Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 3: Westfall Stew

Welcome to Cooking in Azeroth, a weekly blog series featuring recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

This week I made Westfall Stew, a hearty beef stew flavored with a variety of spices and red wine. The hearty Cornmeal Biscuits from the first Cooking in Azeroth post also made a second appearance. With local temps in the 20s, we wanted something that would fill us up and stick to our ribs - and this stew definitely succeeded.

Westfall Stew
"Westfall Stew" is one of the first recipes player characters can learn in-game. It is dropped by mobs in the Alliance Level 10-15 zone called "Westfall" - Horde players must travel there to obtain it.

This version of Westfall Stew is a hearty beef and barley stew. It cooks long and slow in the oven on low heat, and requires several hours to prepare and make. My prep time also took much longer than that cited in the cookbook, but I find that is often the case - I don't have much counter space in my kitchen, and I think that contributes to recipes taking a little longer.

Probably my favorite part of making this stew was preparing the mushrooms and pearl onions. They are mixed with a little butter and brown sugar, then roasted in the oven before being mixed into the stew towards the end of cooking. This gives them a slight glazed quality. Mixing this with spices and other roasted vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and squash could make a pretty awesome side dish.

After the stew has cooked for 2.5-3 hours it is very thick. This thickness might come from the pearled barley breaking down a little, and from the roux that is made at the start of the recipe. I noticed that our stew was thicker than the one pictured in the cookbook... but you also can't see the barley in that image.

Even though I could smell the bacon all through the cooking process, I did not notice the flavor at all; because of this I think we might try this recipe again in the future and omit the bacon and flour roux, hopefully giving the broth a texture more like an au jus than the thick gravy-like mixture that resulted. Cooking the stew covered for the last 90 minutes might also help it retain some moisture, thinning it a little.

The flavor of this stew was beefy and floral, from the red wine and dried juniper berries. I did feel like it needed something sharper to cut the floral and savory notes, and hoped the buttermilk in the Cornmeal Biscuits would offer that, but that flavor was much more muted than it was when we paired the Biscuits with the Dragonbreath Chili the other week. Using a more acidic or sharper flavored red wine than the pinot I had on hand, or maybe adding a splash of red wine vinegar, might offer this quality next time.

As for leftovers, the recipe says this stew makes four servings but I divided ours into six 2-cup sized servings and could easily have made it into eight servings. This stew was very thick and filling on the first night, and the leftover stew was even thicker. It reheated well. The Boyfriend is not a fan of mushrooms and did comment that their texture was more noticeable in the leftovers than on the night it was cooked.

Though The Boyfriend and I both enjoyed this stew, we preferred the Dragonbreath Chili.

I divided our stew into six 2-cup servings, which were 550 calories each. The Cornmeal Biscuits are 185 calories when the recipe is used to make a dozen.

I had some ingredients on hand already, like salt, pepper, butter, wine, and carrots. We bought everything* else for this recipe at Wegmans, costing $29.09. Divided by the six servings, that's less than $5 a meal. The "start up cost" of the spice blend used for this recipe was not included in this total, but is listed below. Everything to make the Cornmeal Biscuits was leftover from the last time we made them.

Bonus recipe: Northern Spices
This recipe for Westfall Stew incorporates a spice blend called "Northern Spices." Warcraft players will remember this in-game item from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, released in 2008; almost every recipe in that expansion seemed to use this item. Or at least it felt like that while leveling! I think I still have stacks of this stuff in my bank alt's bags...

The real-life version of Northern Spices is a fragrant blend incorporating dried juniper berries and smoked salt with a variety of other spices. The recipe for this spice blend can be found in the Spices and Basic section of the Warcraft Cookbook.

Ingredients for this spice blend were purchased at Wegmans for $19.76, which included everything* except the allspice and black pepper. The most expensive was the jar of cardamom, $8.99. This recipe makes a couple tablespoons of spice blend, which should last through several recipes when stored in an airtight container. There was plenty of each ingredient left after making one batch of spice that we shouldn't need to buy again for other recipes using this blend or the individual spices.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 8/100

Banner background, item description images and links are from Other images are my own.

* Though I try to provide details about each recipe, I do not post complete ingredient lists or instructions on this blog. 
If you have questions about a recipe or any concerns about food allergies, I'll be happy to answer in the comments! 

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