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Don’t Shoot the Food – Death and Dying Edition

Man, there has been lots and lots of talk about death around these parts lately. I’ve been getting my fill of Darksiders II, featuring everyone’s favorite horseman, Death. So there’s that. Also, today marks the PC release of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. One game features Death as the main character, the other, features, uh, Death as the main character. No matter how you cut it, that’s a whole lot of dying.

So, when the time came to dust off ye olde Don’t Shoot the Food, I thought about death and dying and one thing and one thing only popped into my head: morbid obesity. Whoa! That’s not right. Let me try that again…ok, here we go: chocolate! Yes, that’s right, death by chocolate, to be specific.

Now, Death By Chocolate can be any dessert that is sufficiently chocolatey. It can also be any homicide or accidental death that is sufficiently chocolately, but we won’t worry about that in this post. You could make a cake or brownies or whatever you want, load it up with chocolate, probably several different kinds, and call it Death By Chocolate. That being the case, there is a somewhat “traditional”, if you can call it that, form of Death By Chocolate that is basically a trifle of whipped cream, chocolate brownies and chocolate mousse/pudding. Crumble a toffee chocolate bar atop your creation and the demise of all that consume it is assured.

Now, I could give you detailed recipes for chocolate brownies and chocolate pudding, but here’s what I’d suggest: go to the store, buy a box of whatever brownie mix catches your eye and whatever pudding mix catches your eye. Go home, make them and you’re half way there. Are there better homemade options? Sure there are, but if you know that already, you probably have a brownie/pudding recipe that turns your crank. As I am loathe to get between a chef and their crank, I’ll leave it to you to make your brownies and pudding however you see fit.

Death By Chocolate

1. 2 cups heavy cream
2. 1 tsp vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract, but almond extract is straight up nasty)
3. 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
4. 1 13 x 9 pan of room temperature brownies of your choosing, the chocolatier the better
5. 3 cups of your favorite pudding recipe, again, the chocolatier the better (you can go higher than 3 cups, just don’t go less than that. Don’t be skimpin’ on the pudding, now).
6. 5 1.4 oz chocolate covered toffee bars (Heath bars are the best. Of this, you can be certain.)

Cooking Steps
1. Whip the cream into soft peaks and then whip the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar into the peaks. You want the peaks to be stiff but not grainy. Don’t over beat the cream or your whipped cream will be mad lumpy, yo.
2. In a glass trifle bowl, add a layer of crumbled brownies (half the pan), a layer of half of the pudding, 1 1/2 of the toffee bars, crumbled and a layer of half of the whipped cream.
3. Repeat the layers as in step two and finish off the layers with the remaining two toffee bars, all crumbled up.

If you want, you can also make individual layered servings in small trifle bowls or parfait glasses, but who needs that much work? If your guests demand their own Death By Chocolate, stab them with a sharpened Hershey bar and then move onto dessert.

Don’t Shoot The Food B3 2012 Edition

While Brandon is off to Los Angeles to have game companies shower his stomach with gold plated shrimp cocktails, oysters on the half shell stuffed with $20 bills, and roasted peacock sauteed with diamonds in attempt to buy his review scores, I thought I would commandeer this week’s Don’t Shoot the Food with a report on tonight’s dinner. That’s something we can ALL appreciate, not just the feted “games journalists” out there at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. We may not all be able to sit through hours of corporate hoo-hah bullshit delivered by guys with headset mics, but we can all eat some damn dinner.

Tonight at Chez Barnes, a classic. Sort of. And it ties into Dragon’s Dogma. It’s Griffin Parmigiana!

Now, I am part Italian and this DStF is going to contain something controversial that may irk our Italian readership who quite rightly believe that using sauce from a jar should be punished by burning at the stake followed by hanging and then a around in the dunking chair. I agree with that severity if we’re talking about most of the mass-market junk sauces out there. Pregoo, Ratgut, Rufus McLanahan’s Tomater Sauce for S’getti, miscellaneous store brands, and so forth actually are forged by Lucifer himself and will probably kill you if you eat them and you have Italian genes.

The right and proper thing to do is to make sauce. I know this. Sautee a little garlic, crush up some San Marzanos (or Heirlooms if you’re a well-heeled $100k a year game developer), toss in some fresh basil. It’s not hard. But I’m lazy and have two small children, so we go the jar route. There are actually some pretty decent jar sauces available these days, but you’ve got to be willing to pay for them. Rao’s, Bobby D’s, Antica Rusta (a local Atlanta brand)…even Batali’s sauces are good. But spending $8-$10 for a good sauce pays out in spades versus eating that pasty, sugar sweetened garbage that exists under the top shelf.

With a good sauce in hand (I’m using Batali’s marinara tonight, it was on sale), I’ve also got some nice organic whole wheat penne. I’ve been buying the Whole Foods brand because it’s milled a little finer and less gritty than some of the other whole wheat pastas, and some of the overwhelming nutty taste is toned down. But you still get that whole grain thing.

Now, for the Griffin meat. We’re a meatless household so we wouldn’t eat a Griffin anyway. So I’m just going to use Boca fake chicken patties in lieu of the fanciful beast’s probably gamey flesh. I’ll top those with a little of that Batali and a slice of fresh sliced smoked provolone. Good stuff. Then that’ll go on top of the penne with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe. Some fresh Reggiano will get thrown on that, and my son (he’s two) will demand the remainder of the cheese, half of which he will eat and the other half will wind up on the ground, probably about $2 worth.

The really sneaky thing is that I’m not telling my family that we’re dining on mythological creatures tonight. B3 day one will conclude with me having a Crispin Brut and playing Dragon’s Dogma. See you tomorrow from the show floor of my basement!

Don’t Shoot the Food – Shawarma Assemble!

If you’ve seen The Avengers, you know that shawarma plays a role, albeit a small one, in Marvel’s magnum opus to citywide destruction and dudes in weird suits. Shawarma also happens to be one of the most awesome foods ever invented. Back when I lived in Virginia, I used to go to Lebanese Taverna because they rocked the chicken shawarma like nobody’s business.

Aside from being in The Avengers, shawarma could conceivably play a role in my current game, Assassins Creed: Revelations. AC:R takes place in Constantinople, a city that is smack dab in the geographical area that shawarma and other levantine foods originated from. Granted, the shawarma sandwich we eat today is pretty far removed from what would have been made circa 1511 but the idea of meat being cooked on a spit, horizontally back then as opposed to the modern, vertical method, is one that you can imagine being around as Ezio walked the streets of Constantinople. Nothing hits the spot after executing some Byzantines like a tasty shawarma sandwich.

I prefer chicken, but shawarma can be made with beef, lamb, goat, turkey or any combination thereof. If you want to get that authentic shawarma feeling you need to cook your meat on a cone, which may be difficult for a home cook, but you can still marinate the meat and grill it up in a manner that is shawarma-y enough for home use. This is a Cooking Light recipe, which means it skews more towards ease and convenience than authenticity but it still tastes damn good. Give this one a try and then you can move on to more authentic fare.

Chicken Shawarma Sandwich

1. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3. 1 teaspoon curry powder
3. 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
4. 3/4 teaspoon salt
5. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
6. 3 garlic cloves, minced
7. 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 3-inch strips

1. 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2. 2 tablespoons tahini
3. 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
5. 1 garlic clove, minced

Sandwich Stuff
Cooking spray
1. 4 (6-inch) pitas
2. 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
3. 8 tomato slices

Cooking Steps
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
2. Combine the first six ingredients and then toss the chicken to coat. Let it stand at room temperature for around 20 minutes.
3. Combine all of the sauce ingredients and stir well.
4. Thread 2 chicken strips onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until done.
5. Place pitas on grill rack; grill 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted. Place 1 pita on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup lettuce and 2 tomato slices. Divide the chicken up evenly among the sandwiches and drizzle each serving with 2 tablespoons sauce.

Give this one a try the next time you need a quick sandwich on the go as you scour ancient cities for remnants of a lost civilization. Or, you know, on a Tuesday night.

Don’t Shoot the Food – One Hand for My Cards Edition

No High Scores

I’ve been playing a lot of Runespell: Overture lately, as I wrote about on Wednesday, so I figured I’d tie this week’s food column to it. Unfortunately finding a food that matches an RPG-Poker mashup proved to be harder than I had thought. For one, there’s no food in the game. Seriously, you’re like and undead guy and you don’t seem to eat anything. Like ever. Second, the game is set in what appears to be Norway, or at the very least has strong Norwegian influences. Other than religiously riding the Maelstrom ride every time I go to Epcot, I don’t know anything about Norway, its people, or its food.

So there I was, googling “poker food” and coming up with nothing but a BBC show that features chefs playing a form of poker where they have to make recipes based off of predetermined ingredient cards. Lots of duck, lots of yuck. Then I remembered that Bill fancies himself a card shark and not the Bob Eubanks type, but an actual, bonafide poker player. I asked him if he played poker and he replied that he used to, but 5 card draw o5 5 card stuff, none of this river stuff, as he put it. You could feel the disdain oozing out of the monitor, the idea of Texas Hold ‘Em being anathema to his cold, calculating mind. Let the backwards baseball cap types play those games. No, Bill Abner plays poker the way God intended, one hand on his cards, ace up his sleeve and six-shooter at the ready.

So I asked Bill what food I should do and he very quickly replied with one word. Cocktails. I mentioned that you’re not supposed to drink while playing and his silence led me to believe that were I in his physical presence, he would have struck me. Cocktails it is..

In a way, cocktails make sense. All of the good poker games I’ve been to have been with friends, and if you can’t let your guard down among friends, where’s the fun? Besides, friends don’t mind being fleeced by other friends when that first batch of friends is sloppy drunk on scotch. Oh so I’ve been told. Plus, it’s easy to hold a drink in one hand while you hold your cards in the other, and no one need be subjected to a recipe for fried herring.

What better way to start a night of poker drinking with a casino. Ditch the maraschino cherry if it ain’t manly enough for you, or, better yet, take more than one to throw the other player off of their game. Who can read tells when watching a grown man wolf down maraschino cherries?
1. 2 ounces gin
2. 1/8 oz lemon juice
3. 1/8 oz Maraschino liqueur
4. 2 dashes orange bitters
5. Maraschino cherry garnish

Mixing Steps
1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

Monte Carlo
Sure, it’s better to drink this while playing baccarat instead of poker, but no one plays baccarat but tuxedo clad British spies or power hungry super villains. You and Doug from accounting can stick with poker, and drink this instead. Benedictine can be sweet, so adjust your proportions accordingly.
1. 2 1/4 ounces Rye whiskey
2. 3/4 ounce Benedictine
3. 1 dash Angostura bitters

Mixing Steps
1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
2. Stir until fully mixed and chilled and strain into a cocktail glass.

Poker Face
Singing “my-my-my-my-my-my my-my poker face” while drinking this drink is not only recommended, it’s mandatory. This way you can annoy your opponents into screwing up.
1. 1 1/2 ounces tequila
2. 4 ounces pineapple juice
3. 1/2 oz triple sec

Mixing Steps
1. Combine all ingredients in a highball glass almost full with ice.
2. Stir well and garnish with a lime wedge.

Pink Flamingo
Sure this one may be a little more pink than you’d like at the poker table, but just imagine yourself standing in the burning heat of Nevada, looking out at the desert at the site of what would become one of the most luxurious hotels of its day. You’re hot, you’re sweaty, you’re thinking about all of the money you’re going to make. What would taste good right now? A pink flamingo, that’s what.
1. 1 1/2 oz vodka
2. 1 1/2 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
3. 3/4 glass orange juice
4. 1 dash sloe gin

Mixing Steps
1. Pour all of the alcohol in a highball glass filled with ice.
2. Top with the orange juice and stir well.

Leaving Las Vegas
What better way to end your night of drunken gambling than with a drink named for a movie about a guy looking to drink himself to death? I sure as hell can’t think of one. There’s a lot of booze in this one so if you haven’t left Las Vegas by the time this drink comes out, you’ll be leaving shortly.
1. 1 oz vodka
2. 1 oz triple sec
3. 1 oz light rum
4. 1 oz gin
5. 1 splash Sprite
6. 2 tbsp sugar
7. 1 splash lemonade

Mixing Steps
1. Combine all of the alcohol and sugar in a highball glass filled with ice.
2. Top with the lemonade and the Sprite. Mix well.

Ah, drinks and cards, is there anything better. Well, sure. Drinks, cards and winning piles of cash, but seeing how I rarely get that last one when I combine those first two, I really can’t say.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Don’t Shoot the Food – Captain Apple Pie Edition

No High Scores

Captain America, he throws his shield! He’s a shield throwing guy who does, uh, stuff! Stuff with his shieeeeeeld!

That’s a little known diddy about Captain America, penned by yours truly. I know I’ve been talking up a lot of the Captain, but what can I say? I liked the movie and liked the game and I have his shield tattooed on my forearm, so I feel somewhat obligated. Keeping with the theme, I figured I’d dust off my favorite recipe for that paragon of Americanism, the apple pie.

“What the hell?”, you may say. “Where am I going to find good apples in the summer?”, you say. Well, I’m sorry that Key Lime Pie got passed over on National Pie Identity Day but keep in mind that a good apple pie recipe is like a good electrician or mechanic or tax attorney. You may not need one now, but when the time comes that you do need one, you’ll be happy you have one. Besides, I didn’t invent culinary jingoism, I’m just the messenger of it.

Pie Avengers, assemble!

I have no idea where this recipe came from. Some magazine read while we lived in Virginia. One day Linda came to me with the recipe and demanded I make the pie. I love my wife and I live to make her happy, plus, I like pie, so when my wife demands I make a pie, well, I make it. Plus, she didn’t so much demand it as ask nicely, but that doesn’t make for as good of a story. This pie recipe is different in that it foregoes a top crust, or lattice, instead using a combination of brown sugar crumbles and cranberries. I know, I know, cranberries in summer, I’m making your life a living hell. Any way, the first time I made this pie, it turned out glorious. The second time, I either made the crumbles wrong or worked them too much in my hands so the butter never got time to set but they ended up melting instead of browning and the pie ended up with a lake of melted butter atop it. I’m a huge fan of melted butter but not as a pie topping. You’ve been warned. Work your crumbles excessively at your peril.

Cranberry Apple Crumb Pie
1. 7 tart apples – I like to use a combination of granny smith and macintosh apples, but use whatever you want.
2. 1 1/4 cups sugar plus 2 additional Tbl if desired
3. 1 tsp cinnamon
4. 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
5. 1 1/8 cup flour
6. 1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
7. 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
8. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts – we’re not big fans of nuts in our pies, so we skip them. Do what you want per your own nut preferences.
9. 1 tsp tangerine or orange zest, chopped or grated
10. 1 9 inch unbaked pie shell

Cooking Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Peel, core and slice the apples into thin slices. I use one of those counter mounted apple peelers. My wife got me one for Christmas and it’s an amazing machine.
3. Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the cinnamon and toss the apples in the mixture. Eat an apple slice. Go ahead, eat one. If it’s too tart, add the additional 2 Tbl of sugar, if it’s too bland, add some lemon juice. If it’s just right, eat another to be sure.
4. Cut the butter into small pieces and combine it with the flour and remaining 3/4 cup sugar using either a food processor or one of those pastry blender thing-a-mabobs..
5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and use your fingers to make a whole bunch of 3/4 inch crumbs. Once you have enough crumbs, add the cranberries, nuts and citrus zest. I like to put the crumbs back in the fridge so that they have time to set, but that may be unnecessary. See butter, lake of.
6. Mound the apples in the pie shell so that they center is higher than the edges. Cover the apples generously with the crumb mixture, tucking the crumbs in all of the nooks and crannies. When I make this pie, I put so many crumbles on it that you can’t tell it’s an apple pie. That’s just me though. I do so love my crumbles.
7. Bake the pie for 25 minutes and then check it. If the crumbles are brown, cover the pie with a piece of loose foil. Bake for another 35 minutes and then let it cool completely before serving.

Aside from the apple peeling, this is a pretty simple pie so there’s no reason not to make it, apple pie season or not. Besides, if Captain America can be bothered to infiltrate Nazi Germany and stem the tide of fascism, then you can be bothered to make a pie in the summer.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.