Back in the early days of the blog, I wrote about potstickers, also known as dumplings. The Asian kind. Not the soul food kind. They were really good.
Last week, our friend Jenny and her boyfriend, Brendan, came over for dinner. We supplied ground pork, frozen spinach, tamari, dark sesame oil, chicken broth, egg, and rice vinegar. She supplied ginger, Chinese greens for a side dish, scallions, and the mystical culinary know-how inherited from her Chinese matriarchs. We made dumplings. The Asian kind. They were really, really, really good.
Here are a couple tricks I learned.
1. Make the dumpling dough. I know, right? Call me crazy, but there is Asian in me, and I always bought those packages of wonton skins from the Asian refrigerated section of the grocery store. So when Alex said Jenny had emailed him the instructions for making the dumpling dough “if we’re feeling ambitious,” and when Alex said he wanted to try it, I could barely fathom what was happening. When I recovered, I concluded that perhaps it wasn’t much different than, say, making your own tortillas for tacos or quesadillas. Or making your own pasta to soak up a silky carbonara sauce. Plus, I’ve never seen a more unassuming recipe. Here it is. Ready? I’m prepping you well because you might miss it. Okay, here we go: 3 cups flour. 1-1.25 cups warm water. Pinch of salt. Mix together. Knead until smooth. Let sit 30 minutes before rolling thin and cutting for dumplings (we used my largest biscuit cutter). Because the dough was still fresh, we didn’t need anything to seal the dumplings closed; we just pinched them together in beautiful, origami-like folds. I can’t believe what a difference homemade dough made. We made some dumplings with the store-bought dough, just for the sake of comparison. They tasted like rubber next to our homemade beauties. Who’d have thought?!
2. Taste the filling. I apologize in advance to those of you who were hoping for an exact recipe that you could recreate tonight. I would be more than happy to share the recipe for the filling with you. I wish I could. But there wasn’t an exact science. I know we included 1 pound ground pork, about 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 cup frozen spinach (after thawed, drained of water, and squeezed), and 1 egg. Then we improvised with some tamari, sesame oil, chicken broth, garlic powder, and a handful of chopped scallions. So, you may now be asking the computer screen, how did we know when it was right? After we thought we had the seasonings right, we put a teaspoon of the filling in a little bowl and zapped it in the microwave for 45 seconds (to cook the small amount of meat in there). We tasted it, added a bit more tamari, chicken broth, or whatever else we thought we needed, and tried again. Only when the filling made everybody happy did we proceed with assembly.
3. Cook with steam, then fry. I described a method for cooking potstickers in my earlier blog post. Jenny’s method was better. She had me spray a large shallow (flat) pan with cooking spray and add a little olive oil. (Jenny’s grandmother recommended corn oil, but I never have that on hand). When the dumplings were ready, and with the pan warmed up over medium-high heat, I added about 10-12 dumplings to the pan and immediately poured in about 1/4 inch of water, then covered with a lid. Okay, the lid was cocked a tiny bit to let the steam escape slowly. After about 5-7 minutes, or whenever the water had evaporated (and the steam thereby cooking the filling inside), Jenny had me remove the lid and let the dumplings fry on one side for another minute or two. I then removed them carefully and started the next batch.
The alternate name, potstickers, still stands. Alex had a fun time cleaning that pan.
We made about 55 dumplings total. We dunked them in a delicious, super-sweet sauce (1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, splash of rice vinegar) and froze the ones we didn’t cook for a rainy day.
Not that it was a competition. Not really. But I still raise the white flag of surrender. I can’t wait for another dumpling party; this is definitely the way we’ll make them. Thanks, Jenny, for imparting your wisdom!