Ah, the majestic direwolf, a symbol seen in equal measures in the North and on bumper stickers all over my neighborhood (usually hybrids for some reason). Now I should note before we really dig into our recipe that the direwolf is basically the same as a warg, which there are numerous (and better) hobgoblin barbecue recipes for. But since the direwolf is a human symbol, we’ve decided to stick to the more traditional human cooking methods.
After kicking them up a notch, of course. And while many of the techniques we use at Bugbear BBQ are either for show or to wring that extra 1% moisture and flavor from our feasts, in the case of direwolf, you need to pull out all the stops just to make it palatable.
Because, and I say this without a hint of hyperbole, direwolf is the worst meat out there, no matter what realm you call home. Why? Because, like their more diminutive natural cousins the wolf, a direwolf is basically a scavenger. Yes, they certainly can hunt, but that’s not where the majority of their meals come from. So, no matter how noble they look all silhouetted against the northern lights, a direwolf is basically a four-legged garbage disposal.
And, if your mother is anything like mine, you know that “you are what you eat.” Which is, again, garbage.
So, if we had our druthers, we would never touch direwolf again. But since there’s been lot of requests for this recipe coming out of the upper Riverlands, we thought we’d take it as a challenge to create a great meal out of gross meat.
Searching for the most tender cut is a bit difficult for direwolf. With most animals, you would go for the cheek, but since direwolves have massive jaws they use daily, this cut is tougher than most. As such, the only real option is the loin.
Okay, even I admit there are some random things on my counter.
Again, direwolf tastes horrible, and is gamier than an international D&D convention, so we’re going to have to get around that somehow. The best option is to soak your meat in saltwater as soon as it’s harvested. A 1:1 ratio of salt to water works best, but the tears of Game Of Thrones fans when episode nine of the first season rolls around will also suffice.
Milk, for some reason, is also a top choice, though mostly among the Freys, who for some reason always remind me of the McPoyles. So you can take that advice with a grain of salt. Or glass of milk.
Secondly, we at Bugbear BBQ straight up go all Barry Bonds on our meat with an injection of beef broth mixed with good ol’ fashioned MSG at a ½ teaspoon per pound of meat. Not only will this give you that little last burst of umami awesomeness, but it helps make the meat a lot juicer.
For the rub proper, we use the same mixture as for our Smoked Troll: Mix 2 tablespoons (TBS) black pepper, 1 TBS white sugar, 1 TBS garlic powder, & 4 tsp chipotle powder.
In addition to that terrible gamey flavor, direwolf is as tough as the lands it hails from. So that’s why we sous vide it at 150 degrees for two full days before finishing it off in the smoker at 300 for three hours for a nice crust.
But since you probably don’t have a sous vide out with you on the battlefield (where I’m sure your direwolf was ethically harvested), it can also be done entirely on the smoker, though it won’t be nearly as tender. Set your smoker for 225 and hunker down, because this cook can take up to 8 hours until your meat reaches an internal temperature of 115. Once it does, sear it by putting it over the fire and flipping every 5 minutes until it reaches a temperature of 135.
Oak is usually used, but if you really want a sacrilicious treat, try the wood of a heart tree. If you smoke the face, it’s extra delicious.
And yes, we know this is a lot of work for what is only a few pounds of meat. Meat that’s not even really that great to begin with. But we’ve really given it our best here.
Sauce, Sides, & Pairings
To get over the gamey flavor, we go with a Cumberland Sauce.
Traditional sides include “a thin leek soup, followed by a salad of green beans, onions, and beets, river pike poached in almond milk, mounds of mashed turnips that were cold before they reached the table, jellied calves’ brains, and a leche of stringy beef.”
Wine, beer, mead and even more wine are traditional, but I would suggest forgoing them. Especially if you see Roose sippin’ on some hippocras…