Monday, February 19, 2007
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.
Case in point today is the steamed vegetable dumplings from Ollie’s, a small chain of large Chinese restaurants up the west side of Manhattan. Growing up, I was absorbed with them and it’s (of course) my mother’s fault, as she would bring an order of them home for us after spending a day in the city, and I’d have them cold directly from the refrigerator as soon as I woke up the next day. They were perfect: dense but not too heavy, brightly flavored and full of tiny but easily-recognized ingredients — no mystery blend here!
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006
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.
Last night we welcomed dumpling season with a lazy girl’s wild mushroom pirogies, lazy because although pirogi/vareniki dough is quite simple to make, it’s got nothing on the simplicity of tearing open a packet of wonton wrappers. I couldn’t resist cutting them into their proper round shape, however, and with a scalloped-edged cutter to boot so they ended up looking as festive as our wine-drenched spirits felt. Their deep, earthy flavor has little in common with the more-popular potato, meat or cabbage varieties, but this doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the butter-fried onions, vinegar if you are Alex and sour cream if you are me. (Though I have been known to top mine with all of the above, drawing disapproving clucking from the Russians.)
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