Crisp Seasonal Pork Dumplings w/ Kumquat infused Dipping Sauce
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it seems that unless I am signed up for a challenge where I must post my entries onto my blog, the poor thing gets ignored, its like the red headed step child of my cooking world :(
So this month I am of course doing the Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks challenges, but I also signed up for this one called Foodie Fights, you basically send an email saying that you would like to participate in their upcoming battle and they will send you an email telling you if you have been accepted? or I guess if you signed up in time. They then let you know the ingredients you are going to be using. I had the fortunate luck of being involved in Battle 16, Kumquats and Chestnuts.
What is a Kumquat you ask?
any of several trees or shrubs of the genus Fortunella bearing small orange-colored edible fruits with thick sweet-flavored skin and sour pulp
small oval citrus fruit with thin sweet rind and very acid pulp , according to Google and Princeton
Ahh...and Chestnuts, was that your next question?
chestnut - This nut of the chestnut tree was once abundant in America, but most were killed by a fungus at the turn of the century. The many varieties of chestnuts can be boiled, candied, dried, preserved, pureed, roasted, or ground into flour.
According to Google
So here I was extra excited...and then it hit me! I live in PHOENIX ARIZONA....there are no Chestnuts that I have recalled seeing over the last few weeks..and honestly, whens the last time I saw a Kumquat...I went into Mary-mode and started calling every market I could think of...no Kumquats, haven't seen them since spring or summer, sure we'll have chestnuts, they're seasonal, they should be in within the next few weeks.
AWESOME!!! What was I going to do? I figured some place some where is this City would have to have something related to those items...I thought chestnut paste? I could make a pastry! Kumquat Jam, awesome filling....great ideas, but nothing to make these things come to life. Then it came to me, THE ASIAN MARKETS!! I am sure I could substitute water chestnuts for chestnuts, I mean...it does have chestnuts in its name, and I was for sure, totally 100% positive that I had seen Kumquat juice...I think?
As I anticipated going to the market after work I had visions of rolled chicken breasts with a cheese, mushroom and chestnut filling glazed with beautiful Kumquat reduction.
Going to the market was a blast, I zig-zagged my way straight to the Produce section....and as if the gods shone a golden light upon them, there were the beautiful chestnuts in all of their bagged glory...I think I may have jumped up and down as I reached out to touch the golden nuggets of things I can never recall ever really tasting or eating.
As I paced back and forth waiting to see if an attendant would be able to give me a smaller portion, I mean, what was I really going to do with 2 pounds of chestnuts....my eyes fell upon these round bulbous beauties....could it be...FRESH WATER CHESTNUTS....again, I think I jumped up and down...on wednesday I thought I was down and out...and here it is Friday and I am right back in the game! Woo-Hoo!
I was focused on Kumquats...none in the fresh fruit section, no Kumquat juice as I had previously imagined...although, all of the fruit on the juice bottles look the same, unfortunately I can't read Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Thai, so I really don't know what the bottles said, but I know it did not say kumquat outright. My brain was thinking fast and furious...I did not want to substititute kumquats with another citrus fruit unless it was one million percent impossible for me to find anything that contained kumquat....and then, like a bat out of hell, the idea hit me so fast I could barely get to the aisle fast enough...DRIED KUMQUAT....I had been in that aisle a million and one times hoping that by some miracle of sweet baby tasty jesus they would have Hi-Chew imported Japanese yogurt candy, I remember passing jars and bags of fruit that just looked at me and said....grab me, buy me, taste me, and I would not even give them a second glance, and here I was at their mercy!
I crossed my fingers and hoped that I would recognize the Kumquat. Have you ever noticed how many varieties of dried plum there are?
Neither did I! It seemed to be that every dried, preserved and pickled fruit was a plum, I was losing faith.
And then she found it...the freckeled one, with her eagle eyed vision spotted the word Kumquat on a lone package towards the bottom of the rack....my heart fluttered with adoration...and then.....there was a second package of Kumquats...once again I was down and out, and out of nowhere, as if they knew I were coming, there were 2 varieties of Kumquats!
They may not be plump and juicy and fresh, but they are Kumquats!
So as I was saying my brain was in overdrive, I had dreamed of the rolled chicken but thought it would probably be too much of a "safe" entry. I figured why not honor the place where I actually found the ingredients...I would make dumplings....or wontons...or potstickers with a kumquat dipping sauce.
The base for my dumplings would be traditional, ground pork, soy sauce, green onion and corn starch, I would add roasted chestnuts, water chestnuts, cilantro, brown onion, green onion, shitake mushroom, shredded carrot and cabbage. I also figured I would add some apple and kumquat just to give it a hit of sweetness and hopefully the apple would enhance the flavor of the chestnut...which I must say taste very...I guess the best word would be Earthy, I can't say that I have ever tasted a nut with that flavor profile...have you ever opened an avocado seed and smelled/tasted it? Thats sort of what Chestnuts reminded me of.
Anyways, I was extra excited about the Pacquaio/Cotto Fight on saturday night so I decided why not take the time I would use being bored watching the undercard fights and just get my idea rolling. In retrospect, if I had made a "Puerto Rican" style dish I wonder if Cotto would have pulled out a vicotry? I am Puerto Rican (and 1/2 dominican) so maybe I jinxed him by making an asian inspired dish....
So I started out by roasting my chestnuts and water chestnuts, I must admit I kept singing to my self ♪♫♪ chestnuts roasting on an open fire ♪♫♪...I cut cross sections on the chestnuts (to release pressure so they wouldn't explode), and I cut the tops off of the water chestnuts, and off they went into a 350 degree oven for 20 mins.
I was pretty impressed with the way they came out, they looked like perfect little chestnut blooms...until I started to peel the little bundles of joy
It seriously took me 45 mins to get them out of the shell, and their wonderful skin off.
The water chestnuts on the other hand were a breeze, probably about 2 mins to peel.
I then gathered my mise en place:
½ gala apple
1/3 medium brown onion
1 green onion stalk (scallion)
a small handful of cilantro
Into the the food processor it went, I actually passed it thru 2 seperate times because I wanted a smaller chop. I added 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the mix to loosen it up
I then added some chopped kumquats...remember, these are preserved kumquats that I found at the asian market:
The other ingredients were:
1/4 chopped small cabbage
1/3 shredded large carrot
2 chopped shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon chinese 5 spice
2 tablespoons white wine (i used chardonnay)
1 teaspoon sesame oil(for flavor)
I also added:
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons of granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt (for flavor enhancement)
All of my ingredients went into 1 1/4 pound of ground pork, 1/2 of the chestnut mixture was used:
I used pre-made dumpling skins....I bet I could have made my own, but why risk it :)
KUMQUAT DIPPING SAUCE:
sliced sweet presevered kumquat
sliced green onion
dash of sesame oil
soysauce to taste