June 17, 2016

Shift the Balance: Reza's Cheese Soup or Sausaquences and Peppers

Guess what today is! Guess what, guess what, guess what!

Okay, you're not going to guess so I'll tell you: TODAY IS THE DAY THAT DREAMFALL CHAPTERS: BOOK 5 COMES OUT!

No, but you guys, you have to understand, it's the final part of the final game of The Longest Journey saga, and it's been so long since Book 4 came out, and the ending of Book 4 kind of left me sobbing on my keyboard and I just...

I have a lot of feelings, okay?

Anyway, since we all know I celebrate with food, and since I already made Balance Cupcakes, I decided to make something out of the game itself.
Pretty early on in Book 1 (it seems so long ago...), Zoe-- one of the main, playable characters-- has a simple fetch quest: pick up lunch for her boyfriend Reza, and bring it to his office. Seems simple enough, right? It's designed to help you get used to navigating the Propast area (which is totally my favorite in the game), so it's not trying to trip you up or anything. Go to the food cart, talk to the vendor, pick up a food item, find Reza. Easy peasy. Reza even gives you free reign to pick whatever you like, though Zoe knows he doesn't have the most adventurous palate.

However, this is a gritty technopunk future, so when Nela reveals that she has some very rare real pork sausages for sale, it's a bit of a game changer.
Zoe knows that Reza would prefer his usual order of cheese soup, but she also wants to broaden Reza's culinary horizons, and the pork sausages are hard to say no to. So, it's up to you as the player to make the choice.
It seems like an innocent enough choice, something simple for the devs to throw in to give the player the illusion of control. However, as the end card says when you finish Book 1, this choice actually has unexpected and far-reaching consequences. Or sausaquences, as Zoe refers to them in her journal.
And, after one dev tweeted about everything coming back to a choice to you didn't think mattered, everyone's pretty nervous about the sausaquences coming back to bite us.

In honor of that potentially fatal choice, I decided to make both foods so you can make the choice for yourself.
Since it's mid June and it's been pretty warm here in NJ, I decided to make both meals in the slow cooker. Not that Nela does that, but I didn't feel like standing over the hot stove or turning the oven on. Plus I don't have Karl to help out. (Karl is the name of Nela's food cart. It makes more sense in context).
Reza's favorite cheese soup I decided to make nice and hearty. The broth is creamy and flavored with sharp cheddar cheese, and it's chock full of broccoli, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. Plus, to thicken it up a bit, since there's not much evaporation in the slow cooker, I added a couple tablespoons of instant potatoes. That's totally optional: you can add rice or noodles with will absorb some of the liquid, go for a cornstarch slurry, or leave it as is, but I liked it this way.

One note is that you really need to add the cheese at the end. Cheddar breaks very easily if it's cooked for too long. You can always use Velveeta to avoid that, but we all know real cheese tastes better.
As for the sausages, since I wasn't going to make my own (Nela didn't either, so we're square), and plain sausages doesn't seem like much of a lunch, I went with sausage and peppers. Or, sausaquences and peppers, get it?
I thought it was funny.

Sausage and peppers is a ridiculously simple dish that I think every Italian knows how to make, and it's a fairly common street food around here, especially down the shore (usually served on a roll), so I thought Nela might approve.

My family usually makes it in the oven (dump everything in a baking dish, cover with foil, bake until the sausages are done), but now I might always make it in the slow cooker because holy crap on a cracker did it turn out good. The sausages were so tender they were like butter, and everything just came out so flavorful that I ate like three helpings when I went to taste it. Plus, it's even easier to make it in the slow cooker than the oven, since I don't have to preheat the oven or worry about a timer.

Now, you can brown the sausages on the stove first if you like. I won't stop you. Many people do, to cut down on grease and crisp up the casing. But that just seemed too much like work to me.
So now you have a very important choice to make: Reza's cheese soup or sausaquences and peppers. The fate of two worlds may be in the balance. Or possibly just the fate of your dinner.

Reza's Cheese Soup
Yield: 12 servings

3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped small
1 onion, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans evaporated milk (I used skim)
3 tbsp. instant potato flakes (optional)
16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste

In the bowl of a slow cooker, add the first eight ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the vegetables are soft and the potatoes are fork tender. Add the evaporated milk and potato flakes, stirring until the flakes have dissolved. Cover and cook 30 minutes, until heated through. Add the cheese, half cup at a time, stirring until completely melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Recipe by Kim

Slow Cooker Sausage and Peppers
Yield: 6 servings 

12 sweet Italian pork sausages
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes with basil
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced into strips
2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 large rolls, to serve

Add the peppers and onion to the bowl of a slow cooker. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add the sausages and crushed tomatoes. Give a quick stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the sausages are cooked through and tender. Serve in rolls.

Tip: if you have leftover sauce, add it to rice or pasta

Recipe by Kim