~This is the twelfth post in a series running through the month of June 2009 in which I attempt to post once a day for the month.~
It’s time for the latest piece of fabulousness from those wonder twins over at The Daring Kitchen, The Daring Cooks! This month’s challenge was hosted by Jen Yu of Use Real Butter. There are two reasons I’m so excited about this challenge. The first is that I love Jen’s blog. It’s beautiful. It’s entertaining. It has amazing recipes. Jen is a no-bull, take-all-comers gal with the kind of optimism and ability to see the good in life that makes those of us who sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees blush with shame. And her blog is the reason that I started doing Daring Bakers challenges, which is the reason I started this blog. So effectively, Jen is the reason I started blogging. And started pushing myself to be a better cook. And a better writer. I have a lot to thank Jen for. And I do.
The second reason I’m so excited about this challenge that I’ve been thinking about it for over a week is because Jen chose Chinese Dumplings for June 2009. Pot stickers! And her recipe was so simple to follow that they turned out FABULOUSLY! Truly. They warrant all caps. The husband said at least twice “these are really, really good. Are you going to make these again?” and we ate all the dumplings (a half recipe) in one sitting (minus three, but only because we were too stuffed to get up from the table and fry another batch).
I highly recommend giving these a try. Are they labor intensive? A little. But so is homemade pasta, homemade bread, homemade pizza dough, homemade puff pastry, homemade Indian paneer (this could go on forever), until you get the hang of it. That’s the big secret of cooking. Yes there are things that are always going to be tricky, but so many wonderful foods that have been made “easy” with processing, packaging and take out (never again with pot stickers!) are not at all difficult or even time consuming if you learn how to weave them into your life. And with some simple skills, the homemade versions are more delicious, healthier (these pot stickers have a minimal amount of oil and if you made them with a vegetarian filling, would actually push into “good for you” territory), and much, much cheaper. And it’s really satisfying to make this stuff. Jen mentions in her original dumplings post that her family used to make these every Sunday, with her parents and her grandparents working together to make everything. That’s a Sunday meal. Take your time. Let everyone help. Get the kids in there and show them how food is made. Laugh a lot. Maybe drink a little wine. Eat what you made. Enjoy. Repeat forever.
This was a great challenge. And thanks Jen, for everything.*
One last note – if you are inclined to improve/test/push your baking/cooking/eating skills and have a great learning experience/mayhem in the kitchen/a heck of a good time, consider joining the nice folks over at The Daring Kitchen. You have two options – Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers. Both groups have a member host choose one “challenge” recipe per month. Members make the challenge, write it up (generally at least with one photo, many with more) and post it on their blogs on the same day. Part of the fun is that the recipe is a secret until the day of the posting! But fear not, there is a lot of support from the group and host on a members-only forum to help you get through any trials and tribulations. If this sounds like your thing, please, come out and play!
1 lb ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
1 cup water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch
Fillings: the beauty of the Chinese dumpling/potsticker is that the filling is very versatile. That’s why there are so many different kinds of dumplings when you go to dim sum. The two most common are pork and shrimp. You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken…) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives – oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to “stick” to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. I think if I were to make vegetarian dumplings, I would sauté the cabbage and mash up the tofu for a better cohesiveness. It’s up to you how you want to fill your dumplings and I say – run with it! Just keep it cohesive and no big chunks of hard ingredients (they poke through the wrapper dough = disaster). I realize it may be tempting to dump all of the vegetables into a food processor and give it a whir, but I caution against it. You don’t want a slurry, you want a mince. Practice your knife skills and be careful.
Note: you will want to double this for the amount of filling listed – I just tend to use leftover pork filling for soup meatballs. A single batch will yield about 40 dumplings depending on size.
2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)**
1/2 cup warm water
flour for work surface
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).
Make the dough, Method 2 (my (Jen’s) mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.
Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images above at Jen’s blog).
To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.
To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface and steam for about 6 minutes.
To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover.*** Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.
To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.
To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.