23 June 2009

The Darings Do Dumplings

Late yes, but so good they deserved the post anyway. A few years ago I decided to have a dumpling making party- I invited a few friends over, we made a few fillings and spent a happy hour sealing wrappers. Then, when it came time to cook the dumplings, we ended up with a mushy on the outside/raw on the inside mess. My friend M- disputes this, and says that only the pork ones came out raw and the rest were fine, but pork crudo dumplings sort of ruined it for me and I decided to leave dumpling making to the pros, until this month's Daring Cooks Challenge at least.

Jen, from Use Real Butter, chose dumplings as last month's challenge and the real challenge was to make the wrappers from scratch. I was nervous at first but her directions were great and the dough came together in no time at all. While the dough was having a rest, I made a pork filling, following Jen's recipe exactly. Make that almost exactly. I thought I had a huge knob of ginger at home but it turned out I had about 2T worth, half what the recipe called for. I hoped that would be all right and pressed on.

I started to roll out the little rounds and realized that it would take me the entire afternoon to roll, stuff and seal all of the dumplings so I called for backup. Zach and I set up an assembly line. He would roll out the little dough knobs and I would stuff and seal. Pretty soon we had about 40 dumplings lined up and ready to go. I put half in the freezer and pan fried the rest for lunch.

While they may not have been quite as pretty as the dumplings you get from restaurants, they were just as, if not more delicious. The filling had the perfect blend of ginger and soy, even though I used less ginger than called for. The crunch of the golden brown crust played perfectly off the soft top of the wrapper and (cooked!) pork filling. This recipe is definitley a keeper.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers
Recipe from Jen at Use Real Butter
Makes about 40 dumplings

pork filling: (this makes a bit more than you will need- use the rest as filling for stuffed cabbage or make a dumpling burger or meatloaf out of it)
1 lb (450g) 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 (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
2 T (25g) ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
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)
sugar (optional)

Make the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

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 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 - about 1/16th inch. 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 in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

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 in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered 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. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. 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.


kat said...

Good for you going back & trying again! Dumplings are such work but they are so good

Anonymous said...

I was also impressed with the pork filling flavor. Much better than any I have eaten at a restaurant or bought frozen.

Vera said...

I am so in love dumplings! Yours look so good!

Sue said...

Great job. Those look gorgeous. I love fried dumplings, but I learned something interesting when we were in Beijing last year. Our guide took us to a well-known dumpling house and we were served boiled dumpling. I liked them, but I kept thinking how much better they would have been if they had been fried. But apparently, in China, they only fry LEFTOVER dumplings. They make them fresh and serve them boiled to their important guests and then the next day the family has the leftovers fried up. I don’t care, though, I still prefer fried dumplings.

glamah16 said...

You joined the Daring Cooks? Impressive.