The squash started it all. There was a luscious display of the delicate little things that I couldn’t resist, as I love winter squash. I’ve been looking at the one I bought for a few days and wondering what to have with it—not what to have it in. I just want the roasted squash by itself, but what to have with it was the question. I was leaning toward a rice and sausage casserole, first a country sausage came to mind, then I thought maybe a smoked sausage like kielbasa (pronounced kill bossy in these parts). But we had black beans and rice this weekend, so I wanted to steer away from rice. As soon as I started thinking noodle, it wasn’t long before I was thinking long noodle then spaghetti then angel hair, and something Asian seemed right. The original idea of a country sausage turned into more of an Asian pork meatball or dumpling filling, and as soon as I thought dumpling, I knew the sauce had to have that dipping sauce flavor. This is how the dumpling deconstructed itself.
First the side dish.
Side Dish—Roasted Delicata Squash
Preheat oven to 350°
Delicata squash is one of those winter squashes with a thin enough skin that you don’t need to peel it, and if you don’t think it’s a winter squash, wait until you decide to cut it. It is hard.
1 delicata squash
Olive oil to coat
Salt and pepper
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice crosswise at 1/2 inch intervals and then cut each slice into thirds. Toss with olive oil and roast in shallow dish for about 40 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. The skin comes out a little chewy, but we like that.
Now for that undumpling.
Deconstructed Pork Dumplings
The first thing to do to get in the mood for dumplings is to make the dipping sauce. This becomes the base for the sauce in the dish. Recipes for dumpling dipping sauce vary—some use rice vinegar, some don’t; some use sesame oil, some don’t. But they all use soy sauce. I made my dipping sauce in the same proportions as I would if using with dumplings, a small bowl of it that was about a cup or less of liquid:
1/2 cup soy sauce—I used low sodium sauce here so the final dish would not be too salty
1/4 cup rice vinegar, unsweetened and unseasoned
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1 sliced green onion
Optional: a teaspoon of hot sauce and a little water (I did not add these)
Stir until the sugar is dissolved and set aside. This can be made ahead, but the onions will soften and absorb some of the soy color, although it doesn’t hurt the dish in the end. You could always add the onion later.
Now add the same dipping sauce flavors to the pork.
1 lb ground lean pork
1 minced green onion
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1-2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce—I used regular soy sauce here
Mix all ingredients lightly by hand, as if making a meatloaf mix. You can make this ahead as well and refrigerate until you’re ready to put it all together later in the day. By now the whole kitchen smells like dipping sauce (I think it’s the ginger-sesame oil combination).
Deconstructing the Dumpling (putting it together)
1/2 lb whole wheat angel hair pasta or your favorite noodle
1 lb ground pork mixture
1 cup dipping sauce
1-1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Optional: 2 tablespoons hoisin (I did use this)
1/4-1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage (you could use regular cabbage, but Napa is mild and the curly leaves are attractive in Asian-inspired dishes)
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of above chicken stock
Bring water to boil for noodles and cook according to directions. Fine pasta cooks quickly, so plan to have the meat sauce done by then.
In a large sauté pan, brown the pork mixture in one tablespoon oil over medium high heat. I cooked it like any ground meat base for a sauce, but I think it would be interesting to make little meatballs of the mixture, as well. When the meat is browned, add the dipping sauce and chicken stock. Simmer covered for about ten minutes. Add the sliced cabbage and stir uncovered for a few minutes, then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce is glossy and slightly thickened. You don’t want to overcook the cabbage or over-thicken the sauce and have a gloppy mess. Wow, the word gloppy wasn’t flagged by the spellchecker!
Pour the sauce over the drained noodles all at once or in individual bowls/plates. Yummy. Just like eating dumplings.
I really need to go to a flea market and buy some interesting dishware for shooting pics of my food, because my cupboard is full of plain yellow or gray.