Hearty and Homey
Hello, and welcome to yet another week of Friday Night Bytes, where you get to see me try and meld two of my passions: video games and cooking. Since my husband and I are currently snowed in, I thought it would be a good time for some more hearty fare. So this week’s gastronomic gambade comes from The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook. On the menu: Companion’s Meatball Bake, Leek and Cheese Crostata, and Sweetrolls.
Companion’s Meatball Bake
“This deceptively simple dish is a favorite among Whiterun’s Companions, where it is always served in a round shape to symbolize their equality with one another. They fight together, drink together, and, perhaps most importantly, feast together in the hall of Jorrvaskr. As the Companions are proficient hunters, these meatballs might be made of whatever has been freshly caught, be it bear, venison, boar, mammoth, or what have you.” – Description from The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook.
If you made it past that horrifying picture, congratulations! In spite of powerful evidence to the contrary, I promise you that I did not in fact cook meatballs and hotdog nubbins in fry sauce. It actually is hand-made meatballs with roasted potatoes in a tomato and sour cream sauce. In total fairness to the author of the cookbook, I didn’t follow the instructions as precisely as I should have. Being a lover of sour cream, I added just a bit too much, I think, which is what resulted in that deeply unpleasant color. I wish I could say that when I put it in a bowl, it looked better, but, well… see for yourself.
Thankfully, it actually tasted about a thousand times better than it looked. You begin with roasting baby potatoes, which is also a step I didn’t follow to the letter. They were out of baby potatoes, so fingerling potatoes were the next closest thing. That’s what lent this rendition of the Companion’s Meatball Bake that unfortunate roasted hot dog look. After par-roasting the potatoes, they’re sliced into ½ inch rounds. The meatballs are arranged alongside the potatoes, and the tomato sour cream sauce is poured over the whole affair. It’s then popped back in the oven and roasted.
Overall, I thought this was a tasty dish. It had a decidedly Germanic taste to it. In fact, when my husband and I took our first bites, he exclaimed that it was weird, and I enthusiastically said it tasted like cabbage rolls. Well, cabbage rolls minus the cabbage. Which sounds nonsensical, but it really does taste like cabbage rolls with potato instead of the cabbage. I’d eat this again, though I’d recommend searing the meatballs so they have a bit of a better texture on the outside. I’ll also follow the recipe for the sauce more thoroughly so it doesn’t look quite so fry-sauce-y.
The Husband’s Opinion: “This is weird. It definitely has a German feel to it. If you’re not super into German food, you can add some salt, and it’s more savory and less sour. Man, that color is off-putting. It is not a pretty dish.”
Final Verdict: 4/5 Golden Tri-Forks
Leek and Cheese Crostata
“Combining two of Skyrim’s more common ingredients, the result is a hearty tart that is great for picnics and afternoon snacks, but can also easily be served as a side dish next to a main course. It is popularly made with either eidar cheese or goat cheese, but a good cheddar also works well.” – Description from The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook.
I’m actually pretty proud of the way this one turned out. As you no doubt have determined by now, my food is not typically pretty. This one is actually supposed to look rough around the edges, more rustic. This recipe also got me pretty excited because it uses Swiss cheese. If you’re not lactose intolerant, it’s hard to understand just how exciting it is when you can eat a cheese with almost no lactose, and eat a lot of it in one sitting. After all, what kind of life is a life without cheese?
This one was pretty fun to make. If there’s one thing I know how to make well, it’s pie crust. I’ve perfected my pie crust recipe over the years, and I’m always excited to try a new one. Since the Leek and Cheese Crostata is basically a hand-wrapped pie, I had to give it a shot. The crust is made with half AP flour and half rye flour, which gives it a really hearty, rustic flavor. The recipe also calls for something called “grains of paradise” which I had never heard of. I ordered a small jar of it off Amazon, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s almost like a mix between peppercorns, citrus, and cardamom. It added a pleasant pepperiness to the tart that went really well with the rye.
While you let the crust refrigerate for a little while, you brown the leeks in butter, and then throw in the cheese and melt it down. Then comes rolling out the dough, plopping your delicious, ooey-gooey cheese-and-leek-goo down in the middle, and fold up the edges, leaving it rough along the very edge. Bake until brown, then slice and enjoy. Easy peasy!
It was almost stupidly delicious. The funkiness of the Swiss, the sweetness of the leeks, and the peppery notes from the rye and the grains of paradise blended for a flavor I can’t say I’ve ever tasted before. It was wholly unique to this crostata, and I loved every bite of it. Sadly, I only got one slice of this delicious crostata, as my husband forgot to put it in the fridge when we went to bed. I felt that loss keenly the next morning, but I’ll recover. Eventually.
The Husband’s Opinion: “I’m sorry, I can’t do it. It’s too weird. To be fair, I don’t really care for rye. I love leeks and I love Swiss, but the filling tasted much better before it was added to the crust. Not sure what happened there.”
Final Verdict: 4/5 Golden Tri-Forks
“Don’t let anyone steal your sweetroll ever again. Instead of guarding your hard-won baked goods against bandits and that pesky Thieves Guild, now you can bake them in the quiet safety of your own home with no one the wiser.” – Description from The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook.
What’s not to love about a sweetroll? Everybody loves baked goods, even the people who think they’re fooling us when they say they don’t like baked goods. The sweetrolls are probably the best-looking thing I’ve made for Friday Night Bytes so far. I think they turned out slightly darker than the picture in the book just because I only had buckwheat honey on hand instead of regular honey.
These sweetrolls are incredibly easy to make. It’s basically milk, flour, honey, butter, an egg, and yeast. You pretty much just mix it all together, pour it into your mini-bundt cake pan (and if you don’t have one, get one, they’re awesome), and let it rise for about 30 minutes. After you’ve let them rise, simply pop the pan in the oven, and bake for only a quarter of an hour. So simple and quick! The hardest part is letting them cool, because they smell so good coming out of the oven. Once they’ve cooled, you can ice them.
Definitely recommend these sweetrolls for either breakfast or dessert. Since there is barely any honey in the dough, all the sweetness comes from the icing, so you can control just how sweet you want each roll. If you’re looking for an American-style dessert that’s overly rich, cloyingly sweet, and/or decadent, this is not the dessert for you. This is definitely more of a very lightly sweetened bread with some icing on top. The outside gets this pleasant bread-like crust to it, while the inside is almost stupidly fluffy and airy. I’m keeping this recipe for sure, and next time I think I’ll add cinnamon to the dough and orange peel to the icing.
The Husband’s Opinion: “I thought they were good, the texture was kind of like a fluffy donut. It’s definitely closer to a European dessert. Maybe a little on the simple side, but I think it’s supposed to be.”
Final Verdict: 4/5 Golden Tri-Forks
That’s all for this week’s Friday Night Bytes. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and hope to see you next week for a Game of Thrones themed edition!