Cook The Books! Chinese Porkstickers

potstickersI have issues, it would appear, with ground meat. Of the 500-odd recipes on this site, exactly one contains ground meat. It’s not something I’ve really noticed, but when I got around to thinking about this month’s Cook The Books (very late in the day, natch), it reared its ugly head. Because, you see, I wanted to participate: but I had not found time to scope out my tiny local library on the (extremely) off-chance that they would have Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings in the stacks, and I didn’t quite feel like popping for $20 until I found out whether dumpling-making was for me. I searched around Andrea’s website a bit, but nothing jumped out at me. Finally, Hank Shaw came to my rescue with his venison potsticker recipe, adapted from Asian Dumplings. Kismet!

And yet: ground meat. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s that 98% of the meat I buy comes from local farmers and you almost never see it ground. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a meat grinder, hence could not make my own. Maybe it’s my standard food-texture issues (I char the daylights out of fresh sausages, too). I contemplated vegetarian potstickers, but most of those use mushrooms as a base, about which I also have issues. (Bag full ‘o issues, me.) And what I really wanted was pork potstickers. Mostly so I could call them “porkstickers,” a long-running joke between Tai & I based upon German national footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger (but that’s a story for another day).

potstickersSo: porkstickers. Pork cutlet (or shoulder, or chops, if you prefer) slow-braised in an Asian-ish concoction of brown rice vinegar, plum sauce & whiskey for hours until it was falling-apart tender and easily shreddable. A simple flour + water dumpling dough and wrappers rolled by hand according to Andrea’s excellent technique. Some aromatic vegetables and a bit of soy and sesame and we’re in business. I’m not here to tell you that this is an ideal Tuesday night dinner: there are a lot of steps, and while each is easy and approachable, they do take a while. This is much more of a lazy Saturday afternoon sort of recipe; and, since it works best in assembly-line fashion, and potstickers freeze well, I suggest doubling the recipe below and making a big batch so you’ll have plenty of extras to freeze and dole out over time.

How did they come out? Pretty fantastic, I have to say. The pork was delicious: smoky, tangy, sweet, tender. I made two slightly different filling versions: one a simple 50:50 mixture of shredded pork & minced scallion, with a bit of Chinese flavors tossed in; for the other, I amped up the vegetables with some grated carrot and minced bok choi. While they were both good, and I’m usually a more-veg-less-meat kind of girl, I liked the first filling better; it was more flavorful and juicy, while the second version was a bit stickier and easier to pack. The dumpling dough itself was quite good: tasty and filling without being heavy. I think the trick of stretching out the edges of the wrapper and leaving the “belly” in the middle is key, otherwise you would have too much plain dough at the seams. I’m happy I gave them a go, and happier still to have a dozen sitting in the freezer, waiting for another day.

For more info on Meg & Briggs’ Cook The Books Challenge, check out the posts at Grow and Resist and Oh, Briggsy.

Adapted from Venison Potstickers by Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, via Asian Dumplings by Andrea Ngyuen

potstickersChinese Porkstickers

INGREDIENTS

Dumplings

  • 5 oz (about 1 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 5 oz (about 1 cup) whole white wheat flour
  • 6 oz (a bit over 3/4 cup) boiling water

Braised Pork

  • peanut oil
  • 1 lb pork cutlets
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup whiskey (or Chinese wine or dry sherry)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup spicy plum sauce

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chile flakes

Filling 1

  • 3/4 cup shredded pork
  • 3/4 cup finely minced scallion (about 4 or 5 scallions)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup pork braising liquid
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Filling 2

  • 3/4 cup shredded pork
  • 3/4 cup finely minced scallion (about 4 or 5 scallions)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 stems bok choi, leaves & stems finely minced
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt

potstickersMETHODS

  1. Braise pork. In a medium Dutch oven, heat about 2 tbsp peanut oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. In batches, add pork cutlets and sear each side until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Do not cook through; once seared, remove to a clean plate. Do not crowd the pot or the cutlets will steam, not brown. Deglaze the pot with the vinegar and whiskey, scraping up any browned bits. Add water, plum sauce and pork cutlets, with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, the reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until pork is falling-apart tender, 3 – 4 hours.
  2. Make dumpling dough. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss together flours. Add water and work into the dough (it will seem too dry at first, but will smooth out as you knead). Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead, turning, until smooth and uniform, (with a texture a bit more elastic than PlayDough). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  3. Prepare dipping sauce. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl, or shake together in a covered jar. Allow to rest at room temperature until needed.
  4. Roll dumpling wrappers. First, take a look at Andrea Nguyen’s excellent how-to video. To re-cap the steps: cut dough into four quarters. Working with one piece at a time (keep the other pieces wrapped), roll into a snake about 8 inches long. Cut into 8 even pieces. Round each piece to the shape of a scallop, then press firmly on a well-floured board to a plump disc about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Flatten this disc (I used a meat mallet), then using a rolling pin, stretch out the the edges of the dough while turning the circle, leaving a thicker “belly” of dough in the middle of the dumpling wrapper while the edges are rolled thin. Repeat for remaining dough, keeping finished wrappers covered as you go.
  5. Prepare filling. In a large bowl combine filling ingredients, mixing well until homogeneous and somewhat sticky. Choose either Filling 1 or 2, or make both. Each will make about 18 dumplings, so double the amounts if you are choosing to make only one variety.
  6. Assemble potstickers. First, take a look at another excellent video from Andrea. Then, holding a wrapper in one hand, dollop a scant tablespoonful of filling onto the middle of the wrapper. Form the filling into a cigar shape, then fold the wrapper up over the filling, pleating the front as you firmly press the edges together (wet with a bit of water if needed to aid sticking), and working as much air out of the dumpling as possible. Sit the dumpling flat on your surface, to give it a nice flat bottom for browning, fold over the excess corners, and set aside. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
  7. Cook potstickers. In a large non-stick skillet (I used enameled cast iron), heat 3 tbsp of peanut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potstickers, flat side down and fry until bottoms are nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Keeping a cover for the skillet in one hand, add enough water to the pan with the other hand to measure 1/4-inch deep. The oil will sputter and spit, so add water carefully with the pan partially covered. Fully cover the pan, reduce heat to medium and steam, covered, for 6 minutes. Partially uncover and cook for another 2 minutes. Fully uncover and continue to cook until you start to hear the dumplings sizzle. Remove carefully (some dumplings may need encouragement to release from the pan) and serve immediately with dipping sauce, garnished with a bit of slivered scallion.

Yields 32 potstickers.

potstickersOPTIONS

  1. Whole wheat flours can be substituted for all-purpose flour.
  2. Ground meat of any variety can replace the braised pork. If using ground, there is no need to cook the meat; it will cook fully as the dumplings steam.
  3. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry would likely be a more authentic liquor for the braising liquid (if braised pork dumplings have any shred of authenticity themselves), but I must say that the whiskey added a smoky depth to the pork that was particularly good. We were happy to have some leftover pork for tacos the next day.

STORE

Extra, uncooked potstickers can be stored refrigerated for up to 2 days and frozen for up to 3 months. Cooked potstickers are best eaten fresh.

SEASON

Year-round.

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11 comments

  1. AG

    Now I have a new pregnancy craving. Thanks a lot. If I made these, my 5 young kids would dispatch them in less than 5 minutes. These kids love good food and eat large quantities. We call them the locusts. They show up, eat everything you have and run off. But they are cute and we love them. Better than having the opposite problem of kids who only want chicken dinos and macaroni from the blue box. So I might just ask for Chinese food tomorrow night when we go on our date. BC I might cry if I spent all afternoon making these and my littles scarfed them down in a heartbeat.

    • Oh my word: you’re on #6?! You’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din! :) Well, I hereby give you special dispensation to use leftover pulled pork and store-bought wonton wrappers. Have the kids set up an assembly line and fill the dumplings themselves; then all you’ll have to do it spend 10 minutes cooking them (and 3 minutes watching them disappear). :)

  2. Those pot stickers look so delicious. I’m very impressed you made the dough. I confess I use fresh store bought wrappers courtesy of our local Asian grocer. $2.50 buys a pack of 60 so its a no brainer..Finely diced prawns(shrimp) with ginger, garlic and green onions make a fab alternative to ground meat..Now I have a dumpling craving. I might set up an assembly line at my house with my 3 kids. 4 if you count my husband.

  3. Nice pleats! Interesting use of whole wheat flour—I’d never thought of that in the Chinese dumpling context. We’ve been cooking our way through Ngyuen’s book, and loving every minute of it.

  4. EL

    I love the idea of the braised pork. It makes me want to make these. After all, the ground meat variety are easy to obtain at a good resaurant.

  5. Pingback: Cook the Books February! What Did Everybody Else Make? Asian Dumplings Round-Up! | oh, briggsy...

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