kitchen geek: “Prisoner of Azkaban” edition

The Matters of Taste staff has recently completed the third book in the Harry Potter series and, as a follow-up to the worldwide success of the themed dinner inspired by the Chamber of Secrets (read all about it here), commissioned its very own Literary Liason and Nutritionist to prepare the Not-Last Meal of the Prisoner of Azkaban.  The menu is presented here so you too can eat along while screening the film version of the book, as we did (but after reading the book, of course).

Note: Although the most consistent food theme in the book is chocolate, because it is always consumed as an antidote, it has not been selected as a central motif in this menu: quite the contrary.  At the same time, chocolate is not really seen in this narrative as a literary device.  As confirmed by Matters of Taste Chief Psychologist and Food Historian, chocolate should be kept close at hand and consumed regularly when Dementors appear in “real life.”  Don’t think this is just a contrivance of a fairy tale: if you have a family, or a job out of the house, or if you ever go to the post office or grocery store; in short, if you deal with any people at all, ever, you know that there are some “people” who just know how to suck the oxygen out of a room.  Guess what?! Clever disguises Dementors don these days.  Clever.  Where’s that Cadbury bar?

But on with our tale:

BeholdSirius Black Bean Soup

Preparation: Cook dry beans–dry as if these beans have endured hardship, pain, loss and soul-crushing isolation for a dozen years–in a large pot with stock, tomatoes (which you should call “to-mah-toes” for the occasion), smoked ham, onion, a small chopped pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic, adobo and cilantro.  Cook under pressure until mixture is thoroughly demented; process and reheat.

Note: The heat of this dish should not be profound, but rather a background note to the earthiness of the beans and ham.  To achieve this result, select  a pepper that rates somewhere between “crazed lunatic” and “vengeful madman” on the Scoville scale.

Service: Serve with a dollop of boggart crème.  As diners eat, encourage them to change the shape of their dollop to something ridiculous.

Behold: Hippogriff Tenders

Preparation: Slice hippogriff steaks into strips. Dip in buttermilk and toss in a mixture of crushed herbed stuffing mix crumbs (it’s not a shortcut; it’s magic!) and parmesan (grate it off the block; no shortcuts/magic here).  Bake in oven until golden.

Note: Some assume hippogriff meat is gamey; in actuality it tastes just like chicken.  It is at its best when freshly butchered, but as the plucking of their very large feathers is exceptionally tedious, we recommend allowing a professional to prepare the tenders for you.  (Additionally, this saves one from the hassle of packaging and freezing the amount of meat which can be taken from the carcass of a fully-grown, 2200 lb. hippogriff.)

Service: Present with barbeque and honey-dijon sauce spiked with a little cayenne (it needs to have a little bite), and on a fine silver platter or china.  After all, they are right proud creatures.  Even in death.

Behold: Patronus Pie

Preparation: Conjuring the heights of your emotional history to face the extreme delicacy of custard-making, think happy thoughts as you heat milk and a vanilla bean up to the boiling point (but not to the boiling point!), whisk part of it into a bowl into which you have already whisked sugar, starch and eggs (thoroughly, but not too thoroughly!).  Still happy?  Return to heat and whisk constantly, at perfect “medium” until the custard is just barely thickened (but not too thick or you are on the verge of scrambled custard!); transfer with lightning speed (still thinking happy thoughts) through a sieve into a bowl to cool.  Examine interior of custard pot, note the amount of custard already set up within as gooky clumpy nastiness, embrace deflated mood, throw pot out kitchen door.  Return to what edible custard did make it into the bowl and slowly stir in pieces of butter until they melt.  Is there enough curdle-free custard to fill a pie shell? Even a quarter inch?  Huzzah!  (Use that feeling to strengthen yourself the next time you conjure a Patronus Pie.)  After pudding/custard has cooled, spoon it into prepared pie shell over a thin layer of chocolate ganache studded with banana slices; spread Chantilly cream on top.

Service: plate at table; garnish with a Dementor’s Kiss (see top photo).

Note: Whether your custard succeeds or fails, be sure to clean out the ganache bowl.  You’ve earned it and, quite frankly, your emotional recovery may depend on it.

Also: if custard is a complete disaster, run to the store and purchase the ready-made hand-held chocolate-covered graham-marshmallow treat seen here.  This will satisfy the need for a sweets course at the end of the meal, as well as serve as an appropriate tribute to Remus Lupin, who is otherwise sadly neglected in this menu.