A few weeks ago now, we invited Cynthia Nims (and her husband) over for a few reasons. First, we wanted to celebrate her new book, Gourmet Game Night. Second, we wanted to teach her how to play Settlers of Catan (purchase). Third, … well, I’m sure there was a third reason, but I’ll be darned if I can remember what it was.
The whole idea behind Gourmet Game Night is food designed to be eaten on small plates with minimal fuss, although I’m sure Cynthia will correct me if I’m wrong. That’s what I understood the idea of the book was.
I had thought about making a dish from the book, but there were two problems in the way.
We didn’t have the book and, as the Mrs. pointed out, they were likely tired of taste testing all the recipes.
So, I went the opposite route. Let’s try to make something in the spirit of the book and, at the same time, in the spirit of the game.
If you’ve never played Settlers of Catan, know that it is, at heart, a resource management game. You get sheep, ore, wheat, brick and wood and use it to build villages, roads, and cities. Trading is encouraged, leading to the inevitable call of ‘Who has wood for sheep.’ I had forgotten a lot of the mechanics of the game, but did remember strategy. Unfortunately, four players on basic basic board makes normal strategy a little tricky.
But, like I said, I wanted to make something that was in tune with the game, or at the least a bit of a play on the game itself. My dream would have been a brick roast smoked lamb (like the chicken under brick type recipes) which would get the wood, lamb, and brick. Serve it with pita and a short metal skewer as a utensil, and you’ve got all five resources right there, all in one, easy to eat meal.
Unfortunately, that’s not what I made. Because that sounds really awesome.
What I opted for instead was some lamb meatballs with a nice little yogurt mint dipping sauce. Down in the notes, I’ll throw in a bonus recipe to show what else we made.
Lamb Meatball Kebabs adapted from RecipeZaar
- ground lamb, 1 1/2 pounds
- panko, 1/2 cup
- onion, minced
- egg, 1 large (or two medium)
- garlic, 3 cloves, minced
- olive oil, 2 teaspoons
- fresh mint, 1/2 tablespoon
- allspice, 1/4 teaspoon
- cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon
- dried currants, 2 tablespoons
- If using wooden skewers, start soaking them so they don’t catch fire.
- Mix all ingredients but the lamb together (so as not to overwork the lamb).
- Add the meat and try to mix it well, but gently. I use my hands for this, after washing them of course.
- Form the meatballs into a pleasant size for you (we ended up with 30 or so) and place them in a tray/plate that will fit in your freezer.
- Put the meatballs in the freezer for 30 minutes or so to help them firm up.
- After 30, pull the meatballs out and throw them on a skewer, don’t over fill the skewers. If using smaller skewers, maybe 2-3 per. We had some trouble with this, and I’ll talk about that down in the notes.
- Put back in the freezer until you’re ready to grill, not too long, don’t want to actually freeze the meatballs.
- Take them out 15 minutes before grilling.
- Brush the meatballs with olive oil and grill, roughly 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with yogurt mint sauce.
Yogurt Mint Sauce
- plain greek yogurt, 2 cups
- fresh mint leaves, 1/4 cup, chopped
- salt, to taste
- Mix yogurt, mint and salt.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Notes: So, that whole ‘put on a skewer’ thing up above?
It sooooo did not work for me. The meatballs were a little too loose to stick together and stay on the stick, coupled with the fact that our Big Green Egg isn’t that big, I actually ended up taking everything off skewer and lining a grill tray with the meatballs.It was tricky to flip everything, but it worked extremely well.
The outer shell of the meatballs crisped and browned right up while the inside maintained a sweet and gamey juiciness that the yogurt-mint sauce just really complimented well.
Since we were doing a whole finger food meal, because I had meant for us to actually eat while we played (although we didn’t), and it is asparagus season, we made a steamed asparagus that we then ice water shocked and served cold. I was always told that asparagus is a finger food so long as it isn’t sauced. So our plates would have asparagus and meatballs, toothpicks were handy to be able to dip into the sauce. A perfect handy meal.
I knew that a second sauce, something hot to go with the cold asparagus (so as to match the hot meatballs with the chilled yogurt mint sauce), was required. Going back to that recipe we used for the meatballs, the cheese sauce was a great counterpoint to balance on. A few more notes below.
Creamy Parmesan Sauce
- butter, 2 tablespoons
- flour, 2 tablespoons
- milk, 1 1/4 cups
- Parmesan cheese, 1 cup, grated
- Melt the butter in a small pot on medium heat.
- Add the flour and stir to fully combine to form a roux.
- Slowly add the milk, stirring to combine the roux.
- Bring just up to a boil and add the cheese, stirring to help the cheese melt.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve while hot.
More Notes: A roux is an incredible thing to know how to do. This is a great base for a mac and cheese. If the Seattle weather stays the way it is, we might be sharing a recipe for that pretty soon.
Now, about the sauce amounts. The yogurt mint sauce, unless I seriously mis-measured, made so much that we had leftover sauce for a week. But the cheese sauce barely had enough for a single serving for each of the four of us.
I’d also think about adding some cayenne, paprika or padron/crushed pepper to the cheese sauce.
If you’re wondering how to serve the sauces, we actually used half pint wide mouth mason jars.
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