Thursday, February 22, 2007

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings

The mark of a good dim sum restaurant is a good shrimp dumpling. Har gow/xia jiao should be steaming hot, magically translucent, and expertly pleated. The wrapper should be tender and the dumpling should be bursting with fresh, pink shrimp with a slight essence of toasted sesame oil. Unfortunately, there are so many ways to go wrong. If the dumpling falls apart when you go to pick it up, then the wrapper is too fragile but if the wrapper is thick and rubbery, that's no good either. If there is too much bamboo, then they definitely skimped on the shrimp. All in all, a seemingly simple shrimp dumpling can be rather complicated.

My innate curiousity left me wondering how these dumplings are made; in particular, how the wrappers are made because they are so different from the usual dumpling or potsticker wrappers. So I researched some dim sum making and discovered that xia jiao can be made at home, albeit some of the ingredients were not commonplace pantry items. But I'm still missing a piece of the puzzle because as much as I try, I can only come to a close approximation. The dumplings I make are decent, but they're not perfect, like a good dim sum restaurant. Maybe this is a good thing because maybe not everything can be or should be made at home.

In this variation of the shrimp dumpling, I added some soybeans (edamames) to give it some bright green color. The edamames can be omitted and replaced with more shrimp for a traditional dumpling. The secret why the dough becomes translucent after steaming is because it is made with wheat starch.

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings
1 1/4 C wheat starch (You can find wheat starch and tapioca starch at Asian markets)
1/4 C tapicoa starch
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 C boiling water

8 oz shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 C soybeans/edamame (if omitted, replace with 4 oz. shrimp)
2 Tbsp bamboo shoot, minced (this can also be omitted)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice wine (Shao Hsing wine)

Peel, wash, and devein shrimp. Then chop, leaving some pieces small and some larger, and add to a mixing bowl.

Boil edamame for 2 minutes. Squeeze each bean out of the membrane layer that covers each bean. Roughly chop and add to shrimp.

Add minced bamboo, soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and corn starch to the filling and mix. Chill in the fridge while making the dough, allowing the flavors to develop.

Add wheat starch, tapioca starch, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add boiling water at once and stir to bring the dough together.

When the dough can be handled, gently knead for 30 seconds to a minute. The dough will white and very smooth.

Break off about 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of the dough and roll into a ball. Keep the rest of the dough covered. Using the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a pan flatten the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to a 3in circle. If a thinner wrapper is desired, roll the wrapper out after flattening.

Add about 2 tsp of the filling in the center of the wrapper and make pleats along half the wrapper. Overlap sections of the dough to create pleats, using your thumb as a guide. When half the circumference of the wrapper is pleated, seal the dumpling by pressing the pleated side with the unpleated side to form a crescent shape dumpling. If desired a triangular shape can be made by pressing the edges of the wrapper together at three points along the edge of the wrapper towards the center to seal in a triangular purse shape.

Before making the rest of the dumplings, begin boiling water for your steamer. Steam the dumplings for 8 to 10 minutes. The dumplings will become translucent after they cool for a bit after steaming.

Serve immediately.

Storing: These dumplings can be frozen but they must be steamed first. Then steam to reheat.

Yields about 24 dumplings.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cast Iron Guide

Being a former college student, my kitchen is rather sparse. Of the four pans I own, a 10 in cast iron skillet is one of them and I simply adore it. It's virtually nonstick and is excellent at retaining heat. It makes an amazing steak, perfect southern cornbread, and is my go-to bacon pan. Anything smaller than a 10 in is not very functional and anything larger than a 12 in is just too heavy. With proper seasoning, a cast iron skillet becomes nonstick after time and iron is an excellent heat conductor. However, they are rather heavy and it takes time to develop a seasoned surface. This will be a guide on how to season and take care of cast iron cookware.

Scrub a new unseasoned skillet with steel wool or a wire brush to removed the protective wax coating then wash with mild, soapy water. Avoid using soapy water on the pan after this.

A preseasoned pan should also be seasoned before use. Do not wash with soapy water, instead use a stiff brush and scrub the inside under very hot water. Then dry the pan on the stovetop.

Use a paper towel to rub the skillet with lard, Crisco, or bacon fat. It is best not to use a liquid oil like vegetable oil because it leaves a gummy residue and goes rancid faster. Do not use olive oil or butter because they will smoke and burn very quickly.

Put the greased skillet upside down in a 350ºF oven (this way the fat doesn't pool at the bottom) for about an hour. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a rack below the skillet so excess fat can drip onto the foil.

Let cool before use.

Avoid cooking wet or acidic foods, like tomatoes, in a cast iron because it will slowly dissolve the seasoning.

After cooking, do not wash cast iron with soapy water. The soap will ruin the seasoning and the taste will absorb into the porous iron and impart a soapy taste to food.

If there is food stuck to the pan, pour some kosher salt into the pan and use it to scrub away the food particles.

Always dry the pan throroughly before storing because water will cause the iron to rust. The most effective way to dry the pan is heat it on the stove top. Paper towels and dish towels may be used but it might leave fibers on the pan.

If the pan begins to rust, use steel wool or a wire brush to scrub it off and reseason.

I love to cook bacon in my cast iron because as the bacon cooks, the pan gets seasoned at the same time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Poached Egg Trick

I had the most beautiful poached duck egg at Campagne. The yolk was completely encapsulated in a delicate white orb. This method for poaching eggs produces a morespherical egg rather than a flat poached egg.

What you'll need is a pot of simmering water, an egg, a small cup or bowl, and microwavable plastic wrap.

Bring water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Use a small bowl or cup and push a piece of plastic wrap into the cup.

Crack an egg into the plastic wrap and tie the top with a small strip of plastic wrap or a piece of twine.

Gently lower the egg into simmering water.

Poach in simmering water uncovered: 3 minutes for runny yolks, 4 minutes for slightly firm runny yolks.

Use a fork or tongs to fish out the egg and gently slide the egg out of the plastic wrap.

I was a little hesitant about using the plastic wrap but it did not melt so it seems fine to me. One way to minimize the time the egg spends in plastic wrap is once the white has solidified enough, you can cut the plastic wrap and slip the egg out into the water but I haven't tried this. If you have health concerns, there are other ways to poach an egg.

Elise has another poached egg trick on her blog Simply Recipes.


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