Want to horrify all the hungry guests attending your next dinner party? Then you might want to check out the new Dead Delicious Horror Cookbook! Written by Kitchen Overlord Chris-Rachael Oseland, who is the author of a number of other genre cookbooks as well, this new book features 69 recipes that each look like human body parts, so you’ll both be eager to eat them and slightly horrified to do so thanks to their appetizingly grisly appearance.
From torsos and ribcages to ears and guts, Oseland has developed an impressive range of recipes for the book. Despite what they might resemble, they aren’t just for carnivores either. There are paleo, gluten-free, and vegan recipes, and 90 percent of them are vegetarian. Flipping through a digital copy of the book (Disclosure: Copy was provided free for review), the recipes all sound quite delicious, even if there is a bit of a disconnect when you see the stunning pictures provided for some. These are dishes whose presentations as much as taste will most likely be memorable to anyone who eats them! The book also embraces its horror theme by featuring blood splatter on its pages, so you won’t forget during your cooking what the gruesome end results will be.
We spoke with Oseland over email about how she came up with the idea for the cookbook, how she created the recipes, and more!
How did the idea for the cookbook come about?
Chris-Rachael Oseland: It started as a Walking Dead cookbook back in 2013. A competing book came out right before mine was supposed to go to press. Theirs was full of beautifully photographed nachos and sliders held by a sexy male model with a vest and crossbow. Mine was full of recipes that looked like body parts. Even though they were completely different books, the nerd cookbook writing community is so small I didn't want to mow someone else's lawn.
By the time I shelved the project, I was hooked on making food that looks like body parts. I know it sounds crazy, but once you get into the groove, you start seeing everything through Hannibal's eyes. I'd post these recipes on Kitchen Overlord around Halloween. Readers loved them, so this year, I decided to drop all the Walking Dead specific recipes (so no pudding, for example) in favor of assembling all the edible scraps of human bodies I'd made over the years into [a] single creature—this cookbook!
Why was this a cookbook you wanted to put together?
Chris-Rachael: Did you watch Hannibal? ;)
OK, seriously, Halloween is Nerd Christmas. All holidays come with copious amounts of ritualized food. For Halloween, most of the food is aimed at small children, which feels a little weird when you're at a party full of single adults in their 20-40s. I wanted to make something that was gory enough to genuinely scare some people on Halloween (the plum ears and bloody banana guts are particularly effective) but inclusive enough that all the picky grownups at your party could partake. I live for challenges like that.
How did you come up with these 69 recipes? What was your process like for creating them?
Chris-Rachael: I actually came up with dozens more. This would've been well over 100 but I maxed out my page count. I'm always amazed when I look at 140 page cookbooks that only have 50 recipes and pages upon pages of filler. Each page costs money to print, and as a small press, that means I can't afford to waste any space.
I'm not kidding when I say once you start thinking in terms of body parts, it's hard to stop. Hey, that bone-in roast would make a great human thigh substitute. Oh man, the beets this season are finally the size of a human heart! Y'know, if you trim them just right shrimp look a lot like human ears. I still find myself looking at things through that filter. Now that pomegranates are in season I so wish I could've used the seeds as blood in some recipes.
What were some of the challenges you faced when working on the book? Was making the book 90 percent vegetarian challenging when it came to certain recipes?
Chris-Rachael: Thank you for this question! Honestly, no. I'm a second-generation nerd. I know you can't get four of us together without having five dietary restrictions, so from my very first book in 2012 (Dining With The Doctor: The Unauthorized Whovian Cookbook) I've included an index for dietary restrictions. For Dead Delicious, I experimented with putting what diet each recipe could accommodate right there on the page instead of in a separate list. I'm curious which method readers will prefer.
Once you get into the habit of thinking look, at least 1/3 of the recipes in this book have to be paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan, you realize there's a massive amount of overlap. A lot of recipes can fit two or more of those categories. As a recipe developer, my default is to gravitate towards recipes that can feed the most people. There are plenty of websites out there dedicated to wrapping bacon around cheese and frying it. People come to me for a Hot Toddy Pie you can not only set on fire, but also serve to your vegetarian and gluten-free friends. My regular readers know my niche is as much dietary-restriction-inclusiveness as it is nerdy recipes.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the book? If you do, which one is it and why is it your favorite?
Chris-Rachael: Charlotte's Royale Brain. It's a stupidly complicated two day French recipe, but the moment I saw it on Great British Bake Off, well, to be honest I started my first one that night. It came out beautifully. I think Mary Berry would approve. Looking at it, though, I knew I was just a couple teaspoons of food coloring away from an elegant dish people joked about looking kind of brain-like to fancy French food cosplaying as an actual brain.
You've created a number of other cookbooks as well inspired by certain genres and properties. What do you enjoy most about creating recipes inspired by a specific genre?
Chris-Rachael: I'm inspired by limitations. The higher the fences, the more creative I get. Fandom cookbooks are perfect for that. Come up with seven different ways to make an easily recognizable TARDIS, only one of which can be a dessert, and using no fondant. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Oh, and you need at least one each of paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and carnivore-friendly. OK! Now my brain is in overdrive and I'm really looking at food, thinking about the chemistry, and getting really revved up by the challenge. Honestly, it's no different than Tudor chefs who were challenged to make a different cockentrice for every banquet. People have always delighted in food that tells a story and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Anything about the cookbook I haven't touched on that you want to mention?
Chris-Rachael: I want people who are kitchen-shy to see really fun food and say, "just this once, I'm going to actually try cooking" because damn, they want one of those! I've had a lot of good fortune coaxing cooking-shy people into the kitchen with weirdness. Once they see it as a cheap crafting project it takes some of the fear away. That's one of the reasons I made sure to include a couple really easy no-bake recipes. Sure, the Charlotte Royale takes two days, but the Withered Zombie Eyes and Bleeding Banana guts are cheap, low-effort, high-impact recipes. I've met a lot of fans at cons who say they built up their kitchen confidence making some of the easy recipes from my books and now they're cooking at home a couple times a week and always bring something awesome to nerd parties.
This book in particular is full of really forgiving recipes. After all, they're supposed to look gory! I hope people will get a laugh out of some of the recipes, get the social reward of people being impressed by their food, and build up enough kitchen confidence to try a little scratch cooking.
This is my 7th print book. My 8th, Geek Breads, comes out in December. Books in print include An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, SteamDrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks, Kitchen Overlord's Illustrated Geek Cookbook, Dining With the Doctor: The Unauthorized Whovian Cookbook, Wood for Sheep: The Unauthorized Settlers Cookbook, [and] Kitchen Overlord's Colorable Compendium of Geek History (because yes, these days EVERYONE has a coloring book!)
If you can’t wait to try your hand at one of these horrifically delicious foods, Oseland shared her recipe for Red Velvet Cinnamon Roll Guts with us which you can find below!
Red Velvet Cinnamon Roll Guts
• 1 tbsp yeast
• 1 tbsp brown sugar
• 2 1/2 cups warm water
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp red food coloring
• 1 box Red Velvet cake mix
• 5 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 box Red Velvet cake mix
• ½ cup melted & cooled butter
• 1 cup dark brown sugar
• 1 cup white sugar
• 2 tbsp cinnamon
Vanilla Sugar Glaze
• 4 tbsp melted butter
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2-3 tbsp milk (depending on your preferred thickness)
• 2 - 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
• Pinch table salt
Igor! Fire up the lightning generator! We’ve made so many ears, eyes, and brains – now, my minion, it is time for us to ensure our creation can nourish its mind as well as its body. It needs bravery, strength, and most of all, guts!
Healthy intestinal flora are the key to good health, so mix a tablespoon of yeast with a tablespoon of brown sugar to feed it then resuscitate our sleeping workers with 2 ½ cups of water heated to 105-110F. Whisk it all together until the yeast cheerfully dissolves into its warm bath.
Let it celebrate this new life for about 10 minutes. When the bowl looks like the aftermath of bubble bath poured into sludge, we’re ready for the next stage.
Halfheartedly mix in the salt, red food coloring, and vanilla extract. The really interesting part comes from dumping in the entire box of cake mix and all of the flour.
Keep stirring until the odd dank mess transforms into a dough, then attach the torturous looking dough hook to your stand mixer and let it rip and knead the red flesh for 6-8 minutes, until it becomes a smooth and glossy dough. If you prefer, you can always use your hands for 8-10 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and hide it from the world for an hour. When you return, it should have grown to twice its size.
Take the wind out of it with a single punch. While it’s recovering, spread your largest clean counter with a bit of flour. You’re going to roll the entire wad of dough out until it’s about 18x24 inches.
It seems to clean and dry. Mix your melted butter with brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon until it looks like dirty gravel. Smear the mix over your entire dough. You should end up with a pastry that looks like it has a bad case of road rash.
Roll the entire thing along it’s long side so instead of a big rectangle of gravelly skin you now have a suspicious tube. Cut the entire tube into 2 inch wide slices.
Lube up a 9x13 main pan and an extra 9” round (or 8x8 square) one, because this makes a lot of guts.
Now for the fun part. Gently unravel one of the rolls and loop it along the top of your large pan. You want to create the look of descending intestines with their natural whirls and dead ends and odd passages, so create little bunches of wavy lines in some places, an awkward circle in others, and lots of back and forth across the width of the pan.
You don’t want to pack it in there too tightly. These still need to rise for another hour before they bake. It’s alright if you can see a few gaps down to the bottom of the pan. Just cover it up and wait for another hour. When you come back, the guts will be bursting out.
Pop them into a 350F oven for 24-28 minutes. The flesh will darken and the highest edges will brown slightly, which only adds to the effect.
While the guts bake, create your glaze by whisking together the melted butter, vanilla, salt, powdered sugar, and 2-3 tbsp of milk, depending on how thick you like it. The thicker the glaze, the more it obscures the beautiful red intestines you’ve just worked to create. You can always make extra as a dipping sauce if people prefer their guts extra gooey.