Today we have a very special edition of my favorite segment: A-Train Eats. I plan to make a recipe directly out of the text of A Dance with Dragons the 5th novel of George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire.
Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire Martin gives his reader’s detailed descriptions of the various dishes on which his characters dine. I am an ardent reader when it comes to A Game of Thrones and the books that followed, but it wasn’t until the 5th novel that a dish truly caught my attention. That dish is sister’s stew.
Ser Davos Seaworth is on a mission from Stannis to treat with Wyman Manderly, the Lord of White Harbor. The pirate Sallador Saan is supposed to be the one escorting him, but Saan has a change of Heart and chooses to abandon Stannis. Davos is put off the boat near the islands of the Three Sister’s and ends up on the Isle of Sweetsister. On Sweetsister he gets captured and brought before the Lord of the Isle, a man named Godric Borrell.
He shouted, and a woman entered the hall. “We have a guest to feed. Bring beer and bread and sister’s 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. Davos spooned it up gratefully.
The first time that I read this passage I knew the stew would one day be in my belly, and it has. I’ve made sister’s stew multiple times before, but now by making it on Christmas Eve, I solidify it as a Christmas dish in my mind. It’s basically the Die Hard of food for me now.
Ok so how do you make it? First, let me give you the base recipe I used this time. This is a different recipe than ones I used in past attempts and I think it came out the best.
Notes/Alters to this recipe.
1. I didn’t bother with the barley. I might bother with it in the future but I have a hard time imagining it improving the stew.
2. Saffron, in the book, sister’s stew contains the rare spice saffron, this is because Lord Godric happened to have ship carrying spices wreck on his shores. In the wreckage, was a pound of saffron. Now I used Saffron in this recipe before and I didn’t think it added to the overall dish other than to make it yellow in color. Still, I think the dish deserves a rare spice for authenticity. So instead of saffron, I used truffle salt over regular salt when salting the stew. This was a fantastic idea and the truffle flavor paired perfectly with the flavors of the stew. (Shoutout to Market Spice for the Truffle Salt.)
3. I live near the Pike Place fish markets and I have great access to fresh seafood. Fresh Seafood is key in good sister’s stew. I don’t advise using canned clams or imitation crab meat. It’s disrespectful to the recipe, the people in the town of Sisterton don’t use canned or imitation meat. If you want true sister’s stew you must use the real McCoy. I got 1/3 of a lb of Dungeness crab meat, 2 lbs of fresh clams, and a lb of lingcod. The total at the fish monger’s was about 50 dollars. A bit pricey but that’s why you make it a Christmas tradition, the splurge becomes acceptable. (2 lbs of clams is not a lot once you get them out of the shells)
4. I used more wine and more butter than this recipe calls for. I also added a shallot.
5. Use good bread. This stew is deserving of a quality loaf. Give each person a bread bowl and people will be happy.
I have cooked a great many dishes in my day, but this one might be my favorite. It was fun to make and a joy to eat. I went back for seconds and then thirds. If you choose to make this for Christmas then your guests will be doing the same. It is an incredible winter recipe. I will be making it every Christmas Eve/Christmas from here on out. I don’t need ham or goose, give me the sister’s stew.