Xiao Long Bao (Juicy Pork Dumplings)

If you have never had Chinese dumplings you really need to!!  You can get them filled with meat, vegetables or a combo of both so there’s something for everyone.  Thankfully, I live in an area where there are several places that I can get them, they even sell them frozen at the store.  Then there’s Din Tai Fung.  I cannot recommend enough, no really, it’s that good.

Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient or possible to head to the local dumpling joint to get my fill so I decided to try my hand at making them.  I’ve seen them made, and let me tell you, the skill these dumpling makers have is crazy ridiculous.  Their fingers work at lightning speed making all those pleats like it’s the easiest thing in the world.  It. Is. Not.  Even if you don’t have fast pleat making skill you can still produce a pretty good dumpling, it just won’t look like those pretty little purses of love from the restaurant.  Practice, practice, practice.

DSC_1799

When I looked up recipes I found them to all be fairly similar to each other.  I shied away from the ones that said to use premade dumpling wrappers because, though I’m a fan of those, I wanted these to be completely from scratch.  I won’t lie, these are a bit of work, but it’s broken down into steps.

I hope you have a bamboo steamer since these little lovelies need to be steamed.  If not, you could probably rig something up using a vegetable steamer or some other kind of pan that has holes to allow steam.  Get creative or get yourself a bamboo steamer…I recommend the latter.

For the Recipe:

BROTH

The broth is a combination of chicken and pork, this will be the “juicy” part of the dumpling.  You want to make sure it’s flavorful so be mindful when choosing your meats.  You want bones, fat, and meat that will cook over a couple hours so the result is a flavorful product.  I made a large batch so I would have extra broth for soup.  If you are going through all this work you might as well make the most of it, right?  Also note, you can substitute other pieces of pork or chicken other than what I used, just keep in mind you need to have bones, meat and fat.  I didn’t want to head to the Asian store to get pork neck bones so I substituted the pork blade steak, it’s fatty, has bones and meat so it worked great.  Also, one of the ingredients listed on ALL the recipes was Chinese cured ham, which is pretty much impossible to get here in the US, however, a Chinese company took over Smithfield and uses similar techniques when smoking these hams.  Some butchers sell chicken and pork bones (as well as other types) fairly inexpensively, so give that a try to cut down on the cost.  Next time I will plan ahead a little better and use a lot more bones, but I did this spur of the moment.   If you have no desire for extra stock you can definitely cut this recipe down, but if you are doing all this work why not

DSC_1786

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 lb. pork fat/skin
  • 2 lbs. chicken wings
  • 1 lb. fatty ground pork
  • 1 lb. pound pork shoulder blade steak
  • 1/4 lb. Smithfield ham (if you cannot find, don’t fret but don’t substitute another ham)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, just give them a little whack before tossing them in
  • 8 green onions, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 c. xiao xing wine
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 packet gelatin

DSC_1793

In a large stock pot add all ingredients EXCEPT the gelatin.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer for 2.5 hours.  When it’s done you will strain out all the solids, use a fine sieve to catch everything, you want a nice clear broth.  Take out 3 cups of the broth and put in a pot to cook down.  You want this to reduce about 1/3.  Taste the ending broth and adjust seasoning, you might need a little more soy sauce or xiao xing wine, but don’t make it too much, remember it’s going to go along with the pork that you will also be seasoning.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the reduced broth, mix well then refrigerate.  The leftover broth you can save and make an incredibly delicious soup.

FILLING

The filling is fairly straight forward and easy.  You of course could substitute ground chicken for the pork as well as leave out the shrimp if you are allergic.  I used salad shrimp, minced finely and it worked great.  I really wouldn’t buy the expensive shrimp for this, you are just mincing them up so 14/16’s would be a total waste… I’m a huge lover of ginger so I always add quite a bit of it, if you are not as big a fan you could definitely cut back the amount.

DSC_1792

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 lb. shrimp, finely minced
  • 2 c. of the gelatin broth, stir, cut or however you want the gelatin into little 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/4 c. green onions, minced
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. xiao xing wine
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (sesame oil can be strong, so if you are not sure of the flavor use only 1/2 tsp.)
  • 2 tsp. corn starch

In a bowl add all ingredients and mix well.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

DOUGH

The dough is three ingredients, yup, just three, however, you still need to follow a couple rules with this simple dough or it won’t be just right.  First, the water, it must be boiling when you use.  I researched why this was so important and it had to do with how the hot water acted with the gluten in the flour.  It was kind of like kicking it’s *ss and making it do what you want rather than what it wants… You are really going to beat this dough up, so maybe a good activity when you are annoyed or having a bad day.  Second, the sesame oil, don’t leave it out.  Water and flour are pretty bland ingredients and the addition of the sesame oil really gives the dough that little extra it needs.  If you have a small plastic rolling (like the kind you roll out fondant) that would be ideal, it will give you better control over the thickness of the dough.  I unfortunately only had a large rolling pin so it took a little extra effort to get the thickness right.  Very important, you want the center of the dough circles to be thicker than the outer part.  This extra thickness is needed to keep the dough from breaking which will then leak out all the glorious juice.  The thinner dough on the outer edges will also be a little easier to crimp and make pleats.  Unless you are doing this in an assembly line with a few people I would highly suggest not cutting all forty little balls at once.  I would do it in stages as you work through the dough.

DSC_1795

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil

In a bowl add the flour and make a well in the center.  Add the boiling water and sesame oil to the well then incorporate the ingredients using either chop sticks (my preferred method) or a spoon.  PLEASE REMEMBE YOU ADDED BOILING WATER AND IT WILL BE HOT!!!  Take caution when mixing, don’t use your hand for this initial part.  Don’t say you weren’t warned… Once everything has been mixed fairly well pour out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed the dough for 4-5 minutes.  Add more flour as you kneed if needed.  When finished, the dough should be nice and smooth, now let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To make the dumpling wrappers, using your hands roll the ball of dough into a two inch thick log (it will be about 10 inches long).  Cut this log into ten pieces.  Then take each of the ten pieces and roll them with your hands into little logs, cutting each one into 4 pieces.  This should result in 40 pieces.  Try to keep the pieces the same size.  Cover the little dough pieces with a lightly dampened cloth to prevent them from drying as you roll. Remember that little tip I gave you about not making all 40 little dough balls at once, again I would highly suggest it if you are not working with a few people.

Before you start rolling the dough into the wrappers prepare your work station so you don’t have to keep stopping.  Place a good handful of flour within reach so you can add as you need it.  Flour your work surface before you start rolling.  Roll each piece into about a 3-4 inch circle, making sure to keep the center a little thicker.  What I did was roll out the circle to the thickness I wanted the center, then finished it off by only rolling out the outside of the circle to reach the desired size.  This is where a smaller plastic rolling pin would have come in handy.  It’s much more difficult to do with a large one, lesson learned for next time.  As you make them do not stack them, they will stick together.  Instead, place them on a floured surface, if you need to overlap a little that is fine as long as you flour where they touch.  Keep covered with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.

ASSEMBLY

If you can get people to help you with this and do an assembly line I highly suggest it.  But if not, it can still be done.  Get out the filling and a small spoon to use, should be close to about one tablespoon.  Take one of the wrappers, make a “C” out of the hand you want to hold the dumpling, lay the wrapper over your “C” with the center in the middle of the “C”.  Place a spoonful of the filling in the center, you should still have a nice overlap of dough to make the pleats, but not so much that you didn’t use enough filling.  You will quickly be able to tell the correct amount for your size dumplings after you make a couple and see how the pleats work.  With the overlap you want to make the pleats.  The dumpling master can do this with one hand in about 5 seconds per dumpling, I however cannot.  Take your thumb and forefinger and pinch the top into little pleats, closing up the dumpling.  I found it helpful to rotate the dumpling as I crimped.  You could also place the dumping on your work surface and try that way.  You will need to do a few to see what works best for you.  Don’t get too frustrated if they don’t look like the perfect little treasures you’ve seen in the restaurants, remember, those people have been doing it for years!

DSC_1797

Just make sure you seal the top completely, sometimes that meant I just gave it an extra pinch at the top, but it worked.  As you complete place on a lightly floured surface (or container) and cover with a damp cloth.  Do not lay on top of each other, keep a single layer.

TO STEAM

I have a bamboo steamer, so that will be the directions I give.  Using a wok, fill it with enough water to get a good steam going but not actually touch the steamer.  Either use nappa cabbage leaves or parchment paper rounds with holes to allow the steam to get through to line the bamboo steamer bottom.

DSC_1796

Place the dumplings on top of the paper/cabbage, not allowing them to touch, cover and steam for 6-8 minutes.

DSC_1799

When they are cooked they will be incredibly hot!!  Don’t just stuff one in your mouth unless you want to burn the heck out of it, rather, give them a few minutes to cool, then enjoy.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely julienned
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Mix together and let sit for a few minutes so the ginger can flavor the sauce.

Fettuccini Alfredo

WP_20141121_19_21_01_Pro

Alfredo sauce…simply glorious and easy.  Butter, cream, cheese, salt and pepper.  That.  Is.  It.  I said it was easy.  This got rave reviews at my house, and that’s always a good thing.  Another bonus, you can change it up with whatever you want to add to it.  Tonight I added shrimp, but you could easily add chicken, only vegetables or nothing at all.

For the Recipe:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 16/20’s), pat them dry

8 oz. butter

1 c. heavy cream, don’t you dare use milk

10 mushrooms

2 oz. parmesan cheese, I’ve actually used comte’ and Kerry Gold Irish Dublinger, maybe I’m crazy but it tasted just fine

1/2 c. peas

12 oz. noodles, (I say noodles and not fettuccini simply because I know I’ve used many different kinds), cooked until not quite done (you will finish cooking in the sauce

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, do not stir once you set in the pan.  Flip and cook another 2 minutes or so on the other side, you want them to get that pretty browning from the higher heat (and no stirring).  Remove from pan, then add the butter and cream.  Mix well, then add mushrooms.  Cook for 2 minutes, add cheese and peas, stir well.  Add noodles to sauce and cook until preferred tenderness.  Lastly, throw in the shrimp.

Enjoy!

Chicken and Dumplings

DSC_1782

Strange little tidbit…I had never eaten chicken and dumplings until I was an adult.  This was not the kind of food we ate in my house so there was never an opportunity.  But now that I have had it, there’s no going back!!  It’s just so easy to make and such a comforting food (guess that’s why they call it comfort food…).  For this recipe I went with the basic vegetables, but you could obviously substitute whatever you wanted.  The dumplings also have some room for creativity.  I put green onions in these, but you could use chives, cut the little tops off of broccoli florets, pretty much anything you want.  Just be sure to make whatever you use very small and be mindful of the water content.

For the Recipe:

6 c. chicken stock, homemade preferred

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 c. chopped celery

2 c. chopped carrots

2 c. chicken, cut into small bite size pieces (roughly one whole chicken breast)

3/4 c. peas (I used frozen)

salt and pepper to taste, this will depend on your stock

2 c. flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 c. milk

2 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 c. green onions, chopped fine

*soup thickener if you like:  Mix 1/2 c. milk with 2 tbsp. flour, stir into soup when you add the peas.

In a large pot (a wider pot is preferable to fit the dumplings without crowding) add the chicken stock and heat.  Add the garlic, celery and carrots.  Simmer for 10 minutes so the carrots can start to soften, taste the stock and add salt and pepper, to taste.  During this time make the dumplings.  In a bowl add the flour and baking powder, give a little stir.  Next mix in the milk, eggs, salt and pepper.  Mix well, then gently stir in the green onions.  Set aside until time to cook.  You don’t want the soup to be at a hard boil, but you do want a consistent and strong simmer.  Using a small spoon, drop spoonfuls of the dumplings into the soup.  This amount does give a lot of dumplings so if you don’t like that you can make half the dumpling recipe.

WP_20141121_08_15_36_Pro

Let cook for 10 minutes, then add the peas.  I add the peas late because I don’t like them to get too cooked, but this is just personal preference.  Taste the soup and test for seasoning, add if needed.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Easy peasy, you have chicken and dumplings.

Enjoy!

**Note, to change it up you can sauté the vegetables in 2 tbsp. of olive oil, then add the stock to that and proceed with the recipe.

We Got the Tree (Go-Go’s We Got the Beat)

It’s that time of year!!!  People thinking of getting their trees and getting all festive, I love it!!  Inspired this little diddy….  Enjoy my crazy!

 

See the people driving on the street

Trees are strapped atop their SUV’s

Pines and spruce and evergreens too

Pink, white, natural, blue

 

We got the tree

We got the tree

We got the tree

Yeah, We got the tree

 

Ornaments brought in from the garage

All this lifting I need a massage

Hope the lights are working and not bad

It’s time to plug them in

 

We got the tree

We got the tree

We got the tree

Yeah, we got the tree

 

Star or Santa who goes on the top

Twinkle lights will really make it pop

Color scheme or random what’s your choice

Put Santa on the top

 

‘Cause we got the tree

We got the tree

We got the tree

Yeah, we got it

 

We got the tree

We got the tree

We got the tree

 

Raise the blinds so everyone sees

We got the tree

It’s so bright you’ll fall to your knees

We got the tree

It’s bright! Turn ’round

We got the tree

Oos and awes and wows

 

We got the tree

We got the tree

We got the tree

 

Pork Chops in New Mexico Chile Sauce

DSC_1753

Last night I was chatting with a friend about food, all kinds of food.  One of the dishes was pozole, I was telling her how it is just so darn good.  Well you know how it goes when you start talking about food, you get a craving for certain things.  This morning I had pozole on the brain, but not the time to make it.  What I did have was some pork chops that I had intended on just frying up with some gravy and potatoes.  That just wasn’t going to cut it, so I had to come up with something that was going to satiate my craving but still be doable in the timeframe I had available.

What I came up with was beyond yum, it was yummalicious.  The hubs was all over it, he ate until he couldn’t put any more in his stomach.  That means it was really good.

For the Recipe:

2 tbsp. olive oil (or you can substitute oil of your choice)

6 pork chops

1 tsp. ancho chile powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. coriander powder

Sauce:

1 1/2 large onions, one onion cut into thirds, the 1/2 onion chop

1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half lengthwise

3 New Mexico chiles, seeded and tops removed

4 garlic cloves

1/2 bunch cilantro, stems included

2 poblano peppers

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. salt

2 c. chicken stock, homemade preferred

 

WP_20141113_13_00_48_Pro

To start, in a 375 degree oven roast the large onion that has been cut into thirds, the jalapeno pepper halves, and the two poblano peppers.  Drizzle the olive oil over the onions.  The peppers will be done before the onions, you want them to get charred skin, then place them in a plastic bag and let them cool, once you can handle them clean them by taking out their seeds and peeling skin.  Chop the poblano peppers, the jalapeno will be used in a minutes…  Continue cooking the onions until they are nice and soft and taking on a little color.  Set them aside when done.  While the vegetables are roasting in the oven heat the New Mexico chiles in a dry pan.  As they heat up they will soften, but be careful, if you don’t watch them they will burn.  Once they are done, soak them in 2 1/2 c. of warm water for 15 minutes.  In a blender toss in the roasted onions, jalapeno pepper, New Mexico chiles AND the soaking liquid, and garlic.  Blend until smooth.

DSC_1750

Next time to brown the pork chops.  In a large pan (large enough to hold all the sauce) heat the olive oil over med high heat.  Season the pork chops with the ancho powder, salt, pepper and coriander powder.  Place in the pan, you don’t want to crowd the pan so do in batches.  Let them cook about 3 minutes per side, then take out of and set aside.

DSC_1751

Add the onions to this pan and cook for 4 minutes, until translucent.  Add the oregano, thyme, paprika and salt.  Next add the chicken stock.  Be sure to stir well and get all the brown bits off the bottom of that pan, that is nothing but flavor!!  Add in the contents of the blender, stir well and turn heat down to medium.  Cook for about 15 minutes, the sauce will reduce about 1/4.

Now you can add the pork chops to the sauce, cook for 15-20 minutes (if you are using really think pork chops this time could be longer) or until the meat is cooked.  Once I put the meat in I like to make a quick rice to serve along with the pork chops.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Colored Sugar

It’s baking season!!  Time to go crazy with the cookies, candies, and everything else sweet and delicious.  All that baking can add up and put a little dent in your wallet, so when you can save money why not?  Colored sugar is one of those places you can save by making it at home.  More than likely you have everything you need already in your pantry….sugar and food coloring.  Yup, that’s it.

DSC_1764

I used 1/2 cup of sugar, that’s just a good amount for me.  Feel free to adjust to suit your needs.  And since it’s the holidays, I am making red.

DSC_1765You could us a bowl to mix the sugar, but I find it to be much easier in a plastic bag.  You can use your fingers to break up the color clumps, shake the heck out of the stuff and sugar won’t go flying everywhere (make sure your bag is properly sealed).  I started with two healthy drops of coloring to start, but ended up adding two more to get the red I was looking for.

DSC_1766The sugar will not be ready to use right away, as you can see, it looks a little like damp sand in the bag.

DSC_1767To dry out, spread it out on some parchment paper on a tray, or any however works best for you.  I’ve seen people do a quick dry in a 200 degree oven, but since I don’t need it right away I’m just letting it air dry.  As it dries it will clump up a bit, I find if you put it through a strainer all the large clumps will be caught (sometime the color will dry in a little bead, you don’t want that).

That’s it, simple right?  Store in an airtight container.  I have a few containers from colored sugars that I’ve purchased in the past, work like a charm!

 

One Pan Lasagna

WP_20141115_11_34_59_Pro

So I have to say this is more like Hamburger Helper lasagna without so much Helper… That being said, it was really good.  There’s a handful of ingredients and just a short amount of time that produce a gooey, cheesy, noodly pan of goodness.

For the Recipe:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef

12 oz. lasagna noodles, uncooked and broken into roughly 1 1/2″ pieces

1 20 oz. can cut tomatoes, juice included

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil (you can always substitute fresh if you have it)

2 tsp. salt, this amount might need to be adjusted depending on the saltiness of the tomatoes

1 tsp. pepper

2 c. water

4-6 oz. mozzarella, grated (amount will depend on desired cheesiness)

2 oz. parmesan, grated

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions.  Cook for 4 minutes, until translucent.  Add ground beef, cook until nice and brown.  Next add the broken up noodles, followed by the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, basil salt, pepper and water.  Gently stir to make sure the noodles are evenly dispersed amongst the other ingredients.  Cover the pan and cook for 7-10 minutes, until noodles are cooked to your liking.  Halfway through give the noodles a gentle stir.  Sprinkle the cheeses over the top, then cover.  Turn off the heat and let sit for 3-4 minutes while the cheese melts.

Enjoy!!