It’s been over six years since I mooned here over a lost dumpling love. Dumplings are kind of a fixation for me; I am unwaveringly convinced that small pockets of food wrapped elegantly in a thin dough are among the universe’s most perfect foods; portable and petite, servings easily scaled, I dare you to find a nutritious food not improved by an adorable doughy package. The vegetable dumplings that I used to get at a chain of otherwise average west side Chinese restaurants were my all-time favorite; before they changed the recipe, I regularly rerouted my day to stop there for an order, and a beer. (Sidebar: Can we talk about how delicious a cold beer in a glass is with potstickers? No, different conversation, huh? Onwards!)
A confession: In spite of my current, ongoing, seeming-like-it-will-never-ever-end condition, I don’t like traditional chicken soup. Obviously, boasting such sacrilege, I am undeserving of your sympathy. Obviously, this is why, four days in, I am still on the sofa on my second box of tissues, chugging down my 20th Brita pitcher of water, my nose as red as a rail-thin starlet at 4 a.m., the bitterness of having a SuperBowl party of one only slightly mitigated by the fact that the Giants triumph–I do not embrace everyones’ grandmother’s sworn-by home remedy.
You know, I had great plans for tonight. As promised, I was going to tell you all about the recipe that didn’t make the cut for my dumplings article on NPR. We’d talk about the history of vareniki, their texture, the process of making them and what a scandalously good meal it was when we had these apricot and walnut vareniki for dessert.
In case I haven’t broadcasted this loudly enough in the 114 entries prior to today, I tend to get a little obsessive in the kitchen when trying to find “perfect” recipes. “Perfect” is always some approximation of an ideal that got etched in my tastebuds in some other time and place — there’s salted butter caramel (Paris), bretzel rolls (a Fresh Direct discovery), frisee with poached eggs (Balthazar, 2003) and one day soon, those truffles from La Maison du Chocolat, as my wee Valentine’s Day supply has rapidly diminished. I know better than to try to go back to such a place and expect the same experiences time after time, but it doesn’t mean I can’t have warming fits of nostalgia when I find a lost flavor on my dinner plate.
Less than six degree’s separation from my absorption with diminutive baked goods is an almost equally powerful obsession with all forms of stuffed dough, from wontons, gyoza and pot stickers to tortellini, ravioli and turnovers. I am a woman obsessed with eating every type of dumpling this big world has to offer; something about the possibility of biting into something both mysterious and fantastic gets me every time, and forgives the fact that no matter how easy a filling is to whip up, one will inevitably be stuffing, crimping, folding, pressing, deflating and sealing up the little guys up for an hour.