NEW YORK — You can work up quite an appetite sitting around a table plotting world domination. Luckily, a new cookbook lets Catan fans savor the board game even more while out-trading opponents.
“Catan: The Official Cookbook “ includes 77 recipes inspired by the multiplayer phenomenon, dishes like Forest Dweller’s Dip, Tavern Ale Pie and Fireside Banana Boats. There are snacks, small plates, full dinners, desserts and even a few drinks.
“We wanted them to be fun, but real. This is a real cookbook. There are recipes in here that you can and should definitely make. It’s not just a gimmick or a gag gift by any means,” says Casie Vogel, vice president of editorial at Ulysses Press.
The recipes pay homage to the game, in which competitors try to build settlements on a fictional island using five resources: wool, grain, lumber, brick and ore.
The cookbook includes dishes with lamb, to honor the wool, while there are a few that call for bricks: Brick Smash Burger, Chicken Under a Brick and Homemade Fudge Bricks. Cast-iron skillets are used in a nod to the game’s use of ore. There’s even a seven-layer dip for gamers who know that rolling a seven can mess with your plans.
“The game is designed to be family-friendly. I know a lot of people play with family, they play with friends. They teach new people to play. And there are people who are extreme Catan gamers,” says Vogel. “We wanted to have recipes that reflected the different levels of dedication.”
Like the game, the cookbook is welcoming of all ages and all skill levels, and includes recipes that are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan. You can whip up a batch of Manchego cheese crackers for friends as you play, or cater a bigger dinner party with the Great Hall Rack of Lamb.
“We have some big dinner feasts-level dishes that I think can also kind of transport you to the Island of Catan,” Vogel says. “You kind of have that feeling of adventuring, maybe something that you would have if you were an explorer, like at a tavern. That’s kind of the vibe we were trying to go with some of those bigger dishes.”
The board game, originally called The Settlers of Catan when introduced in 1995, has sold tens of millions of copies and is available in more than 40 languages. It has spawned dozens of spinoffs and new editions, including electronic versions. It was named by The Wall Street Journal as “the board game of our time.”
Interest in Catan surged during the pandemic, with sales skyrocketing as people played the game in quarantine. Vogel, a board game fan, had been playing Catan for a long time and was admittedly “obsessed” even before 2020.
“But in the pandemic, it was intense. So I know the ins and outs of the game and it was so exciting to talk to other people who are just as passionate about it, and then really make something fun and referential.”
Vogel — along with a recipe creator and a tester — came up with the dishes with the blessing of the game maker, and she calls the process “collaborative.”
“What brings people together? Board games and food… People can share, and it can be a community-building thing. So it just makes all the sense in the world,” said Kelli Schmitz, the brand development director at Catan Studio, which grows the brand.
While cookbooks have been made of games before — Tomb Raider, The Elder Scrolls, Minecraft and Street Fighter, among them — they’re based on video games. Vogel thinks her cookbook might be the first inspired and authenticated by a board game.
One of her favorites is Over-Knight Oats — loaded with bananas, nuts and sweet spices — and she has celebrated victories with Port Wine Spritz, which uses fresh fruit, full-bodied, sweet port and club soda.
The cookbook, which comes out the same month as the Catan U.S. national championships in Minnesota, reflects an aspect of the game that players enjoy — it prizes cooperation over annihilation. Creator Klaus Teuber had grown up in post-WWII Germany and wasn’t interested in war.
“There is a broader sense of community. You have to be a good negotiator. You have to be willing to work with other people. You can’t just be an island unto yourself,” said Schmitz.
Chicken Under a Brick is fast, easy
Everyone knows that one Brick and one Lumber make a road in the game Catan. But what about two bricks and four chicken thighs? That’s the beginnings of an amazingly delicious, yet simple, main dish included in the new “Catan: The Official Cookbook.” Add a lemon, oven, and aluminum foil, and you’re all set. This recipe is fast and easy, and will add some victory points to your cooking game. It is gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and low-fat.
Chicken Under a Brick
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes. From “Catan: The Official Cookbook.”
4 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs (ask your butcher to remove the bones for you)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for coating
2 lemons, halved
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap two bricks in aluminum foil.
2. Season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until very hot. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken skin-side down into the hot pan and place the lemons cut-side down into the pan. Immediately top the chicken with the bricks or, if you don’t have any, a second cast-iron skillet.
Carefully transfer the pan to the oven (oven mitts will be very helpful here.)
4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 155 degrees (it will continue to cook after being removed from the oven).
5. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and squeeze the roasted lemon halves over it.