Figs with Goat Cheese

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2nd time around for everything

So we got broken into. Again.

The thieves took my laptop. Again.

And my camera. Again.

I am a mite… annoyed by this, as you may guess. But the upshot is that there’s no pictures this time.

So these dumplings were the second dumpling recipe I’ve had sitting in my binder for a while. It is getting to be that time, when I dig in and just make the time to try these recipes. I admit though, I did look at the instructions on making the dough for these dumplings, go ‘Nope!’, and bought wonton wrappers. I do think that might have been part of the problem – I have yet to pan-fry OR steam dumplings such that they don’t stick to the pan. Maybe I needed to mash those sweet potatoes more, get out all the lumps. Not that I think that affected the cooking, just that they might have tasted better. Having to roast and mash potatoes before even starting the recipe is not one of those things that are going to endear a recipe to me either. Maybe y’all make mash potatoes or sweet potatoes on a semi-regular basis and just setting 1/2 cup aside to use later wouldn’t be a problem for you, but mashed potato types aren’t on regular rotation around here. Rice makes a more regular appearance around these parts.

At this point, I’m counting two things against this particular recipe, and I haven’t even gotten to the kicker – they just weren’t that interesting to eat. Not for me or Adam.

Yet another recipe I won’t be keeping. Maybe I should just acknowledge that the remaining three recipes should be skipped and move on with my life…. But I’ve already got the pears to poach this week, Adam really wants to try (taste) the bread pudding in the binder, and I really want to try making mozzarella. … That last one may end up in the next round of recipes regardless – I just don’t see having the time in the next couple of months to track down rennet and try this out. Darn it.

Any way! on with the recipe

Pan-Fried Steamed Sweet Potato and Pork Dumplings

More than I remembered to count
Original from Mission Food
Recipe Count – 3 left
Section Count – Black Binder:  1 more left, Subsection – Appetizers: 0! No More! (happy Laura)

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 tbsp sake
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F and wrap the sweet potatoes in aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast until cooked through and soft-ish when squeezed (using a hot pad! Oh gods, don’t test squeeze aluminum wrapped potatoes with your bare hands), about 1 hour.
  2. Mean while, brown the ground pork and set aside
  3. Peel the potatoes, chop the flesh into chunks, and mash within a bowl until most of the lumps are gone. A potato masher makes this much easier, although fork(s) will work. Add the browned pork, sake, soy sauce, and five spice powder to the potatoes; mix well.
  4. Place between 1 and 2 tsp of filling into the center of each wrapper. Seal the wrapper closed, either with a press to smoosh the edges together or with a little bit of water run between the edges.
  5. Steam the dumplings in a wok or steamer basket until cooked – about 10 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and eat.

Actually simple snack

Things I learned while making avocado sushi for the first time:

1) Avocados are easy to peel for about the first 3/4ths of the fruit. Then you’re holding the interior flesh trying to grip without crushing while using a peel on the remaining 1/4th of the fruit. Let’s just say I found that to be an … interesting experience. And no, I did not drop the avocado which was successfully peeled 🙂
2) After cutting kind of half moon shapes of avocado, laying that slice on its side and cutting match-stick like slivers makes rolling sushi much, much easier.
3) Rolling sushi is tricky and I should remember that I own a sushi rolling mat. Given that I got it 8 years ago as part of a kit and haven’t used it since (I think), I’m forgiving my self for forgetting that. Even if it would have made my life easier. Oh well, the nori mostly held onto itself.
4) I like nori (seeweed sheet) and avocado – both individually and together.
5) Excess avocado smushed into not-quite-enough-rice-to-cover-another-sheet if tasty and quite filling.
6) Slicing rolls into individual pieces is hard, even with a good chef’s knife and cleaning the blade in cold water every so often. I’m betting there’s a trick to this I don’t know.
7) Inside out sushi (with the rice on the outside of the roll) is also very difficult but provides an excellent excuse to slice up the roll and eat immediately. Obviously I must destroy the evidence of unsuccessfully rolled sushi 😀

Finished Sushi

So I think the most challenging part of this recipe (and possibly any sushi recipe I attempt) is the rice. I know I find rice a bit difficult. If you have a pot with glass lid of the appropriate size for making rice – USE IT. So helpful to be able to see the water level in the rice without taking the lid off. Definitely rendered a few pots too dry from taking the lid off or burnt from not taking it off to check soon enough. Although you with working noses would probably be able to smell the burning starting.

Simple Avocado Sushi

~32 pieces
Original from Wassims Cuisine which I seem to no longer be able access….
Recipe Count – 8 left
Section Count – Black Binder:  5 more left, Subsection – Appetizers: 1 more (Pan-fried sweet potato and pork dumplings)

  • 2/3 cup / 140 g white rice
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 ripe medium-large Avocado
  1. Wash and rinse the rice with cold water 4-5 times (this is important to getting the rice sticky). Cover with large amounts of water and boil until done, 10 – 15 minutes; this will be less time than called for on the rice packaging. Strain in a fine mesh strainer, transfer to a bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Mix gently with a fork without mashing until it begins to clump. Leave to cool.
  2. Peel the avocado and slice into long, thin pieces.
  3. Cur nori in half and set on a work surface with the smooth-shiny side down. Spread a layer of rice over 3/4th of the sheet. Lay strips of avocado up to the edges. Roll and slice into 8 pieces. Repeat with remaining 1 1/2 sheets of nori
  4. Enjoy!IngredientsSlicing

Dumpling presses and New Year’s Con Traditions

Last year for New Year’s Con, I finally made a non-wonton soup recipe. For years, I’d make wontons ahead of the con, freeze them, and then only have to cook them in beef or vegetable broth for 6 or 7 minutes. It was a tasty recipe that meant I didn’t step away from the con for long, people were fed quickly, and apparently it was tasty enough that people asked for it after a couple years.

The problem? One serving was 4-6 wontons. Even if I was fast enough to place the filling and seal one wonton every 30 seconds, that’s 2-3 minutes per person and at 12 people to feed, 30 to 45 minutes prep time.

I am not that fast. Prep time ahead of the con was at 1.25 hours and rising. Even with both Adam and I doing the wonton creation. And let me tell you, folding dumplings gets rather boring after a while, especially when both people involved have to concentrate on what they’re doing instead of being able to chat. So, things tended to slow down as we made ’em.

Yes, it took about 3 years for me to put my foot down. And what happens when I do? The recipe I pick is a flop – I’d picked a pocket sandwich kind of thing, and it just took too long to make the next sandwich. Lunch sort of … metastasized to over 2 hours.

Tasted pretty good though….

So, the con committee (i.e. three of my closest friends) offered to buy me a dumpling press, to see if that sped things up enough that I’d be willing to do wontons again. This is the recipe I decided to use to test that out. Because why wouldn’t I try a new recipe – how else am I going to improve my skills? 🙂

Lessons learned:
1) green cabbage can substitute reasonably well for napa cabbage if you can’t find any; although napa cabbage is still best
2) thin slices of cabbage are hard to do
a) so I need to improve my knife skills and
b) try out a food processor next time
3) my press is larger than 3 inches in diameter and if I use 3 inch dumpling wrappers, I need to pay attention to where in the well the filling is or I may end up with funny looking potstickers
a) use larger wrappers (if I can find them)
4) If you don’t pay close attention to dumplings frying in the wok, the wrappers will meld to the pan and you will loose dumpling bits when getting them off

5) folding dumplings is still annoying but not I-hate-this-before-I-eat-it-out-of-ANNOYANCE!! annoying.

So, wonton soup is probably on for the next New Year’s Con. Just got to buy a 2nd press for Adam.

Chinese New Year Potstickers

original from The Sweet and Sour Chronicles
makes about 40 dumplings

Recipe Count – 17 left
Section Count – Black Binder: 10 more left, Subsection – Appetizers: 2 more

  • 8 oz napa or green cabbage
  • 1 lb lean ground chicken or pork
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black or white pepper
  • dumpling wrappers
  • oil
  1. Cut the cabbage into very thin strips. In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, ground meat, green onions, wine, cornstarch, salt and pepper.
  2. Place 1 tsp to 1 tbsp, depending on the size of the wrappers, of the meat mixture in the center of a wrapper. Pinch the edges together by hand or using a dumpling press. Repeat until all wrappers or meat mixture has been used up.
  3. Heat a tbsp of oil in wok or skillet until hot and shimmery. Add a single layer of dumplings and fry until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover, and cook for 6-7 minutes or until water is absorbed. Repeat for remaining dumplings. Serve.

We added our dumplings to a bowl of miso soup. But if you want to eat them on their own, a dipping sauce you can use is 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp sesame oil. Or, you know, your favorite prepared one. 🙂

The right noodles make all the difference

I am a big fan of Wegmans – they’ve got great selection, good prices on everything I want from meat to bulk staples, and it’s just a pleasant store to shop in. Somebody definitely did some studies of industrial design to encourage purchasing. But there is definitely  (at least) one area where Wegmans is deficient.

Noodles.

Not pasta – their pasta selection is pretty good. I’m talking about noodles of the non-Italian variety. Lo mein. Udon. Rice noodles. Pretty much anything a recipe from ANYWHERE in Asia and/or that ENTIRE HALF OF THE PLANET calls for. I’m lucky if I can find one example of what I’m looking for, and usually it’s some mass-produced exemplar of cardboard.

Yeah, not happy about it. I mean I get it, Wegmans is not a specialty store and they’re catering to whatever ‘mainstream American’ tastes constitutes. And it works – they’re my weekly grocery run. But from now on? Whenever we move, I am finding a local Asian supermarket. And then? ALWAYS going there for any noodles.

Udon Noodles

I mean, who wouldn’t want the chance to browse all the funky fruits I’ve got no idea what to do with? 😀

This is a simple recipe and like all simple recipes, the quality of your ingredients will really dictate the quality of your meal. It is totally worth the extra grocery run for real udon noodles. Assuming there’s an Asian grocery store in your area. If not? a) I’m sorry and b) make friends with someone who knows how to make noodles at home?

Udon Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Poached Egg

Recipe Count – 28 more
Section Count – Appetizers: 3 more
original from TheKitchn.com

  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 14ish oz of pre-cooked udon noodles – not the dried variety please
  • 1 head of baby bok choy
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce

Udon Ingredients

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. Add the star anise and cinnamon; continue simmering for 5-10 minutes, in order to infuse the broth with the spices.
  2. Crack both eggs into separate small cups, then gently slip them one at a time into the broth. Cook on a simmer for two minutes. Add the noodles and the bok choy, then stir very gently so as not to break the eggs. Continue cooking for another two minutes, until the egg whites are completely set but the middles are still loose.
  3. Pull the pan off the heat, then gently stir in the spring onions and soy sauce. Taste and adjust soy sauce if needed. Remove the star anise and cinnamon with a slotted spoon. Divide between two bowls and serve. Enjoy!
We added slices of beef to get some protein and make it a main dish.

We added slices of beef to get some protein and make it a main dish.