• Brinda Suresh

Fictional Food: Halloween Edition

According to the leaves, the weather, and the calendar, it's officially October, and *spooky season* is now rolling! In addition to sending children across the country into sugar comas, Halloween has long since offered fans everywhere an excuse to become their favorite characters for one spectacular evening. While meticulously planning elaborate emulations of our favorite literary and film stars is not the easiest task (a truly frightening amount of time, money, and sewing-induced injuries have been sacrificed…), it's worth the magical experience of dissolving into an imaginary world full of fantasy, action, romance, and adventure!


However, due to a certain ongoing global pandemic, most standard Halloween gatherings that offer us a chance to show off our fabulous costumes are most likely canceled. *cue aggressive bawling* Trick or treating (which I strongly believe, as a recently inducted legal adult who now has to purchase their own candy, should be socially acceptable for all ages) would spread the virus like wildfire. Indoor, candy-filled costume parties packed with people are a veritable petri dish and are likely a thing of the past as well. Not to mention the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which has been cancelled since September. Accordingly, some of the usual festivities are dulled by this seemingly endless public health threat that may very well put a pin in any and all reasons to dress-up.


Honestly though, I think giving up on the magic of Halloween for this year is the wrong move. Now more than ever, a lightspeed trip to Canto Bight, an evening in the Three Broomsticks, or even a cozy night in Arendelle Castle can offer us a perfect, pandemic-free nirvana. Even if you give up on making a costume for this year, there are still tons of other ways to transport yourself to a fictional universe, none better (in my humble opinion) than sinking your teeth into some of their fantastical food! All of the movies, shows, and books we love give us glimpses from time to time of their otherworldly confections, and I say let's bring back the spirit of Halloween by taking a one-way ticket from our kitchens to a fictional land far, far away! Fear not, I know that some recipes prove to be difficult or impossible in a dorm kitchen so I took the liberty of testing all of them in my very own UHall kitchenette and providing modifications as needed. The experience, though tumultuous, left me with three certifiably scrumptious, not too difficult recipes that capture the magic of Halloween!



Monica’s Truffles from Friends

Nothing screams Halloween quite like candy, and the homemade truffles from “The One with All the Candy” are rumoured to be the creme de la creme of chocolates. Not only are they famously delicious (“little drops of heaven” according to Monica’s neighbors), they supposedly are the perfect bait to make new... wait for it... friends. Whip up a batch and put them out for your neighbors to sample and strike up a (masked and socially distanced) conversation when they inevitably come back for more!


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour + cooling time

Yields: 24 truffles

Ingredients:

¼ cup heavy cream

1½ cups milk chocolate chips

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup shredded coconut

1½ cups semisweet chocolate

1 tsp. neutral oil

½ cup white chocolate

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure the cream doesn't burn. Once cream is at a simmer, take off of heat and add milk chocolate chips. Mix until completely smooth and add in vanilla extract.

  2. Transfer chocolate mixture into a square container. Spread mixture approximately ¾ - 1 inch thick and let harden in the fridge. Once the chocolate mixture has hardened, cut into 24 rectangular pieces.

  3. Roll these pieces in either chopped almonds or shredded coconut. Place on a tray lined with parchment and put the tray in the fridge to harden.

  4. Using the double boiler method (a bowl resting on top of a boiling pot of water), melt the semisweet chocolate chips and stir in oil until completely combined. Dip fudge pieces one at a time into melted chocolate to coat candies completely. Use a fork to remove candies from melted chocolate and allow excess chocolate to drip.

  5. Place coated candies back on parchment paper. Repeat dipping process until all candies are coated.

  6. Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in 15-second increments, stirring between each increment until completely melted. Transfer melted white chocolate into a resealable bag. Cut a very small corner (1-2 mm) off of the bag and quickly drizzle melted white chocolate over truffles.

  7. Allow candies to completely cool and harden. Enjoy!

Notes:

You can really use any kind of chocolate for the fudge filling, since it is hidden. If dark chocolate is more your speed, swap it in!

Also, feel free to swap the almonds/coconut for hazelnuts or peanuts or bee pollen or puffed rice —anything your heart desires!

If your melted semi-sweet chocolate coating is too thick to properly coat the fudge pieces, add more oil (1 tsp. at a time) and stir in completely for a more fluid consistency.

If you’d like, you can sprinkle a few sliced almonds or shreds of coconut on the coating before it hardens to identify which truffles are which —or, you can leave it a mystery! Warn people of the nuts if you are giving them out though.

*Warning* from a wiser, now slightly hyper author: you can eat way too many of these before you realize it (they are that good) so watch out! Or, you know what, eat as many as you’d like and live your best life. Embrace the sugar high. It does come with the candy-making territory, after all!


Recipe courtesy of Spoon University: https://spoonuniversity.com/recipe/5-comfort-foods-to-eat-while-crying-during-an-episode-of-this-is-us



Acid Pops from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

No one puts the trick in “trick or treat!” quite like the Weasley twins! From their infamous Skiving Snackboxes to their pranks for purchase at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George are known for pulling one over anyone who they lay their eyes on, most notably and frequently their brother Ron. One of my favorites by far was when they reportedly burned a hole through Ron’s tongue with a seemingly normal lollipop that secretly contained concentrated acid! Talk about a mean prank... though Ron did accept free candy from them without suspecting anything, and that makes him a bit of a sucker (get it?). Their acid pops serve solely comedic purposes, but this three-ingredient ‘recipe’ for Muggle-friendly acid pops will be a delight for all lovers of Pop Rocks and a fun surprise for any friends you fail to warn ahead of time. Just leave my name out of it!


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yields: 12 lollipops

Ingredients:

12 lollipops (sour flavors are best)

4 packets Pop Rocks (any flavor)

1/4 cup honey

Instructions:

  1. Unwrap the lollipops. Pour Pop Rocks into a shallow bowl.

  2. In a small bowl, heat honey in the microwave for 20–30 seconds. The hotter the honey, the thinner it will get.

  3. Coat lollipops in honey and roll them in Pop Rocks.

  4. Set lollipops on wax paper to dry completely.

  5. Wrap in wax paper or butcher paper if you’d like or enjoy straight away!

Notes:

My top picks for the lollipops are the Warheads variety for maximum sourness. Same principle for the Pop Rocks: the XTreme flavors are the way to go!

For a more intense sour punch, sprinkle a little citric acid powder on the pops before the honey crystallizes fully.

Decorate your wrapping paper with Harry Potter designs and label them or leave them blank for pranking purposes!


Recipe courtesy of MuggleNet: https://www.mugglenet.com/2012/07/acid-pops/



Fire Flakes from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Although a big part of Halloween hinges around maximizing the free sweets you can amass, huge quantities of sugar can get cloying after a while, even for the most dedicated sweet tooths. Accordingly, I figured a change of pace was warranted for the chipaholics (or anyone else who needs to break up all of the chocolate), and you can’t get much further from candy than ATLA’s burn-your-tongue-off (literally — fire benders do not mess around, especially when it comes to snackage and setting other people on fire) Fire Flakes! Straight out of the fire nation, these street snacks are ghost-pepper level incendiary based on our beloved Sokka’s reaction. Cozy up with a warm bowl of these and binge all 3 Books (and LoK, because why not?) for an action-packed, hilarious adventure that might even be better than dressing up and walking around in the cold October night? No, probably not, but it will still be pretty... FYRE. Okay, I’ll stop now.


Andrew Rea of Binging with Babish — who just so happens to be the reigning king of perfectly engineering any and all fictional food — released his own take on the infamous fire flakes, and upon testing, though inspired and wildly creative, I found it to be quite… much for your average kitchenette. Surprise, surprise, setting my oven to the setting I imagine must be low-ish does not achieve the same results as a fancy dehydrator. For the well-established chefs (and jerky makers, I suppose), I’ll attach the link to his recipe, but for those of you who don’t have the supplies and want a quick fix, I’m including a recipe for a modified take on a childhood favorite of mine: the spicy, Indian snack known as “cornflakes mixture” or “cornflakes chivda.” I can personally assure you, it definitely brings the heat and it’s pretty darn accurate!


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yields: 4 cups

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. neutral oil

4 cups cornflakes

2 tsp. chili powder (more to taste)

⅛ tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. garam masala (spice blend available at most grocery stores in the international foods section)

¼ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground Sichuan peppercorns

1½ tsp. smoked paprika

5-10 fresh curry leaves

Salt to taste (1-2 tsp)

2 birds eye chiles, sliced (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the neutral oil.

  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the curry leaves and the sliced chilis (add if you would like additional spice). Saute them until the leaves are crisp and almost translucent and the chilis are dry. Be careful as the seeds of the chilis may pop and jump out of the pan, so keep your distance!

  3. Mix all of the spices and 1 tsp. of salt in a small bowl.

  4. Add your spice mix to the skillet and let it bloom in the hot oil for 10-20 seconds. Don’t let them burn (they should still be red).

  5. Lower the heat and add all of your cornflakes. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to coat them. Be careful not to break the cornflakes in the process.

  6. Take the pan off the heat once the flakes are well coated.

  7. Taste, and if needed, toss with more salt while still hot.

  8. Store in an airtight container or enjoy while still warm.

Notes:

Adjust the amount of chili powder, Sichuan peppercorns, and bird’s eye chilis to your preference (read: I am not liable if you burn your tongue off so be careful!)

The dry spice blend is incredibly versatile! Use it as a rub for your protein of choice, toss it over popcorn, or add it to a warm soup or sauce!

If you’d like, you can also toast golden raisins and/or nuts with the curry leaves!

Pairs well with Uncle Iroh’s finest jasmine tea and a Netflix subscription to relive the best moments.


Binging with Babish recipe for those up to the challenge: https://www.bingingwithbabish.com/recipes/avatar-fire-flakes

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