Recipe Wednesday: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Not every recipe I try comes out perfectly the first time.

Case in point:  Last week, after our shopping expedition to the oriental market (see last week’s entry), we decided to take the plunge and try making Hot and Sour Soup, one of our favorite dishes.  We’d found a couple of recipes we could reference, and we stocked up on the ingredients we’d need.

Then we looked at the recipes and decided on what changes we wanted to make.  I’ve developed a sensitivity to mushrooms (sadly).  So we crossed those off the list.  Beloved Husband isn’t a fan of things like mung beans or bamboo shoots.  So off those went, too.

Which left us with pork, egg, and tofu.  Not a very colorful soup, but as long as it tastes good, that’s okay with us.

And then we carefully prepped everything.  We pressed the tofu to remove excess water.  We cut the pork into matchsticks and marinated it.  We built the broth, layering in ingredients.

And it looked more or less like you’d expect it to look–a dark brown broth with bits of tofu, egg, and pork swimming in it.  (My bowlful had sliced scallions sprinkled on top for color.)

But one bite told us:  Too much vinegar.

We’d gone to the effort of hunting down Chinese black vinegar, since that’s what the recipe called for.  For the record, Chinese black vinegar is a very strong, very fragrant vinegar.  Also very sour.  So we’ve decided that next time, we’re going to use two tablespoons of vinegar instead of five, and we’re going to use half Chinese black vinegar and half rice vinegar (which is much milder).  We figure we can always add a bit more later, if there isn’t enough.  But when there’s too much, there’s not much you can do about it.  I’ll report back on the results once we’ve tried it again.  (And it wasn’t totally inedible; it was just a lot more sour than either of us likes.)

Another not-completely-successful recipe we tried were Shu-Mai.  We started off with the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but again made modifications to suit our likes and dislikes (and also because we forgot to get the gelatin called for in the recipe, so we subbed egg instead).

This time, we had mixed results.  Beloved Husband didn’t want shrimp or vegetables in his shu-mai, so his batch ended up being a little bland–basically just pork and seasonings.  (They did look very nice; unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures.  Next time.)  When we make these again, I plan to add small amounts of vegetables he likes (spinach, perhaps, or a bit of finely-chopped broccoli), along with extra seasonings (and the gelatin we’d have put in if we’d had it).

On the other hand, my batch turned out very well.  Because I didn’t have a lot of pork on hand once we’d made the soup and Beloved Husband’s shu-mai, I decided to substitute a piece of flounder I had in the freezer instead.  Nor did we have the chestnuts called for in the original recipe.  So I put in some scallions and Napa cabbage.  Finally, my filling turned out a bit soupy, so I stirred in some panko crumbs to give it some body.

The results were extremely tasty.  I’d definitely make these again.  And I’ll even share the recipe with you:

Seafood Shu-mai

1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 lb. white fish (e.g., flounder)
2 ribs Napa cabbage
1 scallion
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons mirin (or sweet sherry)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 egg (yes, I know it’s awkward)
3-4 tablespoons panko crumbs
1/2 package round gyoza wrappers

Rinse shrimp and fish and pat as dry as possible.  Cut the fish into 1″ chunks.  If the shrimp are large, cut in half.  Place shrimp and fish in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 6-8 times, until the meat is fairly finely ground.  Transfer to medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Cut the Napa cabbage and scallion into 1″ chunks and place in bowl of food processor.  Again, pulse until fairly finely chopped (aim for 1/4″ pieces), about 5-7 pulses.  Add to fish mixture.

Combine soy sauce, cornstarch, mirin, rice vinegar, and sugar and pour over fish mixture.  Add ginger, salt, pepper and egg and mix until well blended.  Sprinkle in panko crumbs, one tablespoon at a time, and stir.  The mixture should hold its shape, but still be fairly soft.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper.  Wet the edges of the gyoza wrappers and put about a tablespoon of the filling in the center of each.  (Work with 3-4 at a time to make the process easier.)  Leaving some space open at the top of each dumpling, pinch the sides shut, pinching into halves, then quarters, then eighths.  Gently squeeze the top of the dumpling so the wrapper sticks to itself, and use a knife or the back of a spoon to compress the filling that’s trying to come out of the top of the dumpling.  You should end up with something that looks like a little bag, with filling even with the top edge, and slightly bulgy on the bottom.  Set on parchment-lined baking sheet while you finish the rest.

Line the baskets of a bamboo steamer with parchment paper, poking ~20 holes in the paper to let the steam get through.  Place shu-mai in the baskets.  They should not touch each other.

Place steamer over boiling water and steam for 10-15 minutes, or until internal temperature of the dumplings reaches 160F.  Serve with chili oil sauce (a recipe I’ll post once I’ve tweaked it to my satisfaction) or dumpling sauce.  Makes 18-20 shu-mai.

So out of three recipes we tried, we came out with one keeper, and two that need a little tweaking (though we know where to start with that, at least).

What recipes have other people tried that maybe didn’t work out so well on the first outing, but which you later tweaked and cooked successfully?

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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