Game of Thrones Dinner Party

***I wrote this post a month ago. And it has taken a month for wordpress to allow all the pictures to be uploaded because something is weird with the upload process. But, better late than never. Enjoy medieval -fantasy-cooking nerdery***

The mistake was staying up til four in the morning dancing. Well, more to the point, the mistake was drinking; one spiked bubble tea, several jello shots, too much champagne to think about, and a couple whiskey  ginger ales. Mostly regretting the champagne. But, it was a bachelorette party, so some excess had to be exhibited. But four thirty was stupid. China isn’t kind to the hungover.

Gray morning, thick concrete slab sky somehow glaringly bright. Not exactly warm, but uncomfortable, oppressive air. The streets reek of urine, raw sewage, the stench of unwashed bodies. The sidewalks are spattered with vomit, shit, and garbage. Twenty minute wait for a cab, which lurches its way through start-stop traffic.

Street corner in front of the KFC. It weirdly reeks of pot, which is decidedly not helping the nausea. Ten minutes waiting, until a man on a motorbike pulls up to the curb and approaches.

Aye. You. Laowai. This your goose? He grunts out in thickly north-accented Chinese. And, this, this bag of quail? This yours too?

He hands the bag over with a flimsy receipt, which is quickly stuffed into a backpack, takes the proffered bills, and disappears on his motorbike.

That is how my day began. I got back to my apartment, and unwrapped the goose and quail. I put the goose in a brine, and opened up the quail. They were frozen into a solid block of ice. I put these into a brine as well, to thaw.

While the birds steeped, I got to work on the rest of the menu. The plan was for me to make all or most of the food prep in my nice kitchen, and then ferry it all over in the evening to my friends’ apartment to finish up in a space that could hold all the guests.

Fancy menu of the evening

Fancy menu of the evening

The bread and salt and Umma’s Olive Loaf from the House of Black and White are from http://www.innatthecrossroads.com, except that I switched in half the amount of regular flour for whole wheat. I baked the olive loaf in the morning and the bread and salt at the second apartment, and made both loaves on Tuesday and kept in the freezer after the first rising. Both were tasty, although I preferred the olive bread and will definitely be making it again for regular consumption. Once everyone was present, I brought the bread out so everyone could break into it, dip a piece in coarse sea salt, and be assured of safe hospitality!

bread and salt, bread, scotch eggs

Square-ish braided bread loaf with salt dip, free formed olive loaf, and a bucket of scotch quail eggs.

The Dothraki Dormice skewers I made out of empanada dough (using half whole wheat flour), and stuffing circles with sausage and cheese (mixed gouda, mozzarella and cheddar). I shaped them into simple mouse-like shapes, used black sesames for eyes and nose, sliced almonds for ears, and pinched up little dough tails. They were adorable and tasty, although really only special occasion food because making them was annoying. They do store well in the freezer except the almond ears fall or break off.

Dothraki "dormice" skewers. Cheese and sausage stuffed rolls pastry.

Dothraki “dormice” skewers. Cheese and sausage stuffed rolls pastry.

For the “dragon” eggs, I made scotch quail eggs. I boiled and peeled the quail eggs on Thursday evening, and kept them in a tupperware with a damp paper towel. I seasoned about one pound of ground fatty pork belly with sugar, salt, pepper, white wine and a splash of cooking wine, paprika, five spice, minced garlic and toasted fennel seeds. After chilling the pork sausage mix, I rolled it flat between two sheets of plastic wrap. Dust the eggs in flour, wrap with meat, dust with flour, dip into beaten egg, dip into panko crumbs, then deep fry in oil until golden. This was the last thing I cooked before packing up and moving apartments, as they are supposed to be served at room temp. Although, they were really just amazing straight out of the pan when I tested the first one–the sausage was perfectly spiced, the quail egg yolk creamy, just an amazing mix of flavors. Possibly my favorite dish of the entire evening.

For vegetable side dishes, I served roast root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, carrot, turnip, and watermelon radish) and spiced squash. The vegetables I baked in batches (a large tupperware of them, since there were 15 people at dinner and at least two vegetarians) simple tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. It took about an hour for each small roasting pan (three total) at 375F. The squash I cubed, tossed with maple syrup, nutmeg and butter, and baked for 35 minutes at 375.

The oxtail and mushroom soup was amazing. Like, hands down delicious, perfect, something I will eat many more times. It has the added benefit of being actually really simple, unlike some stews and soups that have a million ingredients. I sliced up a small onion, a carrot, and three cloves of garlic. First, I rinsed, patted dry, and browned the oxtail on all sies. Removed from the pot, I added a bit more oil, and tossed in the onion and garlic. Once those had softened for a few minutes, I caramelized half a can of tomato paste in the pot, then added in the oxtails, deglazing with a dash of wine, then pouring in one can of beef stock and about 6-8 cups of water.  I let this simmer for about an hour and a half. At that point, I added in the carrot and a mix of sriracha, oyster sauce, fish sauce, a dash of soy, salt and pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes. Dried shrimp would also add in a nice depth here. After about twenty more minutes simmering, I added in three types of mushrooms; enoki, oyster and small fresh shiitake. I cooked this on Thursday evening and stored it in giant tupperware. It only got better for the wait–a really rich, complex broth, tender, falling-off-the-bone meat, and earthy chewy mushrooms. I served a bowl of barley along side it, simply boiled and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Some people, like me, ladled the barley into the soup, while allowing for the vegetarians to eat it without meat.

Seriously Good Food: Oxtail and Mushroom Soup

Seriously Good Food: Oxtail and Mushroom Soup

Now, the quail and the goose. The goose had been mostly prepped, but it still had its head and feet, and the heart and liver were remaining in the cavity. I was planning on trying to make a tiny batch of foiegras with the liver, but my fridge broke down while I was having the dinner, and by the time I opened the fridge the next morning, it smelled dubious. Such a waste. Anyway, geese are kind of creepy and terrifying, particularly when dead. Their beaks have serrated teeth, their eyes are huge and full of judgement. I was not mentally prepared to have to chop off the feet and hack through the neck while it glared at me. I butchered it, brined it, rinsed it, dried, stuffed the cavity with two green apple cores, orange rinds, half a lemon, some celery, garlic salt and pepper. I pierced the skin all over through the fat but not through the flesh, then used twine to tie up the cavity and truss it together. I don’t have a baking rack, so I propped it up on chopped up vegetables in a big baking dish. At 350 F, I roasted it for about an hour and a half, at which point the breast meat registered at 130F. I removed the dish, carefully carved off the breasts, and set them aside. Pop the goose back in the  oven for another 30ish minutes, until the thighs registered 160F. I let it rest for ten minutes, then carved it up into pieces: legs and thighs, getting off all the edible bits, and packing away. I used the carcass for stock, and the pan drippings for gravy. Once at the second apartment, I seared the breast and thighs skin side down in some goose fat until nice and crispy, carved the breast, and served on a platter with gravy on the side.

This goose is totally judging my life choices.

This goose is totally judging my life choices.

Quail. Oh quail. I won’t be cooking you any time soon. OK, here’s the thing, I’m not that squeamish when it comes to animal butchery, or so I thought. I cook, I handle raw meat all the time. I’ve gone fishing, dealt with filleting fish and boiling lobsters and such. I’ve gone hunting, shot my own birds, plucked them, what have you. But the lead hunter did all the dressing, and my dad let a butcher dress the deer he’s shot in the past (might as well have an expert help you). These quail, well, I assumed they would come dressed (ie, neatly packaged with all the bits removed and prepared for cooking). Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

It...sort of looks like they're doing the can-can?

It…sort of looks like they’re doing the can-can?

A pile of plump, stuffed little quail

A pile of plump, stuffed little quail

The roasted quail with butter-wine sauce poured over and a platter of sliced gooseThe roasted quail with butter-wine sauce poured over and a platter of sliced goose

When they thawed completely, I discovered that the birds were whole. Complete. Heads, feet, full body cavity. Still a little shaky on my feet, taking careful sips of water, I discovered that they hadn’t been opened up, and that they would definitely need to be disemboweled. I was…not prepared for this. In fact, hungover Robot gets a little queasy when she has to chop off head, feet, make an incision in the belly, insert her fingers into and scoop out the innards of a bird. Robot does not particularly enjoy the growing pile of disembodied heads of the cutting board staring back with beady little eyes while she’s hands deep in heart, lungs, gizzards, livers, and parts she doesn’t particularly want to identify.

I rinsed them all off, patted them dry, and stuffed them. The stuffing was made of finely chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic sauteed in butter, mixed in with a cup of stale bread pulsed through the food processor, mixed into a paste with white wine and chicken stock, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika. I stuffed each little guy, and at the second apartment, laid them in a baking dish, drizzled honey over each one, and baked at 350 for 20 minutes until a nice golden color. Then, I whipped up a sauce of 1/4 cup butter, white wine and honey, and poured this over the finished birds.

I baked the weirwood cake base of red velvet on Wednesday and froze it. Frosted it with cream cheese frosting after it had thawed for a few hours on Saturday. I created the white chocolate tree on Friday night. I lay down a silpat on top of a cutting board, and poured two melted white-chocolate-vanilla-bean bars into a tree shape, as well as some triangles to support it on the cake. I let the main trunk cool a little bit, and built up a rough face shape. On Saturday, once it was fully hardened, I used a tooth pick and knife tip to carve out the eyes and mouth, and then paint in red gel food coloring. I colored some leftover frosting to pipe on leaves, but I need to work on my piping technique.

Sad creepy weirwood tree. Red velvet cake under the white frosting.

Sad creepy weirwood tree. Red velvet cake under the white frosting.

Sansa’s lemony lemon cakes used my lemon tea cake recipe, although I upped the lemon juice and zest. they were sticky, moist, and very lemony. I topped with icing made from lemon juice and powdered sugar. Last minute, I poached pears in red wine, sliced them thin. The plan was to top with mascarpone cheese, but the container of cheese had inexplicably spoiled in the two days since I had bought it.

I had a little glass bottle of purple rock sugar as the poison “the Strangler,” made cider for the Wildling cider, drew everyone a House Sigil with Motto (for example, House Robot is represented by a unicorn and our motto is “Lets Run Til We Can’t Feel Feelings.” House Quizmaster is a Sphinx with the motto “Riddle Me This” because I’m clever. Or something. House Ginny was a Satyr with the motto “Mischief Managed”).

Ginny and another friend came around 5 to help with last minute touches and to sherpa all my stuff over to the second apartment, which saved me from many tears. It took all of our hands and back

I drew the sigils on fancy card paper as party favors for everyone to take home. We watched the first two episodes of the season and it was amazing. The food was great, I have to say. We may have been a bit subdued, as most people in attendance had also been out at the bachelorette party the evening before, but it was fun.   Conclusions: I like cooking. I hate dishes. I pretty much outdid myself this time, and before the last guest had even left, passed out on the couch. The quail was probably too much effort for me to want to cook again. The goose meat was tasty, but a bit tough to eat. Scotch eggs and oxtail soup were definitely the winning dishes of the evening and will be featured on my table many more times. I’m probably not going to do another dinner party where I cook everything for a while because I was still exhausted three days later.

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