Monday, June 29, 2015

Pork and Chive Dumplings


Pork dumplings are classic appetizers on so many Asian menus, whether they are Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi. They can easily be pan-fried, deep-fried, steamed, or boiled with excellent results. The pork filling itself can range based on the cuisine and the cook. Cabbage and/or chives often compliment ground pork along with soy sauce and minced ginger.

I've shared some pork and cabbage dumplings in the past, so today I've decided to share a recipe for pork and chive dumplings. The chives here come in the form of Chinese chives (or garlic chives). If you can't find these, use scallions, although the flavor won't be quite the same. It's worth seeking out the real deal to make these morsels authentic.

The filling is a cinch to make, and once you get the dough technique down, these dumplings come together quite efficiently. You can use store-bought wrappers as well, but I always find the quality to be inferior, and quite frankly they can be a pain to pleat since the dough doesn't stick to itself the way fresh dough does. Even wetting the wrapper doesn't solve this problem, so I do highly encourage you to try making your own wrappers from scratch. They're easier than they look!

Pan-fried dumplings are always my favorite, since they boast the most complex texture: a little crunchy, a little chewy, absolute perfection. Steaming or boiling will be your healthiest option. I find that even using traditional ground pork (not the super fatty kind), my dumplings are still very juicy. Sometimes the juice even explodes a bit when I bite into these bad boys, so have a napkin at the ready :)

In the recipe below, I share a couple of different pleating techniques for dumpling making called "pleated crescents" and "pea pods." These terms come from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings as does the basic dough recipe.

I'm always trying out some variations so I did a slight tweak to the crescent shape for my pork and chive dumplings. I simply pinched the dumpling together in the center, and then made a couple pleats on either side in opposite directions towards the middle.

I think they turned out pretty cute, if I may say so myself. Although a beautiful-looking dumpling is appetizing to the eyes, at the end of the day flavor is paramount, and I'm pleased to report that these classic dumplings definitely hit the mark.

Between this recipe and the pork and cabbage ones I've shared previously, you have two wonderful options for classic pork dumplings that would please any dumpling lover!

I've also shared many other dumpling recipes over the years. My Chinese New Year post from this past February contains links and photos to the others, and I do occasionally update this post to keep it current with my more recently added contributions, so please check it out if you're interested in expanding your dumpling making outside the tasty classics!

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

2/3 pound ground pork
2/3 cup chopped Chinese chives (aka garlic chives)
2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce (I prefer low-sodium)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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 light (regular) soy sauce (I prefer low-sodium)
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, mix the pork, chives, soy sauce, wine, ginger, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until well-combined. To develop the flavors, cover with plastic wrap 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, June 25, 2015

Belgian Liège Waffles


Most Americans who have eaten Belgian waffles at Sunday brunch (or even in their own kitchens) haven't really eaten Belgian waffles. Just because a waffle is baked in a Belgian-style waffle maker does not automatically make it Belgian.

The waffle maker itself does yield bigger pockets (perfect for filling with syrup and other toppings), but if we're going to get technical, a true Belgian Liège waffle (aka a Belgian sugar waffle) is very different from its American cousin.

Authentic Liège waffles are more time consuming to prepare, and feature a rich and buttery yeasted brioche dough studded with Belgian pearl sugar. I've scoured the internet looking for authentic recipes for Liège waffles and bookmarked several, but I found the version on Smitten Kitchen to be the winner, and adapted it to make a half recipe for brunch in honor of Father's Day and my mom's birthday this past Sunday.

The evening before I planned to make the waffles, I started on my dough, enriched with tons of butter and an egg, it's made with yeast instead of baking powder, giving these waffles a much more complex flavor and texture. After the dough proofs for a couple hours, it's deflated and refrigerated until the next morning.

This is when the magic happens. We fold in the Belgian pearl sugar! Belgian pearl sugar can be a bit challenging to find. I actually purchased mine a couple months ago at Kalustyan's in New York City (a whopping $5 for a small 3-ounce bag--eek!), but it's readily available online (a much better deal than I got) and in other specialty shops.

Do not confuse it with Swedish pearl sugar, which is vastly different and not a direct substitute. You can learn more about pearl sugar here. You can also try using roughly crushed sugar cubes, although the result isn't quite the same.

My purchase from Kalustyan's only yielded 3/4 cup of Belgian pearl sugar, which was not enough to make a large batch of the Liège waffles. With that said, I also knew these waffles would be especially rich and sweet, and although they can be frozen, I decided to just make as much as we would eat in one sitting, so the half recipe (below) yielding 8 waffles was just fine, since they are quite decadent.

If you've never eaten a real Belgian Liège waffle before, let me enlighten you a bit on the experience. It's very different from what you'd expect. These waffles are crunchy, chewy, buttery, rich, yet delicate, sugary sweet, and so exquisite. It's almost like waffle meets candy; so much more than your basic breakfast.

What happens is the pearl sugar begins to soften in the waffle iron, creating pockets of soft sugar within the waffles, and caramelized sugar coating the pan. When you make more waffles, the caramelized sugar almost becomes like a shellacked sugar coating on the waffle's exterior, resulting in a glistening, golden crunch. For that reason, these waffles really must be enjoyed warm, because once they cool, the sugar cools too resulting in hard waffles. You can easily rewarm them in your oven, if needed.

It's also good to note that since these waffles are quite sweet and rich on their own, they really need no additional embellishment in the form of syrup, whipped cream, ice cream, fruit, Nutella, etc, however you can definitely dress them up to your heart's content. They are absolutely sublime plain, so don't feel the need to cover them up. You also don't really need a fork and knife. Maybe it's not proper, but we ate these with our hands :)

Liège waffles had been on my to do list for some time, and I'm so glad I finally got a chance to make them. The results were fantastic, and I highly recommend this recipe if you'd like to give it a shot yourself. I would like to add, however, that cleaning my waffle iron after the fact was a tremendous pain. The sugar was caramelized and hardened quite drastically, and it was much more complicated to clean than wiping down with a wet paper towel.

I actually had to pour hot water onto the bottom plate (very carefully since you can't submerge the machine in water--mine is electrical and not a stove-top version) and then use a small brush to scrub and loosen the sugar, then soak up the dirty water with a paper towel and squeeze it out, and then repeat two more times. Then I followed up with using wet and then dry cotton swabs to finish cleaning between the rows. It was a work out. In retrospect, it may have been easier to "soak" the interior with water while it was still hot, since allowing it to cool is what really caused the sugar to harden on the surface.

I can see why having a waffle maker with removable plates would make it SO much easier to clean after Liège waffle-making. Typically, the waffle maker isn't this difficult to clean, but the caramelized sugar really makes it a doozy. Just beware... for that reason alone, I'd be hesitant to make these again. They are fantastic, but require extra elbow-grease for cleaning up afterwards. I'll just save them for special occasions!

Belgian Liège Waffles
Makes 8 small waffles
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon raw sugar, brown sugar, or honey
1/2 packet (3.5 grams or 1 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230 grams all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature/softened
3/4 cup Belgian pearl sugar

Make dough: Warm milk between 110 and 116 degrees F, and place in the bottom of a large mixer bowl. Add sugar and yeast and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes until the yeast looks foamy.

Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then stir in all but about 1/2 cup flour (eyeball this) using a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer. Once the flour is mostly combined, add the salt and continue to mix. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, add the butter, a spoonful at a time, thoroughly kneading in each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed before adding the next until all of the butter has been mixed in. Add the remaining flour and knead with dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, or until stretchy and glossy.

Set the dough to rise twice: You can let the dough rise two ways, first at room temperature and then in the fridge, or vice-versa:

For room temperature first, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours; dough should double. Stir with a spoon or spatula to deflate into a mound, re-cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours.

For fridge first, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours. The dough will not look fully doubled when you take it out. The day you'd like the make the waffles, bring the dough back to room temperature for 60 minutes, stir to deflate, and let rise again for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To cook the waffles: For both methods, on the day you're ready to make the waffles, knead in the pearl sugar (I did this in a few separate additions of the sugar by flattening the dough, topping with about 1/3 of the sugar, then folding it into the dough, and then repeating twice more until it becomes a homogeneous dough). Divide dough into 8 mounds. If it's rather warm and greasy, you can return these balls of dough to the fridge until you cook them off.

Heat your waffle iron, preferably a deeper Belgian-style one, over medium to medium-high heat. No need to oil or butter if it's nonstick and in good condition. Place the first ball of waffle dough on grid and cook according to waffle maker's instructions (depending on your waffle iron, you may be able to cook several waffles at once--mine has a capacity for two rectangular waffles; if you have a round waffle iron, you can also fit two of these smaller waffles at a time, although the rectangular waffle iron shape is more authentic to this style waffle). Cook until deeply golden all over, which will take approximately 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully transfer with tongs or a fork to a cooling rack. Remember, they're loaded with molten sugar; they're very hot. Repeat with remaining balls of dough, adjusting temperature of waffle iron as needed to get the color you want. You'll likely find that the waffles look more caramelized and glossy as you go on, as bits of melted sugar stay behind and gloss the next waffles; this is the best part but also a cause to the headache of cleaning the waffle iron--we'll get to that later.

Keep waffles warm in a 200 degree F oven if you plan to eat them right away. As the waffles cool, they will harden (that's all the melted sugar firming up), but will soften again when you rewarm them. These waffles should always be eaten warm.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin


Happy Summer! Officially as of yesterday, the summer solstice, we can start the celebration. Although summer is the perfect excuse to fire up the grill, I actually made these wonderful turkey and zucchini burgers on my stove-top, featuring wonderful Middle Eastern flavors.

Although they require a bit of oil for cooking, they are otherwise quite healthy, and feature a generous amount of grated zucchini and tons of delicious herbs, really amplifying the tenderness of these delicate, small, bun-less burgers. And PS this is a great way to fool your kids into eating vegetables ;-)

A mixture of mint, scallions, and cilantro make up a bulk of the seasoning along with cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper. I held back on the cayenne since I was also feeding this to my three-year-old nephew, but I'm sure the full amount would pack a great punch if you'd like a little extra heat.

To compliment these summery morsels we have a sauce comprised of sour cream, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and sumac, a tart and citrusy purple-hued spice prevalent in Middle Eastern cooking.

I actually doubled this recipe quite easily, and recommend you double it as well since they are so easy to make and wonderful as leftovers. They can be eaten hot or at room temperature, and would be great to pack for a picnic.

Although they're not typically served on buns (slider buns would be more appropriate for their size if you choose to go that route), you could easily stuff them into the pocket of a pita bread half, or even serve them atop a salad.

I actually served one of my favorite summer side dishes to go with these burgers: Tomato Bulgur Pilaf. Together they really showcase some of the summer ingredients I crave most leading up to this season, and also yield quite a colorful plate of food!

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin
Makes about 16 to 18 small burgers (Serves 4 to 6)
(Adapted from Jerusalem)

1 pound (500 g) ground turkey
1 large zucchini, grated (scant 2 cups/200 g in total)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg (I actually forgot to add the egg--oops!--and mine still held together really well without it, but you should probably remember to add it just in case ;-)
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used less to make sure it wasn't too spicy for children to eat as well)
Sunflower, vegetable, or canola oil, for searing

Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce:
Scant 1/2 cup (100 g) sour cream
Scant 2/3 cup (150 g) plain yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small clove garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

First, make the sour cream sauce by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 16 to 18 burgers, each weight about 1 1/2 oz (45 g).

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/16-inch thick on the pan bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until hot, then sear the burgers in batches on both sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes total, adding oil as needed, until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce spooned over or on the side.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chicken and Mushroom Siu Mai


Siu mai are a staple in both dim sum restaurants and in many pan-Asian restaurants, and even in sushi restaurants. If you're unfamiliar with the name, siu mai (pronounced shoe my) are small open-faced dumplings that are typically steamed.

The wrapper is thin and delicate and typically a smaller version of a wonton skin. The filling is usually a combination of ground pork and chopped shrimp, and they are often garnished with either fish roe, peas, or decoratively cut carrots.

Prior to freezing or cooking

Although they generally use round wrappers, square ones can also be used, or you may trim your traditional square wonton wrappers into smaller squares or circles if you'd like to create more delicate bites of standard siu mai size. Personally, I find that wasteful, and decided to use the wonton wrappers in their full size (which is a mere 1/4-inch larger than what is recommended (that's only 1/8-inch on either side that is "too big"). I had a bit of excess dough ruffled around the edges and peeking over the top, but I think it added character :)

Chicken and mushroom filling

These are tremendously easy to prepare and shape and require less skill than typical dumplings. Filling is scooped into the center of the wonton wrapper and then the dough is cupped and crimped around the filling with your hand. No need for water as "glue" and no folding, easy peasy.

The filling for these particular siu mai is non-traditional, but it still utilizes tried and true Asian ingredients to create something unique and tasty. Instead of pork we have ground chicken (I just blitzed some chicken thighs in my food processor to chop them finely, but not too much so they wouldn't turn into chicken paste).

For a bit more umami flavor and texture, we add some rehydrated finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, as well as some other veggies offering a variety of colors, flavors, and textures.

These siu mai have a wonderful complexity in texture, from the slightly chewy shiitakes, to the bit of crunch from the bamboo shoots and cabbage, to the tender chicken holding it all together. And let's not forget the super thin wonton skins that nearly melt-in-your-mouth.

Upon pan-frying these siu mai, you'll also get a crisp texture on the bottoms. It's a really great contrast to the delicate and tender wrapper around the edges. You can definitely cook them with either method (traditional steaming and non-traditional pan-frying) and obtain excellent results!

Chicken and Mushroom Siu Mai
Makes 30 to 40 dumplings (I actually got 28 using 3-1/4-inch square wrappers, but you will yield more with smaller wrappers)
(Adapted from Dumplings All Day Wong)

3/4 pound (340 g) ground chicken meat (I pulsed chicken thighs in the food processor to finely chop, but not puree them)
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated overnight, squeezed dry, stems removed, and caps minced (net 1/2 cup [40 g])
1/4 cup (50 g) finely minced yellow onion
1/4 cup (65 g) finely minced fresh bamboo shoots (I used canned)
1/4 cup (85 g) finely minced green cabbage
3 tablespoons (30 g) finely minced carrot
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon (10 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup Chinese black vinegar, preferably Chinkiang vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Assembly and Cooking:
30 to 40 siu mai or wonton wrappers (aim for 3-inch round or square wrappers or smaller if you can find them; you can trim larger wrappers if needed, although my 3-1/4-inch wrappers worked just fine, but yielded less, somewhat larger siu mai)
Decoratively cut carrots for garnish
Peanut, canola, or vegetable oil, if pan-frying
Chili oil, for serving, if desired (preferably homemade)

To make the filling, in a mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients. Refrigerate if needed.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the vinegar and soy sauce and store for up to a month in your refrigerator.

To assemble, place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper and then gently gather the sides of the wrapper up and around the filling, forming the sides of the siu mai by circling your forefinger and thumb together.

Use a small knife or spatula to smooth down the top of the filling (it should come to the edges of the wrapper, and will be exposed) while continuing to gently squeeze and form the sides and bottom of the cup-shaped dumpling. Gently tap the finish siu mai on the work surface to flatten the bottom so it stands up and resembles a short cylinder.

Finish by pressing the carrot garnish gently into the top of the filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking. The siu mai can also be frozen at this point in a single layer on a parchment lined tray, and then transferred gently to a large freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to a month. If cooking from a frozen state, add a few more minutes of cooking time.

If steaming, prepare a steamer basket lined with blanched cabbage leaves or lightly greased parchment paper. Place the siu mai in the steamer basket, being careful to space them apart so they are not touching. Cover with a lid and steam for about 6 to 8 minutes (or a few minutes longer if frozen), until they are cooked through.

If pan-frying, heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the hot pan, tilting to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the siu mai in a single layer in the hot pan and cook until the bottoms are golden brown. Add 1/2 cup water and immediately cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes (or a few minutes longer if frozen). Uncover and allow them to crisp back up for another minute after all the water has absorbed; remove immediately from the pan. Repeat with the remaining siu mai.

Serve with the dipping sauce and chili oil, if desired.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bouchon Bakery Blueberry Muffins (with a Twist!)


I'm kind of obsessed with all the muffins from Bouchon Bakery. I've made nearly all of the muffin recipes in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, and I can't seem to settle on a favorite, because they are all incredibly awesome! I'd say that each muffin variety is my favorite of that type of muffin. There. That's fair :)

I recently made a twist on the Bouchon Bakery Blueberry Muffins by using a combination of blueberries and raspberries. The raspberries are significantly larger than the blueberries, so size-wise they were a bit awkward, but I love the tart flavor, and the combination of the two in the muffins was fantastic. You can definitely make these muffins with only blueberries if you'd like, or try a mixed berry version like I did. Either is absolutely stellar!

These muffins have a great depth of flavor from the variety of sweeteners including blackstrap molasses, honey, and plain old sugar. The blackstrap molasses also contributes to the deep golden hue of the batter. In addition to that complexity from the sweeteners, the buttery flavor of both the muffin itself and the streusel is just out of this world. I used cashew meal from Trader Joe's to make a cashew streusel, but you can stick with the recommended almond version if you'd like. The recipe below is the original, but I've included what I did in the notes.

I'd also like to add that I typically convert the Bouchon Bakery muffins to standard muffin size instead of making them jumbo. I have both sized pans, but I prefer the portion control aspect of the standard muffins (although when you end up eating two of them, what's the point?). If you decide to make standard muffins as I have, you can get about 12 to 14. I've included notes in the recipe for the different baking times.

After chilling the batter, even after resting at room temperature for a few minutes, the batter is quite firm. After portioning the batter into the cups, I suggest wetting your fingers and lightly pressing each muffin to help fill in the gaps and make room for the streusel topping. Bon appetit!

Bouchon Bakery Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo muffins (or about 13 standard muffins)
(Adapted from Bouchon Bakery)

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (180 grams) frozen wild blueberries (I used a mixture of  fresh blueberries and raspberries for these photos, but I've also made it other times with just blueberries)
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (86 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (109 grams) cake flour (when I'm out of cake flour, I simply substitute all-purpose in its place--the results are still tender and delicious!)
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2.8 grams) baking powder
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2.8 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (2.4 grams) salt
3.4 ounces (96 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (96 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (40 grams) unsulfured blackstrap molasses
2 1/2 tablespoons (54 grams) clover honey
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons (72 grams) eggs (or about 1 large egg)
1/4 teaspoon (1.2 grams) vanilla paste
1/4 cup (57 grams) buttermilk

Almond Streusel (recipe follows)
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

For the batter: Toss blueberries with the 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a small bowl, and place in the freezer.

Place remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Sift in the cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add salt and whisk together.

Place butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, turn to medium-low speed, and cream the butter, until it’s the consistency of mayonnaise.

Add sugar and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute until the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add molasses and honey and mix on low speed for about 1 minute to incorporate.

Add eggs and vanilla paste and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until just combined. Add half the flour mixture and mix on low speed for 15 seconds, or until just combined. Add half the buttermilk and mix for 15 to 30 seconds to combine. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remaining buttermilk.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there. Transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate overnight, or up to 36 hours.

To bake the muffins: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan with muffin papers and spray the papers with nonstick cooking spray, or alternatively line 13 cups in two standard muffin pans (space them out between the pans) with paper liners. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to begin to soften.

Stir the blueberries into the batter and spoon batter evenly into the muffin papers, stopping about 3/8 inch from the top (about 140 grams each for jumbo muffins). Sprinkle 30 grams or a generous 3 tablespoons of the streusel on top of each jumbo muffin, or less if you are making standard muffins.

Place pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 36 to 40 minutes (about 30 to 34 minutes for standard muffins), or until the topping is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

The muffins are best the day they are baked, but they can be wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap or stored in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week. Defrost the muffins still in the container so any condensation will form on the outside of the container and not on the muffins. Place on a sheet rack and refresh in a 325-degree oven for about 5 minutes, if desired.

Almond Streusel Topping
Makes 3 3/4 cups
(Adapted from Bouchon Bakery)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (120 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (120 grams) almond flour/meal
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (120 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon (0.6 grams) kosher salt
4.2 ounces (120 grams) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Combine the all-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to break up any lumps.

Add butter and toss to coat the pieces. Work the mixture with your fingertips, breaking the butter into pieces  no larger than 1/8 inch and combining it with the flour mixture. Do not overwork the mixture or allow the butter to become soft; if it does, place the bowl in the refrigerator to harden the butter before continuing.

Transfer the streusel to a covered container or resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days, or freeze up to 1 month. Use the streusel while it is cold.

*This will make more streusel than needed for one muffin recipe. Freeze the remainder, or scale down the recipe to 30 grams per ingredient (and a pinch of salt) to make a more appropriate amount of streusel for a single recipe.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tamashii Ramen in Astoria, Queens


The ramen trend is still ever popular, with restaurants specializing in the Japanese noodle soup opening up all over the place. I recently enjoyed a meal at Tamashii Ramen in Astoria, Queens. What sets Tamashii Ramen apart from many others is their more healthful approach to making ramen. For example, while many ramen eateries use pork in their broth, Tamashii uses whole chickens and vegetables, and then simmer for 14 hours. If you think you'll miss the extra fat, you're wrong. The broth may be less unctuous, but it's still very flavorful.

Fried chicken salad

Tamashii Ramen also boasts wonderful service. During my recent visit, the staff was very helpful and hospitable, and even provided us with an additional starter free of charge! We actually got to try the fried chicken salad with delicious ginger dressing as a special treat.

Pork buns $6.50

We also selected several starters in addition to our freebie. I absolutely love the pork buns here. Japanese-style pork buns feature a fluffy bun wrapped around melt-in-your-mouth slices of roast pork, greens, and sauce. This is a decadent treat, but a visit to any ramen shop is incomplete without it.

Pork gyoza $5.50

An order of pork gyoza is another welcome addition to our pre-ramen table. These are made with store-bought skins (not homemade) but they are still really tasty, with perfectly crisp bottoms and a light dipping sauce.

Takoyaki $5.25

Our most unusual starter was the takoyaki, which is a wheat flour-based batter filled with minced octopus, and served with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and shaved bonito flakes. It's served piping hot and piled high with delicate bonito, which seem to dance and sway from the steam. It's almost creepy seeing your food moving like that, but after a bite of these delectable fritters, it's forgotten.

Tamashii ramen $10.95

Onto the ramen! The house ramen is served with the light, but flavorful broth (seasoned with mineral salt), chasyu (pork), egg, scallions, seaweed, and menma (fermented bamboo shoots). This wasn't mine, but I must say it looks exquisite!

Chasyu ramen $11.95

I actually opted for the chasyu ramen, which features the same broth as the tamashii ramen, additional chasyu (pork) slices, onion, bean sprouts, bok choy, ginger and cabbage. I envied the egg from the traditional ramen, but I really loved having some extra slices of tender pork. The broth is so flavorful, yet light, that I don't miss the extra richness from a heavier pork broth.

All in all, this was a wonderful culinary adventure to yet another delicious find in the neighborhood of Astoria (my old 'hood). I really love exploring the smaller neighborhoods in New York City and finding wonderful restaurants. It just goes to show that even outside of Manhattan there is a whole culinary world just waiting for hungry visitors!

Tamashii Ramen
2905 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11106
(718) 278-5888


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