Friday, January 28, 2011


Enough with street food, it's time to get down to business.  While pondering the million dollar question today: just WHAT should I cook?! Thoughts ran through my head...osso bucco (too long, I like instant gratification), chili (not cold enough), aguachile (I need to veer away from Mexican cuisine), or....sea scallops.  It's been a while. And the thought process goes as such: scallops - vanilla - (oysters in champagne sauce?) - scallops in vanilla champagne sauce - with caviar.  I know, that's not a normal thought process for anyone, let alone myself, but it happened, and I was determined to MAKE that vision a reality.

Jimmy Schmidt, master chef from Detroit, alumnus of the London Chop House and Rattlesnake Club had this amazing dish - oysters in champagne sauce.  Absolutely epic - but then again, how can anything with cream, butter, and champagne be bad?  I can't recall the first time I had this, but my mother had cooked it a few times for New Year's Eve - quite a decadent dish, appropriate for such a fine holiday...or a regular Friday by my standards.  I must say, I JUST cooked this, and JUST ate it, and I'm purring. It is THAT good.

Caviar-Topped Sea Scallops in a Vanilla-Champagne Sauce (for two)
6 Sea Scallops
1 T unsalted butter
1 T minced cipolline onion 
1/2 c brut champagne
1/4 cup clam juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out - save the pod!
Massive amounts of some kind of caviar
Sea Salt
White Pepper
Olive Oil
Chives, 2 T minced and a few stalks for garnish

For the sauce, melt the butter in a saute pan over low heat.  Once the butter has melted, add in the minced onion.  Let the onion sweat, and cook until translucent.  

To this, add all but a few tablespoons of the champagne and the clam juice.  Raise the heat and allow this to reduce by half. Once reduced, add in the cream and the scraped vanilla pod.  Stir occasionally and allow to reduce again a bit.  Once the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon - and the sauce doesn't budge when you drag a finger through it - season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of white pepper, and strain through a sieve into a small sauce pan. Stir in some of the vanilla beans, set aside, and keep warm.

For the scallops, pat dry and remove the 'foot' if it's still there. 

evil devil foot.
This is a tough portion of the scallop so be sure to remove it! Sprinkle generously with salt.  Heat a saute pan over medium-high to high heat and swirl in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is shimmering, set in the scallops.  Allow to cook for only a minute or so, until the bottom has a nice golden crust on it and is still a bit rare in the center.  Remove the scallops from the the pan and set on a paper towel so they aren't overly oily.  

Stir in a tablespoon or so of the champagne into the sauce to thin it a bit.  In a shallow bowl or plate, pour in just enough of the sauce to cover the bottom of the serving plate.  Place three scallops in the center of the sauce.

Spoon as much caviar as you want on top of each scallop, and sprinkle the minced chive over top.  

If you have pieces of edible gold, now is the time to sprinkle it everywhere (KIDDING. maybe.)

ENJOY!  I would recommend having a glass of champagne with this to cut through the richness of the sauce - it really goes perfectly.  It's delicate, sweet, buttery and delicious.  The crust on the scallop gives the dish a nice crunch, as does the caviar, along with an added sea saltiness, crunch and cooling effect.



Thursday, January 27, 2011

i'm on a roll - with tacos

I think my brain works kind of like those chips that come in a tube - once you pop, the fun don't stop! At least in the sense of making tacos right now.  Literally, give me a challenge, and I'll run with it - I want to make thousands of different kinds! So, needless to say, you may see a couple more taco-esque creations in the near future. Like right now future.  Today's ingredient: crab.  I love my crab crostini, but the flavors are just not appropriate for utilizing tortillas as a vehicle. So I decided to go a little tropical - crab is classic with avocado and citrus, so why not give it a shot and kick it up a notch!? And that did happen.

Citrus Crab Salad Tostada Bites
1/2 lb. crab meat, lump is best, but anything is alright
1/2 ripe mango
½-1 jalapeno
2 T chives, minced
2 T mint, minced
1 large orange
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 lime
1 avocado
1/2 t salt

4 6-in flour or corn tortillas. Or whatever you have on hand really, tortilla is tortilla!

To start, prepare the citrus fruits.  Zest the entire lime, and then equal amounts from the orange and the grapefruit.  Now take your grapefruit and supreme it. Do what to it you ask!? It's simple really, if not a little bit juicy (literally).  Slice a small portion of the top and bottom of the grapefruit so it can easily stand on end.  From here, run your knife down the curvature of the grapefruit to remove not only the peel but the pith as well, leaving you with just the literal grapefruit flesh. Continue all the way around until there is not peel or pith left, and now comes the fun part! If you're right handed, hold the grapefruit in your hand (make sure you don't have any cuts, it will sting!), and slice as close as possible along the inner pith to remove perfect little segments of grapefruit all around. Voila! Who needs pith when you can have supreme? Cut each in half and set aside with the zest (separate) for later - don't throw away the supremed pith - there is juice to be had for later!

Next up, crab salad!  Start by cutting 1/2 of the mango into 1/4 inch dice.  Mangoes are kind of one of those obnoxious fruits as well.  Peeling and cutting it is actually east, and similar to  the above technique for the grapefruit (but with no segments, clearly).  Cut off a small part of the mango from the stem end to allow it to stand up.  Slowly slice of the outer peel from the top down. Once you've gotten all the way down, cut the fruit away from that big, irritating pit.  You'll notice mangoes are kind of football shaped, and skinnier looking from one angle than the other.  Place the mango so that you're looking at it the skinny angle - from here, you can run your knife from the top, right along side that pesky pit.  Once you've removed the flesh, go on with the dicing!

Place the mango pieces, crab, jalapeno, chives, and mint into a large mixing bowl. Over top, squeeze that (what looked to be) refuse of the supremed grapefruit.  You should get a substantial amount of juice out.  Next, squeeze 1/2 of the orange, and 1/2 of the lime out.  Be sure to roll your lime around with a lot of pressure to allow more juice to come out. Add about 1/4 t of kosher salt and gently mix with your hands until fully combined.  Set aside in the fridge so the flavors can meld together.

For the avocado smear, cut out the flesh of the avocado and place into a molcajete, mortar and pestle, or just a plain old bowl with a fork and mash it up.  Squeeze the juice of the remaining 1/2 lime over top along with another 1/4 t of salt, and mash up until you have a smooth-ish concoction.

And now the fun part! Heat your oven to 300F.  While you're waiting for it to heat up, you can cut little tostada bite-size pieces from the larger tortillas! I used about a 1.5 inch ring mold for mine - cookie cutters are alright too. Heck you can even use shapes if you want!  Once you've through, place them in the oven and allow to crisp up and turn golden brown.  If you like, you could fry them, but I'd rather go the baked route.

yes, that happened.
Once all of your tostada pieces are toasted up, bring out all of your other components for assembly.  First, spread the avocado smear all over the surface of the tostada.

Next, top with about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the crab mixture, followed by a small segment of the grapefruit supreme and a small sprinkling of each citrus zest. 

Citrus explosion!! This was a great combination of flavors, and really just bright and cheery for such a gloomy New York day.  On a side note, if you don't want to be obnoxious like me and cut out tiny little tostada rounds, you can obviously use tortilla chips - I just like to make things difficult.  Even though there was a lot going on here, you could really taste each ingredient come through - the different zests, the actual grapefruit, the components of the crab salad, and of course the buttery goodness of the avocado smear.  And it's pretty to look at too!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ancho-Rubbed King Salmon Tacos

So, I recently "liked' Border Grill on Facebook. I know, lame way of starting out a blog post right? But I think there was something serendipitous about it.  First off, I LOVE BORDER GRILL.  It's one of those places that has been there forever, and at first thought you're kind of all, "I don't know - California, Mexican, probably just standard." But alas, this is not the case. Mind blowing!  Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, the original Food Network chefs, Too Hot Tamales, know their business when it comes to Mexican food, let alone all food in general.  Border Grill's EVERYTHING, especially their vegetable plate entree - I know right? It's literally a plate of sweet creamed corn, green chick peas, braised fennel, quinoa salad, sautéed mushrooms, black beans, and seasonal farmers market vegetables. I don't know what magic they sprinkle on it, but it's one of the best dishes, and so simple! THEN Susan Feniger decides to open STREET - a restaurant whose menu consists literally of all amazing street foods from all over the world.  This is the first place I ever had Kaya Toast - a Malaysian snack made of toast with a coconut jam that you dip into a fried egg with dark soy sauce.  Sounds crazy, but really it's just crazy delicious.

Ok, but really, moving away from reminiscing, a little note popped up on my newsfeed saying, "how about a little trip to Santa Monica? Enter to win with your favorite fish taco recipe". SO: 1) YES I would love to go back to Santa Monica for many reasons. 2) I love challenges. 3) I LOVE FISH TACOS!  A coworker of mine back in LA claimed I was the only person East of the Hollywood Hills that liked, let alone knew what fish tacos were.  Looking into the challenge, I come to find that it's an Alaska Fish Taco Contest, which means you can only use Alaskan seafood - Alaskan Salmon, King Crab, Halibut, Spot Prawns, Black Cod, etc.  That's fine, except that Alaskan seafood is EXPENSIVE! But totally worth it.  Needless to say, it was time for me to start brainstorming.  I could've gone with my old standby fish taco recipe, but that's not enough to win a contest.  I have a few ideas still in my head, but the first idea I envisioned and first I've cooked was.....outrageous.  Ancho Chili rubbed King Salmon with a Pea, Mint, and Jalapeno "Salsa Verde" and some other fixings.  Let's just say, it was tasty.

Spice-Rubbed Alaskan King Salmon Tacos with Spicy, Sweet Pea Salsa Verde
1.5-2 lb. King Salmon, from the shoulder end, or center cut, skinned
4 T ancho chili powder
1 large sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup peas (frozen is fine, just thaw them)
4 T fresh mint, chopped
1 jalapeno, sliced (more or less, depending on how hot you like it!)
2 T cucumber, chopped
3 limes, 2 juiced, and one cut into 8 small wedges for garnish
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
3/4 c thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cilantro leaves for garnish
8-10 small corn or flour tortillas, warmed in the oven if you prefer

To begin, you want to start caramelizing your onions since this takes the longest time out of anything. Heat a small saute pan over medium-low heat and swirl in about 3 T of olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the sliced onions and one pinch of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon).  Toss/stir the onions until they are evenly coated with oil.  Slowly cook the onions, stirring frequently to ensure they don't burn or become crispy, for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are tender, brown, and buttery tasting.
They start like this, then I got too distracted to take a picture of what they look like later. Whoops!
While the onions are cooking, you can start to make the salsa verde. Add the mint, peas, jalapeno, cucumber, lime juice and 1/2 t of kosher salt into a blender, a food processor, or use an immersion blender to puree the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set aside.

to this!
Now for the salmon! For quicker cooking, you can have your fishmonger cut your salmon into smaller fillets, which I did.  Sprinkle the ancho chili powder over top, coating evenly, and rub it in a bit. Sprinkle about 1/2 t worth of salt over all of the salmon. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and swirl in 3 T of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is shimmering, place in the salmon, flesh (chili rubbed) side down and cook about 2.5 minutes, until a crust has formed.  I've said it before, but fish will let you know when it's ready to flip - if you can't easily slide a spatula underneath, wait a bit longer.  Once you flip, cook for another 2.5 minutes, until the skinned side has a nice golden crust on it.  If you look at the side of the salmon (especially with pre-cut filets) you should cook until the side looks no longer raw.  That way, the inside will be JUST medium rare, and perfect!  Remove fish from the pan and set aside.  When ready to serve, you can either slice the fish, or just use a fork to break it up into small pieces.

Crusty deliciousness.
At this point, all of your ingredients should be ready and you can set up a mini assembly line. Plate of tortillas, bowl of salsa verde, Greek yogurt, caramelized onions, salmon, purple cabbage, cilantro, and lime wedges, CHECK!  Lay it out and go to town.

Spread a layer of the salsa verde...
Toss on some purple cabbage...
Add some Greek yogurt...
Toss on some cilantro leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice and VOILA! Enjoy.

Um, HELLO and holy mackerel! (Salmon?) I wish I made more of these because they were absolutely spectacularly delicious.  Actually, it's probably better I didn't make more because I would've eaten them all.  The salmon was perfectly cooked and buttery - still a little rare in the center, which I love.  The crust on the outside was just thick enough and crunchy, and the ancho gave a nice, warming spice. The caramelized onions added a little bit of deep savoriness to the tacos, while the salsa verde really brightened it up.  The purple cabbage hung around not only for a nice visual addition, but added its own crunch and slight sweetness as well.  Added cilantro and a squeeze of juice made the whole dish pop!

Epic fish tacos.  This is a recipe for the books, that's for sure.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

simplicity at its finest.

Today I got back from work, pondering what to do after a ridiculous day, especially with tomorrow off.  Fall asleep because I'm exhausted? Go out for restaurant week (Pampano for ceviche?)? See if anyone is around to meet up? I toyed with all of those thoughts for some time, when I finally realized...all I wanted to do was cook.  Going out somewhere was too much of a hassle, and I wanted some relaxation time.  I was in dire need in some good, homey, savory, easy, comfort food.  And comfort food to me, at least this time around? Roasted chicken with root vegetables.  The weather has been obnoxious recently in New York (more indecisive than Michigan), but the fact that I have to essentially walk outside in my suit multiple times throughout the day and freeze myself really chilled my bones. By the time I realized I wanted to roast a chicken (yes, rotisserie chicken from the store for five dollars is fine, but that's no fun). And there is nothing better than a simple, perfectly roasted chicken.

I immediately called L. Simchick to see what time they were open until...7 o'clock? I've got to hurry! I arrived just in time to pick up a nice 3.5 pound chicken.  And, thankfully, they were kind enough to give me some twine ("Ahh, you're trussing", "Better believe I'm trussing") - in actuality, I shouldn't have been concerned that they WOULDN'T give me twine, considering it is just string - but I digress. I picked up some leeks, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and cipollini onions to go with what I already had in stock in my random kitchen cabinets.  Oh, not to mention, the perfect pairing - Cotes du Rhone. Roast chicken plus a nice French red is quite perfect.

On a side note, I really love chicken.  I'm probably going to end up as a chicken in my next life (unfortunately, if there are still people like me around).  Grilled chicken, roast chicken, chicken in a curry sauce, you name it. And I know, everyone says that chicken is tasteless (tastes just like chicken! the chicken of the sea!) but really, if you get a GOOD chicken - I'm talking farm-raised, small town, you'll understand that it just isn't true! I once had a "hot-grass fed chicken" from a farm up in Traverse City, Michigan. I still have no idea what that means, but it helped to make the most flavorful chicken cous cous ever.  And not to mention stock.  So that's that.  Back to the roasting!

I got back as quick as possible and started prepping my vegetables.  I turned the oven on to 475F to preheat and decided it would be a great idea to put myself through tournage de legumes (making turned vegetables!) to make the vegetables look nice.  Then, I realized that it was a pain in the neck and completely unnecessary, so I carried on peeling and cutting each vegetable into uniform pieces. Tournage de legumes - fun if you have nine hours, not fun if you want to get your chicken in the oven.  So here we go!

Roasted Chicken with Winter Roots
1 whole chicken (3-4 pound will suffice), make sure this has been sitting out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking!
1 bunch of rosemary
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 T herbes de provence
4 T Canola Oil
3 T salt
Fresh ground pepper (I used white)

For the following vegetables, you want to cut into similar size pieces, about 1.5-2 in in length, similar width, and honestly, I'm not even going to give amounts because it just depends how many roasted vegetables you want and how many you can fit in one pan! In the end, you want an even amount of each.  Also, don't discard random tops and parts of these veggies - you'll see why later:

Small turnips, washed and halved
Parsnips, peeled and cut into 2 in pieces of similar
A handful of thin-skinned potatoes (fingerlings, red-skinned, etc.)
 Small cipollini onion - you don't need to cut these, just take the 'paper' skin off
Leeks, dark green ends and first outer layer removed

Preheat oven to 475F.  Prepare all of your vegetables as stated above - similar sizes pieced so they cook evenly.  Place all of the vegetables plus 4 crushed cloves of garlic in either a large bowl, or the roasting pan with 2 T of canola oil, 1 T salt, and a few grindings of pepper, and toss to coat.  If you're using a separate bowl, place the vegetables into a roasting pan.

For the chicken, I first run my fingers between the skin and the flesh - sometimes I've put a little bit of an herbed butter mix here, but it's not necessary - it just helps get the skin crisp during the cooking process.  Rub 1 T of salt, a few grindings of pepper, and about 1 T herbes de provence into it the chicken's cavity.  Stuff with the rosemary springs and remaining garlic cloves.  Now comes the fun! Truss the chicken.  I probably have trussed hundreds of chickens in my life - I used to be pretty proficient at it, but it's been a while, and the chicken was getting aggressive.  You want to truss the chicken so it's essentially one, compact little package - also to close up the cavity and keep everything inside.  Most importantly, it'll keep certain parts of the chicken cooking faster than other parts because everything is in such close quarters.  

Once you've trussed, sprinkle and rub on the outside the remaining salt and herbes de provence, as well as a few grindings of pepper.  Place the chicken in the middle of the vegetables and place into the oven.  Cook at 475F for about 25 minutes or so, then lower the heat to 400F and cook for about 45 more minutes.  If you like, you can occasionally baste your chicken with the pan juices, or even put a bit of butter on top if you're feeling extravagant.  As far as doneness, the timing really depends on your oven and how large your bird is.  Place a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh - remove the chicken from the pan when it hits 150F.  Place it on a cutting board and let it rest for 15-25 minutes - not only will it continue cooking to the perfect doneness, but it will also allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.  Turn the oven down to about 200F and place the vegetables back in after tossing them in the pan juices.  This will allow them to cook a bit more AND cooking slow and low for a bit will allow the starches to turn into sugary goodness.
When it's time to carve the chicken, you can do it multiple ways: halve the chicken for two pieces, cut into four pieces (wing & breast, thigh), or separate everything completely (breast, thigh, drumstick, wing). But FIRST don't forget to remove the twine! When carving, first gently pull the thigh away to see where the hip joint is.  Cut right through here - it shouldn't take much force. Next, do the same with the wing by finding the (shoulder??) joint. From here, make a slice parallel to your cutting board, above where the wing was, but at the bottom of the breast.  Carve the breast off next by slicing right against the chest bone and down along the rib cage (a flexible knife is helpful here).  Maybe next time I should make a photo essay!

Now it's time to plate. Or, if you're me, you've pretty much already eaten an entire dinner by tasting everything....but that's besides the point.  Place an assortment of vegetables in the center of a plate, and top with whichever piece of chicken you fancy.  Spoon some of the pan juices over the entire plate and voila! Moist, delicious, herbaceous chicken with perfectly cooked vegetables.  Flavorful and complex, savory and satisfying.  

Not to mention, you also get a wishbone.

I'll wait to make one..
And on an important side note!!! Don't throw away the chicken carcass (I know, that does sounds gross..) but seriously.  You will be able to make an amazing stock out of this chicken - along with those random vegetable parts you generally would discard.  All I can say is that I'm satiated, and I am so glad I have some of this roast leftover for the coming wintry mix of the city.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

a way to spice up winter

It's always amazes me to think about how so many cuisines around the world have dishes with similar threads running through them: dumplings, gyoza, ravioli, pirozhki, pierogi, etc. - all little cooked packages of deliciousness, whether boiled, baked or fried.  Or our wonderful  varieties of pestos, pistous, chimichurris, persillades, salvitxadas, muhammara, and romescos - all variations of an herbed, garlicky, and nutty sauce used as an accompaniment to, well, nearly anything!  On a sidenote, the day that I realized pesto was called such because it was originally made with a mortar and pestle was one that really allowed me to get in touch with my blondeness. But I digress.  Let's focus on romesco  - a savory, spicy brick-red concoction from Catalonia, thickened up with some bread crumbs, almonds, and toasted hazelnuts.  This can go on anything from meats to fish, on grilled or roasted vegetables, stirred into a stew, or even as a spread for a sandwich or bruschetta.

Adapted from Suzanne Goin
5 ancho chiles
2 T  almonds
2 T  hazelnuts
1 1/4 c olive oil
1 slice of good crusty bread
1/3 cup San Marzano tomatoes (I used crushed)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon
Splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 375F. While the oven is preheating, remove the stems and as many of the seeds inside as you can.  Really, you can just start ripping the chilies apart since it's going to be pureed later anyway.  Soak your torn pieces of ancho chilies in warm water for 15 minutes to soften.  Strain them and shake off/pat off any excess moisture.  

ancho chili family.
Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they JUST begin to smell nutty - if you get extreme nuttiness wafting through your kitchen, you've overtoasted! So, be mindful to keep an eye on them.

In a large saute pan, heat about 2 T of olive oil over high heat and toast your slice of bread until its golden on both sides.  Remove from heat, let cool, and cut into cubes.  In the same pan, add about 1 T more olive oil, let heat until shimmering, and saute the chilies for a few minutes.  Add in the tomatoes, season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook for another few minutes, stirring constantly.  The liquid from the canned tomatoes will start evaporating and the tomatoes will start to caramelize a bit.  Once you see a little more depth in color in the tomatoes, remove the pan from heat.

Place the toasted nuts, bread, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until it's all coarsely ground.  Add the tomato mixture and puree for another minute until combined.  Finally, with the machine running, pour in about 1 cup or so of good olive oil and process until smooth.  Finally, add the parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, and a bit more salt to taste.
oddly reminiscent of berbere paste!
This makes quite a bit of romesco, but it can keep for up to two and a half weeks - if it lasts that long! I tossed this with some roasted potatoes, used it with some grilled chicken - and I'm thinking of roasting an entire fish with this smeared inside and out! The flavors are fantastic - a bit of spice from the ancho chilis, as well as ome heat from the garlic.  The tomatoes and lemon juice add a brightness and a nice acidity that really ups the complexity.  And finally, the almonds and hazelnuts not only give the romesco a nice, toasted flavor, but they also have a way of making the sauce almost buttery! Thank you Ms. Goin!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

electric (blue) ladyland

Yet another day full of tasty treats! So, I've come to the honest conclusion that any time I'm at the market and see something random, I absolutely have to find something to do with it. It's kind of like a personal self-challenge. I mean, if I really want to claim that I know what I'm doing in the kitchen, I can't just stand around boiling water all day. Which, quite frankly, is great! I was tempted to buy live eel the other day, but I had too many other errands to would've been a bit odd to walk around with a sea snake thrown over my shoulder.  So today's special ingredient wasn't anything too crazy, but cool nonetheless.  Amaebi, with roe intact, were on sale! First off, let me just say that I love amaebi, period.  It's Japanese sweet shrimp, most generally served as nigiri sushi.  The raw tail of amaebi is velvety, creamy, and sweet (obviously, on the latter).  I could eat hundreds of them! I've seen shrimp with roe before, but the color of the roe from the amaebi was unreal! Electric blue!  Literally, the color of that Gatorade that I drank entirely too much of during swim season.  I can now never again say that there is no such thing as a natural blue food.

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoy any animal/sea creature/whatever in it's full form - it's amazing to me how beautiful some of these things can be!  Especially these amaebi - with their super long feelers, bright pink shells, and of course - the blue roe.  My full purchase of these resulted in about 20 amaebi - some of which I just ate as sashimi, and the others were chopped up to use in a dumpling filling.  So first, the sashimi! No flame involved. For both the sashimi and the dumplings, I made a dipping sauce with artisanal soy sauce and a little bit of yuzu juice for the acidity.  A perfect accompaniment!

Most sushi restaurants, when serving amaebi, fry up the heads to eat whole - I'm not a big fan of frying things so I just used them for presentation.  The roe itself didn't have much flavor, which actually makes sense considering the shrimp itself is delicate - but it added a nice crunch to each bite of the amaebi.  On to the dumplings!

I yet again was able to use my new bamboo steamer, which I'm kind of obsessed with. I made Kanom Jeeb (kanom meaning 'snack' in Thai, and jeeb meaning "pleat" for the way the dumpling is folded up and around the filling.)  I purchased a pack of wonton wrappers from the market, and they were literally the most amazing wonton wrappers I've ever used in my life - super thing and silky smooth, easy to handle, yet didn't fall apart easily.  Most wonton wrappers are a bit too thick and not pliable enough for my liking, but these were perfect. Unfortunately, I speak no Japanese whatsoever and there is no English on the package whatsoever, so I just have to find it by eye.

Kanom Jeeb Filling
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 lb shrimp, finely chopped
2-3 T water chestnuts, finely chopped 
1/4 C chopped wood ear mushrooms (you can get them dried at an Asian market, just rehydrate with hot water)
1 shallot, finely minced
2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 small egg - you can whisk up the egg and not even use the whole thing - this is just a binder
1 T soy sauce
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Easy as pie. Put everything in a large mixing bowl, and go at it with clean hands. Mix together until everything is evenly distributed.

To assemble: I find it easiest to lay out a bunch of wonton wrappers as opposed to just doing it one at a time - its not as messy either.  Place about a tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wonton wrapper.  Finally, lightly wet the edges of the wrapper with water and bring up the sides, pleating as you go around the filling.  Remember to be gentle! If you squeeze too hard, the filling will go all over - and for these dumplings, its not fully enclosed.

When you're ready, heat a pot of water and bring to a boil.  Place the dumplings (without touching one another) into your steamer, whether bamboo or metal, cover, and place over the boiling water.  Let the dumplings steam until the filling is cooked all the way through, maybe ten minutes. 

Delicious! The wonton wrappers really were perfect.  See how thin they are that you can actually almost see through it on the sides? Now that's what I call a wonton wrapper. It gave it a tad bit of a toothsome texture, but didn't take away at all from the dumpling as a whole, let alone the flavor of the filling.  The sweet shrimp as opposed to regular shrimp in these really gave the dumplings a special flavor as well, and the water chestnuts added a little crunch. I was planning on putting some crispy shallots over top, but got so excited that I completely forgot! There's always room for that next time.  These really took no time to make at all - I think I'm going to start making more dumplings, especially now that I have some leftover wonton wrappers! I'm also excited to make some kind of ravioli and use those - that may be my next move.  Until next time!