however before serving it.
  10. Slice the cake and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or whipped cream.
DISSECTION
There is a lot of dairy and fat, but substitutions will probably not work as well. You may be able to use margarine instead of butter and soy milk instead of buttermilk. There’s even vegan “cream cheese”. The ratios for everything might need a little tweak here and there if you go that route.
If you can’t find cake flour, you could use all-purpose flour. The difference is that cake flour is milled to be finer and it also has less gluten, which means your cake will be light and fluffy, instead of dense like bread. If you are going the gluten-free route, use a 2:1 mix of flour to starch (like 4 oz superfine rice flour and 2 oz tapioca starch).
I did have trouble finding currants but I didn’t want to use raisins. Instead, I found these incredible blueberry-infused dried cranberries. Those were very tasty and worked well with the tangy, lemony glaze.
I discovered that other recipes for Irish pound cake use Irish cream liqueur instead of the buttermilk, also instead of the lemon juice for the icing. Depending on who you are baking the cake for, that might be a welcome change to the recipe.
POST-MORTEM
This recipe came together so fast, I didn’t really have time to take photos of the steps. That’s how easy it is to make this cake. The hardest part was waiting for it to bake.
I served it with a little homemade whipped cream. Clotted cream would have been better, but that stuff takes forever to make.
This cake is so good, trust me, you will be finding reasons to bake it. People die all the time, after all. Good food is a beautiful way to honor the dead and celebrate life.

Morbid Meals – Barren Baker’s Cornbread Honeycomb Muffins

EXAMINATION

Once upon a time it was hard to be a baker. Bread being so vital to the common diet, for rich and poor alike, laws were passed to make sure that bakers did not cheat their customers with light loaves or unhealthy fillers. To make sure that their customers were happy, often times it was better to make sure that an order was filled that was over weight rather than under. Thus, many bakers started giving away an extra cookie or muffin with an order of a dozen. Thus, a baker’s dozen is 13. Normally one might consider 13 to be unlucky, but now it has probably spared a lot of bakers from harsh penalties like having their hands chopped off.

Did you know, however, that if you don’t use a muffin tin, which often have either 6 or 12 cups, that you can bake better muffins in 13 paper-lined foil cups? It is true! Placing the cups on a baking sheet in a tight 4 x 5 x 4 pattern bakes the muffins more evenly and nets us exactly 13 muffins. I call these honeycomb muffins because they resemble the hex-pattern of honeycomb.

Note also as they cook, these muffins will push even closer together and the resulting muffins will take on a more hexagonal shape rather than round. If you want perfectly round muffins, you might need to double-up the cups, or if you have mason jar rings, you can set the cups in the rings to help them retain their shape.

If you find, however, that you’ve actually been cursed like the baker from Into The Woods, here’s a recipe that might do the trick to get on a witch’s good side.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 13 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup / 160g cornmeal (yellow as, well, corn)
  • 1 cup / 120g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup / 120g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp / 10g baking powder
  • 1 tsp / 7g salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (from a cow as white as milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey (as pure as gold)
  • 1/2 stick (2 oz) butter, melted

Apparatus

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Spoon and whisk
  • Foil and paper muffin cups
  • Baking sheet

Procedure

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C.
  2. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients together and incorporate well.
  3. In the other bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  4. Add the wet to the dry and then stir to mix well into a thick batter.
  5. Place foil muffin cups with paper cups inside them on a baking sheet in a tight 4 x 5 x 4 pattern.
  6. Divide the batter into the 13 cups and bake for about 15 to 17  minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

DISSECTION

If you want to make a gluten-free version, feel free to use your preferred GF flour mix, but be sure to measure by weight (120g). Note for example the difference between the flour and sugar. They both weigh the same, yet it only takes ½ cup of sugar to reach 120g vs. a full cup of AP flour to weigh the same.

These are delightfully sweet without being too sweet. If you would prefer even sweeter, I recommend adding stevia. Adding more sugar or honey will change the consistency of the batter. Stevia powder however enhances the sugar already in the recipe but very little goes a long way.

POST-MORTEM

Serve these with a fresh batch of magic kidney beans (red as blood) and rice.

Morbid Meals – Genie in a Bottle

EXAMINATION

Cursed objects come in all shapes, sizes, and purpose. The first cursed object I could think of, that wasn’t related to the TV show Friday the 13th, was the lamp or bottle that trapped a genie inside.

While we have Aladdin and the cursed lamp from One Thousand and One Nights to thank for being the source of this legend, the idea of a “genie in a bottle” hails primarily from Barbara Eden’s TV sitcom I Dream of Jeannie... which in turn was inspired by a 1964 movie starring Barbara Eden called The Brass Bottle.

As for bottles with spirits trapped inside, I naturally decided a cocktail was in order. I’ll admit that a certain cartoon genie inspired the color.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 oz blue curaçao
  • 1 oz spiced gold rum (or light/silver, not dark)
  • 1/2 oz Arak (or absinthe or ouzo)
  • 1 oz sweet and sour mix
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • ice

Apparatus

  • Cocktail shaker and jigger
  • Hurricane glass

Procedure

  1. Into a drink shaker, add all ingredients including ice, cover and shake.
  2. Pour into a hurricane glass, or a bottle for fun.

DISSECTION

Arak is an Arabian alcohol produced in the Levant region, which does not adhere to the Muslim avoidance of liquor. It is made with aniseed and it louches becoming cloudy when mixed with water, hence my suggestion to substitute ouzo or absinthe if you cannot acquire the Arak. Plus absinthe adds to the color, especially if you can find a blue absinthe.

POST-MORTEM

After a few of these, you too will believe there is infinite cosmic power in an itty-bitty living space. Just be careful what you wish for.

Morbid Meals – Three Witches’ Stew

EXAMINATION

There are many superstitious actors who will tell you about various curses of the theatre. Like how they can’t wish each other good luck, but rather “break a leg”.

The most famous, however, may be to not say the name of The Scottish Play. This is brought most humorously to light on an episode of Blackadder The Third.

To honor the Three Witches, all items in this stew come in threes. We’ll be making this in our magic cauldron (called a pressure cooker).

ANALYSIS

Servings: 9 serving bowls

Ingredients

3 Tbsp of oil

Three meats
1.5 lbs bone-in mutton/lamb shank
1.5 lbs bone-in beef/veal shank
1.5 lbs gammon joint or ham hocks

Three seasonings
1 Tbsp kosher or sea salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika

Three aromatics
3 leeks (or 1 onion), chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 Tbsp minced garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1/3 cup of all-purpose flour

Three herbs
3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
6 sprigs of oregano  (or 1/2 tsp of ground oregano)
9 sprigs of thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme, or 3/4 tsp of ground thyme)

Three brews for the stew
9 oz Scottish ale (like Kilt Lifter)
6 oz Oat stout
3 oz Triple Malt Scotch whisky

Three leafy greens
1 bunch of kale
2 scallions, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped

Three roots
3 wee neeps (turnips or small rutabagas, or 3 parsnips), chopped
6 carrots, chopped
9 young tatties (waxy or fingerling potatoes)

Three pints of water

Apparatus

  • Pressure cooker, 7-quart

Procedure

  1. Chop all of the veggies first and set aside in the groups listed above.
  2. Pour 3 Tbsp of oil with a high smoke point (like corn or peanut, or even ghee or  clarified butter; canola is the lowest smoke-point oil you should use) into the pressure cooker. Turn heat to high.
  3. Cut the lamb and beef into large chunks (save the bones) and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  4. When the oil begins to shimmer, brown the lamb and beef on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Saute the leeks/onion and garlic for about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir to combine.
  6. Deglaze with the ale. Then add the stout and scotch.
  7. Place the bones into the cooker first, then add the meat back, and then the rest of the ingredients. Top with 3 pints of water, or as much as you need to just fill under the Max Fill line.
  8. Return the heat to high. Close and lock the lid. Cook on high until pressure valve whistles or rattles, then turn heat down to low and cook for about 33 minutes under pressure.
  9. Remove the bones, bay leaves, and herb sprigs. Meat should be tender and the veggies supple. Ladle into bowls and allow to cool before serving.

DISSECTION

We are using about 1.5 pounds of bone-in meat each because we want the bones for the stock. Once cooked, we’ll have about 3 pounds of meat.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use a large crock pot and cook on high for 333 minutes, or about 5 1/2 hours. It is much harder to make what is essentially the stock this way, however.

POST-MORTEM

Definitely serve with whisky or ale or stout. Can’t decide? How about a whisky barrel-aged ale?  Or a Half and a half?

Morbid Meals – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya

EXAMINATION

A wise man named Penn Jillette once said, “Everybody got a gris-gris.Gris-gris (pronounced gree-gree) is a French term from voodoo for the medicine pouch that vodouisants wear around their neck. What Penn was saying, however, is that we all have something that we cling to, whether it be something tangible to bring us good luck (or ward off bad luck), a belief, a superstition, even a firmly and long-held conviction that centers us or even defines us. That something, according to Penn, is the one thing we should scrutinize first and foremost in our lives and try to change about ourselves, hard as it may be.

For me I think it is fair to say that my gris-gris is food. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Dan,” I hear you say, ”we all need food.” Yes, which is why we should scrutinize it. I fear that so many folks walk through life just throwing anything bite-sized (or super-sized) down their gullet without thinking about it.

It is one of the reasons why I started Morbid Meals. We must eat to live, which means something else must die. We don’t like to think about that, though. We’ve pre-packaged, homogenized, and mass marketed products so that we don’t have to think about where our food came from. That nicely fits a model of consumption not sustenance.

Now I’m not saying we should all jump on the latest food fad of dietary detritus. That too is a gris-gris; putting your faith in what somebody else says is good for you, bad for you, will help you lose weight, etc. The corollary to my mantra is that we are all going to die no matter what we eat. Some food will kill us faster than others, but an acceptance of moderation is really what I’m advocating here. Everything in moderation including moderation.

You’ve likely noticed this at play in my recipes here before. Many of them offer alternatives for those with dietary restrictions, suggestions for alterations, never requiring you follow these recipes to the letter. I’ve also presented my share of crazy creations that would be fun to try at least once, and then you can go back to eating healthy or whatever. Live a little while you can. Food is life, food is love.

So, I’ll step off my soapbox and say that if you need a gris-gris, why not try a little bit ah Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, hey now. Doctor’s orders. Dr. John, the Night Tripper, that is.

Now before y’all freak out, this recipe makes a lot of gumbo. It is meant to be shared with a large family. (The loas might like a bowl, too.) We also love having leftovers. Gumbo gets even better when you put it up and eat it the next day. Feel free to divide in half if you prefer. It also takes a long time to cook, like almost 3 hours. Gumbo is not fast food. It is completely worth the effort.

ANALYSIS

Servings: 12 to 16

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. whole chicken, or 4 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped, divided
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped, divided
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 whole okra, sliced (about 1/2 cup) (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp creole seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 Tbsp minced garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb andouille sausage, chopped
  • 1/2 lb tasso ham (cajun ham), chopped
  • Cooked rice (1/2 cup per serving)
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste when serving

Apparatus

  • Pressure cooker, 7 quart
  • Large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven
  • whisk

Procedure

Mise en place (everything in its place)

  1. Chop all of the veggies. Do this first. You’ll thank me later. Divide the onions into half portions (one for the stock and one for the gumbo). Divide the celery in half as well. Set aside.

Make the chicken stock

  1. Into your pressure cooker, add the carrots and the first portions of onions and celery, along with the salt, seasoning, and bay leaves.
  2. Cut up your chicken and arrange all of it, including the bones, fat and skin, giblets, gizzards, etc., into the pressure cooker on top of the veggies.
  3. Pour in the water, but make sure NOT to go above the “maximum fill” line.
  4. Cover with the lid and lock it down. On the stove top, turn the heat to high and bring up to pressure. When you hear the pressure release whistle, reduce the heat to low, for a steady low hiss. Cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Release the pressure and open the cooker carefully.
  6. Strain the stock into a container to cool. Reserve 3 quarts of stock for the gumbo. (If you have more, save it to cook the rice.) Separate the chicken meat from the bones and set aside.

Make the roux

  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to shimmer before it reaches its smoke point.
  2. Reduce your heat to medium and carefully whisk in your flour in small batches, which should immediately begin to sizzle. Whisk constantly for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the roux turns a deep brown color, like milk chocolate.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the remaining onions, celery, and bell peppers. Stir occasionally for another 10 minutes, or until the roux thickens and turns a glossy dark brown color, like dark chocolate.

Bring it all together

  1. Into the pot with your roux, still at medium low, add your okra (if using), garlic, and chopped andouille sausage. Stir occasionally and cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add your reserved 3 quarts of stock and stir until the roux is well combined with the stock. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to keep everything well combined.
  3. Now you can add the cooked chicken and the chopped tasso ham to the gumbo and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off your heat and let your gumbo cool down for at least 5 minutes. This stuff is very hot.
  5. Serve with steamed rice. If you like, add hot sauce to your taste.

DISSECTION

Let’s address the okra first. I love okra, especially fried, but most folks I know can’t stand how gummy it is. That’s what makes it gumbo, though, in my humble opinion. In fact”gumbo” means okra. It does tend to be optional in a chicken and sausage gumbo. It is more common in a seafood gumbo. Okra adds an earthy flavor and extra thickness, for even though we are adding a lot of roux, a dark roux doesn’t thicken gumbo very much. (A light roux will thicken more but has less flavor.) Don’t use “okra season” as a reason to skip it either. You can probably find frozen okra out of season.

If you can’t find tasso ham, you can substitute with smoked ham or regular smoked sausage.

Can you make the stock without a pressure cooker? Sure, but it will need to simmer for at least two hours.

POST-MORTEM

Save your hot sauce until the end. Again, trust me on this. I know cajun and creole foods can be spicy but not everyone can handle it. Also, we’re using andouille sausage and creole seasoning, where various brands have different levels of heat. This is why I suggest adding the hot sauce at the end to your own personal taste in your own bowl. Once you make it often enough and you use brands you are familiar with, feel free to spice things up.

One of my favorite stories about Marie Laveau was that she often made large batches of gumbo and would give bowls of it to condemned prisoners in New Orleans, as well as feeding it to the sick and poor. I don’t know how true this story is, or the tales that mention a few other medicinal herbs which might have made their way into the gumbo, but I do know the power of a good bowl of gumbo and rice to make everything all right with the world.

Morbid Meals – Curse of the Black Pearl Rum Balls

EXAMINATION

Why is the rum gone? I’ll tell ya why, Jack. We be makin’ rum balls this here fine day. I tell ya true, I found this recipe while rummagin’ around ol’ Davy Jones’s locker. He’s a big fan o’rum, so if you’re hittin’ the high seas, bring a batch o’ these rum balls wi’ ya and he might let ya sail on.

ANALYSIS

Servings: about 30

Ingredients

  • 24 Oreo cookies (whole cookies with filling)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup black or dark spiced rum
  • 2 Tbsp Tia Maria, Kahlua, or other coffee liqueur
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Wilton Black Pearl Dust (optional)

Apparatus

  • Food processor with chopping blade
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • Small ice cream scoop, melon baller, or a spoon

Procedure

  1. Into your food processor add cookies, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder. Pulse on high until well combined.
  2. Add molasses, rum, and coffee liqueur, then pulse again to mix well.
  3. Add chopped nuts and pulse on low until combined. If you want large chunks of nuts, just do a quick pulse. If you want the nuts ground fine, then pulse until you no longer see the nuts.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl with a lid or cover with plastic wrap. Chill in your refrigerator for about 30 minutes so that it can firm up.
  5. Scoop the chilled mixture into balls and roll between your palms to form a smooth, round ball about an inch wide.
  6. Coat each rum ball with black pearl dust. A little bit goes a long way.
  7. Chill the rum balls in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

DISSECTION

If you don’t have Tia Maria or Kahlua, or don’t like coffee liqueur, you can just use more rum instead. I like Tia Maria because the coffee flavor compliments the chocolate. Sometimes when I make these I use only Tia Maria as it has rum as the base, but the coffee flavor can be too much for some folks.

POST-MORTEM

You can absolutely make these without the Black Pearl Dust. It can be hard to find in stores. Furthermore, the dust… gets… everywhere. You will look like a coal miner when you are finished making these with the pearl dust, and your lips and teeth will get a bit yucky, too. On a positive note, they sure are shiny. And tasty!

Why are the Rum Balls gone? I eats them all, that’s why.

Morbid Meals – Scotch Deviled Eggs

EXAMINATION

I’m a big fan of eggs. I’ll eat them a hundred different ways. Two of my favorites have to be good ol’ deviled eggs, perfect at a picnic, and the pub grub staple called a scotch egg. It struck me once upon a time that it might be quite tasty to make a hybrid of the two: a scotch deviled egg. Man, I love it when I’m right. When I was pondering this episode’s curse, that being “oddball curses”, I thought also that the scotch deviled egg is a very “odd ball” indeed. Thus, allow me to present this clever cursed canapé.

ANALYSIS

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 package (19 oz) bratwurst sausage links
  • 7 large eggs; 6 to boil, 1 for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp real mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp pickle juice (optional)
  • hot sauce, to taste (optional)
  • paprika, for garnish (I prefer smoked paprika)

Apparatus

  • Saucepan with a lid
  • slotted spoon
  • three medium bowls
  • Cookie sheet with Parchment paper
    • or a Roasting pan
  • mixing bowl

Procedure

  1. Hard boil six eggs: Put eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let the eggs cook for 9 to 10 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice-cold water. Let the eggs cool down for about 15 minutes to make them easier to peel.
  3. Once the eggs have cooled, carefully peel them.
  4. Open your package of brats and remove the sausage from their casings. Shape into six thin sausage patties.
  5. Take a peeled hard-boiled egg and wrap it completely in the sausage. Repeat for each egg.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
  7. Set up a breading station with three bowls: one for the flour, one for a beaten egg, and one for the breadcrumbs.
  8. For each sausage-encased egg, roll it in the flour, coating evenly. Dip in the beaten egg wash. Then roll in breadcrumbs and set aside.
  9. For baking, use either a cookie sheet lined with a sheet of parchment paper, to soak up the grease, or use a roasting pan, which is a drip pan with a wire rack on it. This will allow the grease to drip away from the scotch eggs.
  10. Evenly space out your breaded sausage and egg balls on your cookie sheet or roasting pan.
  11. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes. The goal is to make sure that the sausage is cooked completely. It should be nice and brown with no pink.
  12. Remove the scotch eggs from the oven and allow them to cool and rest on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any grease.
  13. Cut the scotch eggs in half and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. Set the scotch egg halves aside.
  14. Mash the egg yolks with a fork. Add the mustard, mayonnaise, pickle juice and hot sauce. Mix well until thick and smooth.
  15. Spoon the deviled yolk mixture back into the scotch egg halves. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

DISSECTION

Many folks know how to boil eggs, but I provide a brief overview above of how I cook them which is not the usual grandmother-tested method. I found this article with video from TheKitchn.com which I find works out well. Many scotch egg recipes tell you to under cook because the eggs will be cooked again. Since we are making deviled eggs, if they are a little over cooked, it is OK. I have found that 9 minutes using this off-the-heat method makes a nice creamy but firm egg yolk after all the rest of the cooking is done.

I prefer to bake mine vs. frying them as is traditional. When they are baked they are a) somewhat healthier and b) definitely less of a mess. If you would prefer to fry yours, try this:
Heat your oil in a deep fat fryer or deep pan to about 300ºF. Fry the scotch eggs until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool and rest. Then devil the yolks as described above.

POST-MORTEM

My goodness, these may be odd but they are so good. The bratwurst sausage brings just the right flavor to the eggs, mild and meaty. However, feel free to use whatever sausage you prefer. A hot Italian sausage would go well with these.

By the way, allow me to shatter your illusions. Scotch eggs are not Scottish, though I’m sure they are eaten there on occasion. No, scotch in this case is short for “scotched” which describes mincing meat, such as the sausage that encases the egg.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to The Stuff

MorbidMeals2

EXAMINATION

About the only thing we know about The Stuff is that “enough is never enough”. It was discovered oozing up from the ground at a petroleum chemical plant in the 80’s and it was very tasty, addictive, and mind-altering, all before it eventually caused consumers to explode. We sent in a crazy corporate spy to find out the formula, but he was unsuccessful. So, here’s my attempt using all natural ingredients.

thestuff

ANALYSIS

Yield: about 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

12 oz cream cheese, softened
10 oz sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract or other clear flavoring (optional)

Apparatus

  • Mixing bowl
  • Stand mixer or hand mixer

Procedure

  1. In the mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in the condensed milk, a little at a time, to keep the mixture smooth with no clumps.
  3. Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix until velvety smooth.
  4. Pour into serving containers and let it set in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.

DISSECTION

Feel free to add any flavor extract you like to amp up the flavor, just be sure it is clear so that The Stuff stays pristine white.

POST-MORTEM

The Stuff will stay fresh in the fridge for less than a week. After that, well, it might try to come find you.

Some of you may have noticed, this is really the filling for a basic no-bake cheesecake. Here’s some ideas for crusts. Prepare your crust, pour in The Stuff, and chill in your fridge for at least two hours. Top with cherries or whatever you fancy.

You can also make delightful parfaits with alternating layers of fruit, The Stuff, and some crumbled cookies (or graham crackers).

Also, this makes an amazing ice cream base and you don’t even have to churn it (though you can if you have an ice cream churn.) Just pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight. So good!

Really, the options are endless. Remember, “enough is never enough”!

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Motel Hell – Farmer Vincent’s Fritters

MorbidMeals2

EXAMINATION

Fritters are a great way to use up some of the leftover meats you have from previous meals, or from any stash you might have lying around. Farmer Vincent’s Fritters were very special indeed, as he used some of his famous smoked meats. Don’t bother asking what kind of meats they were, however. His slogan was “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s Fritters.” If you do ever venture down to try his fritters, I would recommend not staying at the nearby MOTEL HELLO. In fact, it is probably much safer all around to make these yourself.

fritters

ANALYSIS

Yield: 8 to 10 fritters

Ingredients

Filling
1 1/2 lb cooked and shredded meats of your choice
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped, or 1 tsp onion powder
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Batter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk or water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste

Oil for frying

Apparatus

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Frying pan or skillet

DISSECTION

There are basically two ways to make fritters. One is to mix the meat filling into the batter and fry them like griddlecakes. The other is to make patties or balls then dip them in batter and deep fry. I provide directions for both below.

Procedure

To prepare the filling
  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss together your cooked meats, paprika, cumin, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, fry your bacon strips until they are crispy as you like them. Set the bacon strips aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. In the rendered bacon fat, sauté the chopped onions and garlic. When the onions are translucent, pour the onions, garlic, and grease into the meat mixture. Crumble the bacon into bits and add to the meat mixture. Mix well to incorporate.
To make the batter
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat two large eggs, add the milk (or water), and then whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until you have a batter with no lumps.
To make the fritter-cakes
  1. If you prefer the griddle cake method, then into your skillet, back over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp of oil to provide a thick layer of oil to pan fry. Allow this to heat up.
  2. Pour in some of your batter into your meat mixture bowl and mix thoroughly. You may not need all of the batter. The mixture should bind well and maybe be a little loose.
  3. With a large spoon or ladle, measure out enough meat-batter mixture for two cakes. (You can do more if you have room in your skillet or make smaller cakes.) Fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
OR – To make the patties for deep-frying
  1. If you prefer the deep fry method, then into your skillet, over medium-high heat, add enough oil to provide at least an inch of oil to fry in. Allow this to heat up to about 325°F.
  2. Divide your meat mixture evenly into either into balls or patties. Some meats don’t form one or the other easily, so this will be a matter of experimentation. By using cooked meats, however, you don’t have to worry about under-cooked food if they are too thick.
  3. With a sturdy pair of tongs (or with your hands if you must), dip your meat into the batter and then gently place into the hot oil.
  4. Cook each fritter until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  5. Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.

POST-MORTEM

I like fritters made both ways, and I know this is also a regional thing to prefer one method over the other. Personally, I prefer eating the deep fried patties but they tend to make a bigger mess in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary.

As for serving, the patties or fritter-cakes go well with mashed potatoes and gravy or make excellent sandwiches. The fritter balls are fantastic with honey mustard or sweet-and-sour sauce.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Se7en – Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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EXAMINATION

It would be a deadly sin to stuff your face with box pasta and canned sauce. Or worse—canned spaghetti—like that poor bastard in the thriller, Se7en. Besides, I think we’ve had enough tomato recipes for now.

What I love about Carbonara is that I can avoid the usual acidic tomato sauces and also not go down the Alfredo route that can give lactose-intolerant folks grief. Like most Italian dishes, there are many ways to prepare this dish. Carbonara is an Italian-American creation dating back to WWII, and as such, recipes vary wildly. This recipe makes the preparation a great deal simpler than the “traditional” method but it is still delicious and different than the usual pasta night.

Spaghetti Carbonara

ANALYSIS

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lb spaghetti, cooked – reserve 1/4 cup of the water
3 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp of garlic powder)
black pepper, freshly ground

Apparatus

  • Mixing bowl
  • Large Saucepan
  • Colander / strainer

Procedure

  1. Cook your spaghetti by the directions on the package. Do NOT strain immediately. Take the pot off the heat but keep the pasta hot in the water while you prepare your sauce.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat your eggs and parmesan cheese together well, breaking up any lumps of cheese. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat your olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta/bacon and sauté to render the fat and make the bacon a little crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; if you are using chopped garlic, sauté until the garlic is soft, about a minute. Remove your saucepan from the heat.
  4. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the rest from your pasta and add the noodles to your saucepan, tossing together to evenly coat all of the noodles.
  5. Pour your egg and cheese mixture over the pasta in the saucepan and toss it all together, allowing the eggs to thicken without scrambling. Add a little bit of water as needed to melt the cheese into a velvety smooth consistency.
  6. Season with the black pepper, from a pepper mill if you have one.
  7. Serve the pasta with a side dish of extra cheese to sprinkle on as desired.

DISSECTION

I was worried when I mixed the cheese in with the eggs as it made a thick paste at first. However, once the water was added later, it smoothed out into a rich, luscious sauce.

POST-MORTEM

We will make this many times over. The kids loved the sauce. I was afraid they would turn their noses up at the eggs, but the sauce does not taste of eggs. All you taste is Parmesan and bacon. So basically heaven on pasta.

Morbid Meals – Killer BLT – Tribute to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

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EXAMINATION

In the cult classic black comedy, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, one of the random acts of violence perpetrated by these deadly nightshades was that a man was attacked by a BLT sandwich. What a horribly boring way to die. If I’m going to go out, I think that should be one killer BLT. Here’s my attempt at such a monster.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 1 sandwich

Ingredients

3 slices of favorite thick cut bacon, pancetta, and/or prosciutto
1/4 cup arugula, or your favorite lettuce
2 Tbsp Creamy Tomato Spread (see below)
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 slices sourdough bread, or your favorite bread
butter

Apparatus

  • Frying pan, skillet, or griddle

Procedure

  1. Grill the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked and is to your preferred level of crispiness. Set aside on paper towels to soak up the grease.
  2. Butter both sides of each piece of bread and grill until golden on both sides.
  3. Add shredded cheese to one slice of bread, allowing it to melt.
  4. Layer the bacon on top of the melted cheese. Spread some Creamy Tomato Spread on the other slice of bread, and sprinkle on arugula. Put other slice of bread on top.
  5. Cut in half and serve.

Creamy Tomato Spread

Yield: about a cup (for about 8 servings)

Serving Size: about 2 Tbsp per sandwich, to your taste

Ingredients

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 2 garlic cloves, minced)
1/4 tsp dried basil (or 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp hot sauce (optional, for a little kick)
6 oz can of tomato paste
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Procedure

  1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, herbs, spices, sugar, and salt together and mix well.
  2. Add the tomato paste and yogurt. Mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Save in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. This will stay fresh for about a week.

DISSECTION

If you have a panini sandwich press or the like, feel free to use it instead, but I’m partial to an old-fashioned grilled sandwich myself.

POST-MORTEM

I’ve never been a fan of tomatoes on sandwiches. They’re messy and I don’t find their plain flavor terribly appetizing. This spread on the other hand brings all the flavor to the party.

This sandwich pairs wonderfully with a nice hot bowl of tomato bisque, to really show those tomatoes who’s boss.

Morbid Meals – Homemade Twinkies in Tribute to Ghostbusters and Zombieland

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EXAMINATION

“Tell him about the Twinkie, Ray.”
In the original Ghostbusters movie, Dr. Egon Spengler portrayed by the late, great Harold Ramis compared the usual psychokinetic activity in New York to the size of a Twinkie. Of course, with all of the increased supernatural shenanigans, that relative Twinkie would be “thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.” The new reboot didn’t mention Twinkies, but there is a new tie-in Key Lime Slime version that is very tasty.

“Where are you, you spongy, yellow, delicious bastards?”
In the movie Zombieland, Woody Harrelson’s character Tallahassee searched everywhere in vain to find a box of Twinkies during the zombie apocalypse. Bill Murray is in both of these movies, but in Zombieland, Bill didn’t have any Twinkies either. Sorry, Tallahassee.

Little did they know that Hostess would actually declare bankruptcy and Twinkies would become a rare treat. That is, of course, until they made a comeback. During that void of no Twinkies, I learned how to make snack cakes. If we end up with another shortage, Zombie-related or not, now we can all have Twinkies. This version also has less “junk” even though I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “healthy”.

twinkies

ANALYSIS

Yield: 12 cakes

Ingredients

Batter

1 cup pastry flour (or 1 cup AP flour minus 1 Tbsp, plus 1 Tbsp cornstarch)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, separate whites & yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream Filling

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk

Apparatus

Procedure

For the cakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly grease your pan.
  2. Sift together the flour (and cornstarch if using it), baking powder, and salt then set aside.
  3. Into two bowls, separate your egg whites from your yolks.
  4. In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, first beat your egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Transfer these egg whites to another bowl and set aside. Wipe down your mixer’s bowl.
  5. In the mixer bowl, add your egg yolks, sugar, honey, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat together for about 1 minute.
  6. Reduce the speed and add the flour mixture. Beat until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Turn off the mixer.
  7. With a rubber spatula, fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, a small amount at a time, until fully incorporated.
  8. Pour the batter into the molds of your pan. Do not fill more than 2/3 of the way for each mold.
  9. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
  10. Cool the cakes in the pan for at least 15 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely.

For the filling

  1. In your stand mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar together.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and milk then beat together until smooth and creamy. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. When the cakes have cooled, use a piping bag to fill each cake with the filling.

DISSECTION

If you want to make gluten-free cakes, replace the flour with 140 grams by weight of gluten-free all-purpose baking mix of your choice.

If you want to celebrate the new Ghostbusters reboot with your own Key lime filling, try this recipe. (Skip the graham cracker crust though, naturally, and maybe add a drop or two of green food coloring.)

For Twinkie aficionados who want the real deal creamy filling, here’s a copycat filling recipe.

POST-MORTEM

These take very little time and preparation. You can fill them with any kind of filling, even coat them in chocolate ganache. Hell, dip ‘em in batter and fry them. (State Fairs rock!) The best thing about making your own Twinkies is in having all the filling you want and then some!

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Shaun of the Dead – Strawberry Cornettos

MorbidMeals2EXAMINATION

20160718_191914For ice cream sundae treats in America we have King Cones and Drumsticks, but the rest of the civilized world has the Cornetto. In Shaun of the Dead, a couple of mates share a pair of Strawberry Cornetto cones which were bought while blissfully not noticing the zombies shuffling down the street. Good thing those Cornettos gave them the energy to fight off the zombies and defend the Winchester pub.

A Strawberry Cornetto is described as being “a crispy baked wafer coated from top to bottom with a chocolatey layer, combined with delicious vanilla-flavour ice cream and strawberry fruit ice, topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate curls.”

That means we could assemble some from a quick trip to the shop to fetch:
Sugar cones, Magic Shell chocolate topping, strawberry ice or sorbet, vanilla ice cream, strawberry syrup, and white chocolate chips. I will describe how to assemble your own sundae cones, but I will also provide recipes for most of the components.

If you want to make strawberry sorbet, strawberry syrup, and vanilla ice cream all from scratch, the recipes follow. If you just want to buy the constituent parts and assemble, feel free to skip past the recipes and move on to the assembly instructions at the bottom.


Strawberry syrup

Yield: 2/3 cup

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh strawberries, hulled
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Apparatus

  • Food processor or blender
  • Mesh strainer (optional)
  • Squeeze bottle

Procedure

  1. Purée all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender on high speed until blended smooth.
  2. Use a strainer to remove any seeds or pulpy bits, if desired.
  3. Store in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.

Strawberry sorbet

Yield: 1 quart (4 cups)

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of a medium lemon
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups cold water

Apparatus

  • Mixing bowl
  • Ice cream or sorbet churn

Procedure

  1. In a mixing bowl, toss together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Add the corn syrup and water and mash the strawberries well. You can also do this step in food processor or blender but do quick pulses to lightly mix the ingredients.
  3. Prepare your churn per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Pour the mixture into your churn’s bowl and operate the churn until the sorbet is frozen.

Vanilla ice cream

Yield: 1 quart (4 cups)

Ingredients

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Apparatus

  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Ice cream churn

Procedure

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Then whisk in the sugar slowly until completely blended.
  2. Whisk in the cream and milk until completely blended.
  3. Prepare your churn per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Pour the mixture into your churn’s bowl and operate the churn until the ice cream is frozen.

Assembly of the Ice Cream Sundae Cones

Components

6 Sugar cones
Magic Shell chocolate topping
strawberry sorbet
vanilla ice cream
strawberry syrup
4 oz white chocolate chips

Apparatus

  • Waxed paper
  • Adhesive tape and scissors
  • Ice cream cone stand (use an egg carton, some champagne flute glasses, or some other contrivance)

Procedure

  1. Find a contraption that will let you stand your cones upright in your freezer. I think an egg carton would work quite well. If you have fluted glasses that you can easily get the cone in and out of, they could work well also.
  2. Cut pieces of waxed paper to fit around your sugar cones and provide about 2 inches of clearance above the top of the cones. This will provide a mold for the ice cream crown. Set the wax paper sheets aside for now.
  3. Using a squeeze bottle, coat the inside of your sugar cones with the chocolate topping. Make sure the bottom of the cone on the inside has a nice well of chocolate. Prop your cones standing up in your freezer and chill until the chocolate is solid.
  4. Spoon in enough strawberry sorbet into the cone to come up just under the edge of the top of the cone. Return to the freezer until the sorbet is solid.
  5. Wrap the cones in the waxed paper and tape to keep them on. Spoon in soft vanilla ice cream, almost to the top of the waxed paper.
  6. Using a squeeze bottle, drizzle on some strawberry syrup and sprinkle white chocolate chips on top. Return to the freezer and allow these to harden up. These will stay fresh in your freezer for about a week.

DISSECTION

These sundae cones are very simple to assemble whether you make all the ingredients yourself or use off-the-shelf treats. On a hot day, especially here in Arizona, these are so wonderful.

POST-MORTEM

I’ve never personally eaten a Strawberry Cornetto, and I know they are quite beloved in the U.K. and elsewhere. Please accept this humble sundae not as a replacement for a treasured treat, but for one crazy yank’s attempt to know such bliss.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Beetlejuice – Shrimp Cocktail

MorbidMeals2

EXAMINATION

DAY-OH! Dayyyyy-ohhhh…
Beetlejuice may be the ghost with the most, but Delia can sure throw a party. It ain’t a shindig until the shrimp cocktail is served. Take my advice, however, and share your feast with your ghostly guests rather than make them angry; your shrimp cocktail will thank you.

While it is easy to find cooked shrimp and jars of cocktail sauce at the store, there’s something magical about a proper shrimp boil and fresh cocktail sauce.

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ANALYSIS

Serves 4

Ingredients

court bouillon, or use a seafood boil (Old Bay, Zatarain’s, etc.)
1 lb. uncooked jumbo shrimp (shell-on and de-veined)
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp fresh or store-bought horseradish, grated
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
the juice of one large lemon (about 1/4 cup)

Apparatus

  • Stock pot or a large cooking pot

Procedure

  1. In a large pot, bring to a rolling boil 2 quarts of water and about 1/4 cup of your favorite shrimp/seafood boil. If you want a traditional court bouillon, see the directions in the Dissection below.
  2. Carefully drop your shrimp into the boil and turn off the heat. The water is hot enough to poach the shrimp at this point.
  3. Remove the shrimp when the shells turn pink, the flesh is solid white, and they begin to curl. This is about 3-5 minutes depending on their size.
  4. Allow the shrimp to cool to room temperature (or refrigerate them if you like) and then peel the shells off. It is to your style of presentation if you want to keep the tails on or not.
  5. While the shrimp are cooling, prepare the cocktail sauce by mixing the ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Chill in your refrigerator until ready to serve.
  6. Serve either on one large bowl with the sauce in the bowl and the shrimp hooked along the edge, or provide individual cocktail glasses for each guest with sauce in the glass and shrimp around the edge.

DISSECTION

I prefer to cook the shrimp in their shells and then remove the shells after cooking rather than peeling them before cooking. First, this brings a lot more flavor to the boil. If you’ve ever made stock, you know what I mean. Secondly, the shells turn from brownish-gray to pink indicating that the shrimp are fully cooked. Third, the shells are easier to remove, in my opinion, after cooking, because the shrimp shrink and curl up. I usually buy frozen shrimp that are de-veined with the shells still on but split. This marries the flavor of the shells with the convenience of cleaner, easier-to-peel shrimp.

If you do choose to peel the shrimp first, trust me when I say you should toss the shells into your boil so that you get all the flavor you can into the shrimp.

A court bouillon is a French term for a broth used to poach food, usually seafood. It can be anything from salted water to a mixture of water, wine, lemon juice, and spices. A standard version uses mirepoix (which is one medium onion, one carrot, and one celery stalk, all roughly chopped), along with the juice of one lemon, and a couple bay leaves. You would bring that to a rolling boil then let it simmer for about 30 minutes before you add the shrimp.

While a court bouillon is the traditional way to poach shrimp for a cocktail, being a low-country boy at heart, I personally prefer a good ol’ shrimp boil like Old Bay. The point is to give the shrimp some flavor and not just boil in plain water.

Regarding the cocktail sauce, I know some people like to add hot sauce to their cocktail sauce. That is cheating to my mind in order to cover up for not using good horseradish or not enough. Most stores sell jars or tubes of grated horseradish and they are quite effective on their own without peppery assistance. Feel free to kick it up a notch if you really must.

Finally, to use fresh or frozen shrimp? Frankly, unless you are catching the shrimp yourself, the shrimp were sold to you frozen. If your fishmonger sells you “fresh” shrimp, they are really thawed previously frozen shrimp. You can thaw your shrimp at home before cooking, but tossing in frozen shrimp adds only a few seconds of cooking time in boiling water, versus spending hours properly thawing your shrimp.

POST-MORTEM

Bubba Gump might like his shrimp prepared many different ways, and I admit I do as well, but I always prefer a simple yet fresh Shrimp Cocktail. Like Lydia, Delia, and the gang, it makes me wanna get up and dance! Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch! Daylight come and me wan’ go hoooooome!

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Misery – Tomato Bisque

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EXAMINATION

Misery is probably my favorite of the movies based on Stephen King’s novels. It is a taut thriller with no supernatural elements, which is uncommon for his adaptations. My favorite scene is the one where Annie serves Paul some soup as she discusses his latest manuscript. When she gets overwrought over the book’s profanity and spills a little soup on him, it makes a powerful bit of bloody red foreshadowing that always gives me chills.

Warming up a can of soup can do wonders for fending off the chill of a long winter’s night, but I always imagined that Annie, knowing how much she admired her best-selling author she was nursing back to health, would cook no ordinary tomato soup. Rather she’d serve him up a hearty tomato bisque.

Traditionally, tomato bisque tends to be tomato soup that was cooked with ham and cream added. I think most people who eat tomato soup or bisque would prefer a vegetarian version, so I adapted some recipes to this one below.

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ANALYSIS

Servings: 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups vegetable stock
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream, or coconut cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Apparatus

  • Large soup pot
  • Immersion stick blender or regular blender

Procedure

  1. In a large pot, add the oil and onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cornstarch, seasoned salt, and smoked paprika. Stir to evenly cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add the broth and tomatoes. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly to break down any lumps that might form from the cornstarch.
  4. When it reaches a boil, bring the heat down to low. Stir in the whole herbs. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the herbs and puree the soup with your blender.
  6. Stir in the cream and add salt and pepper to taste.

DISSECTION

We found a can of fire-roasted tomatoes that gave a wonderful flavor to the soup. We recommend it if you can find it.

If you’d rather use fresh tomatoes, you will need 5 or 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes. Boil them for about 1 minute, let them cool then peel and chop them.

POST-MORTEM

This is a delicious, hearty soup that will instantly warm you up on a cold night. Share some with your family or your favorite author tonight. Just try not to get so worked up about things while serving it.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Creepshow – Father’s Day Ice Cream Cake

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EXAMINATION

As a father, I totally understand the motivation of the Dad in Creepshow. Though, I wouldn’t take my obsession with Father’s Day cake as far as he did. Probably. Best not to test me. Here’s my recommendation for a delicious ice cream and brownie cake that’s super easy to make so you have no excuse but to make it.

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ANALYSIS

Servings: 12 to 16

Ingredients

1 box brownie mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on brownie mix
1/2 gallon (2 quarts) Dad’s favorite ice cream, slightly softened
Red velvet cookies, crushed
Red candy melts

Apparatus

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. If you do not have springform pans, you can use regular cake pans but line them with foil and lightly grease the bottom.
  2. Combine the water, oil, eggs, and brownie mix per the instructions on the box. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
  3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes.
  4. Remove the pans from the oven and allow the brownie to cool completely in the pans for about an hour.
  5. Crumble up your red velvet cookies. Sprinkle them on top of the brownies to form a crumble layer. (If the only cookies you can find are sandwich cookies, you might want to remove the cream filling, but that is up to your taste.)
  6. While the brownies are cooling, take your ice cream out of the freezer. Allow the ice cream to soften up but not melt. Place in your refrigerator if it is melting too fast. You want to be able to spread the ice cream, not pour it.
  7. When the brownies have cooled, divide the ice cream evenly between the brownie pans and spread it evenly on top of the crumbled cookies in both pans.
  8. Place the pans in your freezer and chill them until firm, at least two hours.
  9. Remove the pans from freezer, and carefully remove the ice cream cakes from their pans. Stack them to form alternating layers on a serving platter.
  10. In a double boiler or a microwave, melt the red candies and drizzle on top of cake. Cut into wedges and serve immediately or freeze for later.

DISSECTION

Invest in the springform pans. They make not only this application of baking and freezing dessert easier with an effortless removal, they will benefit all of your future baking.

Note: Pouring hot candy melts on top of ice cream a) causes the ice cream to melt quickly, and b) turns the candy instantly hard. If you are going for a gory effect, this may work to your advantage as it will be a bit messy. If you want a smoother topping, you might consider a piping bag for better control.

POST-MORTEM

My favorite ice cream is cherry cordial and it was very delicious. It worked well with the kind of gothy black and red motif of the cake. I’m pretty sure’d come back from the dead to eat this Father’s Day cake.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to Silence of the Lambs – Beef Liver with Braised Fava Beans

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EXAMINATION

Liver gets a bad rap. It says a lot about a meat that folks typically cover up their poorly prepared liver with something as strong as onions.

However, with the right preparation and sauce, liver is more tender and just as delicious as any cut of beef. Leave it to Hannibal Lecter to suggest to us a fine pairing of liver with fava beans served with a nice Chianti wine.

Liver_Fava_Chianti

ANALYSIS

Servings: 2

Ingredients

8 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup diced pancetta or bacon
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb fava beans, shelled and peeled if fresh
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 lb young beef liver, which should provide 2 slices
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine, Chianti preferred

Apparatus

  • Saucepan
  • Skillet

Procedure

  1. In a saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp of butter over medium-low heat then add the pancetta bacon. Cook until the fat renders out; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions soften; about 10 minutes.
  3. Set aside half to this for later.
  4. Into half of the onion and pancetta mixture, add the beans and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes, allowing the stock to thicken.
  5. While the beans simmer, dredge your liver in the seasoned flour.
  6. In a skillet, melt the remaining 6 Tbsp of butter.
  7. Fry the floured liver in the melted butter until golden brown; about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Set the cooked livers aside and cover to keep warm.
  8. Into your skillet, add the reserved onion and pancetta mixture and the wine. Simmer until the sauce thickens; about 5 minutes.
  9. When the beans and sauce are done, plate your liver and spoon sauce of the sauce over it. Serve with a side of beans. If you have extra sauce, serve it in a sauceboat.

DISSECTION

If you cannot find fava beans, lima beans are an accessible and acceptable substitute. If you buy canned beans of either kind, you should still simmer them just as long, just don’t stir too often, or you’ll have refried beans.

POST-MORTEM

I normally hate liver and onions. This, however, was SO AMAZING. It practically melted in my mouth. The pancetta bacon brings another layer of friendly flavor to the dish as well. It was a huge hit and very inexpensive. So Clarice, tell the lambs to stop crying and enjoy liver again.

Morbid Meals – Tribute to The Exorcist – Split Pea Soup

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Split Pea Soup

EXAMINATION
Linda Blair plays a child possessed by the devil in The Exorcist, the classic horror flick from 1973. In what is probably the most memorable scene in cinema, horror or otherwise, she vomits up her dinner of split pea soup in an impossible 360 degree spray. I’m sure that as a result, Campbell’s stock of split pea soup forever took a hit. If you’re like me and scenes like that encourage you to try split pea soup, then give this easy recipe a spin.
20160411_193730ANALYSIS
Servings: 5-6
Ingredients
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
1 dried bay leaf
1 smoked ham hock
Apparatus
  • Dutch oven, and/or a Crock pot
Procedure
  1. In your Dutch oven, add everything together and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. If you have a crock pot and want to slow cook your soup, then pour everything into the crock pot, cover it, and cook on high for about 6 hours.
  3. However, if you can’t wait that long, keep the soup in your Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  4. In either case, stir occasionally to keep the beans from burning on the bottom.
  5. When done, discard the bay leaves. Remove the ham hock and dice the meat from the bone and return the meat to the soup.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
DISSECTION
If you can’t find a smoked ham hock at your local grocery store, you can substitute with about 1/2 cup of cubed ham or cooked bacon.
You can easily make this recipe vegan simply by not adding any pork and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock. If you would miss that wonderful smoky note, however, you can use a little Liquid Smoke to taste.
If you have a pressure cooker, you have been warned not to cook something like this in it. However, after scouring the interwebs, I found this recipe from HipPressureCooking.com that gives a recipe and tips to make it not only possible but unbelievably fast.
POST-MORTEM
I have always loved split-pea soup. Maybe The Exorcist influenced my gothic, Horror Addict heart, or maybe I just love good comfort food. Either way, you owe it to yourself to try it from scratch. Who knows what demons might be lurking in those condensed cans of soup!

Morbid Meals – Tribute to The Lost Boys – Lo Mein and Rice

My favorite movie (ever) is The Lost Boys. I grew up with that model of biker punk teen vampires long before modern authors came along and gave us kinder, gentler anemic vamps. These guys were jerks rather than actually evil, though. Take for instance, the classic scene where David gives Michael some Chinese food. Harmless steamed rice is offered with a little mind control suggesting that he was actually eating maggots. After Michael spits that out and realizes it was just rice, David offers him his lo mein which looks instead like mealworms. This is all set up, however, for the coup de grace, when David offers Michael some red wine, which Star warns him is blood. Of course by now the joke has gotten old and Michael drinks the night away. On real vampire blood wine. Funny, childish, and yet I never forget that scene when we order Chinese take-out.

 

20160404_174723Steamed Rice

EXAMINATION

I usually cook rice in an electric rice cooker because it is dead simple and hands off. It’s the best uni-tasker we own. Of course, fluffy rice can be made even on the stovetop without a lot of hassle and without resorting to instant rice.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 1 cup of steamed rice

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup white rice, long or short grain – not instant

Apparatus

  • Medium saucepan with a lid

 Procedure

  1. In the medium saucepan, add salt to your water and bring it to a rolling boil.
  2. Stir in the rice and return to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and cover with the lid. Simmer the rice for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has absorbed all of the water. You should see the rice dotted with steam pocket holes when it is done.
  4. Turn off the heat and set the covered pan aside to cool for 10 minutes. Keep covered until ready to serve.

 DISSECTION

The ratio is important. Most rice packages suggest a ratio of 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, however, that is too mushy for a nice Chinese steamed rice.

 


 

Vegetable Lo Mein

 

EXAMINATION

Lo Mein is a wonderful cheap meal that you can use to stretch out leftovers or throw together quickly any time.

 

ANALYSIS

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients

Lo Mein sauce

  • 3 oz (6 Tbsp) soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp five spice powder, or ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, optional

 

Stir Fry

  • 16 oz (1 pound) lo mein noodles, or thin spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cup snow peas
  • 1/2 cup of broccoli

 Apparatus

  • Large pot and a strainer
  • Wok or large non-stick skillet
 Procedure
  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine well all of the ingredients for the sauce, then set aside. (You may need to shake it up before serving.)
  2. In a large pot, bring enough water to cover the noodles to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions, making sure the noodles are tender and not too soft. Drain the noodles in a strainer and set the noodles aside. 
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add all of the veggies and cook until tender, about 4-6 minutes. 
  4. Add the cooked noodles to the wok and pour over all of it the sauce. Toss it all together making sure to incorporate evenly. Serve immediately.

 

DISSECTION

Spaghetti will work if you can’t find lo mein noodles. Also, olive oil is a fine substitute if you can’t find sesame oil, but you will miss out on that wonderful nutty flavor. Also, feel free to use your favorite veggies, even a frozen stir-fry medley, thawed first. The lo mein police are not going to enforce any recipe list. If you like meat in your lo mein, I recommend cooking it after the noodles but before stir-frying the veggies. Then you can toss the veggies, meat, and noodles together to incorporate the flavors.

 

POST-MORTEM

I recently discovered coconut amino as a replacement for soy sauce since soy and I don’t get along anymore. The only difference in flavor is that coconut aminos are less salty and have a touch of sweetness compared to soy sauce, but I can enjoy Asian food much more now. I find restaurants have started offering it as well. Not many stores, though — I have only seen it in organic/health food stores.

This recipe comes together so quick, and is so versatile, that we make it more often than grabbing take-out.

 

Morbid Meals – Red Velvet Halloween

HA-Halloween2015

Halloween is once again upon us and rather than share more recipes for pumpkin-spice everything, I opted for some bloody good red velvet cake recipes!

I was originally going to present a recipe for red velvet cupcakes with shattered sugar glass shards, with some tips on how to make the “glass”. My search for the perfect recipe however led me down a rabbit hole of great recipes for many morbid uses for red velvet. Here’s just a handful of my favorites.

Shattered Glass Cupcake

The recipe that started my search. You can use any cupcake recipe you like, or a box of red velvet cake mix, or even dress up some pre-made cupcakes. The real secret here is in making the “glass”. I’ve seen recipes that called for just sugar and water, but this recipe at FromaWhisperToaScream.blogspot.com has corn syrup and cream of tartar for added structure.

2 cups water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

If you have a silicone mat for a baking sheet, it will make removing your sugar glass easier, but this is not necessary. Just be sure that you clean your baking sheet pan thoroughly and DO NOT grease it.

Bring everything to a boil in a saucepan, stirring constantly. When the syrup reaches 300°F (hard ball stage), pour it into a metal baking sheet that is kept level. Cool until completely hardened, which will depend on the humidity of your kitchen. Cover with a towel and smash into shards with a mallet or hammer.

The blog has a great recipe for the edible blood syrup, but I’ve also used raspberry and/or blood orange jam thinned out with a little water to make the drizzle syrup.

Bloody Halloween Cake

For something a little classier, and without the sugar shards, I loved the look of this cake, by Shamene at SayItWithCake.org. It is a simple four-layer red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. What makes it special is the red chocolate ganache. Shamene used red candy melts in the ganache which is dripped down the sides to form the bloody topping. It looks fantastic and tasty. Top off the decoration with a handy cake knife stabbed into the top.

Brain Cake

For the zombie fans out there, this is the pièce de résistance! Yolanda of HowToCakeIt.com presents an incredible step-by-step video of how she made her very realistic-looking and yet scrumptious cake shaped like a brain. Enjoy the video!

For these and more ideas, check out my Pinterest page with links to the recipes.

Morbid Meals – Upside-Down Pizza

EXAMINATION

MM12The Hanged Man Tarot card suggests that we need to get a new perspective on whatever is in our way. A challenge that I often face is not knowing what to make for dinner for me and my family.

So how about we take a popular family dinner decision — pizza night — and turn it upside-down! This casserole dish resembles an upside-down pizza, but is hearty enough to feed more than an eight-slice pizza ever could.

ANALYSIS

Servings: 8

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 lb Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef
1 small jar (4.5 oz) mushrooms, drained
1 can/jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Apparatus

  • Saucepan
  • 9×13 casserole dish
  • Medium bowl

Procedure

  1. Chop your onion and bell pepper, and set aside. If your sausage is in casings, remove the meat from the casings.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, beef, onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms, until the meat is browned. Drain off the grease.
  3. Add the spaghetti sauce of your choice (or tomato sauce and favorite herbs if you prefer). Bring to a quick boil then simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 inch casserole dish and sprinkle with the Mozzarella cheese.
  5. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  6. In the medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour this over the casserole.
  7. Bake the casserole uncovered in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
  8. Let the casserole rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

DISSECTION

Feel free to switch up the ingredients. Use whatever your favorite pizza toppings are. If you want a gluten-free version, I think polenta would make an excellent crust layer. (2 cups boiling water to 1 cup of corn meal, cook for about 15 minutes, whisk occasionally, then pour over your casserole instead of the batter.)

POST-MORTEM

This goes together faster than lasagna and gets eaten faster than a delivery pizza. Everyone had seconds and even the picky eaters who normally avoid veggies enjoyed this new take on a favorite dish.

Morbid Meals – Conjurer’s Cookies

EXAMINATION

MM01The Magician will never divulge their secret, and with most of their illusions, truly if you knew how they were done, you’d be disappointed.

Such is not the case with cooking, in my mind. Knowing not only the ingredients, but the recipe, for your favorite dish, is crucial, but learning to master a technique and improve upon it can make a meal into something extraordinary.

For the Magician tarot card, I wanted to find something, dare I say, magically delicious. Kristy Lynn of the Sweet Insanity Bake Shop created the original Unicorn Poop™ cookies, a fun multi-colored sugar cookie full of glitter and sprinkles. These inspired me to make something even more magical. If these rainbow delights were gluten-free AND sugar-free, they would be unbelievable! So, gather round as I share the secrets of the Conjurer’s Cookies!

ANALYSIS

Makes 16 cookies

Ingredients

35 g coconut flour
70 g arrowroot (or tapioca starch)
105 g sweet potato flour (or potato starch)
140 g sweet rice flour
1 tsp xantham gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar substitute, like Splenda for baking
2 whole eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract, or other flavorings
Food Coloring, Standard colors (Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue)

Decoration (optional)

1 egg white
1 Tbsp water
Shimmer Dust (Wilton)

Apparatus

  • Plastic cling wrap
  • Cookie sheet
  • Cheap Paint Brushes

Procedure

  1. Measure and sift together the flours, gum (or psyllium husk), and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. Using a stand mixer, or by hand, cream the softened butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well to combine.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. It will make a very thick batter, but not quite a solid dough. Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes to thicken up a bit so you can easily divide it.
  4. Divide the dough into six pieces and add your food coloring to each. You will need about 12 drops per color: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple. If you get the standard four-pack of colors (Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue) then you can make Orange (8 Yellow and 4 Red drops), and Purple (9 Red and 3 Blue drops). I find mashing in with a fork works well to blend the colors into the dough.
  5. Wrap each colored dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You can also freeze these to use later.
  6. Take them out of the fridge or freezer and allow to thaw slightly.
  7. With one colored piece of dough at a time, roll into a long thin log. Start with Red and go down the rainbow, if you like, and place each log next to each other. It is OK if the logs are not consistently thick or long.
  8. Roll the rainbow into itself to form a multi-colored log and gently roll to lengthen the log a bit and let the colors merge a little. The goal is to have distinct colors, so don’t let the colors bleed together and mix.
  9. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease a cookie sheet, or add a sheet of parchment paper or a silicon sheet.
  10. Cut your dough log into about 16 pieces. (Quarter it, then quarter each piece.) With each piece, roll down again to make a thin enough piece to lay down in a flat spiral. Each spiraled disk should be reminiscent of tie-dye.
  11. To add just that extra-special effect, make an egg wash in a small bowl with the egg white and water. With a clean paintbrush, or a pastry brush, mix the egg wash and then brush onto each cookie. Sprinkle a pinch of Shimmer Dust onto each cookie. A great way is to use another dry paint brush dipped into the Shimmer Dust and flick onto the cookies. Do not be tempted to mix the Shimmer Dust into the egg wash — it will clump up.
  12. Put cookie sheet in fridge and chill to set form for at least 30 minutes.
  13. Bake on the center rack at 400°F for 10-12 minutes. These cookies will spread as there’s no gluten to bind them. Bake them until they are just slightly crispy.
  14. Remove to a cooling rack and let them cool and firm up.

DISSECTION

This is a project that kids will absolutely want to help with, as it is like playing with clay. Have fun with this one. It is part of the magic.

POST-MORTEM

These are surprisingly good, especially warm. I made these originally with vanilla extract which gives a traditional sugar cookie flavor, but my brain kept telling me it expected fruit flavors. It might be fun to do each color as a different flavor, but I expect the resulting flavor would be very muddled like fruit punch. But hey, if you try it, let me know!

Morbid Meals – Skillet Hermit Cookies

EXAMINATION

MM09For the Hermit card, I originally pondered finding a recipe that would serve just one person. However, I love to cook for my family so I don’t think I even know how to cook for just one person. I haven’t done that since I was a bachelor.

So instead I pondered other types of hermits. Hermit crab sprang to mind, so I thought about a crab recipe, but then I remembered Hermit cookies. Tasty raisin-spice cookies that I hadn’t had in forever. So I dug up my recipe, one that was inspired by a 135-year old recipe.

Maria Parloa was a famous cook in the 1880’s. She opened Miss Parloa’s School of Cooking in Boston around 1877, and in 1880 published MISS PARLOA’S NEW COOK BOOK. I had a copy of this cookbook many ages ago, but have since turned to electronic versions of the book many times.

Her original recipe for Hermit cookies is as follows:

Two cupfuls of sugar, one of butter, one of raisins (stoned and chopped), three eggs, half a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in three table-spoonfuls of milk; a nutmeg, one teaspoonful each of clove and cinnamon, and six cupfuls of flour. Roll about one-fourth of an inch thick, and cut with a round cake cutter. Bake in a rather quick oven. It will take about twelve minutes.

Times and tastes have changed since then, as have cooking directions. For instance a “quick oven” means hot enough to bake quickly, which would be roughly 400°F. Thompson seedless grapes were a novelty during this time, so some raisins might still have had seeds, called stones, which needed to be removed, hence the term “stoned”.

Recipes for Hermits are many and varied since this recipe from 1880, but they have been quite the staple in New England. As for my own recipe below, it evolved from many of these variations, but I still try to honor the simplicity of the original. One twist I added, however, is to bake it in a skillet. This makes a thick, chewy cookie that you can slice into bars, or cover in vanilla ice cream and eat while still warm.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup dark, unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups All-Purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Apparatus

  • Cast-iron skillet
  • Electric stand mixer

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In electric mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar together.
  3. Add in molasses, mix until combined.
  4. Add egg, mix until combined.
  5. Dissolve baking soda into buttermilk, and add to batter, mix until combined.
  6. In another mixing bowl, sift flour and spices together, and add the raisins. Mix this into the wet ingredients.
  7. Spread the dough into your skillet.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Remove skillet from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Slice into wedges and enjoy.

DISSECTION

You can substitute 1 cup of brown sugar for the sugar and molasses, but I prefer the extra deep flavor and extra chewiness that the molasses brings.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute with regular milk, but then use baking powder instead of baking soda. This provides the acid needed that would otherwise have been in the buttermilk.

POST-MORTEM

These are a delightful cross between raisin spice cake and cookies, and the skillet only adds to the old-fashioned nature of the recipe.

Morbid Meals – Queen of Hearts’ Tarts

EXAMINATION

The Empress Tarot card inspired me to recall one of my favorite nursery rhymes. Originally published in 1782, it is more famously presented as evidence against the Knave of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
MM03

“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer day: The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them quite away!”

While this theft isn’t worthy of the Queen’s favorite punishment of decapitation, after you eat these tarts, you might agree that the Knave had the right idea.

ANALYSIS

Yield

About 10-12 Tarts

Ingredients

4 oz butter (1 stick)
4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup All-Purpose flour
red fruit jam of your choice

Apparatus

  • Electric stand mixer or food processor
  • Plastic cling wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • Two heart-shaped cookie cutters (One should fit inside the other.)
  • Cookie sheet pan

Procedure

  1. Into the bowl of your mixer or food processor, mix together the butter and cream cheese. Then add the sugar and salt and mix to combine well.
  2. On low speed, add the flour and mix to combine until a smooth dough forms.
  3. Lay down a sheet of plastic cling wrap. Roll out your ball of dough into a circle about 1-inch thick. Now wrap the dough up in the plastic wrap and chill it in your refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up. If you don’t intend to work with it immediately, it can stay in the fridge for about 3 days, but then when you take it out to work with it, it will need to rest at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes to be pliable enough to roll out.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, if you have some, or a silicon non-stick baking mat is better. If not, spray down your cookie sheet with a non-stick spray.
  5. Dust your work surface with flour and then roll your dough out carefully to about 1/8-inch thick. If the dough breaks up, it is too cold, so let it rest. If it is too sticky, dust the dough and your rolling pin with flour.
  6. Use the larger cookie cutter to cut the dough into hearts. One heart will be used for a bottom crust. With another heart, cut out the middle with the smaller cutter and carefully remove the inside. This outline of a heart then goes on top of a bottom crust. Save all of the inside pieces to roll out again.
  7. With the remaining dough from the inside pieces, roll out again and repeat cutting them out. You might find it easier to make the double cut outline pieces first, reserve the insides, and roll them out to make new bottoms.
  8. Depending on the sizes of your cookie cutters, you should be able to get about 10-12 tart crusts onto a cookie sheet. Depending on the firmness of your dough, you may find it easiest to lay down all of the bottoms first then carefully lay down the outline edge crust dough on top. Gently press together so that the dough will bake together as one.
  9. In the outlined well of each crust dough, fill with a little less than a teaspoon of your favorite jam. Try to smooth it out inside if you can, but don’t worry too much; as these bake, they will spread out inside. If you fill them with too much jam, they will bubble over.
  10. Bake in your pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown.
  11. Let the tarts cool on a rack if you have one. When the jam centers are firm, they are ready to eat.

DISSECTION

This recipe scales easily, since the butter and cream cheese are equal values and match well with a full cup of flour. I originally used 4 oz by weight of flour (a scant cup), but the dough was way too sticky. I added enough flour to make a full cup and the dough was still moist without being too tacky.

POST-MORTEM

I can absolutely see why the Knave of Hearts would steal these tarts, and why the Queen might overreact when they are gone. They are so flaky and tender and delicious. If you make them with different jams, you can have a wonderful variety to enjoy.

Morbid Meals – Haggis Burgers

EXAMINATION

MM21Contemplating The World tarot card was tricky. I wanted to prepare a dish that would represent the melding of more than one culture. But, which cultures? Plus, this being Morbid Meals, I wanted something… unusual. Bizarre even. That’s when I thought of one of my favorite chefs, Andrew Zimmern, host of the fun-filled Bizarre Foods TV show. Zimmern calls Haggis the “quintessential bizarre food.”

Therein lay a challenge, but one which fit my theme. I have no choice but to modify a haggis recipe in order to prepare it here in the U.S.A., thanks to F.D.A. regulations that ban the sale and import of various parts of lamb that go into making haggis.

Simply making a version of haggis that lacked the requisite offal, however, didn’t seem all that appealing, and it wouldn’t truly be haggis, would it? Instead, I decided to give it a proper American twist and create Haggis Burgers!

ANALYSIS

Makes 8 patties

Ingredients

1/4 cup oats
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 lb lamb liver
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice or ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground dried coriander

Apparatus

  • Food processor
  • Large bowl
  • Frying pan or skillet

Procedure

  1. Cook the oats per oatmeal instructions, then set aside to cool.
  2. Wash the liver and then add to a food processor. Pulse until you have a fine puree of liver.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well to incorporate everything together.
  4. Divide the meat into about 8 patties.
  5. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil into your frying pan or skillet and heat on medium-high until the oil shimmers, about 3 minutes.
  6. Cook the patties until golden brown on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the patties and cook on the second side, another 4 to 5 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, ground meat needs to reach 160°F for safety.
  7. Serve immediately with your favorite buns and fixins.

DISSECTION

If you can’t find lamb liver, you can substitute with veal/calf’s liver, beef liver, or even chicken livers. (I used beef liver, and was able to buy only 1/2 lb.)

For those who’d rather avoid liver altogether, you could skip it, if you must, but then you won’t have any offal at all. Trust me, try it with the liver. Yeah, it can be a strong smell while cooking, but it’s hardly noticeable when you eat it.

Apparently, there exists cheese made with whisky, like Laphroaig Cheddar, but I can’t find it locally. If you can find it, I imagine it would bring another wonderful dimension to this burger.

POST-MORTEM

It is tradition to serve haggis with “neeps and tatties”, which is mashed potatoes and turnips (aka swedes, or what us yanks call rutabagas). Since this is a burger, why not fry up some sliced neeps and tatties instead? (We opted for cross-hatch potato fries and sweet potato fries because we had them on hand.)

Everyone enjoyed these burgers, and we’re a pretty picky bunch. We all knew there was something different, but no one tasted any liver at all. What’s great about these burgers is they are a fun way to eat more liver, because you know it is good for you, but still enjoy a very nice. juicy burger.

Morbid Meals – Chicken à la King

MM04For the Emperor tarot card, I chose one of my very favorite recipes that is fit for king and peasant alike: Chicken à la King.

EXAMINATION

I used to call Chicken à la King the “Triple Threat” because whenever I made it, I used three canned foods: cream of mushroom soup, diced chicken, and a vegetable medley. It is a cheap meal you can quickly throw together from your pantry. These days, I prefer to make it from scratch.

When it comes down to it, Chicken à la King is simply cubed chicken served in a rich cream sauce with mushrooms, red and green peppers, served over pasta, rice, biscuits, or even toast. It is a great way to use up leftover chicken.

My recipe below provides for a versatile mushroom sauce made from scratch, but feel free to completely swap it out for your favorite Cream of Mushroom soup. If you don’t like mushrooms, use Cream of Chicken soup instead.

ANALYSIS

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper, or pimiento
1 can (10.5 oz) Cream of Mushroom Soup (or sauce below)
1/4 cup milk (only if using condensed soup)
4 cups cooked chicken, cubed

For the cream sauce (instead of soup)

1/2 cup chicken stock (or broth)
2 Tbsp sherry (optional)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canned mushrooms, drained

Apparatus

  • large saucepan
  • small bowl
  • whisk

Procedure

Making the sauce from scratch (if not using canned soup)
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the chicken stock (or broth), sherry, and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the butter and flour/cornstarch together into a paste.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk the butter mixture into the hot stock until dissolved.
  4. Add the cream and mushrooms. Return the saucepan to heat raised to high and stir constantly until the sauce thickens as desired. Remove from heat.
Putting it together
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter and sauté the chopped peppers until tender.
  2. Pour in the sauce (or soup and milk) and add the chicken. Stir well and cook until the chicken is warmed up, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Serve over your favorite bed of starches.

DISSECTION

When I make this from scratch, I don’t usually bother cooking chicken. That’s a lot more work. Instead, I buy one of those rotisserie chickens from the market, remove the skin, and cube all of the meat from it. That gets anywhere from 3 to 4 cups of chicken. The recipe calls for 4 so that each serving has a hearty full cup of chicken, but don’t fret if your bird gives a little less.

Use popcorn chicken and add cubed ham and a sprinkling of Swiss cheese to make a Cordon Bleu version.

Another fun thing to do is bake it in a pie crust or flaky pastry and you essentially have a decadent Chicken Pot Pie.

POST-MORTEM

Chicken à la King is one of my favorite comfort foods, but one that I tend to avoid because dairy and I don’t get along very well. If you have the same problem, feel free to substitute the cream for your favorite milk substitute. That’s the great thing about making the sauce from scratch.

Don’t feel bad if you still like making the ol’ Triple Threat, but I hope you’ll make it from scratch at least once to appreciate the more regal version.

Morbid Meals – Divinity

MM05For the Hierophant (or Pope) tarot card, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes for a divine treat.

EXAMINATION

Divinity is a pecan nougat candy that is extremely popular in the Southern United States. Everyone’s mama makes this, usually from traditions passed on rather than written recipes. Don’t be overwhelmed by candy making, though. Divinity is a great, simple recipe to start with.

ANALYSIS

Yield: about 18 pieces

Ingredients

2 large egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar (400 g)
1/2 cup light corn syrup (160 g)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Pecan halves, for optional garnish

Apparatus

  • Baking sheet pan
  • Waxed or parchment paper
  • Stand mixer with whisk attachment
  • Medium Saucepan
  • Candy thermometer
  • Rubber spatula

Procedure

  1. Line a sheet pan with waxed or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Using a stand mixer at high speed, beat the egg whites until it becomes stiff. Let the mixer keep running while you prepare the syrup.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Clip the thermometer to the saucepan so that it measures the syrup but does not touch the bottom of the pan.
  5. Raise heat to high and bring the syrup to a rolling boil. When the temperature reaches 250°F (“hard ball stage”), remove it from heat.
  6. Immediately pour hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, with the mixer still running at high speed.
  7. Add vanilla extract and continue to beat the mixture until it loses the glossy shine. This can take between 7 to 12 minutes, depending on the relative humidity. Have patience. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl occasionally.
  8. Shut off the mixer. Add the chopped pecans and fold them in with a rubber spatula.
  9. Using two spoons, scoop out fluffy blobs of candy and drop onto the paper-lined sheet pan.
  10. If desired, press a pecan half into the top of each blob of divinity.
  11. Allow candies to cool and firm up.

DISSECTION

Candy making takes a lot of patience, especially when waiting for the syrup to hit the right temperature. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can do a cold water test to check when the syrup has hit hard ball stage.

POST-MORTEM

I am truly sorry for anyone who must avoid sugar. I tried three different recipes in an attempt to make a sugar-free or low-Glycemic Index version of this. Every attempt was a huge failure. The only one that wasn’t a complete loss was one that made a kind of marshmallow. As interesting as that was, nougat is a far cry from that.

I did hear that a sugar-substitute called Isomalt should work. However, Isomalt is outrageously expensive — about $12/lb). For those willing to try it, you should be able to equally replace the sugar and corn syrup with Isomalt by weight (approx 560 grams).

Instead, this recipe uses the least amount of sugar and corn syrup I could get away with. (Some recipes use up to twice as much.) It still ends up making a fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth heavenly treat.

Morbid Meals – Black Blood Truffles

MM06I think it says a lot about me that when I pondered The Lovers tarot card, that I immediately thought of vampires. Add in the fact that KBatz is discussing the movie “Only Lovers Left Alive” for this episode, and this card’s imagery was even more inspired.

So I created a recipe that might embody something vampire fans would enjoy and perhaps something lovers might share. Sticky sweet blood-red chocolate truffles seemed to fit the bill. The name comes from the black cherry and blood orange preserves in the filling.

EXAMINATION

These truffles bring together three flavors: bitter, sweet, and tart. You can go as dark and bitter as you like with the chocolate. If you are like me and prefer something less dark, semi-sweet is the lightest you should go because you don’t want milk solids in the chocolate that you use, since we’ll be adding cream and butter in this recipe.

ANALYSIS

Makes about 18-20 truffles

Ingredients

4 Tbsp blood orange marmalade
3 Tbsp black cherry preserves
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, or finely chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp orange liqueur, or vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp red sugar sprinkles

Apparatus

  • Small bowl
  • Stick blender (optional)
  • Large bowl
  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Plastic cling wrap
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper or wax paper

Procedure

Making the filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine the black cherry jam and blood orange marmalade.
  2. If you have a stick blender, you might like to puree the fruits down to a smoother consistency.
  3. Chill mixture in your freezer for about an hour to firm it up.
Making the ganache
  1. If using a block of chocolate, chop it fine. Place your chocolate into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Into a small saucepan over medium heat, pour your cream and add butter, and heat up until bubbles start to form, but do not allow it to boil.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 30 seconds to allow it to melt the chocolate.
  4. Add in the orange liqueur or vanilla extract, if desired.
  5. Gently whisk to incorporate the cream into the melting chocolate.
  6. Cover your bowl of chocolate ganache with plastic cling wrap, and place it in your refrigerator for about an hour.
Filling the truffles
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and set aside.
  2. Dust your hands with some cocoa powder.
  3. With a teaspoon, scoop out a ball of ganache. Flatten it in the palm of your hand.
  4. With a 1/4 teaspoon, scoop out a small ball of filling and place in the middle of the ganache.
  5. Fold the ganache over the ball of the filling, then roll gently into a ball. Place the candy onto the lined baking sheet.
  6. Redust your hands and repeat with all of the ganache and filling.
  7. Put the tray of truffles into the freezer to chill again for at least 15 minutes to firm up.
Coating the truffles
  1. Pour red sugar sprinkles in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Gently roll each of your chilled truffles in your hand to make them just a little tacky, roll it gently in the sprinkles, and return to the lined baking sheet.
  3. Put the tray of truffles into the refrigerator to chill again for at least 30 minutes. If not eating immediately, place them gently into an air-tight container. They will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks, or they can be frozen about 3 months.

DISSECTION

If you can’t find blood orange marmalade, or don’t want to make it yourself, you can use preserves or pie filling of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, cranberry, etc. The goal is a deep red and thick filling.

You can also use those candy mold trays, but they are trickier with fillings. Be sure to dust them with cocoa mixture before pouring in ganache, so the truffles do not stick to the mold.

POST-MORTEM

These are soft and smooth and I found them to be very tasty. The gush inside makes them fun to eat. I hope you will share them with someone you love.

Morbid Meals – Canniburgers

MM13EXAMINATION

Have you ever wondered? You know… What does human meat taste like? Putting these recipes together has encouraged me to ponder this question. You know it was going to come up. Well, thanks to Chef Jim Thomlinson of London Mess, we now have an interesting approximation.

Jim and his conspirator, Emma Thomas of Miss Cakehead, partnered with FOX UK to create a publicity event for Season Five of The Walking Dead. They did their research — all book learning, I’m sure — into what cannibals have documented through the years what they thought human flesh tasted like. Jim’s recipe used pork, veal, and beef bone marrow. Fans of the show came to a pop-up grill in East London called Terminus Tavern and were served these burgers with some bacon ketchup on the side.

As I live nowhere near London, I decided I would attempt to make the burgers myself and share the fun. They seemed appropriate for the Death card and this episode’s discussion of zombies.

ANALYSIS

Makes 8 burger patties

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1 lb beef marrow bones (or 1/4 lb bacon, minced)
salt and pepper, to taste

Apparatus

  • Large bowl
  • Meat grinder (optional)
  • Frying pan or skillet

Procedure

  1. If you have beef marrow bones, we want to use just the marrow in the bones. It is very easy to push the fatty marrow out through the bones.
  2. Mash the marrow to break it up. Set aside. Freeze the bones for later; they will be perfect for making beef stock/bone broth in the future.
  3. If you don’t have marrow bones, then bacon can be a nice substitute which adds its own familiar flavor. Chop the bacon and set it aside.
  4. If you have a meat grinder, grind up the pound of pork, then the beef marrow (or bacon), then the veal. Mix all of the ground meat together and run it all through the grinder again.
  5. If you do not have your own grinder, then buy ground pork and ground veal, and mix these together with the mashed bone marrow (or bacon) in a large bowl.
  6. Add salt and pepper and mix well to incorporate everything together.
  7. Divide the meat into about 8 patties.
  8. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil into your frying pan or skillet and heat on high until the oil shimmers, about 3 minutes.
  9. Cook the patties until golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the patties and cook on the second side, another 5 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, ground meat needs to reach 160°F for safety.
  10. Serve immediately with your favorite fixins.

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DISSECTION

Right off the bat you are probably thinking, “Ewww… beef marrow?!” That’s assuming you got past “Ewww… human burgers?!” Bone marrow is actually quite delicious roasted and spread on toast. I’ve had it at The Salty Sow and it is divine. This is really little more than a rich fat that adds a velvety quality to the burgers. Ask your butcher if they can get you some. My local gourmet store sold some from Rumba Meats.

If you can’t find marrow bones or soup bones at your local grocer, or if you just can’t get past the “bone marrow” factor, I think some strips of bacon would suffice. Bacon is mostly fat and the smoke and saltiness would go well. Just don’t cook the bacon before using it. Chop or grind it right up raw with the rest of the meat.

POST-MORTEM

So… what does it taste like? I don’t have Hannibal Lecter’s palate, but I quite enjoyed them. They were nothing like beef burgers, of course. The pork and veal were a nice complement to each other. The marrow brought it all together in a nice solid patty. I would definitely make these again.

Pair this with a Zombie cocktail and you will have the perfect meal for your watch party for The Walking Dead or iZombie. Hell, I’ll probably serve them again when NBC’s Hannibal premieres June 4th, 2015.

Morbid Meals – Minuit Sandwich

MM20EXAMINATION

I have a crazy diet, as you may recall, that can be very strict but is for my own good. Yet, every now and then, I eat something against my better judgement. For The Judgement tarot card I wanted to share with you all one of my craziest creations, a delicious abandonment of judgement.

Two of my favorite sandwiches are the Cuban Medianoche (the Spanish word for “midnight”) and the American Monte Cristo (inspired by the French Croque-Monsieur).

I call this a Minuit sandwich. (Minuit is French for “midnight”, and is pronounced meen-wee.) This sandwich is the unholy union of the two — a deep-fried cubano made with French toast.

ANALYSIS

Makes: 1 sandwich

Serves: 2

Ingredients

French toast slices

3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
3 slices brioche or challah bread

Sandwich fixin’s

4 slices ham
4 slices roast pork, or some shredded pork
2 slices cheddar cheese, or favorite cheese

Assembly

Oil, for deep frying
Powdered confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)
1/4 cup strawberry jam (so not optional)

Apparatus

  • Skillet or griddle
  • Medium-sized bowl
  • Deep fryer, or a large pan or Dutch oven
  • Candy/Frying thermometer (if your fryer doesn’t have temperature settings)
  • Toothpicks

Procedure

  1. Heat your skillet over medium heat, and grease it with a pat of butter or some non-stick spray.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Dip the sliced bread in egg mixture and coat both sides well. Save the remaining egg mixture for later.
  3. Grill the soaked bread in the skillet, one at a time, to a golden brown on both sides.
  4. Set the French toast aside and remove skillet from the heat.
  5. Pour your oil into your fryer, filling to about 2 or 3 inches deep. Bring your fryer up to 400°F.
  6. Make a sandwich with the French toast, layering as follows: French toast, cheese, ham, French toast, pork, cheese, French toast.
  7. Slice the sandwich diagonally twice into four triangular pieces. Stick a toothpick into each sandwich wedge to ensure they stay together.
  8. Dip each wedge into the remaining egg batter, then carefully submerge into your hot oil. Fry each wedge until golden brown all around, about 15 to 20 seconds max.
  9. Dust each piece with powdered sugar, if desired.
  10. Serve with a side of strawberry jam.

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DISSECTION

Feel free to experiment with breads, batters, and jams. I used a cinnamon loaf once that made a wonderful version of this sandwich.

You can use whatever oil you like for frying, but I find that peanut oil works best as it can tolerate the high heat.

POST-MORTEM

Do not skip the jam. You could use a different jam if you prefer, but don’t skip it. This sandwich tastes like a really rich medianoche without it. However, WITH the jam, this ascends to tasting like a jelly roll wrapped around a medianoche. Sounds weird, I know, but I fell in love with it immediately. Also, share this sandwich. It really is too big for one person. You can exercise a little judgement however in that case.

Morbid Meals – Berry Fool

MM00

EXAMINATION

According to The Berry Bible, Berry Fools most likely get their name from the French word foulé, meaning “crushed or pressed.” Featuring berries and cream, a berry fool is a delicious treat that only a fool would pass up. That makes it the perfect compliment to The Fool tarot card, and a great treat for April Fool’s.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 pound fresh (or thawed from frozen) berries of your choice
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 Tbsp powdered confectioner’s sugar

Apparatus

  • Medium saucepan
  • Beater or electric hand mixer

Procedure

  1. Rinse your berries and drain them to remove grit and such from the berries.
  2. In your medium saucepan over low heat, combine the berries and granulated sugar. Stir until the berries are soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Raise heat to medium and crush the berries with a fork and stir to combine, creating a compote.
  4. Reduce heat again to low and simmer until the compote has thickened as desired.
  5. Refrigerate the berries to chill them at least to room temperature, or cooler if you like.
  6. Once the berries have chilled, make the whipped cream by mixing the cream and powdered sugar in a bowl with an electric hand mixer, until stiff peaks form.
  7. In a serving glass, layer cream, then fruit, and repeat, folding gently to allow the flavors to start to combine.
  8. Serve with a wafer cookie or a small slice of pound cake.

DISSECTION

If you have a favorite compote or preserves, feel free to use that instead of cooking your own, but make the whipped cream yourself, for goodness sake. Any fool can whip cream.

POST-MORTEM

So simple but so light and tasty. Fresh berries definitely make the difference, but I have had great success using frozen berries as well.

Morbid Meals – Carne Adovada

MM15

To pay homage to the Tarot card theme of the Wicked Women Writers and Masters of Macabre challenges, all of the recipes featured for this season of Horror Addicts will be based on the Major Arcana Tarot cards. First up, a figure that shows up in more than one horror story, The Devil!

Carne Adovada

EXAMINATION

It’s been said that the Devil went down to Georgia, but I’m sure he did so when he was on vacation from his summer home of Phoenix, AZ. As a Phoenician myself, I know he lives here, because I’ve seen him enjoying a Carne Adovada burrito from one of our local hot spots, Los Dos Molinos.

When Bobby Flay came to Phoenix with his TV show FoodNation, he visited Los Dos Molinos and grabbed the recipe for this diabolical dish from Chef Victoria Chavez.

They say that the Devil is in the details, and for this recipe, it is certainly true. Note that both the chile powder and flakes are “New Mexico chile”, which I expect are probably from Hatch, New Mexico. As for a change from the original, we swapped out the fresh garlic that Victoria uses for smoked paprika, which I find adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the dish.

One word of warning, Chef Victoria does not cook anything “mild”. This is the real deal. The hottest bowl of red I’ve ever had.

ANALYSIS

Makes: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

6 to 8 pounds pork loin, cut into 2 to 3-inch cubes
2 cups pork (or chicken) broth
1/2 cup New Mexico chile powder
1/2 cup New Mexico chile flakes
2 Spanish onions, chopped
2 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp garlic salt
2 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp black pepper

Apparatus

  • Dutch oven

Procedure

  1. De-bone (if necessary) and cut up your pork loin into cubes about 2-3 inches in size. Set aside.
  2. Into your Dutch oven, add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine, then add in your cubed pork.
  3. Over medium-high heat, cook uncovered for 4 hours. The pork should be very tender, and just starting to pull apart.

P2210013DISSECTION

 

You can cook this in a pressure cooker for about an hour. Just be warned that the steam from the release is going to kick out a lot of pepper, so turn on a fan or open a window for the initial burst before you turn down the temp.

POST-MORTEM

At Los Dos Molinos, they serve the carne adovada in a burrito — just a flour tortilla saving you from the heat. At home, we like to top baked potatoes with this infernal chili, or add it to quesadillas. You can serve it any way you like. Sour cream is a welcome accompaniment.

For those who can’t take the heat, if you reduce each 1/2 cup of chile down to 2 Tbsp of each, you’ll get the flavor without the fire. But give the Devil his due and try this full force at least once, if you dare.

Morbid Meals – Zombie Punch

EXAMINATION

Over eighty years later, the undead grandfather of tiki cocktails, the Zombie, is still quite popular today.

Created by legendary mixmaster Don the Beachcomber in 1934, the original Zombie Punch was a closely guarded trade secret in his day. Because of this, it is one of the most replicated, often poorly so.

It was painstakingly researched by “Beachbum” Jeff Berry, and detailed in his excellent book, Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari. SippinSafari_cover

ANALYSIS

Makes one 12 oz drink

Ingredients

3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Falernum
1 1/2 oz gold Puerto Rican rum
1 1/2 oz aged dark Jamaican rum
1 oz 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
2 tsp white grapefruit juice
1 tsp cinnamon syrup*
1 tsp Grenadine
dash Angostura Bitters
6 drops (1/8 tsp) Pernod or Herbsaint
3/4 cup crushed ice

Cinnamon syrup

3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Apparatus

  • Blender
  • Tall chimney/zombie glass (or anything that can hold at least 12 oz total)
  • Saucepan with lid (to make your own cinnamon syrup)

Procedure

Cinnamon syrup
  1. In your saucepan, crush or grind the cinnamon sticks. Add the sugar and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 2 more minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from heat and let it sit for 2 hours, with the lid still on.
  5. Once finally cooled, strain the mixture into a bottle or jar. This syrup can last a month in the fridge.
The Zombie
  1. Put all of the ingredients into your blender.
  2. Flash blend on high speed for about 5 seconds.
  3. Pour into a tall zombie glass. (Yes, the glass is named after the drink!)
  4. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.

DISSECTION

The only thing harder than avoiding a hangover from this drink may be the acquisition of the vital ingredients. Unless you’ve been knocked out from too many zombies (drinks or undead, as the case may be), you may have noticed it ain’t 1934 anymore.

The cinnamon syrup is hard to find, and when found, it can be very expensive. Luckily it is easy to make. If you find one you like, you can of course use it and skip the procedure above to make it.

Falernum is another tricky one. This is a ginger-lime syrup from the West Indies. This can also be made at home, but it uses many ingredients and is more complex than a simple syrup. I’d recommend buying this one rather than making it yourself.

Finally, the 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum. Gasp, a name-brand! A hard one to find in the states, as well. This is considered the real secret of the original Zombie. No other rum can match its smoky, rich, sweet flavor. If you cannot find it, all is not lost. You could substitute another top shelf dark 151 proof rum and mix in a 1/2 tsp of molasses. Then maybe you can pretend that approximates the flavor, but you’ll likely be so drunk you probably won’t notice or care.

POST-MORTEM

The warning at the bar used to be that you would only be allowed TWO of these. That’s how mind-numbing the concoction is. The fruit juices deceptively hide the very potent rums.

Morbid Meals – Holiday Spirits

When it comes to the holiday spirits, I’m not talking about the Ghost of Christmas Past, or that chain-rattling spectre of Jacob Marley. No, I speak of something even more frightening: Holiday Hooch!

As the song goes, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” One sure way to stay warm is with a little nightcap. It’s no surprise that many drinks this time of year are heated up. Hot buttered rum, egg nog, mulled wine, just to name a few. Hot apple cider and hot cocoa shouldn’t be missed either.

So in keeping with the intoxicating tradition, I am sharing three of my favorite drinks that will make the season, and your nose, bright. Just stay safe, my fellow Horror Addicts. We want to see you have a prosperous new year.
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Morbid Meals – Turkeystein’s Monstrosity

Deep in the Louisiana bayou, the Cajuns tell the tale of a mad scientist who defied nature to create a hybrid beast, from a chicken, a duck, and a turkey! Herr Doktor Thomas von Turkeystein suceeded with his tasty abomination, the turducken, and I have discovered his secret notes which I will share with you.

EXAMINATION

Resist the urge to buy the birds already deboned, unless you can also get the butcher to provide you the bones and gizzards. They will be put to good use to make stock for the dressing and best gravy you’ve ever had! Poultry that is already deboned for you can cost almost twice as much as whole. Since you are buying three birds, save your money. It isn’t hard to debone your own birds, with the right cutlery. Don’t worry though, you shouldn’t have to buy a new blade for this. A sharpener might be a good idea, though.

The secret to this is preparation and time. Buy the birds frozen at least a week in advance. Each one will need time to thaw, and you’ll want to take your time deboning them. Once deboned, they can stay refrigerated for a day or two before you are ready to cook. Do not assemble everything until you are ready to cook, in order to prevent contaminating the dressing. For other food safety tips regarding assembling your turducken, visit this USDA fact sheet.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

16 to 25 lb turkey
5 to 6 lb duck
3 to 4 lb chicken
Cajun seasoning and/or seasoned salt
6 cups of stuffing (see below)

To Make Stock

the bones, giblets, and scraps of meat from all three birds
3 oz carrots, cubed
3 oz celery, cubed
3 oz onion, chopped
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

To Make Gravy

2 cups stock
4 Tbsp cornstarch or flour
salt and pepper to taste

Apparatus

Preparation

  • boning knife or a paring knife; almost any sharp 6-to-8 inch-bladed knife will work
  • Kitchen shears / chicken scissors, optional
  • cutting board (wash between birds)
  • paper towels
  • butcher/poutry trussing twine and needle, or poultry skewers

Cooking

  • instant-read thermometer
  • shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep
  • turkey roaster rack that fits in your pan
  • aluminum foil
  • turkey baster

Procedure

Thaw your birds

To thaw frozen poultry safely takes time and room in your refrigerator. Adjust racks if you must, and set your unopened poultry breast-side up in your refrigerator. Each bird will need to thaw at least 6 hours for every pound. Yes, that means an average-sized 16 pound turkey will take FOUR DAYS to thaw.

This also means you will not be thawing your birds at the same time. The turkey needs to start thawing before your duck which is followed by your chicken.

  • 16 to 25 lb turkey – fridge thaw 4-6 days
  • 5 to 6 lb duck – fridge thaw for about 36 hours
  • 3 to 4 lb chicken- fridge thaw for about 24 hours

Your thawed poultry can stay in your fridge up to two more days before cooking. Poultry thawed in your fridge can be refrozen safely for use later.

Cold water thawing works faster but you have to change the water about every 30 minutes. Poultry thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately; it should not be refrozen. It’s easier and safer to fridge thaw. For more information about safe thawing, visit the USDA website.

Debone the birds

Unless you are already skilled at deboning your poultry, you will likely want to start with your chicken and duck as a sort of practice for the turkey. The reason this will help is that with the chicken and duck you will be removing all of the bones. (It is personal preference if you want to take the skin off, too. It won’t get crispy inside, but it will flavor the meat and stuffing and help everything cook together.) When you get to the turkey, you will be leaving the drumsticks and wings on, so that once it is stuffed, it will look like a regular turkey.

Remember to save all of the bones and giblet packets. We will be making stock from these bits. Waste not, want not!

Now, when it comes to deboning, I could write out every technique and name of each bone, but if you have never done this before, those words will mean nothing, and even photos won’t really help. So, I am linking to two excellent videos that you should watch (maybe more than once) before breaking out your cutlery. This will boost your confidence and you’ll wonder why you ever paid extra for boneless meat before now.

After deboning each bird, wrap the meat in plastic wrap or save in large plastic bags and put them back in the fridge. Wash your hands, cutting board, and knife in warm, soapy water. Then move on to the next bird.

Make the stock and stuffing

While the three birds refrigerate, make the stock using this recipe from the Morbid Meal archives.

When the stock is done, use some of it for your stuffing. The cool thing about turducken is that you can use three different stuffings if you like. If your family has those arguments about who makes the best, you can use them all!

Here are some recipes to choose from if you don’t already have a family recipe. Pick the one you like and use it, or make three different ones.

Whichever you choose, you don’t need a lot — only about 2 cups per layer, for a total of 6 cups — this is so you won’t overstuff. Any extra can be baked in a casserole seperately.

When it comes to putting everything together, you do not want the stuffing to be cold, as it may not reach the correct temperature inside. So, either assemble with warm, freshly cooked stuffing, or reheat the stuffing to at least room temperature before layering it in.

Assembly

  1. Wash down your countertop and cutting board with warm, soapy water and dry completely with paper towels.
  2. Remove the deboned turkey from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
  3. Lay down the turkey meat, skin-side down and season it with cajun seasoning and/or seasoned salt, to your taste.
  4. Layer onto the meat about 2 cups of stuffing. Tuck some into various nooks and pockets.
  5. Remove the deboned duck from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
  6. Lay the duck skin-side down, as centered onto the turkey as you can. and season it.
  7. Lay down another layer of stuffing.
  8. Remove the deboned chicken from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
  9. Lay the chicken skin-side down, as centered onto the duck as you can. and season it.
  10. Lay down the last layer of stuffing.
  11. Thread twine through a large needle and stich the two sides of the turkey together. (You might need a second person to help hold it together while you sew, or vice-versa.) Sew together the open “back” of the turkey as well as what would be the head and tail cavities. Here’s another excellent video that can help.
  12. Turn the turducken over so that the stitches are on the bottom and the breast meat is on top. Truss the turkey by tying the wings and legs down. This is primarily for presentation, but it also does help with even cooking.

Cooking

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Remove any oven racks that will be in your way. You will want to use a rack between the middle and bottom rungs to make sure there is enough room for air flow all around your monstrosity.
  2. Lay your turkey roaster rack inside your pan. Lubricate the rack with some butter or oil.
  3. Place the turducken on roaster rack in the pan, stiched-side down, and cover just the breast meat with foil. This will ensure it cooks evenly with the thighs and drumsticks.
  4. If you have stock leftover, and there is room under your bird, pour some stock into your pan, with clearance under the bird. This stock will provide a steamy cook for your turduckem keeping it moist, but it will also collect all of the dripping from the meat. You can baste with this later, and then it all gets used in the gravy!
  5. Cook at 325°F for 4 hours.
  6. After four hours, take the foil cover off, and check the internal temperature. You are looking for 165°F. At this point it might be around 100°F, and will need probably another 2 hours, depending on its size.
  7. Check the temperature again and if it is below 165°F, baste again and let it go for another 30 minutes. Repeat until you hit 165°F.
  8. Remove the bird from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Once cooled, remove the trussing, but leave the bottom stitches. (just be careful not to cut/serve them.)
  10. Use the drippings and stock from the pan, pour into a saucepan and make gravy! Use about 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch for each cup of liquid you have from the pan.

DISSECTION

Commercial turduckens are not cheap, especially if you are not local to a butcher who makes them, because they have to be shipped and that adds to the cost. Another factor is the duck. You can find chickens year round, and sales on turkeys around Thanksgiving, but duck? Truth is, your local butcher can likely get one. Some stores sell them frozen. If you have an ethnic/oriental market near you, they will have then frozen, and maybe even fresh. If all you can find of duck is breast meat, then choose a larger chicken and layer as turkey/chicken/duck-breast.

POST-MORTEM

When it came to choose a stuffing, while I really wanted to try all three in one bird, I just didn’t have the stamina or fridge space (or money). So, instead I opted for the “dirty rice” stuffing for two reasons. 1. A cajun dish deserves a cajun stuffing. 2. Dirty rice is completely gluten-free.

Now, if you make the mighty monstrosity and think you are ready for a real challenge, check out this video where some guys made…Pigcowturduckenlingdouille! (Andouille sausage, linguica sausage, chicken, duck, turkey, beef short ribs, inside a whole pig!)

When Christmas comes around, you could try your hand at a traditional Yorkshire Christmas Pie. This grand dish was layers of increasingly large fowl (imagine quail, game hen, chicken, duck, turkey, and goose) baked in a standing pie crust.

Or if you want to try something really olde school, how about acockentrice, which is the combining of a suckling pig and a chicken (a capon to be precise). Maybe von Turkeystein wasn’t so crazy after all!

Morbid Meals – Edgar Allan PIE

Enjoy!

Three tasty tarts!

EXAMINATION

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of culinary lore…

Egg nog, the quintessential holiday drink, made with eggs, cream, and copious amounts of booze, is essentially uncooked custard with alcohol. It has been said that the alcohol cooks the custard as well as the drinker. The question I decided to find the answer to was, can we leave most of the alcohol out and cook the egg nog as a custard?

The basic problem I faced was that, like many heirloom recipes,everyone has their own unique favorite egg nog recipe. Then I remembered one of my eclectic cookbooks, A Second Helping of Murder. In it, there is a wonderful egg nog recipe that was shared by Anne Poe Lehr, a distant cousin of Edgar Allan Poe. She contributed her family’s egg nog recipe that dates back to 1790. The original recipe consists of the following:

Poe Family Eggnog

15 egg yolks
15 egg whites, beaten
2 cups sugar
A fifth of Napoleon Brandy
1/2 cup Jamaican Rum
1 pint whipped cream
1/2 cup cream
nutmeg

As our tarts are meant to be firm and not drinks, I decided to cut out the fifth of a gallon of brandy. I also divided the recipe roughly in half to make tarts or a single pie. Thus was Edgar Allan PIE born!

Choosing Your Crust

A nice tender pie crust is best. You could buy a pre-made crust rather than make it from scratch, however I am providing a recipe and instructions for making an easy hot water pie crust.

ANALYSIS

Yield: 6 tarts or a 9-inch pie

Ingredients

Hot Water Pie Crust

8 oz all-purpose flour or roughly 2 cups, but best to measure by weight
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter
3 oz lard or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz water

Filling

7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup spiced rum
nutmeg, freshly grated on top

Apparatus

  • tart tins or pie pan
  • large bowl
  • medium saucepan
  • rolling pin
  • parchment paper
  • plastic wrap

Procedure

Making the Dough

  1. Measure the flour into a large bowl and set it aside.
  2. In a saucepan, add the butter, lard, salt and water and stir over medium heat until the fat melts.
  3. When the mixture starts to boil, take the saucepan off the heat and pour it into the bowl with the flour.
  4. Mix the dough with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined. Feel free to use your fingers to help a large dough ball form.
  5. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it cool down for an hour. Don’t refrigerate it, just let it rest.

Roll Out the Dough

  1. After the hour has passed, lay out a piece of parchment or waxed paper and lightly dust it with flour.
  2. Turn your dough out onto the floured paper and roll it out to roughly 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Fold the dough onto itself, pressing down firmly with your fingers and then roll it out again. Repeat one more time. This will add structure and flakiness to the finished crust.
  4. Lay the dough onto a baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest in your fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Divide and Conquer

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. After the dough has chilled, divide it up for your tart tins or single pie pan.
  3. On a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, roll out each piece of dough to a circle with a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
  4. Place the crust inside the pie tins, then use a fork to poke some shallow dimples into the bottom of the crust.
  5. Place the tins with crusts into the oven and blind bake them for 20 minutes.

Prepare your custard

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar.
  2. In a saucepan, over high heat, add the cream and rum, then warm to a simmer. Do not let this boil.
  3. Slowly pour the warm cream and rum into the bowl with the eggs and sugar. Do this in small amounts to temper the eggs so they do not cook in the bowl.

Putting It All Together

  1. Pour the custard mixture into your crust-lined tins. Sprinkle grated nutmeg on top.
  2. Raise the temperature to 350°F and bake the tarts/pie in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set.

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DISSECTION

When it comes to the pie crust, I have always been a proponent of the 2:3 butter/lard combo. However, since this is a hot water crust, feel free to use all butter, all lard, or all shortening, if you like. Hot water crusts err on the tender side and not really flaky side, unless you fold in extra layers. Just remember, if you work a pie crust dough too much you end up with a tough crust. That makes kittens cry. Tragic.

If you choose not to include any alcohol at all, then replace the 1/4 cup of rum with a 1/4 cup of whole milk.

Another nice touch, especially this time of year, is to use Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of just nutmeg. I’m sure Edgar would approve.

POST-MORTEM

Egg nog can become a very tasty custard, once the ratios are sure.
Will you wonder what to bake? Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”

Morbid Meals – Chocolate Coconut Oblivion Cake

EXAMINATION

Death by chocolate seems like a great way to go. My favorite recipe comes from a cookbook called A Taste of Murder. This killer culinary collection was edited by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezahl and contains recipes written by authors of mystery novels.

Their recipe to undertake Death by Chocolate basically makes a devil’s food cake by a mix, and adds a package of instant chocolate fudge pudding, and a whole bag of chocolate chips, with sour cream instead of milk. This makes a luscious, deep dark chocolate cake to be sure. By now I’m sure you noticed that I never do anything instant when it comes to Morbid Meals. (If you do make their original recipe, consider using the Sanguinaccio Dolce from episode #103 instead of the instant pudding.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on a restricted diet. Their recipe may not kill me, but I would definitely suffer. So this time, instead of presenting a mundane recipe and offering GF suggestions, I decided to create a completely grain-free recipe. You might even prefer this to a wheat cake. The secret? Coconut!

ANALYSIS

Makes: a two-layer cake

For the cake batter

1 cup softened butter
1 2/3 cups coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
10 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups coconut flour (9.75 oz / 275 g)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob powder)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups canned coconut milk
Extra butter to grease the pans
Extra cocoa powder to dust the pans

For the ganache

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup canned coconut cream

For the frosting

1/2 cup softened butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder (or carob powder)

Apparatus

  • Two 9-inch (or 8-inch) layer cake pans
  • Electric mixer or hand mixer/beater
  • Two mixing bowls

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease up both layer cake pans with butter and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; cream together for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed.
  3. Set the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the vanilla extract then beat at high speed for about 3 minutes.
  5. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Now add the milk and mix thoroughly for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the wet flour mixture to the egg mixture. Beat together at high speed for about 5 minutes.
  7. Split the cake batter into each cake pan.
  8. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes at 350°F.
  9. Remove the cake pans to a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before removing the cake layers from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

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Making the ganache

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut cream over high heat until it begins to simmer, but stop before boiling. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the chocolate chips and let the chocolate melt in the cream, stirring occasionally until incorporated completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Making the frosting

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; cream together for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add cocoa powder and beat to combine well. Continue to beat the frosting until it forms high peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Assembling the cake

  1. On a serving platter or cake stand, lay the first layer down.
  2. Spread the ganache on the top of this layer, as thick as you can. If you want a lighter filling, beat with mixer until fluffy before spreading it on.
  3. Lay the second layer cake gently on top. Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the full cake.

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DISSECTION

Since this recipe is made with coconut flour, substitutions are impractical with other flours; even almond meal doesn’t work out quite the same. So if you don’t like coconut or are allergic, grab a box cake and enjoy with my apologies.

As it happens, it is less expensive and quite easy to make your own coconut milk and coconut flour. Just know that if you do decide to make your own coconut flour, you will need to do that a day before you make the cake, as you must dehydrate the coconut for at least 8 hours.

If you are avoiding dairy, you can definitely substitute coconut/palm shortening for the butter in the cake and frosting. Do not use coconut oil; even solidified it becomes oil too quickly and then will not cream properly.

POST-MORTEM

This cake can be made as described as a double layer cake or as a bundt cake, but in that case simply dust it with some powdered sugar then drizzle the ganache on top and skip the frosting.

This cake is moist, tender, and full of rich chocolately goodness to die for. It can be a little gritty, but the ganache and frosting tends to make up for this. Your grain-free / Paleo friends will thank you.

Morbid Meals – Feeding the Lwas Red Beans and Rice

EXAMINATION

Vodou is a religion that fascinates me. Unlike the possession of the cheerleader in “Jennifer’s Body”, the spirits that Vodou practitioners commune with are very different.

Those spirits are known as Lwa, and are believed to be spirits of the dead who have been elevated to a saintly level, acting as emissaries and intermediaries for God. Followers of Vodou, called Vodouisants, often call upon the Lwas for help and offer them food in exchange.

Thus enters another one of my favorite cookbooks, Feeding the Lwas: A Vodou Cookbook by Amy Sumida. Amy explains the relationship this way. “It is a symbiotic relationship; they need our help to stay strong and we need their help with the troubles that life brings. They still possess the personalities they had when they were alive and with those personalities come likes and dislikes. When we serve the Lwa, and it is service not worship, we give them their favorite foods, wear their favorite colors, observe their sacred days through Vodou ceremonies, etc. The Lwa, in turn, serve us. They bring us material blessings, physical well being, protection, abundance, etc. Without us the Lwa would not exist, and without them we would cease to exist as well.”

The fascinating thing she points out is that different Lwas have different tastes. So finding the right meal to prepare and serve to a Lwa, depending on whose help you seek, is very important. You not only want to find their favorite dish, but you certainly do not want to offend them.

It turns out that there is at least one dish that they can all agree on: Red Beans and Rice. How could they not? It is simple yet hearty, easy to make, and a familiar staple dish for everyone.

ANALYSIS

Serves: 6 to 8

Makes: About 6 cups of beans and 3 cups of rice

To soak the beans

1 lb dried red kidney beans
Water to cover the beans

To cook the beans

2 cups of chicken stock (or one 14 oz can chicken broth/stock
7 cups water
1 ham hock (optional, but SO worth it)

To cook the fixins’

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups fully cooked sausage, chopped
2 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp ground black pepper, divided
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

To cook the rice

3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cups water
pinch of salt and pepper

Apparatus

  • Large stock pot with a lid
  • Colander/strainer
  • Large saucepan with a lid

Procedure

  1. Put the red beans into your pot and then add enough water to cover the beans by about two inches. Bring this to boiling and boil for about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and cover with a lid. Let the beans soak for at least an hour.
  3. Drain the beans and rinse with clean water. Return beans to the pot and add the chicken stock and water. If you have a ham hock, add that, too. Bring this to a boil, then simmer at medium-low heat for another hour.
  4. Drain the beans, but this time save 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set the beans aside in your colander/strainer. If you added a ham hock, take the meat off the bone (assuming it didn’t just fall off the bone) and keep that with the beans, but discard the bone.
  5. To your pot, add the oil and bring your heat up to medium-high. Add the Cajun Holy Trinity, aka the chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until onions turn transparent, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and sausage, reducing the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Bring the beans (and ham) back into the mix, as well as the reserved cooking stock. Add the salt and spices. Simmer over low heat until the liquid thickens up, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the beans, veggies, and meat to just get to know each other really well.
  8. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the rice, bay leaf, and thyme and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. This gives the rice a hearty, nutty flavor that you and the Lwas will love, I guarantee, ma chère!
  9. Add the water, salt and pepper to the rice, and bring just to boiling over high heat. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the rice from the heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.
  11. Regarding serving, I have seen beans on rice, rice on beans, and even beans and rice side by side. Does it matter? Probably not. Just serve the Lwa first. It’s only polite.

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DISSECTION

When preparing this recipe, do not skimp or cheat on the ingredients. You are feeding the spirits here. Best to make this from scratch. In fact, cooking is part of the communion. Think of it like an offering on the fire, with the smells, smoke, and ash rising to the heavens. This is why the kitchen and hearth are so vital to the home.

You can use what you have on hand, of course. Canned chicken broth is fine, naturally. Not everyone makes their own broth. Dry beans on the other hand are not that hard to cook and are much cheaper and healthier when cooked at home rather than dumped from a can.

As my wife is allergic to garlic, the only substitution we made was to skip the garlic altogether. I’m sure our Lwas know how she reacts and would not want her to be sick over an offering. Instead, we did use some of our homemade chicken stock and a ham hock to make up for it.

To make this as a Vodouisant from New Orleans would, I would suggest Andouille sausage. However, since Voudou is a migratory religion, I’m sure any sausage will work fine.

POST-MORTEM

This dish is meant to be shared. However much you provide as a portion for yourself, that is how much you should offer to the Lwa.

Red beans and rice is more than a staple, it is a home-cooked meal, made with hearth and heart. It is a meal unto itself, but makes a fine side dish as well.

Morbid Meals – Recipe Redemption: Sweetbreads

EXAMINATION

It is time for a Recipe Redemption! Back in June, I presented a recipe for a gourmet preparation of sweetbreads. It was OK, but it was a lot of effort for just “OK”. In another one of my kooky cookbooks I found a much simplified version.

The cookbook is Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction by Esterelle Payany. This charming collection features recipes that one might expect villains would serve if they started a catering company.

Thus I discovered therein “Hannibal’s Express Sweetbreads”. As a fan of the movies and TV show, I was definitely curious. The recipe as provided reduced the time of virtually every step from the gourmet version, and even skips a couple unnecessary steps.

ANALYSIS

Makes: 4 Servings

8 cups (2 quarts) water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp (white wine) vinegar
2 sweetbreads (about 1 pound or so)
1/2 cup (50g) flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter

Apparatus

  • Large saucepan or pot
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Two baking sheets or plates
  • Saute pan or skillet
  • Paper towels

Procedure

  1. Into a large saucepan/pot, bring the water to a boil, and add the salt and vinegar.
  2. Add the sweetbreads to the boiling water then bring the heat down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the sweetbreads to a cutting board and allow them to cool. (Note that you do not have to shock them in cold water.)
  4. With an exquisitely sharp knife, remove all of the membrane and skin from the sweetbreads. Any remaining bits of membrane will become chewy rubbery nasty bits.
  5. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels, place your sweetbreads on the paper towel, and cover with another sheet of paper towel. Then lay on top another plate or baking sheet and place a weight on top of this. Place this all in your refrigerator to chill for an hour.
  6. Into a mixing bowl, add the flour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove the sweetbreads from their press and slice them into thick strips.
  8. Dredge the sweetbread strips in the flour, coating them all evenly.
  9. Set a skillet on medium-high heat and melt the butter. In small batches, brown the sweetbread strips in the butter. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn over and cook for another 2 minutes.
  10. Transfer the golden-brown sweetbread strips to a plate and serve with your favorite sauce.

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DISSECTION

The original recipe also created a sauce made from “long shallots” and sherry vinegar. Opinions seemed to differ on whether scallions (or green shallots) could be substituted for long shallots, or if the author just meant large shallots. Furthermore, real sherry vinegar is very expensive and hard to find, being a Spanish import.

POST-MORTEM

In the end, I think the best solution is to have or make your own sauce and either dip or drizzle onto your sweetbreads.

Which, when prepared this way, they were absolutely fantastic. The ones that I got all of the membrane off of, that is. A nice sweet and sour sauce complemented these wonderfully, but you could easily have these with BBQ sauce or gravy, or a fine reduction of whatever exotic wine a master chef like Hannibal might have on hand.

Morbid Meals – Irish Wake Cake

One of the traditions of attending an Irish wake is to take something to feed and comfort the family during their grief. Even if the family doesn’t practice “sitting up with the dead“, a potluck gathering often is held to remember the deceased. One such dish is an Irish Wake Cake.

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EXAMINATION
This recipe is adapted from another one of my odd cookbooks, DEATH WARMED OVER, by Lisa Rogak. It is an interesting collection of recipes and customs surrounding feasts for funerals and for the dead themselves from 75 different cultures and religions. As a taphophile, I am fascinated by the many various practices of mourning the dead. Sharing food is just one way to ease the burden of those survive the loss of loved ones. Another interesting fact, pointed out in this book, is that most people eat a lot more food at funerals than they do at weddings.
 
So rather than talk about catering, instead, we return to a simple wake and the idea of bringing a dish over to visit, reminisce, and share a life and a meal together. This “Irish Wake Cake” is a fine variation of an Irish cream cheese pound cake. It is is simple, rich, and delicious.
 
ANALYSIS
Serves: 10
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 oz cream cheese
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted (roughly 6 oz by weight)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup dried currants or raisins
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Apparatus
Electric mixer with mixing bowl
9 inch loaf pan
Small bowl
Cooling rack
 
Procedure
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 F degrees.
  2. In the mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the cream cheese, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  5. Gradually add buttermilk and mix until you have a smooth batter with no lumps, then fold in the currants.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch loaf pan.
  7. Place the pan on the center rack in your oven and bake for about 1 hour 20-25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean for a test.
  8. Remove to a cooling rack and let the cake cool down for 15 minutes.
  9. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice, then drizzle that icing over the cake while it is still warm. Let the cake cool down however before serving it.
  10. Slice the cake and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or whipped cream.
 
DISSECTION
There is a lot of dairy and fat, but substitutions will probably not work as well. You may be able to use margarine instead of butter and soy milk instead of buttermilk. There’s even vegan “cream cheese”. The ratios for everything might need a little tweak here and there if you go that route.
 
If you can’t find cake flour, you could use all-purpose flour. The difference is that cake flour is milled to be finer and it also has less gluten, which means your cake will be light and fluffy, instead of dense like bread. If you are going the gluten-free route, use a 2:1 mix of flour to starch (like 4 oz superfine rice flour and 2 oz tapioca starch).
 
I did have trouble finding currants but I didn’t want to use raisins. Instead, I found these incredible blueberry-infused dried cranberries. Those were very tasty and worked well with the tangy, lemony glaze.
 
I discovered that other recipes for Irish pound cake use Irish cream liqueur instead of the buttermilk, also instead of the lemon juice for the icing. Depending on who you are baking the cake for, that might be a welcome change to the recipe.
 
POST-MORTEM
This recipe came together so fast, I didn’t really have time to take photos of the steps. That’s how easy it is to make this cake. The hardest part was waiting for it to bake.
 
I served it with a little homemade whipped cream. Clotted cream would have been better, but that stuff takes forever to make.
 
This cake is so good, trust me, you will be finding reasons to bake it. People die all the time, after all. Good food is a beautiful way to honor the dead and celebrate life.