Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Building A Charcuterie Platter

Building a charcuterie platter.

It is time to take advantage of the remaining warm summer nights and enjoy an evening with friends, sparkling wine, and charcuterie. Entertaining does not get any easier than this. There is no cooking unless you want to make the pâté or a spread. Just assemble and relax.  What you place on your charcuterie platter is up to you, but you want to keep in mind how many people you are entertaining, variety in texture and flavor, plus add your personal stamp to the meal.  A charcuterie platter is a perfect meal for hot summer nights when it is too hot to cook, or just enjoying a sunset from your deck with friends.

But what is a charcuterie platter? By definition, charcuterie is a French name for a deli, or market, that sells cured meats, especially pork. Charcuterie also means the products that are sold in a charcuterie. With that understanding, a charcuterie platter is a platter or tray layered with smoked and cured meats and other specialty food items, like cheese and pickles.

Traditionally, a charcuterie platter is very meat focused and consists of a variety of cured meats like prosciutto, soppressata, and pâtés, with add-ins like pickles, spicy mustard, bread, or crackers. However, for my platter, and because I believe it is still in the realm of the definition of a charcuterie platter, I added cheeses, fruits, and vegetables.

Building A Charcuterie Platter.

How to Build a Charcuterie Platter

How does one put together all those different foods so that it looks appealing and covers all the bases of complementary tastes and contrasting textures? First, organize all your ingredients in groups, then arrange all of the ingredients in a decorative yet easy to reach manner.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Meats

Start with the meats. A good rule to follow is 2 oz of meat per person. Charcuterie platters contain very rich foods, so you do not want to overdo it. Pick three types of cured meat with different flavors and textures. The meats pictured on my charcuterie platter are soppressata, prosciutto, and bresaola. These three types of cured meats offer a variety in texture and flavor, although a subtle one. A common rule is, have meat that you slice like the soppressata, one meat that comes sliced, like prosciutto, and meat that you spread like pâté.

Other meat selections for slicing are Genoa salami, smoked sausage or ham (you can heat those up as well), and capicola.

Other meats you buy sliced are Guanciale or Mortadella.

Meats for spreading are smooth or chunky pâtés or terrines.

What is missing on my charcuterie board is pâté because my family does not care for it. Smoked fish or gravlax is also a nice alternative and an option for people who do not like pork or beef. Keep in mind you want to make something that you know you and your guests will enjoy.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Cheese

Similar to the cured meats, it is nice to have 3 different types of cheese on your charcuterie board as well. Although, if you want this to be charcuterie platter that is more meat-focused, one selection of cheese is fine.

Like the meats, your cheeses should have different textures and flavors. I usually follow this rule for building a cheese board, one soft rind triple cream cheese, one hard or sharp-tasting cheese, and one blue cheese. The possibilities are endless. If you do not like blue cheese swap in a soft goat cheese.

For my charcuterie platter, I selected Red Hawk a triple cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Blue, from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., and Manchego.

Other cheese selections are:

For your triple cream cheese, try Kunik, (which is one of the best cheeses out there), Saint André, or a triple creme brie.

Any blue cheese, or goat cheese like Montechevere,

Other dry or aged cheese selections are Asiago or provolone or an Aged Gouda. These cheese pair nicely with the meats.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Add-ins

This is where you can get creative and add your personal spin to a charcuterie platter. Yet, keep in mind the additional accoutrements have a purpose other than tasting great and looking pretty. The add-ins provide a break from the rich meats and cheeses, provide textural contrast,  and clear the palate.

Fill your platter with a wide selection of any of these foods.

Fruits like figs, grapes, berries or dried fruits like apricots or figs are nice selections.

Pickles like cornichons are a must, but you can use other pickled vegetables like carrots, fennel, and chilies.

Briny olives like Kalamata or good green olives.

Fresh vegetables like fennel, cucumber, radishes, or carrots add an important textural contrast with their crisp crunch and are very refreshing.

Mustard is also an important ingredient to a charcuterie platter as they complement the cured meat wonderfully.

Jams like hot pepper jelly or fig jam. If you can find hot pepper jam it is one of my favorite jams with cheese. The sweet and spicy jelly is addictive.

Spreads like hummus and tapenade taste great with charcuterie.

Nuts. Any nut like walnuts, almonds or pistachios you can’t go wrong. Just make sure there are no nut allergies before you add them to your platter.

Building a charcuterie platter.

The list is long, but choose a selection of three fruits and/or vegetables, with a couple of specialty items. Don’t be redundant. If you have olive tapenade, do not put out olives. If you have fig jam don’t put out fresh figs, pick another fruit instead. Although, when in season fresh figs are delicious with charcuterie.

Just remember one thing, do not forget the mustard, sweet or spicy or both, it doesn’t matter. In France, it is sacrilegious to serve charcuterie without mustard.

Serve

It is nice to arrange everything on one platter and serve with bread or crispy crackers. You can also arrange your charcuterie selection on more than one platter. This is especially important if some of your guests eat a plant-based diet. They might not want their selections mixed in with the meats or cheeses. By the middle of the evening, the charcuterie platter will get messy, so it is thoughtful of you to keep the foods separate. Serving the charcuterie selections on multiple platters works well for larger parties when you will have more meats to arrange on your board.

Toasted French baguette makes a more substantial selection and looks nice when sliced thin on the diagonal. I especially like to serve charcuterie with bread when I want my charcuterie platter to be a meal. Thin crispy plain crackers work well with the cheese and meats too. Also, I found people really enjoy breadsticks as well.

Serve your charcuterie platter at room temperature. You will need to slice the meats and cheeses when they are cold, but everything tastes better when they are at room temperature.

Building a charcuterie platter.

Beverages

Chilled sparkling wines like a Spanish Cava or an Italian Prosecco, Lambrusco, or a dry rosé are perfect for this type of meal, especially on hot summer nights. Some dry reds that are not too heavy pair nicely as well. Dry sparkling wines help cut the richness of the cheese and meats and clear the palate so you can keep on sampling.

Beer is another good beverage of choice, but I would not do anything too rich. I really enjoyed the pairing of a red ale with my Irish Cheese Platter, so I imagine it works with charcuterie as well.

My son Andrew recommends Saisons because they are dry and spicy, or a good Pilsner. These types of beer will help clear the palate. He also loves Lambic, a Belgium Sour, with charcuterie. Low alcohol beers work nicely because they do not fill you up and you can easily snack on your charcuterie.

For a non-alcohol beverage, seltzer is perfect. Mixed in with lime, or lemon and/or cucumber is very refreshing and helps clear the palate. Anything bubbly that is not sweet. Stay away from soda. You won’t taste the charcuterie if you are drinking a coke.

Building A Charcuterie Platter.

I hope you enjoy the remains of summer and the ease of the season with charcuterie and friends.

Building a Charcuterie Platter. A how to guide for making a delicious charcuterie platter. This charcuterie platter is filled with cured meats, cheese, pickles, fruit, vegetables, hot pepper jelly, mustard, and nuts.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Spiral Sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze

Spiral Sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze, a recipe.

Today is the first day of Spring but you would not know it from looking outside my window. The fourth nor’easter of the month is hidden behind the current dusting of baby snowflakes. Despite the unpredictable weather, I love spring. Here in the Hudson Valley it arrives just in time to boost up our winter weary mood. At this time of year, I search for that first bright green blade of grass, or the first crocus leaves pushing towards the sun under a bed of winter debris, and seeing fuzzy fresh buds ready to bust open and leaf out. Witnessing nature wake up after its winter nap makes me feel like a kid given free run of a toy store, excitedly scurrying from flower bed to wooded acre not knowing where to first look.

Sadly, there are no spring blooms yet, so my focus is inside, planning our meals for spring celebrations and family gatherings. In my family, cured ham is a favorite choice for a spring or Easter dinner served with pineapple stuffing, a green vegetable such as Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise and a green salad. I am not sure if my family uses ham as an excuse for pineapple stuffing, or the other way around. Either way, ham and pineapple stuffing make a mandatory appearance for our Easter dinner.

 How to cook a Spiral Sliced Ham

Nothing could be easier than cooking up a cured ham. Essentially all you need to do is heat it in the oven and make a glaze. Unfortunately, if one is not careful the ham will dry out while cooking in the oven, especially a spiral sliced ham. After a couple of dried out hams, I adopted the technique created by Cooks Illustrated for heating up spiral-sliced ham. It has a two-step heating process. The first step requires a container large enough for the ham to soak in. With the second step requiring a large oven bag for roasting the ham.

This technique was created with the understanding, that the less time the ham roasts in the oven, the less likely it will dry out and over cook. To gently encourage the process along, the ham soaks (with its plastic covering still intact) in hot tap water for 90 minutes. After soaking the ham in hot water and removing the plastic coverings, the ham gets sealed in a large oven bag. This cooking method seals in any juices and keeps the ham moist.

Cooks Illustrated recommends heating the spiral sliced ham in the oven bag until it reaches an internal temperature of 100°F (38°C). Then open and roll down the oven bag and baste the ham with a glaze. At this point you only need to cook the ham until the glaze heats up and gets sticky.

I find the 100°F (38°C) is on the cool side of warm and I like my ham slightly warmer. Cooks Illustrated reasoning for stopping at the 100 degree mark is cooking the ham longer will dry it out. Plus, ham tastes delicious either hot or at room temperature. Though, I read on the Reynolds Oven Bag link they recommend cooking to 140°F (60°C). This high temperature could easily dry out a spiral sliced ham. However, I believe there is a happy medium in the middle at 120°F (49°C).

Spiral Sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze, a recipe.

Glaze for Spiral Sliced Ham

For the glaze I mixed and simmered some orange marmalade and leftover canned pineapple juice from the pineapple stuffing. I also mixed in Dijon mustard, brown sugar, rum, ground clove, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. It sounds like the works, but each ingredient adds a little more depth and blends well together. The amount of spice is just a pinch of each, so it is not overpowering. I also believe sweet sauces taste better when cut with some heat.

The glaze is multi-dimensional. In addition to coating the spiral sliced ham, I mix it with pan juices for a pan sauce. Additionally, I like the glaze mixed with some grainy mustard making a condiment to serve with the ham. Feel free to adjust the amounts of each ingredient but remember you need enough to use in three different ways.

Spiral Slice Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze, a recipe.

Need a dessert? Make my Pavolva with Kiwi, Berries and Passion Fruit Glaze.

Left Over Recipe Ideas for Spiral Sliced Ham

Add chopped ham to a pasta dinner for another family favorite treat.

Make a cheese omelet and add some chopped ham with the cheese or your choice.

Add ham to my Onion Tart for a recipe similar to Quiche Loraine.

There is nothing like a good ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on good crusty or whole grain bread. Spread the bread with some Dijon mustard (or leftover mustard from your ham dinner) and mayonnaise, then add some crispy lettuce and you are good to go. Or make a Cuban Sandwich.

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Spiral Sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze, a recipe.

Spiral-Sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze

A fool-proof method for making a moist spiral sliced ham and enough glaze to add to pan juices and extra mustard on the side. This technique is borrowed from Cooks Illustrated recipe for Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham. The ham is slowly warmed up in a water bath then heated in the oven. I basted the ham with an orange pineapple glaze for a sweet and slightly spicy seasoning. The ground cayenne is optional.

Special equipment

A container large enough to hold the ham with water.

A large oven bag for roasting. See link in blog post.

Roasting pan 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Warm Soaking time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 10 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 8-10 lb Spiral Sliced bone t half Ham butt or shank end
  • Orange Pineapple Glaze
  • ½ cup (140 g) orange marmalade or peach or apricot jam
  • 2 TB (27 g) brown sugar
  • 4 TB (34 g) Dijon mustard
  • 2 TB dark rum brandy, or bourbon
  • 4 TB pineapple juice apple juice/ orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Dash ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Cooking the ham

    Place the ham, still in its sealed plastic covering, in a container large enough to fit the ham and cover the entire ham with water. Add enough hot tap water to completely cover the ham. Rest on the counter for 45 minutes. Drain the water and fill the container again with hot tap water and rest for another 45 minutes. 

  2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250°F / 120°C / Gas Mark 1/2 and place the rack at the lowest position. 

  3. After the ham has warmed up in its water bath for an hour and a half, drain out the water then remove the ham from its plastic cover. Check to see if there is a plastic disk over the bone or other plastic covers, and remove it. Place the ham, cut side down into a large oven bag. Gather up the ends and tie together just above the top of the ham. Make 4 two-inch (5 cm) slits in the oven bag, just a couple of inches down from the tied end and placed equidistant around the circumference of the bag. One on each side of the ham. Place the ham on a roasting pan then place on the rack in the oven. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 100°F (38°C), about an hour and a half depending on the size of your ham. It roasts 10 minutes a pound. 

  4. Remove the ham from the oven and turn up the temperature to 350°F / 175°C / Gas Mark 4. Open the oven bag and roll the sides down to expose the ham. Baste the ham with about a third of the glaze and return the ham to the oven.  If the glaze is too thick warm it up over medium heat until it thins out. Bake until the glaze is sticky and congealed, about 10-15 minutes. 

  5. Remove the ham from the oven and place on a cutting board. Loosely cover the ham with aluminum foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.

  6. Carve the ham and serve with the sauce and or country style Dijon mustard. 

  7. Make the Orange Pineapple Glaze

    While the ham is roasting, combine the ingredients to a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir the glaze until it reaches a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your tastes. Simmer until the glaze thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside. 

  8. Make the pan juices 

    While the ham is resting on the carving board, add about a third of the glaze with 4 tablespoons of pan juices to a sauce pan over medium high heat. Simmer until the juices thicken slightly. Taste and adjust the seasoning. For a smooth pan sauce, strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a serving container. Or keep it chunky. 

  9. Make the Orange Glaze Mustard 

    Add 3 TB of mustard to 1 TB of the glaze in a small bowl. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust with more or less mustard and glaze to suit your taste. 

  10. Baste any remaining glaze over the ham before carving. 

Spiral sliced Ham with Orange Pineapple Glaze, Recipe for how to cook a spiral sliced ham. A two step process of warming up the ham, first submerged in hot water, then roasted inside an oven bag. The ham is tender and moist and glazed with a orange pineapple glaze.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

In the US roast pork has several names: roasted pork, slow roasted pork, pulled pork, Italian pork roast, Roman Style pork roast, the list goes on. In Italy, especially central Italy around Rome, roast pork has one name, Porchetta, [por’ ketta]. According to Wikipedia, Porchetta  , the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali has designated Porchetta to be a “traditional agricultural-alimentary product” of Italy.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Traditionally, Porchetta is a major production to make. A whole pig is gutted, deboned, massaged with garlic, lemon, wild herbs like fennel, and sometimes other meats. Then it is reshaped and cooked on a spit over an open fire. It is a meal that is served for a celebration, as well as a street food sold out of vans. Currently, you can find white vans all over Italy, but especially Rome, selling Porchetta sandwiches from the van. A special occasion meal turned Italian street food for the world to love.

I have yet to enjoy a Porchetta sandwich in Italy, but I am confident someday I will. Until that time, I can make a scaled down adaptation of Porchetta in my home. You don’t need to break down a whole pig, and you don’t need a fire pit with a rotisserie to enjoy this meal. Thanks to the fortitude of Italian immigrants and enterprising chefs, like Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, us homebodies can create this Italian Roast Pork without it being a major production.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs reicpe

Following a recipe in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I started making my roasted pork with a pork shoulder. I had the butcher butterfly it to easily spread the herbs throughout the pork, then refrigerated the pork to marinate overnight. I baked it in the oven the next day with root vegetables. The final result was a scaled-down Porchetta, a succulent roast pork with golden crispy skin and filled with herbs and lemon.

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Judy Rodgers does not butterfly her pork shoulder. Instead, she creates pockets throughout the pork shoulder to stuff with the herbs. I thought it would be easier to spread the seasoning all over the meat with it open in one big flat piece. I also wanted to have extra herbs to rub over the top layer of fat. Did I mention the golden crispy skin? The kind you want to pick at when no one is looking. Getting extra crispy and golden skin is one of your goals creating this roast pork.

Rosat Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Keys to Success: Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

There are some key elements to keep in mind. First, Porchetta is all about the dark crispy skin. It is difficult to find pork shoulder that has not had the fat trimmed off. If you have a good butcher, then you can get quality pork with a thick layer of fat on top. Yet, if you are like me and dependent on the grocery store to supply your meat, you can still create succulent roast, but lacking some of the cracklings. Once the pork roast is tied, rub olive oil and any extra herbs over the top.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

If you have a built-in rotisserie in your grill or oven, you are a lucky person. This recipe for roast pork shoulder is perfect for roasting on a revolving spit. The results will be closer to the traditional Porchetta, and you will get dark crispy skin all around your roast.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Several recipes for Porchetta have you cook the pork to an internal temperature of 180˚F/ 82˚C. However, this recommendation comes from chefs who are sourcing high-end quality pork. It is not the pork commonly available, and affordable, to the average person. Pork roast, cooked to 180˚F is a well done piece of pork. If you cook with pork sourced from a small farm that allows the pigs to graze and bred for flavor, therefore has more fat, the high internal temperature should not dry out the pork. In my opinion, most grocery stores do not sell pork containing the same amount of quality fat. If cooked too long the roast will dry out. The best practice roasting standard pork, is to finish baking when the internal temperature reaches 160˚F -165˚F/ 74˚C.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Finally, traditional Porchetta is stuffed with wild herbs. If you have fennel pollen, or know where to get some, I highly recommend substituting the fennel seed with fennel pollen. You will not need as much fennel pollen, because it is more concentrated in flavor. It is not too overbearing because there is more of a floral flavor in the pollen, than an anise one. I love to use fennel pollen in roasts. It is also great sprinkled over goat cheese. If you do buy fennel pollen, it will be worth it as there are plenty of ways to use it up.

One does not have to go to Italy to enjoy Porchetta. You can make it right in your own home. If you do, thank your nation’s Italian heritage. They brought their traditional foods with them to have and share for their new life in a foreign country, and we have all benefited from their journey.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Enjoy Porchetta in New York City.

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Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork

You will be more than satisfied if you take the extra time to season a pork roast with herbs and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The pork will be well seasoned and will develop great flavor. I never miss an opportunity to roast vegetables with any roast. Vegetables add extra flavor to the pan juices and get seasoned with the juices and fat from the roast. Cooking time will depend on the size of your pork shoulder. If you have a temperature probe with your oven, you will be able to gauge the cooking time without always having to take the pork out and check it with an instant read thermometer.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 -8
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder butterflied
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • Zest from 1 ½ lemons
  • 18 leaves of fresh sage crushed and minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary minced
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds gently crushed
  • 1 ½ Tbs capers rinsed and patted dry
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 lbs of assorted vegetables cut into large chunks for roasting (onions, carrots, parsnips, fennel, turnips, potatoes, etc...)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 - 3 Tbs Dry Vermouth or dry white wine

Instructions

Preparation

  1. Open the butterflied pork shoulder with the top fat layer on the bottom and cut side up, and lie flat on a work surface. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt evenly over the whole section. If your pork shoulder is smaller than 3.5 pounds, use less salt. Let it rest on the counter while you prepare the herb mixture.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, lemon zest, minced sage, mince rosemary, fennel seeds, and rinsed capers. Stir and crush the herbs until evenly combined. Sprinkle the herb mixture evenly over the opened pork shoulder, reserving some for the top. Roll up the pork to resemble its natural shape, with the fat side up. Secure the pork with kitchen string by tying it in 4 or 5 sections around the width at one inch intervals. Make one more loop around the length of the pork, looping the string around a couple of the tied sections so the string will not slip off. Tie the ends and secure. Trim any loose string. Sprinkle the outer surface of the pork with the remaining herb mixture and ground pepper.
  3. Put the pork in a dish, like a Pyrex baking dish, then loosely cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Roast

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F / 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
  2. Cut the vegetables into large bite size pieces or wedges. Place the vegetables in a medium bowl. Lightly coat them with olive oil and season with Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables to evenly mix.
  3. Place the pork roast in a 12 inch - 14 inch oven proof skillet, or medium roasting pan. Add the vegetables around the pork. Put the pan with the pork in the oven and roast until done. After 45 minutes if you notice the roast is not browning turn the heat up to 375˚F /190˚C / Gas Mark 5 until the roast starts to brown. Then turn the heat back down to 350˚F.
  4. After one hour of cooking, turn the vegetables around in the pan to get well coated with the rendered fat from the roast. Check the internal temperature of the pork. This will help you gauge how much longer you will need to bake the pork. Put it back in the oven. At the hour and a half mark, add ½ cup of stock to the pan. If you believe the vegetables are done, remove them before you add the stock. Add any extra herbs like rosemary or sage to the liquid. Bake until the roast is done, with the internal temperature of 160F -165˚F / 74˚C. The pork will be golden brown with crispy skin.

Make the pan sauce

  1. Separate and remove the fat from the remaining pan juices. Add about 3 tablespoons of dry Vermouth and the remaining 1/2 cup stock. Set the skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with a wooden spatula or spoon to dissolve all the caramelized bits. Skim off as much fat from the liquid as the sauce simmers. Carefully add any juice that has accumulated on the carving board from the pork roast to the pan juices. Taste and correct the seasoning and put in a spotted serving dish. The sauce could take around 5 - 10 minutes to make.

Serve

  1. Remove the string that is tied around the length of the roast and the first string located closest to your carving end. Slice the pork into slices no thicker than ½ inch. Remove the strings as you carve.
  2. Serve with the roasted vegetables and pan sauce.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

January 27th, 2017 is the eve of  Chinese New Year, the year of the Rooster. In honor of this auspicious day, I decided to learn how to make fried dumplings. Dumplings are traditionally served during Chinese New Year, and are a symbol for money and wealth. The legend is, the more dumplings one eats on Chinese New Year, the more wealth they will gain during the coming year (www.chinahighlights.com).

Pork Fried Dumplings

I love fried dumplings and have always wanted to learn how to make them. However, cooking a new dish with unfamiliar techniques and ingredients can be a risky endeavor. It is difficult to gauge how much time the recipe will take to cook, as well as determine how it will turn out. For the most part, I depend on my past experiences and resources to plow through any unknown territory. Fortunately, I have had more success than failures to keep my confidence up and my curiosity growing. Nonetheless, if I do mess up, the reason can usually be determined for a productive do-over.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

My first decision was to buy pre made wonton wrappers and not make everything from scratch. This might be considered cheating by some, but I felt it was a wise idea to pare down the whole procedure the first time around. It appears that making dumpling dough from scratch seems easy enough, but will require a third recipe, additional time, and a special rolling-pin.  Maybe next time I will tackle the dough.

The wrappers are available at most grocery stores in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Be advised, the wrappers come in different shapes and sizes.  You can use either the wonton wrappers shaped as squares or circles, depending on what your store has available.

Pork Fried Dumplings

After researching several recipes, I decided upon using Mark Bittman’s recipe from his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World as my base. Cooking with his recipes are like having a friend by your side, and teaching you along the way. The recipe for the pork filling is similar to most of the recipes I researched. However, his cooking technique proved to have the most consistent results, and created light and moist dumplings with a good sear.

The only downside to making homemade dumplings is, it is time consuming. The whole process is fairly simple, but will require your undivided attention. Overall, it took about 30-40 minutes to assemble 40 plus dumplings. This is because they need to be assembled one at a time in order for the dumplings to not dry out. Even though making dumplings is labor intensive, it can easily be turned into a fun activity to do with family or friends.

It has been my experience that children love to help with the dinner preparations. I believe the more children are involved in making the food they eat, the more likely they will be open-minded to eating different foods. Some children enjoy doing detailed tasks that is perfect for little hands and fingers. Pleating, pinching and forming dumplings is a great activity that children will enjoy.

If you do decide to make dumplings as a family activity, please be careful with children handling raw meat. You can designate mixing the filling as the adult job, or have the children wear latex gloves. Additionally, cooking the dumplings produces a lot of steam, so children should be kept away from the stove.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

Each dumpling resembled a cute little boat. I was reminded of other images as well like an ancient Asian crown,  a Chinese Junk, and The Flying Nun. So, who knows where your imagination will take you while you fold and pleat the time away.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Food Ideas to pair with Fried Dumplings

Try any of these recipes

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Grilled  Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

As a light supper with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Fortunately, my first try at making fried dumplings was a huge success and a great family treat. By choosing to make fried dumplings instead of buy them, I turned an ordinary dinner into a festive occasion. These fried dumplings are light, flavorful, and festive. The interaction between dunking and eating created additional activity, which spurred more socializing and a fun atmosphere. I hope you have an occasion to make dumplings for you and your family and please let me know how they turn out.

What new food adventure have you tried recently? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Happy Chinese New Year. May good health and prosperity be your good fortune this year of The Rooster.

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Pork Fried Dumplings

Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork fried dumplings are fun to make and create a festive dining experience. Divide the assembly of the dumplings between you and loved ones, then the work becomes a shared activity all will enjoy. Serve with a soy dipping sauce flavored with toasted sesame oil, ginger, lime zest and sriracha. Fried dumplings are at their best when served immediately after they are made. The dumplings and dipping sauce can be easily adapted to suit your taste. You can substitute the ground pork with ground turkey, shrimp, ground lamb, or vegetables with tofu. I like a little heat and sweetness in my dipping sauce, but you can add or omit whatever you prefer. Thai chili paste can substitute for the sriracha, or omit it all together. Citrus is nice in the dipping sauce, like lime juice or zest. Sherry or rice wine, and honey are also good substitutes. Fried dumplings can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap until you are ready to make them. They can also be frozen. Place the assembled dumplings on a rimmed sheet pan and place in the freezer. When the dumplings are frozen all the way through, remove them from the sheet pan and place in a zip lock freezer bag and return them to the freezer. They should keep frozen for 6 months. This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for Wor Teep, Pot Stickers or Pan Fried Dumplings, in his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World. The cooking time is 10 minutes per batch of 10 to 12 dumplings. Allow more time if you are making more than one batch of fried dumplings.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

For the Dumplings

  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage or bok choy, or leeks
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup minced green onions scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves green germ removed, and minced
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 Tb rice wine or Sherry
  • 1 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tb toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • Peanut or neutral oil for frying
  • About 2 cups of chicken stock vegetable stock or water (divided)
  • Dipping sauce

For the Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest from ¼ of a lime
  • 2 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tb rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin or rice wine
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • A couple drops of sriracha sauce optional
  • 1 tsp Water

Instructions

Make the Dumplings

  1. Combine the ground pork, chopped cabbage, chopped green onions, minced ginger, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, sherry, toasted sesame oil, sugar, Kosher salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  2. Place the wonton wrappers on a plate then cover with a moist towel. Pick up one wonton wrapper and place it on your work surface with a pointed end towards you like a diamond shape. Moisten your finger tip and paint the top two edges of the wonton wrapper.
  3. Fill 1 teaspoon* with the pork filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton wrapper in half to make a triangle. Press down on the edges and with your fingers, smooth the wrapper over the mound of filling to push out any air that is loitering around the filling. You want to make sure there are no air pockets inside the dumpling.
  4. Pleat each dumpling by starting at one corner and fold over a small section to make a pleat. Press and seal. Slide your fingers up about a ¼ inch and pleat again. Continue to pleat the edges of the dumpling to have 3 pleats per side. The pleats will fold towards the center.
  5. Place the dumpling on a sheet pan and cover with a clean and moist kitchen towel. Repeat until you have used up all of the pork filling. About 40 dumplings.

Cook the Dumplings

  1. Place a 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium high. Lightly coat the pan with oil. Place the dumplings in the pan, pleated side up. Depending on the size of your pan you can fit 9-10 dumplings at a time. Cook the dumplings for 5 minutes, undisturbed. After 5 minutes add ½ cup chicken stock to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Cook covered for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes are up, take off the lid and cook the dumplings until the liquid is evaporated and the dumplings are nicely browned, about 3 – 4 minutes more.
  2. Using a thin spatula gently remove the dumplings from the skillet, being careful to not rip the dumplings as you remove them from the pan. The dumplings will stick a little, hence the name pot stickers.
  3. Put the dumplings on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
  4. Deglaze the pan with a ½ cup of water, scraping up any crusty bits. Dump out the water and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Repeat the cooking process until all the dumplings are cooked, making sure to clean the pan between each batch of dumplings.
  5. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed. Set aside on the counter until ready to serve. Serve in a small bowl for easy dipping. Makes a shy ¼ cup.

Recipe Notes

If you make dumplings with the round wrappers or from wrappers made at home, they will be larger and you will need to fill the dumplings with close to 2 teaspoons of filling. You will get 20 -24 dumplings depending on size of wrapper.

Nutrition Facts
Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

I am craving some cozy comfort and additional heat. My immediate options are to curl up wrapped in a blanket and read a sultry book, or I could build a fire in the fireplace and enjoy a nice cocktail with my husband.  However, dinner is pressing and although I have been known to get passionate, no one can be comforting when they are hungry. A steamy pasta dinner comes to mind. Eating pasta is always comforting, and the heat can easily be added. Putting all my available ingredients together, I can create a pasta dinner with Brussels sprouts and sausage. A plateful of comfort and spice, all bathed in olive oil, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

What I love about cooking with pasta is the ability to immediately create a meal with absolutely anything. If all you have in your pantry is a box of pasta and a can of tuna, a delicious dinner is at your fingertips. A no fuss, use what is available, pasta dinner. This recipe is an example of just that. I created a pasta dinner with spicy Brussels sprouts and sausage because, Brussels sprouts and sausage were my only options for dinner.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Our cupboards are not usually so sparse. We have all had those moments of staring blankly into the refrigerator or pantry, wondering what to make for dinner. Pizza delivery can often win out on such occasions.

I have to admit that for the past 33 years there has always been at least one box of pasta in my pantry. A box of pasta has saved the day more times than I can remember. With three sons who were all swimmers, a box of pasta always ready and available in my pantry, was an absolute necessity. These boys were always hungry.  If I had pasta, additional vegetables, some protein, or a can of beans, I could squelch their hunger pains with a satisfying pasta dinner in 30 minutes.

I used to despise Brussels sprouts. They smelled bad, and in my opinion had a rancid flavor. Fortunately, my attitude was surprisingly altered. A few years ago, I tasted Brussels sprouts at a holiday dinner. The Brussels sprouts were bright green with a surprising sweet flavor and I had never tasted them like that before. Since that time, I turned into a devout fan. I realized that up until that point the Brussels sprouts I was familiar with were not properly cooked. In fact, they were overcooked. Unfortunately, this happened frequently to all the prepared vegetables of my youth, and I find it amazing that I have overcome my childhood disdain for them. If the Brussels sprouts are cooked properly, they will appeal to everyone.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

Brussels Sprouts with Lardons

Now a warm blanket of a delicious pasta dinner has enveloped me. The comfort of being with my family surrounds me, and my craving pangs are subdued. However, the idea of building a fire in the fireplace and enjoying a cocktail would be an added bonus. Reading a sultry book not a bad idea either. Enjoy!

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Pasta

Easy Substitutes for Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Substitute the Brussels sprouts with 1 head of broccoli or cauliflower. Cut the vegetables up into bite size pieces. You can blanch the broccoli in the pasta water before you cook the pasta, then add them to the sausage in the skillet. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli.

Substitute the sausage with 6-8 oz of diced pancetta or chopped bacon. Cook them until nicely browned.

Instead of pork sausage use chicken or turkey sausage. Depending on how they are prepared, keep the chicken sausage in its casings and slice them into bite size pieces on the diagonal.

For a lighter meal, replace the sausage with 6 anchovies filets. Add the anchovies with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir the anchovies so they dissolve into the olive oil.

For a vegetarian option add walnuts or pine nuts to replace the sausage. Toast the nuts, then add them when you add the pasta.

Add some extra sweetness by adding a handful of golden raisins. They are a perfect pair with the Brussels sprouts and pine nuts.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

 

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Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Pasta Diner with spicy Brussels sprouts and sausage is an easy dinner that can be adapted to any taste. I prefer the heated spicy additions of a pasta dinner to be a background flavor and not overpower the meal. Add more or less of the dried red pepper flakes to suit your taste.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 -5 servings as a main course
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 lb box favorite pasta such as campanelle, penne, or farfalle
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ lb sweet sausage* casing removed
  • 3 cloves of garlic green germ removed and minced
  • ½ tea red pepper flakes
  • ½ tea crushed fennel optional depending on type of sausage
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Zest of 1//2 a lemon
  • Small handful of parsley chopped
  • Fresh Fennel fronds minced optional
  • 1 Tb butter
  • About ¼ cup reserved pasta water
  • Grated Romano Cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of each Brussels sprout, remove any discolored or loose leaves, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
  2. Fill a stock pot with water. Turn heat to high and boil water.
  3. Place a 10 – 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn it on to medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot and shiny, add the sausage. Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink and completely cooked through. Use a wooden spoon, or fork, to stir the sausage and break it into crumbly chunks. When just cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon. Set the sausage aside on a plate, or in a bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the back of the box, making sure the pasta is al dente when finished. Frequently stir the pasta to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  5. Turn the heat back on and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and crushed fennel. Cook briefly until you begin to smell the garlic then add the Brussels sprouts and ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir to mix the Brussels sprouts with the garlic and red pepper flakes, then allow the Brussels sprouts to cook through and get golden brown on the sides. Add extra olive oil if the pan if it is dry.
  6. Add the vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water to the pan then stir to combine. Cover the skillet with a fitted lid, and cook the Brussels sprouts until they become soft but still bright green, about 4 minutes.
  7. Uncover the pot and turn off the heat if the pasta is not ready.
  8. Once the pasta is done, collect about ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta back into the stock pot then add the sausage and Brussels sprouts. Stir to evenly combine then add the parsley, lemon zest, fresh fennel fronds if using, about 3 Tb of pasta water, and butter. Gently stir to combine.
  9. Serve immediately while hot with grated Romano or Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Recipe Notes

A lot of stores and brands make their own sweet or spicy Italian sausage. I have not discovered one that I really like. The sausage is usually seasoned with an herb or spice, or other ingredient that dominates the flavor. usually that added ingredient does not go well with what I am making. Often black pepper is overwhelming and I find it to be very bitter. Thus, I usually do not buy the store brand. I have had consistent results with Premio Brand, Sweet Luganiga Sausage, or their breakfast sausage. It is available at most supermarkets in my area. A breakfast style sausage, not Jimmy Dean, is another option. If you have a favorite sausage that you prefer, please use it. However, I recommend to taste and adjust the seasoning throughout the cooking process.

 

 

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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