Lots of the food in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, (a game which I’m sure needs no introduction from me) looks remarkably appetizing.
But there’s one food above the others that impressed me in Skyrim, though for the life of me, I can’t put my finger on why: Grilled leeks!
You can buy Grilled Leeks from from almost any tavern in Skyrim, and find them on plates in dungeons and fortresses. For some reason, though, the Dovahkiin (player character) can never master the recipe.
Well, I decided that I needed to exceed my Dovahkiin’s cookery skills; since grilled leeks looked so nice in Skyrim, I would learn to cook them for real…
…So, I trawled the web for grilled leek recipes, and found that almost all of them advised boiling the leeks first, so that they don’t need so long under the grill. A large fraction suggested blanching them in ice between boiling and grilling, but some cooks regard this as an unnecessary faff. Opinion was divided between which type of fat to apply when grilling — to generalise a little bit, Americans use butter, and Europeans use olive oil. I guess that butter would be more Skyrim-ish, since Skyrim doesn’t seem like the type of place to grow a lot of olives (maybe further south, in the region called Cyrodil, perhaps?), but I prefer to use olive oil to butter wherever I can. I’d be lying if I said this was entirely for health reasons; as it happens I just prefer the taste.
Preparing the Leeks
Preparing the leeks for boiling was a matter of dispute, also. Some sites suggesting halving them, boiling them and then removing the inedible base of the leek, effectively using the bit you can’t eat to hold the rest together during cooking. Other sites favoured topping-and-tailing, then boiling, then halving them before they go under the grill. The upside of the latter method is that cleaning them before cooking is easier, and you can boil them for less time, the downside is you have to handle them more when they are hot out of the pan in which you’ve been boiling them.
I chose the latter method, figuring I could always lift them out of the pan with tongs (and recycle the slightly leek-flavoured pan-water to boil a few mushrooms to serve on the side.)
Once the leeks had been boiled, I chopped them in half, drizzled them liberally with olive oil and sprinkled them with some parsley and thyme.
Of course, I was far from idle whilst the leeks were cooking; I needed to expand my leeks to make a full meal for AddAltModeR and myself, so I had a few battered potato slices baking in the oven, and a pan of mushrooms and a bean-&-chorizo gumbo on the hob.
Class II mushrooms are nicer to cook with than Class I. EU regulations class vegetables (including mushrooms) as Class I or Class II effectively by how pretty and uniform they are. Class I mushrooms are uniformly white, evenly-shaped and unblemished. Class II mushrooms (which are often cheaper) are greyer or browner, lopsided or uneven in shape, and might be lumpy or cracked. The mushroom itself is the same, but there is a difference in appearance. Why does this matter to the EU? Well, it matters for the purpose of regulating the marketing of fresh veg. Anyway, Class I mushrooms look like there were extruded from plastic in a sterile factory, whereas Class II ‘shrooms looks like they grew. They look like they belong in an Arik Roper painting — and that’s a good thing.
Back on Topic
The leeks put out quite a lot of steam as they cook. Some people recommend wrapping them in foil when cooking them so that the moisture doesn’t escape. I haven’t tried this yet, but I might do it to a future batch of leeks to see how they turn out. Once they’re done and ready to serve, the outer surfaces are quite crispy, and their edges will have begun to brown.
The cooked leeks are much yellower than when they were raw, and glisten slightly with the oil/butter, which should have all melted into the gaps between the layers of leek. The texture is mostly soft like any cooked leeks, but with a slight crispiness to the outermost layer. Do they look as good IRL as they do in-game? I hope so. They smell and taste amazing.
For Tamrielic authenticity serve with potatoes, smoked meats and drink mead or ale.
So Skyrim has been surprisingly educational, I certainly didn’t expect to learn anything about cooking from it. Next time, we eat a dragon.