Meeting your significant other’s friends for the first time can be an eye-opening experience. You can know a person, but until you take a good look at the people they choose to spend time with, you might not see the complete puzzle. Fortunately for me, my husband happens to have a few great guys in his circle. One of them cooks. When I say he cooks, I don’t mean that he barbecues. I respect a man who makes a mean BBQ, but when a man really knows his way around a kitchen, it can be magical.
Our friend, Dick, has refined knife skills that will mince a pile of produce into uniform perfection in a matter of seconds. His focused and fluid movements boast of efficiency. And he is the ultimate multitasker as he manages with acute awareness, the state of the oven, stove top, broiler, and clumsy sous-chefs (being me and my husband.)
Occasionally he will show up on our doorstep with a bag of groceries in hand, and teach us how to make dishes that we might not normally try on our own.
On New Year’s Eve day, we made potstickers. Traditionally fare for Chinese New Year, perhaps he thought it was an appropriate choice for the American New Year, or maybe he was just hungry for potstickers. Either way, I paid attention, took notes, and generally tried to stay out of his way as he navigated our humble kitchen with the grace and power of a bullfighter.
Here’s how we made our potstickers:
1lb ground pork
1lb large shrimp, raw, washed, shelled, and de-veined, and chopped, chopped, chopped into a paste
1-3 wood ear mushrooms (re-hydrated), and sliced in thin, 1/2-inch lengths
1-bundle garlic chives, finely chopped
1 head Napa cabbage, finely chopped
3 packs potsticker wrappers
Homemade Chicken stock, or 1 can. (This time we used canned, but it’s better if you use homemade)
Mix the pork and shrimp together in a large bowl. Divide that mixture in half. In one half, add the Napa cabbage. In the other half, add the wood ear mushrooms and minced garlic chives.
Fill a bowl with water and use it to wet your fingers. Place a potsticker wrapper in your hand, and run your damp finger around the edges of the wrapper before scooping a tablespoon of the meat/veggie mixture into the (dry) center.
Do NOT use Wonton wrappers…
Fold the wrapper in half, bringing the wet edges together. Pinch in the center and ends, and seal the rest of the potsticker closed, by gently pinching the excess dough of the wrapper in your fingers to create the look of a bonnet, or sea shell. When making large batches, keep the potstickers covered with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
Now grab a frying pan with a lid. Add oil and get the pan nice and hot. Fill the frying pan FULL of potstickers so that there is not much visible free space between them, and sear the bottoms of the potstickers until golden. Give the pan a few good shakes to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
In a separate pan, heat the chicken stock. When the potstickers are golden on the bottom, ladle in about ½ cup of hot chicken stock into potsticker pan and cover quickly. (It may flame up if any stock spills out of the pan- see below!) Watch the potstickers until they become translucent, and you can see their contents simmering. Then remove the lid, and let the excess chicken stock cook out, shaking the pan occasionally.
To extract the potstickers from the pan while keeping their golden crust in tact, take the hot pan off the stove, and hold over the sink. Place a plate (bottom-side up) over the top of the pan. Place your hand atop the plate. Quickly flip the frying pan over, so that the plate is right-side up, and the contents of the pan falls flat onto the plate. This can seem scary at first, which is why you want to do it over the sink. But it’s a fantastic way to plate up an entire pan of potstickers, and makes for an EXCELLENT presentation.
To make the Vinegar and Ginger Dipping Sauce:
Chinkiang vinegar (nearly the whole 22-oz bottle)
About 2-3 tablespoons sugar
LOTS of sliced ginger (1 giant hand)
Remove the skin from the ginger with the back of a butter knife and slice thin on a mandolin. Then slice the ginger discs into fine strips. Pour nearly the entire bottle of Chinkiang vinegar into a large bowl, and add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix well. Add more to taste (you just want to take the bite off) Add the ginger and serve. Keeps for a good long while in the fridge, so make this ahead of time and keep it on hand.
Dish out the dipping sauce into individual bowls and enjoy with your homemade potstickers!
Makes about 100 potstickers!
I hope it helps inspire readers of the radmegan blog to try these at home too! Happy eating!