Cookbooks based off of entertainment properties always intrigued me. Hit up a bookstore around the holidays and you’ll almost always spot one or two of these hardcovers displayed along the wall next to Nigella and Gordon Ramsay. The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook might just be the heftiest game inspired cookbook I’ve held. The only way I could keep my copy open was using my dutch oven lid as a weight.
Outside of FFXIV being an online Final Fantasy game, I had no real point of reference. I don’t know the world or its regions. I’ve never felt inclined to play. Which made reading the descriptions and tasting the food a little more enjoyable. I experienced subtle world building from the very moment I cracked open my copy. From the notes Gyohan and Mogria shared to the ingredients commonly used in regional dishes, Hydaelyn came to life.
Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook: A Breakfast in Two Parts
The first recipe that caught my eye was the La Noscean Toast (pg. 27). Custard soaked bread fried up in a hot pan is the stuff my stomach craves. But in order to make this particular recipe, I was informed I needed to make Walnut Bread (pg. 77). In order to make this loaf, I needed a couple of special items. One of those was bread flour; I know most people don’t keep bread flour in their pantry, but COVID baking had me hooked on scallion buns so I had a bag handy. What I didn’t have was maple cream. This far South, it’s not a common item to come by. I had two choices: wait for some to ship from back home or make my own. Now I have a small jar of homemade maple cream in the fridge that I doubt will last a month.
For all of the recipes in the FFXIV cookbook, I did my best to stick to the directions. Which was a little unfortunate for my walnut bread. Nothing bad happened! But the directions called for the bread hitting an internal temperature of 190F before calling it baked, which over-baked the bottom of my loaf a bit. I typically go with the tried and true clean toothpick rule. Next time I make walnut bread, I think I’ll stick with my toothpick.
Now that I had the bread, it was time to slice it into half-inch slices and let it sit out to get stale. I did my slices in the morning and left them out until it was time to make dinner. (Team breakfast for dinner!) The walnut bread was fairly dense. Paired with the slight overbake at the bottom, I figured this would hold the custard well. And it did. My loaf gave me ten slices of bread (we tried a little bit while it was fresh). Sadly, the recipe does not provide an accurate serving guide. It states “serves four,” but there’s no guidance on how many slices of bread it should use. The amount of custard I dumped out after dredging my bread for over a minute each time was insane. I only used about half of the mix the recipe called for.
La Noscean Toast is perfect if you need a heavy meal to start your day. It is also great if it’s time to carbo-load. Drizzle some of the maple cream you used in the bread and then again in the custard mix on top of your finished product. Just make sure you have something savory to go with it. The sweetness becomes cloying without something to cleanse your palate.
Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook: Things That Start With “P”
If I had to pick one of the recipes I made as my favorite, hands down it is the Pork Kakuni (pg. 117). After hours of braising, cubes of pork belly become sweet and savory, melt in your mouth bundles of happiness. Kakuni is a labor of love dish. You’ll most likely only make this for special occasions. The pork goes through two braises; the first braise simmers the pork cubes with aromatics (scallions, fennel, and ginger) for two hours.
Years of making Japanese food instilled in me the importance of skimming the impurities from the liquid. It’s not something Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook lists in the directions. I assume this is because you drain all of this liquid off before it bathes in a sugary soy and dashi base. I also improvised an otoshibuta to drop on top during the last braise. This helps with evaporation and helped keep my cubes from falling apart due to stirring. (Note: I used konbu dashi as my dashi component. This works best if you want the umami of dashi but can’t handle the fishiness you sometimes get from using bonito flakes.)
This turned out better than expected. My spouse and I ate this with rice, drizzling spoons of the final braising liquid over our bowls. It soaked into our rice and was just divine. The recipe called for two pounds of pork belly, my butcher gave me a 2.5 pound piece, and even that didn’t seem to be enough. Granted, we didn’t have a lot of side dishes alongside it. I hadn’t even prepped simple greens like I usually do.
Next up was a take on a familiar food. The Popoto Salad (pg. 57) blends Japanese-style potato salad with the more traditional flavors of its Southern predecessor. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on Kewpie mayo for this one. I went to a trusted Japanese cookbook author for her knock-off Kewpie and added a squirt of classic dijon to the dressing. This particular recipe does seem to forget a couple of steps in the directions. For the roasted zucchini it mentions salt and pepper, but never says when to add it. So I did what I always do. I added the seasonings to the bowl I used to toss the zucchini in olive oil. Once it cooled, I made sure to chop the quarters into smaller diced pieces. The recipe doesn’t mention this, but you want everything to be bite-sized in a potato salad.
Another winner! Especially once the popoto salad has had a while to hang out in the fridge. We ate it with chicken katsu from our favorite katsu place and it was the perfect compliment. I live in the South now and have embraced some of the customs. Fried chicken + potato salad = bliss.
Is It Bookshelf Worthy?
Knowledge of Final Fantasy XIV isn’t necessary to enjoy the recipes in this cookbook. Everything I’ve made so far has been a hit. Several of these are familiar dishes renamed to reflect the regions they are said to originate from. For example, Cawl Cennin (pg 87) is better known as potato leek soup. It’s delicious as hell, but because of the name it might feel intimidating to some. Its ingredients may also scare you off. Don’t let them! Milks and sugars can be swapped with any substitutes that fit your dietary needs. I didn’t let making maple cream or knock-off Kewpie scare me. There are so many great recipes in Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook that you can adapt as make-ahead lunches or serve as fancy dinners with friends. No one even needs to know you made that beautiful roast duck centerpiece based off a video game. With food this good, I’m surprised the residents of Hydaelyn aren’t taking more afternoon naps.
The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Online Cookbook is now available.