A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shrimp pot stickers

   This recipe is a variation of one found in Hugh Carpenter, Pacific Flavors: Oriental Recipes for a Contemporary Kitchen (New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 1988). I purchased the book shortly after its publication way back then and have made many of its recipes, all unfailingly good. He also wrote two others which are similarly formatted and beautifully photographed by Teri Sanderson: Chopstix: Quick Cooking with Pacific Flavors (1990), and Fusion Food Cookbook (1994). I assume they’re out of print, but if you can find any of them, you won’t regret a purchase.
   If you haven’t tried your hand at making wontons or pot stickers at home, here’s an opportunity. Of course, you’re not actually making the wrappers. If you want to try that, look up a recipe on the web and have a go at it. I’m not that inclined toward unnecessary labor-intensive work - either in the kitchen or in any other human endeavor. Store-bought will be fine. As is the case with many such recipes, you should feel free to switch some ingredients, such as scallops for the shrimp, or spinach for the bok choi greens.
Baby bok choi greens from one bunch, trimmed; reserve the harder white parts
Scallions, 4, chopped
Gingerroot, 2 tsp, minced
Orange zest, 1/2 tsp
Egg, 1
Soy sauce, 1 Tbs
An Asian chili sauce such as Sriracha
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Shrimp, 8 oz, peeled and deveined
A package of wonton or sui mai (pronounced “shoe my”) skins
Canola or peanut oil
Clam or shrimp broth, 1 c, or chicken broth if necessary
Chinese rice wine or dry sherry, 4 Tbs
Chinese plum sauce, 1 Tbs
Hoisin sauce, 1 Tbs
Orange or tangerine juice, 1 c
Asian chili sauce to taste; suggest 1 tsp
Sugar, 1 tsp
Bok choi stems, chopped
Canola or peanut oil
Soy sauce, 1 tsp
Hoisin sauce, 1 tsp
Microwave the bok choi leaves very briefly. The idea here is to reduce their volume. Drain off any exuded water. Toss the leaves and the next seven ingredients into a food processor and puree. Now put in the shrimp and chop, leaving some small whole pieces of shrimp. Although it would fall short of tragedy, it’s best not to reduce the shrimp to a puree. 
If you’ve purchased wonton wrappers, they’ll be square. Using a cookie cutter, make them round. Sui mai wrappers are already round - at least all that I’ve purchased are round. On a surface which you’ve dusted with cornstarch, set out some of the wrappers with a bowl of water nearby. Place a teaspoon or two on the bottom half of each wrapper. Moisten the edges with water. Fold over and seal with the tines of fork or with your fingers. If you’ve never done this before, it might take a bit of practice, but as long as you accept the fact that some of the filling will squirt out as a result of having put too much of it on the wrapper or as a result of your sloppiness, it’ll be fine. You’ll get better at it and you’ll have plenty to eat. Keep filling the wrappers until you’ve exhausted the filling or until you’re tired of doing it. I don’t think I’ve ever used all the filling in recipes such as this. At some point, I just say to hell with it; that’s enough. Place completed wrappers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to await cooking. If you’re not proceeding to the cooking stage right away, put plastic wrap over them to retard drying out.
In the meantime, mix all the sauce ingredients.
Before you cook the pot stickers, chop the stems of the bok choi. Heat some oil in a saucepan, throw in the stems, add the soy and hoisin and toss for a couple of minutes. Serve alongside the potstickers, as you see in the photograph. 
Now it’s time to brown the bottoms of the pot stickers. Heat some canola, peanut or other vegetable oil in, preferably, a non-stick saute pan. Alternatively, spray some non-stick cooking spray in the pan, heat, and put in the oil. (You’ll actually need two pans. I suggest you cook a reasonable portion of them and set them aside for left-overs on a later day. They freeze pretty well. Then, cook those you think you’ll eat at dinner.)
When the oil is hot, place the pot stickers in the pan(s), shaking them to prevent sticking. After a half minute or a minute (maybe a bit longer depending on the heat), check the bottom of one to see that it’s browned. If it has, now pour in the sauce, turn down the heat to medium low and cover the pan(s). They should all be done and the filling cooked and firmed up within two minutes. You don’t want the sauce to boil away, leaving nothing with which to coat the plated pot stickers.
I don’t mention the addition of salt in this recipe. A number of Asian ingredients such as soy sauce and hoisin are already salty. It’s easier to add salt to a dish than it is to remove it, so it’s up to you. 

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