Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm back

Ahem. I apologize for the long delay between posts, but I was making some wonton soup and it took a long time.

I kid, of course. Well, not entirely. I did make wonton soup--that's what I'm here to tell you about on this sunny, mild Toulouse afternoon--and it did take a long time. But additionally, my less-than-a-year-old laptop decided to bite the dust several weeks ago, and after I sent it in to a repair center, I was left in the lurch, internet-less and unable to share my culinary creations. The cooking didn't stop--actually, I've been cooking more than ever lately--but I'll have to play some catch-up on the blog over the next few weeks.

So let's get right into that wonton soup, shall we? About 2 months ago, I posted about Paris Store, an Asian supermarket where I stocked up pantry essentials like fish sauce, sesame oil, sambal oelek and preserved vegetables. I also indulged in a few impulse purchases, such as Vietnamese nems, chewy sesame candies and a packet of wonton skins. When I got home that day, I threw the wontons into the freezer, not sure what I'd do with them, or when.

Inspiration struck about a week ago, when I was browsing the meat aisle at my local supermarket. As I've mentioned on the blog many a time, poverty frugality often guides me in my cooking. Though eating well is one of the most important pursuits in my life, I do not have a lot of money to spend on fancy ingredients, and so I seek out things that taste good but don't come at a high price. Rather than seeing this as some kind of hindrance, I actually enjoy the sport of bargain-hunting, and feel that it's a fun challenge. Spotting some random food item that has had its price slashed will often completely determine what I'll be making for dinner that night, as I scoop it into my shopping cart.

Such was the case when I decided to make these wonton
s. As I said, I was eying the meat offerings at the store when I noticed two items: first, a two-pound assortment of pork bones, labeled "Bones for animals," and priced at 55 cents; and second, a package of ground pork, on sale for 50% off, making its final price a whopping 2 euros. First a big pot of rich pork stock flashed into my mind (I love making stock, and do so often during the winter), followed by a vision of plump little pork dumplings floating in it. Later that afternoon, at the open-air market, I picked up the rest of the ingredients I would need--a knob of fresh ginger, a bunch of scallions and a small head of Napa cabbage--and I got to work.

First, I trimmed the pork bones of
excess fat, then chucked them into a deep soup pot that I filled with cold water, brought to a boil, and dropped to a simmer. Then, I mixed up my wonton filling, seasoning the ground pork with salt, grated ginger, and sesame oil, and mixing in finely chopped scallions and cabbage. Then, I laid out my (defrosted) wonton skins on a clean, cornstarch-dusted work surface, 9 at a time, keeping the rest soft and supple under a damp paper towel. I filled each dumpling with one teaspoon of pork filling, no more, no less. You want a plump, juicy end result, but it's essential not to over-stuff your wontons, or you'll risk them bursting apart in your soup:

















Next, I dipped my forefinger in a little bowl of water, ran it over two sides of the wonton squares, then pinched the dumplings into a triangle shape, making sure to press out any air and to verify that the edges were well bound together. I attempted to make a pretty pleated dumpling but failed, so I sort of folded the dumplings into little envelopes, sealing with a bit more water once they were folded. You can make any shape you like, as long as everything is well sealed:

















With my dumplings done, it was time to finish my pork stock. I skimmed off any foam and fat that had risen to the top, then dropped in a knob of ginger, a halved onion, a chopped carrot and some peppercorns, and continued to simmer for another hour. I skimmed again, then strained the stock and returned it to the heat, adding dashes of soy sauce, fish sauce and rice vinegar. When it came to a gentle boil, I slipped the wontons in in batches, stirring gently and flipping them to ensure even cooking. When they were cooked through, about 8 minutes later, I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and tossed them with a little vegetable oil to prevent any sticking. I like to keep the wontons separate from the broth until I heat myself up a bowl of soup, so that they don't get soggy.

To serve, I heat the broth and dumplings up with a bit more shredded cabbage just until it's wilted, then stir in additional sesame oil and sambal oelek. Yes, it's a long process, but it results in a filling, delicious soup best tackled with a deep spoon and a pair of chopsticks:


















Pork and Cabbage Wonton Soup
Serves 8 - 10

Ingredients:

- 8 - 10 cups Asian pork broth (see recipe below)
- 1 package wonton skins
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced, white and green parts
- 1 small head Napa cabbage, finely shredded and chopped
- 1 tsp. grated ginger
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Water
- Vegetable oil
- Additional sesame oil, for serving
- Sambal oelek, for serving

Preparation:

1. Prepare the wonton filling: in a medium bowl, combine the pork, scallion, 1 cup shredded cabbage, ginger, sesame oil and salt. Knead to combine. Set aside.
2. Make the dumplings: dust a clean work surface (counter, table or kitchen towel) with cornstarch. Lay out the wonton skins 9 at a time, keeping the remainder under a damp paper towel. Place one teaspoon of pork filling in the center of each wonton. Dip your forefinger in a bowl of water and run water over 2 edges of dumpling wrapper. Pinch the dumplings together into a triangle shape. Press out any air pockets and ensure edges are well sealed, then pinch or fold into desired dumpling shape. Place finished dumplings on a dish and sprinkle cornstarch over to prevent sticking.
3. Bring the pork broth to a simmer and drop in the dumplings, working in batches to prevent crowding. Stir the soup gently and flip the dumplings around so they cook evenly. When cooked through, about 8 minutes, remove to a dish with a slotted spoon. Toss dumplings with a small amount of vegetable oil, to prevent sticking.
4. To serve soup, heat desired amount of broth with dumplings and a handful of shredded cabbage per person. Divide soup among bowls and serve with additional sesame oil and sambal oelek.


Asian Pork Broth
Makes 8 - 10 cups

Ingredients:

- 2 lbs. assorted pork bones, trimmed of excess fat
- 12 cups cold water
- 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
- 1 carrot, scrubbed and cut into pieces
- 1 small knob of ginger
- 1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Light soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Rice wine vinegar
- Salt

Preparation:

1. Combine bones and water in a large, deep stock pot. Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 3 hours, skimming foam and fat as it rises to the top.
2. After 3 hours, add the onion, carrot, ginger, peppercorns and bay leaf. Continue to simmer for one hour.
3. Skim any remaining foam and fat and strain stock to remove bones and aromatics. Return broth to pot and season to taste with dashes of soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine and salt.

4 comments:

Caylin said...

yum oh yum oh yum. late on a sober friday night, this is better than porn. the blog, i mean. the soup would be better than sex.

Lauren said...

Wow! Such kind words. The soup is dope, but better than sex? Perhaps not, but I'll take the compliment!

veggie central said...

wow--this sounds and looks fantastic! A lot of work, for sure, but worth it. I'll wait for you to come home and make it for me!!! Ha!

Anonymous said...

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ibcbetstripping the stem from the bottom up. Continue peeling nearly to the top of the spear.
2. Steam the asparagus: in a large, wide pot or pan, heat about 2 inches of water over high heat. When it boils, salt it, drop in the asparagus, cover and drop to a lively simmer. Steam