Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sister's Stew (from Game of Thrones), Culinary Orgasm style

a trencher of yummmmm

This post found inspiration in so many places, I hardly know where to start...

I discussed my family's love of the "Song of Fire and Ice" series (better known in TV Land as "Game of Thrones") in this post , as well as giving a brief history of trenchers. We've also discussed our love of fishing in a few places (notably here and here ).  So when a dear friend pointed me to an entire blog of recipes from the books via a recipe for this amazing stew, I had to check it out. The blog is fantastic, if you're a's called Inn at the Crossroads , named after a location in the books that's seen its share of drama. And the stew...oh, the the stew. The Sisters (in the books) are three islands - and apparently they make one heck of a stew :

“The beer was brown, the bread black, the stew a creamy white. She served it in a trencher hollowed out of a stale loaf. It was thick with leeks, carrots, barley, and turnips white and yellow, along with clams and chunks of cod and crabmeat, swimming in a stock of heavy cream and butter. It was the sort of stew that warmed a man right down to his bones, just the thing for a wet, cold night…”
-George R.R. Martin, Dance with Dragons

Pretty much says it all right there.

The recipe as written in the blog (entry here) really looked pretty fantastic (OT: it was actually a guest post from another blog about Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander"series - another one of my faves !). I made some minor changes, as I come from a long line of chowder makers and have some definite firm opinions about what goes in a good chowder . The changes include swapping in some potatoes for part of the turnips as I'm not the hugest turnip fan out there (though we had to keep some for authenticity), added some nutmeg and cloves as they were referenced in the book (again with the they compliment the heavy cream so well), and some other minor changes. The biggest changes I made, though, were to start the vegetables in salt pork instead of olive oil (no self-respecting Down Easter would use anything but) and to swap our own excellent homemade fish stock for the water and clam juice.

veggies for stock

fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads....

 Our stock recipe is at the end of this, granted, if you're not a crazy fisher-person like the people who live here you may not have giant fish heads in your freezer...that's just how we roll :) You can sometimes find heads for stock making at your local grocery store or fish market, but if you don't see them, ask - they'll be able to recommend something.

Enjoy !

Sister's Stew
adapted from Inn at the Crossroads

1/4 lb salt pork, cubed
2 cups leeks, white & light green only (save the tops for the stock)
1/2 cup carrot, peeled & diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup barley, uncooked
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups fish stock (see below)
1/2 cup diced white potatoes (or white turnip)
1/2 cup yellow turnip (rutabaga), peeled & diced
4  sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove
1 lb cod or other white fish , in small chunks
1/2 lb crabmeat
1 cup clam meat, chopped if large
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry salt pork in a large pot over medium heat until toasty brown and the fat has been released (this is called "trying out"). Remove salt pork from pan, but leave fat in there (you can drain the cubes on paper towels and retain for garnish if you like that sort of thing,, which we warned the bits are very salty though !) Add the leeks, carrots and celery to the hot fat in the pot and sweat until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and barley. Stir constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the fish stock, potatoes, turnips and thyme. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables and barley are almost tender, 30 minutes. Remove the woody thyme stems and add the cod. Simmer for 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the cod is almost cooked,

Warm the cream gently in a small saucepan then add the saffron, rubbing the threads between your finger tips to break them up slightly. Add the nutmeg and cloves, then stir the cream into the stew. Add the crabmeat, clams, and butter . Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, until the fish is done and and the butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish each bowl with a few cubes of salt pork (if using. )

Serve hot with plenty of freshly ground pepper and black bread (or, if you really want to go for it , serve in hollowed out large rolls or small bread loaves)

Fish Stock
(loosely based on Jasper White's)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 celery ribs, including leafy green tops, coarsely chopped
Dark green tops from 4 leeks, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, sliced
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
6 to 8 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 - 3 good sized fish heads, rinsed well
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups  hot tap water
1 - 2 tsp kosher or sea salt, to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the celery, leeks, shallots, carrots, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and peppercorns to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 - 10 minutes. Stir in the fish heads and the wine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. 

Add the hot water, stir gently and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir once and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve. Season lightly with salt and let cool, then refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Note : Depending on the size and species of your fish, you may have some lovely meat left over when the stock is done - cod cheeks from a large cod are particularly tasty. Feel free to retain this meat and stir it into your final soup/stew/chowder/what have you...


  1. Making a variant of this for a Game of Thrones party later today ^_^

  2. I made this very recipe tonight. My family loved it! I used tilapia instead of cod - only white fish the store carried.

  3. OMG, I made this for a game of thrones/bday party and everyone loved it so much. I used imitation lobster in stead of mussels but everything else the same. The entire batch was gone in minutes and everyone was asking for the recipe. It was so flavorful!