Cheers to a brand new year! 2023 is shaping up to be the year of the declutter for me and first on the list was cleaning out our hall closet and turning it into a backup pantry to house mixing bowls, flour canisters, and small appliances/kitchen tools. It’s no Pioneer Woman pantry, but it’s pretty good.
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My favorite item in my new hall pantry is that bamboo steamer, which I got on Amazon. Joey and I have been using it to cook our way through Frankie Gaw’s beautiful cookbook, “First Generation“. This book was the January inspiration I didn’t know I needed. I’ve learned many new things and have a long way to go before mastering any of them. But what else am I doing with my time this month — taxes? Exercising? No! I’m learning to make dumplings and bao buns.
“First Generation” Cookbook Show and Tell
Classic Pork Dumplings: This was the first dish we made from “First Generation” and while we had visions of becoming expert dumpling-shapers after one pass through Frankie Gaw’s artful step-by-step photo instructions, our dumplings came out looking a little rough. Who cares! They still tasted delicious. The filling was ground pork, scallions, ginger, sesame oil — all the usual suspects and totally satisfying.
Noodles with Minced Pork Sauce: In “First Generation”, these noodles are actually handmade. But, we made this on a weeknight and I took the suggestion in the book to use store-bought noodles in a pinch. I can’t really pluck the right words out of my head to describe the flavors in this sauce. It’s one of those things that was more than the sum of its parts: dried mushrooms, pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, shallots, sake (although, I used mirin), sweet bean sauce (me again, without a full stock of Asian ingredients — I used hoisin), and an almond-soy glaze which is another recipe in the book. I was blown away by the savoriness and depth of the result and did not want to stop eating this dish. I wish I was always eating it, all the time.
Popcorn chicken and smoked short rib steamed buns: This was our New Year’s Eve feast and it was every bit as indulgent as it looks. Joey smoked some short ribs and braised them in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and other delicious components I, unfortunately, can’t recall and they were so tasty tucked into the puffy, seared-on-the-side bao buns. Being NYE and all, the night required a second bao bun filling, for which I turned to the Fried Chicken Gua Bao in “First Generation”, except I cut it into popcorn-sized pieces. We topped these buns with all kinds of pickled things, fresh herbs, radishes, many sauces, and a broccoli slaw. Absolute heaven.
Roasted Carrot and Pork Bao: If you compare the photo of this dish in “First Generation” to my photo, you would not recognize it as the same recipe. Frankie Gaw did a “braided fold” on these bao in the book and his, of course, looked like a work of art. Not only could we not master this fold and ended up totally abandoning it, but I’m also unclear on how he got his to hold their shape. The bao dough is a yeasted dough and just kept puffing up, unpleating all of our pleats. Not sure how to avoid that but for now, am just super appreciative of the puffy buns and the roasty, sweet/earthy-tasting filling. Loved these!
Joey and I will keep working on becoming master dumpling-shapers. Meanwhile, below are some other good eats we’ve been enjoying lately.
Other Fun Endeavors
Smoked Ricotta Tortelli with Red Onions: Yes, in addition to learning to shape dumplings and decluttering my house into a state of euphoria in 2023, I also want to become an expert pasta-maker. So far, my tortelli have been very blob-y but I have high hopes I’ll improve with practice. Fortunately, just like the dumplings, what these tortelli looked like did not matter! The creamy, smoked ricotta filling and buttery, caramelized red onion sauce were what really counted. So good! This recipe is from the book, “Via Carota” by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi.
Bacon and egg bing! We have Molly Yeh to thank for this. It’s her recipe for Ji dan Bing except we use bacon or pulled pork instead of pork belly. It’s a fascinating way to make a hearty, crave-able breakfast — you start by making giant, thin pancakes and while they cook on the first side, you crack an egg on top, spread it around, sprinkle it with some salty meat and scallions, flip it once, then shimmy it out of the pan and top it with spicy sambal oelek. Then you roll it up and eat it with a bright, spicy, ginger-chili vinegar. Making this sesame oil-flavored dough from scratch and rolling out the pancakes while sipping on a frosty can of diet coke is my new favorite 10am-on-a-Saturday activity. Joey actually does all the cooking of these bing. His egg-spreading and pancake-flipping skills are unmatched.
Smoked Chicken: I got Joey a Recteq pellet smoker for his birthday and man oh man — this thing is so simple and easy to use, I predict we’ll be smoking all the things all the time. Nothing will be safe from me and my grill tongs. Onions, sweet potatoes, pecans — all going on the Recteq. This chicken came out wonderfully juicy with just the right amount of smoke and as I type this, the carcass is simmering for homemade stock to use in Pinch of Yum’s white chicken chili.
Converting a Stew from Multi-Pot to Stovetop
Now, on to a recipe based on the Spicy Gochujang Chicken Stew in Melissa Clark’s book, “Dinner in One“. In the book, this is a pressure cooker recipe. I converted it to a stovetop recipe by adding four cups of vegetable stock rather than the 1/2 cup of water called for in the book, changed the method a bit, and of course made sure to simmer it long enough that the chicken and potatoes were fully cooked — 30 minutes in this case. I also altered the quantities of some ingredients to let the flavor of the spices, sauces, and seasonings shine more. (My personal preference is always MORE spice, salt, umami, etc, etc.)
This is my go-to way of converting a soup or stew from a multi-pot to stovetop: increase the liquid (usually to 4 cups total) and add the ingredients to the pot in a somewhat logical order, adding salt/seasoning along the way (oil/butter > aromatics > protein > liquid > starchy or sturdy vegetables > soft greens or anything that just needs enough time to wilt > whatever seasoning adjustments are needed). Depending on what I’m cooking, sometimes I add the protein before the aromatics, either because I want a reeeaal good sear on the protein, or because I want to saute the onions, carrots, etc. in the fat from the protein. TBH, it’s pretty darn hard to mess up a soup or stew so I don’t beat myself up if I choose the wrong order — it always turns out okay.
This Spicy Gochujang Chicken Stew was very, very satisfying for a cold winter night. Especially with a scallion pancake on the side! The pancake pictured below was one I had stashed in the freezer and the recipe was from, once again, “First Generation”. The freeze-ability of the scallion pancake was its first selling point, only to be outdone by the flavor, then outdone again by the crispy-ness achieved during cooking. Love, love, love.
Spicy Gochujang Chicken Stew
This recipe is based on the pressure cooker Spicy Gochujang Chicken Stew in Melissa Clark’s book, “Dinner in One“. It’s been converted to stovetop and has had the sweet/spicy/umami-ness dialed up a bit.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- 4 TBS soy sauce
- 2 TBS gochujang
- 1 TBS brown sugar
- big pinch of red pepper flakes
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 pound), cut into 1″ pieces
- kosher salt
- 2 TBS canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced into 1/4“-thick rounds
- 4 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1” piece of ginger, grated
- 4 C vegetable stock
- 1/2 lb yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 big handfuls)
- 2–3 tsp of Better than Bouillon (I used the chicken flavor), if needed
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Whisk together 3 TBS of the soy sauce, the gochujang, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Season the chopped chicken thighs with salt, add them to the bowl and toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Heat the canola oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and carrot to the pot, season with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft — about 7 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, add the chicken and all the liquid from the marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes to allow the chicken to begin to cook on the outside and the liquid to reduce slightly/begin to concentrate all those flavors.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for one minute.
- Add the potatoes, a big pinch of salt, and the vegetable stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to high to bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender. (Test the potatoes’ doneness by stabbing a piece with a paring knife and lifting it out of the liquid — it should slide back off the knife immediately.)
- Add the sliced cabbage and cook for 5 more minutes, until wilted.
- Taste and season with the remaining TBS of soy sauce and 2-3 tsp of Better than Bouillon if needed.
- Serve, garnished with sliced scallions and cilantro.
*The cooking times and nutritional info noted in this recipe are approximate.
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