After we had children, we had to scale back on certain culinary undertakings, such as staging elaborate dinner parties. But as our children have grown (our youngest just attended his kindergarden orientation on Friday), it's become clear that certain ambitious cooking tasks are easier with children. In our household, making fresh pasta is entirely accomplished through child labor, and even birthday cake baking has been delegated. Recently my sister-in-law pointed out that dumpling making is another such child-friendly task, if you invest in a dumpling press.
Dumpling making is not a task I would take on single handed, but armed with our new gadget, I cooked up a recipe of pork and cabbage filling from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, using tender baby bok choy from the Farmers Market, and let my sous chefs go to town.
The end results may not have been quite as pretty as expertly hand-pinched pot stickers, but they tasted delicious and our little assembly line was so productive that we had enough dumplings to freeze for a rainy day.
Bok Choy and Pork Dumplings
adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty
makes 25-30 dumplings1/4 pound tender leaves of baby bok choy or cabbage
3 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
1/2 lb ground pork
2 tsp rice wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp darl soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
6-8 turns of a black pepper mill
1 package of frozen thin dumpling wrappers
more neutral oil for frying
1. Start thawing the dumpling wrappers about 30 minutes before, or microwave them briefly on low power.
2. Blanch the vegetable leaves briefly in boiling water, and then refresh immediately in cold water. Chop finely and squeeze to get rid of any excess water.
3. Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a wok or skillet. Add the pork and stir-fry for a minute or two, adding the wine, soy sauce, and salt as you go, until cooked through. Tip the pork into a bowl, add the chopped leaves, sesame oil, and pepper, and mix well.
4. To assembly the dumplings, gather a large platter or baking sheet, a small bowl of water, your filling, and the dumpling wrappers covered with a moist towel. Spoon a teaspoon of filling into the center of a dumpling wrapper, use your finger to wet around the circumference, and seal the dumpling with a dumpling press or by pressing closed with your fingers. Place the completed dumplings on the platter.
5. Heat a larger skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom generously. When the oil is hot, arrange the dumplings in the pan and cook until crisp and golden on one side (a minute or two). Then add 2 Tbsp water for every 10 dumplings in the pan, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and allow the water to evaporate away. Remove the dumplings to a serving platter and serve at once with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, black Chinese vinegar, and hot oil combined to your taste.
Note: freeze extra dumplings on a baking sheet and then transfer them to a zip lock bag. To cook, add the frozen dumplings to the pan as above, but increase the frying and steaming times by a couple of minutes.