Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Miso Happy

Dumplings are awesome. I like every incarnation of them, large and small, crispy and soft, and everything in between. There's a reason that every country on every continent has their own version, from naked gnudi to fluffy potato perogi. Like all amazing food that's popular these days, dumplings the world over began as peasant food, filled with leftovers, cheap cuts of meat and affordable roots and vegetables. Some of them don't have fillings at all, but are instead self-contained balls of dough, corn or matzoh, slowly swollen and puffed in hot liquid. I'm an equal opportunity food lover and enjoy these exposed dumplings just as much as their conservative counterparts.

But of all the shapes they take and all the myriad ways they can make it to my plate, nothing makes me happier than finding dumplings in my soup. I still remember taking refuge on cold winter days in a tiny noodle soup shop downtown. The servers spoke only Chinese so I pointed to a strangers heaping bowl of soup and asked for the same. I expected to find bok choy, scallions and some kind of meat, but much to my surprise there were tiny pork and shrimp dumplings tucked under my noodles. It was like finding the Christmas stash, only these gifts were meaty and wrapped in dough. I've learned to make my own noodle soups and classic Cantonese style dumplings since then, but recently I've started experimenting with new soups, and I think more interestingly, new dumplings.

I had an obscenely large sweet potato leftover from a shoot I styled recently and didn't have the faintest idea what to do with it, so I took a look at my recipe ideas list (I keep a list on my fridge of recipes I'd like to make, or of perishable ingredients I need to use pronto). On my list were a cornucopia of dumpling ideas, all using delicious springtime ingredients like fresh peas and asparagus. It was clear that I hadn't given any thought to applying winter vegetables to dumplings, and my goodness, what a great way to use up these winter roots and veggies! So, I took my sweet potato and sauteed it with spring onions, garlic and red pepper flake for a little heat. I used some of my leftover miso paste to make a quick, salty miso soup that contrasted well with the sweet pockets of bright orange dumplings. It was a delicious, warm, and believe it or not, incredibly refreshing meal. It also made for a nice, light dinner (which doesn't always happen in the winter when I crave comfort food), and made me realize that I can always use dumplings when I have leftover ingredients. Here's how to make them for yourself:

Miso Soup With Sweet Potato Dumplings
serves 4

6 cups of water
4 1/2 Tbsp light miso paste (shiro miso)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large or 2 small spring onions, finely sliced
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/4 cup sherry or shiao hsing wine
3 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
juice of 1/2 a lemon
16-20 dumpling skins

1. Bring water to a boil and add miso paste, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir to combine and keep at a low simmer until the dumplings are ready.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil, butter, sweet potato, spring onions, garlic and red pepper flake in a non-stick skillet. Cook on medium-low heat until sweet potatoes are halfway cooked through. The scallions burn easily, so bring the heat down if they start browning.

3. Turn heat to low and add sherry or shiao hsing wine and soy sauce. Cover and allow to steam until sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through. Remove from the heat and mash sweet potato mixture (you could use a food processor, food mill or potato ricer, but I went with the old fashioned potato masher for easy clean-up).

4. Fill dumpling skins with 3/4 teaspoon of the mixture. Wet edges and seal by gathering the edge and lightly twisting it while you press it together. Drop dumplings in boiling miso soup and cook until skin is soft and slightly translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges and extra sliced scallion. Enjoy!


1 comment:

wendy said...

beautiful! I love dumplings too, but have never attempted to make them. I think you've inspired me!