“Family” Fun with Homemade Dumplings

May 10, 2011 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Question: What does family mean to you? Are you from a big family or a small family? What do your family get-togethers look like?

I have a tiny family. Think I am kidding? I have one cousin – no joke. I like it that way, though, because I am really close with my extended family. The nine of us on my mom’s side of the family grew up taking vacations together, celebrating birthdays and holidays, and still get together at least every other year for “big” reunions. This year, I look forward to our Memorial Day weekend together, knowing it will be filled with food, laughter, and great memories.

With such a small extended family, however, my definition of what family means has broadened. Some of the people I am closest to are not my family at all. Take my Boston family, for example, with whom I shared a potluck Easter dinner. On Sunday, I was lucky enough to hang out with my adopted aunt and cousins for Mother’s Day. Aunt Wendy is mom’s best friend from elementary school. They grew up together, were in each other’s weddings, and kept in touch despite living in different states after college. When I came up to Boston for college, mom put me in touch with Wendy in case I ever needed anything. Throughout my first year, they took me out to Chinatown, introduced me to hidden places in Back Bay, and invited me for home-cooked meals on several occasions. Aunt Wendy made sure I always had somewhere to go for holidays, and really helped me feel comfortable in my transition into Boston. After my second or third year here and our continued dinners together, the kids got tired of explaining who I was to their friends. They started introducing me as their cousin, and it has just sort of stuck. I am honored to be a part of their family, and love every moment I get to spend with them!

After giving my cousin a brief tour of BU, we picked up some dumpling wrappers, snacks, and other random ingredients at Super 88, the Asian supermarket in Packard’s corner in Boston. We drove back out to their house to prepare a Mother’s Day feast, and on the way I managed to commission two projects from my talented cousins. Chad, who was touring BU, is a budding artist, and I may have convinced him to paint some new art for my apartment this summer. Lizzie, a costume enthusiast, is an excellent seamstress, and I discussed ideas for a homemade 50’s inspired apron with her. You can check out some of her projects here. I think Lizzie is more likely to pull through on her end of the deal, so by the end of the summer I may have a new apron to show off!

We prepared a feast of steamed crab legs and homemade dumplings, enjoyed with a glass of a great local white wine from Dartmouth, MA that Aunt Wendy picked up at the farmer’s market. The crab legs are really simple – just steam for 7 minutes or so, and then serve with melted butter and lemon juice. Crab legs are really sweet and tender, and these legs were gigantic, which made for an easier time with shell cracking. Dumplings are a little more time-consuming to make, but still come together quickly (especially with three sets of hands working!) and are well worth the effort.

To make dumplings, begin by mixing about a pound of ground meat (we used turkey, but chicken or pork are excellent also) with 2-3 cups of chopped bok choy, an egg, and a splash of soy sauce. For the chopped bok choy, I usually use mostly leaves, but do finely chop some of the white stalk for added texture. In these dumplings, I also added some sliced green onions – a new addition that turned out to be excellent!

While you are making this mixture, start a pot of boiling water on the stove. Begin filling the dumpling wrappers (the best ones are found in Asian grocery stores – my aunt tried a supermarket dumpling wrapper after I taught her this recipe a few years ago with sub par results.) It is important not to overstuff the wrappers, or they will break or not seal well. Another trick to getting a good seal on the wrappers is to wet the edges slightly with water. This will help them bond together. To get a scalloped appearance around the edge, simply press firmly around the edges without overlapping. You can also create a folding pattern, but this has increased my exploded dumpling ratio in the past, so I tend not to get too fancy. If you have leftover filling at the end, save it and add to some rice to make a quick fried rice lunch the next day. Waste not, want not!

Put the dumplings in the boiling water and cook for about 5-7 minutes. They will float immediately, so this is not a good test of when they are done. You can cook them in batches and keep them in a covered container after they have been drained. When ready to serve, heat a small amount of peanut oil in a skillet. Add the dumplings and pan fry for about a minute or two on each side to give them a golden brown color and slight crunch. This step is optional, but really makes the dumplings much more flavorful, and also gives them a much better texture. They come out slightly crunchy and nutty instead of a little soggy. You can serve them with extra soy sauce, and would probably be great with Sriracha if you like a little kick!

Turkey and Bok Choy Dumplings

1 lb ground turkey (or pork or chicken)

1 large head of bok choy (about 2-3 cups chopped)

1 egg

splash of soy sauce (more or less to taste)

7 green onions, white parts only

package of dumpling or wonton wrappers

peanut oil

Combine the turkey, chopped bok choy, egg, soy sauce, and sliced onion in a large mixing bowl. Fill the dumplings and fold in half. Use water to form a tight seal around the edge. Boil for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Then, pan fry the dumplings in small amount of peanut oil before serving to create a golden crust.

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