Lightly fried & crispy on the outside, soft and savory on the inside, dunked in that extra tasty soy sauce you get in restaurants that you can never find at the grocery store. Excellent.
But I never thought to actually make them myself. They had never even registered on my food-radar, until now. And that’s saying something because as you may have guessed by now, food is a very big part of my life. I spend many of my waking moments thinking and talking about food.
For example, the first thing my friend Casandra (and also my assistant at work) and I say to each other every morning is, “What’s for lunch?”.
God love her, she is just like me when it comes to food.
We then jump on our company intranet and check out the lunch menu for the day. For the next 2 hours we can barely think of anything other than Rose’s teriyaki salmon, jasmine rice and bok choy just waiting for us in the café. Er, I mean…..we focus and work really hard until the clock strikes 12 and then go over to the café to grab lunch.
Lunch! Isn’t it the best?
And then throughout the day we talk about what we’d made for dinner the night before, what we’re going to be cooking that coming weekend, what we’d love to make someday. Casandra and her husband do a lot of braising over at their house. They put things like chicken, beans, tomatoes, onions, thyme, allspice and fresh ginger in a Dutch oven and let it cook all day. I always imagine her house smelling delicious. Every day she tells me about some version of this slow-cooked deliciousness, the meat falling off the bone, the spices marinating the beans and vegetables to a taste explosion that only 8 hours of low heat provides.
And then I describe in great detail all the things you read about here at littleclove.
For example, potstickers.
The Chinese word for these cute little fried dumplings is “goutie”, which literally means “pan stick”, and they are known in America simply as “potstickers”. I’m assuming this is because they sometimes stick to the pot (pan) when you’re frying them. I love that.
A few weeks ago I came across a recipe on my friend Dimity’s lovely food blog, Three To One. It was for Easy Ham and Onion Dumplings in Cheesy Garlic Sauce. Dim calls what she makes dumplings. She uses leftover ham and some onions to stuff them with, wraps them in won ton wrappers and then fries them up. WOW! I would have never thought to do that. Well, I read this and immediately thought, potstickers!
Potstickers are dumplings, right? Speaking of dumplings, if you think about it, potstickers, pierogi, ravioli…there are so many versions of dumplings.
I immediately started coming up with potsticker recipes in my head. I thought about mixing ground chicken and scallions, maybe some fresh ginger and then stuffing it into a won ton wrapper and making my own potstickers.
And since I am always on the lookout for a new chicken recipe, and Dim made her dumplings sound so quick and easy, I had to try this.
She’d even used leftovers, too. LOVE.
A few days later as I was grocery shopping, I happened to spot won ton wrappers and knew it was time to experiment. I picked them up along with some ground chicken and headed home to make them for us that night.
I knew that I had some ginger in my freezer.
Have I told you about freezing ginger yet? It’s usually sold as one large giant root. For most recipes that call for ginger, you only need a tablespoon or two and then you are left with a giant hunk of the stuff. I put this in a ziplock bag and throw it in the freezer. It keeps really well, and then you can just pull it out anytime you need it, and it’s ready to grate, even frozen.
Speaking of ginger, Casandra and I were just talking about how fresh ginger is such a great addition to so many dishes. Her husband Ian is Jamaican, and when his mother came to Chicago for a visit and cooked for them, she started every dish with a Jamaican mirepoix of sorts that always included fresh ginger. Ginger is part of the flavor base in Jamaican cooking. Interesting!
I picked up that little gem the other day while having our 4pm coffee and waiting for client approval.
In case you’re wondering, mirepoix (pronounced MEER-PWAH) is the French name for a combination of onions, carrots and celery. Either raw, roasted or sautéed with butter, mirepoix is the flavor base for many French dishes.
In other cuisines, this is also referred to as “a trinity”, 3 specific ingredients combined together to become the distinctive flavor base of specific cuisines.
Greek: lemon juice, garlic and oregano
Chinese: scallions, ginger and garlic
Indian: garlic, ginger and onion
Italian: (also known as “soffritto”) carrots, onion and celery, the same ingredients as mirepiox. Another trinity more characteristic of Italian cooking is tomato, garlic and basil.
Lebanese: garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
Mexican: the combination of 3 types of dried chili peppers-ancho, pasiilla and guajillo are referred to as a “holy trinity” and are used frequently in many traditional recipes.
Cuban: garlic, bell peppers and Spanish onion
Cajun and Louisiana Creole: the original “holy trinity” of onions, bell peppers and celery
Japanese: dashi, mirin and shoyu (soy sauce)
Korean: doenjang, godhujang and soy sauce
Spanish: (also known as “sofrito”) garlic, onions and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.
Thai: galangal, kaffir lime (leaves and rind) and lemon grass.
West African: chili peppers (generally habaneros or scotch bonnets), onions and tomatoes are an almost sacred combination of ingredients.
I just find this stuff really interesting, so I thought I’d share what I’d learned from the folks at Wikipedia. And it’s great to keep this stuff in mind when coming up with your own recipes.
Somehow I knew to mix ginger and scallions with my chicken for the potstickers. Little did I know it was a the Chinese “trinity”. I do now.
Anyway, Hadley loves potstickers, and she especially loves dunking them into soy sauce. This kid definitely has my salt-lovin’ palate. Olives, sharp cheese, soy sauce…..she can’t get enough.
I knew this could possibly be one more thing to add to our quick and easy weeknight dinner rotation of pizza, pasta and #45 broccoli & chicken in oyster sauce from Opart Thai.
Lately our weekday dinners have suffered even more because she has taken another stance with chicken. Last Thursday, I had just put a plateful of homemade panko-crusted chicken tenders with honey mustard dipping sauce down in front of her when she proclaimed, “I don’t eat chicken anymore.”, with a confidence way beyond her 10 years.
This is sort of infuriating to me, since she has also taken a similar stance with beef and pork.
Her reason this time being, “that gross fatty hard stuff on the edges makes me choke”. Yes, I have seen this Oscar-worthy choke scene many times as she gags on thyme and lemon roasted chicken, coughs up breaded steak, and runs to the bathroom covering her mouth upon learning that the cut up piece of meat on her plate that she just took a bit of was a (mouth-watering) pork chop.
So with high hopes of making something new and tasty and not gag-inducing, I jumped in with both feet, thinking I could sneak the ground chicken into a soy-sauce soaked dumpling!
Hadley and Katherine helped every step of the way, and we all had fun experimenting. Hadley didn’t even mention anything about the fact that there was chicken (God forbid) being stuffed inside of the won tons because she was having so much fun making them and folding them. It was like art class.
Things started out great.
I cooked the ground chicken until done in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. I threw in some chopped red onion, because that’s what I had. I wanted to use scallions and thought I had some, but did not, and then grated in some fresh ginger. I added a few splashes of soy sauce, tasted it and YUM! I added more ginger because I really do love that stuff.
Then came the cooking part. I wasn’t sure if I should boil them or fry them. The won ton wrappers are like pasta dough, so I thought boil, right?
They broke apart in seconds, but I did manage to salvage a few…
In all of my excitement, I forgot the fact that I had never actually made them before.
So I decided to fry what I had salvaged from the rolling boil to add some crispiness. Not entirely a disaster, because after her first bite Hadley said, “THESE ARE SO GOOD!”
The next day at work I mentioned this semi-kitchen disaster to Rose and she filled me in on the secret to making good potsticers. You fry them first on one side for a bit, and then add a small amount of water to the fry pan, cover it, and steam them a few minutes until done.
That makes complete sense, doesn’t it? And if I would have just went back to Dim’s original post about her dumplings and actually re-read how she made them, I would have known this all along.
I guess I was a little too excited with my own recipe and all.
Anyway, we made them again last Friday night (we decided to forgo pizza night) and they were delicious.
This time I used scallions instead of red onions, and used egg to seal the edges of the won ton instead of water, to help keep them together (thanks for that too, Rose!)
They were crispy and golden on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The scallions, fresh ginger and soy sauce were definitely a “holy trinity” combination for us. We dunked them into our favorite soy sauce with chopsticks and finished every last one of them.
The guotie (potsticker) is said to date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1280 A.D.) and it’s first mention in literature in ancient China reports them as being exceptionally good for the human soul.
My soul, for one, agrees.
Potstickers with Ground Chicken, Ginger and Scallions
Inspired by Dimity Jones
1 lb. fresh ground chicken
1 cup scallions, chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 tbsp soy sauce, plus more for dunking
3 tbsp vegetable oil
(1) package of fresh won ton wrappers
Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to a sauté pan. Add the ground chicken and cook until done (no more pink), about 12 minutes. Add the soy sauce and mix it up. Turn off the heat and add the scallions, and fresh ginger. Taste. Add more ginger, soy or scallions if you’d like.
Separate the wonton wrappers onto a flat surface. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk it up.
Scoop about a teaspoon of the ground chicken mixture onto each of the wonton wrappers. Trace around the edge of the wrapper so it’s wet and sticky with egg. Fold the wrapper in half and seal the edges. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a sauté pan and fry the potstickers for about 3 or 4 minutes on once side until browned. Add about ½ cup of water to the pan and put the lid on for another 5 minutes to steam them.
Serve with soy sauce for dunking and ground fresh chili paste, if you like them a little hot.