Thursday, March 28, 2013

Game of Thrones: A Meal For Kings

Welcome back, Apprentices! Today we're cooking up the perfect meal for that Game of Thrones premiere. If you're just watching it alone or hanging out with some friends, this meal takes you back to basics with a delicious honey-roasted chicken, roasted veggies, Easy Dragon Tail Bread & a rustic apple tart! Serve it all up with a cold glass of mead and you'll feel like it came from the kitchens of Winterfell! So, fire up that oven and get ready to make a meal fit for Kings! ...unless you're that little twerp, Joffrey, and then you should only get a nice serving of punch-to-the-balls!

This meal may sound like a lot of work but if you plan everything out just right, it's actually quite easy. I recommend preparing the apple tart the day before and storing it in the refrigerator unbaked. It spreads out the workload and allows you to still have a delicious fresh-baked tart on the day without doing all the work that day.

I also included two ways to make Dragon Tail Bread. One easy way with pre-made dough. And the from-scratch way for you over-achievers out there!

So, let's get started! 

Let's begin with the apple tart. This way, you can put it together and stick it in the fridge until you're ready to bake it.

Rustic Apple Tart

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 cups of your favorite type apple slices (peeling optional)
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pre-made refrigerated pie crust
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon apricot preserves
1 teaspoon water

In a large skillet, melt together the butter, brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Using a fork or a small whisk, stir until the sugars dissolve. 

Stir in apples, lemon juice, cinnamon & nutmeg. Using a wooden spoon or heat-resistent, silicone spatula, stir the apples until well coated in butter-sugar mixture. Reduce heat and cover. Let it simmer for about 25 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the apples are tender. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray (Pam). Roll out the pre-made pie crust and arrange cooled apple slices in the center, leaving a 2" border around the edge. Fold the edges up and pinch together at regular intervals until the dough forms a sort of bowl. 

In a small bowl, mix apricot preserves and 1 tsp of water. Microwave (yes, they had microwaves at Winterfell) for one minute until hot and bubbly. Brush the pie crust with apricot mixture and drizzle the remainder on the top of the apples. At this point, if you're going to bake the tart later, cover it completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Preheat oven to 400º and bake 45 mins or until the crust is golden brown.  

Honey Roasted Chicken

1 Whole uncooked chicken
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Smoked Salt (Kosher Salt if smoked is unavailable) & Ground Pepper
1/2 Med onion thickly sliced
3 Springs Fresh Rosemary
1 Lime 

* Allow up to 3 hours of total time depending on the size of your chicken. 

Prep your chicken! Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken. This is the grossest part. If you have never done this, you'll need to shove your hand into the belly of the chicken and pull out the liver, heart, gizzard & neck. If you're extremely lucky, the butcher would have placed everything in a sealed bag. I was not that lucky. Once removed, rinse your chicken inside and out.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan with a rack in the bottom.  

Season the inner cavity of the chicken with smoked salt and pepper. Slice lime and onion into wedges and place them into the cavity with the sprigs of rosemary. 

Mix together honey, olive oil, cinnamon, paprika, salt & pepper. Brush the chicken with 1/2 the honey mixture.

TIP* Use butcher's twine to truss up your chicken legs. It keeps the legs close to the bird and helps it cook more evenly. I ran out of butcher's twine for this project so I didn't use it. It's not 100% necessary, but it's helpful.

Pre-heat oven to 350º and place a rack in the center of the oven. Roast chicken for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and brush with the remaining honey mixture. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for another hour. Larger chickens take longer so test the chicken with a meat thermometer and look for internal temperatures around 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Chicken is done when the juices run clear, not pink. The skin should be dark and crisp.

My bird had a bum leg when he got out of the oven but he still tasted delicious!

Roasted Vegetables

6 small red potatoes (cubed)
4 carrots (peeled and sliced)
2 Zucchini (sliced)
1 1/2 cups cauliflower
1 medium onion
Fresh thyme
Vegetable Oil
salt & pepper

This was the mix I chose. The beauty of roasting vegetables is the fact that you can choose your mix according to what you like. You can use peppers, squash, tomatoes, broccoli...whatever you like! 

Wash & chop your vegetables! Be sure to slice your carrots a little thinner and cube the red potatoes smaller. Carrots and potatoes take longer to roast where the zucchini doesn't take as long. The smaller you chop your veggies, the faster they'll roast. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with vegetable oil. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. 

Pre-heat oven to 350º and roast for 45 minutes to an hour or until vegetables are fork-tender (remove once during cooking and stir vegetables so they will cook evenly).

 Easy Dragon Tail Bread

1 can pre-made crusty french bread dough (Pillsbury)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Non-stick cooking spray (PAM)

Pre-Heat Oven to 350º & spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Carefully open the can (yes, there is a safety warning on the side of the can) and put the dough on the greased baking sheet, seam-side down.

Using a clean pair of scissors, make a diagonal cut at one end of the loaf, on the top side, creating a sort of flap. You want a fairly deep cut until it looks like this:

Now, pull the flap with the point you created up, stretching it out and then fold it back and over until it looks like this:

Repeat the motion until you have created "scales" all along the length of your "dragon tail" until it looks like this:

Beat your egg white with a fork until it loosens up. With a pastry brush, paint the raw dough with a thin glaze of the egg white. You will not use the entire amount on one loaf. You only want a light coating to guarantee a nice, golden brown finish to your bread.

Place on the center rack and bake 3 minutes. After the first three minutes in the oven, open the door and sprinkle the dough with water. If you have a spray bottle to use, that's awesome. But simply dipping your CLEAN fingers in the water and flicking the water on the loaf works fine. Why do this? Well, that little bit of water during baking gives your crust that wonderful crispness found in all flakey breads. Close the oven and bake for another three minutes. After three minutes, sprinkle with a little more water. 

Now, close the oven and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

If you want to be hardcore you can make your bread from scratch. My Italian Bread recipe works perfectly for this style of bread.

Dragon Tail Bread (From Scratch)

2 cups water, lukewarm
2 Envelopes Active Dry Yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, add brown sugar to warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle all of the yeast onto the surface of the water and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes or until activated (foamy).

In a separate bowl, mix together flour and salt.  I do it this way just to keep myself from getting confused while I'm mixing all the ingredients together. It's easy to lose count if you're just adding the flour from the bag to the mixer.

Once the yeast has foamed up, gradually add flour/salt mixture and blend together on a medium setting, using a dough hook attachment. Once you have combined all your flour into the mixer, drizzle with olive oil and mix until it forms a soft, elastic dough (about 5-10 minutes).

Lightly drizzle a larger bowl with olive oil and remove the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer to the larger bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl, allowing it to be lightly coated in olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.

Let the dough sit in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size (roughly an hour). Once the dough has risen, deflate the dough using your hands. Separate the dough into two balls.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form the balls of dough into cylinders (loaves). Create your dragon tails as illustrated above (or simply create three diagonal cuts at approximately 45º, across the tops of the loaves for traditional Italian bread). Brush with beaten egg white.

Pre-heat the oven to 425º 

Place on the center rack and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and sprinkle/spray the dough evenly with water. Close the door and bake for another 3 minutes. Open the door again and sprinkle/spray evenly with more water. Now, close the door and let bread bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and whack the bread with a wooden spoon. If it sounds hollow, it's done.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this special edition of 8-Bit Cook! I hope it inspired you to try some new things for that season premiere! Remember to join the community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Game of Thrones mini-MEAD Preview!

Welcome back, Apprentices! I've been busy gearing up for season 3  of Game of Thrones and I'm planning a delicious menu of roasted meats, potatoes, veggies, bread & for dessert, a delicious apple cinnamon tart! Check back next week for the full menu and instructions! But to kick it all off, I decided to do this mini post all about my very first endeavor of brewing mead.

Making booze goes back several generations in my family. My fourth great grandfather, Antonio Molina, was an Italian farmer who came to the United States from Genoa in 1773 to grow grapes and make wine on Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello. The first harvest of grapes froze and shortly after that, the Revolutionary War broke out. Antonio Molina changed his name to Anthony Mullens, claimed America as his home and took up arms in the War. After the War, he had many, many children and passed wine-making down through the generations. During prohibition, my great-great grandmother made wine and corn liquor (moonshine). My great grandfather served time for "running" said moonshine. And my grandfather brewed his own beer in the basement of his old house in Texas. Unfortunately, neither my mom nor my aunt took up brewing so the skills were lost. But who knows? If this turns out well, I might experiment a little more in the future!

ENOUGH about me! On to the MEAD!

In spite of the generational love for brewing in my family, I have not yet gathered the courage to get too complicated with it on my own. So, I bought a kit from Ambrosia Farm. The kit is only $10 (free shipping) and comes with an envelope of pre-measured flavor, yeast, a piece of muslin and a rubber band. I chose the classic Spice Mead for this particular event. The Spice Mead has ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. When you first open the envelope, you get a nose-ful of flavor. Seriously, it smells AMAZING!

All you need is a gallon of spring water and 2 pounds of honey. The directions that come with the kit are very detailed, outlining the process very clearly in 17 steps. I know it sounds like a lot but it's really not that bad. Of course, I say that now...I might have completely screwed something up. I guess I'll find out when I taste it. But according to the directions, as long as you can boil water, you can have mead in 7-14 days! So, I hope you mastered that Boiling Water quest because you're gonna need it!

Sadly, I didn't take pictures of the process. It seemed a little redundant since this isn't a complete lesson and I want you to carefully follow the directions from Ambrosia Farm (if you decide to try it, that is). But here's a picture of my jug of mead-in-waiting.

I'm storing the bottle in the safe darkness of my guest room closet. It's important to keep it in the dark and in temperatures between 70ºF-90ºF. I'm not gonna looks a little dodgy. But once it ferments and I run it thru a sieve, it will be delicious, spicy mead fit for the King of the North!

Remember, guys, cooking is FUN! Get creative in the kitchen and don't be afraid to try new things!

Don't forget to join the community on Facebook and follow on Twitter for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Goulash & Gloom!

Welcome back, Apprentices! Today, we're starting a new regular feature on the blog inspired by the wonderful Felicia Day and her YouTube network, Geek & Sundry please subscribe and support their amazing free content! Felicia Day has proclaimed March 30th International Tabletop Day! Check out what events will be happening near you and set aside that XBOX and headset for a day to play games with your friends in person, practice those social skills and have a blast!

So, every other week, my friends will gather at my house where we'll play a new tabletop game and I will prepare a meal themed with that game. This week, the game was Gloom.

"The world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner." If you have a slightly morbid sense of humor and a great imagination, Gloom is the game for you! Each player is in charge of an eccentric family and your goal is to make them as miserable as possible before finally killing them off. Simultaneously, you are doing your best to make your opponent's family as happy as possible. The game ends when every member of one family is dead and the player whose family has the lowest self-worth, as tallied on the cards, is the victor! If you want to learn a little more about how to play Gloom, check out the show Tabletop hosted by Wil Wheaton as he and his guests play a delightfully dark round of misery and misadventure.

The cards are beautifully designed on transparent plastic allowing you to layer each action card on top of the character cards. The artwork is unique and funny and helps you to easily slip inside the world of Gloom and weave the most fantastically dark and twisted tales. Visit the Atlas Games website for ideas on how to throw your own Gloomy Gala. They offer free downloads for party invitations and guides for decorations, snacks and party favors!

On to the food!

American Gothic Goulash

1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef or Turkey
1/2 Pound Large Elbow Macaroni
1 Medium Onion Diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper Diced
1 Tbs Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Baby Portobello Mushrooms (optional)
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Jar of Your Favorite Spaghetti Sauce (I like Classico's Tomato Basil)
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

First, prep your veggies! This is a very simple recipe. The most time consuming part will be all the chopping you need to do. Remember, Apprentices: use a clean, sharp knife and a clean cutting board! As gloomy as this game can be, you want to feed your friends goulash, not little bits of your own fingers. And be sure to WASH your veggies thoroughly before chopping them. Safety first!

In a large skillet, preheat 1 Tbs of vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot, sauté your chopped onion and green pepper until the onion is shiny and nearly transparent and the green pepper is tender.  Keep your burner at a medium high heat to nicely sauté without burning. Sautéing the onion brings out a little of the natural sweetness and adds some extra dimension to the flavor of the finished product.

Cook your macaroni! Time to start your macaroni. I find the best time to start the water boiling is when the onion and peppers are cooking. The timing usually works out pretty well with your macaroni finishing up around the time your meat has browned (which is the next step). Anywho, remember that quest a couple of months ago all about how to cook pasta without turning it into a gooey, gummy mess? Well, put those skills into action cook that macaroni! Remember, once the water is boiling and you add the pasta, 9 minutes is your magic number. The kitchen timer is your friend so USE IT! Drain the macaroni when it's finished, set it aside and cover it.

Add your ground beef (or turkey) & chopped mushrooms to the skillet with the onion and peppers. Break the meat into small pieces and mix together well with the onion, peppers and mushrooms. Add salt, pepper, paprika and garlic. Cook until the meat is brown. Drain off any excess grease.

Now add spaghetti sauce and macaroni to the skillet and cover.     If you want a more loose, soupy consistency, add about 1/2 a cup of water to the mixture. Reduce heat and let simmer 5-7 minutes or until hot.

Sprinkle with cheese and cover. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Serve your goulash with a nice, crusty bread and a salad...but only if you're feeling obligated to see something green on your plate that isn't covered with cheese. I don't usually feel that obligation.

Join me for the next Tabletop installment in two weeks: Apples to Apples-tuffed Pork Chops! 

I'll also be getting ready for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! We'll be cooking up a meal fit for Kings and making mead! That's right, guys...MEAD! Don't forget to follow me on twitter and join the community on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

And be sure to pop in tomorrow for a lesson in homemade Italian bread! YUM!


+10 Sautéing
+5 Chopping
+10 Dicing
+5 Boiling