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February 01, 2022. Dear Kids– After an unexpected month long break in the action, I’m happy to be back with what I’m predicting to be the DDD Recipe of 2022! Now, I don’t mean to brag with such a bold prediction this early in the year, but I think this recipe, inspired by the almost fanatical devotion one of you kids holds for all things dumpling, is everything you would want in a dish. It’s crispy, crunchy, salty, meaty (whether you use pork, mushrooms or plant meat), quick, easy and a fun, although not traditional, way to celebrate Lunar New Year. I could even see this recipe blowing up on TikTok if I was a little , OK a lot, younger, better looking and more charismatic and not such a grumpy, old man.
The Potsticker “Sauce”, is a standard pork dumpling filling, but the twist in the dish comes from the quick and easy to make crispy rice that stands in for the dumpling wrappers. The magic of crispy rice has been around for centuries and all over the world- jollof, tahdig, paella and the list goes on- but it took the internet to enlighten the masses with a user friendly version of this magical creation so that the virtual world could imagine just how good this crispy-tender delight can be on a plate. So, with crispy rice, instead of having to take the time to individually wrap and pan fry each dumpling, to get crispy-tender bites mixed in with savory, meaty goodness, you simply add leftover rice to a skillet and it takes hardly anytime at all to get that crispy-tender bite to go along with your dumpling “filling”. So break out the pans and get to cooking this fun dish to start off a Happy Lunar New Year!
Diet: Omnivore, Vegan Option (See Lecture)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Pot Sticker “Sauce“
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 bunch thinly sliced scallions (about 6-8)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 cups finely chopped or thinly sliced green cabbage, like Napa cabbage
- 2-3 tablespoons (2”-3” piece) fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 6 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon, or to taste, toasted sesame oil, optional
- 2-4 tablespoons canola oil
- 3-4 cups leftover rice (short grain rice, like sushi rice, will give you a very nice crisp)
Serving Sauce and Garnishes
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- optional garnishes, fried or soft egg, minced cilantro, thinly minced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, chili crisp and the list goes on….
COOK AND PLAY
Play “The Dumpling Song” by The Pet Shop Boys, which just had to be written by a Dad or, if you’re not feeling so whimsical, “West End Girls” by the same duo who were very popular back in my day, while you make this transformational meal.
1. Pot Sticker “Sauce”. Set a large sauté or frying pan over medium heat, add oil and saute the scallions until softened- a minute or so. Add pork, adjust heat so there’s a little sizzle in the pan, and smash pork into smaller pieces from time to time as it cooks. Cook until pork is golden brown and cooked throughout- 10-15 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, scraping up any brown bits on the pan’s bottom and continue to cook until cabbage softens, which won’t take very long.
2. Flavor Time. Take care to stir ginger and garlic nicely through the mince, continuing to scrape up any brown bits, and let it go a minute or so before you stir in soy sauce and rice vinegar. If there are still brown bits on your pan’s bottom, turn up the heat to high, add about 1/4 cup of water or broth and scrape the last of the flavor trying to stick to the pan into the mince. Stir in sesame oil, if you’re into it, and set aside off heat while you crisp up your rice.
3. Crispy Rice. Heat a 12 inch nicely seasoned cast iron or non stick skillet over medium high heat, add oil to coat the entire surface of the pan (less for non stick) and once it starts to look wavy add rice. As the rice softens from the heat, use a large spoon to push rice evenly around bottom of the pan to form and even layer. Leave rice alone for several minutes, adjusting the heat up if needed to keep a sizzle or down if needed to prevent scorching, so it can crisp up. Then take a peek by carefully lifting an edge to look underneath and continue to cook as needed until most of the rice has taken on a golden brown hue. Once the the rice is crispy, invert rice cake onto a large plate, crispy side facing up.
4. Easiest “Sauce” Ever & So Many Garnishes. Mix soy sauce and vinegar together in a small bowl (or decorative Asian teapot if you want to get fancy) to serve on the side. Warm up Potsticker Sauce for serving. Cut rice into four or more pieces and evenly distribute, crispy side up, among four shallow bowls. Add a fourth of the Potsticker Sauce to each bowl and top with choice of garnish(es). A bright, crispy salad or slaw on the side would be nice- I’ll have to get you a recipe for this sometime soon.
Crispy Rice Tips. Type of Rice. Sure, you can use pretty much any type of leftover rice (long, medium or short grain) to make crispy rice, but I’ve found short grain rice, like sushi rice, crisps up a bit easier and crispier. For an added boost of crisp, use seasoned (vinegar, sugar and salt) sushi rice or melt a tablespoon of cow or plant butter into the oil before adding the rice. Lastly, any leftover rice will be hard when you take it out of its container, so carefully break it up (it explodes a bit when pressure is applied) into chunks in a deep bowl the best you can before you add it to the skillet. Once it heats up it will soften and be open to being squished down evenly into the pan. Type and Size of Pan. Non stick or properly seasoned cast iron pans increase your likelihood of success and cut down on the amount of fat needed to crisp up and release your rice. The pan should also be a size that allows the rice to settle at a proper thickness- not too thin (there will be no contrast of tender rice) and not too thick (not enough crisp to go around). An inch or so of thickness for the rice cake is good and 3-4 cups of rice in a 12” pan usually gives you that. Patience is a Virtue. Once you have a nice even layer of rice in your pan, let it be, the sooner you lift an edge to take a peak, the more likely you’ll be disappointed with a pale puzzle of rice. Now don’t leave everything to blind faith, smell and listen to your pan and adjust heat down if you smell it starting to burn or up if you don’t hear a gentle sizzle. You should also make sure your cake moves freely in the pan once it’s ready to be removed or flipped and, if it doesn’t, run a thin spatula down the sides and under the cake to free the stubborn spots. Don’t worry, you’ll get a feel for all this if you continue to make crispy rice and, once you do, you can even start crisping your rice while you make your Potsticker Sauce to save a little time there. Crispy Side Up or Down? What is the bigger threat to your crisp when you plate your food- the Potsticker Sauce or the condensation from the bottom of the plate that the rice covers? My experience tells me the bottom of the plate, but try both ways and see what you think. Extra Crispy Rice. Crispy rice is a Yin and Yang thang- you want a nice crisp, but not too much so it overwhelms the tender under belly of the rice. As for that balance, it’s up to you and I’ve seen recipes that crisp both sides of the rice for extra crispy rice, so read on if you think that’s the balance for you!
“The Courage of Your Convictions!” and Extra Crispy Rice. The biggest challenge by far when crisping your rice on both sides is flipping the toasted side of the rice cake in contact with the bottom of the pan over and intact to toast the untoasted top side of the rice cake. Of course, the cool way to do this is by flipping the rice cake in the air with a flick or two of the wrist, like a French chef would flip a crepe, but if you’re interested in being cool and trying out the French Flip for Extra Crispy Rice, be warned that it may take some time to get it right. Still, don’t be discouraged because even the wonderfully accomplished home cooking icon, Julia Child, has had her challenges with this technique before even she was able to perfect it. In her case, she was trying to flip a potato pancake, when things went awry, but her advice as this happened is epic and you should keep it in mind if you French Flip your rice- you need the “courage of your conviction” to make a successful flip and “the only way you learn how to flip things, is to actually flip them.” Not just good lessons for cooking, but good lessons for life, so pay attention kids! There are also a few “safer” flipping options as well. There’s the German Flip, with more precision and control, which you can accomplish by sliding the half toasted rice cake onto a large dinner plate to then turn the plate and rice cake over and into the skillet so the top, untoasted side is on the bottom of the pan. Finally, the American Flip, a rough and tumble approach, that has you breaking the rice cake up into manageable pieces with a spatula and turning the untoasted side of the pieces over to toast. Try one or try them all, and use what works best for you.
The Joy of Dumpling Making. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making homemade dumplings, In fact, if you have the time, I highly recommend it as a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience, especially when shared with others. I’ve even made my own “MacGyver” dumpling wrappers, using a metal straw in place of the traditional dumpling rolling pin, and had blast. In fact, I’m thinking about having a dumpling pot luck where guests make and bring a favorite dumpling stuffing and we all sit around rolling out wrappers (I’m guessing you have some experience rolling out things in college) for dumplings. Then stuffing, cooking and eating the tasty bundles of joy to our hearts’ content, with a big salad and a reasonable amount of sake or other beverages of choice. Perhaps, I’ll even write about it- stay tuned.
Veganize It! Use 20 ounces of minced mushrooms or 16 ounces of ground plant meat in place of pork- PS- I find a cast iron pan great for a tasty crust on plant meat- especially Impossible Burger. If using mushrooms, make sure you cook the water (“zee enimee of flavour!”) out of them in Step 1 so the mince gets all golden brown and tasty before you add in the aromatics and seasoning.
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