We did Hogswatch without you… Happy Belated Hogswatch! It’s taken me a while to get ahold of pictures, and recover from eating enough to actually write about, well, eating.
What is it? Check HERE. Or just know that, in my family, it involves food. LOTS of food.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of your house shrinking as the number of people in it doubles for a long weekend.
Considering I spent two days cooking and eating nearly non-stop, I actually got a lot of exercise. By the time we were done cooking on Sunday night, most of the main floor kitchen had been moved to the basement kitchen, one desperately-needed item at a time. That’s a lot of stair-sprints.
I am not a food blogger. I just don’t have the patience or memory to not-eat-right-away, make things pretty, or take pictures along the way. What we produced was not restaurant-pretty, but it was delicious. Today I’m giving you the rundown of recipes I can link to actual food-bloggers’ sites. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give you some recipes.
We have a slow cooker. I’m not honestly sure if it’s ever been used. My parents have a tendency to buy things in a “OH WOW, how did we live without this thing? We were practically savages!” kind of way, and then they disappear into the bowels of the house, only to reappear years later as a “What. The. Hell?! Was this a gift? From someone who doesn’t like us? Who would buy this?!”
It’s the first time I’ve ‘crocked’ anything, but it turned out fabulously. SO tasty, tender, juicy and delicious. The potatoes didn’t cook as well as everything else, so I’d probably skip them next time. We used baby potatoes, and chopped heirloom carrots instead of the vegetables they list. The other change I made is that I slid slices of lemon and lime (and the spice mixture they use) under the skin of the chicken. It’s pretty easy to do, and is great for flavoring the meat, rather than flavoring the outside of the skin (which no-one in my family eats, especially not after it was steamed into a kind of mushy meh-ness).
I am SO stalking their site for more crock pot recipes.
When I mentioned that I was making this as part of the dessert, my mum’s response was, “What? That’s a real thing? I didn’t think it was a thing!”
The alcohol in it gives it a kind of bitter-sweet taste, and it is so full of dried fruit that you could almost pretend that it’s healthy. It’s spongy and moist and full of tart pieces of fruit. The part where you flame it at the end wasn’t exactly successful for us, but I’ll be trying it again next time.
With that many people eating, someone’s not going to like something. C tried it and disliked it because of the background taste of alcohol. Peanut refused on the grounds of it being contaminated with both alcohol (sometime I’ll tell you about the one and only time she came to the liquor store with me) and dried fruit. I’d classify it as a ‘grown-up dessert’.
We didn’t change the recipe at all, being kind of unsure about what it was meant to be. it’s from here.
Key Lime Cupcakes
We used this recipe, and it was delicious. We decorated them in our own special way, with home-made elephant ears and noses for some, and turtle legs for others. I swear, the elephant and turtle theme makes sense – you should go read a Discworld novel.
In addition to all this, we also had roast duck (from a mishmash of food network recipes), roasted potatoes and beets, spinach and feta tarts, veggie casserole, Wassail Punch, mulled wine, home-made chocolate rats and skeletons onna stick (seriously, it makes sense!), a cheese platter, salad, and cold borscht. Some recipes will follow.
The thing I find about blue cheese (a thing I love, and will eat with things or on its own whenever possible) is that people don’t give it a chance. Because, no doubt, it looks like it’s gone off. It isn’t blue in the same way as that cheese you lost in the back of your fridge is, though… they put particular bacteria in it, and create this cheese on purpose. There are mild ones, as well as the really strongly flavoured ones, and the flavour is really nice, if you’d only give it a chance. I’m not saying that you have to like it… I’m just saying that you can’t assume that something that you don’t like the look of should automatically go on the ‘don’t eat’ list. Try it.
I am taking a bit long to fully post my Hogswatch recipes and the event itself, but it seems like I don’t have enough time in the day lately. Gathering all the recipes and pictures together has also been a bit trying, so I’m just going to break things up in to smaller pieces than originally planned. The salad below is actually something we found in an LCBO Food and Drink magazine – they have some surprisingly good stuff, and this salad was really easy to make, tasty, and looks good. When we’re serving things just for the family, it really doesn’t matter what the final product looks like, but it is always nice to see something turn out really similarly to what it looks like in the professionally done photos.
This salad was K’s first time trying blue cheese – she thoroughly enjoyed it. There isn’t all that much blue cheese in the recipe, but it gives the cheesecakes a nice savoury flavour that really contrasts well with the sweet-tartness of the pomegranates. Besides – who wouldn’t want the excuse to eat cheesecake before dessert?
Warm Stilton Cheesecakes on Baby Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
8 oz (250 g) brick style cream cheese (take this out well in advance, so that it’s already room temperature when you start mixing – that will make things a lot easier)
4 oz (125 g) stilton, crumbled (you could also use another blue cheese, if you can’t get stilton)
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped chives
¼ tsp (1 mL) fresh ground pepper
1/3 c (75mL) unsweetened pomegranate juice or cranberry juice (our grocery store recently filled an entire cooler-area with POM juice, which is what we use. It comes in a relatively small container as well, which is nice – you don’t end up with an entire jug full of pomegranate juice leftover, that may or may not be a hit with the household)
2 tbsp (25mL) red wine vinegar
1 tsp (5ml) granulated sugar or liquid honey
½ tsp (2mL) dijon mustard
¼ c (50mL0 grapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 cups (3L) baby greens
Pomegranate seeds (a hint for getting the pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate – cut it in half, hold a piece over a bowl, cut side down, and whack it with a wooden spoon. Once you’ve gotten most of the seeds out that are visible, you can cut it smaller, and continue whacking it. Eventually, though, it does come down to picking tiny seeds out of the pomegranate. If you’ve got a lot of white bits in with your seeds, fill the bowl with water, and stir a bit – the seeds will sink, the white bits will float. The seeds that have gone off a bit will also tend to float, remove those as well)
Toasted sliced almonds (We use toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, since we’ve got a family member who is allergic to almonds. Basically, this part is mostly for some crunch in the salad)
For stilton cheesecakes, preheat oven to 325 F (160 C)
Line 8 cups of a muffin pan with silicone liners or place a silicone muffin pan on a baking sheet. (the first time we did this recipe, we just greased the metal muffin tin – it didn’t turn out as pretty as it could have, but it meant we didn’t have to go out and buy silicone liners or a silicone muffin pan. However, the muffin pan is very useful, and wasn’t too expensive – it can be used for a ton of other recipes, so it’s a good buy)
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer in a bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until well blended. Fold in stilton, chives and pepper. Divide among muffin cups, making 8 cheesecakes. Bake for about 15 minutes or until puffed and slightly soft in the centres. Let cool in pan on a rack, serve warm (or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and reheat before serving)
For vinaigrette, whisk together pomegranate juice vinegar, sugar and mustard, gradually whisk in oil until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper
To serve, whisk vinaigrette and pour half over greens. Toss to coat and arrange on salad plates. Top each with a warm cheesecake and garnish with pomegranate seeds and almonds. Drizzle with more vinaigrette
We served this as our first course at Hogswatch – it gave people something to dig into while I was still carving the chickens and duck.
… Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast. And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! They would start on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast…
In lieu of rare Who-roast-beast, we did duck and two little chickens. For the duck recipe, we used the cooking method from Alton Brown’s recipe. We were winging it a bit on the chickens, and used the cooking instructions we found here on foodtv.com, with our own prepwork inspired by a variety of foodtv shows.
Flattened Roast Duck
One Duck (head and feet optional), 5 to 5.5 lb
¼ cup Kosher Salt (we used less than called for)
Carrots and Celery and Onion, enough to support the duck within the baking dish
If your duck has its head and feet, follow the instructions in a previous blog post to remove these items. Put them aside or discard them – it’s your choice whether you want to add them to your future stock.
Cut the spine out of the duck. To do this, arrange the duck, breast-side-down, with the tail towards you. Use kitchen shears (or any clean, sturdy pair of scissors) to cut up one side of the spine. Rotate the duck, so that the tail is away from you, and repeat the process down the other side of the duck. Try to stay as close as possible to the spine and avoid cutting into the thigh. Press down on the bird to flatten, and make a shallow cut along the breastbone to further flatten the duck.
Remove any excess skin around the neck, and any extra pockets of fat. There will be some pockets right near the base of the tail, on the inside of the duck.
Turn the duck breast-side-up, and make a long slash in the skin and fat of each breast. To do this, press the flat of a sharp knife against the breast, and slide it flat along the surface. This should slice though the skin and fat while avoiding cutting through to the skin.
Sprinkle both sides of the duck with kosher salt. Place the duck breast-side-up in a roasting pan lined with paper towels, and leave this uncovered in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or until the skin is dry and has the consistency of parchment.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush off any remaining salt on the duck and remove the paper towels from the bottom of the pan.
Put enough cleaned and whole carrots and celery, and chopped onions, in the bottom of the pan to support the duck (breast-side-up). This will allow the juices and fat to drain away from the bird without it sitting in the drippings. You can put it on a grate in the pan instead, or in a broiler pan, but the carrots and celery will come in handy when you are making stock later.
Put the pan in the middle of the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to cook until the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, about 30 more minutes.
NOTE: My duck took about 40 minutes after the first rotation to reach this temperature – the instant read thermometer was really useful, and I definitely recommend getting one, or borrowing one, for this type of purpose. They range from 10 to 50 dollars, from what I can tell, and you can get either digital or analog. Ours is nice in that it has a thermometer attached to a long wire that connects to the display – this means I was able to put the thermometer in near the end of the cooking process and close the oven door, reading the temperature from the display panel sitting outside the oven. This was the first time I’d used one of these, and I’m sold on the entire idea – you can check the temperature of the thickest part of the meat you’re cooking, to ensure that it has reached the required temperature for cooking – it takes away the urge to cut your meat before it’s had time to rest (to ‘check’ if it is still raw inside), as well as the urge to add 10 minutes to the planned cooking time to ‘be on the safe side’. The meat was so tender and juicy – if I’d taken it out when the recipe suggested I should, it might have been cooked through after being left to rest… but it might not have.
Remove the duck from the oven and increase the heat to 450 degrees F. Once the oven has come up to temperature, return the duck to the oven and roast until the skin is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the duck to rest for a bit. This gives it time to cool enough to seal the flavours and juices in before you cut into it.
I was shocked at how well our duck turned out. Since this was my first time cooking anything whole, I wasn’t at all sure what to look for in the cooking process, I had figured that something would go wrong. It wasn’t perfect, but it is definitely on its way. One of the major things I would change is reducing the salt – I entirely forgot to brush off the excess salt on the duck, so my duck’s skin was very over-salty. The duck meat was also saltier than I would have preferred, though considerably less than the outside surfaces. Alton Brown suggests approximately 3 tsp of kosher salt per pound of duck. For us, that would have been approximately 1/3 of a cup, but we reduced that to ¼. Next time, I think I’ll sprinkle salt on until it seems coated adequately, rather than focusing on the measurement. We also added some regular salt the day before cooking, in hopes of helping dry the skin a bit faster (since we didn’t have the duck drying for nearly as long as it needed), which probably added to the saltiness of the meal. However, the meat was tender and very flavourful, and it tasted better than any duck at restaurants I’d had before. Of course, that opinion could be a bit clouded by the amount of work I’d put into the duck – after butchering and cooking the duck myself, I’ll be damned if it tastes anything less than amazing! K agreed with me on the taste, though, so I’ll take that as reasonable proof of how good it was.
Flattened Roast Chicken
One chicken, approximately 4 lb
Seasoning Option 1
1 lemon, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper to taste
Seasoning Option 2
1/3 cup chopped Fresh Parsley
1 tbsp each dry Basil, Rosemary, or whatever herbs you prefer. If fresh herbs are being used, increase quantities.
2-3 cloves Minced Garlic (or more, to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut the spine out of the chicken. To do this, arrange the chicken, breast-side-down, and use kitchen shears (or any clean, sturdy pair of scissors) to cut up the side of the spine. Rotate the chicken, and repeat the process down the other side of the spine. Try to stay as close as possible to the spine and avoid cutting into the thigh. Press down on the bird to flatten, and make a shallow cut along the breastbone to further flatten the chicken.
Starting at the neck, slide your hand between the skin and the meat of the breast. The skin should peel back easily enough, though you may require a sharp knife to help separate the skin from the breast along the breastbone. The skin isn’t being removed, just separated slightly from the breast, so that ingredients can be stuffed in the opening. Find the separation between skin and flesh at the thick end of the thighs, and repeat this process, separating the skin as much as possible without peeling it off entirely.
Mix the seasoning together (in the case of the lemon chicken, simply drizzle olive oil on the slices of lemon), and slide the mixture down in between the skin and the flesh of the chicken. This process allows you to flavour the meat itself, with the skin holding in the moisture and flavour of whatever you stuff the chicken with.
Note – these are the ingredients I used for these chickens, but you could choose to do something else entirely – orange slices would work, and would add a different type of flavour. You could also do a combination of herbs and lemons, or an entirely different mixture of herbs. Avoid fresh herbs with woody stalks (eg, rosemary), because you will have to pick those stalks out from between the meat and skin before you serve your chicken. The lemon slices pretty much dissolved in my chicken, so that they were soft enough that I didn’t need to remove them before serving.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
Put enough cleaned and whole carrots and celery, and chopped onions, in the bottom of the pan to support the chicken. You can put it on a grate in the pan instead, or in a broiler pan, but the carrots and celery will come in handy when you are making stock later. Put the chicken in breast-side-up.
Roast the chicken for 45 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F, and cook until an instant read thermometer stuck into the thigh registers 160 degrees F, about 15 minutes more. Take it out and allow it to rest, tenting tinfoil overtop. See Note in the duck recipe for my views on the usefulness of instant read thermometers. In this case, I found that the times in the recipe were exactly what I needed (though the recipe on foodtv.com was meant for a stuffed little chicken, not a flattened one.)
Once again, I was shocked – the chicken was as perfect as I could imagine it being. Unlike the duck, I don’t have any particular changes to the recipe that I want to try next time. Apart from mixing up the types of ingredient I’ll stuff under the skin, I think this one is exactly where I want it to be. It doesn’t take long, and the chicken turned out moist and flavourful because of the olive oil mixtures I stuffed under the skin. Using the meat thermometer ensured that I didn’t overcook the chicken, and also ensured that I didn’t undercook it. The chickens were the same amount of work as many of my recipes that call for chicken breasts or kebabs, and really had a good presentation
Note: Jamie Oliver had an interesting point on cutting roast chicken. The standard Chicken carver will start slicing, parallel to the outside surface, and take off big pieces right up until they get to the ribcage. What this means is that some of the pieces have the seasoning (and are a bit dryer, because they were the closest to the surface), and other pieces are more moist, but haven’t come into contact with any of the seasoning you used. He suggests cutting the entire breast off, starting from the breastbone or spine. Once you’ve got the breast off and onto the cutting board, cut the breast into slices perpendicular to the skin, so that every piece gets a bit of skin and seasoning, and a bit of the juicier inner-meat. I didn’t get it 100%, this being the first time I ever carved a bird, but I think it worked out really well. With a bit of practice I’ll be able to give it that really nice presentation, and it did ensure that everyone got that herb or lemon flavour kick without having to forage for the one big outside piece.
Mix a quarter cup of flour with 2 tbsp of summer savoury and 2 tbsp of poultry seasoning in the bottom of a warmed pot with some butter. Add stock and drippings from the pan, equivalent to a carton of stock and a can, and stir briskly to avoid clumps. If you want a clearer gravy, substitute cornstarch for the flour.
We used both the chicken carcasses and the duck carcass, including the chicken backs, duck back, duck feet, and duck neck (that had all been roasted in the pan with our actual roast fowl) in our stock.
Once the carcass has been cleaned of all the meat you want to eat off it, put it in a big pot, along with the remaining drippings, and all additional parts. Add all the vegetables that were in the roasting pans, and if you don’t think there were enough, add some more for good measure. Put in two bay leaves, 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled, some fresh thyme and parsley (or other herbs you prefer), and pour water in until the carcass is entirely submerged.
Put the pot over high heat until your stock starts simmering (small bubbles breaking through the surface of the liquid, not a rolling boil), and turn down the heat to medium-low. Adjust the heat until your stock maintains a low simmer. Simmer for approximately 6 hours, and then strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer and discard the strained material. The stock should be relatively clear – if it isn’t, strain again, through a finer strainer. Cool, and remove solidified fat from the surface. When the stock is cooled, it should have a slightly gelatinous consistency – this is a good thing, and the consistency will revert to broth consistency when you heat it up again. It can be stored in your fridge for a few days, or frozen for a few months. We find that ice cream containers are very effective for storing stock – just make sure to cool it before putting it in these containers.
The meat was the most stressful part of our Hogswatch plans – it was a dive straight into the unknown. Neither K nor I had ever done a whole roast bird of any kind – K had never even eaten duck before, so this was even more of a leap for her! Both Hogswatch meals K and I have made, my parents spent the entire day doubting that we’d finish, doubting that we’d made enough food, doubting that it would be edible (as if we both hadn’t spent time living on our own and successfully feeding ourselves!) and doubting that we had the ‘situation’ (as they refer to the hogswatch meal) under control. I think it was even more of a shock to us that the chickens and duck worked out so well than it was for my parents – I had been hoping that, at best, they would all be edible with enough gravy on them, and make good stock later.
Well, it’s over, we survived – our epic Hogswatch cook-athon was a success, even the first attempt at cooking a duck. I figured, before I get too into the entire weekend, recipes and all, I should explain Hogswatch. I’ll probably make this all into a few posts, because there are a lot of things I want to mention, and I don’t want to post a novel instead of a blog.
As stated in an earlier post, there are a few people out there who are, as they read this, going “oooh, cool. You celebrate Hogswatch!” The rest of you are wondering what it is, and if it involves watching pigs, which probably isn’t entertaining enough to take up an entire weekend and multiple blog-posts.
Firstly, an explanation of the inventor of Hogswatch – Terry Pratchett is the author of the Discworld Series, along with a few books set outside the Discworld. His books are full of hilarious British humour, with a very eclectic set of characters, including a not-so-tyrranical City Tyrant, Gods for every possible prayer, Witches, Wizards, and Death.
The Discworld is a flat world supported on the backs of four giant elephants standing on the back of a massive turtle. If this intrigues you, there are lots of Discworld books, and I am doing my best to think of one that could stand out as a good place to start. The Colour of Magic was the first one written, but they don’t really need to be read in order. Regardless of which book you read first, you will encounter characters that are barely touched upon in this story, but who might have an entire book to themselves later in your reading. Some of my favourites are The Truth, Soul Music, and Going Postal. They’ve now made movies out of The Hogfather, The Colour of Magic, and Going Postal – I’m fairly sure that someone who has never read anything by Terry Pratchett will be a bit confused, or, at the very least, miss some really good jokes.
Hogswatch is the Discworld equivalent to Christmas. The Hogfather (a slightly mutant looking guy with tusks coming out of his lower jaw and a piggish nose) travels all around the Discworld on Hogswatch night (around the same time as Xmas), riding in a sleigh pulled by four wild boars. He delivers presents to children, and children leave out meat pies and sherry for him, along with turnips for the boars.
Hogswatch for me when a friend/fellow Pratchett fan and I wanted to meet up and celebrate Xmas well after the holiday season was over. For one year, we’d both ended up in the same town, both for school. Life at school is hectic, especially around the holidays, so the first time we both had free of all the other life-things was in February. We figured that, instead of doing Christmas in February (which just sounds depressing), we would do Hogswatch. It might not technically be the right time of year, but it was close enough. The next year, I was moved back home, post-grad, and K was back in her home-town as well, but we didn’t want to let our new tradition die. So, we expanded Hogswatch from an afternoon of cooking, eating and watching movies for the two of us to a weekend in one of our homes, for both of our families (my 5, plus Adoptive Neighbour Sister, and 4 of K’s family). My parents and K’s parents had been friends for years and years before we were around, so Hogswatch was an ideal excuse to get everyone together and party. Suffice to say, it was a bit chaotic. We used two kitchens and a dozen pots and pans, dinner was a bit late, and sleeping arrangements involved couches and cushions on the floor. We had a blast, and there was never any doubt we’d be doing it again this year.
This year, Hogswatch involved my family, Adoptive Neighbour Sister, K and her entire family (5 total this year), and M, a friend who more recently got into the Terry Pratchett series. Oh, and, of course, the newest addition to our family – Dog. If I’d thought that 10 people in my house (only 9 sleeping over) for Hogswatch was busy, I was wrong… 12 adds exponentially to the planning process. Cleaning up the house, getting beds ready for new guests (some of which were already occupied by family members), trying to get some of the ingredients ready for cooking, and planning the non-Hogswatch meals took some time.
In my quest to clean and tidy, I discovered that the basement showerhead no longer works – the tub tap is functional, but will not let you pull the toggle that transfers the flow up to the shower head. Ah – 1 shower, 11 overnight guests.
My perfect room-assignment plan involved shifting both Tall and Short Sisters to my bedroom – that was messed up by Short Sister’s acquiring the plague in the days counting down towards Hogswatch, since suddenly she was out of both the musical-rooms plan, and the help-clean-and-tidy plan. Out came the layered yoga-mats and camping pads to produce an extra bed.
The Duck… well… reiterating a past blog, once it was purchased, the main obstacle in the duck plan was the fact that it had its feet and head still on – that was a learning experience.
The Chicken – when I was imagining a ‘li’l chicken’, I was imagining it considerably bigger than the ones I did find which were definitely not enough to feed 12 people. The solution – instead of the already not-simple task of cooking one duck and one little chicken, I had the task of cooking 2 little chickens and a duck to look forward to. I’ll admit, I foresaw a re-enactment of Christmas Vacation – only with three little dusty carcases instead of one big one.
By the time the weekend arrived, I really thought I had planned for most things. My partner in crime and her family would be arriving sometime early on Saturday, we’d spend the afternoon doing the last-minute shopping and trying to get some of the meal items prepped, and we’d bake the cake. I’d have the dog walked in the morning, and he’d be tired out enough after that epic journey that we’d be able to give him one or two shorter walks in the evening time to keep him settled. What actually happened – The 402 between here and Sarnia was shut down due to the weather, at least until sometime in the afternoon. K’s family didn’t arrive until after 4, and I had done the last-minute shopping alone, and forgotten a fair number of things. The cake finished cooking sometime around midnight, and the duck and chickens had had their final pre-day-of prep. We might not have gotten everything done, but we did enough.
Oh, the beautiful chaos – Hogswatch is upon us.
Stay Tuned for the details of our celebration’s food and beverage!