The Disaster Menu 2000

This particular cooking night had its fair share of “disasters.” The potatoes turned out to have gone bad, so we had to shunt the savory mashed potato casserole to Tuesday when we’d have time to pick up more potatoes. In return, we decided to make the curried artichoke dip now rather than Tuesday. Also, the Saudi date bread we made puffed up too far and stuck to the roof of the bread machine, resulting in half of the bread not being cooked through. (Our starter must be stronger than that of the man who wrote the recipe.) Then there were the flying spatulas… But despite all this, we had a wonderful meal with more than enough food to go around.

The breads come first. We made two recipes with sourdough. One was a Saudi date bread (bread machine recipe) from “World Sourdoughs from Antiquity” by Ed Wood. The other was a sourdough cinnamon cheesecake roll recipe (one of our own recipes).

The night before your gaming session (or other occasion), you should proof the culture around dinner time. This mostly involves adding specific amounts of flour and warm water, and sometimes a little sugar, then leaving it covered in a warm place with plenty of room in the bowl to expand. In the morning, about an hour or three before you plan to make bread, you “revive” the starter with an other little bit of flour, water, and sugar. More thorough directions can be found in the above-mentioned book, which is the best source I’ve found so far for information on sourdough.

We also made two dips. These are handy things to have for roleplaying runs, because you can just set them out on the table with whatever you want to dip in them and people can help themselves throughout the run. Both of these dips are quick and easy, especially if you have a food processor. You can make them up to several days in advance and stick them in the fridge.

The first dip comes from a recipe called “open sesame shrimp” from Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude. (The Corpening sisters come up with some strange-sounding stuff, but most of it is stunningly yummy.) We’re not that fond of shrimp, so instead we served it with krupuk, or shrimp chips. They have a look and feel that reminds me a little of styrofoam, but they taste fantastic. You can order them from some online stores that sell ethnic foods. The chips only take a few minutes to fry up in hot oil. The dip is unusual; it’s a combination of very Asian ingredients (sesame oil, soy sauce, etc.) with very non-Asian ingredients (mayonnaise, etc.).

The second dip is a curried artichoke dip from Cooking Light Annual Recipes, 1997. We served it with melba toast, but corn chips or potato chips will do just as well. It seemed to need a little extra flavor, though. If we made it again we’d probably substitute mayonnaise for half or all of the cottage cheese, increase the curry powder, and add a little paprika and chili powder.

The “main dish” was a halibut sambal (halibut served with a sweet and spicy sour cream sauce) from the Timberline Lodge cookbook. The only difference we made is that we spiced the halibut itself, primarily with salt, pepper, dry mustard, and lots of paprika. We’re not in general all that fond of fish, but halibut…well, it’s the least fishy fish I’ve ever tasted.

For dessert we made a blueberry-ginger cheesecake, again from Cooking Light Annual Recipes, 1997. This should be made the day before. It’s a very simple cheesecake; just throw it together in a sturdy stand mixer or a food processor, bake, and cool. Then boil the topping ingredients together, cool, and pour them on top. Refrigerate overnight. It also uses one of my favorite underused ingredients: crystallized (candied) ginger.

This is a remarkably low-effort dinner, all things considered, that looks like you spent all weekend on it. We started the day-of preparations around noon, and served dinner at about 4:30. That even included time for our disasters to happen. By the way, if your bread machine bread sticks to the roof of your bread machine and doesn’t cook through all the way, just cut the uncooked top off and serve upside-down so no one sees the cut. Or I imagine you could turn it into some fantastic bread pudding!

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