Friday, February 8, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ Culebra

Before I go where I'm headed with this post, I have to say this morning is one of the most beautiful mornings I've known on Culebra. The air is, and I mean this literally, crisp, with that 'just after a little rain' clean feel and smell. You could come pretty close to eating this morning for breakfast and be full until night. If you aren't here, I wish you were.

Where I'm headed is Sunday, the date for the Chinese New Year and all of its celebrations, many of which traditionally center on food. I won't be able to drop by  the Chinese restaurant (and casino) for steamed dumplings - because they don't make steamed dumplings, that's why - so I'll just have to make them myself. This recipe includes the whole shebang, from the wrapper dough to the dipping sauce. I will happily admit that I am NOT going to make the wrappers, because I know for a fact there are wrappers at Milka's (as of last time I looked, so they probably won't be there today).

How to shape your dumplings? They can be folded over with the edges crimped or made round, with the top twisted shut. Fancy or plain, that your choice. Here are some images to get your imagination revved. Don't be afraid.

Pretty cool fancy style by Oxo
There are a few ways to cook dumplings - steamed, boiled or fried. I like steamed, when they are done correctly. Now I have to do them correctly. I don't have a bamboo steamer, but I do have one of those metal petal steamer baskets, the not fancy one. Side note: This is a really handy item to have in your kitchen, taking up hardly any room (big point for me) and extremely versatile. I've used it in skillets wide open for fish and asparagus and in pots semi-folded for everything from shrimp to broccoli. You can get a lot fancier with a steamer, and have more options with the stacked type, but for me, this works. And they are really inexpensive, if you don't buy the fancy one!

This is the dumpling ingredient list for the recipe link above.

1/2 lb ground pork
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, finely-chopped
1/4 cup peas (thawed if frozen)
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (optional)

No garlic? No egg? No mushrooms? No...okay, the thing is, Chinese dumpling ingredients, just like the shape itself, is sort of like potato salad. Lots of variations and I'm sure most of them are good. Take what you like and leave the rest. Here are some more recipe ideas. One of them is pretty complicated in both time and labor, but I like it the best. Will I make pig skin jelly? Maybe when I'm in Florida with my brother, but not this time. Check it out, it might be just the challenge you are looking for. All I know is, I'm going to give dumplings a try. Yes, I'll let you know what happens.

This is my kitchen, all 8 1/2 feet of it.

For about 9 years, I didn't have a regular oven; the toaster oven was perfect and all I needed (pre-bread baking life). It's the only Black & Decker 'tool' I would ever recommend and even though I love the little gas-fueled oven I have now, I can't make myself give up the toaster oven. Yet. Because, as you can see, anything that takes up a lot of room must be absolutely necessary to my cooking life. Like a dehydrator and a yogurt maker. 

Even though there is actually room on the top corner shelf, the KitchenAid mixer is under that black side shelf, on the floor. Next to the cat food bowl. Yes, it's covered...the mixer, not the bowl, even though I don't use it down there, the mixer I mean. I'm not that crazy. It's easier to lift it up to the counter than take it down from the shelf. The cat does use the bowl on the floor. We like things easy here. Easy is good except when it's not.

Where was I? Right, Chinese New Year on Sunday. Dumplings. Fun. Because, really, whether you are or are not Chinese, it is a great holiday to celebrate. Especially if you like Chinese food. And sake. And good luck. And having a good time. It is really Chinese (because everything from China isn't to be shunned just the junk that takes jobs away and is made to be thrown away after a couple of uses stuff).

Buen produmplingvecho!

There were just enough raindrops left on the leaves for this banana quit to take a bath. Or she was just distracting me from her nest very close by. Bird nest soup...lucky for her, that sounds disgusting to me.

Have a festive Friday! Do something fervently frivolous.

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