So to say that I’m fan of Bioware RPGs is a bit of an understatement. It first started with the Baldur’s Gate series, continued with Neverwinter Nights, and re-ignited to what has become my favorite series – Dragon Age. As a story hound, I’ve always found myself swept away in the engaging storyline and humor whether interacting and developing relationships with my character’s travelling companions, or learning about each of the game cultures through the hundreds of codex entries available.
So while searching for something to cook based on my favorite video game series of all time, I was fortunate to find codex entries from Dragon Age: Origins on the Dwarven diet. Food-wise, these entries are probably the most extensive out of any other race or culture in the game. As one would figure, due to their strong dislike for the surface, their cuisine is centered around what lives and grows underground. Yes, I know that’s obvious, but work with me here. We’re looking at roots, root vegetables, mushrooms and other fungus.
The game creators certainly did not limit themselves, thank goodness, realized that this is a fantasy setting where they could do whatever they darn well pleased within reason and production budget. Enter the Nug. For those unfamiliar with the term, Nugs are the cute little creatures resembling the cross between a hairless bunny and a pig, which rich and poor dwarves alike raise and eat.
As expected, the taste is described as “unholy union of pork and hare”. Despite its tough nature, the meat itself is still enjoyed by dwarves. The game codex entry “In Praise of the Humble Nug” even describes the favorite dish of King Ansgar Aeducan as Seared Nug – Seared on a hot metal plate and finished in the oven-and dressed in a cream sauce flavored with deep mushrooms. Since I am a fiend for mushrooms, and also since fresh chanterelle mushrooms were ridiculously cheap AND available at Costco, this is what I’ve decided to make.
I won’t lie, this is one of the most time-consuming and expensive dishes I’ve ever cooked. To get the pig and rabbit flavor at once, it seemed pretty clear I would have to stuff pork chops with rabbit meat. Since it is rare to find rabbit already butchered off the bone, and since the cooking time differs with two different types of meat, I would have to braise the meat to a pulled chicken-consistency. This, in itself, presented two problems – one, I had never cooked rabbit before, two, the sites that teach you how to cook it are COVERED IN CUTE BUNNY RABBIT PICTURES. I still feel shame and sadness thinking of putting the whole thing in the crock pot.
Chanterelle mushrooms I know are woodland mushrooms, but they are so darn tasty. If you can’t find them, button mushrooms are also tasty and better on the budget.
I happened to have a batch I didn’t want to go to waste.
Chanterelles taste pretty awesome cooked in butter and red wine, though my trained-chef friend suggested that cognac and peppercorn pair fantastically with the mushroom and bring out the flavor of the pork. I decided to use the pepper-heavy medieval spice-blend “poudre fort” to add a little setting-appropriate flavor.
Seared Nug with Cognac and Chanterelle Cream
- 1 rabbit, head and giblets removed
- 1-2 355 ml cans ginger beer
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 2 squeezes liquid smoke
- Worchester sauce
- 4 pork chops, about 1.5-2 inches thick
- 2 cups chopped chanterelle mushrooms
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 Tb unsalted butter
- 1 Tb minced garlic
- ½ cup cognac
- ½ tsp ground thyme
- 1 tsp poudre fort
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Put rabbit in crock pot. Pour in ginger beer until it goes up half-way rabbit. Put in the rosemary, sage, fresh thyme, liquid smoke, a pinch of salt, and a few dashes of Worchester sauce and black pepper. Cover and slow cook on low for about 6 hours.
- When time is up, remove rabbit from pot and put into a bowl. Remove the bones and cartilage and discard. Pull meat apart until all is stringy. Strain the liquid from the crock pot into another bowl. Pour about a quarter to half cup of the cooking liquid over the meat to keep it moist. Reserve the rest of the liquid.
- Slice and butterfly each pork chop. If you use a santoku blade, the curve will make it a little easier to make a rounded pocket. Stuff a few tablespoons of rabbit meat into each chop and pin closed with toothpicks. Season each side with salt and pepper.
- Heat up a large skillet on the stovetop. Add and melt the butter to the pan. When the pan is hot, add the chops.
- Sear the chops about 6 minutes on each side. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the non-butterflied end of the chop. When the chops reach an internal temp of 145 degrees F, remove chops from pan and set aside to rest.
- Deglaze the pan with the cognac and ½ cup of the rabbit cooking liquid. Stir in the mushrooms, onion, garlic, ground thyme and poudre fort. Reduce heat and allow to simmer.
- When the onions are translucent and the liquid thickened, stir in the cream and season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Remove toothpicks from chops and plate them. Pour mushroom cream sauce over each one. Serve.