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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
These are to die for.