Welcome back, fans and soon-to-be-fans of The Adventure Zone! This week I’m revisiting the Amnesty arc with a recipe for some cheesy Gruel and Pepperoni Hot Pockets inspired by that Narf-gunslinging showman, Ned Chicane!
For those just joining us, The Adventure Zone is a podcast featuring the McElroy Brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin of My Brother, My Brother, and Me) and their father Clint McElroy as they play Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games together.
Today’s recipe is from their current Monster-of-the-Week campaign, Amnesty. In this arc, three residents of Kepler, West Virginia: a park ranger plagued by strange dreams, a stage magician with hidden power, and an artful cryptid-museum owner in need of patrons discover a supernatural side to their small town. Today’s recipe features Clint McElroy’s classic horror movie-loving, Chewbacca-costume-wearing, charlatan cryptozoologist, Ned Chicane!
Click here to skip to the recipe for Ned Chicane’s Gruel Hot Pockets!
The Crooked Ned Chicane
Ned Chicane, a man of many middle names (the count is 11 so far), runs the Cryptonomica, Keplar’s local tourist trap cryptid museum. Despite making his living off stories about creatures like the Jersey Devil and the Mothman, he doesn’t believe in any of it. When we meet him, we find him in a Chewbacca costume, filming his own Bigfoot footage in the middle of the Monongahela National Forest.
His efforts are cut short when Barclay, a real Sasquatch, shows up and saves his life from something even more monstrous. Long story short, he joins Barclay and other denizens of The Amnesty Lodge, thinks its a marvelous dream and unwittingly enlists himself in The Pine Guard.
From that point on, we learn more and more about Ned Chicane’s past. He may have trained as an actor. He once stole one of George Clooney’s Oscars. His real name might not actually be Ned Chicane. We see a man so cautious with his identity show so much desire for attention and significance. We also see a man who had left another to die now run headfirst into danger to save others without a second thought.
It’s probably still too early in the story to tell whether Ned steps up to do the right thing out of loneliness, empathy, or redemption. However, watching his character further develop proves to be an intriguing endeavor.
Hot Pockets: Gruel
Clint McElroy, I just want to tell you that the following recipe is entirely your fault. I forgive you though because it’s downright delicious.
So it the latest arc of Adventure Zone: Amnesty, Ned Chicane and The Pine Guard find themselves in the middle of a holiday season mystery. Clint mentions that Ned used to do big family holiday gatherings growing up, but the past few years he’s been spending it by himself “watching the Macy’s parade, eating a cup of gruel, […] Hot Pockets: Gruel, [and] hating on Al Roker.” So this year he decides to have a Christmas Special on his local movie show “Saturday Night Dead.”
I admit the initial thought of gruel in hot pocket form sounded disgusting. I then realized that the wallpaper-paste-like gruel we normally think of is not a popular item in West Virginia. The closest thing you’re probably going to get is grits. I may be partial, having lived in Georgia for almost 20 years, but grits (when done right) are delicious.
That’s why I decided to whip up a batch of buttery, cheddar cheese grits and sweeten them with another West Virginia favorite: apple butter.
I do find it kind of funny that Clint mentioned hot pockets as Ned Chicane’s go-to bachelor food since they are very reminiscent of another West Virginia iconic snack: The Pepperoni Roll. Popular among the Italian immigrant community and early 20th-century coal miners, these yeast rolls stuffed with pepperoni and cheese are found in convenience stores state-wide. I chose to use puff pastry for more of a hot pocket-feel, though you are more than welcome to make up some yeast dough and give the traditional way a try.
New cooks take note: this recipe is deceptively easy. I chose to use instant grits to save yourself some time and patience.
So here it is, a dish fitting of Kepler’s Greatest Showman. If you enjoyed this taste of The Adventure Zone, please go listen to the podcast on the Maximum Fun Network, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, check out their New York Times Best-Seller List-topping graphic novel based on their Dungeons & Dragons-inspired Balance!
The Gourmet Grifter
Ned Chicane's Gruel Hot Pockets
Equipment: Stovetop, saucepan, wire whisk, spatula, rolling pin, cutting board, kitchen knife, oven, pastry brush, parchment paper.
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup apple butter
- 1 3/8 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 packets instant butter grits
- 2-3 large pinches kosher salt
- 17.5 oz package puff pastry, thawed
- 36 slices of pepperoni
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons of water
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Pour the milk and apple butter into the saucepan then bring to a simmer over a medium flame on the stovetop. Whisk in a cup of shredded cheese until fully melted.
- Add the kosher salt and instant grits, then whisk until thickened. Turn off the heat then set the grits aside to cool.
- Beat egg and water together with a fork in a Tupperware container then set aside.
- Roll one of the puff pastry sheets on the cutting board to a 10″x10″ square with the rolling pin. Slice along the fold lines to make three long pieces, then crosswise to make six pieces.
- Roll each piece slightly larger, then add three slices of pepperoni in a row on three of the dough pieces.
- Divide the grits into six equal portions, then scoop one on top of the pepperoni. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese over the grits then top with three more pieces of pepperoni.
- Brush the edges of all dough pieces with the egg wash. Then cover the filling with another piece of dough, egg wash-covered sides together. Press the sides firmly closed, then crimp the edges with a fork.
- Score the top three times with a knife then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat steps 7 through 9 with the other two pockets.
- Repeat steps 5 – 9 with the remaining ingredients.
- Brush the pastries with egg wash then bake in the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until the edges begin to slightly brown.
- Let pastries cool 5-10 minutes before eating.
Freeze n’ Bake Instructions:
Freeze hot pockets overnight after step if you want to serve them later. Brush them with egg wash before baking, then bake them for 25 minutes at 375° F.
Reheat baked hot pockets in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.