Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making some Wontons: Soup {Gail}

I'll be embellishing our site with embroidery soon since I have a couple weekly challenges to catch up on!

Tonight in the kitchen, I had three “firsts.” It was the first time I ever used those intriguing star anise pods, the first time I ever used lemongrass, and the first time I ever made wontons. From our 3 year soup project source, 300 Sensational Soups, I made the Pork and Scallion Wonton Soup which also includes making a second recipe for the complex broth. Now you might think that making a complex broth would be enough work for one day, and the wontons are just asking too much, but really it all dovetails nicely and doesn’t take that long! And this soup is really good! It is worth every minute – slightly sweet, not too salty, interesting broth flavors, tasty handmade wontons, and nothing ~weird~. I will definitely make this again. In like 4 years. Or for company – I would certainly make this for company.

By the way, my camera is … on vacation. I hope it is having a wonderful time in some sunny clime. When I find it, it better have brought me a really good souvenir. I think it is in Yakima at my MIL’s house, so it should bring me her good homemade cookies. All of them. (Any pictures you see below are not mine.)

To the soup! First the broth: you create the Chinese Chicken Stock by starting with chicken stock, either homemade or store-bought. Now the actual recipe calls for enriching the stock with additional chicken parts and that’s where I parted company with the true recipe. I skipped adding the chicken parts, but added all the remaining ingredients and continued. Why? Well, I think my Kitchen Basics broth (which I raved about here) is awesome enough, and I know my broths and stocks from years of making my own. If you have doubts about the quality of your broth, be sure to add the chicken parts. It doesn’t really add any other work to the recipe than rinsing them off and putting them in the pot, possibly defatting later. Aside from that (minor?) alteration, as the recipe asked, I added green onions (chopped), garlic (bashed), lemongrass (thicker bulb end sliced; farther out, cut into 1”-2” pieces – I just followed the instructions!), gingerroot (peeled, thinly sliced), carrot and celery (sliced), peppercorns (OOPS forgot those!), parsley, star anise* (whole pod – toss it in), and a piece of cinnamon stick*, a bay leaf, and a touch of dried thyme. Remember the cool thing about making broth that’s going to be strained later: you don’t have to chop pretty!!

star anise,

lemon grass stalks, 1 to 2 feet long

A note about the lemon grass. It’s big and not grassy. Think long skinny stick-like leek, or a bamboo stick. Just so you aren’t surprised if you’ve never shopped for it before. I was surprised; I was expecting something delicate ;). I haven’t been watching enough food TV in the last few years, I guess! Brought everything to a simmer over medium heat; turned it down and let all those flavors have a party in the kettle for about an hour. By the way, I only made a half recipe of the broth because that’s all the actual soup recipe itself needed. Now that I’ve eaten this, I wish I’d gone for the whole recipe and had some to freeze!!!!! I kept sniffing it as it simmered because it smelled so good.

While that was making, I put together the wontons. I have a technique I use when I need to do something with intimidating instructions, whether it be sewing, cooking, or whatever. I just do the next step. Then I do the Next step. and then… you get it, right? That’s how I approached these wontons, which over the years have taken on Bugi-man status: eeek, hide me from this scary thing now! Well, let me assure you that it is only slightly more difficult than making sandwiches. So jump right in and make some delicious handmade wontons!

Once you get the wontons made, you are basically done with the prep because this soup is broth with wontons – easy! This recipe makes some really good pork wontons, but you can probably substitute ground poultry if you prefer. I actually chose this recipe in order to use some extra ground pork we ended up with through a grocery shopping snafu.

First you make the pork filling – so easy! In one bowl mix together the ground pork, green onions (minced = sliced + chopped), soy sauce, five-spice powder*, ground pepper. Not so mysterious, right? Next beat up one egg in a small bowl and set out a small pastry brush. Then open the package of wonton wrappers – oooh, they’re like little silky squares of suede-like pasta/dough. (such as this brand (check out their recipes))

Lay a wrapper on a plate, brush the edges with egg (I almost covered the whole square on some and they turned out fine.) Add a teaspoon dollop of filling in the middle and then fold it on the diagonal, sealing out all the air possible and letting the egg do its glue-y work. When you cook them in the broth, you don’t want that air to burst them! Set each one on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they don’t stick. After the 3rd or 4th one, I felt like a pro. Well, no, I just felt like I knew what I was doing! I listened to TV while I did this and it went very quickly. Here's a link to someone else making wontons and how it would have looked if I'd taken pictures. If I had my camera. And if I were Asian. Oh, and we didn't fry them. Anyway, you can see how easy they make it look!

Once the wontons are ready and the broth has simmered long enough, you just strain out the stuff that gave it its flavor (mmmm, don’t miss out eating those carrot slices!!). Bring it back to a simmer and start dropping in the wontons. After I put in about 8 of them, the simmer started to disappear so I turned up the heat and kept adding them one by one, but quickly. After they were all in, (lots of wontons in this soup, not 2 scrawny ones per person like restaurant soup!) I gave it a gentle stir and set the timer for 8 minutes.

Full CircleThen I did the worlds fastest stir fry with already chopped up stuff including bok choy from our
<-- Produce box and some Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp while hubby defrosted some of our pre-cooked brown rice. When it was time to dish up, I tossed in a couple Tablespoons of prettily sliced green onions to finish the soup.

If you like Asian food, wonton soup, soup, food… you’ll like Pork and Scallion Wonton Soup. It’s comforting in the winter, has a wonderfully interesting flavor, and is fun to make. It must be the Asian equivalent of American chicken noodle soup; my two sick guys sure appreciated it!

The only ingredients I had to hunt down turned out to be easy to find at my local upscale grocery store: lemongrass & star anise. You might also need five-spice powder and cinnamon stick. I keep the Costco container of cinnamon sticks on hand for my spiced apple cider (recipe at bottom of linked page).


*be sure to check your upscale grocery stores, health food stores, etc, for bulk spices. I paid 10 cents for the star anise pod instead of $5-10 for a bottle I may never use up.

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