Saturday, August 11, 2012

Leftover Maven: Steak and Cheese Wontons

My younger daughter is subject to cravings.  Two summers ago, when she was with her grandparents at their lakehouse, she had a craving for chicken tikka masala.  New Hampshire is great for lobster, clams, and haddock, but Indian food is not easy to find. I had to make it for her, along with naan bread.

The other night, we had a lot of leftover lobster, so I made lobster ravioli in a tomato cream sauce.  I bought potsticker skins and wonton skins, so I could make the ravioli quickly. I only used the potsticker skins, so there was still a pack of wonton skins in the fridge.

This morning, Christina, who does not like lobster and thus did not eat the ravioli, saw the wonton skins in the fridge and said, "What are you going to make for me? I could really go for pork or beef wontons."

I rooted around the fridge and found some leftover sirloin steak, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese. I knew we also had tomatoes from my brother-in-law's garden.  A filling was born. I diced the tomatoes and made a quick salsa of them with minced garlic and some lime juice, as I wanted the tomatoes to pick up more flavor. I diced the steak and added minced garlic, parsley, and chives. Then I added some cream cheese to act as a binder and a little cheddar cheese for flavor. Salt, pepper and the tomatoes from the salsa (I didn't add much of the salsa juice, as I didn't want my filling to be wet), and I was done. A picture of the filling is below.

The beauty of any kind of filled dumpling -- wontons, potstickers, empanadas, pierogis, etc. -- is that the sky is the limit when it comes to filling.  You can stay traditional or you can stray and make a different yet tasty filling.  The filling I made today gives a slight nod to Mexico, but the combination of beef, cheese, and tomatoes makes sense. If I had leftover gravy, carrots, and potatoes, I might have gone toward a beef pie filling. If I had feta and leftover veggies, I may have stuffed them with those.

You can use whatever you have around, as long as the filling tastes good.

A few tips...

 When you are making a filling:
  • Your filling should be moist but not wet. Wet fillings and frying in oil don't go too well together.
  • Cream cheese is a great neutral binder.  It adds a creaminess to your filling when the wontons are cooked.
  • Make your filling a little on the salty side, as the seasoning has to flavor the wonton skins too.
  • Make a couple test wontons.
When you are stuffing the wontons:
  • Put about a tbs. in the near center of the wonton. You will know after making a few wontons what is too much or too little. You want a balance between filling and wrapper.
  • Take out only a few wonton wrappers at a time. Cover the rest with a damp paper towel, so they don't dry out.
  • Use egg white to seal the wontons. Egg white acts like glue, and it's important to have a good seal on the wontons that will be fried. Use a brush or your finger and lightly brush the edges with egg white.
  • When you seal the wonton, bring the top points of the triangle together and press together.  Then starting from the filling, press outward toward the edges.  You want to start pressing from the filling out, so that you can get rid of any air bubbles.  Make sure that no stray filling is breaking your seal.  If you leave air bubbles or your wonton is not fully sealed, the wonton is likely to break open during cooking.
When you are frying:
  • I use a big, deep skillet and fill it with about 1 or 1 1/2 inches of oil -- just enough to cover the wontons.
  • I fry at around 365 degrees F. If I don't have a thermometer, I use a small piece of bread to test the heat of the oil.  If I put it in and nothing really happens, the oil is not ready.  If I put it in an it bubbles really quickly and browns in less than a minute, it's too hot.  If I put it in and it bubbles merrily and browns within a couple minutes, then it's the right temperature.
  • The filling is already cooked, so the wontons only have to cook a few minutes. I flip them when the underside is browned, and when the other side is down, I put them on a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve and watch them disappear in minutes!


Filling of your choice
Wonton skins
Egg white


Make a filling.  Tips are above.

Create a wonton-making station at your kitchen table with a plate, the wonton skin package (opened) and covered with a damp paper towel, a bowl with egg white, a pastry brush, and a foil-covered baking sheet. If another person is helping you, they can have their own plate, but you both can share the bowl of egg white.

Take out three or four wonton skins and place them on the plate. Put about a tbs. of filling in the center of each wonton.  Brush the edges of the wonton skins with the egg white. Take one of the wontons and bring two opposite points together to make the top of the triangle.  Seal the rest of the wonton by sealing closest to the filling and working your way out, getting rid of any air bubbles along the way. Make sure no filling is compromising the seal.  Please the wonton on the baking sheet and repeat the process until down.

Fill a large, deep skillet with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of oil and heat to 365 degrees F. Put in as many wontons as you can without crowding them.  Cook until browned on one side for a few minutes, and then flip over.

When done, place on a paper-towel lined plate to wick away any excess oil.

Plate wontons on a nice plate and serve.  Enjoy.


William Stoneman said...

Wow...those look wonderful!! Thanks for the inspirations.

Sandra Mort said...

I LOVE reusing leftovers!!! As the only omnivore in my family, if I don't eat them, they go into the trash. Since we're currently unemployed, this will NOT do.

Last week, I got some sale pork shoulder for 1.24/lb. Day 1, I made carnitas. Day 2, I "refried" the carnitas with green cabbage. Day 3, I chopped up the cabbage & pork and made wontons. They were AWESOME! The only thing is that they're so time consuming to fill that there weren't many leftover.

I still have half a package of wontons left, though, so I'll have to think of something to make with them. I was thinking of banana chocolate chip wontons for the kids for an after school snack this afternoon maybe. Maybe I'll even splurge and fry them, but if I am busy, I'll probably bake them.

Ninette said...

Sounds like a great idea to make dessert with the wontons!

food recipes said...

Mmmmmm cheese wontons looks super tasty. Can't wait to try this soon.