The Geeky Chef Strikes Back
As a collector of cookbooks, particularly themed ones, I absolutely had to jump on the chance to review a nerdy compilation of recipes all based on shows, games and other geek pop culture. And I’m incredibly glad I managed to be the first person to answer the call for this review before someone else scooped it up.
Cassandra Reeder, the Geeky Chef who brought us The Geeky Chef Cookbook is returning with another entourage of recipes in The Geeky Chef Strikes Back, boosting a well-balanced array of delectable dishes ranging from appetizers to stews, cakes to entrees and even drinks all hailing (unofficially) from different series including Legend of Zelda, Firefly and Twin Peaks.
Now when I received the digital download of the book (as it has not been released to the public yet, neat right?) not for a second did I believe that this article would just consist of me going over the content, making some comments on what Reeder picked and maybe stare at the pretty pictures. It would be this plus my own pictures of the recipes brought to life in my very own oven. My partner-in-crime and fellow Word Of The Nerd writer Riley Sinclair joined me in our recreations of just a handful of the recipes that caught our eyes. We took on four different recipes from all over the book, a drink, a side, an entree and a dessert, in hopes of getting a wide array of tastes and a better handle on what the cookbook has to offer. Here was our Geeky Chef culinarian adventure!
Cream Cheese Frosted Gorapple Cake – The Elder Scrolls Online
As a player of a few of the Elder Scrolls titles, I was pleased to find recipes from the series. And as a true adult, I’m going to start this little adventure off with dessert. Because I can.
Like all the other recipes in the book, the Gorapple cake started with a little diddy from the author about the gaming they endured that birthed the idea of bringing one of the many edibles from their inventory to life. After reading through the recipe, Riley and I set to work creaming the butter and the sugar, shredding carrots and apples (yes you read that right and yes it’s awesome in a cake) and mixing up a batch of frosting. Part of the recipes calls for “seasoning to taste”. My immediate response was, “But….it’s cake batter…with eggs in it. HOW DO YOU SEASON TO TASTE THAT?!” Despite the eggs, one of us dove on the chance to lick the beaters anyway. *subtly points at Riley* When all was said and done, the house smelled amazing from the baking and we were dying to dig in.
We debuted the cake at our weekly D&D campaign, to which everyone present, thoroughly enjoyed the dessert. Have to say, the cake tasted amazing. The sweet spice and brown sugar add a great depth of flavor to it and the cake itself had a great texture. What we found to be a little odd (mind you, it was possibly baker’s error) was that the frosting was not nearly as thick as it appears in the beautiful picture in the book. Nor was it the same color….but anyone who uses food dye knows that getting just the right shade of orange can be a bitch. So we’ll be keeping an eye on the icing the next time we make the dessert. Which is going to be this week since I’m a great person and co-worker at my full-time job.
You’re welcome, guys.
Ent Draught – Lord of the Rings
If you’re a fan of tea like Riley and myself, we highly recommend this drink recipe. Perfect for a summer day or if you just need something cool and refreshing to hit the spot, the Ent Draught is a mild mix of green tea, maple syrup, mint and a tiny bit of almond extract that really kicks up your usual green tea to a different level without being overpowering. Given that you add the right amount of almond extract that is.
Don’t accidentally add a pour instead of a drop or two.
Don’t be Riley.
White Dragon Noodles – Blade Runner
Now this recipe is in the appetizer, snacks and sides section…which I’m not 100% if this is where it belongs. Serving size is “About 2”. This could either be a miscalculation…or right on the money. The two of us and a friend of ours had a full bowl of this one each and we still managed to have leftovers. It’s a heavy side if it can be categorized as such and can certainly serve as an entrée for 2-3 depending on how much pasta you and your friends or family can devour. Or wind up cooking. After we sat and tried to figure out how this was a side, Riley noticed the recipe called for 8 ounces of soba noodles…and we used an entire package…which we cannot for our lives recall how much was in it. So either Reeder is totally within her right to call this an app and Riley and I suck at reading, or there’s a bit of an error here. Should we try our hands at this one again (which we probably will considering the empty bowls we had after the noodle carnage), we’ll update with our findings.
…I feel like I can call “phrasing” on myself for that last bit. Meh.
Far as this recipe itself is concerned, it’s definitely solid. We recommend that if you add sauce according to your own preference between sticky to wet noodles (LOL). But the taste is wonderful. The soy and garlic play well together as you can all probably imagine and the flavors are well-balanced. It quickly became a favorite in our house once we took our first bites.
Beef and Bacon Pie – Game of Thrones
In true Dera fashion, I’ve left the best for last. Though I looked at her like she was crazy, Riley wanted desperately to make the beef and bacon pie from Game of Thrones. Any of you who frequent our It Is Known podcast likely recognize Riley’s name and know that if anyone was going to run headfirst into this recipe, it would be her. While she sat there and drooled over the idea of dining on beef and bacon pie, I read over the directions and was concerned. I studied culinary for a few years and made a few pies during my classes. I also knew our schedules. A few minutes here for sear meat and crisping thick cut bacon, sweating some carrots and onions, another few hours for letting it simmer away in a Dutch over, then pie dough making and chilling that would probably take another 2 and a half hours at least…I was pretty sure she was going to be aiming a little high. Especially considering our kitchen is only a bit bigger than our bathroom. How the hell were we going to manage this?
Riley, I’m so sorry I doubted you at all on this one.
Sure the cooking/wait times were long, they were TOTALLY WORTH IT. Riley worked her magic on this one for sure, slow cooking some amazing filling and throwing together a great pie dough that I rolled out and assisted in assembling the pie as a whole. (Side note here, make sure you flour your pie dough work surface and rolling pin! Plus your hands! If it gets too sticky, sprinkle a bit more on; makes it much easier and the right consistency.) The aroma that wafted from our oven was divine; a meat lover’s delight for certain.
When it was all finished, the crust was nice and flaky and the filling was to die for. The red wine worked into the filling was a great touch that added to the beef broth-based gravy and the surprise ingredient of raisins brought a hint of sweetness that rounds out the pie for sure. We traded in the 2 bay leaves for more thyme, making it a total of 1 ¼ Tsp of dried thyme instead of the 1 tsp of fresh. This seemed to work fine for us but I’m always a fan of fresh over dried. Just saved us some money buying the dried and we could use it later. This dish also made me realize just how amazing thick-cut bacon is to cook with. When we were frying it up, there was a lot of stew meat dripping left in the pan so ours wasn’t as crispy as we wanted. Would definitely recommend draining at least most of the drippings and leave a bit behind to incorporate even more flavor into the bacon and the veggies later on.
One criticism that we had on this one was the serving size in comparison to the pie vessels that Reeder chose to use for this one. It calls for 2 12-ounce ramekins for feeding 6-8 people. Riley and I stared at that in our local grocery store for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out the logistics behind that many people dining from 2 ramekins not built for sharing like that. Though we bought the ramekins (on sale because we’re thrifty), we decided against it and did the recipe in a 10” ceramic pie plate instead. We kept an eye on the pie in the oven and adjusted the time as necessary, which was only about 5 or so minutes. If you plan on the same move, given our oven is older, you’ll want to judge your own pie by sight too. Once you see that golden brown crust, it’s ready to go.
This one is our top pick from the recipes we attempted and will be making it more. Matter of fact, Riley turned to me and said, “This is going to your family Christmas party this year”. It’s that good.
Last Bites From One Geeky Chef To Another
Generally, from what we’ve read in The Geeky Chef Strikes Back, the recipe difficulties vary but none are completely out of anyone’s reach. If you have a basic understanding of how cooking works, how knives are sharp and have access to the internet just in case, you can learn to master any of these dishes for sure. As someone who constantly has a busy schedule (and culinary graduate) I cannot stress the need to read the FULL recipe before you choose what to make. As there are no cook times listed (something I nitpicked for about 5 minutes when I realized it) you’ll want to check that you have the available time to create your geeky meal. Case in point, it took Riley and me two days to make the beef and bacon pie due to our schedules and the time it took for the recipe to fully blossom into the deliciousness that we enjoyed. Luckily the filling keeps very nicely in the fridge and it allowed the flavors to really marinate into the meats.
Overall Riley and I give our full blessing to The Geeky Chef Strikes Back and encourage any of you out there willing to head to the kitchen to head to the book store September 15th and get a copy of this badass cookbook. Or if you’re a fan of more instant-gratification like us, you can pre-order The Geek Chef Strikes Back on Amazon now! We loved everything we tried and when it ends up in your kitchens, we’d love to hear what you think and about your own foodie adventures!
Soon we’ll also be pitting Cassandra’s beef and bacon pie against the official recipe from The Game of Thrones Cookbook to see how it measures up! Keep an eye out for that too! Who knows how this fight will end; all we’re sure of is many workouts will be needed to battle all the bacon we’re going to consume.
Happy cooking everyone!