Friday, October 14, 2011

Asian & Moroccan-Inspired Lamb Potstickers



UPDATE: Click here to vote for your favorite Lamb recipe in the American Lamb Pro Am. And please vote for me!

Confession: I have never cooked with lamb. I’ve had lamb, but only on a rare occasion. This could have to do with my upbringing. Lamb is rarely part of Cantonese cuisine. And according to Chinese superstition, eating lamb while pregnant was said to cause your unborn child to have acne or worse, epilepsy. It was also believed using glue while pregnant will bring about a difficult labor. But I digress. I’ve never purchased lamb or made a lamb dish for my family. Ever. Until this week.


American Lamb Pro-Am
I’ve been invited to compete in the American Lamb Pro-Am, in which 10 local food bloggers will compete by creating an original American Lamb recipe and blogging about it. Readers will vote for their favorite recipe/post, with the top four vote getters moving on to round 2. The final four bloggers will each be paired with a local top chef to collaborate on their dish and serve it to 100 attendees at the American Lamb Pro-Am event for a chance to be crowned winner of the American Lamb Pro-Am.

This was my chance to debunk those crazy Chinese myths and create a unique lamb dish that my whole family would enjoy.

This lamb is your lamb. This lamb is my lamb.
I decided to take a quintessential Chinese dish and lamb-o-size it. I wanted to make traditional potstickers but prepare them two ways  - Asian and Moroccan style lamb potstickers. But first I had to prepare the lamb.

Step 1: Butcher
Having never cooked with lamb before, I did some research on leg of lamb (the cut we were given). It is a versatile cut and is very tender and flavorful. Since I needed ground lamb, butchering was going to be fairly straightforward. I first had to remove the fell – an impermeable layer between the skin and fat layer.
 
Next, I chopped the lamb into 1-inch cubes for grinding.


Then the fun part: put the lamb through the meat grinder. I used a food grinder attachment for my trusty KitchenAid mixer and ground the lamb twice through the meat grinder. 


Step 2: Prepare the filling


First I wanted to create a traditional Chinese potsticker, the kind I grew up eating and the kind my kids inhale. The mixture includes a typical mélange of Chinese ingredients: scallions, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar, egg, pepper and cornstarch. I added napa cabbage for added moisture and extra texture.

For the Moroccan potstickers, I wanted to pay homage to the traditional flavor pairings of lamb and spices. I created a “Moroccan” spice mixture consisting of garlic, ground coriander, pepper, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, paprika and salt. I added onions, scallions, napa cabbage and raisins for added moisture and texture.

The kitchen smelled like a bazaar straight from the Silk Road.


Step 3: Assembly


Due to time constraints, I used store-bought dumpling wrappers (time savers for those families looking for a quick weeknight meal!). My oldest was more than eager to employ his little fingers to the task. This quite honestly was my favorite part of the challenge. 


Step 4: Pan-Fry
You can cook the potstickers by steaming, boiling or pan-frying. I prefer pan-frying for the crispy bottoms and overall pot stickiness. Check out the recipes below for directions.

 

Step 5: Dip and enjoy
I complimented these with two different dipping sauces – a traditional Turkish butter sauce with paprika and hot sauce and a soy and rice vinegar sauce. 

 

Lambtastic!
My early memories of my first taste of lamb was that it was gamey and greasy. These little pockets of deliciousness was everything but. My boys loved the Asian-inspired potstickers best. There is just the right amount of sweet lamb flavor but was at times overpowered by the soy and vinegar sauce.

Umdaddy and I were big fans of the Moroccan-inspired dumplings. The Moroccan spices complemented the sweet lamb taste perfectly. And the raisins gave the filling an extra sweet, juicy bite. The butter sauce provided them with an extra savory, sweet and smokey pairing. This was finished with a clean refreshing taste of mint, which I used as garnish. Awesome.

Thanks BostonChefs.com and American Lamb Board. I am now a fan of the lamb!


Asian-Inspired Lamb Potstickers Recipe
(Makes about 44 dumplings)

INGREDIENTS

Potsticker Filling
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing
  • 1/4 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 3 scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Store-bought dumpling wrappers

Dipping Sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 scallion (green part only), thinly sliced on the diagonal

DIRECTIONS


  1. In a large bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in each dumpling wrapper, wet the edge with water, fold over, pressing firmly to seal.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat . When hot, add as many dumplings as will fit and cook for 1 minute. Add enough cold water to cover the dumplings half way, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until liquid is evaporated and bottoms of dumplings are crisp and golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Repeat with remaining dumplings.
  5. While dumplings are cooking make the sauce by combining all ingredients in a medium bowl.


Moroccan-Inspired Lamb Potstickers Recipe
(Makes about 44 dumplings)

INGREDIENTS

Moroccan-Inspired Filling

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 bunch scallions, washed and finely chopped
  • A few leaves of washed napa cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Moroccan spice mixture (see below)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • Store-bought dumpling wrappers
  • Fresh mint, shredded, for garnish

Moroccan Spice Mix
(makes about 1/4 cup)


  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • ½ tbs ground coriander
  • ½ tbs ground black pepper
  • ½ tbs cumin
  • ½ tbs ground fennel seed
  • ¼ tbs cinnamon
  • ¼ tbs paprika
  • ¼ kosher salt


Dipping sauce


  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine quality sweet paprika
  • coarse salt to taste
  • 4 dashes of hot red pepper sauce, or more to taste


DIRECTIONS:


  1. Parboil half an onion for one to two minutes, until the layers of the onion have just turned translucent but are not soggy. Let cool; then finely chop.
  2. Parboil a few leaves of Napa cabbage for thirty seconds to one minute, until the vegetables are slightly softened but not yet translucent. Finely chop.
  3. Follow directions 1-4 above in Asian-inspired potstickers recipe
  4. While dumplings are cooking make the sauce: In a small skillet over moderate heat cook the butter until it is a very light brown, remove the skillet from heat, and stir in the paprika, coarse salt to taste, and the hot red pepper sauce.



Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I was given the lamb courtesy of the American Lamb Board and BostonChefs.com. Opinions are my own.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meal Planning Tool Review #2: Everyday Food "Grocery Bag"



I can always count on the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living for simple yet delicious recipes that my whole family will love. So when it comes to meal planning tools, I knew I had to try "Grocery Bag" meal plans by Everyday Food.

In each month of Everyday Food and online at www.marthastewart.com, there is a feature called Grocery Bag. Grocery Bag is a set of five weeknight menus with a ready to print or tear grocery list. The Grocery Bag meal plan promises one trip to the grocery store at the start of the week resulting in a week's worth of dinners. I've seen meal plans like this before, but never have I followed one so faithfully as I done had last week. I decided I would follow the meal plan exactly as it appeared, using the shopping list and recipes to help me "sail through dinner from Monday all the way to Friday with our editors' time-tested strategies for ease." So was it smooth sailing?



This was an okay dish. It didn't blow us away - but this could have been due to the fact that we had a cheap cut of meat. This was pretty easy to whip up (gotta love oven-roasted veggies). The no-cook marinade paired nicely with the veggies but was over-powered by the steak. May try it with pork or chicken next time. Grade: B-





This was my first time making gumbo. But as promised, we had a hearty stew on the table in less than 45 minutes. I was not a fan of the okra (got too slimy for me). The kids surprisingly ate a lot of it, even though there was quite a bit of heat to this dish. Grade: Umdaddy gave this an A+. I would say a B+.


This was by far the easiest dish to prepare for the week. It helps to have a rice cooker BTW. And if you don't own a rice cooker, get one. Now. And this was hands down my boys' favorite meal of the week. They could not get enough and as a result, there were no leftovers for lunch the next day. Grade: A-


I was not such a faithful student of Martha on this one. I marinated the shrimp in garlic, EVOO, salt and pepper and sauteed them separately rather than boil them with the pasta and veggies. I just couldn't get myself to do it. I also changed up the veggies - opting for late Summer/early Fall veggies that I knew my kids would like. This was pretty tasty. My oldest loved the shrimp but was not a fan of the feta. Grade: B
I was excited to try making another veggie burger. Except this dish called for lentils, which I could not find for some odd reason at all five stores I frequent. I decided to try Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley mix. It did include some lentils (and 16 other varieties of beans and barley), so why not?  I soaked the beans overnight and substituted this bean mixture for canned lentils. The result? Beany deliciousness. Grade: A-

The skinny: I wasn't sure how I would feel about relinquishing all creative control over a full-week's worth of dinners for the family. But can honestly say this helped with the stress level of deciding what to make for dinner on any given night. This works for us since we don't have to factor in any dietary restrictions. I also liked how this pushed us out of our comfort zone. Okra and veggie burgers would normally not be part of a weeknight meal at our house.

As for the "one" bag meal plan? Not so much for us. Since I normally shop at 2-3 different grocers (I prefer to get my produce from Russo's v. Trader Joe's for instance), it was more like a three grocery bag meal plan. 

So short of hiring a personal chef and someone to do your shopping, it doesn't get any easier than this.

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