Thursday, February 19, 2009

I made veggie dumplings!

I have made these a few times before for potlucks and parties, and just yesterday to bring to a Lost party. The hosts, our friends Nick and Faryl, have lots of potlucks all the time, but I have never been able to bring anything homemade because I am usually coming from work. But this week I am off from school so I decided I would finally change this. Veggie dumplings are not only an ideal food to bring to a party (delicious finger food, impressive looking, and easy to transport in a tupperware all the way from Brooklyn to the upper west side), they are a fun project, especially on a quiet rainy weekday afternoon. Once I brought these to a party in a recycled takeout container, and people did not believe I didn't get them from a restaurant!

They are not difficult to make, but they are time consuming. In the past, I've always had helpers--these are good to make in an assembly-line, but this time I was all on my own, and it took a couple of hours.

Here is the recipe, which I have adapted from so many random recipes on the internet that I will just rewrite it here:

Vegetarian Dumplings (or "Pot Stickers")

1 package wonton or pot sticker skins
1 red onion, sliced
1 red or green cabbage, shredded
1 cup shredded carrot
1 1/2 cup shitake mushroom, sliced thinly
1 T fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 T sesame oil
Vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup cilantro
1 t white pepper
*This was the first time I've made this with red cabbage, and maybe I'm imagining it, but it seemed like green cabbage cooks down a lot more. So I had a LOT of filling. Way more than could fit in all my wonton skins. But the red cabbage has a nice texture and is aesthetically pleasing--especially when you cook the dumplings and the skins get translucent. Next time I might use half a red cabbage and more mushrooms.

3/4 c soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 T thinly sliced scallion
1 t fresh ginger, finely chopped

To make the filling:
Heat some oil in a large frying pan or wok, and add the ginger, garlic and onion. Cook until the onion starts to brown a little. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. And the cabbage, carrots and scallions, season with the white pepper and salt, and cook until the cabbage is soft. Maybe 10 -15 minutes, but I wasn't keeping track so use your judgment. When it's done cooking, place in a colander to drain. Taste it to see if the seasoning is right. I added a splash of soy sauce. When the mixture is cooled and drained, transfer to a bowl and add cilantro and sesame oil.

Now you're ready to assemble the dumplings. This is the tricky part, but it gets easier after the first few, trust me. This is the technique that works best for me. First, set up your work station. The skins adhere with moisture, but you don't want to get them TOO wet, so keep a bowl of water near by to dip your fingers in. You will need a surface to work and then another surface to place them once they're done that is DRY. They will be sitting there for a long time while you assemble all of them, and if you have them on a wet surface, they will get soggy and sticky. Once you're all set up this is how you do it:
1. Place a little filling, about the size of a quarter, in the middle of the skin. If you over stuff, they will be much harder to assemble.
2. Next wet your fingers and fold the skin in half (if you have regular dumpling or pot sticker skins, which are round, it will be a half-moon shape; for wonton skins, which are square, bring opposite corners together like a triangle). You want one side to be a tiny bit longer than the other so that you can fold it over creating a little seam. If you just pinch them together, they will not stay. Once you've closed the dumpling, if you are working with wonton skins, fold the dumpling by bringing the two bottom corners of the triangle together. Don't worry if you mess up once or twice--you can just take out the filling, toss the skin and try again!
That's it! Now do that like 50 times.

To cook the dumplings:
Coat a large frying pan with oil and turn the heat on high. Place the dumplings. They can be close but not touching. When the bottoms are nice and brown (check by lifting a couple with a fork or spatula), pour 1/4 cup water over the dumplings and cover immediately. This will steam the other side of the dumplings. Be careful when you pour the water not to get burnt by splattering oil! Pour fast and then put the cover on right away! It doesn't have to be tight fitting--not of my frying pans have matching lids, so I used my wok cover, which worked fine. Once they're covered, they will cook like this for just a couple of minutes. Keep checking them--they're done when the water has evaporated.
Now unless you happen to have an ENORMOUS frying pan you will need to do this in batches. I had two frying pans going at once. I would pour the water on one, cover it, and prepare the other one in the meantime. I felt very efficient. As you finish each batch, you might want to put them on paper towels to absorb some of the oil.

To make the sauce:
Just put all those ingredients in a bowl and stir it up! Those measurements are estimated, so just play with it until it tastes right!

PHEW! That's it! Look at how proud you will be when they are done:These are traditional, Chinese restaurant style dumplings, but feel free to get creative with the filling. I'd like to try spinach and goat cheese sometime... any other ideas?

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