Meatball Stuffed Buns

I got inspired to make baozi (steam buns) only, I didn’t really want to make Chinese food, so I decided to put an Italian spin on them, and make focacce-style bread and stuff with meatballs and mozzarella.

First, I made the bread dough. 3 cups of flour (a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose) with 1/2 oz. of yeast, salt, a sprinkle of mixed dried herbs, and a cup of beer. Mixed that all together into a dough with a drizzle of olive oil, and let rise for an hour or so.

In the meantime, make the meatballs. 1 Lb ground beef (or whatever protein preferred). 1/2 onion, finely chopped. 1/2 cup panko crumbs. 1 egg. Salt, pepper, minced garlic, dash of Maggi. Thoroughly mixed, formed into balls, and then baked in the oven at 350 F for 25 minutes.

Cut up a big hunk of mozzarella into small pieces.

Break the bread dough into small balls–about 1-inch diameter spheres, and then roll out into circles. Wrap one meatball and one hunk of cheese, making sure to full close the seams or the cheese will leak out in the oven. Place seam side down in an oiled baking dish. Brush the buns with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt or grated parmesan. Bake at 350F 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Serve with tomato sauce or Sriracha aioli (seriously, put it on everything). These are easy and neat to transport to work and are re-warmed nicely in the oven or microwave.

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Quail Egg Bruschetta

So I believe I’ve waxed eloquently often enough on the wonders that a lightly fried or poached egg can do for, well, many things. Bacon jam, toast and a poached egg? Pulled pork sandwich with a fried egg? Ramen soup with a hot-spring egg? Yes to all of these. I can keep going.

While I was at Sanyuanli market I picked up a bag full of quail eggs, since I’m a sucker for little things and I thought they’d make good tiny snacks over the week, but I didn’t want to just hard boil all of them. I made a nice light dinner out of a handful of garlic and butter sauteed shrimp, bacon and Brussels sprouts pan seared, and sunny-sie up quail eggs on truffle-oil brushed slices of baguette. Something very luxurious about just warmed and still runny yolk pouring over bacon fried sprouts and garlicky shrimp.

I had some people over for nibbles and drinks over the weekend, and decided that I should use the rest of the quail eggs. Frying the eggs seemed a little too tricky, they’re small and need a lot of acute attention, so I lightly poached them earlier in the day, kept the eggs in a bowl of water, lightly patted them dry and assembled the bruschetta shortly before the guests arrived. I blanched the thinnest stems of asparagus I could buy, sliced them, and laid them over lightly toasted baguette brushed with premium bottle of olive oil from Genoa, Italy (a Christmas gift quite carefully brought back in my overloaded suitcase).

Poaching quail eggs is simple and quick. I brought a pot of water to a boil with a generous splash of vinegar, and then turned the heat all the way down so there were no bubbles to disrupt the water. While it was heating up, I used a knife to open the tough little shells, and cracked each egg into small spice bowls. Stir the water in the pot to get a bit of a swirl, and gently deposit one egg into the middle. The swirling water will help the egg white stay together instead of spreading out into an amorphous blob of egg-tendrils. It should take about one minute for the egg white to set, then carefully lift the egg out with a slotted spoon, place in an bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, and continue with the rest of the eggs.

I hardboiled a few of them and sliced, since some people aren’t really fans of runny egg yolks (weird people with terrible taste, but that just means more for me). A few flakes of sea salt and a crack of black pepper on top finishes the bruschetta, and makes very dainty hors d’oeuvres.

Somehow, It’s Already Next Year

Wow. So, I wrote that really depressing post about that horribly depressing zoo all the way back in September, then I blinked, and apparently the next 4 months flew by and suddenly, it’s January, 2013. Being an adult is difficult. Or rather, being an adult with a full time job, a cooking habit, a newly formed Dr. Who addiction, and an inclination to procrastination is really difficult. I’ve been busy and cooking a lot of great stuff, and I’ve even started writing posts about some of the stand out dishes, but then I get sidetracked and lazy and watch a marathon of Dr. Who and suddenly it’s 2 am and a certain robot who has work remembers she isn’t actually a robot, but someone who gets tired and cranky without eight hours of sleep.

It took a visit home and my sister yelling at me to remember that I have this and apparently people read it (or at least, she reads it). A lovely two weeks of clean air, great (in both terms of quantity and quality) food, snow, clean air, quiet suburbs, seeing my friends and family, meeting the tiny baby nuggets that since my departure to China have been born into my family, and spending quality time with my most awesome cat.

But then the whole living with my parents in a suburb without a car thing really began to getting annoying. Like, tear my hair out annoying. So I chopped off all my hair (and so far, only my grandmother has asked if I’m a lesbian) and what seems like many, many hours ago got on a plane. Oh air travel. It’s just the worst. I mean, I am fascinated by the fact that I get to hurtle through the air at crazy speeds and travel around the planet in a day. But the check-in guy weighed my suitcase and even though it was only slightly overweight, I still had to take out 3 pounds or be fined $75. So I ended up trying to figure out what of my carefully packed suitcase could be removed. (I spent three days packing and repacking to fit everything. Have you tried to move across the world with only fifty pounds of luggage? Impossible.) I ended up with mismatched shoes in my already overloaded purse. Then, my carry-on suitcase got a bag check and they pulled everything out. The carry on that had also taken 3 days of careful and methodical planning to make sure everything would fit and not break. It took me twenty minutes to get everything back in, and the people of Logan’s airport got to see what kind of underwear I like to wear.

After an unpleasant 14 hours of writhing around trying to find a position that wouldn’t crush my tailbone or cause loss of feeling, finally touched down in Beijing. One step off the plane, one breath and the air just tasted like chemical burning. Clearly, I was home. And when I did finally arrive back to my apartment, I discovered that TSA had unlocked an old lock that was hanging off the suitcase nowhere near the zippers, and locked it around the zippers so I couldn’t open the case. Old lock, no access to key or combination: it took me ten minutes with a pair of wire cutters to wrench it off.

The important part of this story is that the fifty pounds of luggage was mostly comprised of culinary things: cookbook, pastry accessories, specialized utensils, fancy ingredients, molasses (seriously, there is no molasses anywhere in China, as I discovered when trying to make gingerbread, but more on that later). Updates on food in short order, as I go through the backlog of recipe drafts from the past 4 months (a couple real crowd-pleasers in there) and I’ve got plans for the rest of this winter. Screw new years resolutions and eating healthy. Soon to come, recipes for cocktail party nibbles, pies, cakes, impressive tarts, cider donuts and more.