Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Skyrim Cooking: Chicken Dumplings

I decided to bump the difficulty level up a notch for my next Skyrim cooking project. I've always been a fan of meat pies (insert dirty joke here), so I wanted to try my hand at chicken dumplings. For the purposes of my adventure, I interpreted "dumpling" as "pasty" (pronounced PAST-ee, for those unfamiliar) because I'm from the Northwoods and we love our pasties. I used this recipe as the base, with some changes; some intentional, and some made out of necessity because I have limited supplies in my kitchen.

I didn't take any in-progress pictures because I was running around like a madwoman trying to juggle four or five cats the entire time. Making pasties from scratch is hard, and it takes time. However, the end result is TOTALLY WORTH IT. They came out deliciously, probably because they're about 60% butter. I still have a few in my freezer, which I'm going to have for dinner over the next couple days. Everyone else who's tried one thought they were tasty too.

Please note that I made my crusts a bit on the thick side, so I had leftover filling. I just stored it in a Tupperware container and heated it up later to eat with a piece of buttered bread. Very tasty.

So without further ado, here's the chicken dumpling pasty recipe:

Chicken Pasties

Serves about 9

Filling Ingredients
  • 1 lb raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • ½ c frozen peas
  • ½ c frozen corn
  • 1 large celery stalk, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium to large potato, cubed
  • ⅓ c unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ c unbleached flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp rosemary, crushed
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • ¾ c milk

Dough Ingredients
  • 3¾ c unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling surface
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tblsp sugar
  • 17 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ c cold vegetable shortening, cut into chunks
  • ¼ c cold vodka
  • ¼ c cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water (optional, for glaze)

Filling Directions
  1.  Slice the veggies and cut the chicken into halves/quarters.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, corn, celery, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Add cubed potato to the pot and boil for another 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the water. Remove the chicken from the mixture to let it cool.
  5. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add leeks and garlic. Cook until slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
  6. Stir in flour and seasonings.
  7. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thick (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  8. While the leek mixture is simmering, shred the chicken and return it to the vegetable mixture.
  9. Add the leek mixture to the vegetable/chicken mixture and stir well. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 2-4 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat. Put the filling in the refrigerator while you make the crust.
Crust Directions
(Note: if you have a large enough food processor, use it in steps 1-3. Otherwise, do like I did and put the ingredients in a large bowl and smoosh them together with your hands (after washing them of course).)
  1. Combine 2¾ cups flour, the salt, and the sugar. (1 cup of flour is set aside for now.)
  2. Add the butter and shortening a little bit at a time. If using a food processor, mix it in short pulses. If mixing by hand, mash the flour into the butter and shortening with your fingers.
  3. Once the mixture is clumpy, with no loose flour left, add the final cup of flour and mix it all together until the butter, shortening, and flour are evenly mixed together.
  4. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. Fold the dough over on itself a few times with either your hands or a spatula.
  5. Divide the dough into three balls and flatten them slightly into discs. If you wish to chill the dough, wrap the discs in plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge for at least 45 minutes. However, I used the dough right away with no ill effects; it was just a bit trickier to handle because it was softer.
  6. Cover your work surface, hands, and rolling pin in flour. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Take one of the discs of dough and roll it out until it’s about ⅛ of an inch thick.
  7. With either a cookie cutter or a sharp knife, cut out a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the circle of dough to the parchment paper. (I found it helped to use a spatula to lift it like a pancake or omlette.) Gather up the scraps of dough, roll it out again, and cut out another circle. Repeat this process for as long as you have enough dough. (I got about 3 circles per disc.) You may choose to refrigerate the dough circles for about 30 minutes, but I didn’t bother.
Assembly Directions
  1. Set the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take the filling out of the fridge (and the crust, if you’ve been chilling it).
  3. Place about ¼ to ⅓ cup of filling in the center of each circle of dough. Gently fold the circle in half over the filling and pinch the edge together with your fingers, or press it together with a fork.
  4. Cut a small slit in the top of each pasty and lightly brush them with the egg wash, if desired.
  5. Bake the pasties until they are golden brown and the filling is bubbling (about 25-30 minutes). Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before serving.
If you don't want to cook all the pasties at once and would like to save some for later, then make them like normal but put them in the freezer instead of the oven. Once they're frozen solid, wrap them in plastic wrap or put them in freezer bags. When you're ready to bake them, set the oven to 400 degrees and pop them in like you would if they were fresh. They might need an extra five minutes or so to bake, though.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Polyamory for People Who Hate Dating

I hate dating.

I love flirting. I love making out. I love sex. But I hate dating. It's emotionally exhausting having to rebuff advances from people I'm not interested in; it's terrifying to ask out people I am interested in; I have so many hobbies and interests that it's difficult to find the ever-important me-time while also searching out new partners. And there's the ever-simmering fear that almost all women have when going on a first date with a guy - is he gonna kill me? It kind of makes it difficult to enjoy oneself.

"But Natalie," asks my sock-puppet audience, "aren't you polyamorous? How can you be poly but hate dating?"

An excellent question! And one that I struggled with for a long time. There's a misconception that poly people must have several partners, or be constantly on the lookout for more partners. There are some poly people who are happy with that sort of high-intensity relationship style, and more power to them. However, I am not well suited to extended forays on the dating scene, and for a long time I made myself miserable trying to convince myself otherwise. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

"So how do you do polyamory if you aren't into dating?" the sock-puppet audience asks. "Maybe I could get some good advice."

Gee, flattery will get you everywhere. Here's what I had to do:

Don't go tit for tat.

If you have a regular partner of any kind ("primary," "spouse," "boy/girlfriend," "live-in partner" - whatever your preferred nomenclature), don't waste your time comparing how many partners you have vs. they have. My main squeeze has had as many as seven partners at one time. I felt like I was getting left out or left behind when I didn't have as many partners as he did. But because I couldn't handle as many partners as he can, I instead started to feel like he should have fewer partners - not because he wasn't giving me enough attention, but because I was wrapped up in some weird idea of what was "fair." That's actually very unfair; as long as everyone's emotional and physical needs are met, he can have as many partners as he wants.

Be honest about how much you can handle.

Realistically, I top out at two "full-time" relationships. I don't have the time or the energy for more than that. I jokingly call myself a "lazy poly" because of it, although I get the feeling that two to three relationships is actually the norm for poly people. So if I'm at or near my limit, and I'm asked out by someone new, I either say (assuming I would normally say "yes" to them), "No, sorry, I'm not interested in dating at the moment," or, "Okay, I'll go on a date but I must be honest that I can't provide more than very intermittent attention." Some people are okay with just getting one or two dates; other people decide to look elsewhere to get their needs met. Neither of these are bad things.

Look for creative alternatives.

Are there ways to get the things that you want out of dating without actually going out on dates? For example: one of the things that I like is the date experience - going out to dinner, watching movies together, yadda yadda. Besides doing these things with my main squeeze, I go on "dates" with my friends. I get the date experience, but I don't have to worry about whether there's chemistry between us or whether my companion is going to be a surprise!racist or something equally distasteful. There also is no expectation of sexual behavior during or after the date, which allows me to relax more too. If I have a hankering for new people to get frisky with, I find that making out with people at parties satisfies that urge most of the time, and making out doesn't come with nearly the emotional complications/baggage that sex usually has.

Get comfortable with being alone.

Some people don't need this advice; they have fully accepted and embraced their introversion and are more than happy to spend time with just themselves. However, there are plenty of people - I used to be one of them - who don't actually want to be around other people all the time, but, because of societal pressure to partner up, feel guilty about preferring to be a hermit. Because I thought being alone was Bad, I made myself go on dates when I really wasn't into the idea. Now I'm more than willing to turn down a booty call because I made plans with myself to knit and watch Mad Men all evening. A girl's gotta have priorities, you know?

All this advice basically boils down to "know thyself." Although when you think about it, almost all relationship advice boils down to that. Once you can honestly articulate what you want to yourself and to others, your love life gets a hell of a lot easier.