Posts Tagged ‘pear’

Episode 109 centers around wonton wrappers and the different ways to use them. Wonton comes from the Cantonese term “wahn tan,” which means “cloud swallow.” While it is possible to make your own wonton wrappers at home, Alton was adamant that it is not worth the time and effort to do so. Instead, do yourself a favor and buy the wonton wrappers that are readily available in the produce section of almost any grocery store.

Perfect Potstickers

This episode starts with Alton’s version of potstickers, featuring a pork and vegetable filling. The filling is made by combining in a bowl 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/4 C chopped scallions, 1 beaten egg, 2 T finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1 t light brown sugar, 1/4 t cayenne pepper, 2 t Worcestershire sauce, 2 t ketchup, and 1 t yellow mustard.

Mix the filling thoroughly with gloved hands.

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The mixed potsticker filling.

As you fill your wonton wrappers, be sure to keep the remaining wrappers moist by covering them with a damp paper towel.

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Wonton wrappers.

To form the potstickers, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you. Brush the two edges furthest from you with water and place a melon baller of filling (about 1/2 t) in the center.

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Wonton wrapper with the two far edges brushed with water and a melon baller of filling.

Fold the bottom of the diamond over the filling to form a triangle, pressing the edges together and squeezing to remove any air bubbles.

Make two pleats on each short side of the triangle by folding the wrapper under itself and pressing (see photo).

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Pleats made on each short side of the triangle.

Set the formed potstickers on a sheet pan, covering them with a damp towel until you finish filling the rest of the wrappers. For long-term storage (these will keep for 6+ months in the freezer), freeze the potstickers on a sheet pan and then transfer them to ziplock freezer bags. To cook the potstickers, heat a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. Ideally, you do not want to use a nonstick skillet to cook potstickers, as you want them to stick to the pan. I, however, do not have a large skillet that is not nonstick, so I had to work with what I have. Heat the skillet until water droplets will “dance” across the surface of the pan. When the skillet is hot, brush the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil and place 8-10 potstickers in the pan. Let the potstickers cook for two minutes, resisting the urge to lift or move them.

When the potstickers have begun to stick to the pan, add 1/3 C chicken stock to the pan and quickly put the lid on the pan. Decrease the heat to low and cook the potstickers for two more minutes.

If you need to cook more potstickers, transfer the cooked potstickers to a foil cone and place it in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.

Be sure to deglaze the pan between batches by adding water to the pan and scraping up any stuck bits. Alton recommends serving the potstickers with hoisin sauce (you can buy this in the grocery store) or a mixture of soy sauce and honey. I served my potstickers with a mixture of soy sauce and lemon juice.

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A plate of Alton’s potstickers.

These potstickers are fantastic. They are far superior to the frozen versions you get at any store. The filling is a perfectly balanced mixture of sweetness, spiciness, and tanginess. The wrappers are nearly translucent after cooking, having the texture of an al dente noodle on top and light crispiness on the bottom. I found that soy sauce overpowered the flavor of the filling, so I opted to eat mine with just a small amount of Asian mustard. Yes, it does take a little bit of time to fill and form the potstickers, but they are worth the time. I will absolutely make these again.

Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

Another way to use wonton wrappers is to make steamed dumplings. If you do not have a steamer, Alton has a hack for you. To assemble his steamer, you will need a wide pot with a lid, a few pastry rings or tuna cans with the tops and bottoms removed, and disposable pie plates that you have perforated with scissors or a knife. To assemble the steamer, place 1/2″ water in the bottom of the pot, followed by a pastry ring or can. Top the ring/can with a perforated pie plate. Continue layering rings and pie plates to the top of the pot and put on the lid. You can then steam your dumplings by placing five dumplings in each pie plate layer. We have a bamboo steamer, so I used that. Anyway, back to the recipe. Cut 1/2 pound of tofu in half horizontally and place the layers between paper towels for 20 minutes. It helps to place a plate or pan on top to press out excess liquid.

Once the tofu is ready, cut it into small cubes and place it in a bowl.

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Cubing the tofu.

To the tofu add 1/2 C grated carrot, 1/2 C shredded Napa cabbage, 2 T chopped scallions, 2 T chopped red bell pepper, 2 t minced ginger, 1 T chopped cilantro, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T hoisin sauce (in the Asian section at the grocery store), 2 t sesame oil, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t pepper, and one beaten egg.

Lightly stir the filling, as you do not want to break up the tofu.

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Dumpling filling.

Place your wonton wrappers in damp paper towels to keep them moist as you fill. To fill, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you and place a melon baller (~1/2 t) of filling in the center. Brush all four edges of the wrapper with water and bring opposite corners together.

Press the edges together, squeezing out any air bubbles.

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Folding opposite corners together and pinching the seams.

Place the filled dumplings on a sheet pan and cover them with a damp towel while you fill the remaining wrappers. You can freeze them for later use or cook them immediately.

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Dumplings on sheet pan.

To cook the dumplings, heat water in a steamer until you can see steam. If using Alton’s steamer, spray the pie plates with oil. Place the dumplings in the steamer, put the lid on, and cook the dumplings for 10-12 minutes.

Alton recommends serving these dumplings in a bowl of chicken stock. For vegetarians, you could use vegetable broth. I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so served my dumplings in that.

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Alton’s vegetarian steamed dumplings in chicken stock.

This is another wonderful recipe. In fact, we probably liked these vegetarian dumplings more than the pork potstickers. The filling of the dumplings is spicy and sweet, with occasional punches of fresh ginger and cilantro, and the dumplings look quite pretty when folded in this manner. Serving the dumplings in a bowl of warm stock makes for a delicious meal. Great recipe.

Pear Walnut Wontons

Dessert wontons? Yep, Alton has a recipe for those too. The filling for these wontons starts by combining 1/4 C sugar and 1/4 C water in a saucier. Bring the water and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, or until the sugar has dissolved.

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Sugar and water over medium heat.

Meanwhile, split a vanilla bean and scrape out its seeds.

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Vanilla bean to be scraped.

When the sugar has dissolved in the pan, remove it from the heat and add 1 T orange liqueur and the vanilla bean scrapings. Let the syrup cool.

Next, chop 6 ounces of dried pears and place them in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the pears until they clump together.

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Dried pears pulsed until clumpy.

Add the cooled sugar syrup to the pears and pulse until smooth.

Place 1 1/4 ounces toasted and chopped walnuts in a bowl (I toasted mine in a skillet over low heat) and add the pear mixture, stirring to combine.

Place the filling in the refrigerator for an hour or up to overnight. For these wontons, Alton used a different forming method than for the two previous recipes. For these, he placed a wonton wrapper on top of his fist, pressing the center of the wrapper down into the hole of his fist. He brushed on a little bit of water and filled the little indentation with filling. He then crimped the edges around the ball of filling, pushing out the air and forming a little octopus shape (at least, that’s what it looked like to me).  Okay, so this method of filling just didn’t work for me, though the little octopus-like dumplings were cute in the episode. I found that the filling leaked all over, the wrappers tore, and it was impossible to put much filling into the wrapper with this method. I gave up after throwing away several wrappers, and opted to fold my wontons as in the vegetarian dumpling recipe above.

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Attempting to fold wontons Alton’s way.

So, instead, I placed a wrapper so it was a diamond in front of me and placed a melon baller of filling in the center. I brushed all four edges of the wrapper with water and brought the opposite corners together, pinching the seams and pressing out any air bubbles. As with the other recipes, be sure to keep your empty wonton wrappers in moist paper towels as you fill, and place filled wontons on a baking sheet covered with a damp towel.

I chose to freeze a bunch of these right away since we only planned to eat a few, so I placed the sheet pan of wontons directly in the freezer. These babies get fried; afterall, it is dessert! To fry these wontons, heat 1/2 gallon of vegetable or peanut oil to 360 degrees.

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Oil heating to 360.

Add eight wontons to the hot oil, cooking them for two minutes, or until golden. Transfer the fried wontons to a rack over a sheet pan to drain and cool.

Alton recommends serving these guys with ice cream.

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Fried wontons with ice cream.

We had these for dessert last night, and they were a really fun dessert to have. The wonton wrappers were golden brown and crispy, while the still-warm filling was reminiscent of warm fruit pie filling. The walnuts gave the filling a little bit of texture. The filling is not overly sweet, so these really do pair well with the sweetness of ice cream. I plan to fry up some more of these for dessert over the weekend.

I have been sort of forced into a project hiatus, as we moved this week. It is quite amazing to see just how much stuff you can accumulate after living in a home for five years, as well as how much of a process it is to move a mere three miles. As I type, I still have boxes on either side of me, but the kitchen items are largely put away, so that is a good start! A few days prior to moving, I tackled the recipes in the 28th episode of Good Eats, but I am only now getting to writing the post about them. It actually has worked out well since this episode is about pickles and you want to let them sit a bit before really eating them anyway. Plus, I am a huge pickle fan, so this was a fun episode for me to do. My mom and I have made pickles nearly every summer for the past several years, and they are a great way to taste seasonal produce year-round.

AB’s B and Bs

Bread and butter pickles are first up in this episode. While I like pretty much any type of pickle, I tend to prefer pickles that are more on the savory, rather than the sweet, side. To make Alton’s version of these, you combine half of a sliced onion and two thinly sliced cucumbers in a spring-top jar.

Whole cucumber.

Whole cucumber.

Sliced cucumbers in a jar.

Sliced cucumbers in a jar.

Cucumber slices in a jar. Note:  I forgot to add the onion to the jar initially, so I ended up adding it after I had put the brine in.

Cucumber slices in a jar. Note: I forgot to add the onion to the jar initially, so I ended up adding it after I had put the brine in.

I somehow managed to forget the onion completely, so I added it after my pickles were all completed. Oops. I opted to slice my cucumbers by hand, but a mandolin would always be a great choice. The brine for these pickles is made up of water, cider vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning. All of these ingredients go into a saucepan, are brought to a boil, and are simmered for four minutes.

Water, cider vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning make up the brine.

Water, cider vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning make up the brine.

Simmering brine.

Simmering brine.

Alton says you only need to boil your brine if you are using whole spices, as it results in better spice extraction. Once your brine has simmered, pour it gently over the cucumbers in your jar.

Bread and butters.

Bread and butters.

AB's B and Bs.

AB’s B and Bs.

Let the pickles cool to room temperature before closing the top. You may have extra brine (I did), and you may want to top the jar off after the pickles have cooled. Stick these puppies in the refrigerator, and they will keep for up to two months. I am quite happy with my bread and butter pickles. They have been in their brine for 10 days now, and they are really crunchy and flavorful. They are probably my favorite bread and butter pickles that I have ever had, as they are very well-balanced. They are tart and sweet, but not overly so. They also look pretty in the jar, and would be a great addition to a sandwich. Plus, they take mere minutes to make. Alton has done bread and butters proud with this one.

Kinda Sorta Sours

The second pickle recipe Alton makes in this episode is very similar to his bread and butter pickles, but it is more on the sour/savory side. Again, to begin these pickles, half of a sliced onion and two thinly sliced cucumbers go into a jar. I had run out of spring-top jars, so I used two regular quart canning jars. Note:  I had to make additonal brine to fill both of my jars.

Onion in the pickle jar. Didn't forget it this time!

Onion in the pickle jar. Didn’t forget it this time!

Thinly sliced cucumber.

Thinly sliced cucumber.

Cucumbers and onion in two quart jars.

Cucumbers and onion in two quart jars.

The brine this time includes water, cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning.

Brine of water, cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning.

Brine of water, cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and pickling seasoning.

In contrast to the bread and butter brine, this brine has less sugar, more salt, more mustard seed, less turmeric, more celery seed, more pickling seasoning, and the addition of champagne vinegar. The process is the same, except you add four crushed garlic cloves to the jar before adding the brine to the cucumbers and onions.

Four crushed garlic cloves into the jar.

Four crushed garlic cloves into the jar.

Simmering brine.

Simmering brine.

Brine poured over cucumbers.

Brine poured over cucumbers.

Kinda Sorta Sours.

Kinda Sorta Sours.

Let the pickles cool before closing, top them off with more brine, and put them in the refrigerator. These, too, will keep for up to a couple of months. I like these pickles quite a bit too. They have the same pleasantly crunchy texture of the bread and butter pickles, but they are much more savory. They really are almost sour. They would also be great on a sandwich. For a more savory cucumber pickle, this is the one to try.

Firecrackers

If you are looking for a more unique pickle to try, try making Alton’s Firecrackers. What are Firecrackers? They are crunchy, spicy, sweet, zesty pickled baby carrots. To make these, Alton tells you to put a half pound of baby carrots in a (you guessed it) spring-top jar. I weighed out a half pound of baby carrots and they only filled my jar half-way, so I wound up using about a pound of baby carrots.

A pound of baby carrots in the jar.

A pound of baby carrots in the jar.

To make the brine, you combine water, sugar, and cider vinegar in a saucepan. To this, you add onion powder, mustard seed, Kosher salt, chili flakes, and dried chilies.

Brine ingredients:  water, sugar, cider vinegar, onion powder, mustard seed, Kosher salt, chili flakes, and dried chilies.

Brine ingredients: water, sugar, cider vinegar, onion powder, mustard seed, Kosher salt, chili flakes, and dried chilies.

Bring the brine to a boil, simmer it for four minutes, and pour it over the carrots.

Simmering brine.

Simmering brine.

Brine over carrots.

Brine over carrots.

Firecrackers.

Firecrackers.

Let them cool, close the top, and refrigerate them. My firecrackers are 10 days out and they are only getting better. They are crispy and tangy, and the natural sweetness of the carrots come through. There is also a decent amount of residual heat. I ate some of these on a salad for lunch and they were great. I highly recommend these, especially if you like a little kick to your pickles.

Summer Fruits

Alton’s next next recipe is quite different because it is for fruit pickles. This was my first fruit pickle attempt. Alton calls for you to pickle one Bartlett pear and one red plum. Seeing as it is January, I could not find a red plum, so I substituted an apple (Fuji, I think) for the plum.

Bartlett pear and an apple.

Bartlett pear and an apple.

As with the cucumber pickles, slice the fruit very thinly and add it to a spring-top jar. In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, and rice wine vinegar and simmer this until the sugar dissolves completely; no need to boil this one since there are no whole spices.

Simple brine of water, sugar, and rice wine vinegar.

Simple brine of water, sugar, and rice wine vinegar.

Sugar almost dissolved in brine.

Sugar almost dissolved in brine.

Meanwhile, to the jar add slivered ginger, a sprig of fresh mint, and half of a lemon, thinly sliced.

Thinly sliced lemon added to the sliced fruit in the jar.

Thinly sliced lemon added to the sliced fruit in the jar.

Apple, pear, ginger, and lemon in the jar.

Apple, pear, ginger, and lemon in the jar.

Fresh mint.

Fresh mint.

Mint added to the jar.

Mint added to the jar.

Once the sugar has dissolved in the brine, pour it over the fruit, let the pickles cool, close the lid, and refrigerate them.

Brine poured over fruit.

Brine poured over fruit.

Summer Fruits.

Summer Fruits.

Alton recommends serving these over ice cream or with pound cake. So far, we have only eaten them plain, but I think they would also be fantastic in a spinach salad with some walnuts, beets, and goat cheese. These pickles are fun because they are completely different. They are lightly sweet, but also quite tangy. The fruit has not gotten mushy, which is what I was concerned about. The flavor of the mint really comes through, especially in the pear, and it is really quite a nice pairing with the fruit.

Hurry Curry Cauliflower

The final recipe in this episode is for pickled curried cauliflower. To start these pickles, crush some whole cumin and coriander seeds. I did this with a mortar and pestle.

Whole coriander and cumin seeds.

Whole coriander and cumin seeds.

Crushed cumin and coriander seeds.

Crushed cumin and coriander seeds.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the crushed spices. Along with the spices, add curry powder, ginger, and a smashed clove of garlic.

Coriander seed, cumin seed, curry powder, ginger, and garlic in oil

Coriander seed, cumin seed, curry powder, ginger, and garlic in oil

The spice mixture.

The spice mixture.

Cook the spices until they are fragrant and the oil has turned yellow. To the spice mixture, add one head of cauliflower florets and toss to coat them.

Cauliflower florets.

Cauliflower florets.

Cauliflower added to spice mixture.

Cauliflower added to spice mixture.

Curry-coated cauliflower.

Curry-coated cauliflower.

Meanwhile, in a container with a tight-fitting lid, combine water, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, and pickling salt; shake this liquid until the salt and sugar have dissolved. If you do not have pickling salt, you can substitute Kosher salt, but be sure to add 1.5x as much.

Water, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, and Kosher salt shaken until dissolved.

Water, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, and Kosher salt shaken until dissolved.

Once the cauliflower has softened slightly, add it to a spring-top jar and pour over the brine.

Brine and cauliflower combined.

Brine and cauliflower combined.

Hurry Curry Cauliflower.

Hurry Curry Cauliflower.

Close the lid and refrigerate. These, too, are more unusual pickles. When we first tasted them after a few days of pickling, we agreed that they were our favorite of the five types of pickles in this episode. Tasting them again after 10 days in the brine, we still like them, but not as much as before. While all of the other pickles seemed to improve with more time in the brine, these seemed to just increase in vinegar flavor, while their delightful curry flavor diminished somewhat. Don’t get me wrong… they are still really good. The cauliflower has maintained it’s crunchy texture, they are really tangy, and the curry flavor is in the background. They would be good on a relish tray (Do people do those anymore?).

Overall, we liked all of these pickles and I think they are all worthy of being made again.

All five types of pickles on a plate, along with some summer sausage. Clockwise from the top:  Kinda Sorta Sours, Firecrackers, AB's B and Bs, Hurry Curry Cauliflower, and Summer Fruits.

All five types of pickles on a plate, along with some summer sausage. Clockwise from the top: Kinda Sorta Sours, Firecrackers, AB’s B and Bs, Hurry Curry Cauliflower, and Summer Fruits.

After 10 days of pickling, Ted ranked the pickles from best to worst as:  Firecrackers, B and Bs, Summer Fruits, Sours, and Cauliflower. I ranked the pickles as:  B and Bs, Firecrackers, Sours, Summer Fruits, and Cauliflower.