Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All hail, Year of The Pig!

Sorry for the belated well wishes for a happy Chinese new year. By now you know I'm prone to posting tardiness. But surely you don't mind. If you did, you'd be reading "Punctuality 'N Things" or "Anal Blogger" right now. But no, you're here for me and my cheese. So I'll share my thoughts and reflections on this, the auspicious arrival of The Year of The Pig.

I, of course, am a Pig, which explains my attention to this important occasion. It also explains my quintessentially piggy characteristics. My calm nature. My artistic sensibilities. My superior manners. And of course, my love of food and drink. Yes, I am a pig from my little pink snoot right down to my dainty trotters.

And as such, this year promises to be the highlight of my 12-year cycle, bringing me a virtual tsunami of luck. "Virtual" of course, because we all know how unlucky the other kind is. Anyway, I'm ready for it. I spent the weekend getting the house all feng shui'd in anticipation of all the luck and great ch'i that's coming my way. Why, I even have a friend learned in such things coming over tomorrow to appraise my efforts. I'll let you know how it goes.

In any case, as all this hoopla relates to food, I am not surprisingly inspired to make something Chinese. Or quasi-Chinese. Like you used to do at International Day in elementary school. It may be completely inauthentic, but it's still totally delicious.

These are little dumplings you can boil or boil and fry for a crispy pot-sticker texture. I love to make this the day after I make my blasted chicken. That way, there's usually just enough meat left on the carcass to stuff these little lovelies.

Jamie's Dumplings

1 pkg pot sticker/wonton wrappers (fridge section of good grocery stores or Asian markets)
1 can water chestnuts
1 can Asian mushrooms (button or oyster)
2 bunches baby bok choi
1 cooked chicken or 2 cooked chicken breasts or whatever leftover chicken you've got
1 piece ginger, approx 3", peeled & finely sliced
1 bunch scallions
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 egg
sesame oil
peanut oil
soy sauce
Dried red pepper flakes or vietnamese pepper sauce
basting brush

In small bowl, combine 3/4 c. soy sauce, garlic, ginger, 3 tbsp sesame oil, and a pinch of dried red pepper flakes or a teaspoon of red pepper sauce. I typically up this part of the recipe, but I like it a lot spicier than most. Use your discretion. And be sure to taste it. This is a very happenstance creation and I just add little dashes and pinches until I can taste ginger and garlic and spicy soy. Whisk it all up and set aside to marry the flavors. As an aside, you can add some crushed up peanuts or a little peanut butter if you're feeling frisky. Me, I like it simply gingery.

Now, shred your chicken so you have 2-3 cups of meat. Thinly slice water chestnuts, mushrooms and the green stems of your scallions. Add them all to the bowl of chicken. In a small skillet, heat a few shakes peanut oil and add the green leaves of your bok choi. Sauté quickly til it's just wilted and soft. It will shrink considerably, which is fine. Add that to the bowl of chicken as well. Stir ingredients.

Whisk your egg in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Lay one pot sticker/wonton wrapper in front of you and scoop a little pile of the chicken mixture in the center. Brush the edges of the wrapper with the wash and then lay another wrapper over the pile, sealing the edges by pinching them between your fingers. Set aside. Repeat until you have 3-4 dumpings per person or until you've used all your chicken mixture.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and once it bubbles, gently ladle your dumplings into the pot, reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. They only need to "cook" for about 2-3 minutes as all your filling ingredients are already cooked. Once they're done, remove with a slotted spoon. You can then choose to serve them right away, soft, or throw them into a skillet with peanut oil and brown them for a crispy coating. Either way, you should serve them in shallow bowls, drizzled with your soy mixture.

I hope you enjoy and Gung Hoy Fat Choy (you know, a week late).


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