We’re pleased to welcome author Bru Baker to The Novel Approach today, talking cooking and sharing recipes on her King of the Kitchen blog tour. Enjoy!
I’m so glad to be here at The Novel Approach wrapping up my blog tour for King of the Kitchen, which was released on Nov. 6. I’ve had almost as much fun talking about cooking during the blog tour as I did writing about it in the book!
I’ve frequently written my characters in the kitchen or sharing a meal, but I realized that I hadn’t actually framed an entire book around one of the things I love the most—cooking. King of the Kitchen was born out of a desire to write about food and the high-stress, high-stakes world of restaurant kitchens.
My father was a chef, which meant I was learning knife skills at a time when most other kids were learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. Cooking together was one of my favorite things to do, and he was always eager to teach me whatever I wanted to know. I learned a fair amount just watching him work, too. But the double-edged sword (or should I say double-edged chef’s knife?) was the fact that as a chef, he wasn’t around much. He’d still be asleep when I left for school, and his shifts ended long after I was in bed for the night. Managing a commercial kitchen meant even if he wasn’t scheduled to work a weekend, he was frequently called in anyway because a line cook called in sick. I spent a good number of Saturdays during my formative years sitting at a table in a restaurant dining room doing homework or coloring while sous chefs brought out desserts and other treats to keep my sister and I entertained.
Thanks to the proliferation of celebrity cooking shows these days, we think of chefs like rock stars. We see the fame and accomplishments, but frequently miss the long hours and years of hard work that goes into getting them there. I wanted to give a more realistic view of what a celebrity chef’s workload might be like, so we see Beck working himself to the bone hustling between his cooking show and the restaurants he manages. Even Duncan, who is a brilliant chef but can’t commit to a restaurant full time, works long hours and has basically no social life outside the kitchens and his chef friends.
That’s part of the reason King of the Kitchen is such a slow burn romance. Their lives are so busy that getting to know each other takes time. But there’s a lot of delicious flirting (and even more delicious food!) throughout, and we get to know Beck and Duncan as they get to know each other.
Today I’m sharing my dad’s recipe for egg rolls. It’s been a fairly closely held family secret for decades, mostly because my father never wrote anything down. To him, a recipe was a guideline, not an absolute. To this day, I have trouble following recipes because I’m always tweaking things for a better flavor profile or to include a vegetable that’s more in season. In fact, one of the hardest parts of writing King of the Kitchen was putting together the recipes that appear in the back of the book. I hardly ever measure things, and I’m prone to just throwing in what I have on hand instead of dutifully following a recipe.
My father died when I was 18, and his egg roll recipe died with him. I spent the next ten years making batch after batch, trying to get it right. I finally succeeded a few years ago, and I can’t even tell you how happy that made me. To me, these egg rolls taste like childhood and love. They bring back memories of spending hours in the kitchen with my dad on his rare days off, rolling up dozens of them to be frozen so my sister and I could pop one in the fryer when we got home from school.
If you haven’t been following along with my blog tour, it’s worth going back through the posts for the recipes! Last week I shared Duncan’s refrigerator Velcro frittata recipe on Joyfully Jay and my go-to comfort food, garlic and shallot pasta, on Gay List Book Reviews. I was over on Prism Book Alliance yesterday with Beck’s roasted brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze, too.
Bru’s family secret egg rolls
1 Tbs. Vegetable oil
1 lb. Ground pork
1 cup green beans
8 oz. canned water chestnuts
8 oz. canned bamboo
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper
Package of egg roll wrappers
Oil for frying
All of the vegetables need to be finely julienned. Combine the vegetables, soy sauce and chicken stock in a large-bottomed pan and put over medium heat. While that is coming to a boil, brown the ground pork in the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook until no longer pink. Drain the grease and add it in to the vegetable mixture and cook until the carrots and cabbage are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Take the mixture off the heat and let it come to room temperature. (Trust me, you don’t want to roll hot egg rolls!) When the mixture is cool, set up your wrapping station. Open the package of egg roll wrappers and keep them under a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out. Beat the egg in a small bowl. You can drain off the liquid if you like—we always just used a slotted spoon to dish out the filling. Whatever you decide do, you want to make sure you’ve drained it as much as possible, because wet egg rolls will fall apart in the oil.
Lay your wrapper out in front of you like a diamond. Depending on how much filling you like, spoon out ¼ to ½ of a cup of the filling just below the middle point of the diamond. Fold the bottom edge up and tuck it under the filling, pulling it tight as you roll (not too tight or you’ll break the wrapper). Use your egg wash to draw a line down each of the sides, then fold the right and left side toward the middle. It should look like an envelope. Continue rolling the pouch with the filling until you get to the end, then seal with more egg wash.
Heat the oil to 350F in a heavy-bottomed pan (like a dutch oven) or your electric fryer. Don’t overcrowd the pan while frying—you’ll have to do these in batches, probably two or three at a time. Cook for two to three minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on a wire rack or paper towel.
If you haven’t wrapped them tightly enough they’ll fall apart, but that’s okay. Let the pieces cook and then fish them out with a spider or other utensil. My sister and I used to fight over these pieces because they’ll be crispy and delicious!
King of the Kitchen Blurb: Rising kitchen talents Beck Douglas and Duncan Walters have been on the foodie paparazzi radar for years, since their status as heirs to two of the biggest celebrity chef empires around makes them culinary royalty. Beck is known for his charm and traditional food as cohost of his uncle’s popular TV cooking show, while Duncan earned himself a reputation as a culinary bad boy, both for his refusal to work in his father’s restaurants and his avant garde approach to cooking.
They’re also heirs to a food rivalry that could put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame, and when they’re photographed in the middle of a heated argument, the press goes wild with speculation. Damage control ensues, with a fake friendship engineered by PR cronies that leaves both of them secretly pining for more.
Beck chafes under his uncle’s micromanagement, and Duncan’s relationship with his homophobic father becomes even more tenuous when Beck and Duncan start getting closer. It’s hard to hide their chemistry on national television when Duncan joins Beck’s cooking show, but they won’t be able to take their relationship—or their careers—to the next level without breaking a few eggs.
Bio: Bru Baker has been writing for Dreamspinner Press since December 2012. She believes in Happily Ever Afters, but she almost always makes her characters work to get there. She and her husband live in the Midwest with their two young children, whose antics make finding time to write difficult but never let life get boring.