Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jun 14: Daring Cooks make Potstickers.

This month's host for Daring Cooks' Challenge #2 is Jen of Use Real Butter.

When read that Jen was the scheduled host of this month's challenge, I was pumped to see the challenge. I found her blog on Tastespotting a couple years back and was mesmerized by her photos and her writing so I knew good things were in the works for this challenge.

The mission is to make Potstickers - Chinese dumplings (aka gyoza in Japanese).
We are given Jen's family recipe, but we are free to explore with variations. However, the whole point of this challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand.

I've made potstickers in the past, using pre-made wrappers. For my post, I only show what I did. A full write-up with variations and with photos can be found here...Use Real Butter's Potsticker Recipe.

For this challenge, I stuck with the classic pork filled potsticker.
Pork Filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

This is the fun part... I enjoy practicing my knife skills. For the ginger I used a grating plate instead of mincing. Mix all the ingeredients and set aside.

Dough Recipe: That's it for the dough! Two ingredients! Gotta love that!
(double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated.

Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth.

Knead the dough about twenty strokes [I kneaded about 5 minutes]then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

[I was actually surprised how soft the dough was. It wasn't as soft as bread/pizza dough, but it wasn't as firm as play-doh as I was expecting.] The dough was placed in a bowl and covered with a damp towel to rest.

[After a 15 to 30 minute rest...]
Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders.

On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces.

Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). [Well... I actually used the flat of a cleaver to flatten and round the little dough balls]

Flattened and ready for the rolling pin.

With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges.

[I was shooting for about a 3.5" diameter round of dough.]

Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

[Did I mention I have troubles pleating. I think my chubby fingers are too awkward to work with fine details. I tried pleating, but ended up going the "crimping" route.]

[A crimped clam shell design... lol]

[A batch of potstickers ready for cooking.... but wait I still have a lot of filling leftover!]

[I was determined to overcome my potsticker pleating phobia (known as ppp)... so I made another batch. This time I reread the instructions and found 1) the recommendation was to make a double batch of dough or a half batch of filling... Ah... no wonder I had a lot of filling leftover and 2) Jen has instructional photos on her blog... With the new info, I set out to pleat the entire batch. No falling back to crimping this time.

After pleating 2/3rds of the batch, I found my secret to pleating. Pleat on the counter top. I've been trying to pleat holding the potsticker, but pleating on the counter top relieves my hand from having to support and balance the potsticker while pleating. The counter top does the supporting and balancing and all my fingers have to is make pleats and close. :-) ]

A pleating success!

My second batch... all pleated!

Cooking Method:
Three basic cooking methods:
Steaming, Boiling or Pan-Frying

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of nappa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.
placing the dumplings in a steamer over nappa cabbage leaves

My improvised wok steamer... a metal pie tin with perforations (Drilled holes)

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Pan frying to brown the bottom.

Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float. I boiled about 6 minutes.

Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

Dipping Sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black) [I actually like my dipping sauce to be sour... so I used a 1 to 1 ratio of vinegar to soy sauce.]
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Foods up!:
Batch 1: steamed and pan fried dumplings. [I tried drizzling dipping sauce to pretty up the picture... Instead it looks like I used a dirty plate. I guess I need to work on picture composition... lol]

Batch 2: Pan fried with dipping sauce.

A look-see in the middle.

Another bite... I switched to a fork. Chopsticks just slow me down... :)

Batch 2: Boiled and added to a simple broth embellished with vegetables (Bok choi, nappa cabbage, carrots for color, bamboo shoots since I had a bunch leftover, green onion and a ginger slice are all added to the broth.)

Additional Tips...
To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in Ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

Overall, a very enjoyable challenge. Potsticker wrappers are easy to make and I finally learned to pleat. The homemade potsticker wrapper creates a nice chewy potsticker versus store bought wrappers which seem to be thin noodles that are unnoticeable when you eat. A great challenge!


Dharm said...

very nicely done!! I too wanted to make a few versions - steamed, boiled, potstickers but ended up just doing the steamed ones! Yours look really really good!

Audax said...

As always most excellent long and detailed instuctions and yes PPP is a common illness. Just love the soup you made beautiful photo. Thanks for you kind comments on my blog.

Anna said...

Hi! Great dumplings and I used your advice reg. couter top - it was soo easy to form them this way :) THX!
Cheers from Green Isle!

Lisa said...

John, when will you stop ceasing to amaze me with your fantastic take on each challenge? I love BOTH your pleatings, the crimped and the basic, which turned out perfect, and like I always say, your photos are magnificent! Both your potstickers and dumplings look amazingly delicious. I told you, I'm coming for dinner soon ;D Oh, great read too..always makes me chuckle or smile!

Simones Kitchen said...

They look fantastic! I think you've done a great job with the pleating of the second batch, although I also think the first batch with the crimped ones looks pretty good!

Lauren said...

Yum!! Your dumplings look amazing =D. Awesome job!!

Amy I. said...

PPP! That's hilarious! I love your detailed photos...I'm still far from being able to cook well and take quality photos at the same time. Your dumplings look delicious :)

Mary Bergfeld said...

Wow, John! These are perfectly executed dumplings. I'm really impressed by all that you've done in this post. Your photos are simply wonderful as well. Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pleating. Your dumplings look really really good. Fabulous job!

Jen Yu said...

My word, but those delicate little pleats came out perfectly in your soup dumplings. Picture of PERFECTION. You did such a gorgeous job on the challenge, all of it! I am so impressed. You should start teaching others :) GREAT job on the dumplings/potstickers!

isa said...

Love your step-by-step photos. Yours look so perfect - great job!

TeaLady said...

Those look fantastic! And thanks for the tips. I will remember them when I make the rest of the dumplings. Great job.

Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar said...

Fantastic dumpling, John! I love the shot of the perfectly pleated dumplings in the broth. It looks so pure and delicious.

amber said...

GENIUS! Using a bag to fill the dumpling would have made things a bit cleaner and easier. Great photos! The crimp looks just as good as the pleat.

Shirley said...

I've got to try your pleat-on-the-countertop method! I just had no luck with the pleating.

ice tea: sugar high said...

Both kinds, fried and boiled looked fabulous! Great job!

Cheri said...

Great idea to use a piping bag for the filling! Your pleating is fantastic! (now:D) Great instructional photos.