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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mushroom and Chive Dumplings with Plumb-Habanero-Sake Sauce

There are times when you're in a store, or maybe at a farmer's market, or maybe even at a friend's house, and you see something. Some food item that just blows your mind. This is the genesis of these dumplings.

I was walking in SF Market in Rowland Heights and saw these amazing mushrooms. Oysters, Kings, Shitake...loads of them, and they were all fresh and looked amazing. So, I grabbed some Oysters and Shitakes, and moved on. Boom - chives! Beautiful green, and you never find these in Stater Bros!! And as I walked towards the checkout, there they were - ripe plumbs. I had no idea what I was going to do with all this stuff, but I knew it would all wind up on the dinner table.

When I got home, I remembered I had some sweet rice dumpling wrappers I had picked up from a Korean grocery store a few days earlier. Instantly, the entire thing came together. Perfect for a starter or side, but would also work as a main dish. That's the beauty of these dumplings - they're flexible.

Mushroom and Chive Dumpings:

Take all your mushrooms and chop. You can use any combination of fresh mushrooms, but if you use dried, you need to soak them for at least 15 minutes in hot water before using. Set aside.

Chop a handful or two of fresh chives. When I say chives, I'm not talking green onions. Set aside.

Pour a bit of olive oil in a large pan and heat and swirl. Add mushrooms and stir well. Cook these up a bit, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, you'll notice they're starting to shrink down a bit. Add a swig of sake. Stir again. Cook the mushrooms for a few more minutes, allowing the liquid to release and cook off. Pour this into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook up a handful of chopped pancetta. Trader Joe's had a nice little box of chopped pancetta ready for use, and you can use that whole box. I dropped it into a small frying pan with a couple cloves of minced garlic. When this is cooked, pour it into your mushroom mix.

Press 3 cloves of garlic into your mushroom mix, and add some kosher salt. Mix well and set aside.

Wrapping the Dumplings:

Take your wrappers and have them right in front of you. Get a small bowl of water nearby. Take a wrapper, spoon in as much filling as you can fit in the middle of the wrapper, then take a finger into your water and run your watery finger along the inside edge of the wrapper. Fold over, then squeeze it together with your fingers. Here's a good video on wrapping dumplings. Place these on a sheet of wax paper and don't let them touch each other, or they might stick together. Set aside until ready to cook.

Cooking the Dumplings:

The great thing about dumplings is you can cook them multiple ways, depending on your needs. Steaming sounded good to me, so I steamed. I have a multilevel steamer pot. But, you could just as easily use a bamboo steamer, steaming basket, or any other solution for steaming (I've used a plate on an upside down bowl inside of a large pot for certain steaming uses, like large fish). One thing you'll want to do is put down wax or parchment paper, or some form of leafy vegetable, like Napa, and put the dumplings on top so as not to stick to the steamer. Be careful of using things like bamboo, banana, or taro leaves, since they can impart a strong aroma that may not be consistent with the dumpling ingredients.

I also like to put some aromatics in the steaming liquid. Given the ingredients in my dumplings, I figured a combination of lemon rinds and ginger chunks would impart a nice essence to the dumplings. I was right, and it made the kitchen have a great smell!

Plumb-Habanero-Sake Sauce:

Take about 10 fresh plumbs. Clean and take out the seed. Drop these into a pot with about 1/2 cup sake and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce. Add about 2/3 cup sugar and mix well. Let this break down about 20 minutes, mashing the plumbs with a fork or potato masher every few minutes. By this time, your plumbs should be super tender. You're going to use a wand mixer and break this down into a sauce. If it's too dry, add some more sake/water. Add some chopped habanero, according to taste. Cook another 5-10 minutes. Check for taste. You might need to add salt, sugar, or water, in order to adjust.

Assemble your dumplings on a plate with the sauce in a small bowl for dipping. This can be a single plate for everyone to share, or individual plates for each guest.


~ Brock

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