Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Asian Flavors, Part Two

If you were paying attention in Part One of this posting, you will remember that I also bought wonton wrappers.  (Incidentally, Stop n' Shop ALSO carries these--see Breakthrough, also in Part One--I never noticed them before because they're kept behind a two by two foot column that blocks them from view.  Stupid layout.)  These wrappers are so versatile--you can use them for dumplings and potstickers, or you can take the Italian route and use them instead of pasta dough to make ravioli (this might be my next project using the leftovers!)  

I was first inspired to use them after seeing Alton Brown's episode of Good Eats titled Wonton Ways.  In the episode he makes pork potstickers, vegetarian steamed dumplings, and then deep fried purses filled with pear and walnut--another variation that I probably won't try, because I'm not really into deep frying.  Right after seeing that episode, which must have been 2 years ago at this point, I tried the pork potstickers, which were delicious.  Last night I returned to those recipes and decided to mix & match the recipes; I made potstickers again but used the filling from the vegetarian dumplings.  Erik wasn't totally sold on the idea of tofu, but he came around, and quite honestly, once it's mixed in with all the other flavors of the filling the tofu is barely noticeable--it really just adds bulk to the filling.  To complement the pot stickers I made a Honey Soy dipping sauce, which came together in minutes, and was so much more interesting and complex than plain soy sauce.  To round out the meal I boiled frozen edamame (picked up at the Asian Grocery but also available in the "healthy" frozen section of your grocery store), sprinkled generously with kosher salt.  The potsticker portion of the meal is a little bit labor intensive--between prepping and cooking it probably took me about 2 hours--but it's a fun project when you have a free afternoon, or a sous chef to help you in the kitchen to speed up the process.

To get an idea of what you'll be doing, check out this clip from Wonton Ways, where Alton is putting together the vegetarian filling.  He also demonstrates his own steaming method, which is a great way to make these even healthier.

Vegetarian Pot Stickers (adapted from Alton Brown)

* 1/2 pound firm tofu, pressed and diced in 1/4 - 1/2 inch cubes
* 1/2 cup grated carrot
* 1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage (sometimes called Chinese cabbage--just don't use plain!)
* 2 tablespoons chopped scallions, green and white parts
* 2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
* 2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
* 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
* 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce (Asian/Int'l aisle of grocery store)
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1 egg, beaten
* Wonton wrappers, about 40
* About 1 2/3 cups chicken broth
* Vegetable or canola oil for brushing pan
Special equipment:

* Pastry brush
* 10-12 inch nonstick saute pan with tightly fitting lid

Note: Press tofu to remove excess water before dicing.   See this tutorial to learn how.

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.
Check out all that healthy color!

2. Combine ingredients from tofu through egg in a large bowl.  Stir gently, trying not to break up tofu chunks.

3. Unwrap your wonton wrappers, but keep covered with a damp cloth while you are working, so they don't dry out.  Remove 2 or 3 wrappers and a time and lay on a clean surface.  Place a scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper.  Brush two sides of the wonton wrapper with water.  Fold the wrapper so it makes a triangle, and pinch the sides together firmly.  As you complete the wontons, place them on a sheet pan covered by a damp cloth.

4.  When you have finished forming your wontons, heat your nonstick pan over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, brush lightly with vegetable oil (you can also use your pastry brush for this, just be sure that it is made either of silicone or natural fiber--you don't want a plastic one to melt!).  Add 8 to 10 potstickers at a time to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, without touching.  After 2 minutes, gently add 1/3 cup chicken stock to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove wontons to a heatproof platter and place in the warm oven. Clean the pan in between batches by pouring in water and allowing the pan to deglaze. Repeat until all the wontons are cooked. Serve immediately with soy sauce, or, even better, the Honey Soy Dipping Sauce.  (I really should emphasize, after eating the leftovers for 2 days now, HOW GOOD the sauce is.  I mean, I love the potstickers, but they would be nothing without the sauce.  It is just that good--sweet, salty, spicy, has everything going on :)

Honey Soy Dipping Sauce (adapted from Emeril Lagasse) 

* 1/4 cup soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons orange blossom honey (I used regular honey and just a tiny bit of orange zest)
* 2 teaspoons grated or finely minced peeled fresh ginger (grating the ginger on a Microplane gives it lots of kick!)
* 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
* 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Grocery note: If you use sesame seeds often, it is so much more economical to buy them in your store's international aisle, where Asian brands come in much larger containers and cost far less than the dinky McCormick bottles in the spice aisle. 
Whisk together soy sauce, honey, ginger, sesame oil and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. (If you are having trouble incorporating the honey, like I was, microwave for about 20 seconds and whisk again).  

This sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead and kept covered in the fridge.  Just before serving stir in sesame seeds. 

So that summarizes my Asian cooking adventures, but I am going to give you the links to the recipes for the pork potstickers, as well as the fried pear & walnut pockets, if you are just going wonton happy.  The pork pot stickers are actually a perfect recipe if you need to use the other half pound of pork that you'll likely be left with if you make the Dan Dan Noodles, and they're also great because they use a lot of pantry staples, so once you have the wonton wrappers you'll be ready to rock and roll (or rock and fold, in this case).  

I hope you enjoy these recipes if you find yourself approximately 26 miles away from Chinese food (by water), or if you just want a healthier spin on some of your takeout favorites.

1 comment:

  1. Looks good, Macy! Making dumplings is one of my favorite memories of childhood. My grandmother always made the best ones...