From The Marvelous Machinations of Milena and Myles
About a month ago, my twin and I moved in together. Since we shared a room for the first 18 years of our lives, we know that any good home-creating begins with clear expectations, good communication, and some sensible house rules. We knew this because we did not do any of that for 18 years and ended up with some literal scars. Did you know that if one twin shoves the other one upwards in the womb, that other twin is capable of breaking their mother’s rib? Another interesting fact: if you kick your twin in the shin hard enough, they will limp for a week.
Our idea of house rules, of course, might not be what you were thinking of. Do we know whose turn it is to take out the overflowing trash? No. But do we have hyperbolic ingredient lists and overly intricate design sketches for the ambitious recipes we have to make this week? Hell yes. We have got our priorities right, kids. Creating a bizarre and tangled list of 100 recipe ideas, rolling a die every week, and then setting out to create said recipes together? That is an excellent house rule.
Here’s how it works.
- Milena rolls a d100 on Sunday
- Myles consults their list of 100 Secret Sacred Schemes
- Myles studiously informs Milena of the recipe idea and what steps she might have to take to enact it (the lower numbers are simple, basic things, like mac&cheese. The higher numbers infringe on the realm of the fantastical and absurd, becoming more vague and requiring more skill and more creativity)
- M&M plan out their attack
- Monday, M&M launch their nefarious project by invading local grocery stores for ingredients and deciding how to divide cooking tasks
- Tuesday, M&M construct whatever recipe they have concocted, then devour it for dinner
This past week was our first foray into our experiment. I rolled a die and got a 96. Myles’s eyebrows went up, but they dutifully opened up their document and told me to roll for a random Dungeons & Dragons monster encounter. We got the following:
- one older blue dragon
- one younger blue dragon, a level 10 rogue, with skill points in performing string instruments and acting
Our task was to create a recipe that was inspired by these monsters.
Of course, we couldn’t just make a cake. That would involve fondant and frosting and other things that are actually made for sculpting things like dragons, and are easy to add colour too. No. That would be too easy. And we rolled a 96. 96 warranted something more exciting.
I’ve always wanted to make hot water crust pastry, and this, I felt, was the moment. But what about the filling? We brainstormed and found some facts about blue dragons, then correlated each of those to a component of the dish.
- They’re blue = hence, blue cheese
- They live in the desert = savoury crumble to imitate sand
- They are earth dragons = root vegetables
- They are obviously father and son (this is a fact) = two pies, one big, one little
We divided tasks, so Myles did the filling and I made the pastry and shaped it. Myles started with a root vegetable base, begun with caramelised onions and mushrooms.
Myles put together all the root vegetable filling, including carrots, potatoes, and an alchemical mixture of genius flavours (see below).
Meanwhile, I got to work on the pastry. The pastry I chose involves pouring boiling water into the dough, and to me it felt more like working with bread dough than piecrust. It is a little-known fact that one must always use a French bottle of wine that is lying around as a rolling pin for shortcrust pastry.
For the little pie, I decided to create a sandy landscape for our baby dragon to sneak attack out of. And of course he needed a harp. I decided to use blue cheese, butter, and flour as the base for the crumble that went over the filling of stew and mashed potatoes, and added a bit of rosemary for some more flavour. Then I shaped some of the shortcrust pastry into a dragon head and tail to emerge from the sand.
I wanted the big pie to be entirely dragon to emphasise his size– but at the same time, I didn’t want to populate the top of the pie with stodgy lumps of sculpted pastry. Finally, I realised I could shape the dragon body out of mashed potatoes and then put a thin layer of scales over it (thanks to The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell for giving me this idea with her chicken pot pie). The larger dragon was mainly potatoes, since I was asked to bring mashed potatoes to a Thankgiving dinner and this dragon became my companion for that event.
After some sandy crumble sprinkled around his feet, he went into the oven to bake beautifully golden brown.
M&M’s Recipe #96: “Two Blue Dragons”
(Please excuse the vague nature of the temperatures and measurements in this recipe; working in a new kitchen in a new country has some interesting challenges…)
Two Fillings (Root Vegetable Stew and Mashed Potatoes)
- for the ROOT VEGETABLE STEW (Myles’s Recipe): Onions? Carrots? Mushrooms? Rosemary? Dark Beer? Caraway seeds? Salt? Pepper? Dark Rituals? ONLY MYLES KNOWS :O
- for the Mashed Potatoes:
- A Large Amount of Potatoes, cut into small pieces (I prefer to leave on the skins)
- Use more than you think you need, calculate for the size of dish you have for the large dragon; I’d suggest a large soup-pot full
- 1-2 cups milk
- 2-4 TBS salted butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Follow a Strange and Secret Recipe that Myles Invented and May Be Convinced to Share (any thick vegetable stew in a medium soup pot will do as long as you take 1 ladleful out at the end of cooking while still hot, add in 2 TBS of flour while whisking vigorously, then add back in to the stew to thicken thoroughly to be put in the pie. Let cool before filling)
- While you complete whatever dark rituals Myles was participating in, put your cut potatoes into cold water on the stove. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil; continue until potatoes are so soft that touching them with a knife makes them immediately crumble. Remove from stove and drain, then return to stove over very low heat. Add milk and salt (to taste) and stir vigorously. When potatoes are still wet and creamy (you may use a potato masher if you like), add in butter and take off stove. Stir and let cool. It should be still a little wet, but not dripping, since it will be baked in an oven later.
Savoury Blue Cheese Crumble Topping (Milena’s Recipe)
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
100g salted butter
30g blue cheese + 15g blue cheese
- Rosemary to taste
- Mix flour, sugar, and salt together.
- Using your fingers, blend in butter and 30g blue cheese until mixture resembles coarse sand
- After it’s blended to your satisfaction, sprinkle in a few crumbles of blue cheese to give it extra texture and flavour, without mixing in at all.
- Add dried rosemary to taste
Shortcrust Pastry (very slightly adapted from the marvellous Lady and Pups)
- 500g flour
- 200g salted butter, chilled and diced
- 1/2 TBS salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 250 ml of boiling water
- Egg wash (one egg, with a tiny bit of water, whisked)
- Preheat oven to 180ºC (My new oven here in France is truly terrible, so my timing for these pies may be longer or shorter than for you– make sure to keep an eye on them as they cook).
- Combine all dry ingredients. Add in diced cold butter, then work in lightly with your fingers until no large lumps remain (but the butter is still fairly cold).
Pour in the boiling water while stirring. LadyAndPups mentions that the amount of boiling water needed can largely vary; I found I only needed 200-250ml, but you may need more or less.
- Knead the dough by hand, without adding flour (it won’t be sticky), until it feels elastic and satisfying. It should not be too soft, and should hold its shape.
For the SMALL PIE:
- Roll out a fairly thin crust and drape it over the small pie tin, patting it gently into the tin to create the bottom. Then put in fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes (to hold its shape).
- While the bottom is chilling, shape some shortcrust dough (not too much) into the shape of a dragon head and tail. And a little harp! Brush all with the egg wash. Then put in oven to bake (~20-30 mins) while you continue to work on other parts of the large dragon. Remove and let cool when beautifully golden browned.
- After the bottom is chilled, fill with the Root Vegetable Stew. Layer a small amount of Mashed potatoes on top of the stew to create a flat surface. Take fistfuls of the blue cheese savoury crumble, squeeeeze them in your fist, then crumble them all over the top. This will allow a variety of sizes of crumbly bits. Reserve a small amount of crumble for the large pie. Bake for 30-50 minutes in the oven until the crumble is perfectly browned.
- After the pie comes out of the oven and is cool enough to work with, stick dragon head and tail in the pie, and add harp. Eat it. Beware of sneak attacks.
For the LARGE PIE: Roll out a chunk of pie dough, then use two sizes of round cookie cutter to cut out scales. I’d suggest starting with about 1/3 of your remaining dough, cutting out an equal amount of both sizes, then reserving some pie dough for later so that you can roll it out, cutting new scales for filling in as you go.
- Shape the large dragon out of the cooled mashed potatoes (see gif from earlier). I filled a large shallow tart pan (French-style) with potatoes, smoothed it out to create a flat surface, then built up from there. After I shaped the body of the dragon, I began to layer the scales, starting from the tip of the tail backwards and from the bottom up. If you start at the top, the scales won’t layer right and it will be difficult to fit scales underneath. I placed larger scales as a ridge along his back, and cut smaller and smaller ones for the tip of his tail, around his eyes, at his claw, and around his nose. I shaped the eyes after the scales were placed and used a spoon to lever them into his eyes sockets.
- Sprinkle remaining crumble around the sculpted dragon to look like sand and retain moisture in the mashed potatoes.
- This big dude can be brushed with an egg wash and then put in the oven. My new oven here in France is absolutely terrible, so I am not certain how much time he took since the temperature was very unstable, but I would say at least 30-50 minutes to properly brown the pastry. You may re-apply a new egg-wash partway through to ensure a very golden and pretty surface.
~ Be Careful When Eating Dragons; They May Be Hot After Emerging From Caves~