Review by C.J. Bunce

A new cookbook has the recipes to get you through your travels wherever you are in the ‘Verse.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook pulls together foods seen throughout the series and some just inspired by it with lots of good in-universe commentary from Mal Reynolds and his crew.  I’ve been a fan of the sci-fi series since the San Diego Comic-Con 10th anniversary reunion (discussed here), and have reviewed every tie-in from the series released so far here at borg.  Banter of the crew is a great feature of many of the Firefly books published in the past ten years, and author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel gets all the characters right in her latest cookbook.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is now available for all Browncoats from Titan Books–you can take a look at a preview of recipes below courtesy of Titan Books, and order a copy here at Amazon.

Among all the tie-ins, this is the first foray into the food of the series.  A great focus is placed on the types of meals that make sense in the ‘Verse for a ship’s crew, as well as Joss Whedon’s incorporation of a future filled with Asian influences.  Five-spice is a common seasoning incorporated into the recipes, along with ginger and soy sauce, and that simplicity of nomadic life that underscored the travels of Serenity come through, too, with everyday ingredients, like honey for a sweetener, and white sauce, brown sauce, and biscuits a key component.  You’ll find foods discussed on the series by the crew of Serenity, other foods tangentially seen on screen, with some added in a creative way to fill in the blanks in between.  The author includes appropriate specs for meals with simple ingredients but also some dishes from more extravagant fare (like you might find at a formal shindig on Persephone).  The only way to tell if a cookbook is good is to dig right in.  So I tested four of the recipes that appealed to me the most on paper.

First I made Simon’s Eggy Oat Mush from the Recipes for Shipboard Living section.  This turned out to be a hearty breakfast concoction, a savory oatmeal cooked with veggies, egg, and garlic.  The egg brings the flavors all together and it will fill you up for the day.  It had a unique flavor profile for anyone only accustomed to oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon or other sweeteners–different enough that you could see being stuck on a ship and coming up with this as a staple.  It took only 15 minutes to prepare, and would also make a good dinner side dish.

The prep for River’s Meat Pie could hardly have been simpler.  This recipe was in the Recipes from the Core Worlds–Underbelly section (as opposed to an “upper crust” item).  The result was a tasty dish, highlighted by the right amount of fennel, onion, and garlic, and a perfect pastry dough crust (pictured above, top).  I halved the cookbook recipe and it made four perfect hand pies, great for carrying to lunch any day of the week (think Hostess fruit pies, but savory).  The crust was well-suited for a hand pie, sturdy enough to hold everything in, yet nice and flaky.

Next up was the Blue Sun Canned Peach Cobbler:

If you’ve watched the series you know the Blue Sun label is everywhere.  It’s the corporation known for distribution of all kinds of products, including fruits.  Like canned peaches.  The recipe had a puffy, cake-like cobbler with good cinnamon sauce for the peaches, although I’d have liked more fruit filling.  This was another great dish, (and it didn’t last very long in my house).

My last recipe is the famed Fruity Oaty Bars.  Fans of the show will know these from the advertisements in the Maidenhead bar on Beaumonde–one of the ads for this snack triggered River to start a nice brawl.  Here’s an ad for this very bar from the series:

“Fruity oaty bars make a man out of a mouse”–remember the rest of the jingle?  You’ll be happy to know the bars are as advertised (except no fights broke out).  Made with raspberry jam and a mix of cinnamon, oats and flour, the sweet fruit is balanced by the grains.  Tasty and filling–the recipe calls for nine bars but I cut that back to 16 2″x2″ bars and think that’s the ideal snack size for this recipe.

Altogether these were four very good recipes, and this book will remain in my own kitchen for future culinary projects.

Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook features time to prepare and dietary notes (gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan), with difficulty (easy, middling, complex, and the humorous problematic).  As with any book, you should adapt it to your personal tastes.  That wasn’t difficult with these recipes.  Swap out the lard, as you’d like, and it’s simple to adapt the recipes swapping out beef for vegetarian meat substitutes.

But beware: The book is smartly arranged with enticing photographs that will prompt you to want to make everything.  I may make the dumplings next.   Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook includes 70 recipes.  Other foods in the book you’ll find are mudder’s milk, Zoe’s wife soup–a creamy pea soup, a soldier survival hard cracker, dried spiro-balls, fresh bao, Southdown Abbey couscous, Shepherd’s soup, gunpowder gimlet, and Mama Reynold’s shoo-fly pie.

Here’s a quick look inside, courtesy of Titan Books:

Just released from Titan Books, Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is available now in a full-color hardcover edition here at Amazon.