Thursday, November 25, 2010

Potato Roll Starter. Thanksgiving 2010.

Hopefully, by tomorrow at dinner we'll all be feasting on the potato rolls that shall yield from this yeasty, bubbly bread starter that I lovingly crafted from a recipe posted by Donald Link. Yes, despite diet fads and talk of "evil carbs" and the legions of haters who have sworn of bread products of all kinds, I cannot give it up. Especially on Thanksgiving, I'm always looking for the warm rolls.... slathered in that other hated food product--butter! C'mon! What is life without warm, buttered rolls! Stay tuned for the final product.

Home cook. And, proud. Happy Thanksgiggling...


Friday, November 19, 2010

Spicy Video Extra: From the Archives - Chicken Breast Dumplings--Not a Hoax!

When the first cold rains come through the Bay Area, I spend a day making dumplings. The kitchen table transforms into an assembly line centered around an enormous stainless-steel bowl of dumpling filling-- traditionally, a ground pork, shrimp, gingery-oniony mixture. Beside the bowl I set up the filling station: wonton skins piled on a cutting board and draped with damp paper towels to keep them from drying out, a wet hand-towel for cleaning the raw meat off things, teaspoons (one for scooping in, one for scooping out!), egg-white... I stack a few Billie Holiday albums in the player, crack the window for air and to listen to the rain, and then get to work...

Filling with just the right amount and effectively crimping (the seam will not open when steamed, boiled, fried or attacked by small, vicious beasts) dumplings by hand takes practice. Especially if you want a fancy scalloped crimp like you see in dim-sum houses. Something seemingly simple enough for children, can be a baffling and annoying practice even if you choose to follow the "How to fill wonton wrappers" directions on the back of many packets of skins. These "How-to" drawings, also explained (uselessly, to me, at least) in Chinese are the biggest step-by-step line drawing hoax known to the human race... unless you want your dumplings to resemble a burrito.

Improving dumpling skills, winter after winter, requires practice. However, the volume of the task is all but a glaring excuse to fix-up a dumpling-filling-fete!

I've been to at least one "all-day dumpling-fest," in New York in my very early twenties: Half-sheet-pans filling up with dumplings, bottles of wine being consumed rapidly, cigarette smoke lingering in from the fire escape, bursts of laughter over failed crimp-n-twist techniques... And, a jar of Nutella being passed around (for eating not filling!). Three girls of Asian persuasion (2 Korean, 1 Filipino) including myself, managed the evening's effort never questioning how the growing mound of pale-yellow dumplings would be consumed.
If you're Asian, you make enough to feed your family-- blood and extended-- even if they're thousands of miles away. If they are far away, you freeze.
One year, I made chicken breast dumplings. A friend had left me a Kitchen Aid sausage attachment, and I was eager to grind my own meat. Chicken breast extruded right into a big stainless bowl with the rest of my dumpling filling mix of green onions, garlic, S&P and drizzles of toasted sesame oil. (A bit healthier than the traditional pork; much more substantial than veggie versions.)

Once again, armed with teaspoons and little bowls of egg white, we filled and crimped, filled and crimped... The silky wonton skins stuffed with slippery raw meat, the skins-edge dotted with egg white and sealed, with a simple pattern, from the tines of a dessert fork.

When the last dumpling was filled, it was nearly midnight. Exhausted, I tossed the dumplings in freezer bags lined with parchment paper. Ready when we are... for soup, pan fry, ravioli or a gently steamed snack.
*Make and freeze your dumplings in November, December and January, then have them available through the rains and just in time for Chinese New Year!
While delicious and simple on their own, chicken breast dumplings don't have as much natural salt as pork or the subtle brine of shrimp, so be sure to put out every Asian condiment on hand: Spicy sriracha sauce, hot chili oil, ponzu, toasted sesame/shoyu/lime/sesame seeds and more!

The Mother of California Chinese Cuisine Cecilia Chiang schools us in Wrapping Wonton's on a Winter's Day... topped with a Sichuan sauce.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New York EAT of Mind.

Scenes from a real conversation between two East Coasters:

On Nov 12, 2010, at 1:41 PM, Spicy wrote:

hey, can you bring me rainbow cookies?!!! please, please, please. Just a small box will do. there's got to be a deli or bakeshop near your mom and even your brother that will have them.. any place that does italian cookies.

it doesn't have to be la delice; it doesn't have to be veniero. some of the best ones i've had were at 2nd ave deli (the new one) and they ordered them in from somewhere. as long as they look fresh and not dry and they have the right colors: yellow, pink and green and not those weird ones that are like orange and blue as well or only orange pink and blue.

xooox i will be your friend forever :)

--- On Fri, 11/12/10, Yumi wrote:
From: Yumi
Subject: Re: Thanksgiving Order_RAINBOW COOKIES?
To: Spicy
Date: Friday, November 12, 2010, 2:40 PM

you are hilarious.and i will also have bagels made fresh that morning in my suitcase, so i will be sure to bring some extra for you - any kind you want in particluar?? i usually get some everythings and some plains...

On Nov 12, 2010, at 5:08 PM, Spicy wrote:
everything, please. but if my bagels are competing for space with my rainbow cookies, pls go for the cookies! also, any fresh rainbow cookies from some random italian/jewish/ny deli are better than no rainbow cookies in the bay area. grazie!! yahoo!! mangia!!

---On Friday, November 12, 2010 5:20 PM Yumi wrote:
you WILL get your cookies!! they were the topic of conversation (where to get them near my mom's house so they are fresh) during dinner tonight.
i came with an extra suitcase, and the one i packed was half empty, just for these kinds of important items, have no fear!!! =)
(i remember your fruitless search for the rainbow cookies in SF - i promise i will not forget them!!!)

i can almost hear you celebrating across the country.......

---On Nov 12, 2010, at 5:32 PM, Yumi wrote:
ps - had a pastrami on rye the other day that was sooooooooooooooooo good i almost slid off my chair. (well, ok, under the booth)

Saturday, November 13, 2010 6:57 AM, Spicy wrote:
Cue Meg Ryan orgasm please


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