One probably doesn’t think of food as playing a major role in the Jurassic Park films, but I beg to differ. Among the many scenes in the first installment that scarred me as a young child (on further reflection, age six was probably too young for a first viewing), one in particular permanently put me off Jell-O.
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In it, brother and sister Tim and Lex Murphy are left in an abandoned restaurant while Dr. Alan Grant goes to find the others. They chow down on a glistening array of cakes and other treats — including, critically, a wobbly bowl of lime-green Jell-O. That’s when Tim notices the look of fear in Lex’s eyes. The spoonful of Jell-O in her hand shakes. Then, the realization: Velociraptors can open doors. Cue panic! I haven’t been able to eat Jell-O since.
This is all to say that when I learned that Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook
was set for an April 12 release, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. Naturally I had to wrangle an advance copy.
On first glance, the book looks like a souvenir you buy straight from Jurassic Park kiosk, complete with facts about dinosaurs, places to spot them at the park, and of course, lots of dino-themed recipes “from the chef’s most popular and guest’s most requested drinks and dishes. ”
Cracking open the book, I found chapters themed by different kinds of dinosaurs and where they “reside” in the park: “Eats for Herbivores” is all vegan and vegetarian dishes from the grassy Gyrosphere Valley; “Marine Meals” is seafood-themed, a nod to the Jurassic World Lagoon; and “Cretaceous Cuisine” includes dishes inspired by the Cretaceous Cruise, which happens to mean the flavors of Central America. If Jurassic World were real (hey, we can dream!), It certainly seems like its food options would rival Disney’s Epcot Center. An unfortunate bummer, however: I noticed that only about half of the cookbook’s included recipes are accompanied by photos, which was a little frustrating.
Flipping through the pages, I found plenty of theme park-appropriate fare. There’s the T-Rex Kingdom Turkey Leg, a buttered-up, gigantic hunk of meat only fit for the most voracious of carnivores; sticky Amber Lollipops, complete with a preserved “mosquito” recreated with poppy seeds; and the Instagrammable Ceratops Pastry Crests, which are sweet, cinnamon-scented, apple-filled puff pastries molded into the shape of a Sinoceratop’s skull. (I can only imagine that Ceratops Pastry Crests would achieve Universal Studios’ Butter Beer-level cult status if Jurassic Park actually existed.)
Personally, I was most drawn to dinner party-appropriate dishes including the Armored Artichoke Plates, an homage to Stegosaurus spikes. Naturally I had to try it out. I steamed the artichokes in a fragrant bath of lemon juice, garlic, and herbs, before quartering and cleaning out their fuzzy chokes. Once plated, the artichokes indeed looked spiky and tough — just like the tough skin of a dinosaur. But the flavor was not nearly as intimidating. Paired with a creamy-yet-spicy garlic mustard aioli, the plate quickly became extinct, I mean disappeared.
Next up, Volcanic Hummus proved to be a sleeper hit. The book features two versions, neither with the traditional chickpeas; instead, one is made with a base of red lentils, the other with black. I made the red lentil version, which is accented with roasted red peppers and paprika.
It didn’t have characteristic creaminess of regular hummus, but one imagines that the slightly-chunky texture is reminiscent of the muddy path Dr. Ellie Satler runs through when Robert Muldoon realizes the raptors are hunting them. Jokes aside, it tasted pretty great thanks to the unexpected addition of vegetable bouillon paste, which lent a rich umami flavor I’ve never tasted in hummus. I served the red lentil hummus with Root Vegetable Chips — the recipe for them is also included in the book–which fittingly looked like fossilized slivers of sweet potato.
Meanwhile, the Jurassic Dog added a beautiful dash of color to my table. It’s the park’s take on a classic hot dog, slathered in a fiery homemade ketchup made with chipotle peppers. The quick-pickled veggies — a spicy combo of carrots, cauliflower, jalapeño, radish, garlic, peppercorns, and herbs — made for a vibrant relish. The whole dish is spicy, zesty, snappy, and colorful with major vacation vibes.
My favorite dessert proved to be the Dino Tracks Shortbread Cookie. I love shortbread cookies, and this one was no exception with a soft texture and buttery, vanilla-forward flavor. (My cookies came out with a slightly more cake-like texture than traditional shortbread cookies, but I didn’t mind one bit.) I especially loved the addition of a smear of dark, creamy chocolate, which contributed a hit of bitterness that balanced. the cookies’ sugary notes. But the decorations are what truly makes this treat shine. The recipe encourages readers to use the feet of a dino toy (I used a butter knife) to indent little track marks across the cookies. Visually, they’re just so fun — they look like if the little dinosaurs from this scene dipped their feet in chocolate and scampered across the baking sheet.
Even if you don’t plan on cooking up a feast fit for a ravenous raptor, Jurassic Park superfans and amateur paleontologists will certainly find this cookbook delightful. As for me? I fully intend on borrowing some recipes for a dinner party timed to the next movie in the franchise, Jurassic World Dominion, which is set to hit theaters on June 10.
But rest assured: No Jell-O will be served.
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