Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pork & Shrimp Dumplings


Pork and shrimp is a popular combination in Chinese cooking. I've seen the two brought together before in various dumpling fillings, but the duo really shines in these particular dumplings.

The shrimp is not only chopped and mixed in with the ground pork, but also featured in lump chunks atop each mound of pork within the wrapper. With each bite you'll experience a bit of juicy pork along with a piece of shrimp to really get the best of both worlds.

Although I love the texture of homemade dumpling wrappers, I really appreciate the ease and convenience of using good quality store-bought wrappers. This recipe makes the perfect amount of filling for a 1 pound package of dumpling wrappers.

You can definitely steam these dumplings if you prefer, but my favorite way to cook dumplings by far is to pan-fry them. It's an easy and quick process that yields crispy, chewy morsels perfect for snacking and yet hearty enough to comprise a meal.

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
Makes about 45 dumplings
(Adapted from Hey There, Dumpling!)

24 extra-large (26/30-count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
12 ounces (340 g) ground pork
2 teaspoons minced shallot
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 pound/455 g) package round dumpling wrappers
Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip (recipe follows)

Cut 15 shrimp into thirds crosswise; cover and refrigerate. Finely chop the remaining 9 shrimp and transfer to a large bowl along with the pork, shallot, soy sauce, wine, ginger, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It's the best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small.

If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. The filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it's chilled.

Take out five wrappers and cover the rest with a damp dowel. Lay out the five wrappers like ducks in a row. Wet 1/2 inch of the rim of each wrapper. Scoop a 1/2 tablespoon of filling into the center of each wrapper, shaping it elongated like a football to make it easier to fold. Press 1 piece shrimp on top of the pork. Fold the wrapper in half like a taco and pinch the edges at the top center. Continue folding the dumpling using your preferred folding method.

At this point, the dumplings can either be cooked immediately, covered and refrigerated for up to a couple hours, or frozen.

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.(Alternatively you may steam these dumplings in a bamboo steamer basket lined with parchment paper or cabbage leaves.)

Serve the dumplings with the Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip.

Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip
Makes about 1/2 cup
(From Hey There, Dumpling!)

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight. Pick out the garlic and throw it away before serving. The dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jamaican Beef Patties


In my last post I shared the menu and photos from my Olympics party celebrating the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Today I'm sharing another recipe from our shindig, the Jamaican Beef Patties, representing the island nation of Jamaica.

I'd like to preface this by once again letting you all know how much I absolutely LOVE Cool Runnings. I've loved this movie for ages, and I love that it's based on a true story, although I know the movie isn't completely true to the original story.

Although it would make more sense to make Jamaican dishes for the Summer Olympic Games because Jamaica has a much larger presence in summer sports, I'd prefer to celebrate them and their bobsled team in the winter.

The filling for these patties is very tasty, but not too spicy. I used a single Habanero chile, which I seeded, but if you want a spicier filling, you can leave the seeds in, or use more chiles. Other traditional Jamaican ingredients include curry powder and allspice. Breadcrumbs help to bind the filling.

Curry powder finds its way into the crust as well, giving the flaky dough a golden hue. It's basically the same method as making pie crust, so if you feel comfortable making pie, this isn't much of a stretch.

A lot of Jamaican Beef Patty recipes have you roll out the dough and cut out circles, but I feel like this is wasting so much of the dough. Instead, I divided up my dough into balls, and rolled each ball out into circles.

No, the circles weren't as perfectly round as if I had cut them out with a round cutter, but many cultures make empanadas using this same method, and the results are delicious and only slightly more rustic than the alternative.

These patties were awesome! My friend Camille's almost-two-year-old daughter loved them. The adults loved them. I made them a week ahead of time and froze them so I could save some time the day of the party. I simply thawed them in the fridge and reheated them in the oven before the guests arrived.

Jamaican Beef Patties
Makes 16

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced (wear gloves!)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
3/4 cup beef broth or water

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water, or as needed

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, curry powder, salt, thyme, and allspice, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the ground beef and use the edge of a wooden spoon to break it into pieces. Continue to cook until all the beef is cooked through, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn or stick. Add the breadcrumbs, stir to combine, then add the broth or water and mix until absorbed. Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool.

To make the dough, stir together the flour, curry powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture. Using your fingers, or a pastry blender if you have one, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend). If using your fingers, just rub the mixture together, but don't overwork the mixture or the butter will get too warm and soften too much.

Sprinkle in about 1/2 cup of the cold water and gently mix it into the flour with your fingers or a plastic bowl scraper or spatula. Do not overwork the dough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, or more as needed until the dough just comes together into a ball.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces, each weighing approximately 1.5 ounces. Roll each ball between your palms to smooth it out. At this point you can chill the balls of dough for a few minutes if they feel too soft.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

One at a time, place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface, press your palm into a ball of dough to begin to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to roll it out evenly into circle about 5-inches in diameter. They may not be perfect circles, but that's ok.

Evenly distribute the beef filling between the dough circles. Don't be too stingy, it will seem like a lot of filling, but you can press and compact the filling a bit to make sure you fill them generously. One-by-one fold over the dough and pinch the edges to enclose the filling. Use the tines of a fork to press along the edges to seal.

Place the sealed beef patties onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, then chill the sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to help set the dough (it will bake up flakier if you don't skip this step).

Evenly brush the tops of the patties with egg wash, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom, or until golden brown. Serve immediately. These patties can also be frozen in a single layer and later defrosted and reheated in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, or until crispy and heated through.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancakes)


The 2018 PyeongChang Olympics were my fourth Olympic Games hosting an Olympics party for watching the Opening Ceremonies. I have previously hosted gatherings for the 2012 London Games, 2014 Sochi Games, and 2016 Rio Games. I really enjoyed the Opening Ceremonies this year, and think they were way better than both Sochi and Rio.

I always make sure to represent the host nation, and today I will be sharing that recipe, but before we get there let's take a look at the rest of the menu, and all the fun decorations!

I recycled a lot of what I used at the previous party, including the flags streaming across the dining room, the international Minnie Mouse plush dolls from my personal collection, and some other flags and adornments.

We also had some fun outfits representing different countries. I decided to represent the Jamaican bobsled team myself, inflatable palm tree and all, while my friend Camille's two young daughters both donned patriotic gear supporting Team USA.

I made the first four of the eight dishes on the menu, and the others were contributed by guests. Unofficially, we also had some Belgian chocolates for dessert, Armenian brandy, Australian wines, and Canadian ginger ale (Canada Dry).
South Korea: Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancakes)
USA: Buffalo Deviled Eggs
Jamaica: Jamaican Beef Patties
Spain: Patatas Bravas (Fierce Potatoes)
Lithuania: Kepta Duona (Lithuanian Fried Bread)
Italy: Antipasti
Greece: Spanakopita (Spinach Pies)
France: Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

Let's take a closer look at all the dishes! I've made these Buffalo Deviled Eggs before, and they are such a crowd pleaser. If you like deviled eggs and Buffalo chicken, these eggs are for you! I served them atop my stone slab from American Stonecraft, one of my favorite serving pieces. It was the perfect size for my two dozen egg halves.

I'm a huge fan of Cool Runnings, and I'm always cheering on the Jamaican bobsled team at every Winter Olympic Games, so I definitely wanted to represent Jamaica on the menu. I'll be sharing the recipe for these Jamaican Beef Patties in my next post. They feature flaky, curry-infused pie dough filled with a not-too-spicy beef mixture. Camille's two year old daughter couldn't stop eating these!

For Spain I made one of my favorite tapas dishes, Patatas Bravas or Fierce Potatoes. The version I make uses roasted potatoes as opposed to fried potatoes, and is topped with the two traditional sauces, a smokey, tomato-based bravas sauce, and a garlicky allioli.

From Lithuania we had an adapted version of Kepta Duona, or Lithuanian Fried Bread. These babies were baked instead of fried, rubbed with tons of garlic, and topped with a cheesy mixture to finish them off. Delicious!

Italy featured a classic Antipasti platter with olives, marinated mushrooms, prosciutto, sopressata, capicola, Parmigano-Reggiano, rosemary crackers, and Italian bread.

Greece, the country the started it all, was represented with flaky triangles of Spanakopita, or spinach pies.

France featured delicious cheesy Gougères, or cheese puffs. Yes, I know what you're thinking. We celebrated with A LOT of delicious carbs. This is very true :)

Finally, let's take a look at the host nation's contribution, Pajeon or Korean scallion pancakes. These are very different from Chinese scallion pancakes, which are made with a dough, and are much crispier and chewier.

The Korean version is made with a pancake batter, slightly thinner than the American version. It's more tender than the Chinese version, but just as delicious and chock-full of scallions.

Served with a simple soy dipping sauce, these are an easy way to celebrate the host country without shopping for difficult-to-find ingredients or stepping too far outside of your comfort zone. If you can make Sunday morning pancakes, you can make these.

As always, the Olympic Party was a blast and a huge success. All of the guests enjoyed the varied international menu, even those under the age of two. I'm really excited for all the upcoming Olympic coverage these couple of weeks. Stay tuned for my next post sharing the Jamaican Beef Patties recipe!

Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancakes)
Makes 5 (7-to-8-inch) pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
12 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, dark green parts cut into 1-inch pieces
Vegetable oil, as needed

Combine all the ingredients except for the oil until well combined. The mixture should be a little thinner than American pancake batter. Thin it out with a little more water if needed (or add more flour if it's too thin).

Heat a thin coating of oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in about 3/4 cup of the batter, or enough to make a thin pancake, about 7 to 8 inches in diameter (you can also make smaller or larger pancakes depending on your preference and pan size).

Cook on one side until the bottom is golden, and then flip over the pancake and cook on the other side until it is golden as well. You may need to add a little more oil to make sure the pan isn't too dry.

When the pancake is cooked through, and golden brown on both sides, remove to a paper towel-lined tray to blot some of the oil. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Cut the pancakes into wedges or rectangular pieces, and serve with soy dipping sauce.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mexican Chocolate Pie


This week falls right between two major sporting events: the Super Bowl and the start of the Olympics. I made this pie for the former, but it would be just as welcome celebrating the latter.

A flavorful crust made from crushed gingersnaps is the vessel to hold an equally decadent filling of chocolate ganache spiced with cayenne pepper, ground ginger, and cinnamon. It's not really spicy per se, but rather warms your throat a tad. It has way more character than a typical chocolate cream pie, and is slightly richer with a more truffle-like filling than a custard/pudding one.

If you're looking for a fun and festive dessert to ring in the Olympics this pie is a great choice. And while you're at it, stay tuned for posts from my upcoming Olympics party for more fun ideas for treats to make throughout the next couple weeks.

Mexican Chocolate Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
(Adapted from First Prize Pies)

Gingersnap Crust:
1 1/2 cups (175 g) finely ground gingersnap crumbs (use a food processor or crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)
5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, melted

8 ounces (225 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Make the crust: Combine the gingersnap crumbs and butter until the butter is fully incorporated and the texture of wet sand. Firmly press the crumbs against the sides of a 9-inch pie plate, then against the bottom of the plate (the underside of a measuring cup works well for smoothing the bottom crust). Chill the crust at least 15 minutes to help prevent it from crumbling when serving.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until slightly darkened and fragrant. Remove it and allow to cool before filling. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling: Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium-high heat until it is scalded but not boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute. Whisk together the hot cream and the chocolate until they are fully blended into a glossy ganache. Whisk in the egg, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

Put the piecrust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes (mine baked an extra 10 minutes), until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the center. Remove the pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Make the topping: In a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or by hand with a whisk, whip the cream, sugar, and cinnamon together until soft peaks form. Pile the whipped cream on top of the cooled pie, sprinkle it with the pepper flakes, and serve. This pie can be made ahead, without the topping, and refrigerated for up to 1 week, covered in plastic wrap. Add the topping just before serving.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Canvas Press Review


As you've probably gathered by my recently posts from my Disney Cruise, as well as many others before it, I love to travel as much as I love to cook and eat. I love finding cool souvenirs on my trips, but my favorite way to create lasting memories from each trip is by taking a million and a half photos. Yes, I'm that person. I spend days after each trip sifting through my photos, deleting through the bad or redundant ones, and editing the best of the best to make sure they are worthy of framing.

But what do you do when you have a really special memory, and a simple frame won't suffice? Well, with a few simple clicks you can have it professionally printed and mounted onto a canvas ready to display in your home.

I recently checked out Canvas Press to design a canvas from one of the many Disney Cruises I've enjoyed over the years. I selected one of my favorite photos from the top of Paradise Point in St. Thomas on a gorgeous, sunny, Caribbean afternoon overlooking the beautiful Disney Magic cruise ship.

The process of designing my print was easy. In addition to canvas prints, the website also offers paper prints, wall murals, metal prints, and framed prints, but I will focus on the canvas prints since that's what I ordered. There are 3 different thickness options for your frame, as well as a non-stretched canvas. I went with the middle option, which was 1.5 inches thick.

Then you can upload a photo and select a canvas size. There are standard sizes as well as custom sizes, so you can find a size that works for any photo and any size wall. I selected a 24-by-16-inch canvas for my photo, and chose the "mirror wrap" option for the edges, which is exactly what you'd think, the image is mirrored on the sides. You can also choose a solid color for the sides, or have the image carry over onto the sides as well.

The print was delivered faster than I expected! My only complaint is that I wish I had gotten a shipping confirmation email so let me know it was on its way. Otherwise, it arrived quickly and well-packaged.

Currently, at the time of this post there is a coupon code on their website for 55% off a canvas print, which is an amazing deal. I would look forward to getting more prints in the future to prominantly display photos from other exciting trips around the world. The process was fast and easy, and I'm very happy with the product I received.

Disclaimer: I was offered a coupon code for a free canvas print in exchange for a fair and honest review of my experience.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Chicken Burritos Mojados


The Super Bowl is approaching, and whether you're a Patriots fan (like me!), an Eagles fan, a Justin Timberlake fan, or you just watch for the commercials, it's a very big day across the country.

There are so many possibilities for yummy snacks to make for game time, but if you're looking for something a bit more substantial to make it more of a meal, these burritos are what you're looking for.

Stuffed with a combination of rice cooked with pinto beans and chili powder, shredded chicken simmered in a chile-infused tomato sauce, avocado, and cheese, and wrapped with a big, fluffy, flour tortilla before baking until heated through, these burritos are exceptional.

These burritos can be assembled up to an hour ahead of time, so they are perfect for prepping right before the game and then sticking into the oven last minute.

Although the filling boasts the perfect ratio of ingredients, not too much rice, just enough chicken, and a nice blanket of cheese, these burritos become extra special once they get plated.

Three sauces are draped over the tops of these bad boys. They symbolize the colors of the Mexican flag with their green, red, and white hues. Green tomatillo salsa (aka salsa verde) is spooned over one half, while the red sauce from stewing the chicken is re-purposed for the other half.

A drizzle of Mexican crema brings it all together. I actually thinned out some sour cream with a little milk until it was a nice drizzling consistency. This worked just fine for the task at hand.

I can't quite put into words how delicious these burritos are, you'll just have to make them yourselves! They appear a little daunting as they require a few steps to make the different components, but it's definitely worth it. They're spicy, and juicy, and smoky, and gooey, and creamy, and chewy, and crispy all at the same time.

Whether you whip these up for the big game, or another time for your Sunday supper, you will not be disappointed. I expect these will become a regular occurrence in my home. That's a sure bet.

Chicken Burritos Mojados
Serves 6
(From ATK: The Best Mexican Recipes)

2 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
Salt and pepper
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed (I used chicken tenders)
6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa (the original recipe calls for store-bought but I made mine from scratch very easily)
Water, as needed
1/2 cup Mexican crema (I used sour cream which I thinned out with a little milk)

Bring 1 1/4 cups broth, rice, beans, 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is tender and broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove rice from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Add scallions and fluff with fork to incorporate; cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook oil, garlic, and remaining 3 tablespoons chili powder in large saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and remaining 1 cup broth and bring to simmer. Nestle chicken into sauce. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees F, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.

Transfer chicken to cutting board and let cool slightly. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Toss chicken with 1/4 cup sauce and 2 tablespoons cilantro in bowl. Set remaining sauce aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wrap tortillas in damp dish towel and microwave until warm and pliable, about 1 minute. Lay warm tortillas on counter. Mound rice in center of tortillas, close to bottom edge, then top with chicken, avocado, and Monterey Jack. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, fold sides then bottom of tortilla over filling, pulling back on it firmly to tighten it around filling, then continue to roll tightly over burrito. (Burritos can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before baking.) Place burritos seam side down on prepared sheet, cover tightly with foil, and bake until hot throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.

Before serving, whisk salsa and 2 tablespoons cilantro together in bowl, cover, and microwave until hot, about 1 minute (if you're using homemade tomatilla salsa with fresh cilantro in it, no need to stir in extra cilantro at this point). Reheat red sauce in saucepan over medium heat until hot, about 3 minutes, adding water as needed to loosen consistency.

Arrange burritos on individual plates. Pour tomatillo sauce over half of each burrito and pour red sauce over other half of burrito. Drizzle with crema, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro, and serve.


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