Calzone

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My friend Kathy and I used to eat sausage mushroom pizza at The Front Room on Clement Street in San Francisco. We were twelve, just old enough to eat unaccompanied at establishments other than Doggie Diner. Sure, there were other pizzas in my life—Giorgio’s, also on Clement. Shakey’s and Round Table, Toto’s and Uno’s. But The Front Room was my favorite.

When I went to college at sixteen, my RA handed me a beer on my second day of orientation. It was just before my first college football game. I decided I didn’t like beer, but I loved football games. And I still liked pizza. Late night pizza runs to Frankie, Johnnie, & Luigi Too! in Mountain View were legendary.

But it was at Ramona’s restaurant in downtown Palo Alto that I found true love.

Calzone.

Big, inside out pizzas filled with yummy, stretchy, cheesy goodness. It was enough food for two, maybe three people—and I’d eat the whole thing myself. One might think I so enjoyed that calzone because my dorm–Stern Dining—reputedly had the worst food on campus. But really, Ramona’s calzone was just that good. And secretly, I loved the dorm food (and usually went back for seconds).

It’s football season, so here is my attempt at homemade calzone.

Calzone

This dough is adapted from James Peterson’s pizza dough recipe from his book Baking.

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3 cups flour

¾ cup barely warm water

½ tsp active dry yeast proofed in 1 tablespoon barely warm water

¾ tsp salt

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a bowl. Add the salt and mix, then add the oil. Knead the dough with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for 7 minutes until very smooth and elastic. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.

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Filling:

Marinara sauce—I’m not ashamed to say I used a jar of spaghetti sauce for this. Oh wait. Yes I am. Ashamed.

Italian sausage links—cooked and sliced

Sweet multicolored baby peppers

2 large or 4 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 pounds white button mushrooms, sliced thick

2 pounds Mozzarella cheese

fresh basil

1 Egg, beaten, for glaze

kosher salt and cracked pepper

 

Toss the whole baby peppers in 2 tbsp olive oil to coat. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the peppers. Sprinkle with salt. Roast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled, pull off the stem, slide your finger inside the pepper to open it, and remove the seeds. No need to peel the peppers.

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In a large heavy pot, sauté the onions on high heat in a little oil till they start to brown. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for a half hour till very soft, caramelized, and brown with an almost creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper.

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In a large heavy pot, sauté the mushrooms in a little oil on medium high heat, so that the mushrooms release all their water. Continue cooking until all the water released from the mushrooms evaporates, and the mushrooms are dry and start to brown. Continue cooking until all the mushrooms have nice brown edges.   Wet squishy mushrooms are unpleasant in texture and flavor, so make sure you get them nice and brown. Season with salt.

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yes, that’s vegan sausage in the small dish.

 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees

If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf of your oven and preheat it for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.

Roll one portion into a 8 inch circle

On one half of the dough, layer sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, fresh basil, sauce, and cheese. Fold the dough over into a half circle and seal. This seemingly simple task ended up being quite difficult. I think I had too much filling and had trouble getting it to seal well, and they certainly did not look pretty.

Continue until you have formed all 6 calzone.

Brush tops of calzone with egg glaze, then sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper.

Place calzone on parchment lined baking sheet.

 

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Bake for 18 minutes, testing to see that the dough is cooked through. I like to put the baking sheet right on the baking stone; the heat is conducted right through the metal, and there’s no messy and slightly dangerous task of putting the food directly onto the stone.

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Critique:

All the components of the filling were perfect, but they did not come together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Next time I recommend:

Crumble the sausage and fry, rather than simmer and slice. The pieces of sausage were too big and not seared.

In attempting to showcase all the filling ingredients, I layered the filling. This layering of cheese and sauce did not allow adequate melding with the other ingredients, so the flavor and texture was not well balanced. Next time I would dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, and place the all-mixed-together filling on the dough.

This dough was not what I expected—the olive oil resulted in a soft bread rather than the chewy, toothsome texture that I wanted for my calzone. Next time I’ll try a different recipe for the dough.

All in all, a good effort, but not a winner this time around.

 

HOWEVER

 

Today is Big Game

And we are headed for a winning touchdown

in the Cal Zone

 

Beat Cal!

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Vegetarian Kimchi Dumplings

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homebody /home-bod-y/ (noun)

a person who likes to stay at home, especially one who is perceived as unadventurous.

All my life I’ve been a homebody. My childhood was spent sitting in the living room with my nose in a book, unless I was watching Gilligan’s Island or The Flying Nun.

Outdoor activities? Nope. Travel? Nope.

I am the master of finding a reason not to do something fun and adventurous. One might say my life is dull, fearful, and unimaginative. I prefer to call it stable, steady, and secure. (And don’t you go to predictable and monotonous. Just don’t go there.) I’m the antithesis of your Disney princess–I don’t want more than This Provincial Life, nor do I want to be Part of your World.

So it is with wonder (as in, I wonder where she came from?) and bemusement that I’ve watched our youngest daughter take every opportunity to travel, adventure outdoors, backpack, SCUBA dive, and did I say travel? The girl has more stamps in her passport than the rest of us combined.

This time my vegetarian happy wanderer returned from a trip to Cambodia. In a foolish and desperate attempt to keep her in our zip code for more than 20 minutes, I made Kimchi Dumplings.

I made up the recipe for this filling. The dough is Andrea Nguyen’s ‘Extra Chewy wrapper” recipe from her book, Asian Dumplings.

 Vegetarian Kimchi Dumplings

½ block firm tofu

a big handful of bean sprouts

2 green onions, trimmed and sliced

half a small bunch of garlic chives (Jiu Cai), rinsed and chopped

5 dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water

1 bundle of dried bean threads

¼ cup kimchi, drained and chopped

1 tsp oyster sauce (technically not vegetarian. sigh.)

2 tsp soy sauce

¼ tsp white pepper

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp sesame oil

Rinse and drain tofu, pressing down to express excess water, then cut into cubes, put it on a dish towel, and press with another dish towel so that it is fairly dry.

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Boil the bean sprouts for 5 minutes, then cut into half inch lengths.

Mix the green onions and garlic chives, sprinkle liberally with salt and mix. The chives will start to weep liquid. Dump it onto a clean dish towel, add the bean sprouts, wrap it and twist and squeeze the liquid out so that the vegetables are fairly dry. In this instance, I used golden chives because the market did not have the usually abundant green garlic chives. If you use the green chives, no need for the green onions.

Trim the tough stems from the shitake mushrooms and discard. Finely dice (I use the food processor for this task).

Place the dried bean threads in a bowl of hot water until softened, just a few minutes. Take 1/3 of the bean threads, reserve the remaining 2/3 for another use. Using a pair of scissors, snip the bean threads into half inch lengths.IMG_1360_2

All of your above ingredients should be relatively dry at this point. If your ingredients are wet then the filling will cause the dough to fall apart when you are wrapping. Mix the tofu, bean sprouts/chives, mushrooms, bean threads, and kimchi together. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper, ginger, and sesame oil and mix well.

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Wrappers:

I believe it is now time for a commercial break. I have a confession to make: I bought a new toy.

IMG_1398_2  my new kitchen scale

This was inspired by a book I recently picked up: Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. In it he reveals the universal magic ratios for baking and cooking. A good kitchen scale is mandatory for using these ratios. And so I ask you–Did I Have a Choice?

I love this new toy. NO MORE MEASURING CUPS! Zero the scale. Add the empty bowl. Push “tare”. Add your flour. Push “tare”. Add your rice flour. This worked so beautifully, and the dough turned out to have the correct consistency without me fussing and adding more flour or liquid.

Back to the dumpling wrappers:

7.5 ounces (1 ½ cups) unbleached all purpose flour

2 7/8 ounces (1/2 cup) Mochiko Blue Star brand glutinous (sweet) rice flour

½ tsp salt

¾ cup just boiled water

Stir the flours and salt together. Stir in the hot water to form a pliable dough that is yet firm enough to hold its shape well. Add additional flour if the dough is too wet or soft.

Cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for at least 5 minutes and up to a couple of hours at room temperature. Divide dough in half, keeping unused portion covered to prevent drying. Roll half the dough into a log, and cut log into 16 pieces. With your wooden rolling pin, roll out the dough into a disc, and wrap into a crescent pot sticker shape.

 

Pan fry as usual (see Feb 17, 2014 “Auntie’s Special Dispensation” or Oct 7, 2014 “Korean Mandu” post for exhaustive if not wearisome description of this all important cooking method).IMG_0072

Make dipping sauce:  of course you have done this in advance.  keeps in the fridge for weeks.

1 part sugar

1 part rice vinegar

1 part soy sauce

Simmer together until sugar is dissolved, let cool to room temperature.  Pour a little into individual dipping bowls and sprinkle with Korean toasted sesame seeds (which are a nice toasty golden brown, and have a more robust appearance than the white sesame seeds found in your grocery store).

Critique:

Intended vegetarian daughter target audience: “Mama, these are good. They are my favorite vegetarian dumplings so far.”

DH: at first bite: “Uh . . . Is there kimchee in here? They have no taste.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT, THEY’RE VEGETARIAN.

Second bite: “Oh, much better dipped in the sauce”.

Carnivorous daughter: “Hey mom, good job! These taste as good as the [purchased, mass produced] frozen ones!”

Could I have asked for a more glowing review?

I guess I’ll stay HOME and make some more.

My Secret Weapon

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When my mother married my father in Chicago in 1950, she did not know how to cook. Unlike her older sisters, she never learned the requisite homemaker duties taught to Chinese girls—how to cook, how to sew, how to keep up Chinese family traditions. She said she was treated like a boy—which was a great honor for a girl back in 1920’s China—and her father indulged her, so she never had to learn. I like to think she was his favorite. Mom did become a wonderful self-taught cook, and we always had a home cooked dinner on the table at 5:30pm. (Happy coincidence that Star Trek re-runs were on from 4-5pm? I think not.) But she didn’t use the oven.

My auntie, otoh, knew how to do everything. Auntie lived on Balboa street, just around the corner from my San Francisco home. She was a fabulous cook. She hemmed every pair of pants that needed shortening, sewed on wayward buttons, and knitted every sweater I wore through high school. It was at Auntie’s table that I learned to use chopsticks, and it was at Auntie’s table that I first folded won ton and kuo-teh (pot stickers). It is Auntie’s special dispensation that is referred to in my very first blog post. But she didn’t use the oven.

When my physician-mom took call, which was often twice a week, Dad would take over dinner and we’d have freezer-stocked ground beef patties with ketchup, plus Chinese take-out. And you know those biscuits in a can? He liked to cook them one of two ways: (a) pan fry them in a little oil for several minutes on each side. Inevitably, a couple of them would burn. (b) snuggle them together in a single layer in a large flat bowl and steam them in a wide pot. Both (a) and (b) would be placed on the table next to a dish of sugar and we would dip the pan-fried or steamed canned biscuit in the sugar and take a sweet chewy bite. Notice there is no oven involved in the preparation of aforementioned biscuits.

“Mom, why are the cakes on the dim sum carts steamed?”

“Because we don’t have ovens in China. We have to cook cakes on top of the stove.”

Ah, I see.

Which brings me to Baked Char Siu Bao. I don’t know when the Baked Bao was invented, but I do know there was NO SUCH THING when I was a little kid. All Char Siu Bao was snow white and steamed. And procured from Chinatown, because there were NO RESTAURANTS on Clement street yet. When they started appearing in take-out dim sum shops on Clement, we went ballistic at the first bite–So! Good!—sticky sweet golden brown bun with a nice chew, filled with bits of char siu and sweet onion.

So here is my version of the Baked (in an oven) Char Siu Bao.

Except

There’s no Char Siu.

Instead, I use my Secret Weapon.

Like the Blade of Isildur, the Sword of Gryffindor, and the FSNP (Famous Spock Nerve Pinch), everyone needs a secret weapon. My secret weapon is kalbi jjim, or Braised Korean Short Ribs.

In its original form, this Short Rib recipe, served with steamed rice and vegetables for a family dinner, is The Most Amazing dinner you will ever serve.

When cooked ‘for a crowd’—see below—this becomes a weapon that can be wielded in times of fear and trembling, turning an ordinary tailgate/vacation/potluck/party into something sublime.

Not to mention, it makes awesome filling for baked baos.

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Korean Braised Short Ribs (Kalbi jjim)

4 pounds English Cut Short Ribs with bone, (3-4 inch lengths)

5 cloves garlic

5 thick slices fresh peeled ginger root

¼ cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Black soy sauce (also called double black, or mushroom soy, available in Asian groceries)

2 tbsp regular soy sauce

2 tsp black pepper

1 cup wine (I use Chinese cooking wine, any will do)

½ cup water

Sometimes I add a squirt of sriracha, or a big spoon of leftover jam/jelly from the door of my fridge, or 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Or all three.

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Trim short ribs of excess fat. Slash meat across grain down to bone about 3 to 4 slashes per rib. Place, meat side down, in large deep pot over high heat and brown 3-4 minutes. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer for 2 ½-3 hours, adding more water if it gets too low. Taste to check that it is fall apart tender; if not, cook another 30-45 minutes. Remove meat from broth, and pour broth into tall measuring cup, adding ice, or place in refrigerator till all fat solidifies on top. Discard fat. Return broth to the pot and turn heat to high, uncovered, allowing sauce to reduce until syrupy (watch closely or it may burn). Add meat back to the sauce and reheat over low-medium heat, tossing to glaze.

Serve with steamed rice.

For a crowd:

Costco sells boneless short rib meat in strips, about 4 pounds to a pack. Select well marbled meat.

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Cut into 2 inch chunks and cook as above, though I omit the browning step because I’m lazy and have not found it to make a difference.

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Remove the meat from the broth to a large bowl, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

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I now exclusively cook this in my pressure cooker for 45 minutes.

Pour the broth into a large measuring cup and put it in the fridge overnight.

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When you are ready to serve, remove the big white disc of fat from the top of the broth and discard.

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Pour the broth into your pot and boil on high, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, until it is reduced to a syrupy sauce.

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Add the cold cooked kalbi and gently warm on medium low, tossing in the sauce to glaze before serving. Garnish with sesame seeds and a bit of flat leaf parsley or cilantro.

Homemade Kalbi Bao Recipe

This is adapted from the “Baked Filled Buns” recipe from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings cookbook.

Dough:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

¼ cup (half stick) butter

2 tsp rapid-rise dry yeast

2 ½ tablespoons warm water

1 large egg

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

2 ½ cups flour plus more as needed

You will also need

1 egg, beaten, to glaze the buns before they are baked

2 tablespoons honey mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water, to glaze the buns after they are baked

Melt butter with milk in a small saucepan, and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Stir yeast with warm water (I add a big pinch of sugar) and let sit a few minutes until it is foamy.

Whisk together the milk mixture, yeast, and egg.

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Stir flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the milk/yeast mixture and blend well with a wooden spoon (or in my case, the kitchenaid mixer). Knead by hand for 5 minutes, or with the dough hook in your stand mixer for 3 minutes, adding flour as needed so that the dough is smooth, elastic, and not sticking to the side of the bowl or your work surface. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes, till doubled in volume.

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Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down dough and cut in half. Take half the dough (keep the other half covered to prevent drying) and knead it a few times. Roll the dough into a 12 inch log. Cut into 8 pieces for large and 16 pieces for small buns. Take one piece and flatten it, then using your dumpling rolling pin, roll the disc into a 2 ½ inch circle, leaving the center a bit thicker than the rim.

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Kalbi Bao filling: also adapted from Andrea Nguyens book—except I used diced kalbi in place of char siu.

Flavoring sauce:

1 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

dash of white pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon rice wine

Mix above together and set aside.

2 cups diced kalbi

2 green onions, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat 2 tsp oil in a skillet. Add kalbi and green onions, tossing until onions are wilted, about a minute. Add the flavoring sauce and cook, stirring till heated through. Add cornstarch mixture and cook another 30 seconds, stirring constantly until the mixture comes together into a mass that you can mound. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. This can be done the day before, refrigerate overnight.

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To form buns, place a scoop (about 2 teaspoons) filling in the center of your dough round. Gather the edges of the dough, pleating as you go, to form a ‘closed satchel’. Pinch and twist the dough closed at the end. Place bun pleated side down on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.   Cover buns loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and side of buns with beaten egg to form the shiny glaze. Bake small buns for about 14 minutes and large buns for about 18 minutes, until they are golden brown. Cooked buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Brush warm buns with the honey glaze which also softens the crust.

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I’ve made these twice: once at home, and once as part of a dumpling class I taught. In the class, they disappeared immediately. They are ridiculously delicious.

For Korean tacos: I make the ‘for a crowd’ version at least one day before. Once the meat is completely cooled, preferably refrigerated, cut into a dice. When you are ready to serve, heat up the meat and keep warm while assembling tacos.

Korean Taco Recipe

Corn tortillas

Cooked short grain (Asian) rice

Chopped Kalbi jjim

Vegetarian version: Tofu

Teriyaki Mayo

Shredded daikon and carrot slaw, well drained

sweet pickles, slivered –sometimes called bread and butter pickles, from the pickle aisle in the grocery store.

Diced avocado

Toasted salted seaweed squares , cut into strips

Sriracha sauce

Sesame seeds

To assemble each taco, heat a tortilla in a dry frying pan over medium heat on both sides.

Layer ingredients in the order above

To steam rice:

Place 2 cups of uncooked rice in a nonstick 2 quart pot. Add cool water and stir to wash. Drain and repeat. Add enough cool water to come up 1 finger digit (phalanx) above the surface of the rice. Bring to a boil, then turn to simmer (lowest setting), cover tightly, and leave it alone for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit another 5 minutes, then fluff with a rice paddle.

To make teriyaki mayo: mix 2 parts mayonnaise with 1 part bottled teriyaki sauce.   I like to use Veri-Veri teriyaki by Soy Vay.

To cook tofu:

Buy one block firm tofu. Rinse and cut into small squares. Place on 3 paper towels and press 3 more paper towels on top to gently press out the water.

Add to hot frying pan with a little oil and add 1 clove minced garlic, ½ inch minced ginger, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp dark soy, 1 tsp regular soy, 3 stalks green onions, chopped finely, a couple dashes of pepper. Stir fry till tofu is coated and glistening. Add ½ tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp cold water to thicken.

To make slaw:

Julienne 2 large or 3 medium peeled carrots and ½ pound piece of peeled daikon. I use the julienne disc of my food processor for this menial task.

Mix together: ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup vinegar, 2 tsp salt, and ½ cup water. Stir to dissolve. Add the carrot and daikon and allow to pickle for at least 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes if vegetables are not submerged. This can be made the day before. Drain well before adding to taco

Lettuce Wrap variation: omit the corn tortillas, and wash and spin dry green or red leaf lettuce. Use the lettuce as the vehicle in which to mound your lovely taco filling.

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Above photo I took at another cooking class where we used flour tortillas instead of corn, and guac’d the avocados.

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And this one substitutes sheets of seaweed for the tortilla, one of the courses for a fancy dinner party.

I have made Korean tacos for a tailgater at the Rose Bowl, in cooking classes, at work for Nurse’s Day celebration, and illicitly in a room at Yosemite Lodge.

More than one person has told me “this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life”.

I nod and think: “secret weapon, indeed.”

And I didn’t use the oven.

Orange is the New Black

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On the wall in my office is a sign that says: “I only wear black because they haven’t invented a darker color yet”.  Truth be told, I only wear black because I cannot match any colors. Not at all. I once wore a new black skirt for a full year before my daughter asked me “why are you wearing black shoes with that blue skirt?”   This is why I stubbornly cling to black, and have no intention of wearing orange.  I’ve no current plans for a felony conviction nor Buddhist monkhood.

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I do, however, have some favorite orange things. In no particular order:  Campfires. California golden poppies. The Lorax.  Sunsets. Oompa loompas. Fred and George Weasley’s hair. The Golden Gate Bridge.

And Orange food?  So many GREAT orange foods.  Do you remember the Sunkist Orange TV commercial from the 1976? Talk about a great visual, you could practically smell the orange scent (like in Soaring Over California.  But I digress.)  Click the ‘watch now’ on the first one:

http://watchongadget.net/sunkist-oranges-1976-tv-commercial

I like papayas. (I think that mangos are sweet . . .)  Orange sherbet. Ripe apricots. Pumpkin pie. Tobiko. Sweet potatoes. Velveeta. ORANGE SODA.

Which brings me to a confession: When my kids were young, there were days that I made an All Orange Dinner: Kraft Mac & Cheese, carrots, canned mandarin oranges, orange jello, and Cheetos. I’m not proud of that.

But this is a dumpling blog—so let’s consider the orange dumpling.  I did actually make orange empanadas last Halloween—I went to all the trouble of making carrot puree for the crust, filled them with butternut squash and bbq pork and peas—but in the end you couldn’t even tell they were orange in color after baking.

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Which brings me to shrimp dumplings.  (Now THAT was a contrived intro if I’ve ever seen one.)  I based this on Andrea Nguyen’s recipe for Har Gow and instead of forming satchels and steaming, I formed half moons and boiled the dumplings. (spooked by a previous attempt, see ‘nemesis’ post).

Boiled Shrimp Dumplings (Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings recipe for Har Gow)

2/3 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined.   (I buy from my local Chinese market, where the seafood is very fresh, and they are already peeled and deveined. Saves loads of time). Dump the shrimp in ice water for a good rinse, then drain and pat dry on paper towels.

Garlic chives—Jiu Cai or Gau Choy, available at your Asian market—purchase golden for a uniformly pink/orange dumpling, or green for that lovely contrasting color.  I used about half of a bunch of garlic chives. Andrea’s recipe (and other traditional recipes) call for bamboo shoots, but the canned bamboo shoots ruined the filling (see “My Nemesis” post) and I prefer the chive flavor.

½ tsp salt

1.5 ounces pork fat or fatty bacon. (I’m sure this is amazing but I left it out)

1 ½ tsp cornstarch

¾ tsp sugar

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 ½ tsp rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil

Cut the bottom 3 inches off the garlic chives and discard.  Wash the chives well in a large bowl of cold water and drain, shaking off excess water.  Holding the chives in a bunch, cut across in ¼ inch lengths.  Place chives in a bowl, sprinkle liberally with salt, and mix, squeezing to release the water from the chives.  Place the weeping chives on a clean dish towel, wrap, and twist over the sink, squeezing out the liquid so the chives are fairly dry.

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With a sharp knife, coarsely chop the shrimp, keeping many pieces fairly large, as you want to showcase the beautiful shrimp in the dumpling.

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Mix in chives, salt, pork fat, cornstarch, sugar, pepper, wine and sesame oil. Refrigerate while you make the dough.

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Wheat Starch Dough

1 cup + 2 tablespoons wheat starch

½ cup tapioca starch

1/8 tsp salt

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water

4 tsp canola oil

Mix wheat starch, tapioca starch, and salt in a bowl.  Add hot water and stir vigorously. Once it starts to hold together, add the oil and stir, working in the oil.  If the dough is dry, add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more wheat starch. Knead until fully mixed.  The dough should be firm and pliable, not crumbly or soft and pasty.

NOTE:  The consistency of this dough has to be just right.  Work the dough with your hands– it should be like malleable playdough. Not too dry–It needs to be moist enough to hold together without crumbling when you flatten a small amount into a quarter size disc. And not too wet, or it will fall apart as well.  I know this because I’ve made this dough several times and did not get it right the first three times.  Let’s just say there was cursing involved. I made it again today and added wheat starch 6 times before I got the right consistency.  PERSEVERANCE. The wrappers turned out great, for the first time.  You really have to work the dough with your hands and get the right feel.

When made properly, this dough has a fabulous texture, and is a pleasure to have in class.

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Cut parchment paper into 4×4 inch squares.  You only need 2 squares, you can re-use the same paper for each wrapper.  Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form one piece into a log and cut into 8 pieces.  To flatten the dough into a disk, you can either roll it with a rolling pin between 2 squares of parchment paper, or use a tortilla press.  To use the tortilla press, place the parchment on the press, then a round of dough, then place a 2nd piece of parchment on the dough and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.  Use the tortilla press to flatten into a disc.

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Careful readers of my blog will notice these pics are recycled from an earlier post.

Place 2 tsp filling (or less) into the disc, then fold in half and pinch to seal.  This dough does not stretch—it will break if you use too much filling, so do not overstuff.  Place dumpling on baking sheet lined with wax paper, and proceed with the rest of the dough and filling.  These can be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated for a couple of hours.  If you (a) made the dough too wet, or (b) the filling is too wet, the dough will stick to the paper and you will have a hard time repairing the dumplings.   I do not recommend freezing these.  I once made too many and froze them. When I cooked them frozen, then the skin overcooked and dissolved before the shrimp cooked through.  When I thawed them first, on a parchment lined baking sheet, the moisture from freezing/thawing caused the dough to become soggy and stick to the parchment and I had a hard time repairing the dumplings.

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Make Scallion oil: 1 bunch of scallions, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced 5 tablespoons vegetable oil Heat oil and scallions until scallions are wilted.  Let cool and place 1 tablespoon of scallion oil onto each of 2 serving plates and spread it around with the back of a spoon

Make dipping sauce: 1:1:1 soy sauce/sugar/vinegar, bring to a boil then let cool — or any type of chile or Asian dipping sauce you prefer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Gently place 16 of the dumplings in the water and bring back to a boil, then turn down to medium so the water is not boiling too vigorously, which can break the skins.  These cook quickly, just about 3 minutes. Pull one out and cut in half to make sure the shrimp is cooked through, then remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared scallion oil plate.  Spoon one tablespoon of the reserved scallion oil over the top of the dumplings and serve immediately with dipping sauce.  Repeat with the other 16 dumplings.

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Observations:  This dough turns from opaque to translucent.  However, if you wait for the skin to turn fully translucent before removing from the pot, you will overcook them and the skin will dissolve.  The skin continues to turn clear after cooking.

Critique:   These are Uber popular, everyone loves them. “Wow!” “How did you make these?” “These are SO GOOD!”

Unlike many of the other dumplings I’ve made, these required several attempts to get them right.  The dough was MOST uncooperative.  I overcooked them several times, to my great dismay as I watch the skins dissolve while trying to plate them. In the end, they are definitely worth the multiple tries, and are now part of my standard repertoire.   And did I mention?  Equally delicious whether I’m wearing a little black dress, or my Slytherin Robe.

More Recipes for Orange Food:

The following are some of my favorite non-dumpling orange recipes.  They have never failed me.

Mrs. Shumpert’s Sweet Potatoes

My first Thanksgiving away from home, I was invited to Paul Shumpert’s house for dinner in Marietta, Georgia.  His mother made a fabulous dinner and served these yams.  I have made them for Thanksgiving every year since then, 34 years.  They are the best thing on the table.  True story:  I once brought them to a pot luck at work.  The recipe was disseminated, and for several months and even years after, I had total strangers come up to me in the hospital and tell me “I made your sweet potatoes. They are amazing.”

4-5 large Jewel yams (about 4 pounds) (orange flesh, pinkish brown skin)

¾ cup sugar

½ cup milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

Topping:

1 ½ cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup melted butter

2/3 cup flour

¾ cup brown sugar

Peel yams and cut into large chunks. Boil for approximately 20 minutes, till tender to a fork. Drain but do not rinse. Mix together milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add butter and milk mixture to hot yams and mash together till smooth. Pour into 9×13 pan.

Mix topping ingredients together. If it’s a little wet, add more flour till crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the yams. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Orange chiffon cake

My cousin Frances brought this cake to a family event a few years back, and she was gracious enough to share the recipe with me. One of the best food compliments I’ve received was when my friend’s teenage daughter took a bite and said:  “Well, that’s just a little taste of heaven, isn’t it?”  This cake is one of my most reliable recipes; perfect every time, not temperamental. It rises beautifully and has great loft, tenderness, and flavor.  Make sure you turn the cake upside down as soon as you take it out of the oven, and let it cool perched upside down on the neck of a champagne bottle.  I’ve actually never made the accompanying frosting since I’m a plain cake kind of gal, but it looks easy and delicious.

For the cake:

2¼ cups cake flour

1½ cups sugar

1 Tbsp. Double-acting baking powder

½ tsp. Salt

½ cup vegetable oil

5 large egg yolks

¾ cups fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp. Freshly grated orange zest

2 tsp. Vanilla

8 large egg whites

1 tsp. cream of tartar

For the whipped cream frosting:

2 cups well chilled heavy cream

3 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur

2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest

¼ cup sugar

¼ tsp. Orange-flower water

Making the cake:

Into a large bowl sift together the flour, ¾ cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a bowl whisk together the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and the vanilla; then whisk the mixture into the flour mixture, whisking until the batter is smooth. In another large bowl, using the electric beater, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy, add the cream of tartar and 1/4 cup sugar, and beat the whites until they hold stiff glossy peaks. Stir one third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (with removable bottom) and bake the cake in the middle of a pre-heated 325°F oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Invert the pan immediately onto a heavy wine or champagne bottle and let the cake cool completely in the pan upside down. Once cool, run a long thin knife around the outer, bottom and tube edges of the pan and turn the cake out of the pan onto a serving plate.

Notes: do NOT grease the pan or your cake will not rise.  Turn it over immediately after removing from the oven and let it cool upside down; this stretches out the cake so it’s light instead of dumpy.

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Making the cream frosting:

In a large bowl, chilled, with an electric mixer beat together the cream, the Grand Marnier, the zest, the sugar, the orange flower water, and a pinch of salt until the mixture hold stiff peaks. Spread the frosting on the top, and side of the cake. Garnish the cake with orange sections if desired.

Pumpkin bread

I don’t recall where I got this recipe; I’ve made it for over 30 years.  It’s another ‘perfect every time’ recipe, and turns out consistently moist, flavorful loaves.

2/3 cup butter

2 and 2/3 cup sugar

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

3 1/3 cup flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

½ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 loaf pans

Cream butter and sugar, beating till light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Mix flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and spices together.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.  Add Pumpkin and water and mix well.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix well.

Pour batter into 2 pans

Bake 65-75 minutes, till toothpick comes clean.

Homemade Sticky Rice

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On the rare occasion that I set foot in a jewelry store, the proprietor will generally take one glance at me, then carefully ignore my presence. They’d rather tend to the nervous young man and his girlfriend, or perhaps re-polish, for the third time, the mirror behind the earring display. Not that I blame them. Lacking any talent or genetic affinity for bling, I wear no earrings, necklace, bracelet—heck, I don’t even wear my wedding ring (a consequence of washing my hands over 30 times daily). My only adornment, not counting my reading glasses, is a stretchy black elastic hairband around my wrist (when not in my hair). Not that I don’t appreciate jewelry. I just never learned to accessorize. And so my favorite jewels, are, of course, edible. Specifically, Jeweled Rice. More specifically, eight jeweled rice, or Ba Bao Fan—a sweet steamed sticky dessert rice. I’ve never made it, but my Auntie made the best Ba Bao Fan. In modern times, jeweled rice also has a savory version (I just made that up), so I decided to wrap my savory jeweled rice in small bundles, a smaller “dumpling size” than Nuo Mi Ji (see previous “Not Quite Elven Fare” post). This rice is delicious all by itself, wrapped or not—HOWEVER, once again, if you are preparing a dumpling extravaganza for guests, and want to offer little bits of everything, I highly recommend this more labor intensive, and more delightful, method of serving the rice.

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Homemade “Jeweled” Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf

1 bunch (7-8 stalks) green onions, washed and thinly sliced

3 Chinese sausages (Lap Cheong), thinly sliced

1/4 pound Chinese barbecue pork (char siu, available from the deli in your chinese market), diced

7 large dried Shitake mushrooms

2 cups uncooked sweet (sticky) rice

1 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tsp hoisin sauce

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 can (15 oz) Swanson’s chicken broth

6 Dried Lotus Leaves—they are often found near the dried mushrooms in your Chinese Market.

Soak mushrooms in water overnight, or bring to a boil in a pot of water, turn off heat, and let soak 1-2 hours until hydrated.

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Meanwhile, wash the rice and put into a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

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Cut off and discard the tough stems from mushrooms. Finely dice the mushroom caps.

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Saute Chinese sausage, barbecue pork, mushrooms, and green onions together for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and pepper.

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Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve.  Mix uncooked rice together with sausage mixture.  Place mixture in a shallow heatproof dish.

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Prepare a pot for steaming, bringing at least 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of the steamer. Place the dish of rice in the top of the steamer. Boil the chicken broth, and carefully pour over rice. Cover the steamer and steam on medium-high heat for 12 minutes. Uncover the steamer, and with a spatula, turn a section of rice over once, repeating till you’ve turned all the rice. Steam for another 13 minutes and rice should be cooked all the way through. Remove from steamer and let cool to room temperature.

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While the rice is cooking and cooling, prepare the lotus leaf: (The following is copied verbatim from my “Not Quite Elven Fare” post and edited a bit. Aforementioned subsection of post in turn is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings book. Is plagiarizing oneself a punishable offense?) Cut each lotus leaf down the middle into 2 double-layered fans. You will have 12 pieces of lotus leaf in total. Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes to soften them; I use a large roasting pan. Submerge the leaves completely by putting a plate on top. Remove from water, rinse and shake off excess water. Use scissors to cut off about 1.5 inches of the pointy bottom. To separate the double layers of each piece, cut each piece in half where the leaf was folded by the packing company. Then trim any excessively ragged edges. You should now have 24 pieces of leaf, each one representing one quarter of the original whole leaf. Stack with the darker side facing up so that when you wrap the packets, the darker side will color the outer layer of rice a rich brown.  For each packet, use 1 piece of lotus leaf. If the leaf is pretty intact, no need to cut it. If it’s a bit more distressed, cut in half and overlap them. (You should have enough leftover pieces because some will need to be discarded and you won’t have enough rice for 24 packets.)

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Arrange them, darker side facing up, on your work surface with narrow ends pointing toward you. Take a scoop of rice, about 2 tablespoons (I use a food scooper, MUCH easier) of rice, and wrap as in the photos. Steam over boiling water for 15 minutes, until heated through and soft. If you are not steaming right away, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.

 

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Critique: I made these for three different dumpling dinners. The first two dinners, they were overwhelmingly pronounced “my favorite!” — in competition with pot stickers, egg rolls, shrimp dumplings, and Sheng Jian Baozi, the previous favorite. At the third dumpling extravaganza dinner there were several leftover and not one guest said it was their favorite. Go figure.

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Proper attire while consuming these goodies would include one or more of the following: locket, diadem, time-turner, resurrection stone, elven brooch.

You may want to steer clear of the One Ring.

 

Non-Dumpling observation:

Can I just comment on Ruth Reichl’s gingerbread? Ms. Reichl is, of course, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine. I found her new-ish novel, Delicious! to be just that, a delicious treat of a read. Her gingerbread, which is the centerpiece of the story, is more of a ginger cake. I’ve made it twice and brought it to work. It has wonderful complexity of flavor, and when I mentioned to my friend Michael that I was going to make several different gingerbread recipes to find the best one, he simply said: “you can stop now”. I agree with him.

Buy or borrow the book. Get the recipe.

 

Shameless promotion of another non-dumpling recipe:

Phil came over for dinner, and when I asked him what he wanted, he replied “fried chicken”. I’ve never made fried chicken. I’ve stir fried, pan fried, oven fried, and otherwise cooked chicken several times a week for the past 30 years–but never the dreaded deep frying of the gallinaceous bird. So I decided to try my hand at Chicken Karaage, that wonderful flavorful morsel residing in your friendly neighborhood bento box. I made this recipe up.

Homemade Chicken Karaage

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup wine—I used leftover champagne from New Year’s eve

potato starch for dredging

canola oil for deep frying

Cut each chicken thigh into 4-6 pieces, depending on the size of the meat—you want chunks about 2×2 or 2×3 inches.

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Mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and wine together till sugar is dissolved, then add the chicken, mix, and let marinade for a few hours. When ready to cook, pour off the marinade and discard, then dry the chicken on paper towels. Pour about a cup of potato starch into a large bowl and add the chicken, stirring to coat.

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Heat canola or other vegetable oil in a heavy pan—I use my flat bottom wok and pour about an inch of oil—heat until hot, then place chicken pieces in a single layer, don’t crowd. After 3 minutes turn and cook the other side. Remove after another 3 minutes and drain on paper towels. Repeat, frying in batches till all the chicken is cooked.

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Serve with bottled Thai chile sauce.

Shatteringly crispy. OH MY GOODNESS. This was really good.

Xiao Long Bao, homemade

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My goal in life is to remain healthy until my youngest grandchild turns three. Granted, I have no grandchildren. I have not even a foreshadowing of grandchildren. This does not prevent me from being forever grateful that my mother made the hour long drive to our home EVERY WEEKEND from the day my second child was born until my youngest turned three. Having my mother there to help me was the difference between sanity and, well, prison time.

A two year old is dangerous—that volatile combination of willful ability and total lack of judgment. Two year olds require –to quote Mad-Eye Moody– “Constant Vigilence!”

A three year old, on the other hand, can use the toilet, get dressed by herself, and take turns.

And so it came to pass that my mother, liberated from the tyranny of the toddler, elected to stay in San Francisco after Amy turned three. We would instead go and visit her most Saturdays. Sitting in Mom’s living room, the conversation would turn to that pivotal and pressing topic: where shall we eat lunch today? After tossing around a half dozen restaurant names, we’d inevitably end up at the Xiao Long Bao place on Balboa Street: Shanghai Dumpling King. It was mom’s favorite, long before it became a Yelp sensation.

Xiao Long Bao is, of course, not something you make at home. Unless you are the self-aggrandizing, Self Proclaimed Dumpling Queen.

Xiao Long Bao

Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings

 Soup:

1 1/3 cup chicken broth (I use Swanson’s canned. Andrea makes her own stock, of course)

1 tbsp chopped Virginia or other salty smoked ham

1 scallion cut into 2 inch lengths and lightly smashed with side of knife

3 coins of peeled fresh ginger, smashed

1 ½ tsp unflavored gelatin

Combine the broth, ham, scallion, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, till broth has reduced by half and you have a generous 2/3 cup. Strain the broth and discard solids. Let cool 15 minutes, then sprinkle the gelatin in and stir over medium heat till gelatin is dissolved. Pour into a 8×8 pan and refrigerate till hardened and set. Cut into quarters, peel it from the pan, and finely chop. Cover and refrigerate.

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Dough:

¾ unbleached bread flour

6 tablespoons all purpose flour

7 tablespoons boiled water

1 ½ tsp vegetable oil

Mix the flours together, then stir in the hot water and oil. I like to use my Kitchenaid mixer for this task. Remove from mixer and knead for 5 minutes, or use the dough hook and let the mixer do the work for you. Add water by the half teaspoon if too dry; if the dough is too sticky work in a little more bread flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest one hour at room temperature.

 Filling:

½ inch fresh ginger

1 scallion, chopped

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 ½ tsp sugar

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine

1 ½ tsp sesame oil

½ pound fatty ground pork, from your local Asian market. Don’t use the super-lean pork here.

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Thinly slice the ginger and mince in a mini food processor. Add scallion, salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Process until creamy and fragrant. I don’t have a mini food processor so I used my regular food processor, and folks this is not a lot of stuff so you have to scrape it down a couple of times. Transfer mixture to a bowl, add the pork and mix well. Add the chopped cool gelatin and mix well. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to develop flavor. According to Andrea, this filling can break down if it sits overnight, so if making the filling the day before, wait to add the gelatin till the day you make the baos.

Dipping sauce:

1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger

¼ cup Chinkiang vinegar

Finely shred the vinegar with a knife. Divide the ginger and vinegar amongst small sauce dishes.

To make wrappers:

Lightly flour your working surface. Cut the dough in half, keeping unused half covered. Roll the other half into a 10 inch log. Cut into 16 pieces and roll them into balls, dusting lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Cover 8 of the pieces to prevent drying; Roll each ball into a circle 2.5 inches in diameter, with a 1 inch ‘belly’ in the center. This helps prevent the soup from leaking out. The finished outer rim should be thin enough for you to see the shadow of your fingers when you hold up the wrapper.

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Before assembling the dumplings: Line steamer baskets with parchment paper.

Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop 2.5 tsp filling into the center of the wrapper. This will seem like a lot of filling (it did). Use your thumb to press down the filling as you pleat and wrap, forming a closed satchel. Make sure to pinch and twist the dough at the end to completely close. The finished dumplings will look very pregnant (they did).

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Place dumplings in the bamboo steamer, spaced ¾ inch apart. Steam over boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately. You have, of course, already put the dipping sauce on the dining table. Along with chopsticks and a soup spoon TO CATCH THE SOUP as you poke or bite a little hole into the wrapper.

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Critique:

Truth be told, I made these in February and am just now getting around to posting about it. I was inspired by John Oliver’s new show “Last Week Tonight”.

I followed Andrea’s book exactly except I used canned chicken broth instead of homemade stock. The bread flour, with the higher gluten content, makes a difference—this dough has a different, firmer feel than standard potsticker dough. I made two batches of course, because I just live in excess. The first batch of dough was nice and firm but the 2nd batch was much softer and more elastic. The firmer dough rolled out better; teeny very thin little discs that held together after cooking. I’m not sure why the dough was different, I suspect the 2nd batch was warmer. Anyway, it is hard to fold little cubes of gelatin into the filling. The gelatin was like Teflon, it kept falling out of the filling while scooping and wrapping –a veritable dumpling whack-a-mole.   These were pretty easy to make though. They steamed up fine but seemed to deflate rapidly, and I only got the burst of soup from ONE out of three of the xlb that I consumed. Everyone loved them—–and since the line outside Shanghai Dumpling King is now untenable, I may need to make these more often. Maybe if I ever have grandchildren.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

And now, a non-dumpling recipe:  If you have no friends, make these and give them away.  I have made these countless times, and this is the Sweetest Form of Bribery I know. The recipe is from the 1985 “Dieticians Food Favorites”, a submission of J. Kesecker, from Columbia, S.C.  No idea where I picked up this cookbook!

Pecan Sticky Rolls 

Yield: 24

1 pkg yeast

¼ cup warm water

Mix together. It should be foamy after a few minutes

1 cup milk, scalded

½ cup butter or margarine

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp salt

Combine to dissolve, cool to lukewarm

4 cups flour

1 egg, beaten

Add 2 cups flour and yeast to milk mixture with egg. Add remaining flour and knead to soft dough. Cover and let rise 2 hours till doubled in bulk. Punch down. Turn onto floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into 8×12 inch rectangle.

2 tbsp melted butter

½ cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Brush butter onto rectangles. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over butter. Roll up beginning with long side, pinching seams to seal. Cut roll into 12 slices. Repeat with remaining dough.

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup butter

¼ cup corn syrup

1 cup pecans, whole or chopped

Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring frequently, till blended. Pour into 10 x 14 inch pan. Sprinkle caramel with pecans.

Arrange rolls on top of the caramel/pecans. 

Cover and let rise 1 ½ -2 hours, till doubled in bulk.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Invert onto tray while still hot.

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These are to die for.

Korean Mandu

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My favorite food is spaghetti. When I was in kindergarten I would go to my classmate Robert LaLanne’s house after school since Mom worked.   He lived down the street and Mrs. LaLanne fed us spaghetti with chicken for lunch. It was delicious. Mom didn’t know how to make spaghetti, but my Auntie did. My Auntie knew how to do everything. She made my favorite spaghetti of all.

The Chinese version of spaghetti—Ja Jiang Mian—is also my favorite food. And if you are thinking “you can’t have two favorites” then QUIT THAT.

When I first met my husband, I was delighted to learn that he also loved Ja Jiang Mian. We have so much in common, I thought. Imagine my dismay when we went to a Korean Chinese restaurant in Atlanta and I discovered that there is a Korean version—Jajangmyeon—which tastes completely different. The Chinese Ja Jiang Mian has diced pork, bamboo shoots, firm tofu, in a sweet and oh-so-flavorful bean sauce. The Korean version, otoh, has no pork, lots of onions, and a very dark, glossy, salty and slightly smoky flavor without a hint of sweetness. I don’t like it much. He loves it. He doesn’t like the Chinese Ja Jiang Mian. I just asked him. “I really don’t like it.”

He has been lobbying me for awhile to make Korean dumplings, or Mandu. Like the Ja Jiang Mian, I’m partial to Chinese dumplings: Jiaozi or Kuo Teh. Korean Mandu are filled with beef, bean sprouts and tofu. I’ve yet to eat Korean Mandu that is as flavorful and juicy as Jiaozi. In fact, the Mandu I’ve had were all wrapped in purchased won ton skins, so I was intrigued by the recipe in Andrea Nguyen’s book for Mandu. She uses a different dough for the wrappers, substituting some of the wheat flour with rice flour for a chewier texture.

This recipe for Korean Mandu is adapted from Andrea’s Asian Dumplings Cookbook, of course.

Extra Chewy Dough

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup Mochiko Blue Star brand Glutinous Rice Flour

¾ cup just boiled water

Mix the flours together, then slowly add the very hot water, stirring to blend. Knead the dough for 2 minutes, then gather into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 minutes or so. As you can see, this dough is exactly the same preparation as pot sticker dough except ½ cup of glutinous rice flour is substituted in for all-purpose flour. The texture of this dough is less stretchy and somewhat more malleable than regular pot sticker dough. A very well behaved dough, and a pleasure to have in class.

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The Filling:

3 ounces bean sprouts

6 ounces firm tofu

2 scallions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced and crushed into a paste

2 tsp finely minced or grated fresh ginger

½ pound ground beef or pork. I used pork, of course. Tastes much better.

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water until no longer stiff, 1-2 minutes. Drain, then squeeze dry. Cut into ¼ in lengths and place in large mixing bowl. Place drained and rinsed tofu onto a kitchen towel—NOT terrycloth. Gather the towel around the tofu and twist (and shout!), firmly squeezing the water out. Unwrap the tofu and add to the bean sprouts. Mash the tofu till crumbly. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix well. I like to dump all this into my kitchenaid mixer and let it run on the lowest setting, till well mixed.

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Assembly: assembly is exactly like making the hundreds of pot stickers I’ve made in this year of dumplings. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Take one piece and roll into a log. Cut the log into 8 discs. On a well floured surface, flatten each disc, then using a small rolling pin, roll each disc, turning so the sides are thinner than the center, reminiscent of a flying saucer. Fill as usual, and cook as usual.

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Let’s just review the easiest, LEAST MESSY way to cook perfect pot stickers, in case you have not yet committed to memory my second post from February 17th. Always use a non-stick pan. Always. Arrange fresh (or frozen, the method is exactly the same and no need to defrost first) pot stickers in a cold empty non-stick frying pan. Yes, cold, and no oil yet. Please arrange in a nice concentric circle abutting the perimeter of the pan, then do your best to fill the middle with a few more dumplings. Now that the dumplings are nicely arranged, pour a little cooking oil over the top. Go ahead, right onto the top of the dumplings, as if the pan was empty—the same amount as you would use to scramble eggs. No need to swirl the oil around. Next, pour cold (or hot, or room temp) water into the pan so that the water level comes halfway up the side of the dumpling. Now put the pan onto your burner, turn heat to high, and wait till it comes to a boil. Cover the pan and turn it down to medium-low. Let the dumplings cook, undisturbed, for 10 minutes for fresh or 13-14 minutes frozen. You may need to check and make sure that the heat is not so low that they are not cooking, and not so high that the water has all evaporated and dinner is about to burn. Now that the dumplings are cooked through, remove the lid, crank up the vent if you have neglected to do so, and turn the heat up to high. Stand there while the water evaporates and the bottoms turn golden brown. (Walk away to check Twitter and your beautiful handiwork will burn.) Shake the pan to loosen the dumplings, using a plastic spatula to gently nudge any sticky spots. Slide the entire pan of dumplings onto your serving plate in one smooth motion.

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Serve with a nice dipping sauce. My favorite is also the easiest: 1 part sugar, 1 part rice vinegar, and 1 part soy. I heat it up a little to dissolve the sugar, then let cool.

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Critique:

Well, what can I say. Why would you take a perfectly wonderful food like bean sprouts, and hide them in a dumpling, where they have nothing to offer? In fact, I prefer the cold crunchy Korean preparation of bean sprouts to my mother’s Chinese stir fried bean sprouts, but I like both. I don’t like them disguised in dumplings. And yes, while I’m at it, why take the miracle food, tofu, and mix it with the other white meat, pork? By doing so, you dilute the gustatory power of both ingredients. This is not a situation of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ And yes, while I’m at it: sesame oil is a gift, to be used judiciously and sparingly, preferably in the seasoning of noodles, where its powerful aroma and flavor are best appreciated. I frown upon the unauthorized, flagrant use of sesame oil where it distracts from the dish being served. This being one such case. I did like the extra chewy dough. The texture was slightly different but I’m not sure I would have noticed if I hadn’t made the dough myself.

Dear husband’s critique:

“These are good. These are really good. These are really really good!”

We have so much in common.