Wednesday, June 10, 2009

That's Just How We Roll

I've come to fill you in, dear reader, on the latest dinner that was shared by Around the Table, the fabulous gourmet cooking group I belong to. Some of you may recall how dramatic our little story was in the beginning, dealing with members that didn't cook well (at all), and our efforts to eject them from the group. I can now say that things are sailing along pretty smoothly. We've hit our stride and have been enjoying some really amazing dinners.

You can see below that the lovely Mallory created a most enchanting place for us to feast and converse in her exquisite backyard area. She garnished each place setting with a package of strawberry Pocki sticks and a little tiny journal with our Chinese calendar animal on it. These photos also belong to her, thanks lady! The night was quiet and the perfect temperature for socializing outdoors. It was the kind of moment than when it starts you know it's going to be a treat. And that's just what the night turned out to be.

The theme was Sushi-Japanese and I was dreaming of lots of ginger, garlic, and fingers crossed - no cilantro. Well, I got my dream and I didn't get any cilantro. We started the night off with Mango Lemonade cocktails and ended the evening with Lemon-Ginger Pound cake and a fire pit roaring with flames.

I drew the appetizer course and decided to make gyoza. Which I learned is pronounced, gyooza. I went with the traditional pork and cabbage filling. I was really surprised to learn how easy it is to make gyoza. I made my filling, bought a package of gyoza/potsticker wrappers from my local favorite Asian market and sat down on the sofa with ingredients at hand and quickly folded fifty gyoza while watching Sex and the City. They were good, a bit salty, I would reduce the amount of soy sauce in the recipe next time. Also, if you were going to make these regularly, I would think about using a lighter protein than pork. I liked them, it would just bit a lot if you had them more than once in awhile. I will add the recipe down at the bottom along with the recipe for...

Tempura! I don't necessarily mean to toot my own horn here, but this was some good tempura! I can't really take credit for it since I found the recipe for the tempura batter online. It was a very light, runny batter and produced a very thin, crackly coating on all of the vegetables. The recipe called for a really healthy amount of vodka and I know that had something to do with the amazing texture! The vegetables stayed crunchy for a really, really long time after coming out of the hot oil. I also had never made tempura and really loved the results. It was really hard to stop eating this. We all agreed that mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini made the best vegetable tempura. I made a dipping sauce for the both the tempura and gyoza using tamari, mirin, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, minced scallions, a a bit of sugar.

Next came a little palette cleanser of sorts from Laura, a seaweed and cucumber salad. There isn't a whole lot to say about this recipe, it was pretty tangy and salty from the Tamari. I liked it though. The cucumber pieces were my favorite, the nori got a bit mushy and reminded me of the algae you'd find in your local pond. It was simple and seemed very Japanese which was fitting.

After picking at our salads, we all headed into the kitchen to make sushi rolls. As the host, Mallory made the rice and had lots of fillings for us to work with. We had ingredients like crab, smoked salmon, unagi, and tempura prawns. We also used cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, and spicy mayonnaise. By this point we had a couple drinks and did quite a bit of joking around and giggling. You can imagine where the jokes headed. Anyway, we had a blissful time creating the rolls. The one below is Laurel's, it was the last one of the night to be made and was deemed the Everything Caterpillar roll. We all agreed that the sushi with most fillings always won out over the more simple and few fillings. We barely had room for anything else but you just can't end a dinner party without something sweet.

Laurel drew dessert and made a pound cake infused with lemon and ginger. She baked them off in ramekins and served them turned out with vanilla-roasted plums and homemade ginger ice cream. A lovely creation and concept, right? I think I would have liked the dish even better if the plums had been grilled and then drizzled with vanilla simple syrup perhaps. All in all though, it was a lovely finish to a lovely night.

Traditional Pork Gyozas
adapted from
makes about sixty

6 cups minced napa cabbage leaves, shredded
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt (no kosher as it is too coarse)
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
3/4 cup of garlic chives, minced. If not accessible, white and green parts of scallions can be used for substitute.
1/4 teaspoons white pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 package of gyoza wrapping skins
vegetable oil and water for cooking

1. Place the cabbage and salt in a colander in the sink and allow to sit for thirty minutes allowing the salt to extract water from the cabbage. After 30 minutes, using a wooden spatula or spoon, press the cabbage against the sides of the bowl to strain out all liquid, a paper towel would also work well here.
2. Place cabbage and pork along with all other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. Chill for thirty minutes up to a couple of hours.
3. Working quickly as to not let wrappers dry out, keep most of the wrappers covered in a Ziploc bag or damp cloth, put about a teaspoon or so of filling inside of wrapper. Run a finger dipped in water along 1/2 of the edge and carefully bring sides together, to create a traditional look pleat the edges a few times and be sure to seal well. It just takes a few tries to get it.
4. Chill or freeze until using. If freezing, you can freeze them first in a single layer and then dump them in a freezer-safe bag for later use.
5. Heat a few tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add about eight dumplings and allow to brown on the bottom. Once golden brown, quickly pour a 1/2 C. water or so over dumplings and cover with a tight fitting lid. Once the water evaporates the dumplings are ready to serve. Eat immediately and continue to cook dumplings as needed. Serve with your favorite soy dipping sauce. Enjoy!

Perfect Tempura Batter

1 qt. canola oil, for frying
3/4 C. AP flour
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/2 L. egg
1/2 C. vodka
1.2 C. seltzer water
salt to taste

1. Combine flour, starch, and salt in a medium bowl. Heat oil to the point of frying and in the mean time combine the egg, seltzer, and vodka in another small bowl. Wait to combine the wet and dry ingredients until the oil is just hot enough for frying. Be sure to not over mix the batter. Dip your favorite vegetables or seafood into batter and fry till just slightly golden. Carefully place tempura on a paper towel surface and serve with your favorite soy dipping sauce. Yum!


missmallory said...

I can't believe you got your post up before me!! I'm so lame! I've had pictures posted for days with no words! I'm a bad food blogger. . .

Great post, lovely roundup!
I wish I'd taken better pictures, but the numerous cocktails prevented me from keeping an open artists eye, at least that's what I'm telling myself!!

Fumi Matsubara said...

"sat down on the sofa with ingredients at hand and quickly folded fifty gyoza while watching Sex and the City".

YOU ARE A GYOZA PRO! I am calling you for help next time I am having people over!

Turkey is a great healthy alternative to pork. You can even combine the meat too :)

Glad the recipe worked out!

RachelleLouise said...

Thanks for popping over, Fumi! I had so much fun making these. Great recipe! : )