Remember last month when I promised ya’ll more Dresden Files inspired recipes? Well never say I’m not a woman of my word. Halloween is today and you know what that means Dresden fans? It’s the birthday of our favorite modern-day wizard named Harry!
In Cold Days we saw Harry treated with all the festive and horrifying hospitality the Winter Faerie Court had to offer on his natal day. Really, though, I think he would have been much happier at home enjoying a delicious beer and steak sandwich at Mac’s. That said, being Halloween, I think Mac would be far too busy with customers to be cooking up sandwiches all night on short-order. This night is incredibly significant to Chicago’s magical community as it is the only one each year where the borders between the Never Never and the mortal world are at its weakest. Immortals and mortals both tend to use this time to feed on others and trick each other out of power to treat their own. It’s also the same time that those same immortals become mortal and can be killed to feed the Darkhallow ritual as we saw in Dead Beat.
In other words, it’s a very good time to hunker down in a safe place known to dispel and disperse any kind of deadly magical energies until the dawn comes.
With this in mind, I wanted to make up a dish Mac can have cooking low, slow, and ready to go all night for any natural and supernatural denizen wanting a little comfort and comfort food from the dangers of trolls, necromancers, or even the Erlking himself leading the Wild Hunt.
Traditionally until probably within the last two centuries, the church had ordained October 31st as a day of abstinence where no flesh was to be consumed before the feast of All Saints the following day. Though I imagine since Mac is the master of beer and red meat, he would probably huff at tradition just this once and allow a little heresy. So what could be better for a Halloween feast than an Oktoberfest beer-marinated and roasted hunk of bottom round beef roast?
Oktoberfest beer, I say? Yes. While I marinate the tasty hunk of meat overnight in Sam Addams Oktoberfest, any Oktoberfest Marzen style beer should do the trick. I know Yuengling, Sierra Nevada, Spaten, and many other breweries make similar varieties.
Since the first jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips, I added them to the mix. Oddly enough, while jack-o-lanterns are part of the British folkloric tradition of spooky pranks, their inclusion in Halloween festivities is not really documented until the twentieth century. The story is that a miserly man named Jack successfully tricked and pranked the devil into promising not to take him to Hell. When he died, Heaven wouldn’t accept him either and his soul is now cursed to walk the earth with only a hollowed out turnip lantern to guide him. It’s when Irish immigrants came stateside that the vegetable lanterns went the route of the larger and easier-to-carve pumpkin.
Halloween itself does host some interesting food traditions: colcannon, boxty, oatcakes, and even more notably apples and nuts. October 31st, in English tradition, is also called “Snap Apple Night” and “Nut Crack Night”. Being a time when the veil between worlds is thinner than a pixie’s resistance to pizza, both apples and nuts were used in divination games. So since Mac is also a traditionalist, I added apples to the roast and baked up some pumpkin oatcakes with crushed hazelnuts. Hazelwood and hazelnuts were widely used in protection charms against witchcraft and evil faeries, which seems fitting on a night where one might need some protection from one, the other, or both.
I highly suggest dipping the oatcakes in the gravy or piling them up with vegetables and roast pieces before taking a bite.
Finally, I included pumpkin pie spice in both dishes because it’s October and pumpkin spice is in everything. I don’t feel like I need to elaborate on this any more than I have.
So here it is, a dish to settle in with a pint at your favorite pub and ring in another year of life, death, and the living dead.
Darkhallow Pumpkin-Hazelnut Oatcakes
Equipment: Oven, baking sheet, aluminum foil, wire whisk, cooking spray, spatula.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup crushed hazelnuts
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
- Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
- Pour milk and egg in a separate container; beat until frothy. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until smooth.
- Pour a little of the pumpkin mix into the well in the dry ingredients. Continue to fold in and mix a little liquid at a time using the spatula. Keep turning with the spatula until it forms into a soft dough and all the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Divide the dough into two, form a ball with each and press onto the baking sheet until each portion is a circle 1/2 inch thick. Use the spatula to score eight wedges onto the circles.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven and split wedges after they cool for about 5 minutes.
Darkhallow Beef Roast with Autumn Vegetables
Equipment: 5 to 6-quart slow cooker, gallon size Ziploc bag, tongs, slotted spoon, wire whisk.
- 3-pound bottom round roast
- Two 12 oz. bottles Marzen-style beer like Sam Adams Oktoberfest
- 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
- 2 sprigs fresh sage, ripped or sliced into strips
- leaves of one handful fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 medium sized yellow onion, cut in half and sliced thin
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch wedges
- 1 red delicious apple, cored, cut in half, and sliced
- 1 or 2 beef bouillon cubes
- 1/2 cup all purpose or oat flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
The night before:
Place the beef roast in the Ziploc bag. Pour in the contents of one bottle of beer. Add the fresh herbs, 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Seal the bag and swish around the contents. Refrigerate the bag overnight.
Eight hours before you want to serve:
- Place the onions into the pot of the slow cooker so that it covers the bottom. Place the beef roast in the center, on top of the onions, and season with kosher salt. Add the turnips, beef bouillon cubes, and carrots around the beef. Pour in the marinade, add a pinch or two of kosher salt, and arrange the apple slices on top.
- Pour in half of the other beer and refrigerate the remainder. Dash the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice on top of the apple. Cover the pot with the lid and cook on low for about 7.5 to 8 hours.
- When done, transfer apples and vegetables with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
- Transfer the beef to a cutting board with a pair of tongs.
- Whisk flour and remaining beer in a separate dish, and then whisk into the slow cooker. Turn the heat to high for 15 minutes and add butter. When butter melts, whisk until smooth and thickened into gravy. Stir in kosher salt to taste.
- Serve slices of roast with vegetables, oatcakes, and a generous smothering of gravy.