Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Unofficial Hunger Games Dinner Party

With the movie premiere less than two weeks away, we gathered to test our knowledge of Hunger Games trivia, discuss our favorite scenes and characters, and -- most importantly -- to sample a few of the recipes from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines.  This was no recipe testing dinner party, however, and everyone modified their book recipe at least a little to suit their level of laziness or personal preference.  After all, cookbooks ultimately are meant to inspire -- not to direct.

"The Effie"
Mission accomplished.  Our hostess kicked the evening off with "The Effie" cocktail, an original creation blending vodka, strawberry lemonade, and sparking wine into an appropriately effervescent and colorful libation.  We toasted, naturally, with her signature line: "May the odds be ever in your favor!"

Given Effie's potency, we snacked steadily on basil-wrapped goat cheese (the very first food mentioned in the books), "Peeta Chips," and an array of other non-HG related cheeses while the meaty main dishes were finishing up on the stove.

Garlic-herb goat cheese wrapped in fresh basil leaves: Prim's offering to Katniss the morning of the Reaping.
And then the Games really began.

Our clever hostess had prepared napkin parachutes filled with nuts and fruit (and wine infused chocolates -- hello, we live in Napa) to keep our strength up in the arena, setting the scene for our battle royale.

She had also made place cards with quotes from the series, challenging us to recall the identity of the quoted speaker. It was pretty hard to answer while shoveling food into our faces, but somehow we made it through without choking.  On the menu:

Pork Chops For The Victors

OH: "I would eat anything coated in this breading."
Who wouldn't? Basil, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and plenty of salt.

Lamb Stew With Dried Plums

Despite the pressure  of this being Katniss's favorite thing to eat, the recipe did NOT disappoint.
Tender meat, savory-sweet with prunes and ginger ale, but full of veggies as well
(though we left out the zucchini ). Faaabulous with mashed potatoes. And pork chops.

I'm Not Bitter Greens Salad
Baby chard, kale, and spinach tossed with roasted Anjou pears, nuts,
and cranberries in a lemon-honey vinaigrette. A must to balance the
meaty richness of the rest.

Katniss's Craved Cheese Buns

Super savory with sharp cheddar, Old Bay, and garlic power.
Also ridiculously quick and easy to make.
Capitol-Grade Chocolate Cake
with fresh raspberry ice cream

The BEST chocolate cake I have eaten in years. Super moist, tender, chewy,
and packed with real chocolate flavor. Capitol-grade indeed, though unmistakably from District 12.

The spectacular success of every one of these recipes resulted in several unwanted pregnancies (of the food baby sort), and quarts and quarts of leftover lamb stew, which no one seemed too upset about.  We can always put it up in cans for our next revolution.

If you haven't already, get out there and read the Hunger Games trilogy.  It has something for everyone -- suspense, action, human suffering, a love triangle, and plenty of gore for young and old.  Be warned though that they are completely addicting... I read the entire first book in a single sitting, the same day I got it.  Don't make plans following your acquisition.

The movie inspired by that first novel premieres March 23, 2012.