We had our first day of school in the San Francisco public schools last week. It seemed early in theory, but just about right in practice. I was ready to have the predictable schedule of school back in our lives. My son didn’t necessarily agree, but was excited to see his friends. He was also excited when I told him that we could make dumplings for dinner.
Ernest’s favorite foods are dim sum, sushi, tacos, and pizza (plain cheese pizza, he would emphasize while holding up his index finger in a way that reminds me of my grandmother making an important point). As with fried chicken and mac-n-cheese, he was deeeee-lighted to learn that we could actually make dumplings right here in our own kitchen.
Unlike our other adventures of making food he usually only gets when we’re out, we did and will be making dumplings again. Ernest got so into helping make the dumplings that when we made them again on Sunday (and my dashing husband got his hands dirty, too) we had them done – start to finish – in less than 30 minutes.* (The first round took a bit longer simply because the filling included Swiss chard which required cooking down before turning into the filling.)
Pork and Swiss chard dumplings
These dumplings are fairly quick and very easy to pull together. Yes, the pork cooks when you boil the dumplings.
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 tablespoon freshly shredded ginger
1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/3 pound ground pork
about 40 won ton wrappers
Rinse Swiss chard leaves until clean. Cut out the white stems from the Swiss chard leaves. Finely chop the stems. In a large frying pan over medium high heat, cook the chopped stems with a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add leaves, cover, and cook until leaves are completely wilted. Transfer leaves and stems to a cutting board – carefully leaving any liquid in the pan behind – and let sit until a bit cooled off. Addendum: You need to remove as much liquid still in the chard as you can. There are several ways to do this: put chard in a fine mesh sieve and press on it with a spoon, put chard in a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels and squeeze it, or simply pick up the chard in small handfuls and squeeze the liquid out. Whichever method you use, try not to think of all the tasty vitamins and whatnot going down the drain. The supreme texture and loveliness of the dumplings will comfort you soon. Finely chop the chard and transfer to a medium bowl.
Finely chop the scallions and add to chard. Add ginger, sherry, soy sauce, chili oil, and sesame oil. Use your hands to combine everything. Add the pork and, again, use your hands to gently mix the ingredients together.
When you start, just work with four to six wrappers at once. When you get going, though, you can lay out a dozen at a time. Set up your filling station with a clean work surface, a small bowl of water, a spot for the bowl of filling, and a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch.
Note: If you plan to cook them right after making them, you might as well put on a large pot of water to boil now.
Lay out four to six won ton wrappers on the work surface.
Dot the center of each one with about a teaspoon of filling.
Use your fingers (or a pastry brush, I suppose, if you like to clean things) to wet the edges of the wrappers. This is a very important step because the water is what will allow you to seal the wrapper shut, so don’t skimp!
Now fold one corner over the filling to its opposite corner to make a triangle and use your fingers to firmly press the edges together and seal them.
Now pull up the two corners that are farthest away from each other and press them together to seal them.
Set this dumpling on the cornstarch-sprinkled tray and make three to four dozen more.
(These were made using the technique of bringing up all four corners to the center and sealing the edges; a method that we found 1) trickier and 2) not as attractive after boiling.)
When ready to cook, make sure the pot of boiling water is well salted and put the dumplings in somewhat gently. Boil, stirring gently now and again, until cooked through, about 3 minutes.
While they boil, move the baking sheet on which you held them next to the stovetop and put a cooling rack over it. Drain the dumplings by lifting them out of the water with a slotted spoon and placing them on the cooling rack.
Transfer to shallow bowls. Serve with soy sauce, chili oil, or whatever sounds yummy to you. We ate ours with a sauce of 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons chili oil, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and topped with minced cilantro.
We have a lot of ideas floating around our house for future dumpling fillings these days. I’d love to hear yours.
* The Sunday dumplings had a shrimp and chive filling. Pulse 1 pound shelled raw shrimp (I used some great wild-caught Florida pink shrimp that were wonderfully flavorful) and 3 bunches chives in a food processor. Then fill dumplings as above – seriously it is just that simple and crazy delicious.