I Smell Casserole, is it a Raid Night?

So, this is actually a phrase that has been uttered in my house.

An overarching theme of these blog posts is balance. Not the feathery, oomkin iz 4 cuddlez type, but the way I balance WoW and life. The balancing is mostly done on the work side of things, because I just happen to have One of Those Jobs that keep my work schedule in a permanent state of flux. I barely know from one day to another what city I’m going to be working in, let alone what building. It’s a little quieter these days, but not by much.

I live the in western part of Canada. Anyone with a population density map can tell you that the east coast of North America is much, much more populous and our guild is a nicely fractal reflection of that distribution. Most of my guildies are from the east, so we raid at a time that is good for them. It is not a time that is great for me. Our raid start time is exactly the time that my better half is getting home from work – dirty, tired and hungry. And that is an issue for me, because part of my responsibilities around the house include putting a dinner on the table every day. (No need to cry sexist. We have a pretty even distribution of chores around the house. And I love to cook. And he just can’t. Just … don’t go there. Trust me. You don’t want to know what he’s done to something as simple as a poached egg.)

So raid nights have become casserole nights. I have an amazing repertoire of meals that I can prepare ahead of time and leave in the oven, ready for him to come home to. My crock pot, tabletop grill and rice cooker are as essential to my raids as Omen and Deadly Boss Mods. For something completely different, I felt the need to share with the blogging world some of my raid-night staples. Be warned these are not low-cal or low fat or low anything. These are from my traditional, home-style, tried and true school of Irish cooking. Also known as More Ways to Cook Potatoes and Organ Meats.

Ancona Chicken Curry

brrr-GAWK!4-6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. (Boneless works, but they tend to disintegrate a bit. White meat works too, just cut a whole breast in half transversely.)
1 can cream of mushroom soup.
0.5 – 1.0 cups of firm cheese, grated. (Any kind is ok, I like a nice sharp cheddar, but you could use gouda or anything that doesn’t get too stringy when it melts. Mozza is not a good choice. Trust me.)
1-2 tsp curry powder.
1 cup mushrooms. (Canned, rehydrated, fresh chopped, whatever you like. Porcini are a bit too earthy for this recipe, brown button work nicely. You can sautee fresh ones in some garlic and ginger first for a bit of extra zing.)
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350F. Empty soup into casserole dish. Add desired amount of cheese, mushrooms, curry powder, salt and pepper. Stir. Add a small amount of milk, cream or water to thin the sauce slightly if necessary. Add chicken pieces and stir again. Cover casserole dish and bake for 30-45 minutes.

At about 20 minutes left to cook, I fire up the rice cooker. I like a light, jasmine rice with a teeny bit of sesame seeds and oil added to the cooking water. Then I fill a cereal bowl halfway with rice, add my two chicken pieces and a generous amount of sauce. One pot to wash after I’m done pwing bosses for four hours, plus two small bowls. Perfect.

Legendary Lamb Stew
(It’s better than epic!)

lolwarglaives(generous) 1/2 cup pitted prunes.
1 1/2 cups hot tea.
1 kg braising lamb, cubed. (shoulder works nicely)
1 chopped onion.
1/2 tsp ground ginger.
1/2 tsp curry powder.
Pinch of nutmeg.
2 tsp ground cinnamon.
5 tbsp clear liquid honey.
1 cup near boiling beef or lamb stock.
Salt and pepper.
Slivered almonds to garnish.

Put the prunes in a heat-proof bowl and pour the tea over them. Allow to soak. Brown the lamb cubes in a non-stick frying pan, using a very small amount of olive oil if necessary. Drain and place in the crock pot. Add onion to the frying pan and brown until the begin to soften. Stir in the spices, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add to the crock pot with the meat. Drain the prunes and add the soaking liquid to the crock pot. Add the honey and stock, cover the crock pot and cook on high (or auto) for 1 hour. Reduce temperature to low and cook for another 5-7 hours, or until lamb is very tender. Add prunes and stir to mix, cook for another 30 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with slivered almonds.

This smells *fantastic* while it is cooking, and is a joy to come home to. You can keep the crock pot on nice and low and race back for seconds while loots are being handed out or if the raid leader is generous enough to call a five minute time out. It goes especially well with:

Kael’thas’ Mom’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups stone ground cornmeal.
3/4 cups all-purpose flour.
2 tbsp sugar.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp salt.
2 large eggs.
2/3 cup buttermilk.
2/3 cup milk.
2 to 3 tbsp warm melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil.

Grease a loaf pan or muffin tray and preheat your oven to 400F. Combine the dry ingredients and sift well. Whisk together in a seperate bowl eggs, milk and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in butter or oil. Turn into loaf pan or muffin tray and bake 20-25 or until a knife blade inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve hot with butter, soup or stew.

If you don’t have buttermilk, add a few tsp of lemon juice to 2/3 cup of milk and let it sit and curdle for 10 minutes or so. Plain yoghurt works too. This is a really light and fluffy cakey type of bread, rather than a denser, crunchy corn bread. There’s a lot of fun variations on this too. You can add 1/2 cup drained canned corn kernels. Or 1/2 cup chopped pine nuts and 1/2 tsp rosemary. Or 1/3 cup chopped green or black olives. Or a few thinly sliced and chopped chilies. It’s a lot of fun to experiment!

Dalaran Clam Chowder
chowdah!1 can succulent clam meat.
3-4 slices of bacon (I like the thick cut, double smoked stuff).
1 small onion, chopped.
1 large potato, peeled and cubed.
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated.
1 cup scalded milk.
1 cup boiling water.
1 tbsp butter, cut into two equal parts.
1 tbsp flour.
Salt and pepper.

Drain and thoroughly (they get a little sandy) wash clams and save the juice. Dice bacon and sautee in a non-stick frying pan until golden. Add chopped onion and sautee until onion is tender. Tip into crock pot or large soup pot. Add carrot, clams, potato and salt and pepper to taste. Add boiling water, cover and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender. Add milk and half of butter. Let simmer another 20 minutes. Thicken reserved clam liquid with flour and other half of butter and mix in just before serving.

For me, this is the ultimate in home-cooked comfort food. This was a rare treat in my house when I was growing up, usually served with a fresh batch of buttermilk biscuits. Which, when cooled became dessert if you added a jar of jam to the table. This is quick and easy to prepare, and can be left to burble away for hours, even if the potatoes start to disintegrate, so don’t worry if you get so invloved in your raid you forget about it for a while. This recipe also freezes nicely, so you can save the leftovers too!

I hope you try these, or at least got a giggle when you surfed over here and thought maybe there’d be a rant or guide or some hunter theorycrafting or some such. This was a lot of fun to write, even though I’m no Gordon Ramsay.

9 Comments

  1. eidlhe said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Those look like some yummy recipes. Printed them off and will be taking them home to try out. I love crockpot dishes/casseroles.

  2. You Know Who said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    “Not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to fuck” is a mantra I try to live by. *shrug* I’m crazy like that, I suppose.

  3. Liore said,

    February 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Being someone who also lives in the Western part of Canada, I find myself eating dinner in front of the monitor a lot on raid nights. I’m definitely going to try that chicken curry!

  4. Tigerfeet said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    This is wonderful😀 Thanks so much for sharing! Although in my house it’s Mr. Tigerfeet’s job to make sure dinner is ready for me, but only because I get home just before I need to be online for raid-time.

    I’ll be keeping these🙂

  5. oriniwen said,

    February 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    @ Eidlhe: Thanks! These are some of my very favourite things to cook and eat. Let me know how they turn out for you.

    @YKW: Succinct as always.😀

    @Liore: Canucks unite! Whereabouts are you from? Please say Edmonton so I can point and laugh. (I kid! I kid!)

    @Tigerfeets: I’d love to hear how they turned out for you as well.

  6. candy said,

    February 18, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    this totally made me grin as this is a common them chez moi as well. My favorite is tuna casserole tho, with a nice dash of crushed cheez-its on top…

  7. spinks said,

    February 21, 2009 at 12:15 am

    The lamb stew looks nice (although I think I’d use cumin instead of curry powder) — I want lamb stew now though🙂

    I do feel for you on the cooking. Raid night is often soup night for us🙂 I can nag my beloved into cooking but he’d usually rather just go out.

  8. *vlad* said,

    February 26, 2009 at 7:16 am

    “Kael’thas’ Mom’s Cornbread”

    that made me laugh.

  9. oriniwen said,

    February 26, 2009 at 9:02 am

    @ Candy: Some women balance work and kids – I balance work and WoW. I’m going to have to try the tuna casserole with that topping, sounds yum!

    @ Spinks: I think cumin might make it a bit spicy – I’m kind of a wuss for anything too spicy. I’ve tried to move away from the “oh raid night, guess we’ll order in” and try to at least make some home made stuff that is a little healthier for you. Mmm … pizza….

    @ Vlad: Thanks🙂 I tried to come up with clever and WoW-related things for a post that is really on tangentially related to Warcraft.


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