Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today We Play

As I decided that today would be a day of relaxation after yesterday's prompt visit from our friendly heating and a/c repairman to fix our reticent water heater (again) and my surprise asthma attack, I contemplated the best way to entertain myself. So of course I decided to try out a new recipe. What else would I do?

I love Asian inspired foods, but I need to be careful to steer clear of chicken products, so making my own dishes seems to be a good idea. I found a recipe for steamed pork dumplings that would allow me to use my newest acquisition for the kitchen: a mini bamboo steamer set that I purchased during our marathon shopping spree at Jungle Jim's on the weekend.

My new mini two-layer bamboo steamer. Isn't it adorable?

In my regular grocery store I found wonton wrappers and pork shoulder steaks. I also bought a can of water chestnuts while I was there.

Hmm, let's see: we have pork shoulder steak, ground ginger in a jar (my regular grocery store regretfully didn't feel the need to have fresh ginger root available for my use), salt, pepper, roasted sesame oil, reduced-salt soy sauce, an egg, water chestnuts, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, 3 scallions, a clove of garlic and a few flat leaf parsley leaves.

Of course, I could not follow a recipe. What did you expect from me?

I carefully minced the vegetable components for the filling and then set to work on the pork shoulder. Let me tell you, pork shoulder has a lot of connective tissue. And it takes a great deal of patience to trim all that off, leaving nice pieces of pork meat amid a pile of silver skin and fat. The pork meat was then cubed and then minced in my mini food processor. Meanwhile, the remaining ingredients had been dumped into a mixing bowl. Then the meat was added and thoroughly mixed by hand.

After much hand washing, with warm water and copious amounts of soap, I retrieved my package of wonton wrappers and readied a small bowl of water for assembly. Despite what I had heard from a notable Food Network cooking personality, I had absolutely no problems in separating the wrappers from one another. I wet the edges and added a dollop of filling to the dumpling before sealing it closed. I first tried to seal the packages like a purse and then I resorted to first bringing two oposite corners together and then the other two, so that you end up with a square parcel.

The finished product. And can I tell you? It was delicious. I even got the thumbs up from my daughter. Here you can see the two different methods of wrapping that I attempted.

I brought out my old 8 inch omelet pan for this project and as the bamboo steamers were smaller, I formed two lengths of aluminum foil into a circle that is about one inch thick so that the steamer sits above the water. I cut two circles of parchment paper that were slightly smaller than the interior of the baskets and placed water in the pan. It is important to add more water as the steam evaporates, but remember that each time water is added, the cooking process will slow.

My cheap way of adapting what I have to what I need. Hey, it works.

I found that I could place three dumplings in each layer of the steamer, and as I had made 21 dumplings, this cooking necessarily took place in stages. The bottom layer cooks more quickly, so as those dumplings were finished, I would reverse the order of the baskets, so that the process moved rather quickly at this point. I made a dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and canola oil while I waited for my lunch to finish cooking.

It's working well.

And since I had a few extra wonton wrappers, I heated up some canola oil in my now clean and dry pan before cutting each wonton into 4 strips and frying briefly then draining. Yum.

All in all I would say that this was a success, though I next time I would prefer my pork to be ground more finely. What can I say? I had fun.

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