Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
This past winter, I left my fear at the door, armed with two baby sized tubs of shortening, I got a little crazy with Mr. E… in the kitchen. It’s become a tradition of ours to get donuts at Craigie every Sunday, which proves miracles happen since I’m not the size of a house. I had to run and knock on the nearest piece of wood after typing those words.
We vowed to be more active members in our own kitchen and I’d been whipping up healthy eats during the week with some little cheat meals on the weekends. To jump start us, we forewent our typical Sunday donuts. Instead, we shuffled to the mall Saturday afternoon, picked up a donut cutter ready to make our donuts for the next morning. Mind you, I’m aware this was not a healthy move, but we were taking baby steps. Our impatience got the better of us and we headed to the store late Saturday night for some cider donut fixins.
I have such a wonderful memory associated with cider donuts. Earlier in last year toward the end of September, Mr. E and I drove up to Apple Crest Farms in New Hampshire for their fall festival and ate hands down the most amazing cider donuts.
Piping hot and super cidery from Apple Crest Farms
Seriously, game over. All other cider donut makers, just hang your hats and go home. I figured if we were going to make donuts, it would have to be the apple cider variety. Now I’ll admit, the amount of shortening you need to use is not for the faint of heart. Shortening really does improve the grease factor of fried goods, as I’ve learned with fried chicken. Just think as it sits, the fat solidifies back to its room temperature form so you’re not left eating an oil sponge.
A whole lotta’ shortening
Going at the dough
Cinnamon sugar and cider glazed cider donuts!
Ready to fry the remaining donut holes
For the dough, I used a minimal amount of concentrated cider that boiled down to about 1/4 of its original volume. In hindsight, I should have pureed apple to pump up the apple flavor. If I’m eating a cider donut, I’d like to know I’m eating a cider donut. That being said, I thought we made a pretty solid showing for our first time. Will I be making donuts on a regular weekly basis? Absolutely not. Let’s leave that to the experts. Craigie on Sundays and Apple Crest in October. See you guys there.
My fellow dumpling seekers, Kristen and Andrew
Little XLB beauties
I crave certain foods. Like really crave it. And once I get it in my head, all other meals are meaningless. That’s a very bold statement but I’m known to make an exaggeration here and there. Great storytelling runs in my family and my grandpa did and mother still does add on some mild embellishments every time a story gets told. Anyway, Andrew planted the seed in my head a few weeks ago, and I’ve had buns on the brain ever since. We made plans to grab lunch this past Saturday and he, his girlfriend Kristen, and I were seated at Gourmet Dumpling House a few minutes after we arrived. We promptly ordered the pork XLB and the pork and crab XLB. And then we promptly ordered another round. The three of us ate 32 dumplings and in reality, Andrew and I ate around 13 each.
Under normal circumstances, I would be a complete wild woman and beast all over these buns. Two things stopped me and my embarrassment to eat like a truck driver in front of Andrew and Kristen is not one of them. The first is the temperature. These little suckers are filled with scalding hot liquid. They’re not dubbed soup dumplings for nothing. The second was my extremely ballsy decision to wear all white to lunch.
That being said, it should come as no surprise that there is a proper way to eat this without any spills or injuries. Please refer to the pictorial instructions below so nicely enacted by Andrew:
Andrew wins ‘Best Sport’ award
1. Get your dipping sauce ready – Chinese black vinegar with a nice heap of shredded ginger
2. Carefully pick up your dumpling with your chopsticks, taking care not to pierce the skin.
3. Dip bun in dipping sauce.
4. Nibble the side of the bun and suck the broth inside. If too hot, let the broth pour into your large soup spoon and drink once cooled.
5. Add more ginger and vinegar (optional) and eat the rest of the dumpling.
Won’t see any spilled soup on my plate!
NOM NOM NOM
It was my first time at Gourmet Dumpling House. I tend to shy away from the establishment because of the hefty line that accumulates on weekends. Because it has the recognizable word ‘Dumpling’ in it, I find that many non-Chinese folks gravitate here. The xiao long bao was wonderful here AND they take credit cards. If you’re prepared for wait, definitely check this place out. Otherwise, you can go just around the corner to Taiwan Cafe, which I think has equally delicious xiao long bao and a whole menu of other delicious treats. The only downer is that it’s a true Chinatown joint and is cash only. Long story short, bring your appetite and cash/patience.
Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St
Boston, MA 02111
The one year anniversary of our last post is coming up, so we thought it would be as a good a time as any to dig this blog out of its grave. A recap of the holidays seems appropriate.
Knowing that I was going to be taking a rip to China for two weeks during Thanksgiving, led me to organize a little Friendsgiving a few weeks before I took off. I was originally thinking of inviting around 10 folks, but since I had a new roommate who wasn’t around and gave me more control of the common areas, 25 people ended up accepting an invite and 19 people showed up. It was the first time I was hosting so it felt like a good opportunity to go big. One thing that helped was that I didn’t take a vacation day from work in 2012 until late October so I had plenty of time to prepare. I had the Friday off before the party (on a Sunday), but the total prep time stretched to the weeks before hand.
3 weeks out-send out invitations, start planning menu (the fun stuff)
2 weeks out-trim down menu, begin shopping lists
6 days before party-regret decision to host, buy alcohol
5 days before party-buy pantry goods, dry ingredients, turkey
4 days before party-plan out prep and cooking schedule, assign dishes to pots and pans
3 days before party-clean, set up chairs and tables out of storage
2 days before party-brine turkey, buy fresh foods, prep and make apps, soup, desserts, snacks, beast mode
1 day before party-air dry turkey, cook majority of side dishes, beast mode, panic attack
day of party-showtime
Luckily, my sister and her husband came a few hours early to help out with the last of the prep so the afternoon was a lot less stressful. The final menu looked like this:
White bean dip, roasted garlic hummus, pita chips with oregano, brie and gouda cheese plate, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs
Chilled potato leek soup with pesto genovese, southwest squash soup with ancho cream and toasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted turkey, beef stew with herbed dumplings
Jalapeno cheddar biscuits, cornbread, apple sausage stuffing, mushroom leek stuffing, green bean casserole, braised red cabbage, spaghetti squash with cranberries, mashed potatoes, quinoa with caramelized onions and mushroom, mac n cheese, gravy
Apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, vanilla ice cream, chocolate coconut ice cream
Take Home Snacks
Cracker jacks, peanut clusters, candied pecans, gingersnaps
Some of the recipes were from the 6 week cooking course I took at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in the fall. I cooked for two and a half days straight days. It was exhausting, but also so damn satisfying. It was my greatest culinary achievement to date. No regrets.
Mandatory Smiles for the Most Part
China- Yunnan Province and Shanghai
Moving on to my trip to China, the food was unremarkable, since we were on a tour group and ate rather generic plain food. The only highlights were some lamb and yak skewers at a night market and the signature dish of the Yunnan Province- Cross Bridge Noodles. It is a hot noodle sou, were you put raw, thinly sliced meats, and other toppings along with noodles into a hot bowl of broth with a layer of oil on top. When I went back to Shanghai prior to flaying back to the US, I had the best Beijing Duck (though there are probably better ones out there) in my life at a place near my aunt’s apartment.
For Christmas (NJ for a little over a week), I ate a rotation of all the favorites. Dim sum, stir fried noodles, diner fare, pizza, steamed lobsters, hot pot, frozen yogurt and my mom’s home cooking.
I was back in Boston for New Years and hung out at 28 degrees (cocktails, french fries) for most of the night before heading to Katie’s new place (quiche, the largest shrimp cocktail I’ve ever seen).
I took a look back at my 2012 food resolutions, and I only managed to complete 1.5 of the 5 items I listed so here’s hoping the 2013 list will be more successful.
1. Make Thomas Keller’s fried chicken! (carry over from last year)
2. Make pasta or Asian noodles from scratch (carry over from last year)
3. Make key lime chiffon pie and rice pudding
4. Cook or try a new exotic meat, vegetable and fruit
5. Try sea urchin and Spam
7. Visit East Boston for Italian eats and 1 other ethnic cuisine
Happy New Year and be on the look out for more updates!
I hope everyone had a fun and sexy Valentine’s Day. I’ve been single for basically forever, but for some reason, I find that I’m not usually too down as one would expect a single to be on Valentine’s Day. Sure there are years when it seems that everyone is coupling up or getting a date leading up to the day, but the sliver of optimism in me seems to show itself every February 14th. Being a hopeless romantic and thinking that everything will work out for the best, I have to spin things in my favor to make the best of the holiday as I see fit. Working at an awesome company with an awesome boss and co-workers definitely helps too. In summary, there was a building party, 2 team parties, an office party, I got video conferencing to work with my boss in our Chicago office and I got to have dinner with a friend at a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try. This year was probably a top 3 of all time.
Last week, a friend at work decided to organize “Eat Your Feelings Day,” and I agreed to make… wait for it… Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies. In addition to that gem, someone on a team that I’m suppose to be transferring to in the near future asked if I was planning on doing anything on V-Day (like how I put together a Sweets Exchange during the holidays). Hence, “Ray Wu’s Lonely Hearts Club” was added after the “Eat Your Feelings Day” celebration. We booked a conference room and brought our laptops to work while we gorged on sweets, listened to love jams and put a crackling fire up on the projector. I even stayed late at work one night to make a corny flyer.
Overall, it was a pretty big success with a steady flow of people stopping in to grab some treats. In addition to the red velvet cheesecake brownies, I made coconut macaroons with a caramel drizzle, peanut clusters, and some origami flowers for decoration. Let’s just say that the commute that morning sucked, but it was all worth it.
Coconut Macaroons, Caramel and Origami Flowers
Coconut Macaroons with Caramel Drizzle
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
So next year, if you’re feeling down on Valentine’s Day, just get cookin’ on something delicious. And if you are a lady, ask me out on a date. Either or.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
Last year we reviewed Saus, and almost a month from the one year anniversary, we got to try a bunch of the new menu items at a tasting a few days ago. Katie and I were served tasting portions of the Veggie Croquette, Sloppy Jacques, Chicken Sate Pocket and Drunk Chick Sandwich along with sides of the Apple Cabbage Slaw and Liege Potato Salad.
New Menu is Up!
Tanya Rockin the Bandana and Chin Rockin a Sweet Hat
Veggie Croquette, Apple Cabbage Slaw, Liege Potato Salad (back to front)
Chicken Sate Pocket, Drunk Chick, Sloppy Jacques (front to back)
The clear winner of the group was the Veggie Croquette- crispy exterior, warm & fluffy interior and drizzled with samurai sauce. The Liege Potato Salad also got high marks from Katie and me, and it was one of the better potato salads I’ve had because of the smokiness from the bacon. While the Chicken Sate was ok, it played a much more important role in helping to bring in a new peanut sauce (Pindasaus), which I enjoyed with fries this weekend.
Since we only got to have tasting portions, we were still a little hungry and split a spicy Frikandel- Belgian/Dutch street food (some hybrid mix of a burger/hot dog/sausage). It was my first time having anything like it and was surprised by how much I liked it considering I was thinking it might have been similar to brats, which aren’t my favorite.
Frikandel with House Pickled Jalapenos and Ole’ Chipotle Sauce
We spent the remaining time snapping pictures so I will leave you with some of Katie’s beautiful photography.
Renee Customer Servicing
Awards and Memorabilia // Working Those Stations
View from the Counter
The Counter //The Register
What You Do When You’re Hungry Near Faneuil Hall