Sunday, July 21, 2013

Experiment #6: Tofu and Veggie Potstickers

First, a quick health update: I'm allergic to eggs! I don't know why my doctors didn't think to do an allergy panel years ago, but finally I found one who actually rules out the simple things first. I've probably been mildly allergic my whole life, but stress has triggered a stronger reaction. I've been egg-free (and up to about 75% vegan, though I've had some weird chicken cravings) now for about two weeks, and I feel better than I have in quite a while. I ate French toast the other day as a test to see if my symptoms returned, and they did within an hour of eating. My mom-in-law was worried about making me sick, but for me it was the happiest sickness I've ever felt! To finally know the cause of my illness and the simple solution to it is AMAZING!

I had planned to do an avgolemono (Greek Easter Soup - it's name means "egg and lemon") experiment last week, but I found a pre-existing recipe that was everything I wanted! The only substitution I made was swapping in 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley for dill since a) the non-vegan version I used to make had parsley, and b) B apparently hates dill (but loves ranch dressing?). We were both surprised by how much this recipe tasted like the real thing!

This week's experiment comes with two big thumbs up from B! They also come from a craving for Chinese food mixed with frustration over not being able to find egg-free wonton or spring roll wrappers. I tried Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Talin with no success. I was too tired to try La Montanita Co-Op or any of the smaller Asian markets this afternoon, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Until I find them, I'll have to make my own. I considered making Chinese pancakes and using them to make spring rolls, but decided against it because they're labor intensive. You can, however, freeze them easily for later use, so I probably will still make some soon. Browsing the web for easier options, I came across a recipe for pierogi from Post Punk Kitchen. Mmmm....pierogi! B and I are both of Polish descent, and I squealed when I saw this recipe. I'll definitely make these for Christmas Eve dinner with B's family this year. Polish Catholic Christmas Eve meals are always vegetarian, but I'll be skipping the quiche this year. These savory dumplings will be an excellent accompaniment to my mom-in-law's sweet and sour borscht.

This pierogi dough looked perfect for potstickers. If you think about it, pierogi and potstickers are pretty similar to begin with. They're both dumplings that are first boiled or steamed and then pan-fried for a crispy exterior. It always amazes me which foods seem to be universally delicious regardless of which culture or region they come from. FRIED DOUGH --> DELICIOUS. I'm pretty sure science can support this as fact.

Note about the filling: For B, I replaced half the tofu with an equal amount of ground pork to make a more traditional ma po-style dish since he's still learning to like tofu. Replacing some of the tofu with mushrooms would also be a delicious (and meat-free) alternative to a tofu-only dumpling.

Another note about the filling: You'll notice that the recipe as-is makes entirely too much filling. I'm saving the unused filling to make fried rice later in the week. If you don't want extra, then cut the filling recipe in half.

A partial mise-en-place for the filling - the tofu was still pressing!

Tofu and Veggie Potstickers - Makes 18-20 dumplings
For the filling:
  • canola oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 16-oz block firm tofu, pressed and crumbled
  • 1 carrot, minced or shredded
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly (reserve 1 tbsp for sauce)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
For the dough:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, separated, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3/4 tsp salt
For the dipping sauce
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp scallion, sliced thinly

Heat 2 tbsp canola oil plus 1 tsp sesame oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Saute the carrot and celery for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger, and saute for another minute. Place the veggie mix in a bowl and set aside. Add another 2 tbsp of canola oil to the pan and fry the tofu. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tofu to the veggie mix, and then add the rest of the filling ingredients. Set filling aside to cool while you make the dough.

Add the water and oil to a mixing bowl. Stir in two cups of flour and the salt. This should create a sticky wet dough. Dust your work surface with flour and place the dough on it. Add an additional flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading the portion into the dough. Continue adding 1/4 cup portions of flour and kneading until you have a smooth, elastic, not too sticky dough. You may find your dough at the right consistency with slightly more or slightly less than 3 cups of flour total.

Flour + water + oil + love = dough

Roll the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a large glass or cookie cutter (I used the lid to a large drink shaker) to cut dough circles. Then roll each circle to 1/8 in thickness to create a large dumpling. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into each circle and pinch closed. You may need to use a little warm water on your fingers while you pinch them to get them to stick. 

Dumplings! I need to work on my folding technique...

Add water to a large skillet (with a lid) until it is about 1/2 inch deep. Heat the water on medium-low and add the dumplings. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is cooked. As an optional step, you can briefly fry the steamed dumplings in a little canola oil to crisp them up. I shouldn't call this optional makes them extra delicious! Remember what I said earlier about fried dough?

While the dumplings steam, mix all the dipping sauce ingredients together. Serve the dumplings immediately with the sauce on the side. 

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