Sunday, June 14, 2009

June Daring Cooks challenge

My very first Daring Cook challenge, chinese dumplings or pot stickers hosted by Jen from "use real butter". These were great I really enjoyed making these. I made a chicken version served with a soy ginger garlic sauce.

The pastry was easy to make and I had no problems rolling it out thin or pleating the dumplings.
I had some friends over to help eat the dumplings and sadly there was no left overs.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork-i used chicken mince
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch


shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side

Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi

The first Daring Cooks Challenge was in April but I have only joined the Daring Cooks for the May challenge, stay tuned for that one. But since the April challenge looked so good I decided to have a go. It was Ricotta Gnocchi. I have only ever made potato gnocchi which is tasty but very heavy. This appealed to me as I love ricotta, I am interested in cheese making and I was able to make my own fresh ricotta. It was sooo good, light and delicate. I made a traditional pesto to use as the sauce. Unsurprising as it may seem there was none left over.

I drained the ricotta for about 6 hours and thought it would be dry enough but needed to add a little extra egg to make the dough stable and not fall apart while cooked it.

This is the homemade ricotta draining in muslin cloth.

The dough is very soft and needs a light touch to form them.
Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1

1. If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe,
there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but
it's worth it.
2. Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet,
it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
3. When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if
they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
4. If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If
you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
5. For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

Equipment required:
• Sieve
• Cheesecloth or paper towels
• Large mixing bowl
• Rubber spatula
• Tablespoon
• Baking dish or baking sheet
• Wax or parchment paper
• Small pot
• Large skillet
• Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (½ ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few
pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi):
Preparing the ricotta.
If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook,
Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take
a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of
dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too
wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels
and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up
to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in
cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a
bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended
that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi):

Making the gnocchi dough.
To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta
in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large
spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the
ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a
strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.
Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.
Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not,
just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.
Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re
not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.
Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.
Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and
fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water
generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi
that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too
damp. In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour
that’s ½ an inch deep. With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.
At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour
covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour.
Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval
as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an
oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.
Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the
top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until
it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes. If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy,
add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in.
Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.
Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a
time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as
you coat them. Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour. You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the
skillet and set aside.
In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts
of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits).
You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and
damage each other.
Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.
Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them
for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).
When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them
to finish cooking.
Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times
as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat.
Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.
With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop
into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want
to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion,
sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are
delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your
chance to go nuts.

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you
don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are
formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the
freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a
plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen
gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray.
Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.