Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Super Bowl Menu Ideas!

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The Super Bowl is coming! Regardless of all the ridiculous news regarding DeflateGate (please note, if you troll this blog post and leave mean comments regarding my beloved New England Patriots, I WILL delete them), the Super Bowl is actually happening this upcoming Sunday, blizzards and scandals be damned.

Many people watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials or even the half-time show. Others just love having a reason to get together with friends to eat and drink. I enjoy watching the game itself regardless of who is playing, but the awesome food doesn't hurt either. This year, my home team is going to the Super Bowl and I'm so excited!

Regardless of who you're rooting for, food is a big part of the Super Bowl Party experience. Below you will find a collection of photos and links to some great Mission: Food recipes that will make your Super Bowl Party the place to be this Sunday ;-) GO PATS!!!




































































Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pork and Cabbage Dumplings

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The most common dumpling filling among typical Chinese restaurants (and even other Asian restaurants) is pork. You'll find some variation of pork dumplings (steamed or fried) on many Chinese menus, whether they are traditional or American-Chinese style restaurants. Although some may contain just pork and seasonings, it's likely that many of them also contain some cabbage and/or Chinese chives.


Pork and Cabbage dumplings are perhaps the pinnacle for standard dumpling fare at many Chinese restaurants. Even some restaurants specializing in dumplings, but only featuring a small variety place the pork ones at the forefront--Vanessa's Dumplings in NYC, one of my personal favorites, places Chive and Pork Dumplings and Cabbage and Pork Dumplings at the top of their menu. Both are excellent.


I've created a huge selection of both traditional and creative dumplings over my years of dumpling obsession, but today I will be kicking it old school and sharing a very traditional pork and cabbage dumpling recipe. All of my Chinese/dumpling/dim sum cookbooks have some variation of this recipe, and they are nearly identical in many ways.

Pork and cabbage filling--it became even more cohesive after refrigerating overnight.

I recently made a batch of the pork and cabbage dumplings featured in Asian Dumplings (as well as a batch of the amazing vegetable dumplings from the same cookbook--PS I just updated the photos on that post with new ones!). These dumplings are super easy to make. At first I was worried the cabbage wouldn't wilt enough in the filling (my first adventure with dumpling-making MANY years ago resulted in that problem).


The cabbage wilted a bit during the salting step, but it continued to soften once I added the flavoring sauce, and even more when I allowed the filling to rest overnight in the fridge. I did end up with perhaps an extra 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling (same goes with the veggie filling) and I just froze the extra fillings in freezer bags to use another time. I also froze about half of each variety of dumplings for convenient snacks/meals when an inevitable dumpling craving hits.


With Chinese New Year approaching next month, this is the perfect time to start planning delicious ways to celebrate. These pork dumplings are excellent both steamed and pan-fried, and you can even simply fold them into half-moons and boil them as well. They are very versatile and delicious in any form!

I shaped these dumplings in the "pea pod" shape described below.  Click here to see a "pleated crescent" shape.

Pork and Cabbage Dumplings
Makes 32 dumplings, serving 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a snack or starter
(Adapted from Asian Dumplings)

Filling:
2 cups lightly packed finely chopped napa cabbage, cut from whole leaves (about 7 ounces) (I weighed my chopped cabbage instead of measuring volume, but it actually looked like more than 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon plus scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped Chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
2/3 pound ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen (I used 8 ounces and still ended up with more filling than I needed for the amount of dough I had made--I froze the extra filling for another day)
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

Dough:
10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 3/4 cup just-boiled water (boil water, then let it sit for a minute off the heat before measuring)

Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice, Chinkiang, or balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon. sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon finely shredded ginger or 2 tsp. finely minced garlic (optional)

Canola or peanut oil, if pan-frying

To make the filling, put the cabbage in a bowl and toss with the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from cabbage. Drain in a mesh strainer, flush with water, and drain again. To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or put in a cotton kitchen towel and wring out the moisture over the sink. You should have about 1/2 cup firmly packed cabbage.

Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add the ginger, Chinese chives, and pork. Use a fork or spatula to stir and lightly mash the ingredients so they start coming together.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, canola oil, and sesame oil. Pour these seasonings over the pork an cabbage mixture, then stir and fold the ingredients together. Once the pork has broken up, briskly stir to blend the ingredients into a cohesive, thick mixture. There should not be any visible large chunks of pork. To develop the flavors, cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. You should have about 2 cups of filling. The filling can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before assembling the dumplings.

To make the dough, place a large mixing bowl over a damp paper towel on your work surface, to keep in place while mixing. Add the flour and make a well. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour while you add the water in a steady stream. Mix together until you have a lot of lumpy bits, then knead the hot dough in the bowl until the dough comes together. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough does not come together.

Continue kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface (only flour if necessary, and do so sparingly) for a couple more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (my mixing bowl was very large so I finished kneading directly in the bowl and it was just fine). The dough should bounce back when pressed with your finger, but leave a light impression of your finger. Place dough in a zip-top bag, seal tightly, pressing out excess air, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and soften. After resting, the dough can be used right away, or refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to dissolve. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking for a tart-savory balance. The sauce can be prepared several hours in advance up to this point. Right before serving, add the ginger or garlic.

To assemble the dumplings, remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if the dough is sticky. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it in quarters. Put half back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it closed to prevent drying.

Roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick log and cut into 8 pieces (cut in half, then cut each half in half, and so on to create pieces that are even in size. The tapered end pieces should be cut slightly larger). If your pieces are oval, stand them on one of the cut ends and gently squeeze with your fingers to make them round, like a scallop. Take each piece of dough and press each cut end in flour, lightly pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick, either with a tortilla press (lined with plastic wrap), or with a heavy flat-bottomed object like a frying pan (also lined with plastic). Alternatively, use a dowel (which is a good lightweight rolling pin alternative for fast and flexible dumpling making) to lightly roll out each disc into an 1/8 inch thick circle.

To finish the wrappers, place wrappers one at a time on your work surface, and flour only if sticky. Imagine a quarter-size circle in the center of the dough. This is what the Chinese call the "belly" of the wrapper. You want to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size, but still retaining a thick "belly" in the center. This ensures an even distribution of dough when the dumpling is sealed. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure to the outer 1/2-to-3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the rolling pin in short downward strokes with one hand while the other hand turns the wrapper in the opposite direction. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When a batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portions of dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if planning to refrigerate dumplings for several hours, also dust with flour to prevent sticking).  Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand and scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping a 1/2-to-3/4-inch border on all sides.

To make "pleated crescent" shapes, make the first pinch between index finger and thumb, then fold over the front edge to form the first pleat and press it against the back edge. Continue pleating the dough in this fashion until making the final pleat and then settle the dumpling on a work surface and press the edges to seal well.

Alternatively, to make "pea pod" shapes, fold the edge of the wrapper closest to you to meet the top edge and pinch together to seal well (you can stop here at the "half moon" shape, especially if you plan on boiling these). Place on your work surface and press gently to steady the dumpling and make it sit flat. Fold the sealed edges of the dumpling to make a series of pleats from one end to the other.

Place finished dumplings on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and dough, spacing out dumplings about 1/2 inch apart. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel.

When all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours and can be cooked straight from the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze them on their baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and frozen for up to 1 month. To cook after freezing, partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.

To boil the dumplings, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat (I like to salt the water, but it's not necessary). Add half the dumplings, gently dropped each one into the water. Nudge them apart with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together or to the bottom of the pot. Return the water to a simmer and then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and gently cook the dumplings for about 8 minutes, or until they float to the surface, look glossy, and are puffed up and a tad translucent. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to scoop the dumplings from the pot, a few at a time, pausing the spoon's motion over the pot to allow excess water to drip back down before putting the dumplpings on a serving plate. Cover the plate with a large inverted bowl to keep the dumplings warm. Return the water to a boil and cook the remaining dumplings. When done, return the first batch to the hot water to reheat for a minute or two. There is no need to reboil.

To steam the dumplings, place the dumplings into a bamboo steamer lined with a perforated parchment circle or cabbage leaves (to keep the dumplings from sticking to the steamer) steam over boiling water for for about 8 minutes, or until slightly puffed and somewhat translucent. Remove the trays and place each atop a serving plate.

To pan-fry the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet (or cook two batches at the same time using two pans). Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil for a medium skillet and 2 tablespoons for a large one. Place the dumplings 1 at a time, sealed edges up, in a winding circle pattern. The dumplings can touch. Medium skillets will generally fit 12 to 14 dumplings, large skillets will fit 16 to 18 dumplings. Fry the dumplings for 1 to 2 minutes until they are golden or light brown on the bottom.

Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen splatter, use a measuring cup to add water to a depth of roughly 1/4 inch (about 1/3 cup water). The water will immediately sputter and boil vigorously, Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, lower the heat to medium, and let the water bubble away for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is mostly gone. When you hear sizzling noises, remove the lid as most of the water is now gone. Let the dumplings fry for another 1 or 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before using a spatula to transfer dumplings to a serving plate. Display them with their bottoms facing up so they remain crisp.

Serve with the dipping sauce in a communal bowl or in individual dipping sauce dishes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gajar Matar (Carrots and Peas)

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Earlier this week I shared a delicious recipe for Murghi aur Masoor Dal, or Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils. I paired this braised Indian chicken dish with a vibrant side dish called Gajar Matar, or carrots and peas. I have to say, carrots and peas never tasted so good.


This is a very simple vegetarian side dish that is packed full of flavor. Onion, garlic, and ginger start the dish, but then many different spices are layered into the mix. The optional addition of pomegranate seeds (hey, they're in season right now!) adds a bit of crunch and a tart burst of flavor every bite or two.


I actually halved this recipe since it was going to be a side dish, and I already had a ton of chicken in lentils and basmati rice. Half the recipe was easily enough for three of us as a side dish with our chicken, lentils, and rice. This Gajar Matar is high on my list for future Indian dinners, both for its simplicity and incredible flavor.


Gajar Matar (Carrots and Peas)
Serves 6
(Adapted from The Food of India)

1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
325 g (11 1/2 ounces) carrots, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
250 g (1 2/3 cups) peas
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (you can substitute cayenne)
4 teaspoons pomegranate seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor and blend until finely chopped.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onion mixture and stir over high heat for 2 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat to medium and add the turmeric. After 1 minute, add the carrot and stir for 2 minutes. Add the ground cumin and coriander and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the peas, salt, sugar, and chili powder. Add 2 tablespoons water if using frozen peas, or 4 tablespoons if using fresh peas.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the pomegranate seeds, if using, and stir before partially covering the pan. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the carrot and peas are tender. Stir in the garam masala and serve.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Murghi aur Masoor Dal (Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils)

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Selecting my favorite foreign cuisine is a difficult task. I'm obsessed with a lot of different cuisines, but Indian food is definitely at the top of the list. It showcases so many wonderful spices and flavors that can range significantly based on its region.


I've never met an Indian dish I haven't liked loved. When I lived in New York City, I frequented the lunch buffet at Dhaba, which introduced me to many dishes I had never ordered myself in the past ('tis the joy of buffets!). This really helped expand my Indian palate (and vocabulary) and I would highly recommend trying out an Indian buffet if you're a fan of the cuisine, but looking to explore new dishes.


I have bookmarked many recipes I want to try in a couple of Indian cookbooks I own. I flagged A LOT of recipes, but on a recent cooking expedition I decided to make Murghi aur Masoor Dal or Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils (I actually used a couple Cornish game hens instead of a larger chicken), Gajar Matar or Carrots and Peas, and basmati rice.


My original thought was to make a chicken dish, and a dal or lentil dish, but when I saw a recipe that combined the two, it seemed like a perfect solution and also allowed me another spot on the menu to make a veggie dish--I'll be sharing the Gajar Matar recipe later this week.


The Murghi aur Masoor Dal recipe is simple to make and really captures so many wonderful Indian flavors. It's not particularly spicy (but it can be if you use the entire chili pepper and more of the chili powder) and yet it's very complex to the palate. Typical inclusions of cumin, turmeric, garam masala, ginger, and garlic flavor not only the delicious lentil base but also the tender, braised chicken pieces.


I like to think of this as the Indian version of a "one pot wonder" since the chicken is actually braised with the lentils, which are a typical side dish in Indian cuisine. This dish is more than enough to be a meal of its own, but having some basmati rice to soak up the sauce/lentils is a nice touch. Making some veggies on the side add a bit of color, but they aren't a requirement to make this Murghi aur Masoor Dal completely satisfying.


Murghi aur Masoor Dal (Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils)
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking)

250 g (9 ounces) red split lentils, picked over, washed and drained
75 g (3 ounces) onions, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 to 1 fresh, hot green chili, finely sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon peeled, very finely chopped ginger, divided
1 1/2 liters (6 1/3 cups) water
About 1.5 kg (3 pounds) jointed chicken pieces, skinned (I used a couple Cornish game hens instead of a standard larger chicken)
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (you can substitute cayenne)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine lentils, onions, green chili, cumin, turmeric, half the chopped ginger and the water in a big, heavy pan. Bring to a simmer, cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook on low heat for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender. Add the chicken pieces and the salt. Mix and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 25 to 35 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Put the oil in a small frying pan and set over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger and the garlic. Fry until the garlic turns slightly brown. Now add the ground chili powder. Life up the frying pan immediately and pour its entire contents into the pan with the chicken and lentils. Also add the lemon juice, sugar, and garam masala. Stir to mix and cook on medium-low heat uncovered for about 15 more minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens a bit. It will continue to thicken as it sits.

Sprinkle the cilantro over the top just before serving, if desired.

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