Dumplings and Pot Stickers

Last night I got back into the swing of things after a lot of eating out with some dumplings and pot stickers (from what I can tell fried dumplings).  They were pretty easy but take foreevvveeeerrrrr to roll out all of the little dumpling shells and then wrap them up, so definitely plan ahead.  I had them with some Sweet Thai Chili sauce which I fell in love with in Australia, and some soy sauce.  The filling was really good with a nice amount of ginger to add some flavor to the pork.  My onion slices were a little large, so in the future I’ll mince them up better, I don’t think they’re supposed to be noticeable.

Another issue I had was that with the dumplings the skins (thats what I’m going to call them) got really loose, like what I imagine a fat guy after liposuction is like, and all the filling just fell out after I took my first bite.  I guess a remedy would be to make little dumplings so they go down in one bite.  I was also a lot of concerned that the pork wouldn’t be cooked all the way with these little cooking times but rest assured they are just fine.

I also had quite the adventure trying to mix the dough classical style on the counter with no bowl.  It is way more difficult than it looks to not break the crater.  Also, water and flour don’t come off counter tops so easily.

Makes 36 dumplings

Dumplings and Pot Stickers
Pork Filling
1 lb          ground pork
4              cloves garlic, minced
1/4          onion, minced
1 Tbs       soy sauce
2 Tbs       Mirin
1 1/2 Tbs grated ginger
2 tsp         sesame oil

Shells
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup     cold water

1. Mix all the filling stuff together, refrigerate 20 minutes.

2. Mix it in a bowl.  It should  not be sticky and bounce back when you press on it.  Sprinkle with flour and cover with a towel and let sit 30 minutes.

3. Cut into 36 even pieces and roll those out into 5 in diameter circles.  This is going to take forever so you should cover all the dough you’re not immediately working with so it doesn’t dry out, especially after being rolled.

4. Fill the circles with a teaspoon of stuffing, fold in half and seal shut.

Dumplings – Bring a ton of water to boil, drop in dumplings one at a time so they don’t stick to each other and cook 3-5 minutes

Pot Stickers – Bring some sesame oil up to medium high heat.  Add pot stickers and cook 2-3 minutes until bottoms are brown.  Add enough water to cover 1/3 way up the pot stickers, cover and cook 3 minutes or so.

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New Orleans’ Mardi Bowl

Friday afternoon at work an impromptu plan was hatched to drive to New Orleans for the weekend to be in town for both Mardi Gras and to see the Saints in the Super Bowl from their home town.  A nice fringe benefit (french benefit?) of this was all of the amazing Creole food that New Orleans is known for.  These were the major players in our trip (with the exception of a terrible sports bar called Poppy’s on the Riverwalk that was completely unfriendly and has no place in an otherwise overly welcoming town – think Cotchkies from Office Space).

Evelyn’s Place
We stopped in Evelyn’s Place after crawling out of bed Saturday around 1.00 pm.  Evelyn’s was the definition of a hole in the wall, started by a lady named surprise surprise… Evelyn back in the 60s who passed away a couple years ago.  She had left the reatuarant to five or six people (including a couple of teenage grandsons) who don’t really know what to do with the place except let it keep serving good food and good drink.  It’s still managed by a 90 year old man who’s been heading it up since it first opened.

The place was pretty much empty which gave us a chance to talk to the husband and wife working the bar.  The menu consisted of five or six things scrawled on a chalkboard inside, in the kind of building you’d expect a menu like that to be.  It was pretty simple, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, Po’ Boys, etc.  All four of us went for some Gumbo and Abita Beer to wash it all down.  The gumbo was what you’d imagine coming out of a giant vat with an Aunt Jamayma stirring it over open flame all day and was quite incredible.  The only downfall would be the broth was a little tasteless but that easily fixed with some hearty shakes of Tabasco (which I don’t think I managed to find a table without in the whole city).

Deanie’s Seafood
After catching a couple of Mardi Gras parades we asked just about everyone in town the best place to go for dinner.  After several tasty suggestions (including an authentic Spanish restaurant called Madrid a couple miles out of downtown – recommended by the Chefs wife who we met in the market on the river) we were able to make it to Deanie’s Seafood.  We met some great people while waiting on a table and ended up eating with a few of them.  The five of us had some Mint Julips (which were a little heavy on the sugar but overall good) and more fried seafood than I thought could fit on the table.  Everything from crawfish to shrimp to scrod and mussels with tartar and cocktail sauce.  It was pretty good but in the end it really seemed to me to just be fried seafood (and having worked at a fried seafood restaurant a couple year ago on Cape Cod called the Lobster Shanty you can get a little sick of it).  I was told afterwards the next day at lunch that we really missed out on their Barbecue Shrimp, so maybe next time.

Mother’s
Don’t let the line discourage you.  Mother’s is in what appears to be an old house on Magazine St just outside the French Quarter with a line that wraps around the block but it is definitely worth it, not to mention the line moves at a good clip.  Once you get passed the hefty doorman in a Saints jersey there’s a counter you order at and get some drinks (water, coke, etc.).  The hardest part is then finding a table to sit at and you most liekly will end up family style at a big table in the back with a friendly family who bought a condo by the river for the weekend in a charity auction (at least thats what we did).  I went with some Jumbalaya and Red Beans & Rice so I could hit all three of things I came to NOLA to get.  The Jumbalaya was phenomenal with bits of chicken and sausage and perfect seasoning.  The Red Beans I thought could have stood a little more rice and were a tad bland, epsecially when compared to the Jumbalaya.  The other guys got some Po’ Boys and said they were all pretty good so this is a definite stop on any New Orleans trip.

Cafe du Monde
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde for some Bignets – a french pastry absolutely smothered in powdered sugar.  If you go any time other than 3 am you’ll wait hours to get in or go get take out around the side and still wait in a horrendous line.  On the other hand, the 3 am route gets you a really creepy waiter who almost perfectly fits the part of Snidley Whiplash.  Regardless of how you get here though, you should do it.  At $2.15 for a plateful of powdered pastry heaven you can’t go wrong.  The texture of the bignets is what really what makes them so great (that and all the sugar) with a crispy outside and a really warm chewy center.  When they’re still hot, the powdered sugar melts just a little bit when you dip a freshly bitten bignet into it, pretty much pure excess.


Herb Roasted Pork Loin

Last night I had a couple of people over for Dexter and pork.  This recipe comes from Cole and is part of a larger recipe book he is working on.  I was expecting 8 or 9 people over so made 4 pounds, but it turned out only about 5 showed so I ended up with 2 extra pork loins (which means tasty cuban sandwhiches in the days to come).

I am naturally fearful of recipes that call for dijon mustard because way too many things do (I’ve seen “authentic” beef strogonoff recipes with it, I’m pretty sure peasants in Russia did not have dijon) but the pork turned out really really good, very moist and flavorful.  The herbs definitely came through in the pork and complimented the  tang of the mustard.  To go with it Will made some green beans and onions in butter and we also had wild rice with walnuts and raisins.

Serves Eight

For Pork
4 lbs pork loin
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil
6 sprigs rosemary
8 sprigs thyme
8 sprigs savory
8 sprigs sage
5 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T Dijon mustard

For Sauce
1/3 C dry vermouth
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 C chicken broth
1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 T flour

Making It
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat the pork in salt and pepper and heat some oil in our broiler ban over a burner.  Put in the tenderloin and brown on all sides for a few minutes.
3. Place half the herbs on a broiler rack and put the pork on top.  Mix shallots, garlic, oil and dijon and smear the mixture all over the pork.  Put in the oven fat side up.
4. Cook about an hour (until thermometer reads about 155-160).  Put the remaining herbs on top, tossed in some oil, and cook about 5 more minutes.
5. Pull out pork and set aside to rest about 15 minutes while you make the sauce in the bottom of the broiler pan.
6. Put the broiler pan back over a burner on medium.  Add vermouth and dijon, scrape brown bits off bottom of pan.
7. Melt butter and whisk in flour.  Add to the vermouth mixture and simmer till thick.
8. Serve pork with sauce.

Orange and Soy Glazed Chicken

Tonight I made one of the “quick” recipes out of the new issue of Fine Cooking. I don’t think its quite fair to call something a 30 minute meal just because people who cook for a living can do it in that amount of time.  Regardless it was quite delicious, but there was WAY too much sauce (I halved it below) and it was a bit thin for my taste, which always seems to happen with my sauces, either some more cornstarch or longer simmering time is needed.  It had a good amount of orange flavour without being overwhelming and mushrooms were perfect, moist and popped in your mouth.  I made it with steamed brocolli and I found an AMAZING recipe for steamed rice that really was terrific.

Serves One

For the Chicken
3 chicken tenderloins, trimmed of fat
8 cremini mushrooms
2 green oninons (green parts only), cut into 3″ length

For the Sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
1/6 c sugar
1 Tbs mirin
1/4 tsp orange zest
1 Tbs orange juice
3/4 tsp cornstarch

Making It
The chicken
1. Preheat the oven to 450, put the rack 7″ from the broiler
2. Place shitakes on lightly oiled broiler pan and put green onions and top, top with chicken
3. Cook for 20 minutes

The sauce
4. Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and orange zest and simmer to dissolve sugar
5. Mix together orange juice and cornstarch seperately then add to simmering sauce
6. Stir constantly till tick and glossy (1 minute supposedly)
7. Add more cornstarch and cook way longer because there’s no way its thick enough yet

And So It Begins

I’ve had a completely novel idea that no one has ever thought of before…write a blog about my wacky cooking misadventures.

Really, I’ve been trying to cook new things lately and this should be a good spot to make notes if nothing else about my successes and more often my spectacular failures.  I have a penchant for bold flavours (and British spelling) and tend to improvise real recipes with my own clumsily thrown together ingredients that certainly do make things bold.  Despite this I really do love good food (as does my girlfriend who I subject to my experiments when shes in town – and when shes not around my friends play the role of lab rat) and so hope to use this to significantly improve my cooking skills by at least keeping track of what goes well and what doesn’t.

About the name, I live in Austin, Texas, and believe it or not we do eat more than just barbecue and Shiner here (though both are quite delicious).