Once again, we turn to Panem for tonight’s meal. But instead of the hunting and gathering meals Katniss would eat in District 12, we get something a little bit fancier. The first really excellent food Katniss and Peeta encounter is on the train to the Capitol after the reaping. Katniss has volunteered as tribute in order to save her sister, and Peeta has been selected at random, and both are now heading for what they believe to be certain death. Why not enjoy the abundance that the Capitol has to offer until then?
The train doesn’t even offer food as decadent as the various feasts at the capitol, but it is a shocking and pleasant difference for kids who grew up in a community where people regularly starve to death. During their first meal on the train, Katniss and Peeta both eat until they just about make themselves sick.
The bulk of this meal replicates what Katniss and Peeta ate the night of the reaping, “Thick and Creamy Carrot Soup,” “Fresh Green Salad,” and “Tribute Lamb Chops,” and “Creamy Mashed Potatoes.” The dessert, however, “Peeta’s Hot Chocolate Pudding,” is a take on the hot chocolate that is served with breakfast. Katniss can’t even handle the hot chocolate, which she’s never had before, and dipping a sweet roll in it like Peeta does seems like an excellent idea.
Thick and Creamy Carrot Soup
I’ve never in my life eaten carrot soup. And up until I was well into my twenties, I didn’t really eat carrots much at all. They’ve never been a favorite, and my husband really dislikes cooked carrots as a side with meals. But, oh man, this soup, you guys. It was excellent. I mean, it’s really just pureed vegetables with some chicken broth and a touch of cream, but it tastes so rich and creamy you wouldn’t believe it. And my husband loved it, too! He even took some leftovers to work the next day. Oh, and the recipe recommends that you let the soup rest overnight for the full flavor to take effect. I won’t argue with that.
- First off, peel and chop a ton of carrots. Well, two pounds, anyways. And a big old Vidalia onion.
- Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat and toss those veggies in. Keep stirring and cooking them for 15 minutes, until the onion is pretty translucent.
- Stir in a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger, and ½ teaspoon of tarragon. Cook for another minute or two.
- Pour in 3 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth, but I’m using chicken), crank the heat up high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot, turn the heat down low, and simmer for 30 minutes until the carrots are tender.
- Take the pot off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. You can use a cool-liquid bath, placing the pot in a large pan of water, if you want. Or you can be like me and go watch your kid chase the pets around the house, completely forgetting about the soup for a few hours.
- When you finally remember that you were doing something and get back to the cool soup, blend it in batches in a blender or food processor. Or if you’ve got an immersion blender, fire that up and you don’t even have to go through the transferring process.
- It was at this point that I left my soup to hang out overnight. I’m not sure if this is where it was intended, but it’s where I did it, and it turned out great. I just poured the batches of blended soup into a storage container and threw it in the fridge.
- When you’re ready to finish cooking the soup, pour it back into a pot over low-ish heat. Pour in two tablespoons of half-and-half and stir it up. When it’s up to temperature, serve it up in great big bowls with bread as a meal or in smaller bowls as a side dish. Sprinkle on some parsley if you feel fancy.
Tribute Lamb Chops
In addition to various game, they eat a lot of lamb in The Hunger Games. I’ve eaten lamb before, but I’ve definitely never cooked it, so this is all new to me. In fact, I had to drive half an hour over the mountain to even buy lamb chops. These were quite good, if a little overcooked. I did have tiny little midget lamb chops, though, and thicker ones might cook better with the recommended times here.
- In a food processor, mix up all the herbs (1 teaspoon each of rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and parsley) with 2 cloves of peeled garlic (or if you’re lazy like me, 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic out of a jar) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I didn’t feel like pulling out my big food processor for this little bit of seasoning, so I actually used the baby-food processor someone gave us a while back. It worked just fine, and it was so damn cheerful!
- Spoon or brush this over both sides of your lamb chops and let them rest for about an hour. The recipe calls for four 1-inch thick chops, but as I said, all I had were these little dudes. You take what you can get when you live in a small town.
- Set oven to broil and allow it to heat.
- Heat a cast-iron or other heavy, large skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Sear the chops for 2-3 minutes per side until they’re nice and brown. The seasoning paste will definitely look dark brown.
- With an oven mitt (this is very important! Don’t burn your fingers off!), remove pan from the heat and place it in the oven. Broil your chops for about 7 minutes or until medium rare. Like I said, my dinky chops ended up pretty well done, which was okay but not ideal. Tweak the time based on the size of your chops.
- Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Green Salad
Yeah, the recipes for these are pretty much exactly what you’d expect them to be, so I didn’t follow the recipes or take pictures. In fact, I used (gasp!) instant potatoes, since I was going to be the only one eating them (the husband is off starchy carbs). And the recipe for the “Fresh Green Salad” was literally just mixed greens and bottled balsamic vinaigrette. Very exciting. If you need recipes for these items, pull something off of just about any recipe site on the internet, and you’ll do just fine.
Peeta’s Hot Chocolate Pudding
This was only okay. I mean, it is a gooey chocolatey dessert, so it’s not a bad thing. But it’s just not really worth the calories (this is according to the philosophy handed down from my mother and the women before her, all conscientious chocolate connoisseurs: if you’re going to blow calories on it, make sure it’s damn good). I think there just isn’t enough chocolate in the under-layer, because it doesn’t taste nearly rich enough. In fact, I don’t even need this hanging around my house looking all chocolatey. It is a liar and a tease, and I’m getting rid of it.
- Preheat your oven to 375°.
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, ¾ cup of white sugar, 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir in ½ cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and blend until smooth.
- Pour the batter into an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan. (Oops, I greased mine. Whatever.)
- In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of packed brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of cocoa with a whisk or fork. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.
- Pour ¾ cup of hot water over the top. Do not stir it, just let it hang out on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes. The cake is supposed to be very gooey and moist, so don’t overbake it.
- Portion into deep bowls and serve warm. It would be better with ice cream, but then, isn’t everything?
This was a very good dinner with a mediocre dessert. And we didn’t even have to face death in the Hunger Games to get it.
Amusing side note: This is an excellent meal to make if you want to find out if your child is frightened of a noisy food processor or blender. Turns out mine definitely is.