Sunday 7 May 2017

AmericanGods Ep 102 - Secret of the Spoons

More Godsplaining and recipes for Zorya's dinner

Stunned into silence
Shocked into shame
Spirit sparking flames
Fevers the blood
That boils so hot:
Burns that will not heal.

I know this is a food styling blog, but the world of American Gods is a maelstrom of mad, bad gods. So, a preview peek at the food for this episode, and quickly on to Gods 411. (tiny bit spoiler-ish)
My sketch for the food that Zorya Vechernjaja cooks while Utrennjaja reads Shadow's fortune

It’s Godsplaining time:

ANANSI, the Trickster-God comes to America. As Mr Nancy, he manifests on board a Dutch ship, summoned by the prayers, offerings and deep belief of one slave who is shackled deep in the hold with hundreds of other African captives travelling to their dire fate in the New World.

Once on board, he warns the slaves of their cursed future, exhorting them to set fire to the ship. He alone makes it to shore on the strength gained from all those burnt sacrifices.

The Trickster God, when he's not being Nancy, is Mr Spider - an audacious story-teller and a weaver of captivating lies. He uses his clever deceptions to get the better of everyone from tigers to Gods – often just for the bragging rights. Originating in West African folklore, he spun his way to the West Indies in the fables of Mr Spider and to America as Aunt Nancy in Brer Rabbit.
A good choice for slaking your thirst for American Gods episodes
CZERNOBOG: The God of Evil in Slavic mythology, he brings calamity and misfortune that come from his dark pitiless heart.  Like every evil twin, he has a Good Twin, BELOBOG with whom he is in constant battle –but it’s Czernobog we focus on because a good twin never has any fun stories, does he? He has a magical short-handled hammer like Thor’s. So I guess he might also be the son of Odin…More about the Thor-ish hammer later. When Shadow pays the cost of losing the checkers game.
At dinner, Czernobog reflects on old vs new. He's murderously bad-tempered but has a sweet sorrowful side injected by Michael Green and Bryan Fuller's deft scriptwriting. The little ditty Czernobog sings is an example of the depth of every phrase and every gesture in this show:
Michael tweeting about the lyrics in Czernobog's song

ZORYA SISTERS: Like the Greek Pleiades Sisters, but more sarcastic, the Zorya sister-gods each have their domain in Slavic mythology. They are fierce and fully armed warrior-goddesses who married the moon and gave birth to the stars.

UTRENNJAJA (Morning Star) opens the gates of the day so the chariot of the Sun may enter the firmament. During the day, she has time to read fortunes –which helps bring a little income to the Zorya's much-diminished lives.
If you’re interested in how to read coffee grinds, here’s a fun vid from Vice

VECHERNJAJA (Evening Star) closes the gates after the Sun-chariot comes down from crossing the sky.

POLUNOCHNAYA (Midnight Star’s main job is to keep an eye on the Doomsday Hound who is chained to the North Star and, if he breaks loose, will devour Ursa Minor/Little Dipper bringing an end to the universe.

More on MEDIA next time Shadow watches tv. There's so much to tell you about Gillian's amazing performances, I'll do it next week -- because this is not a sex blog and after next week's sex scene there will be no interest whatsoever in my food- so, lots of space to talk Media then.
And I have nothing to say about the true identity of the DickPic on Laura Moon’s phone. Because it’s American Gods’ dinner time. And so to the kitchen forthwith…
 Carved Wooden Slavic God Totems                              Cabbage Rolls stacked like a cord of forgotten totems
Zorya's Cabbage Rolls

1 whole cabbage
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp basil, oregano or herbs of your choice
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes

1 Blanche cabbage leaves: immerse whole head of cabbage, stem side down, in large pot of boiling water. Boil on medium heat for 3 minutes then roll cabbage over to immerse top side of head, boiling for an additional 2 minutes. Lift out of water using two large mixing spoons or a spider. Drain, cool slightly. Using tip of a paring knife, sever stems near base. One by one, gently peel off 3 or 4 softened cabbage leaves, keeping leaves intact. Set leaves aside to drain. Return cabbage head to pot of boiling water and repeat process until you have 8-10 leaves.
2 Prepare filling: In a saute pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and saute, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent. Add beef, herbs and continue stirring, breaking up beef and sautéing until browned and no longer pink. Remove from heat and mix in rice and 1/3 cup of the tomatoes.
3 Fill leaves:  Position one cabbage leaf, cupping up, with stem side toward tyou. Put about 1/3 cup filling near base of leaf and roll up halfway. Fold over sides of leaf, covering filling then roll up the rest of the way. Place in baking pan. Repeat until all filling is used, placing rolls side by side snugly in the pan. Spread remaining tomatoes over the rolls. Cover pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour at 325°.

Vegetarian Filling for Cabbage Rolls

2 small boxes frozen spinach leaves, thawed
4-6 Tbsp butter
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 ½  lb mushrooms, sliced (6 cups)
¾  cup feta cheese, cubed
½ cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

1 Squeeze spinach well until no water remains. Chop roughly (should yield about 2 cups). Set aside.
2 Heat 1 Tbsp butter in saute pan and add onions, sautéing until translucent. Remove to a small bowl. Return pan to medium heat and saute mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until all the juice is expelled and continue frying until all liquid dries off.  Add remaining butter, sautéed onions and chopped spinach. Stir until spinach breaks up and ingredients well combined. Add feta, breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Fill cabbage leaves, brush with butter or olive oil and bake as above.

Simmering Steak in Gravy

The Zorya roast was a massive thing that I made to look like a rejected beast Czernobog had slain and dragged home after dark. It was a round roast wrapped around a beef shank and weighed in at about 18 lbs. I made 6 of them for the shoot. But I don’t think you really want a pot roast for 20, so I’m giving you a classic old Swiss recipe that magically makes its own old-fashioned gravy to go with the Czech bread dumplings.

3 thinly sliced cross-rib, sirloin or chuck steaks (3-4 oz each)
2 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp butter
½ onion, sliced
1 cup beef stock 

1 Using a tenderizing hammer, channel your inner Czernobog and pound the steaks out thin. Dredge in four and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2 In a medium-large skillet with a lid, saute onion slices in butter until slightly translucent. Push to the side o the skillet and add a steak, frying on both sides for a minute each, or until browned. Repeat with the other two steaks, adding more butter if necessary. Push the steaks to one side of the pan and add any of the flour that remains from coating the steaks. Stir the flour around for a few minutes, mixing it in with the onions til it browns a little. Then add the stock all at once. As stock boils, scrape up bits from bottom of the pan. Slide steaks around to even level. They should be almost submerged in liquid which will be thickening by now. Turn heat down to simmer and cover with tight-fitting lid. Simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, adding more stock or water if gravy gets too thick or level of liquid gets too low. Serve with Bread dumplings to sop up gravy.
The massive roast beef from the show - considerable larger than the recipe above
Bread Dumplings
Use stale rye bread or other dense European-style bread for the cubes – soft white supermarket bread won’t hold unless it’s completely dried out (like croutons). When slicing, use a heavy thread (in the manner of a garotte) to cut the cooked dumplings – it’s traditional.

  cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 yolk (or half an egg)
1 cup milk
2 cups bread cut in ¾ -inch cubes

1 In a small bowl, combine milk and yolk . Set aside.
2 In large mixing bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt together, blending well. Add milk mixture and stir together lightly with a fork until well blended. It will be thick and sticky like a heavy cake batter. Mix in bread cubes.
3 Lay out a 2-ft length of plastic wrap on working surface. Spoon 1/3 of batter near one cut end of plastic wrap and push batter into the general shape of a log about 2-inches diameter and 4 in long. Roll up the batter in the wrap, rolling it over and over so by the time the log of dough reaches the other end of the wrap, you will have encased the dough in about 3 layers of wrap. Tie the ends closed tightly with butcher's string.
4 Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop in the three plastic-wrapped rolls of batter. Cover and turn heat down to medium-low. Allow to boil gently for 20 minutes. Remove and leave wrapped until ready to serve. Just before serving, you can steam for 5 minutes to warm, then unwrap, slice and serve.

Next week?

Next week: Your guess is as good as mine what roller coaster we'll be on– 

Episode 3 is called a Head Full of Snow, so Shadow might be learning how a shaman can control the weather. But it also is THE episode with a most explicit gay scene that somehow manages to explain how good and pious people come to America to seek fortune for their family and then stay when they discover the new gods of emotional and personal freedom. 


  1. Lovely to see your posts. As always.

    1. So excited that you've found my new blog! Feeding Hannibal was so much fun but the American Gods are a challenge of another magnitude all together. A tremendously exciting production.

  2. Thank you for the vegetarian option, you never forget us and it's much appreciated.

    1. Hope you try the veg chili - I tried to follow Laura's recipe as Shadow gave it in the book. But the veg option is good even for non-vegetarians.

  3. So glad to see you back at it! I was an avid follower of the "Hannibal" blog. Your work gives me so many great ideas for the kitchen!

    1. Hi! Nice to see you in the comments again. Hope you'll enjoy my American Gods posts and keep coming back!

  4. only a small correction - there's not a unified Slavic mythodology, Czernebog is a god of Baltic Slavs

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I'll narrow my description the next time we delve into Czernobog. So much to tell about this god - good thing he's coming back and we'll get a chance to know him better.

  5. Hi. I really like tour job. I live in Argentina, where you can find culinary influences from many places, like Western and Eastern Europe, Middle East, the Mediterranean, etc., all brought by the immigrants that conformed most of our population. We have here our own version of cabbage rolls, we call them niños envueltos "wrapped children" (I know, it sounds creepy for a meal), but we cook them in a tomato sauce with onions and peppers, and I personally like to serve them with potato purée... Well, I love the show and your work, greetings from Argentina...

    1. Hi Daniel -

      OK - a bit late with this reply but I was intrigued by your "wrapped children" so I looked the recipe up here:
      -- and now I can't wait to make them. Thanks!

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