Thursday, March 15, 2012

You win some, you destroy some.

I don't know how it happened in my culinary life that the first time I tried stuffing filling into sheets of dough it wasn't for an Italian dish. I am half-Italian, so ravioli or tortellini would have made sense.

But instead my first attempt was potstickers, something decidedly Asian. Although if Marco Polo really did bring pasta back to Italy from China...maybe it does make sense.

Anyway, the back story: I "discovered" potstickers about a year ago, and made a habit of buying them whenever I saw them in the freezer section. This was during my undergrad days, and my grocery store then always had them. The Kroger where I shop these days, however, does not, so for a while I lived with no potstickers.

And then, I discovered Trader Joe's, a magical store that carries not one, but FOUR different types of potstickers (or gyoza, as they are labelled there). So for a while I bought the pork or chicken potstickers and was contented. And then, Lent happened. No more pork, no more chicken. My choices were narrowed to Shrimp or Thai Vegetable, so I got the vegetable ones.

Trader Joe, I was disappointed. The Thai vegetables were mushy, the wrappers were pre-browned for some odd reason, and I still don't know what makes them "Thai." I gave them a chance, but ultimately this is not a solution.

Which brings us to Wednesday's interesting adventure. I typically don't go "off book" on foods I've never made before, but this was an exception. I'm not going to say these potstickers are authentic or correct or anything like that. I mean, I had to use wonton wrappers (more on that later). These are borne of the mind of a finals week graduate student. Take them for what you will.

Vegetable Potstickers


1 small package of coleslaw mix (shredded broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage)
8 white mushrooms, cleaned
1 tbsp minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 egg, beaten
1 package (40-count) wonton wrappers (get potsticker/gyoza wrappers if you can)


1.  Chop coleslaw mix roughly in batches. Chop mushrooms into small dice.
Just a rough chop on the coleslaw, so you don't end up
with huge pieces!
2.  Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add coleslaw, mushrooms, garlic, and seasonings. Stir to coat with oil. Cover the pan for 1-2 minutes so that the vegetables steam, and then saute for another 1-2 minutes.
Cook the veggies until crisp-tender
3.  Remove pan from heat and place the vegetable mixture in a strainer over a bowl. Allow it to strain and cool for about half an hour.
Strain the extra liquid out of the filling.
4.  Taste the vegetables and add additional seasonings if needed. Press out as much liquid as possible. Beat the egg in a mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mixing thoroughly.

5.  Prepare your assembly area. Have a bowl of water (for sealing), a damp paper towel (to cover unused wrappers), a plate, a spoon or fork, and a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper ready to go.
Not pictured: a cup of water for wetting the skins.
6.  Take each wonton wrapper and lay it on the plate. Use your fingers to spread water along the edges of the wrapper. Use the spoon or fork to place ONE teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the edges and pinch them together (pictures below).
Wet the edges of the wrapper and place a spoonful of filling
in the center.
The easiest way to do it with the wonton wrappers is to just make a triangle-shaped potsticker:
Fold corner to corner...
...seal one edge...

Press out as much air as you can while sealing the other side.
 Or, try the pyramid shape:
Fold the top corners together just like for the triangle shape.
Then, fold the side corners in one by one.
You should end up with something that looks like this!
I even tried crimping a few like "real" potstickers. They came out pretty ugly, so I only did a couple!
Not my best work.
7.  Place finished potstickers on the baking sheet. When it is full, place the sheet in the freezer (you will probably need to have two sheets available). Continue forming the potstickers until the wrappers or filling runs out.
On the plus side, these potstickers are one of the most
photogenic foods I've ever blogged about!
Cooking station. Yes, I ate all of those. It was a long
cooking session.
8.  To cook the potstickers, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan with a lid over medium heat. Place the dumplings in the hot oil and cook for about two minutes (until the bottoms brown). Reduce the heat, add about a quarter of a cup of water, and cover. Steam until done. (And remove promptly!) The first batch I steamed for over two minutes, which was wayyyyy too long and resulted in a bowl of destroyed dumplings:
If this happens... just slosh some soy sauce on top
and call it good. That's what I did.
The  second time, I steamed them for only ONE minute, and most of them came out with no trouble. Some even had crispy bottoms still! Even so, wonton wrappers are not the same as potsticker wrappers. They are thinner and thus cook faster (which is nice), but they don't crisp up the same way that potstickers do (and they seem to lose the crisp pretty quickly). I'm not saying it's good or bad; it just is.
One of the few that came out perfectly steamed
AND nicely browned on the bottom.
Alternatively, place dumplings in a microwave-safe bowl with a tablespoon or two of water. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave 30 seconds to a minute. While not quite as tasty, this method at least kept them all in one piece!
The microwave was kind to this little guy.

So, while I didn't succeed at producing perfect potstickers with wonton wrappers (I don't think that's possible), they're still better than the Thai vegetable things that are still sitting in my freezer. Why?

Fresh, tasty, and non-mushy veggies!
The filling is the real winner here. The seasoning may not be authentic, but the vegetables are just the right texture--soft, with just a little bit of bite left to them. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe again sometime with a different mixture of veggies and seasonings...right after I finish all the ones left in my freezer!

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