Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chonsa dance reunion: making mandu

We all have food memories. For me, mandu (Korean dumplings) is one of those foods that that brings up a flood of strong, vivid memories:

* Sitting in the cafeteria at Minnehaha Academy for Korean Culture Camp in third grade tasting the crunchy, savory dumplings for the first time.

* Staying late after Korean school on the days when the ajummas came to the church and cooked Korean food.

* 7th grade, in a friend's kitchen trying to fold the triangle dumplings for the first time.

Korean cooking has long been a social activity for me -- I learned how to cook Korean with my friends from my dance group.

Four of us met up this weekend at my place and mandu seemed like the perfect option -- we hadn't made it together in years.

Everyone's mandu filling is a little different. I made this one after referring to a few recipes online. This was a great chance to use my stand mixer to make blend the beef with the tofu. We made a double batch, so I had to make the filling in batches.

Mandu can be steamed or fried. We steamed some of them, but they kept sticking to the parchment and falling apart, so stuck with frying them in the wok. 

Lunch! We stopped midway and munched on the mandu with big steamy bowls of tteok guk -- perfect for a chilly fall day.

In all, my friends made about 200 dumplings today! They each took home bags full, I'm bringing some to a Halloween party tonight, and a bag or so went into the freezer.

RECIPE: Mandu filling
(Makes about 100 dumplings)

1 package ground beef
1 package medium firm tofu, drained and squeezed of liquids
3-5 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 TBS garlic powder)
1 inch piece ginger, minced ((or 1 TBS ginger powder)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp sugar
1/2 small cabbage, shredded finely
1 onion, diced finely
1 bunch scallions, diced
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c rice wine

Push cabbage and onions through a food processor fitted with a shredding disc. Set aside

Combine meat and tofu until well blended. I used a stand mixer for this. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, and pepper.

Stir in shredded vegetables until fully combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together liquids and pour over meat to season.

Drop rounded teaspoons into wonton wrappers.

Brush edges with beaten egg and press firmly to seal.

Fry on both sides until golden brown, or steam 8-10 minutes until meat is cooked through.

**Update: my house smells like fried mandu, all the way out to the front hallway. Some people might find this kind of disgusting, but it's a huge comfort to me for two reasons: a) the nostalgic reasons referenced above and b) it smells *exactly* like the Korean church used to on mandu day. This tells me my recipe and methods are relatively close to the real deal!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let's lunch! Grilled Cheese edition

So last week I received a bit of a shock when the aforementioned Cheryl Tan tweeted me the following:

@emmacarew No problem! Love your blog. Say, wld you like to join my #letslunch group? We post lunch once a mth. Doing grilled cheese this wkless than a minute ago via web

I had seen her #letslunch tweets previously -- she and a group of farflung lunch enthusiasts all make the same thing for lunch then blog about it. And she invited ME to join this illustrious group.

So, here we are, Friday the 15th and I was not only thrilled to join, but couldn't be happier to start with one of my very favorite sandwiches: grilled cheese.

I don't normally like to mess with the classics, so this was a fairly straight forward take on grilled cheese.

I used 9-grain bread from Great Harvest -- left over from my trip to Des Moines. Smoked gouda and provolone cheeses, and finished with a brush of truffle oil -- a little tip I've been a fan over ever since the pilot episode of Gossip Girl.

Were I to do this again, I would have taken the time to shred the gouda. It took a long time to melt in these little slices.

I always start the bread in melted butter (both sides). Brushing with truffle oil gives it a nice nutty, dark flavor, and also some nice extra crunch.

Ok, guilty admission time:I planned a potluck at work today, so this was actually my breakfast this morning. BUT -- I maintain it was probably lunchtime *somewhere* out there.

I can't wait to see what the others post for their #letslunch. I'll update with links out to them as I find them.

Cheryl Tan, in New York: Cheddar and blue cheese with Asian pears and rosemary honey
Linda, in St Louis: oven baked grilled cheese
Chris Perrin, I think in Kansas: 2 options, grilled cheese with black forest ham and pickles AND buffalo chicken grilled cheese
Cathy Shambley, in California: breadless grilled halloumi with bacon and apples 
Danielle, in the Bay Area: open face "mousetrap" sandwiches
Ellise Pierce, in France: grilled brie, pear and prosciutto

Chocolate cake

My friend Karyn is getting married next summer, and in addition to being a bridesmaid, I also jumped at the opportunity to supply the cake.

On a recent trip down to visit her, we took our first stab at trying to figure out what she wants. We made Ina Garten's chocolate cake, chocolate butter cream and a peanut butter mousse to fill it.

Today I put together my second attempt for a colleague's birthday in the office. I tried a simple raspberry creme for the filling and a fudgy frosting I found at Serious Eats.

The filling is so simple: make a raspberry puree, and fold it gently into some whipped cream, then chill.

The icing, I definitely won't be using again. It was so sticky and thick and hard to spread on the cake. It was especially a challenge with the raspberry filling.

Mostly, I ended up icing the top cake and letting the rest sort of swirl down the sides. Let's call it an artistic effect.

I love the raspberry creme as a filling. And I think it will be awesome to go as a cupcake filler too!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dim Sum swap party

This weekend I hosted three friends for a dim sum swap party. Each of us brought a different dim sum recipe, we helped each other fill and steam the dumplings, then ate a bunch, and swapped.

It was a great way to spend the day cooking with friends, and we each got to take home bags filled with dumplings to be frozen.

I took a first run at using Andrea Nguyen's basic dumpling dough, and used some tips from her website. I've been hesitant to use boiling water dough in the past (it's so hot!) but Andrea gives tips for making it in the food processor, which allows some of the heat to escape before you have to handle it.

The filling I chose is a recipe adapted from a high school friend Ali. Pork and leek are fairly common dumplings, I think. I swapped in a pound of turkey to try and make them a little healthier.

The party was a huge success - we had egg tarts, the pork dumplings, veggie dumplings and shrimp siu mai. I also made a quick version of the Momofuku steamed pork buns (which I've made before using David Chang's original recipe).

Thanks to a post by Cheryl Tan, a food writer/blogger and AAJA member whom I greatly admire, about making her mother's kong bak pau I learned about the existence of frozen steam buns sold at Asian grocery stores. I found them at Shuang Her on University Av. at $2.45 for a dozen.

Next month, we're hoping to tackle tapas and small plates for our group cooking. :)

dreaming? of my happily full freezer with bags of homemade dumplings

RECIPE: Pork dumpling filling (adapted from Ali & Matt)
2-3 lbs ground pork (I substituted 1 lb ground turkey in this recipe)
1 two-inch piece of ginger, minced (about 2-3 TBS)
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2-3 TBS)
2 small leeks (or 1 large one), minced
2 bunches green onions, the darkest green parts, chopped thinly
salt, pepper 1 tsp each
1 TBS sugar
3 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS sesame oil

Mix meats together with chopped ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the seasonings and liquid ingredients.

Pour seasoning over the meat and combine thoroughly. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour, then use to fill dumplings.

Steam or fry until cooked through.