Test Kitchen: Mooseballs, Brownies, and Assassins (oh, my!)

Jen and Éric Desmarais are the husband-and-wife writing team behind the new adult series The Gates of Westmeath and its first book, Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (Renaissance Press). They’re also dynamos in the kitchen; check out their recipes for two dishes found in the book: stuffed mooseballs and a chocolate and chilli brownie. Is it lunchtime, yet?


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When writing about the restaurant Amontillado in Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers, we wanted a place that both Bruce Wayne and James Bond would feel comfortable. Somewhere that had the atmosphere of a party, but the sophistication of haute-cuisine.
The food itself needed to be elevated but also diverse. We wanted something that reflected the city of Westmeath, but also our main character’s personality and love of food.

Stuffed mooseballs

The food was a fusion of Aboriginal, North American Italian, and Creole cuisines. […] Kennedy ordered, with Jason’s guidance, the Stuffed Mooseballs, which were moose meatballs in a primavera sauce stuffed with mushrooms and mozzarella.
‘This is amazing,’ Kennedy said, after trying both dishes.–p211, Assassins! Accidental MatchmakersStuffed moose balls is a variation of an exploding meatball that Éric had developed for an all-day marathon of Good Omens a few years ago. He adapted it to have more of an Aboriginal and creole flavour profile and it turned out pretty well. We’re fairly sure that Alice (the Amontillado executive chef) would be appalled by our presentation, but it was delicious.IngredientsMeatball
  • 500g ground moose or venison (extra lean ground beef is okay too)
  • 150g ground pork or bacon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chives or green onion stems
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Primavera Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or half and half)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Smoked salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
InstructionsMake the meatballs
  1. Combine ground moose, ground pork, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, chives, cayenne, celery salt, and paprika in a large bowl. Don’t overwork.
  2. Mix mushrooms and mozzarella together.
  3. Take 1 tablespoon of mushroom and mozzarella mix and wrap a quarter cup of meat mixture around it.
  4. Place on a greased baking sheet.
  5. Cook in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Make the primavera sauce
  1. Add butter, chicken broth, and cream to a pan.
  2. Bring to a simmer and stir in cheese.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, mint, and allspice.
  1. Toss meatballs and primavera sauce with pasta or serve with a side of plain wild rice.
Makes 12 balls.

Chocolate chilli brownie

The chocolate and chilli brownie was an idea that came to Éric when he was enjoying some dark chocolate he’d gotten for Christmas. The recipe is a simple brownie with real chocolate, but he added some allspice and chillies to spice things up.
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9 baking dish. Set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish, melt butter and chocolate chips. Microwave 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat until creamy.
  3. Whisk both the sugars into the chocolate and add the eggs, one at a time, whisking constantly, until evenly combined. Next, mix in the vanilla until smooth. Stir in the salt, cayenne, chilli flakes, and flour until they’re evenly incorporated. Stir in the mini chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted 2 inches from the side comes out clean.
  5. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.

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Jen and Éric Desmarais have been helping each other with writing projects since 2006. It took a worldwide pandemic for them to realize how much less effort it would be if they worked on the same thing. This is surprising since they have been collaborating on business projects for several years under the name JenEric Designs.They are currently planning several more interconnected novels, short stories, and who knows what else.They live in Ottawa, Canada, with their two children and several thousand books.You can find more about them at jeneric-designs.ca


Many thanks to Jen and Éric for their mouthwatering recipes inspired by Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (Renaissance Press) – we’re cleaning brownie batter off our keyboards as we speak.For more Test Kitchen, click here.