Tag Archives: whole wheat pasta

Delicata Squash and Deconstructed Pork Dumplings

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

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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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

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Dipping Sauce

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.

Meat Mix

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.

Ragù: The Frugal Gourmet

In this first of recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks, I look at the terrific meat sauce called Ragù, which, as Jeff Smith exhorts, “is not to be confused with the canned product offered on the American market.”IMG_2098

Smith, Jeff. “Ragù.” The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1993. 144-45.

I think what’s important about this recipe is not so much the ingredients, but the cooking method. Too many American cooks take the attitude with ground meat that as soon as it’s grey, it’s done and ready to eat. This meat sauce shows how a longer, slow cooking can tenderize ground meat as much as it does larger pieces. Then once you understand that principle, think of all the ways you can translate this recipe into others.

Ragù from The Frugal Gourmet

  • Servings: 8-12? makes 3 quarts
  • Difficulty: easy
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Let’s try just posting the image from the cookbook instead of me typing it out and see how that looks in different media. I’ll add my own comments about the recipe.

  • You can see that I have penciled in amounts for a half recipe
  • The recipe is great exactly as is, but I have varied it in a number of ways in the past:
    • I only use the celery if I can dice it finely enough to not be detected by my husband, who has a celery bias.
    • I have used pancetta, but more often bacon, which I cook a little longer than indicated here.
    • The combination of veal and pork almost never occurs in my kitchen, but you can substitute a variety of different grades and fat levels of meat. I have made Ragù with all venison or combined with either pork or 80% lean beef. I have used meatloaf mix. Yesterday, I used 80% lean beef with 95% lean beef. Whatever combination you use, make sure to skim off the fat at the end before adding the butter, cream, and cheese.
    • Do not leave out the butter, cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese—I never skimp on any of those.
    • I have used the white wine, but we are not wine drinkers and never have it around, so I generally just increase the chicken stock.

This is really a simple recipe, as long as you can be around during the simmering or at least when it’s done. I think it would be good on polenta if you are not in the mood for pasta.