Sunday, May 26, 2013

So a Khajit, an Argonian, and an Orc Walk Into a Skooma Den...

Now legal in the Ratway, the alley behind the Winking Skeever, and Washington State.
 ...and get totally blasted on skooma.

Ah yes, sweet, sweet skooma... sweet, mind-numbing, haze-inducing, brain-cell-slaughtering skooma. Loathed by uptight Imperial soldiers everywhere in Cyrodiil, you can find plenty of it while wandering the wilds of Skyrim. Buy it at any Khajit caravan, from random skooma dealers encountered on the road, or - best of all - make your own with this Real Life Skooma Recipe!

I did - and I will openly, immediately admit that this is a really weird recipe with a really odd mix of flavors. It's not for the faint of stomach or frail of liver. It's not going to be to everyone's taste. But it's as canon as anything else Lexi and I have concocted for this blog, and if you're a diehard Skyrim fan with Daedric-strength tastebuds, give this one a shot.

Skooma in-game is made from refined moon sugar. A book from Morrowind, An Alchemist's Guide to Skooma, describes the recipe in greater detail (I would seriously love to meet the game designer who wrote it). In developing my own recipe, I started with the following descriptions from the book:
In Elsweyr skooma is made from moon sugar and a poisonous herb called nightshade... the preparation of skooma requires that the alchemist dissolve some moon sugar in water and bring it to the boil. For one pint of water you should add one cup of moon sugar. Once it is boiling, add one thimble full of nightshade essence.
That right there, my friends, is simple syrup with powdered nightshade added. Straightforward, basic, and something Lexi and I have done before, in our recipes for Elsweyr Fondue and the Velvet Lachance. Reasoning that trying to make simple syrup using our own moon sugar recipe might cause some issues with melting, I fell back on the variation we came up with for the fondue:

1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup water
1-2 Tbsp of lavender or culinary sumac

Boil sugar in water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat immediately and add lavender or culinary sumac to taste, usually 1 or 2 Tbsp. Let cool. (If you make with lavender, we recommend straining before use to get the lavender bits out.)

Left: Sumac Simple Syrup (Secunda)
Right: Lavender Simple Syrup (Masser)
With the Velvet Lachance, we solved the issue of where we might get nightshade; the nightshade family is vast, and there are, in fact, quite a few edible plants within it: tomato and eggplant are some examples, but for spice and kick we went with peppers. And oh, there are sooo many to choose from... which ones to use?

Clockwise, starting with the fresh red pepper on the left: Thai pepper, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, cayenne chili powder, crushed jalapeno peppers, Aleppo pepper (center), Guajillo pepper (long purplish dried pepper), Sanaam chili pepper (bottom)
This is where the flavor really comes into this recipe, and where you can go hog wild, picking and choosing as many (or as few) peppers as you wish. And I highly encourage readers to experiment on your own: we came up with flavors we liked, but there are so many more possible variations out there. Here's the basic recipe:

4-6 oz. simple syrup
A pinch to a teaspoon of peppers (crushed, minced, dried, powder, a mix of peppers or a single variety)

Mix the peppers into the simple syrup. Let sit for an hour or two. Strain. Mix with an equal part vodka, over ice or as straight shots. Lose your mind and yowl like a horny desert cat at the moon's dim light.

  • Lavender has a stronger flavor than sumac, so will stand up to the stronger peppers.
  • Don't let your base mixture sit for very long. Either drink it right away, or strain out the pepper after an hour (2 hours tops). If you let it sit, it tastes terrible.
  • Fresh peppers have a milder flavor than powdered (at least the ones we tried), but may have more heat.
  • Combinations that worked reasonably well were lavender and chipotle, lavender and Guajillo pepper, sumac and Aleppo pepper, and sumac and Thai pepper.
  • Don't drink this without cutting it with vodka (or gin, if you want something sweeter and fruitier). It's too cloyingly sweet without being diluted.
  • Goes well with Elsweyr Fondue and a need to erase the bleak lawlessness of Skyrim from your mind.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

10.10.10 Is the Number of the Feast

Towel Day is May 25. 
Have a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Party!

Gwen and I enjoy throwing themed parties, especially long ones. The more pop cultural the better, and if we can work themed food in, well woe be to him who violates the theme. Like the Kung Fu Weekend of Death, complete with Shaw Brothers movies, a copious chinese dinner and dim sum breakfast. Or the Geek Movie Weekend, with back-to-back Holy Grail and Princess Bride.

Tangentially: We've spent waaaayyyy to many hours of our lives arguing over what is and is not a Geek Movie [Holy Grail IS, Total Recall is definitely NOT] and devising logical tests to determine it quickly and decisively. Eventually we'll be forced to post a Venn diagram to publish our research into this heady and debatable subject.  But I digress...

So when October 10, 2010 rolled around, my better half and I absolutely had to throw a themed party (Gwen attended of course).   We decided to make it a contest - a geek trivia scavenger hunt if you will - with clues and prizes for the first person to get it right. We thought long and hard for weeks about the clues, not wanting the game to be too easy or too hard, and using Guinea Pig Gwen to gauge their difficulty. We picked up some sweet ass prizes for the winners, including a D-n-D Red Box, Creationary (it's Lego Pictionary! Brilliant!), The Ladies of Star Wars playing cards, old USSR propaganda posters against drinking... We even prepared a Lamuella Sandwich Bar: a sumptuous buffet of fixin's for build-your-own sandwiches (including Perfectly Normal Beast, of course) and homemade mocha stout to keep everyone's spirits up.

The guests were gathered and the goal was explained:
Tell us what the theme of the party is, and why it's significant.

Clue #1: There are clues all around the house:

Sci-Fi + Britain

A dolphin, A Whale, and a Robot


Bottles of Bitter and Salted Peanuts
Clue #2: Mice (Hyperintelligent pan-dimensional Beings)

Clue #3: Jack Handy (As in, Jack Handy's Deep Thoughts)

Clue #4: This party could only be held on 10/10/10.

The fourth clue was our favorite, and the inspiration for the party.  Serious Geeks will know that in Binary, 101010 = 42. 

We wanted the clues to be hard enough to be challenging and tailored to the audience, which is obsessed with pop culture references and quotes.  Unfortunately, we made them a little too hard, and nobody got it without hints.  But the guests had a good time, the sandwiches were worthy of Arthur Dent, and everyone loved the prizes, which we gave out anyway.

Here are some additional food ideas for future HHGTTG parties:
Gwen's Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipe
Fairy Cake
Milliway Steak Bites (Ameglion Major cow) and green Salad

So this Towel Day, have some friends over and raise a pint of bitter to the memory of Douglas Adams.   Stay Froody, Dude.  We miss you.

Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001