Sunday 14 May 2017

American Gods ep103 Head Full of Snow

There’s a starman
Waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds

Hey that’s far out – you heard him too!
Switch on the tv
We may pick him up on channel 2


American Gods leaves us Godsmacked again: Jinn. Bank Job. Puppy.

Episode 3 opens with Mrs Fadil cooking a meal for her Egyptian family. Ful Medames and Chicken Stew bubbling on the stove. On the table: Kohshari, Stuffed Zucchini, Stuffed Vine Leaves and Kibbeh. But she tumbles and when she looks around...This is not Queens.

This is the sketch I did for the concept of Mrs Fadil's last supper. Recipe for the Lemon Chicken Stew is below. I made it in a huge gorgeous authentic bram, the traditional clay cooking pot from Egypt.

Then fiery-eyed Jinn meets our Salim
and gives us the best line ever for a one-night-stand: “I don’t grant wishes.” But he does give gifts: he gives Salim freedom from his old life so he can experience the depth of his own undiscovered feelings. A new identity might just benefit the Jinn as well.

I know you’ll be thinking about their scene for a while so for those of you who like to snack after sex but don’t want stewed beans or chicken, there are recipes below for the best Kebab on a Pita you ever had.

While that marinates, here's a bit more Godsplaining:

This episode's Old Gods

Facsimiles of ancient papyrus scroll and tomb decoration     (images:TY google)

Anubis: the God of Embalming and Science. He is the guardian of the Underworld and ushers the dead to their judgement where their deeds are weighed against a feather to see if they are worthy of admittance to heaven or, if not, devoured by Ammit, the Goddess of Divine Retribution. On Egyptian antiquities, you can identify Anubis by his jackal/dog face and by the animal-skin fetish he carries. Our props department made a lovely one for Chris Obi to carry but it didn't make it on camera - nor did the very temperamental cats that were hired for the shoot but refused to act on cue so we had to greenscreen in a new cat in post production.

Middle eastern and arabic depictions of Djinn  (images: TY google)

Jinn: Salim’s beleaguered taxi driver is a Jinni – in pre-Islam Arabic mythology, a spirit born of smokeless fire (as humans were made from mud). Also called Ifrit or Marid, they have a strong affinity for the imaginary and emotional. They are often malevolent and able to take different physical forms to commit their deceptions. Our Jinni says he came to America from ancient Ubar, Lost City of Towers.
Ubar as imagined in a PlayStation game concept - (image - Sony)
Ubar is the Atlantis of the Sands. It was a thriving centre of trade, Frankincense in particular, and home to many Jinn and their half-god progeny. Each night the city was alive with thousands of travelers drinking dancing and debauching. Eventually, Ubar was destroyed because of the depravity of its denizens.

Mural in Dublin depicting Mad Sweeny's (Buile Shuibhne) epic tale    -photo by Richard Marsh

Leprechaun Mad Sweeney has a knack pulling gold out of thin air- but he’s been reckless and lost the King’s coin. His mythological template, Buile Shuibhne, stems from an ancient Irish tale of a king driven mad and in his madness, doubting his own nobility and purpose, is cursed to wander the land – leaving a trail of death and poetry as he tries to elude his fate of death by the point of a spear.

This episode’s new gods 

Media appears in many guises: Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, David Bowie and Lucy Ricardo - images Starz/Fremantle

Media: Appears in this episode very briefly - eye in the bank's camera. We've seen her as Lucy and there's a lot more to come.  In a later episode she will manifest as David Bowie whom we love and miss. So appropriate for Media as a manifestation because he was an artist-philosopher who used media well until he realized that media had began to use him. Entering this century, Bowie understood that because of the internet, music was going to be as free-flowing as water or electricity and that musicians would no longer be able to control (and profit from) their own work…it all belongs to Media. And that’s just how she likes it. As more and more devote themselves to tv and celebrity, her power grows.

Mr World: Appears in the bank's camera as well in silhouette. He is an ambiguous character who is the leader of the New Gods, he is the God of Finance and one to discuss later at length because, surprises.

But the kitchen (just be careful getting the lemons)

Mrs Fadil’s Lemon Chicken

Which, on set, Anubis/Chris Obi judged to be delicious.
Makes 4 servings.

For marinade:
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup white wine
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup pitted prunes
¼ cup pitted olives
½ tsp cinnamon
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp dried oregano
¾  tsp salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1-2 preserved lemon, quartered

one 3 ½ lb chicken, cut in 8-10 pc, bone in

1 Combine all marinade ingredients and mix together in a large zipper plastic baggie or large lidded plastic food storage container.  Add chicken and toss well. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2 In a shallow baking pan, spread chicken pieces out eveny in one layer. Pour marinade over top, cover with lid or sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes in an oven preheated to 325°.  Check periodically to make sure liquid has not evaporated away. Adding more wine if necessary – chicken should be immersed in at least 3/4 inch of liquid. Remove lid/foil for the last 10 minutes to brown/crisp the top of the chicken pieces. Serve with rice or cornbread.

Me: I wish I could have a tasty lamb kebab without going outside.
Kitchen Jinni: Try this at home:
Mmmmmake kebabs at home!

Lamb Kebabs

You can use chicken or pork instead of lamb – Makes 4-5 skewers
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano or mint
Juice of ½ lemon
salt and papper to taste

1 lb lamb shoulder cut in 1-inch cubes

1 Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and marinate 4 to 24 hr, stirring a few times to marinate evenly. Thread cubes of lamb onto skewers and broil in oven 4-5 minutes on both sides or grill on barbecue. Marinated meat cooks quickly so be careful not to overcook or meat will be dry.

2 Slide meat off skewers. Check seasoning and salt if necessary. Stuff meat into pita bread with sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, turnip pickles and condiments such as hummus or yoghurt.

Lemon Pan-fried Potatoes

½ lb baby red potatoes, washed
½ lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt

1 In a small pot, covered potatoes with water, add 1 tsp juice of the lemon, and boil just until tender, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and cut in quarters.

2 Heat oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat and add potatoes, tossing to coat potatoes in oil. Continue sautéing until potatoes have browned and are crispy. Squeeze remaining lemon over potatoes and continue sautéing until potatoes are crispy. Salt and serve with Kebabs.

Home-made Pita Buns

Makes 8 small pitas

1 pkg yeast
1¼ cup warm water
1/8 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups flour
¾ tsp salt
corn meal

1 In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add sugar and let it develop until double in volume. Then stir in oil and the rest of the water.

2 In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Pour liquid into the middle of the flour and stir together until all the flour is incorporated and the dough gathers in a ball. Dough will be slightly sticky and moderately firm. Add more water or flour if necessary. Knead 4-5 minutes with your hands until dough changes from slightly sticky to smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and return to the mixing bowl. Rub olive oil over the ball and cover bowl with a moist towel. Leave in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size. Punch dough down to deflate it and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and roll it out or press with your fingers into a 5-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Repeat until all dough has been shaped. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500°

3 Sprinkle cold water on the tops of the pitas to keep them from browning. Place baking sheet on lowest rack in oven and bake for 6 minutes. They should puff up which will create the pockets. Do not overbake. Pitas should be pale and soft. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks – they will deflate as they cool. If they didn't puff up, your oven might not be hot enough. They will still be tasty. Wrap individually in plastic wrap if not eating immediately. They will keep at room temperature for several days.

Turnip Pickles

1 lb turnips, peeled and cut in ½ -inch batons
½  beet, peeled and cut in ½ -inch batons
1 ½ cups water
2 Tbsp kosher or sea salt
½ tsp sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled thinly sliced

1 In a small pot over medium heat, combine salt an sugar with half of the water and simmer until salt and sugar crystals melt completely. Remove from heat. Cool and add the rest of the water and the vinegar.

2 Put turnips and beets in canning jar or container with a tightly fitting lid and pour vinegar mixture over to cover turnips. Refrigerate, covered tightly, for 5 days.

Next week: Love's long look back. We will sit back and enjoy the story of Shadow and Laura in what Bryan Fuller says is the best episode to date. There's pie...

Next time Shadow makes it snow, you can make these snowflakes
to snack on while he struggles in the storm.
All images and text copyright of Janice Poon Feeding Hannibal/Feeding American Gods except where indicated. Unauthorized reproduction strictly prohibited.

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.