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!

Wontons

Filling of your choice
Wonton skins
Egg white

Oil

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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Koulourakia





My brother-in-law and family came back to the United States to visit after four years of being away.  They live in Guam, which is halfway around the world from us. My sister-in-law, Liz, is Greek, so my younger daughter and I made her some koulourakia.  Koulorakia are lightly sweetened cookies or biscuits -- they seem to me a slightly softer version of Italian biscotti.

I went online and used a recipe from food.com, http://greek.food.com/recipe/sesame-greek-easter-cookies-koulourakia-4313.  I halved the recipe and made over 50 3-inch cookies.

I used a chopstick as my ruler to make each cookie.
The dough come out soft and pliable.  I took chunks of the dough, rolled it with my hands into long ropes and then cut them down into about 7-inch pieces.  Each piece I would fold in half and twist a few times around. Christina would brush them with egg wash and sprinkle them with white sesame seeds.

After 12 minutes at 375 degrees F, the cookies were lightly browned and done. Liz declared them, "perfect."