Trail Rations: Beef Stew on Trenchers

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgIt’s been a while since I’ve done a Trail Rations post, but as I head in to 2017 I’ve taken it upon myself to cook more meals at home, as opposed to eating out or ordering in. Since game sessions are a huge culprit in my fast-food habit, I’m rededicating myself to cooking at home for game sessions. Because I work during the day, I often use my slow cooker to prepare meals for game night. Whenever possible, I try like to serve something which might evoke the game world for my players. Previous posts (search the Trail Rations tag) have touched on some of those recipes.

One of my favourites for a basic fantasy-feel is slow-cooker beef stew, served on trenchers. What are trenchers? Once upon a time, trenchers were flat bread upon which food was served. Often this food was a stew or something else drippy or runny, which would soak into the trencher. Used trenchers would be given as alms to the poor, or just eaten the next day for breakfast. At some point trenchers stopped being bread and started being a round wooden disk with a raised lip, but its function remained the same: hold a bunch of food. I’m assuming they stopped giving them to the poor or eating them for breakfast at that point, but I’m not the boss of them.

Here’s the beef stew recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  1. Heat a frying pan to medium-high, and add the olive oil. Sear the beef stew meat until it has a nice colour on the outside, but don’t leave in the pan long enough to cook all the way through.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the seared beef to the slow-cooker, and pour the flour mixture over that, stirring to combine.
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and mix to combine. If you have the time, let the slow-cooker run for 10-12 hours. If you don’t, 4-6 hours on the high setting will do the trick.
  4. Serves 6. Serve in bowls, or find some hearty flat-breads at your local bakery or grocery store and serve it on trenchers.

If you are celiac, ditch the flour. And you can make the dish vegetarian but retain some of the same flavour by leaving out the beef, changing the beef broth to vegetable stock, and adding 3 cups chopped mushrooms and 2 tablespoons soy sauce to the mix. It’s a recipe which lends itself to experimentation, so give your ideal stew a try.

 

 

Trail Rations: Healthy Dips

Replacing junk food at the gaming table with healthy, home-cooked options is a big part of my group’s attempt to game healthier. But let’s face it, sometimes you want chips and nothing else will do. When that craving strikes you can still make your chips a little healthier by making the dips and salsa yourself. Heck, if you have the time you can even make the chips yourself.

Below I have three recipes for healthier snack alternatives you can make at home. Two of them don’t even require cooking! And if you know how to turn on your oven the third will be a snap.

Basic Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes (6-7 medium tomatoes)
  • Leaves from one bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped*
  • 6 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice from ½ a lime

*You can leave out the cilantro if you aren’t a fan; substitute parsley instead.

Directions: Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Refrigerate overnight for maximum flavor. If you want a cooler salsa, remove the seeds from the jalapeno before chopping. If you want a hotter salsa, add more jalapeno to taste.

Simple Garlic and Chive Yogurt Dip**

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions: In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, minced garlic clove, chopped chives, salt, pepper, dried dill, and lemon juice. Mix well and chill for at least an hour; overnight for the best flavor.

**Feel free to experiment with flavors for this dip; you can substitute other herb/spice combinations for other flavors quite easily.

Homemade Baked Potato Chips

Ingredients:

  • 6 Yukon gold potatoes, washed and unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush 2 large baking sheets lightly with oil. Use a mandoline or hand held slicing machine to cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices in 1 flat layer on the baking sheets. Brush the slices lightly with oil and bake until golden throughout, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often since they brown at different rates. Transfer to paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper while hot.

For a little extra crunch, add the sliced potatoes to a pot of boiling water for about 5-7 minutes, then brush with oil and put in the oven.

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And that’s it! Three recipes to sate your group’s junk-food lust while keeping it healthier than store-bought. These basic recipes have plenty of room for experimentation, so you can play around with flavours to suit your table. Try sprinkling your chips with garlic powder, for instance, or substitute capers and black pepper for the garlic and chives in the yogurt dip. Have fun with it, and let me know in the comments what combinations you come up with.