Last week, I got caught up in a conversation about money. One friend, who does pretty well as a real estate agent, was saying she feels like she’s always losing the New York battle of finances. Everywhere she goes, she’s with people who make more money than she does and that makes her feel terrible about herself. My other friend, who I don’t know as well, seemed thrilled with this topic and jumped to confess that she too always feels lesser than. I was having a rare, grounded day – unshaken by my ever-dwindling bank account. I suggested they look to the more spiritual approach of finding something that you love to do, do it as well as you can, and then fill the rest of your life with great people, not great stuff. Pithy, right? The problem is that this ethereal, non-material peace is fleeting. It is New York after all. The moment I vocalize my euphoria with having found a career that brings me pleasure and prosperity, another big bill comes in and I’m not sure how I’m going to survive. ‘Keep it simple, stupid’, I tell myself. ‘You’re not in this for the money. You’re in it for the thrill- the joie de vivre.’ The moment I start to compare my life with others around me, I feel like a failure, so I just keep my eyes on my knife and try not to look up. It’s been a busy month. A bit of luck and a bit of knowledge have kept me out of trouble. Last week, I was sitting in the back of a cab, on my way to a cocktail party I was catering on the upper east side. The cab was speeding through the park and, rather than worry about the minutiae of catering, I took it all in. I let myself be a success- just for that moment. It felt so good.
My client’s apartment is on the 16th floor, overlooking the park. It is breathtaking. And sure, I could compare my little-third-floor-Harlem-apartment-life to theirs, but what fun would that be? I don’t start games I know I’ll lose. I get to live vicariously through their kitchen. I paid the cab and organized my food and equipment. Suddenly, I remembered the bartender was going to be bringing a few bags of ice and I only had $20’s to reimburse him. I should have asked the cab driver to make change. Darn. Ah, wait a minute, I’ll ask the doorman. I’ve catered in the building before and the gentlemen who work the front door are always very friendly. The first one tipped his hat to me. “Good afternoon, ma’am. How are you today?” “Hey man, can you do me a favor? Can you break a $20?” “Of course, ma’am” and he reached under his jacket, into his back pocket to pull out a wad of cash as thick as my fist.
“Let’s just see what we’ve got here for you, ma’am.” And he flipped through the bills… hundred, hundred, hundred, hundred, fifty, fifty, fifty… “No, ma’am, it seems I don’t have any small bills. Apologies. Now can I help you get your stuff upstairs ma’am?”
I was speechless and frozen in time trying to fully comprehend what I had just witnessed.
“Well, I guess I went into the wrong line of work, huh?”, I said out loud – to myself more than to the doorman.
“Yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am. Have a nice day.” And off I went.
You see? You can’t even compete with the doormen these days. I’m still laughing. What a world. The party went off without a hitch, of course. Towards the end of the party, one drunken guest wobbled into the kitchen as I was pulling a tray of Green Curry Chicken Puffs out of the oven. “These are my favorite thing here tonight. They are outsssssttttanndinggggg. What are they again? Empanadas?” “Well, sir, they are Thai curry puffs. In Thailand it’s curry puffs; in Latin America and parts of Europe- it’s empanadas; in Asia- it’s potstickers; in Italy- it’s calzones; in India – it’s samosas; Eastern Europe – pierogies.” He leaned over the counter, pointed at me, and said “You know EVERYTHING about food. You’re the best chef in the world”, which is definitely not true, but nice to hear after a long day. I have a huge repertoire for party food and sometimes clients ask for things I haven’t cooked in a while. It’s such a treat to be reunited with food from the past. When my client requested these, I was scared and excited. They turned out so well that I’ve been recommending them for every party. They are sweet and spicy and surprising and they can be enjoyed as a green curry with rice instead of as curry puffs too.
Thai Green Curry Chicken Puffs
Makes 40 puffs
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into a small dice
- 1 pound ground chicken (I use dark meat)
- 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup frozen spring peas, thawed
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 sheets of thawed puff pastry
- Heat the coconut oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the diced potato, ½ cup of water, and cover the pan to cook the potato for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken and sauté for another minute. Add the green curry, the curry powder, the turmeric, the coriander, the coconut milk, and the sugar, and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the peas, season with salt and pepper to taste and then stir in the mirin. Continue to simmer until the mixture has reduced to a semi-thick spoonable consistency – making sure it’s not too liquidy.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- On a floured counter, roll the puff pastry out to half the thickness it came as. Fill a small bowl with water. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of puff pastry. Fill the rounds with the chicken curry, dip your finger in the water bowl, painting one half of the edge of the puff pastry with water. Fold the puff pastry package over to make a half moon, sealing the water edge against the dry edge.
- Place dumplings on a parchment covered cookie sheet, and bake until they have puffed up, about 15 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can freeze the uncooked dumplings until you’re ready to serve them. They will last for weeks if properly wrapped. When you’re ready to serve them, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake them for 20 minutes, or until they are puffed and light brown.