The End is Near…

This is another reminder that this blog will be deleted in the very near future. Please continue to cook your way through Middle-earth at my website:

Astrid Tuttle Winegar | Cooking for Halflings & Monsters

Hope to see you there, which is kind of a strange thing to say, but there it is. As Yoda would say, “Follow me, you will.”

 

Change is inevitable…

…and sometimes beneficial. I decided to grow up and actually start a real website. I will continue to blog over there, and pretty much all the vital contents of this blog have been exported/imported (whatever my daughter did; she’s a web wizard) over to the new place.

This was mainly triggered by the fact that my cookbook is being released TOMORROW!

Cooking for Halflings & Monsters PRE-SALE

The past two months have been a whirlwind of editing, typesetting, approving, and worrying. I hope that you will join me at my new website, where you can sign up to get a newsletter/blog delivery. The Middle-earth culinary tale will continue over there with some yummy dishes for Beorn. I’ll leave this blog up for awhile—see you over at WordPress.org, instead of WordPress.com!

Astrid Tuttle Winegar | Cooking for Halflings & Monsters

Stinky Cheese and “Tom the Troll’s Panini”

How do you feel about stinky cheese?

I can handle Bleu types, Parmesan/Romano types, Swiss types, Feta types, whatever. I CANNOT handle any sort of cheese that comes from a goat. I know it’s all the rage, but I will always avoid any sort of goat cheese (and milk and even meat). Have I tried to acquire a taste for these goaty products? Half-heartedly in the past. Now I’m grown up enough to proclaim, “I AM DONE.” No more sampling. The smell is just not worth it to me, especially since there are so many other delicious products available. Maybe I haven’t found the right flavor to mask the goaty smell—perhaps I need a roasted garlic/chipotle/pesto chèvre.

Anyway, when I was developing my cookbook, I went ahead and utilized Limburger for this troll-inspired delicacy.

This is quite a pungent sandwich which is great on its own or as an accompaniment to soup. Limburger seems most fitting for trolls because of its smell (meaning no offense to trolls, of course…); however, I find it to have a rather mild flavor. You might disagree; in a casual sampling of Limburger cheese in my mother’s kitchen, six people had different opinions on its flavor though everyone did agree it was stinky. It is a cow-based cheese, but it really does smell like incredibly sour feet.

Bob likes this particular sandwich with Brie and sourdough. Callista dislikes raw onion, so I usually leave a slice off of her portion.

Now, all that being said, have I ever purchased Limburger cheese again? Nope.

You can certainly use a sandwich press if you like (hence my term, Panini), but a common griddle will cook both at once and a press might only accommodate one at a time. I stress the word carefully in the recipe below, since this is loaded with stuff and you don’t want it all to fall out.

The first sandwich is known as Pig and Curd on Bread (a.k.a. Brie & Bacon Panini) in my cookbook. The second is affectionately known as Want Stinkier Sandwich (a.k.a. Bleu & Bacon Panini). YUM (bellows the troll…).

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From “The Hobbit”—Troll Treats

Well, you can imagine that running into three trolls would be a terrifying encounter, but with the help of Gandalf’s cleverness, the trolls are vanquished mainly by their own argumentative behavior. Now rescued from the stewpot, our intrepid adventurers discover a cave in which the trolls had stored bread, cheese, ale, and bacon. It’s a good thing too, for Bilbo and his dwarf companions are starving for breakfast. Tolkien is not specific as to what kind of bread or cheese, so I am taking some latitude here—I believe these sandwiches would probably satisfy most trolls, at least as an amuse-bouche

“Tom the Troll’s Panini”

tomthetrollspanini

  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained well
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 4 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread, about ½” thick, 4″ by 5″
  • 7-8 ounces Brie, Camembert, or Limburger cheese, cut into ¼” slices (use the rind as well)
  • A large red onion, cut 4 slices from the center, ¼” slices
  • 6 slices good quality bacon, cooked until crispy (precooked variety is okay)
  • 3-4 tablespoons soft salted butter, or spreadable margarine

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Lay one slice of bread on a cutting board and layer it with half the cheese, two slices of onion, and three strips of bacon. Spread half of the mustard mixture on another slice of bread and place this side down on top of the bacon. Press down all over the sandwich. Spread the top with about a tablespoon of butter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Heat a griddle to medium-hot.

Carefully place each sandwich on hot griddle, butter side down, and press down all over with your hands or a spatula. Now butter the tops of each. When golden brown (2-3 minutes should do), carefully flip each over. Press down all over again and fry the other side until it is golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Cut in half and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 2-4.

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The trolls seem to have some rather bad-natured competition and grouchiness going on between themselves; Tolkien describes it as “a gorgeous row.” Bill would want his sandwich to be even more smelly than his companion’s sandwich, of course.

“Bill the Troll’s Stinkier Panini”

billthetrollsstinkierpanini

For this one, everything is the same with these exceptions:

  • Use any kind of rye or pumpernickel for the bread

For the cheese, use:

  • 2 ounces any sort of Bleu cheese—such as Gorgonzola (rather mild), Stilton, Bleu, or Roquefort (rather strong)—it just depends on your taste—crumbled
  • 3 ounces light cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened

Mash the two cheeses together and spread equally on two slices of bread. Proceed with the directions in the preceding recipe. If you use pumpernickel, you will have to pay close attention to it, since it’s already dark brown; you’ll want it toasted but not burned. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 2-4.

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A Little Lamb and “Bert the Troll’s Kabobs (a.k.a. Mutton and Gravy)”

So, when does a tender little lamb become a tough bit of mutton? After it passes its first innocent year, a sheep becomes a teenager, or hogget. Then comes the dreaded toughness of adulthood, and the rather unattractive term mutton, which only refers to the meat derived from the sheep. Though you never call a sheep a mutton, outside of North America, you can call a sheep a hogget. The farmer in the movie Babe is named Arthur Hoggett…

It’s a fairly traditional treatment to serve mint jelly with lamb, though I’ve never cared for it. It was one of those things my English grandmother would serve on special occasions. The best lamb I ever had was at a Himalayan restaurant in Evergreen, Colorado. My sister, her husband, and I had lamb prepared as a beautifully tender vindaloo. 

Let’s face it, however—mutton is smelly and tough. I’ve never had hogget. In America, you’ll hardly ever hear those terms; you’ll only hear lamb. We Americans can certainly be particular about our protein sources and we can also be sensitive about marketing terms. Sure, we’ll eat our adorable Easter lamb, but once that creature reaches that 12-month-mark, forget it. The rest of the world is much more practical about mutton preparation.

Actually, around our house, we’re not too keen on lamb, let alone mutton (especially Bob). Happily this recipe completely lends itself to the optional protein choices mentioned below. You can serve this over a rice pilaf or with crusty bread. Any sort of salad or vegetables goes well with this dish, though I doubt that trolls care much for green stuff.

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From “The Hobbit”—Troll Treats

The ultimate enemy in The Hobbit is a vicious and clever dragon named Smaug, who eats ponies, dwarves, and men. I am assuming he would eat these delicacies raw or he might singe them with a puff of his own fire. Rather than trying to invent dishes that would mimic raw, bloody flesh, I decided not to include any strange recipes for Smaug in my cookbook. There are also goblins (orcs) and large spiders in The Hobbit. However, the spiders just want to eat Bilbo and the dwarves. One day, I’ll treat you to all my goblin/orc recipes; nomnomnom.

Earlier in Tolkien’s text, however, Bilbo and company unfortunately encounter three trolls and they are captured. The trolls had been toasting some mutton over a fire and there is a “fine toothsome smell.” Apparently, trolls prefer to eat manflesh. When they capture the dwarves, the trolls discuss at length just how they should prepare this unexpected, yet welcome, culinary windfall. They conclude that Bilbo would hardly make more than an appetizer. The following recipes raise troll cuisine up a few notches, but they are still fairly rough and ready.

One of the trolls laments their lack of gastronomic variety: “Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don’t look like mutton again tomorrer.” I can easily understand how one can tire of mutton, but what if a lovely bit of lamb came their way? This would call for pearl onions and a tasty marinade. This might even satisfy the Top Chef trolls in the recent Peter Jackson films; they certainly are more pretentious than Tolkien’s original trolls, don’t you think?

“Bert the Troll’s Kabobs (a.k.a. Mutton and Gravy)”

bertthetrollskabobs

  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon crushed ginger, fresh or from a jar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cream sherry
  • About 3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 – 1¼ pounds lamb (stew meat or from a roast), cut into 20 pieces, each about 2″ or so *
  • 3 cups water
  • 16 pearl onions, any color (small boiler onions would also work)

Combine the first ten ingredients in a covered jar and shake well. Place lamb in a medium-sized bowl and pour the marinade over all. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or even overnight); stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, combine 3 cups water and the onions. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut off the ends and pull off the peel. On 4 metal skewers coated with cooking spray, alternately thread 5 chunks of lamb and 4 onions on each, beginning and ending with lamb; reserve marinade for basting. Place on a medium baking sheet. Coat grill with cooking spray and preheat to medium. Place kabobs on grill and liberally brush with half of the marinade. Cook 3-5 minutes. Turn the kabobs over and brush again with remaining marinade. Cook another 3-5 minutes or until meat is cooked to the desired temperature. ** Let the kabobs rest for a couple of minutes on a clean baking sheet, then remove from skewers and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 4.

* Other good protein choices are beef, pork (cuts such as tenderloin and sirloin are best), and chicken (preferably breast meat), and even large peeled shrimp (3″; tail on or not).

** Cooking times will vary depending on your grill, your choice of meats, and your own taste.

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Second Breakfast? Just “Bilbo’s Special Ham and Eggs for Thorin”

You might assume I eat a hearty breakfast, but I can’t handle food very early in the morning. When I was around 10 years old, I gave up drinking milk, but I don’t think I’m lactose-intolerant per se. When my daughters were in school, I bought into the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” crap, so I generally provided them with a modest morning meal right up through high school. I also ate this breakfast, but skipping the meal was never too much of a problem, however.

Then came the “Night of the Gallbladder.” This traumatic event radically changed my morning routine in a good way. Now, all I eat is a serving of fruit, 20 ounces of cold water, exactly 2 ounces of (usually) orange juice, and my medications. If I’m really in the mood for an eggy-type of meal, I have it at lunch or dinner.

SECOND breakfast? You’ve got to be kidding…

This is an excellent breakfast, brunch, or even casual supper dish, so give it a try! When you prepare these eggs, I think you will agree that there are an awful lot of eggs for one person, even if he is a dwarf. You could easily use a combination of fresh eggs and egg substitute, if desired.

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

Finally, after much discussion of what the dwarves have planned and why they need the assistance of this burglar (I mean, hobbit, sorry…), Thorin Oakenshield imperiously states that he likes “six eggs with my ham, when starting on a journey: fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ’em.” Well, he is a king, after all. Bilbo has become so annoyed after this long evening that he decided “not to bother to get up very early and cook everybody else’s wretched breakfast.” If he did, however, he would have made this recipe instead. I certainly don’t blame him for not doing this; these dwarves have been rather rude the whole time.

And now we will leave Bag-End, and Mr. Bilbo Baggins may close the door on his well-stocked pantries. At least nothing went to waste! Next up on the agenda: Troll Treats.

“Bilbo’s Special Ham and Eggs for Thorin”

bilbosspecialhamandeggsforthorin

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
  • ¾ pound cooked ham slices *
  • 6 extra large eggs
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon Savory Seasoning
  • ½ cup minced fresh chives
  • 5-6 ounces spreadable herb/garlic cheese (2/3 cup) **

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and brown sugar over medium/high heat. Add the meat and fry until a golden brown on both sides. Turn heat to very low and cover.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and Savory Seasoning until well combined. In another large skillet coated with cooking spray, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium/high heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook over medium/high heat until just beginning to scramble, stirring occasionally and gently with a spatula. Sprinkle with the chives and add the cheese, breaking it into smaller pieces or mashing it as you mix it in. Continue scrambling until the eggs are fully cooked and fluffy. Don’t brown them (though if you do, they’re still quite edible). Adjust seasonings, if desired. Serve alongside the ham and accompany with items such as toast, biscuits, scones, or English muffins. Keep leftovers covered in refrigerator. Serves 3-4, or perhaps just one terribly hungry dwarf…

* You may use a few slices of Canadian Bacon or even thin pork chops here, instead of the ham. Allow a few minutes extra cooking time for pork chops.

** Boursin cheese is great here; just use a 5.2 ounce package, any flavor.

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Bryan Cranston’s Underwear and “Bag-End Biscuits”

After a frenetic binge-watch of Breaking Bad (only my second viewing) and after seeing most of Malcolm in the Middle, I’m convinced that Bryan Cranston is the man I’ve seen most often in his underwear, with the exception of two other men. So—Cranston ranks number three.

Of course, my husband is the number one wearer of underwear in front of me.

Number two was my father. He was of the boxer variety (Bob and Bryan being of the brief variety). My dad would actually step out of the house (or even the occasional motel) to go pick weeds in the front yard. Maybe nobody noticed him sitting cross-legged in the grass in his relatively dingy t-shirt and boxers. On his feet, he would only be wearing socks, never slippers or sandals or shoes. Maybe nobody minded… I’ve assumed that, because the neighbors never called the police to report there was a strange man sitting in front of his house, pulling weeds, in his underwear. Or gosh, officer, there is this strange man walking around the parking lot of the Denver Motel 6, looking at license plates… no, he’s not doing anything weird, he’s just… in his underwear… and some socks…

(He liked to “chase plates.” Mom and dad would drive around, and he would observe license plates. A good day was seeing maybe 25 plates other than New Mexico. Canadian and Mexican plates were a welcome bonus. Hawaii and Alaska always elicited the response, “well, they’re a long way from home.” Dad gave up driving when it became clear he was an exceptionally nervous driver, and better off only being a passenger.)

My sister, mother, and I never really knew why he perpetually went out into his perceived yard (even if that yard was the parking lot of a Motel 6) only in his underwear. He was a peculiar person in many ways, but I’ve assumed since he was brought up in an incredibly repressive household, he figured he could finally be free (at least in this particular way) after he married and moved away from his parents.

Nevertheless, dad was also an intelligent man; he loved sports, yet never played much as an adult. He loved music, yet only played piano briefly as a youngster. He was generous and sensitive. He had a quirky and dry sense of humor. He also believed that if he belonged to a religion, it would be “cookie-ism.” He never let his diabetes get in the way of his sugar worship, however. These cookies would have been right up his alley.

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Did you know that Tolkien fanatics established a special holiday just to read the works of the Professor? The Tolkien Society started this event way back in 2003, and it is held every March 25. It’s a good day to re-read a favorite short story, such as the delightful Leaf by Niggle. Or you could give up binge-watching OITNB and give The Hobbit a quick read.

I know I’m late for it this year, but this little post was something I prepared for the day a couple years ago and it goes along very well with these delicious cookies, which turned up in my original cookbook at just this place in this chapter. You’ll just have to mark your calendars for next year!

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

For a typical Tolkien Reading Day, I like to picture one of my favorite hobbits, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, reading his “morning letters.” He’s about to enjoy his day (his less noisy and more green day) when this incredibly annoying wizard intrudes, whose only mission seems to be destroying Bilbo’s cozy, complacent world.

After this encounter, I like to imagine Bilbo escaping into his comfortable and luxurious Bag-End bachelor pad (well, “scuttle” is the word Tolkien uses…); relieved that he can now spend his afternoon reading about Tookish adventures, certainly not participating in any such nonsense.

It’s a good thing he’s already baked some delicious biscuits to nibble on. Little does he know, he better enjoy them now, because those uncivilized and rude dwarves are going to take over his pantries tomorrow…

“Bag-End Biscuits”

bagendbiscuits

  • 3 large oranges
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft salted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar

Using a microplaner or fine grater, remove as much of the zest from the oranges as you can. You should have at least 3 tablespoons; set aside. Cut oranges in half and juice them. If necessary, strain the juice; reserve ¼ cup and save the rest in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or grease lightly. In a large bowl, cream the 1 cup butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons zest. Add the flour and the reserved ¼ cup juice; mix well. On a lightly floured surface, pat and roll out the dough to a 6″ by 12″ rectangle, about ½” thick. Cut into 1″ by 2″ pieces. Carefully place on the baking sheet. Bake 16-20 minutes, until the cookies are just slightly brown on the bottom. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Carefully place them on a rack and cool 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, remaining zest, and 2 tablespoons juice. This should have the consistency more of an icing, not a glaze. You might add a smidge more juice if you think it is too thick. With a recessed or bent spatula, spread about a teaspoon of icing on each cookie and leave on rack over the baking sheet for about ½ hour to set. Keep covered at room temperature. Makes 36.

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Crooked Cleopatra and “Gandalf’s Cold Chicken and Pickles”

I just finished reading Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra. It was okay; I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, then put it in my book bag as a donation to wherever, since I don’t plan to read it again. My takeaway was this:

1. Politicians were incredibly corrupt.

2. The 1% ruled the world and didn’t give a shit about the remaining 99%.

3. A truly powerful woman will certainly not be a saint, but she will undoubtedly engender all sorts of opposing, distorted, and often blatantly mendacious stories about her conduct. These will generally be written by men who are threatened by her very existence. Cleopatra had a virtual squadron of conservative male writers who gleefully set about writing whatever they could to bring her “reputation” down.

Hmm. This sounds familiar.

Nihil sub sole novum.

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

I guess (mostly) all of us have a sweet spot for Gandalf in our hearts. He’s wry and witty; magical and majestic—the archetypal wise old man. If you had to hang out with such a person in real life, however, he might be kind of annoying. He’s certainly annoying to Bilbo, who later has to console himself with some biscuits (check out my next post). Gandalf rather condescendingly asks Bilbo to “Put on a few eggs (future post!), there’s a good fellow!” then requests “cold chicken and pickles.” Next thing you know, he’ll be patting Bilbo on the head. Insufferable, don’t you think?

You can use chicken (or leftover Thanksgiving turkey) from your own roast or use prepared grilled chicken strips. As you can see below, this is a low-carb recipe, unless you make a sandwich out of it all.

“Gandalf’s Cold Chicken and Pickles

gandalfscoldchickenandpickles

  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup English (seedless) cucumber, peeled or not; sliced thinly
  • ½ cup radishes, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup celery, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup red onion, cut into ¼” slivers
  • ½ pound cold cooked chicken
  • ¼ cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

In a 1½ quart saucepan, combine the first 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil and stir just to dissolve the sugar. Turn off heat and add the 5 vegetables. Cool ½ hour. Put in a covered 3-cup container and refrigerate for 1 hour; stir a couple of times. Drain to serve.

Shred, slice, or dice the chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings, if desired. Dollop sour cream sauce on chicken or combine as a salad. You may serve this plain with the pickles on the side or as a sandwich with the pickles as a relish. Cover and refrigerate leftovers separately. Vegetables look best the first day; the color fades afterwards. Both keep about 3 days. Serves 2-4.

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