Happy February, dear readers! As you turned the page of your calendar over this morning from January (New Year! Yay?) to February (Valentines Day! But also, meh), I sure as shit hope you were thinking about dumplings. Delicious, hopefully kinda easy to make dumplings! Or hey, maybe you’re cool and you were all like, Dumplings. Pffft. I liked dumplings before they were filled. Then you live tweeted the whole thing. Well, either way, everyone’s welcome here!
So have you gotten your hands on February’s cookbook of the month yet? You should, you slowpoke! It’s Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings. And it is enticing.
I thought I’d start things off with a dumpling that didn’t seem intimidating to me. Plus, I wanted to use potatoes. Why? Well, it’s kind if a funny story. As you may have read here in the past, Double S and I moved into the old homestead in 2009, and immediately turned the yard into a garden, complete with seven raised beds.
Awesome, right? Anyway, year after year we tried potatoes and never had even a tot of luck. See what I did there? Tots? Huh huh? Ok, moving on. We tried a lot of methods, including building elaborate towers out of chicken wire. Waste. Of. Time. The potatoes we got out of that project were tiny and not worth the water or straw we put into them.
In 2012 we tried something new. We decided, with fear and trepidation, to devote almost an entire 8 foot by 6 foot raised bed (prime real estate in our yard) to potatoes. We planted them in the raised bed and then hilled them up dutifully with a bit of compost, but mostly with straw as the season progressed. As the straw became unruly, I rigged up a chicken wire cage for the whole shebang so the straw wouldn’t fall out. I made sure the drip irrigation gave it proper water, and we crossed our fingers.
Then after all that attention throughout the summer, we kinda just totally never thought about them again once they flowered and their plants fell. August turned to September. Oh yeah, we gotta dig those up, we’d say. Eh, let’s roadtrip to Yosemite instead, we’d counter. September turned to October, November. Turn, turn, turn. All the while these precious taters sat in the ground. It rains a lot here. And it actually got pretty cold for a week or so in January. We just figured they were a moldy mess by the time mid January rolled around. Let’s just get them out of there and get the bed cleaned up, we’d day, but then we’d go watch Homeland instead.
Then finally a week or so ago, on an unseasonably warm day that got us pumped for spring, we hung our heads, acknowledged our mistake and our laziness when it came to these poor taters, and went out to the bed to dig them up. And holy crap! Jackpot!
Moral of the story: laziness pays! Or that Seattle is such a temperate climate that the ground is a good place to store potatoes all year, even when it did actually dip down into the 30s that one week in early January and it rained a shit ton as per usual! Meh. Let’s go with laziness pays!
Ok, so I knew I had to use these little gems for something important. They symbolized a major garden victory after years of fails. So as the month came to an end and it was time to say good-bye to Dorie and hello to dumplings, I flipped through Asian Dumplings. When I came upon the recipe for samosas, I knew we had a winner. I usually don’t order samosas when I go out for Indian food, cuz they’re deep-fried and I like to save room to stuff my maw with other delicious Indian foods, but I thought, what the heck? Plus, Double S and I were going on a getaway, and who doesn’t want to pack shortening, two different kinds of oils, and several whimsical mason jars full of spices when they head to the mountains for the weekend? If you remember, my love of engaging in large food projects while I travel is not a new thing.
Spicy Potato Samosas, page 115-117. Simple Flaky Pastry Dough, page 113.
So, samosas. Typically they’re filled with a spiced mix of potatoes, onions, peas or lentils. And that’s what Andrea Nguyen calls for in her recipe. These turned out really well.
The simple flaky pastry dough was incredibly quick and easy to make. The dry ingredients are dumped into a bowl, then a bit of shortening is added. To add the shortening, you use a technique I hadn’t tried before. You rub the bit of shortening with a handful or so of dry ingredients between your hands, like you’re cold and you’re rubbing your hands together for warmth. You then repeat with the remainder of the shortening and the remainder of the dry ingredients. You do that until you no longer see lumps; it only takes a few minutes. Easy peezy George and Weezy! We got pictures of this, but somehow they’re gone. So let this very professional cooking related gif demonstrate!
After you’ve made your dough and let it rest for a bit, you make the filling. Now we cook quite a bit of Indian food around the homestead. Double S spent a year in India back in the day, so she clued me in on the main spices to have around the house. We also have a pretty good, incredibly comprehensive Indian cookbook at home. I reviewed its recipe for samosas too, just in case. After that review I added a bit more spice than Andrea calls for. I added turmeric powder and substituted Indian chili powder for the cayenne Andrea calls for. Other than that, I followed Andrea’s recipe exactly.
The filling is easy to make and tasted delicious. It’s pretty intense, because it’s going in a pocket of dough so it needs to be, but I loved it like that. Look at my precious potatoes now!
Then came making the dumplings…the moment of truth! I got nervous at the last minute, I’m not gonna lie. In retrospect, I should have sat down with the dumpling making instructions before I began this task. It’s not good to be standing in your kitchen at 8pm looking at a very wordy page of instructions with only one line drawing to show you how to fold the dumpling. But you know what, it didn’t effing matter. These turned out awesome!
You know what a samosa looks like, right? It’s a damn triangle. Make it the best you can and you will be fine. As long as you’ve rolled out the dough to the proper thinness, it’s all good. Double S folded ours because she has delicate lady fingers and I have dumb monster hands that can’t do delicate tasks. Thanks Double S!
Once you’ve rolled out your dough to a six-inch circle, you cut them in half. After that is where the directions get a little confusing. Maybe spend a bit of time reading her instructions and visualizing the dumpling making before you start. But as I said, you’ll be ok! Then, add the two tablespoons of filling (no more or they will break open) and fold the samosa. We had no problems with sealing the dough. Just moisten with a little water.
Regarding the frying of the dough, I hate to say it, because I just admitted that the problem I had with Around My French Table is that I failed to read the recipes thoroughly before cooking and then found myself in trouble. Well, oops I did it again!
I forgot to bring a rolling pin and a thermometer. Or I never read that far into the recipe to see that I needed to do so. Andrea says if you don’t have a deep fry thermometer, you can use a bamboo chopstick to test the oil for bubbles. Well, shit. I was at a vacation condo in Leavenworth, WA. I didn’t have a damn chopstick. But, again, it worked anyway!
I used a (sanitized) wine bottle for the rolling pin.
And I just winged it with the temperature of the hot oil and the cook time. You gotta have faith.
So we didn’t make the chutneys that Andrea recommends. We already have like 10 bottles of chutneys from Indian grocery stores, mainly mint, chili, and coriander chutneys. Although, it would have been nice to have the tamarind and date chutney that Andrea recommends. Something sweet would have been nice to temper the spicy goodness of the samosas. Next time! We ate the samosas with the chicken dish in the above photo that we made by marinating chicken in yogurt and tandoori spices, then cooking it with many lemon squeezes.
OK so I’ve made a dumpling from pastry dough. Yes! Next up, this weekend I’m gonna try a dumpling made with a more basic dumpling dough. How ’bout you?
If you want to cook dumplings along with us this month, get Andrea’s great book. Click here for more deets. Then cook something and blog about it. Please send us a link to your blog by February 22nd to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will round up all the participants’ posts by February 27. Oh and did you see all the cookin’ fools who made modern French food with us in January? Good times!