Sunday, November 15, 2009

Julie and Julia

Ok. Let's get this out of the way first. I haven't written since July 2nd. I no longer work for The Middletown Press..... loooooong story. Anyway, I have been focusing more on gaining more clients for my photography business, and in the mean time, I have been substitute teaching at New London High School. Although I absolutely loved my time at The Press, the excitement of doing something different every day, I don't miss the neurotic personalities or the demanding schedule that makes having any semblance of a personal life next to impossible. Basically, I made up my mind, and haven't looked back, or even wanted to look back.

Now, just because I havent written in four months doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking. Actually, I've been cooking any and everything I can think of. Pomegranate Chicken, Apple-Cornbread Stuffed Pork Loin (I didn't eat it though! Haven't eaten pork since I was 12 and don't intend to start now), Pumpkin Ravioli, Baked Potato Soup, Rosemary-Chicken Soup with Dumplings, Tiramisu Cheesecake, Pumpkin Bread with Maple Pecan Glaze, you name it. Not that I didn't want to write about all these things... I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It was part of my life at The Press, and that's not who I am anymore.

But this past Thursday, I decided to visit the library, to stock up on reading material. I went to the Waterford Public Library, which I'm not all that familiar with. I wandered through the large print book section, and my eyes fell upon the title, "Julie and Julia," which you probably remember from movie previews over the summer. I really wanted to go see it, but was dissappointed when I read reviews of it that said the Julia (who by the way, didn't learn to cook until she was nearly 40) parts were amazing, but the Julie parts, kind of lackluster. So I decided I wouldn't spoil it by seeing the movie before reading the book, and then promptly forgot about it, either way. I excitedly pulled the large print copy off the shelf, and flipped through it. LARGE PRINT. Ooops. So I searched on the online catalog, and located a regular print copy, in the biography section. Much better.

I began reading it Thursday night. I got through about 100 pages that day, and managed to read the remaining 200 on Friday. Honestly, I couldn't put it down. Julie Powell was a 29 year old temp, a little lost in regards to her purpose in life, and didn't find it until she embarked on a mission to "Master the Art of French Cooking," by cooking (and blogging about) every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's defining manual on French cuisine in one year. Oh, and she was a Buffy fan. (Have I ever mentioned my obsession with the show? I taped it every week in high school, have seen every episode WAY too many times, and now have the entire series on DVD.)

By the end of the "Julie/Julia Project," Powell realizes the lesson in it wasn't learning to cook French food, but having the courage to do something that makes you happy (and maybe a little crazy, sometimes) and to live life the way you want, no matter how off the deep-end it may seem. For her, the process of learning it, "mastering" it, translates to living, having a purpose beyond just being a secretary everyday.

For me, it's kind of the same. And reading the book really reminded me of that. And so, my return to blogging:

I picked up a Tyler Florence book with at the library this week. It was full of delicious sounding, un-fussy recipes that would be great pretty much any time. However, I kept reading over the same recipe, over and over. Pork Dumpling Soup with Chinese Greens. Maybe, because I have been on a bit of an Asian kick lately (I've really honed my stir-frying skills), and maybe because it the book seemed hardwired to open to page 124, over and over. Maybe the last borrower kept it open to that page the whole time it was loaned to them? Whatever the reason, I was dying to make this soup. So when I stopped by my moms and overheard my father call out of work sick with a sore throat today, I thought, great, an excuse to make it. And of course, I changed the pork to chicken.


  • 3/4 lb ground chicken
  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/2 medium turnip, peeled and grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 1 T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 t dry sherry
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground white pepper
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 inch peice of ginger, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 green onions, halved
  • 1 dried red chile
Other Ingredients
  • 12 oz package square wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 4 heads baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring the broth ingredients to a simmer.
After simmering for 10 minutes to infuse the flavor, turn it off and cover.

Begin making the dumplings. First, brush the surface of a wonton square with the egg white, then put a teaspoon of filling on the center.
Fold two opposite corners together and seal edges to form a triangle. Then, take the 2 side points and dab with egg, then bring together, to form a "pope's hat" shape.

When dumplings are completed, strain the solids from the broth and bring it back to a simmer over medium heat. Add the dumplings and boil for 12 minutes. Then, add the bok choy and shitake mushrooms and continue boiling for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve garnished with sliced green onions and crunchy chow mein noodles.

I served the soup with store-bought frozen egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce. My dad, who is notorious for being a big, BIG baby when he's sick, stopped coughing for long enough to eat the soup, saying that the broth was really good. And it was. You could taste subtle notes of ginger, onion, and just a hint of spicy pepper at the end. The dumplings, which looked pretty small when they were made, absorbed the flavorful broth and grew to at least twice the size they started at. The filling was delicious, I'm not normally a huge fan of sesame oil, but it was really good in these dumplings. I've never cooked with bok choy, and I liked it. The texture of it, along with the shitake mushrooms really added to the depth of the soup.

And just like that, in a weekend, following the lead of a 29 year old secretary, who followed the lead of a woman who learned to cook at 37 years old, I am back to Downtown Dish.


  1. Yay! She's back! Sounds yummy. Really well-written too!

  2. sounds so delicious! definitely stealing this recipe for when I have some time :-)