Thursday, January 15, 2009

CSA week five - potstickers, part 2

I stopped by Lucky Oriental Mart on the way home from work today and picked up some dumpling wrappers to substitute for my failed attempt last night. There were four choices: square vs. round and egg vs. eggless (and also, eggless with yellow die #2 so it looks like it has eggs in it). With egg was labeled Hong Kong-style and eggless Shanghai-style. I was tempted to go for Hong Kong as that's the home of dim sum, but I wanted to reproduce what I tried to make so round, eggless it was to be.

Once I had the package defrosted it was time to stuff. I didn't ruin any even from the start but it did take some time to find a method that worked really well.

I understand that fresh dough would stick closed on its own, but this dough I had to wet around the edges. I kept a little bowl of water and would dip a couple fingers and run them around the circumference. I tried a brush (as I had to redip a couple times to make it all the way around), but that spread too much water and made the dough mushy. So fingers it was to be which slowed the process down considerably.

For each dumpling I scooped out about a Tablespoon of filling using a coffee scoop and dislodged it onto the wrapper using a teaspoon so I didn't get it all over my fingers. After a bit I realized I needed to put the filling in the top half of the wrapper and press it down a little to spread it out. Then I could fold the bottom half up and seal it at one spot at the top. Once the wrapper was held in place I'd seal up which ever side had the filling closer to the edge first, pushing it in to even things out, and then the other side ending not quite at the bottom so I could squeeze out any excess filling as if it was a little pastry bag.

Once I had it sealed up I had to make sure it stayed closed so I pleated the edges starting from the top and then a couple times down each side ending with a folded in corner if I had enough spare dough to do it. It's a two hand process so I'm afraid I didn't get any pictures of the process; sorry. Try YouTube; there are video tutorials that are better than anything I could have done.

It's not tricky after you get the hang of it--kind of meditative, really--and my end results look about right, I think. Pretty time consuming, though. I filled up 38 dumplings total which is not a whole lot for the amount of filling I had. They do seem a little plumper than most I've seen. But then I'm not selling them by the dozen so it doesn't pay me to skimp.

I put most of them onto a sheet of freezer paper on a baking sheet so they can freeze individually before I pack them away. I made sure to press them down a little bit to give them flat bottoms so they'll sit up in the pan later.

But several I kept aside for dinner. You can steam them, boil them in soup, deep fry them, but I wanted to do use the real potsticker method. So I lighted oiled a non-stick pan (If you do this right, non-stick isn't necessary. That's how this method developed and how they got the name. The dumplings stick at first and then unstick themselves.), laid in the dumplings and then added enough water to come about halfway up their sides. Optionally, you can use chicken stock, but I wanted to see how my dumplings held up on their own first.

Then I just covered the pan, with the cover slightly askew to let steam escape, turned the heat to medium high and waited for the water to completely evaporate. When the water's gone; they're done. I gave them an extra minute since, as you can see, they bloated monstrously and I wanted to be sure they were cooked all the way through. That was a mistake, though, and I ended up overcooking the flavor out of them. When cooking them from frozen, you need that extra minute and this is the first time I've cooked fresh. I'll know better next time.

I am pleased that, despite the bloat, none of them burst (at least until I picked them up. They didn't stick to the pan, but they did stick to each other). Partially that's thanks to the store-bought, machine-manufactured wrappings, but my seals stayed sealed so there's that. They're nicely crisp on the bottom and soft and chewy on top as potstickers should be. And, even overcooked, they made fine meaty dipping sauce delivery tools. I made the traditional sauce: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a bit of ginger, a bit of scallion and a bit of sesame oil. I like chiu chow chili oil thinned with a little soy, too.

You know, the pre-made wrappers were just fine and they only cost around $2.29 and I have trouble imagining my homemade would be any better even if I made them perfectly. I'm choosing to be O.K. with not successfully making my own.

Before I sign off here, I'd like to mention that, in a remarkable synchronicity, La Diva of is making gow gee, just about the same dumpling but steamed instead of potstuck. Check out her post about it here.


LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Bill, check out the edited post and keep up the good work! YOur dumplings look much better than mine!

kat said...

They certainly look great. You cooked them the way I like to as well, the crispy bottom is my favorite bit

billjac said...

I steamed a couple for breakfast this morning and I'm happy to say that, when they're not overcooked, they taste pretty good too. That's a bit of a relief; lots of wasted effort if they tasted lousy after all that trouble.