Takka’s After-Hours Chili

takka“Y’all wanna fetch some edibles for me?”

—Takka, FFXV

This one isn’t listed on the menu at Takka’s Pit Stop, probably because one of the main ingredients is whiskey. But if you can get on Takka’s good side, he might offer you a bowl after hours.

Make sure you buy Spanish chorizo, not Mexican chorizo (they’re quite different). If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, you can substitute another cured and smoked sausage like salami. The spicier the better!

Finally, when you’re done cutting up the pork shoulder, save the bone in your freezer for stock. I usually have a big bag with vegetable ends, chicken bones, and other assortments. When it gets full, I dump it into a pot, add water, and simmer low for a few hours. Homemade stock is one of the best things you can do to improve your cooking, and it’s easy.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 to 4 pound pork shoulder, bone removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 to 8 ounces raw bacon (half a package), cut into ½” strips
  • 1 large onion or two small onions, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 14-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 14-oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  •  4 cups chicken broth
  • 200 ml whiskey such as Jim Beam, divided
  • 4 ounces Spanish chorizo, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
  • Sour cream
  • Chives

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. Add onions and celery and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Stir in beans, chipotles, cumin, broth, and ½ cup whiskey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours, until pork is tender.

Stir in chorizo and remaining ¼ cup whiskey. Simmer, uncovered, until flavors are blended, about 10 minutes more. Stir in cilantro. Ladle into bowls and serve with sour cream and chives. Makes about 9 servings.


Costa Del Sol Carnitas Tacos

Cloud and Mukki in Costa Del Sol“Damn! Sure is hot here! But I sure feel better now that I can say good-bye to this sailor suit.”

—Barret Wallace, FFVII

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 32 corn tortillas
  • 1 red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 4 thinly sliced red radishes
  • 8 limes, cut into wedges
  • Flaky sea salt

Place the pork in a casserole dish. Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sprinkle all over the pork. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 90 minutes.

Peel most of the papery outer skin from a whole head of garlic, leaving the bulb intact. Trim a half-inch off the top to expose the cloves inside. Repeat with the second bulb. Tuck the bulbs between the pork pieces, cut sides facing up, and drizzle with olive oil.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Turn the pork pieces and bake for 30 more minutes, until internal temperature reaches about 200 degrees.

Remove the casserole dish from the oven and allow the pork to cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the meat, removing bits of fat. Warm the tortillas over the stove.

Serve tacos with cabbage, avocado, and radishes. Squeeze a lime wedge and some soft garlic on top before eating and sprinkle with sea salt. Makes 32 tacos, enough to serve 8–10 people.

Dali Pumpkin Ale Stew

Art designs for cups in FFIX“I’ve got better things to do than hang out at the pub.”

—Zidane, FFIX

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-12 garlic cloves (1 bulb), peeled and halved
  • 2 serrano chile peppers, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3–4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 22-ounce bottle of pumpkin ale, such as Coronado Punk’In Drublic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • About 2 pounds fresh or canned chopped tomatoes and their juices
  • 2 14-oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 14-oz. cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 14-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • ½ oz. dried chiles guajillos, stems removed (about 2–4 peppers)
  • ¼ oz. dried chiles de arbol, stems removed (about 8–12 peppers)
  • ¾ oz. cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Fresh corn tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped red onion
  • Lime wedges

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, serrano peppers, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the garlic is turning golden. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Slowly pour in the beer, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and increasing the heat. Add broth, tomatoes, and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in oregano, sugar, and dried chiles, and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours.

Remove from heat and discard chiles. Stir in cilantro and apple cider vinegar. Ladle into bowls and serve with tortillas, sour cream, red onion, and lime wedges.

Makes about 12 heaping 1-cup servings.  Per serving (does not include tortillas and sour cream): 450 calories, 14.3 g. fat, 3.9 g. saturated fat, 1.6 g. poly. fat, 7.6 g. mono. fat, 88.7 mg. cholesterol, 1282.9 mg. sodium (this will be less if you use homemade chicken stock instead of storebought), 651 mg. potassium, 40.5 g. carbohydrates, 13.2 g. fiber, 39.1 g. protein, vitamin A 6%, vitamin C 16%, calcium 16%, iron 31%

Festival of the Hunt Roast

ZaghnolBreeder: “This year’s specimen is perfect. Nothing can stop him! Ha ha ha! What power!”

Soldier: “Hey, make him stop! It’s too early to let him loose!”

Breeder: “How? I have no control over him.”

Soldier: “Dammit! Open the gate at once! The gate’s gonna fall apart!”

Breeder: “GO, ZAGHNOL!”


This recipe takes all day (and sometimes into the night), so plan ahead and get all your tools and ingredients together the day before. A good-quality digital thermometer is an absolute necessity, and make sure you have enough wood to keep the fire going for 12 hours! If you don’t have access to a grill, you can also cook the pork in the oven, but you’ll lose that special flavor that comes from the wood smoke.

  • 1 Boston butt (bone-in pork shoulder roast, 4 to 6 pounds)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt per pound of meat
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Barbecue sauce (Mandragora Jam works well)
  • 10 to 12 hamburger buns

Begin 12 to 24 hours before you plan to start cooking. Trim most of the fat, but not all, leaving about 1/8″. Pork butt often comes tied with butcher’s twine to keep them from falling apart. If yours is not already tied, tie it with twine. Wash and thoroughly dry the meat, then salt it and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare a grill or smoker for indirect heat. Place cumin seed, fennel seed, mustard seed, and coriander in a grinder and grind fine. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in chili powder, onion powder, and paprika. Wet the meat all over with water and cover with the rub.

Place the meat fat-side down on the grill and cook at 225 degrees for about 10–12 hours, checking once per hour to make sure fuel is sufficient and smoker temperature is under 250 degrees. For the first couple of hours, you can also add a handful of hickory or cherry wood chips every half-hour or so, if desired.

The meat is done when temperature at the very center reaches at least 195 degrees. Transfer the pork roast to a cutting board, loosely tent it with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves if desired, pull off and discard any skin from the meat, then pull the pork into pieces, discarding any bones or fat. Using your fingertips or a fork, pull each piece of pork into shreds 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide.

Serve on hamburger buns with barbecue sauce on the side for topping. Fried in a little fat, leftovers make great carnitas tacos the next day.

Tsenoble Pork Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce

Vaan taking the cab to Tsenoble“Good to be back, eh? My regards to your lord father, Master Ffamran… er, rather, Master ‘Balthier.’ Anon, anon.”

—Jules, FFXII

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 2 pounds)
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 7 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g.) prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g.) Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tablespoon (7 g.) Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Crystal
  • Snipped chives (optional)

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add pork and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, turning and seasoning occasionally, until all sides are golden and crispy, about 40–45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the horseradish sauce. Mix together the yogurt, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and chives. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Check the tenderloin’s internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Continue cooking and turning until thermometer inserted in center registers 140–145 degrees. Remove and let rest about 5 minutes. Slice into ½-inch-thick medallions and serve with horseradish sauce.

After you’ve finished eating, hand wash your cast-iron skillet with water and a soft sponge, then dry immediately and rub with a light coat of vegetable oil, such as grapeseed. Any leftover horseradish sauce goes great with smoked salmon and crackers, or on a baked potato.

Lunar Lentil Soup II

Baron Castle“Oh man, the moon… outer space… my dreams…”

—Cid Highwind, FFVII

The finishing touch on this soup is a pre-made salad from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have that store near you, try choosing a similar salad from another grocery store, or substitute 3 ounces of baby spinach, 3 ounces of cooked quinoa, 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, and 4 tablespoons of ginger-sesame salad dressing.

This recipe uses three sausages from a 1-lb. package. To use the remaining two sausages, see Landisian Cider Stew or Wakka’s Fried Rice.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion or two small onions, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 10 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 3 hot Italian pork sausages, uncooked, casing removed and cut into 1″ pieces (about 10 oz. total)
  • 2½ cups dry brown lentils (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1½ lb. zucchini, chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 1 Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad

Heat butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Stir frequently and reduce heat if the onions are browning too quickly. Add carrots and mushrooms and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Add sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils and continue cooking for another minute. Add tomatoes and seasonings and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour in broth, stir well, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very tender, about 2 hours. Stir in zucchini and the entire contents of the spinach salad, including the dressing. Remove from heat and serve.

Makes about 14 heaping 1-cup servings. Per serving: 284 calories, 10.9 g. fat, 3.1 g. saturated fat, 0.5 g. poly. fat, 1.9 g. mono. fat, 17.9 mg. cholesterol, 967.8 mg. sodium (this will be less if you use homemade chicken stock instead of storebought broth), 598.1 mg. potassium, 32.3 g. carbohydrates, 12.2 g. fiber, 14.9 g. protein, vitamin A 34%, vitamin C 31%, calcium 6%, iron 21%

Rozarrian Pork Stew

Ashe and Al-Cid“You must permit me to take you back with me to Rozarria.”

—Al-Cid Margrace, FFXII

This is a useful recipe when you have meat left over from a barbecue. Because the pork shoulder was cooked with a spice rub, I didn’t include any additional seasonings. If you’re using a less strongly seasoned meat, you could include a tablespoon of smoked paprika or chili powder.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 head of garlic (about 8-12 cloves), peeled and halved
  • 1 large carrot or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 6 oz. cooked chorizo, andouille, or other spicy smoked sausage, cut into ½” rounds
  • 1 lb. cooked pork shoulder
  • 1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 10 oz. chopped kale
  • 2 15-oz. cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and sausage. Cook for about 15 minutes, until sausage is browned on all sides.

Stir in the pork, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the pork shoulder is very tender.

Stir in kale and chickpeas and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

(Al-Cid recommends serving this stew with crusty bread and an ample quantity of full-bodied red wine, such as Tempranillo.)

Makes about 7 heaping 1-cup servings.  Per serving: 450 calories, 21.4 g. fat, 6.3 g. saturated fat, 1.9 g. poly. fat, 9 g. mono. fat, 75.6 mg. cholesterol, 1231.2 mg. sodium (this will be less if you use homemade chicken stock instead of storebought), 535.5 mg. potassium, 35 g. carbohydrates, 9 g. fiber, 28.2 g. protein, vitamin A 72%, vitamin C 87%, calcium 12%, iron 30%