RECIPE 1: PELMENI
Life of Boris, a Slavic cooking and lifestyle YouTube channel, is my inspiration to cook. When I was in the hospital last year due to the collapse of my left lung, watching Life of Boris videos on how to make plov (pilaf), chebureki (large meat dumplings) and syrniki (cheese pancakes) gave me the strength to recover. So, when I got to Yale, I was very happy to learn that Stiles (my college) has a student kitchen where I can book time slots for cooking. The first recipe I ever tried was Boris’s recipe for pelmeni (dumplings).
It was a little bit of a disaster. The mashed potatoes that went into making the potato dough were so much tastier than the dough itself or the dumplings. The dumplings alternately had too much dough (unsalted, lumpy and disgustingly tasteless) or too little, leading to the meat — which incidentally was also unsalted and weirdly textured — spilling out.
But as I watched my suitemates peel the potatoes, clean the pots and eat some of the leftover dumplings, the weight of soggy pelmeni inside me turned into the warmth of friendship and gratitude. Like how you never make just one pelmen, but rather a bunch, cooking is better with your comrades.
RECIPE 2: SYRNIKI
The next recipe I tried was syrniki. My suitemate Audrey was indispensable to this operation. When we had trouble incorporating the cheese (since we couldn’t find quark cheese, we substituted in Arethusa’s Europa cheese. Surprise! It’s not a good substitution) into the pancake dough, she found a small pot to melt the cheese in. She also had the keen eyes and trained reflexes to flip the syrniki at just the right times.
Although pancakes are supposed to be soft and pliable, we ended up making something much more like cheese-flavored cookies. Fried cookies: hard on the outside, chewy on the inside. They were lumpy (we never really could get the cheese to incorporate into the rest of the dough smoothly), but decidedly tasty, and it was fun to experiment with different kinds of cheeses. Europa syrniki remain my favorite.
RECIPE 3: APPLE TART
After the Stiles apple-picking trip last fall, I knew I had to do something with the more than 20 apples we hauled back. This was also the first recipe I tried that was non-Boris. At first, I wanted to use a recipe that was still Slavic (Sharlotka, or Russian apple cake), but I was thwarted by the fact that I forgot to get baking powder and I couldn’t find it inside the kitchen. So, at the last minute, I worked on making a tart.
I do not know whether this was a problem with the oven or the fact that I poured into the baking pan a centimeter-high layer of cinnamon-y apple juice, but when I took the tart out of the oven the crust was not hard. It was basically warmed dough, but the sliced apples were hot and still crunchy. I was happy to share the tart with my suitemates, who reviewed it as a good effort for a Sunday night.
RECIPE 4: FRIED RICE
This semester, I have a class schedule which leaves me no time to get lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays. I decided that if I could not get lunch, I would make lunch; I also missed my dad’s spicy tofu. In high school, I found making fried rice to be easy and fun, so I decided to combine the two recipes and make fried rice with spicy tofu.
For the first time ever, a new recipe I tried actually turned out delicious. My suitemates helped me taste test and I am eternally grateful to them for helping me cut the meat, clean the pans and chop the potatoes (I made potato dough on the side. It was surprisingly much better than last time, with the addition of scallions and salt). The chili oil I put in gave a lot of kick to the firm tofu cubes and the eggy rice.
Unfortunately it did not taste so good the next day when it was refrigerator-cold and the oil settled into a millimeter-high layer at the bottom of my Tupperware. Not all things can be perfect, but the pork cubes I put in were still pretty tasty.
RECIPE 5: CURRY
Finding myself a little low on time this semester, I decided to try making curry. I found a box of medium spicy curry in Good Nature Market, and seeing the potatoes and carrots nearby I thought that it was a lovely week for something that requires little effort or skill.
My suitemate Jocelyne saved me the trouble of chopping potatoes, which has been and continues to be one of my greatest weaknesses. I handled the smaller carrots and shallots, which were softer under the knife. Since we were making double portions, I used double the recommended amount of water … which led to a watery but passable curry, the kind I used to eat in high school. Many thanks to Audrey for helping eat the leftovers, which were plenty.
RECIPE 6: RAM-DON (Chapaguri: Chapaghetti mixed with Neoguri: Two Different Korean Instant Noodles in the Same Pot — featured in Parasite (2019))
This recipe, I made on my own.
It was pretty sad. I left too much water in, and so the sauce ended up being more of an overly-saturated soup.
A spider chased me out of the room and I find that cooking with others not only gives you a warm sense of camaraderie, but also a line of defense against marauding insects. I think I will try to make sure my suitemates are free before booking my next cooking time slot.
Special thanks to Audrey Whitmer ’23, Lauren Williams ’23, Laura Haight ’23, Deniz Ince ’23 and Jocelyne Arguelles ’23 — my cooking comrades.
Claire Fang | firstname.lastname@example.org