Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Lovely Little Things..... and Easy Too!

We're in a Oriental mood, something we get often and it really doesn't matter which type. Could be Chinese, Thai, Japanese or whatever as long as those particular flavors are there and we satiate our tastes. For one of our practicals, Rene made pot stickers and with those in mind we started running down a list of old favorites and came up with some that I thought you'd like, were easy to make and deliver not just the "punch" you need but can be made for company or any weekend.

Tasty little tidbits, fresh flavors, wonderful spices and flavorings..... always welcome and everyone seems to enjoy them equally, even the kids will like these! Perfect for game snacks, a lazy weekend at home or an impromptu cocktail party.... you'll see how satisfying they can be, for everyone.

Feel free to substitute and use your favorite ingredients, you'll see how flexible and versatile these recipes are. If you like more heat, go ahead and add it, same goes for sweetness or salt, make these customized to your family's tastes and enjoy!

So let's get started, ok?

Pot Stickers.- Wonderful flavor, delicate and pretty amazing!

1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Water, for sealing wontons
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/3 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine the first 11 ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside. To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush 2 of the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold over, seal edges, and shape as desired. Set on a sheet-pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Brush with vegetable oil once hot. Add 8 to 10 potstickers at a time to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, without touching. Once the 2 minutes are up, 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. You can serve with your favorite sauce on the side.

Shu Mai.- A very popular appetizer that you'll love!

Makes about 40 dumplings, serving 6 to 8 as an appetizer. The dumplings may be frozen for up to 3 months; cook them straight from the freezer for about an extra 5 minutes.

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
(or use lean, ground pork)
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, tails removed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, in hot water 30 min, squeezed dry, cut small dice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (1 pound) package 5 1/2 inch square egg roll wrappers
1/4 cup carrot, finely grated (optional)

Combine soy sauce and gelatin in small bowl. Set aside to allow gelatin to bloom, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place half of pork in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground into approximate 1/8-inch pieces, about ten 1-second pulses; transfer to large bowl. Add shrimp and remaining pork to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces, about five 1-second pulses. Transfer to bowl with more finely ground pork. Stir in soy sauce mixture, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cornstarch, cilantro, sesame oil, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper. Divide egg roll wrappers into 3 stacks (6 to 7 per stack). Using 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut two 3-inch rounds from each stack of egg roll wrappers (you should have 40 to 42 rounds). Cover rounds with moist paper towels to prevent drying. Working with 6 rounds at a time, brush edges of each round lightly with water. Place heaping tablespoon of filling into center of each round. Following illustrations below, form dumplings, crimping wrapper around sides of filling and leaving top exposed. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with damp kitchen towel, and repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Top center of each dumpling with pinch of grated carrot, if using. Cut piece of parchment slightly smaller than diameter of steamer basket and place in basket. Poke about 20 small holes in parchment and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place batches of dumplings on parchment liner, making sure they are not touching. Set steamer over simmering water and cook, covered, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately with chili oil.

Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings.- Another well known and loved appetizer.

1/2 pound firm tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine. To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone. Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps.- These can be made with almost any protein, like the other one's too, and make an excellent lunch, brunch or dinner offering. Fresh and healthy!

Serve 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course.
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb), trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
(or use ground pork, chicken, small shrimp, stir fry vegetables, etc.)
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white rice
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium shallots , peeled and sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 head Bibb lettuce, washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

Place pork chunks on large plate in single layer. Freeze meat until firm and starting to harden around edges but still pliable, 15 to 20 minutes. Place half of meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, 5 to six 1-second pulses. Transfer ground meat to medium bowl and repeat with remaining chunks. Stir 1 tablespoon fish sauce into ground meat and marinate, refrigerated, 15 minutes.

Heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder).

Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over pork; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining pork is no longer pink, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Transfer pork to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.

Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to pork; toss to combine. Serve with lettuce leaves using each leaf instead of tortillas.
NOTE: These are super flexible and an type of protein works great, even tofu and veggie items!

After reading these I'm sure you can see about feeling free to substitute ingredients, right? You can use your refrigerator leftovers and turn them into something pretty great, eliminating waste and saving money at the same time. Depending on your dietary needs, you can allow for these as well. Have friends, partners or kids join in the assembly and make it a group project. You'll get done in no time at all, everyone will enjoy it and sharing the results will be appreciated by all!

So go ahead and make these your family's choice for an Asian Night and savor something unusual that can be fun too! Hope you enjoy them....

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