Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

How the Appetizers Turned Out

Image Caption

This Month's Film: Raise the Red Lantern
Cuisine: Chinese

As part of the new scheduling format for my monthly Dinner & a Movie, I made three appetizers last night: Petite Pancakes filled with Mu Shu Pork, Tiny Egg Rolls filled with chicken and minced vegetables, and Crab Rangoon baked in tiny tartlets, all of which were delicious, and either met or exceeded my expectations. I served them up on trays in the living room to enjoy while we watched this month's film, Raise the Red Lantern.

Rene liked the Mu Shu Pork best, but for me, although absolutely delicious, it was edged out ever so closely by the deep fried Egg Rolls. Perhaps that's because, after many greasy, soggy, failed attempts at making them over the years, I finally got them right for the very first time. This batch turned out perfectly. Perhaps it's because the oil was just the right temperature for the quick sizzle needed to render them light and crispy. Or perhaps it's because they were tiny, instead of enchilada-sized and therefore didn't need to spend so much time in the oil. Or perhaps it's because the filling wasn't too juicy and had been pre-cooked so that only the wrappers needed to brown. Or perhaps it's all three. Whatever it was, the gods were smiling on my kitchen last night.

Only slightly disappointing were the Crab Rangoon Tartlets. The tiny pie crusts I shaped by hand and baked to a golden brown yesterday afternoon turned out perfectly, and the finished appetizers were tasty, but not nearly as pretty as I'd hoped. The addition of steak sauce and soy sauce to the snowy white mixture of cream cheese and crabmeat, as prescribed by all the Rangoon recipes I consulted, produced a muddied effect, somewhat reminiscent of the 'Silly Putty' we played with as children. So I am going to adjust the recipe slightly by omitting the offending ingredients and substituting a little ginger for spice, and perhaps a little rice vinegar for tang, in hopes that the next batch will retain both its Asian ethos and its pristeen purity.

And regarding my new, more relaxed cooking schedule, I think I could get used to this. By preparing only one course each week, I am so much more relaxed than after those hair-pulling, kitchen-wrecking, stress fests that I produced every month for a whole year. Not that I didn't love every minute of it, but this is just so much more sensible, practical, realistic, and favorable for the cook [that's me]. So after a rhapsodic yet leisurely afternoon in the kitchen, I was able to sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labors with my sanity and good humor intact.

The recipes and photos will be posted at the end of the month.

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