Wonderful Wednesday: Chinese Shrimp and Pork Dumplings

Okay, so it’s Thursday, not Wednesday.  But Wednesday was wonderful, and you should know about it.

It all started on Monday (or sometime thereabout).  Scott emailed one of his best friends from high school/college and said that he wished he knew how to make said friend’s mom’s Chinese dumplings.  Just a random, friendly email.  Emails were exchanged, Mom was consulted, and a cooking lesson date was set.  It just so happened that the only day that would work for all three of us was the very next day.  It was great.

Have you ever had an experience where you’re just so wholly welcomed into someone’s home with love and kindness that you’re kind of floored?  I mean, Scott has been friends with this guy for about 14 years, but I didn’t know his mom until yesterday.  She just let us in and started teaching us this family recipe right off the bat.  It was like being instantly initiated into someone’s family.  I liked it.

Then there was sampling of other traditional foods she had in the fridge.  We tasted another kind of dumpling, a really nice roll, a persimmon, and my personal favorite (other than the dumplings we made)–lichen.  What?

photo from wildernessarena.com

photo from wildernessarena.com

Did you know you can eat lichen?  It’s even supposed to be good for your throat.  You can buy it at the Chinese market in a huge bag, kind of like potato chips, and then you just rehydrate the dried lichen in some water and munch away.  I think it’s usually used in some tofu dumpling fillings (which we tried), but I kind of like it all by itself.

But back to the recipe.  It seems complicated when I read through the steps, but it isn’t.  Believe me.  It’s an ideal Saturday-at-home project.  You just mix up some meat with some spices and extras, add some shredded veggies, and put that into homemade dumpling wraps.  Easy, right?

Because I wasn’t quite sure how to describe the pinching-together-of-dumplings, I’m going to add a video at the end.  Video lady knows what she’s doing.  My dumplings were a bit more on the rustic side, but they were still delicious.  I pinched together once in the middle, then tucked the “taco” corners in and pinched until all edges were sealed.  It was faster and less difficult than the fancy one-sided tucks in the video.  I did see fancy one-sided tucks in the dumplings we took home, so I know the real technique is alive and well.  Oh, and I didn’t need to use any water to seal the dumplings together.  Just press really well.  It’s kind of heresy that I’m eating this wonderful food at my desk, but I forgot to take a picture of the process yesterday.  So enjoy the leftovers with me, if you will:

making Thursday more exciting with leftover dumplings

making Thursday more exciting with leftover dumplings

Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • ½ lb. shrimp
  • ½ of one butternut squash, cut into very large chunks, seeds removed
  • 1 large green onion (or 3-4 small green onions)
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger (1 inch of ginger)
  • Chinese pepper powder
  • Bouillon cube
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sesame oil
  • 5 cups of all-purpose flour

Put one cube of chicken bouillon in 1/6 cup of water and stir it around until it dissolves. That might require a fork or some smashing of the bouillon. Put the pork in a medium mixing bowl and add the bouillon/water mix, combine. Add about another 1/2 cup of water to the pork.

Put shrimp into a food processor or blender and process/blend, then add the shrimp to the pork mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the meat mixture, followed by a dash of pepper powder (about 1/4 teaspoon), plus about 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir it all together.

Now work on the vegetables for a bit. Shred the ginger into the meat mixture with a shredding attachment on a Mandolin cutting tool or with the small part of a standard cheese grater.

Shred the butternut squash (peel and all) with the same size grater/shredder, making a nice large pile of butternut squash in a separate bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the squash pieces and mix that together.

You can use cucumber, cabbage, or red onion instead of butternut squash if you prefer. Different vegetables work better with different meat choices. I don’t know what I’ll try next, but I do know that butternut squash was delicious with the pork and shrimp combo. If you use cabbage, press the cabbage to get some of the water out of the cabbage before you add oil.

Thinly slice all of the green onion(s), then mince those slices until they are quite fine. Stir veggies into meat mix. You want to have about a ½ and ½ combination of squash and meat, and it’s okay if you have some leftover meat or squash.  I’m sure cooking it up in a pan would make a tasty snack for some other time.

For the dumpling dough, use 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of warm water (1 small-ish mug is perfect). You don’t want the water to be too hot, just warm. Combine the water and flour in a large mixing bowl and mix on speed 1 for 10 minutes. If the dough isn’t forming a nice ball in the bowl, add a bit of water.  If it looks too runny, add a bit of flour.

This is where it gets a bit harder to explain (don’t forget the video if you need some visual help).

Take off a hunk of the dough (about ¼ of the dough) and begin to roll it out with your hands. You want to end up with a cylindrical roll that’s about 1 inch thick. You can pull the roll a bit to make it thin out quickly, so you’ll pull and roll until you get the cylinder that you want.

When you have a cylinder of dough that’s about 1 inch thick, cut off slices that are about ¾ inch thick. Smush them on the counter so that they look like little dough coins, then roll those out until they’re roughly round pasta-like pieces (so pretty thin).

Fill the dough rounds with the meat and veggie mixture and squish the edges together. The fun thing about this is that you can make different shaped dumplings depending on how you pinch the edges together. Obviously, mine weren’t as pretty as Mana’s, but it was still really fun. And mine ate just fine.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of non-stick skillet on high heat, then place dumplings in the pan close to each other with the wide, filled side on the bottom (pinched side on top). It’s really okay if they’re crowded in the pan.  Cover the pan with a lid. When the oil pops (2-3 minutes?), add about ½ a cup of water to the bottom of the pan and cover again, turning the heat down to medium low. After a few more minutes, flip dumplings over to cook on another side. After you’ve cooked two sides, the inside should be fully cooked, and the outside has nice areas of crunch. Perfect!

Now all you have to do is make a dipping sauce and dive in. Use as much soy sauce as you would like (low-sodium for me), add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, and dip.

Video help:

http://player.cnevids.com/embed/51f7fda0c2b4c0118c81d418/51ffee3d4ffb601bd1000001

I don’t think I can praise these dumplings enough.  Scott had them once over ten years ago and never forgot them.  Of course, it helps that our dumpling teacher was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

Aunt Jan’s [Turkey] Pot Pie

If I were summing up my week with one word, it would be “sick.”  Fortunately, that doesn’t mean demented or ebola, just a head cold and a really terrible sore throat.  Survivable by anyone’s standards.

I didn’t plan my menu around being sick, since I made the meal choices on Sunday and got sick on Monday night, but I must have subconsciously known I was getting sick.  My choices couldn’t have been better.

Turkey fried rice?  Comforting and happy.  Turkey pot pie?  Double comforting and double happy.

yeah, it looked a lot like this (photo from the-girl-who-ate-everything.com)

yeah, it looked a lot like this (photo from the-girl-who-ate-everything.com)

So here’s the deal about this recipe… It isn’t from my family.  I don’t have an aunt named Jan.  But some of our friends have an aunt named Jan, and Aunt Jan’s recipe for pot pie eventually got to me.  Here’s why I like this particular recipe for pot pie:

  1. It’s surprisingly not that terrible for you.  There are only 4 tablespoons of butter for two standard pie-sized containers full of pot pie.  We got 4 servings out of our first pot pie, so that’s only 1/2 a tablespoon of butter per serving.  Not bad.
  2. I know that there are more gourmet ways to deal with the veggies in a pot pie.  You could use fresh veggies and sautee them beautifully with some fancy spice.  But sometimes throwing a bag of frozen mixed veggies into the pan is the best thing I can imagine.  So little work!  So little hassle!  So many healthy veggies!!
  3. You can do what you want with this.  You can use frozen pie crust like I do (which makes this a really easy dish to cook).  You can make your own crust.  You can make it gluten-free if that’s what you want to do.  You can add thyme or rosemary or cajun seasoning.  You can make it yours and enjoy all of the comfort factor exactly the way you like it.
  4. And of course I like it because it came from a friend.

Aunt Jan’s [Turkey] Pot Pie

10-15 minutes of active prep time, 25 minutes in the oven, makes two 9″ pies

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 cups cubed, cooked turkey (or chicken)
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms (canned or fresh, either is delicious)
  • 16 oz. frozen mixed vegetables–I use peas and carrots (you can use thawed or frozen, just add a few minutes of time in the pan if they go in the pan frozen)
  • 1/2 tablespoon (or more if you like) Cajun or Creole seasoning (or thyme or some black pepper… the spice cabinet is your oyster)
  • pie crust for two 9″ pies (more if you prefer top and bottom crust)

Directions

Melt butter.  Stir in flour and salt.  Gradually add broth and milk.  Cook until thickened.  Add turkey (or chicken), mushrooms, and vegetables.  Spice it up any way you like–about 1/2 of a tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning for us, or you could use some Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning or anything you want.  Pour into 2 greased pie dishes.  Cover with pie crust, cutting a few slits in the top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or the crust is golden brown and the innards are bubbly.

Or you could use canned biscuits on top like this pretty pretty pot pie:

IMG_0342

photo from huckberry.com

And then you can pretend that you don’t have a cold, and you’re not going to sit on the couch for the next two hours.  That’s what I did.

Mom’s Chicken Rice Casserole

This weekend was chock full of cooking, so I’ll tell you about it in chronological order.  First came chicken rice casserole a la Mom.  Mom’s Chicken Rice Casserole probably came from my dad’s mother, which rightfully makes it Grandma’s Chicken Rice Casserole.  But she’s a mom, too, so we’ll leave it as Mom’s and they’ll both get credit.

Whatever you call it, this dish always makes me think of the previous generations of cooks in our family.  I don’t know about you, but bonus happy thoughts are always appreciated in our kitchen.

I still love casseroles even though they aren’t as trendy as they used to be.They are absolutely perfect if you need to cook ahead of time.  I made this on Friday, put it in the fridge completely assembled, and then it was heated up on Saturday without a problem.  Magic Saturday dinner without any Saturday dirty dishes or prep work!

recipeAll of our Saturday labor involved putting a salad together to go with the casserole.  And presto, guest-worthy dinner and tasty leftovers to boot, not to mention memories of really good dinners past.

Mom’s Chicken Rice Casserole: the recipe

Serves 9-12, takes a while to put together (maybe 45 minutes of active time to cook all of the chicken, chop it up, cook the rice, combine everything else), reheats like a dream with 30 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 2 packages Long Grain & Wild Rice, cooked (I go with the lowest sodium option I can find)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 large can chopped mushrooms (or 2 small), drain, reserve liquid
  • 1 1/4 cups cream or Carnation milk (I’ve only ever used cream)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, very roughly chopped (for me, it’s usually just one chop in half per piece)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sliced almonds (for topping)
  • Parsley (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions

  • Cook onion in butter until transparent, then remove from heat.  Stir in 1/3 cup flour, chicken stock, and mushroom liquid.  Add cream.  Cook and stir until sauce thickens.  It looks so lovely at that point!
  • Add chicken, rice, mushrooms, water chestnuts, artichoke hearts, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy the nice arm workout that it takes to stir all of those things together.  Consider adding this recipe to your workout routine.
  • Placed in a greased casserole, then sprinkle with almonds.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees or for longer if you refrigerate before baking.

There aren’t too many extra tips needed.  I like to cook the chicken in a skillet with olive oil or butter and a dash of salt and pepper.  That means I have to add less salt and pepper later, and it really helps the chicken in the flavor department.  All of that good searing action goes a long way.

Last but not least, the artichoke hearts are completely optional.  They were my addition, and I do think they add a certain happy something.  They aren’t an integral ingredient, however.

What recipes remind you of your childhood?  Any casseroles in the mix?

Turkey Hash Mash

Yesterday was a doozy of a day, trust me.  And when you have a doozy of a day, you get to eat comfort food.  We went with one of Scott’s all-time favorite foods last night–his mom’s turkey hash.  It’s traditionally a Thanksgiving leftovers type of meal, but we had a turkey carcass, and it was rainy and gross.  The day was begging for some turkey hash.

Remember that turkey we smoked a week or so ago?  Well, we kept the carcass (with a small amount of meat still connected to said carcass), and we had some standard turkey leftovers.  That’s where we’ll start.  I’m going to attempt to rebuild a family recipe.  From memory.  Whew.

Ingredients

  • 1 box of chicken broth
  • chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 medium carrots
  • water
  • 1 turkey carcass
  • 1-2 cups of chopped up turkey leftovers (if available)
  • 1 lb. chicken gizzards or turkey giblets
  • salt and pepper
  • mashed potatoes or bread for serving

Instructions

  1. Place turkey carcass into large pot (largest one I had so the carcass would fit) with one box of chicken broth.  Warm up almost to a boil (doesn’t hurt if it does boil). 
  2. While you’re letting the carcass get hot in step 1, chop up the onion, celery, and carrots.  Then sautee them in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add gizzards (or giblets, if you saved those from your turkey–ours was gibletless, so we bought gizzards at the store) to the pan and sautee with veggies until cooked through (more or less).
  3. While your gizzards are cooking away, it’s time to hang out with the carcass again.  Take the carcass out of the broth and let it cool enough to touch (or use forks/knives/tools for the next part).  Get as much of those good leftover turkey bits as you possibly can off of the carcass, and put them back into the broth.  Supplement with leftover turkey chopped up into small pieces.  You want this to be hearty, so don’t be stingy.
  4. Stir about a tablespoon of bouillon into the turkey/broth mixture.  Or more.
  5. Take a deep breath, because you’re cooking without clear instructions, and that takes guts.
  6. Take the gizzards out of sautee pan and chop some of them up, getting rid of any hard portions.  You want some of that earthy flavor, but you might not want a whole pot of gizzard stew.  Put however many gizzard pieces you want into your turkey/broth mixture.  I went with 10-ish small pieces.  Discard the rest of the gizzards (you’re in it for the gizzard flavor, not the gizzards themselves).
  7. Add flour to your sauteed veggies, mixing with some additional water–about 1/2 of a cup at first.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste.  This should look like a thick roux (like the picture below plus veggies):
    Image

    photo from thegourmandmom.com

  8. Finally, you’re almost there!  When you’re happy with your roux (add more flour and water until you like its consistency), add it to the turkey/broth pot.  Everything is all together, and you just have to wait until it’s the right consistency.  That should take about 15-20 minutes, and the time will also allow the flavors to blend together.  In the end, you want something that looks like thick-ish gravy with lots of good stuff thrown in.
  9. Serve on top of mashed potatoes (The Pioneer Woman’s “Perfect Mashed Potatoes” are pretty perfect, although I take out some of the butter and all of the sour cream.  The recipe for them is sadly not online.  Her other options online are probably equally delicious, however.).  Or you could serve it with bread–rolls, biscuits, whole wheat, whatever your heart desires.  I happen to prefer the mashed potatoes, because soggy bread isn’t up my alley at all.  But Scott says that hash with bread is perfect, too.

Ta da, the perfect dinner for a rainy doozy of a day.