It is time to ring in The Year of the Water Dragon
What a strange winter this has been so far. It’s been a real roller coaster. One day last week the temperature plunged from a high of 57 degrees to 21 degrees in eight hours, as a cold front came through central Ohio on its way east.
Gray clouds raced across the sky from west to east and rain showers persisted all day and into the evening.
They say La Nina, that fickle west to east wind spawned when the Pacific Ocean warms more than is normal, is at least partially responsible for the mild winter weather.
It’s blowing this year on a track near the U.S. Canadian border, creating a barrier between warmer air to the south and the bitter cold up north.
It’ll be fine with me if the arctic air stays right where it is for the rest of winter. I don’t miss mincing along as I try to walk over icy sidewalks and parking lots this year. Long range forecasts predict measurably milder weather through the early spring. We can only hope.
Typically in the winter I feel like Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog in Pennsylvania whose shadow — or lack thereof — on Feb. 2, is supposed to predict how much more winter is in store. When I stick my nose out of my hole, I’m finding this year is milder than usual, but as gray as ever — no shadow.
I’m always searching for a bright spot in the unrelenting shades of gray in January and February, and the Lunar New Year (otherwise known as the Chinese New Year) fills the bill nicely. The naming of the Chinese New Year follows a 12-year cycle of animal names. Monday will begin a 15 day celebration to ring in The Year of the Water Dragon.
Asian families will gather to enjoy each other’s company as much as they can over the next 15 days.
The gatherings will almost certainly be around traditional meals — a bright spot indeed, no matter what’s going on outside.
At least 35 years ago, this appetizer recipe appeared in one of my magazines. This was one I read over, cut out right away, and made the next day.
It features a shortcut or two, which is a good thing in this case, as it shortens prep time considerably. It’s truly one of the best Asian recipes I’ve ever prepared. Serve as appetizers or as an accompaniment to hot soup to ring in Chinese New Year.
CHINESE STUFFED BUNS
1 pound rib end of pork loin (or boneless, skinless chicken)
1 large clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 8-ounce package refrigerated biscuits (10 biscuits)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Rub pork loin with cut clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Place pork loin, fat side up, on a rack in oven. Reduce heat at once to 350 degrees. Roast uncovered for 1 hour or until meat reaches 170 degrees on a meat thermometer. Cool, remove bones and finely chop meat.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add chopped pork and saute for a minute. Stir in sugar and soy sauce. Cook for another minute.
Blend cold water and cornstarch. Add to mixture. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
To assemble buns
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Stretch each biscuit until it is about 4 inches in diameter. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons filling in the center of each biscuit. Gather the edges of the biscuit around the filling and press together, edges on the bottom, forming a ball-like shape.
Put the buns in the pan, with smooth sides up, and sides touching. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
Makes 10 buns.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.