Living in Interesting Times: Using What You Have III

It continues to be an interesting adventure to find out what all I’ve tucked into my chest freezer over time. Recently I uncovered a half pound of ground pork and some frozen gyoza wrappers, and realized that I had everything  I needed to make potstickers.
Potstickers are very easy if you use purchased wrappers. The filling is pretty adaptable and there are scads of recipes online if you feel that you need one. My basic formula is half a pound of ground meat, half a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a 1”by2” piece of peeled ginger chopped finely, and the white parts of four scallions chopped into pieces about the size of coarse crumbs. Mix together and elaborate a little if you like to do that. Personally, I always want a texture ingredient. I used to use fresh water chestnuts when I lived where I could get them, but I don’t like the canned ones, so I used some jicama chopped into little pieces about the same size as the scallions.

Lay out a few wrappers at a time, keeping the rest under a damp towel. Put about a teaspoon full of filling in the middle, dip your finger in a cup of water and run it around the inside edge of the wrapper, bring the two halves together, and make little pleats. As you see below, mine are not very neatly pleated, and probably a fastidious Chinese cook would be appalled, but they taste fine. This is a good kitchen task for older children, and can be done sitting meditatively at the kitchen table.

I usually make about twice as many as I plan to cook and freeze the rest. They are handy for almost instant, effortless meals.

To cook, place them closely in a nonstick skillet that has a lid and pour in just enough water to make a film on the bottom, usually about a third of a cup. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce and 2-3 tablespoons of your chosen cooking oil. Put the skillet over medium heat until the water is sizzling, put the lid on it, and cook a few minutes, checking frequently, until the dumplings are cooked and puffed as shown.

Remove the lid and let the dumplings fry in the oil until the bottoms are browned as shown in the top photo. Keep checking, because they burn easily. I like mine just on the verge of burnt and crusty, but you may like yours less browned.

Serve with a dipping sauce. The simplest is half soy sauce and half water, with some grated ginger, rice vinegar, and sugar added to taste. Adding some chili oil or offering it as a side option will make heat-loving guests happy. Or get more elaborate if you like, but keep the spirit of fun, easy finger food.

Gyoza wrappers are available in Asian groceries and I now see them at a lot of Western groceries. They freeze well, and in fact are often sold already frozen.  A packet of wrappers and half a pound of ground meat, plus some pantry items, makes up two good meals for two. Either beef or pork are fine, but not too lean, or the filling will be dry.  I made some once with ground salmon and some pork fat, and they were incredibly good. Any Chinese cooking website will have more ideas.




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