Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Crazy Busy, Major Film Update & Crazy Good Eats

At A-Frame, a hot spot in our neighborhood. See Below.
It's been a while since the last blog. Part of the reason why is my crazy life. Part of the reason is I wanted to make sure everyone read the last one: http://dlwarner.blogspot.com/2013/02/recipe-fusion-collard-pot-liquor.html . I'm happy to say that it's the most widely read one I've had! But I am crazy busy. I have to have a schedule once again. I haven't had once since I was on chemotherapy. Then, I had at least two major medical appointments a week along with a few minor procedures or administrative things. I still have a date book for the sprinkling of appointments I have now. But it isn't nearly as filled up and complicated as it was years ago.

Now, I am juggling a lot of projects with various deadlines and different time lines that are part of building my career. On top of that, there are things that I'd like to do or need to do for reasons other than money like cooking and learning Japanese and recently drawing. I find that if I set up a schedule that I will make a real effort to get something significant done in a given day in each category. The schedule is brand spanking new, but I'm already feeling better about what I am or am not getting done. What does that mean? I would often feel crestfallen at the end of a day, because I had not accomplished one goal. Somehow, I would ignore all the things that I had managed to do in the same amount of time. It's silly, I know. It seems like a big pile demanding attention. Anyway, the schedule forces me to note what has been done and where I am in the overall time line. Having a handle on the big picture makes me relax about the days when I just have to veg and just read (the reading is now on the schedule). I'm still having some physical.

Unscheduled Break

I was sidelined from the blog and a lot of what I was trying to get done yesterday by a whole lot of unexpected pain. It's called break trough pain in that it breaks trough the regular meds. This felt worse than a typical break through. I did not have a good Wednesday. Thursday found me considering a trip to the closest ER. That was horribly depressing. A few calls to the various specialist that interact with me found an answer. I felt well enough to make a big leap in progress with the Secret Cancer Documentary today. I even got a few things on my schedule done. It was a bit more distressing than a hiccup in my life, but I managed to shove things back on track. So, I do believe that I'll be able to finish a good bit of what was on my plate for this week. That said, I know I won't get any more of this blog written before the weekend. Note: It is now Sunday, so that prediction was really on the money.

Measuring Progress

The biggest thing I needed to get done this week was the proof of concept trailer for The Secret Cancer. I filmed it in November. Admittedly, that was not a great time of year. I had one major convention behind me and another one ahead. I had a pile of manga to edit. Then, there were the holidays and all the baking and general craziness. It seems that I blinked and it was February. We had been working on the video here and there. We had a major audio problem. The entire audio file was corrupted and thus useless. The camera sound had a lot of pops and other noises in it. I debated for a long time about how to salvage everything. Jon processed the camera sound until it was much more useable. I decided to cut the interview down to just the story about Audrey Hepburn's diagnosis and the aftermath. It was so powerful in that quiet, cultured voice. I used some images from the book about Ms Hepburn's life and her passing, Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit. I plan to use more with the family's permission. Here is the rough cut. If you comment, please keep in mind that we are almost painfully aware of the technical difficulties. http://youtu.be/VLygvc5Flpg

The next thing I needed to make progress on that had been bothering me for months was the wall I had hit on my current Soldiers book, A Soldier's Destiny. It wasn't even anything like a writer's block. I was just getting busier and busier with other kinds of creative work. There were and are essays and short stories and editing. There is the blogging and writing reviews. I don't regret any of the extra activity, but I missed my Soldiers, and there were and are readers waiting for it. Thus, my number one must do on each day of my new schedule is work on that Solder's book. I am not only six pages from where I was, the spark of life in the characters has returned. They made me laugh the other day. I was so happy to have found my way back to those characters. I really appreciate the very patient fans who have hung in there and occasionally prodded me along.

Food Geek Out

I don't know if you all look at my food reviews on Yelp.com, but this was a mini blog of sorts about a famous restaurant in our neighborhood. The chef is not only famous, he is an author on Anthony Bourdain's new imprint. And now, for reasons I do not understand, we are friends on the internet. I don't just mean I follow his posts. He follows mine and has corresponded with me!!! Check out Roy Choi: http://www.foodandwine.com/best_new_chefs/roy-choi

Here's my crazy review of his restaurant : A-Frame:

I am lucky enough to be a neighbor of this restaurant. I literally pass it once a week running errands. I finally had a chance to stop in to celebrate with a friend. I was immediately impressed by the stripped down but stylish decor. The bar was filled with bottles of fresh squeezed juices. The bartender was shaking two drinks at once. How could I not have a fancy cocktail? The Southern sour was delicious and not too strong or heavy. We all went for the buttermilk fried chicken and the table pickles. The first time super hot chef,  Roy Choi, popped over to our table, I thought he knew I was back engineering the incredibly crunchy and savory crust on that super moist chicken. The second time, I think he knew I was also trying to figure out what was in the dipping sauce for those insanely good pickles. How can lightly pickled veggies taste that good? I was having a foodie geek out, because I so admire Choi for his fusion of food cultures that I had begun making my own high fusion concept recipes. Could it be that he knew of my blog about collard pot liquor soup dumplings? My lunch partners brought me down to earth quickly with an eye roll and a sigh. The place was slammed. He was likely just making sure everyone was happy with the food and service. Then, I got all jazzed about that as well. I thought the hot, happening chef caring about his guests enough to check on them himself was the stuff of food TV. The upshot is that the food and cocktails and beer were everything I had been told they'd be, and the service was stellar.

I am so getting that recipe blog to him!

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Recipe Fusion -- Collard Pot Liquor Dumplings

This is my version of a Soup Dumpling with Pot Liquor
When last we met, I was hard at work on a complex recipe that was a fusion of Chinese dim sum and a staple of southern food. Nothing in this dish can be called Asian cuisine. It is the method that is the fusion.

The joy of a Xiaolongbao or soupdumpling is that when it is eaten, delicious, hot soup floods the mouth along with the filling. The stock is very slowly cooked from bones so that it is gelatinous when chilled. The filling along with a cube of gelled stock is placed on the dumpling dough and gently wrapped with it. When the dumpling is steamed, the stock melts and mingles with the filling. Additionally there is a sauce that further enhances the eating experience.

Properly gelatinous pot liquor.
I had decided that a well made spoonful of greens with the pot liquor and a sliver of the smoked turkey wing it was cooked with would be a great single spoonful example of how I cook. I realized while Anthony Bourdain was having a foodgasm over a soup dumpling while visiting Taipei that I could wrap that spoonful of food in a dumpling and that would be awesome. Further, that dumpling would be made from the same rolled dough recipe from Southern Chicken and Dumplings. That way, the dish is entirely Southern with an international spin.

It's been taking me a while to get to the point of assembling everything, because of my physical limitations. I also had to shop for some equipment and supplies over a period of time. I've done a photo blog of sorts with the three major steps of putting together the dumplings. One step I didn't bother with detailing since I used an existing recipe save for one extra ingredient. I have a link to each of the photo blog at the top of each section.

Part One – Poultry Stock

I say poultry stock because it can be either chicken or turkey or both, as I did here. I used raw turkey wings (as opposed to smoked) and chicken feet. Chicken feet makes for a very gelatinous stock even though the little feet do freak me out a little. The rest of the ingredients are vegetables like onions, carrots, celery and garlic along with thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf. After roasting the poultry for about 45 minutes to an hour (skin should be golden), chuck them into a big, deep stock pot with the vegetables and other stuff. Cover everything with water. Use a plate to make sure all the ingredients stay submerged. Cover and bring to just before a boil. Turn down to a low simmer and let it go for 4 to 6 hours. Cool to room temperature then strain. The stock can be used at that point or refrigerated. Freeze if it is going to be sitting around for more than three days.

Part Two – Collard Greens

http://dlwarner.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_7478.html  Photo Blog Part Two – Braised Collards

It's hard to give amounts, because the bunches are different sizes depending upon whether or not the leaves are baby or big. I generally do 3 to 4 bunches to one smoked turkey wing. I did two wings to have more smoked meat for the filling. First you trim the leaves of big stems (if they are big leaves). Then, slice them into thin-ish strips. I like them thin to eat and they are better for the filling. Then, soaked them in a deep sink or gigantic bowl of cold water. Rinse and drain them. While they drain, slice the large onion into thin slices. Saute the onion in a large, heavy pot in a couple tablespoons of oil. I use olive oil, but vegetable oil works. Add the garlic. I use a whole head of roasted garlic. If it's raw, use three cloves that are mince finely. When the onion softens a little, add two cups of stock and the turkey wing(s). Simmer in the pot with a lid on it for 30 minutes. Add the greens. I simmer them until they are very, very tender – about 90 minutes. That's me. I like them that way, and they work for the filling. Separate the greens from the liquid and the wings. Put them in containers and refrigerate. If the pot liquor is successful, it can be cut into cubes.

Part Three – Dumpling Dough

I wanted this dish to be truly Southern, so the dough recipe is from a chicken and dumpling dough. That goes very well with the poultry based pot liquor. I Googled rolled chicken and dumplings. The recipes were pretty much the same. The only thing I did differently was add two teaspoons of thyme to the dough, because the chicken and dumplings I had as a child contained thyme. I rested the dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out. I rolled the dough to 1/8 of an inch or thinner and cut them into squares. I didn't have a biscuit cutter, and I am not good at making dumpling pleats. I chilled the squares for 30 minutes before assembling. Wonton wrappers will work fine instead of dumplings.

Part Four – Assembling

Stage the ingredients as the photos show. Keep the dough squares chilled until you are ready to assemble everything. The it's turkey first. I used smoked turkey breast I bought online as well as the turkey wings I cooked with the greens. Use only about a teaspoon. I think shredding will work better than the block I used. Next, is a teaspoon of greens. Finally, a two teaspoon block of pot liquor. It must be chilled to work! Quickly wet the edges of the dough with a brush or a finger and pinch the edges together. I placed the finished dumpling on squares of parchment paper in the steamer. Steam for 10 minutes.


The idea for the sauce came from my father. He liked hot pickled peppers and a little of the pickling liquid in his greens. He's also sometimes slice tomatoes into his greens. So, I did a pickled hot pepper sauce and a Japanese pickled tomato with rice wine vinegar that was sweet. Just Google Quick pickled peppers and quick pickled cherry tomatoes repectively for recipes. They are all similar.

The Result
The pot liquor melts during the steaming, so there is a lovely mouthful of that with the greens and the smoked turkey. The dumpling with the vinegar sauce makes it taste like a whole bowl of comfort food in one bite. It is extraordinary! So far, the dumplings still steam beautifully after two days of hanging out in the fridge. I really want to entertain with them to get some other opinions.

My first, completely original idea for a dish! I am beyond jazzed.

More updates on my writing and other things next time.

Stay Tuned.