Friday, January 29, 2016

Food Daydream #6: Torte de Frango: Brazilian Chicken Pie


I'm not a big sugar person. I like sugar in my coffee and tea and that's about it. I am extremely picky and if you offered me a bowl of candy, unless I'm first meeting you and trying to be polite, you'd get this sort of look:

"I'm good."
 
One sweet thing I am a BIG fan of is pie. Berry pie, apple pie, chocolate pie -- ALL THE PIES. And so ends my sugar relationship. (I am unapologetically married to salt.)
 
But, one thing that is far superior to dessert pie? Meat filled HAND pies.
Or as the Irish call'em pasties.
 
"OHMAIGOD."
 
I could eat them everyday, I love those buttery pasties so much it hurts. So imagine my surprise and thrilled excitement when my Brazilian roommate in college told me she had a recipe for a Brazilian meat pie....

Enter: Torte de Frango AKA Chicken pie.
 

Now first off, Brazilian food has it's own unique flavor. It sings the same tune as most South American dishes: Black beans and rice, but then brings in some crazy ideas. There are two dishes I know from my Brazilian roommate in college. One is a delicious black bean and sausage stew I may post sometime only it takes a million years slaving over a hot stove to cook, and then this delightful recipe.

This pie is so different from any pie I've ever made or eaten. Example? It uses 12 TBSP of flour. That's it. No cups. The batter is oily and more liquid-y than pancake batter. It seems like it could never firm up at all, let alone transform into pie. Another thing about this pie is the crazy amount of liquid. It uses 1 1/2 cups of milk, 1 cup of olive oil and 3 eggs. Again, this is for 12 TABLESPOONS OF FLOUR! I was extremely nervous the first time I made it because of that. I re-read the recipe 5 times because I couldn't believe it.

"Those things together do not make pie."
 
The recipe is scary. It's unusual and new and it makes one of the easiest and best darn chicken pies I've ever had this side of *checks globe* Panama. I made it for Irish and he was extremely skeptical of the batter. When I started making it he waited with his hand on his phone, prepared to call in a pizza the moment my culinary disaster came out of the oven.

But what came out of the oven was magical. It looked completely different from the cream colored mass of liquid, vegetables and chicken I put in the oven. It was golden brown with specs of carrots (orange) and peas (green) and had the texture of a savory cake... That's the best way I can describe it, a light vegetable and chicken cake that tastes amazing whether its hot out of the oven or cold in the fridge.

This picture doesn't even do it justice.
 

On the side, I served an awesome salad of mixed greens and a bright, refreshing champagne vinegar salad dressing to go with it. I'll add that recipe too, because it's easy as.... Pie! (HA!)

Then, just before you serve it, shower it with Parmesan cheese.

"Make it rain!"
 
It seems scary, but seriously folks, make this.

Here is the recipe that I used as a base, as my roommate moved out and never translated her recipe from Portuguese or.. the metric system.

And here is MY version of Torte de Frango!


Ingredients

Filling

Feel free to use as little or as many vegetables as you like, I just tend to throw as many as I can into one dish because COLOR.
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (About two chicken breasts. Either store bought rotisserie chicken, or poached then shredded)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8oz)
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup of frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup green or red pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (diced)
  • Cilantro (Chopped and definitely optional)
  • Olive oil for light sautéing

Dough
  • 12 TBSP flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 2 TBSP parmesan cheese (Fresh is preferred, then extra for topping it at the end)
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup olive oil
 
Salad
  • 1 part champagne vinegar
  • 1 part fancy djion mustard
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 2 cups of mixed greens
  • 1/2 avocado (diced)
  • Feta or goat cheese works here (optional)
 

Instructions

Torte De Frango
  1. Preheat oven to 350* and grease 9"x11" baking pan.
  2. Whisk together all dough ingredients in large bowl. (Seriously, that's it.)
  3. In a sautee pan over medium heat, sautée onions until translucent.
  4. Add carrots and bell peppers for a few minutes until slightly soft.
  5. Add chopped garlic and stir until you can smell it really well but it isn't brown (2 minutes).
  6. Add peas, corn, tomato sauce and chicken and heat though, then remove from heat.
  7. Pour half of the dough into the baking pan.
  8. Top with the chicken mixture and then pour the rest of the dough on top.
  9. Top with the additional parmesan and slide into the oven.
  10. You bake it until a toothpick comes out clean and this varies, but typically it's around 45 minutes.
  11. When you finish, let it cool 5 minutes.

Salad
  1. While the torte is cooling, make the salad.
  2. Whisk salad dressing together and toss with mixed greens per your specifications. I prefer light dressing.
  3. Add chopped avocado, salt and pepper to taste and toss again.
  4. THEN! Slice BIG squares of torte, top with extra parm and serve with your bright spring salad!
The Irishman requests this dish more than any other dish I make, because it is just as good the next day and he can take it to work. He likes it more than my French onion soup, and that is saying something.
 
All my love,
L.B.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Editing is the Worst OR Why You Should Back Up Your Work

If you're new to writing, this may come as a shock to you, but you simply cannot edit your own work.

Thinking you can is naïve and laughable. I'm laughing derisively at you now.



I don't care who you are, how great you are at writing, if you have your master's in English, if you triple/quadruple check every word, if you never made a mistake on an English essay - It isn't the same as a BOOK and it isn't a second pair of eyes. Your mind will fill in the incorrect word with the correct one in your head. Your mind will trick you so you yourself NEVER notice the mistake.
Your mind autocorrects...

Let that sink in... I'll give you a second.

It's as if your brain is actively trying to help you, however YOU aren't the problem. Your readers are. Your mind will ignore every mistake and autocorrect it leaving your readers questioning your intelligence and whether you should keep your day job.

For example, I just learned that I spelled my protagonists name wrong, like, dyslexic wrong, about 20 times. I never even noticed, because,

A: My computer thinks "Calista" is a misspelling regardless, and,
B: Who thinks that they would ever misspell the name of their protag?

Edmund

Editing RTS has been an adventure of face palms, heads slamming the keyboard (multiple) and hair pulling. Editing is not something I enjoy, it's like pulling teeth. The crazy part is that I enjoy editing other people's work. Flaws stand out to me like beacons of light blaring, "I'M WRONG!"

But my own writing? Yeesh. I attempt.

Recently, back in oh.. December, I was heavily editing RTS. I have a kick butt beta reader that's been forcing me to "show things" instead of you readers just *knowing* what a pretty sunset looks like...  But also, plot hole scavenging and simply asking the right questions. He ba-zinged me as a double-edged sword ( I create beautiful scenes but don't describe them enough) and so I was meticulously looking over my work to add details and details and details, metaphors and similes. I changed an important piece of the story because I realized it simply wasn't necessary, I added imagery of palaces and sunsets. And then, I saw that I had two copies of RTS open at once. I chuckled to myself, "Now, why did I do that?" (Impatience. Slow computers are the bain of my existence. I'm the obnoxious person that keeps clicking that button over and over again because it's *thinking* and I don't care I want to start writing now.)

Me: "It's not working!"
 
So I glanced over the two copies, made a decision and closed one. The first clue that I had made a mistake should have been when the computer prompted, "Would you like to save these changes?"

I, of course, said no. Because, silly little computer, all my changes are on the other document.

And that, my friends, is how I got into a fight with RTS. I deleted two hours of editing in three seconds flat.

I stared over my mistake and saw no turning back. This was edited off of an email. Not my desktop.

It was gone. All my effort, erased in a click of a mouse.

This is your fault.
 

I sat in my chair stunned, mouth agape, pawing at the open version... hoping that if I scanned down far enough in the edits t changes would re-appear.

But they didn't.

And that was the last time I edited RTS. After that, every time I opened it I would get angry at the memory. I couldn't even look at it. I need to take a break and calm down. So we broke up.

I guess that is just a little anecdote on why you should save constantly and back up your work. But it is also a story about the struggle of editing.

Editing a book isn't easy. No one said it would be. But please, PLEASE, if you walk away with nothing else, learn from my mistakes. Have help editing your work and, for the love of GOD, don't edit off of an email.

Follow this advice, dear friends, and you will never have to break up with your masterpiece.

All my love,
L.B.

PS: I've already decided if there are any grammar mistakes in this I'm leaving them. Feel free to point them out. The irony is perfect.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Character Development

Character development is wildly underappreciated. Character's that do not grow or change throughout a book make for terrible books, but when there is great character development it is rarely commented on. It is expected, not praised.

For example, in my masterpiece (that's what MS stands for, right?) RTS, we find ourselves in a coming of age story. Throughout the book these two innocent girls are thrown into terrifying situations where they learn who they really are. They learn just how much they can handle and how they can improve. Character development is one piece of my book that I am the most proud of.

When I finished my book, the very first thing I did was go back and re-read the first few chapters. I read them as my characters were, before their journey, and I started to cry. Their obvious innocence and child-like happiness was adorable and free. They daydreamed, did their homework and hated bullies, but as their adventure begins, the problems they knew as children fall by the wayside as they are thrown into an adventure more mature than they should be able to handle. At their age, I think I was still playing with dolls sometimes. They were not so lucky.

It shocks me when authors don't allow their characters room to grow and change. I wonder why the characters, after they've been through so much, haven't learned anything. They remain stagnant, uninfluenced by their experiences, ready to repeat their mistakes. As writers, we know that conflict creates a story. When you go through conflict in life, you are changed. When you make your first doctors appointment and learn about IRA's, or you pay your taxes and learn about your rent increase that is depressingly legal and irreversible (characters are so lucky to never experience these things): You have grown. Even if you kicked and screamed your way through it, you changed and maybe more so because of the fight you threw. You may have decided to never be treated a certain way again. You may have decided that next time you won't take something lying down, and that you'll fight for what you deserve. You may have decided that next time, you will be kinder and more considerate and not let your emotions get the better of you.

Growth.

No one wants to read about unchanged characters, because the unchanged character is typically the villain. A sad, blob of an individual that stays in its cold, dark hole and ruins the lives around them. On purpose. Bitter, angry people (or things) filled with pain, because of the situations in life that ruined them. But they too, were changed. The villain did not start out a villain. The villain started out that wide-eyed innocent child that played in sprinklers, played fetch with a dog, and found the newest toy exciting. They too went to school and developed an imagination, wrote reports, and tried out for the school play. When they were hit a curve ball sometime in their lives, instead of growing and becoming a better person -- They gave up, turned inward, and decided to spend their lives devoted to revenge. To pain. They became stagnant when something demoralized them, and it made them bitter and unwavering. They switched from wanting to make everyone happy to wanting them to feel the pain they feel.

Characters that learn something are the characters loved by the audience. Everyone wants to be attached to a shooting star; a character with the ability to change the world. Everyone likes the popular kid; even the ones that hate him. Everyone loves an Iron Man. But what can be even more impressive than that is Dear Old Dad. A human being showing compassion is more impressive than a superhero.  

It doesn't matter what you write, as long as there is growth. Be it a child entering pubescent years and suddenly becoming closed off and cold. A teacher realizing that they are taking their childhood fears out on their students. You can inspire or terrify, but all characters must change, just as all people must change. By fighting change, you are not fighting to stay where you are, you are  fighting improvement. No one stays put. You either fight to improve, or slowly recede into the background.

If your characters don't grow by the end of your story, you should consider where you, as a writer, remain.

All my love,
L.B.