Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Soup and Bread, Year II: The Pork Dumpling Gang or, Get Ready for Some Run-On Sentences

As you most certainly know by now, I am an avid supporter of Martha Bayne's wonderfully un-little little project called Soup and Bread. It's free and all donations go to something good and food related. Plus Martha says nice things about me when writing about it. Wednesday's. 5:30-8:30. The Hideout. 1354 West Wabansia Avenue in Chicago. You know, by North and Elston. You can go to Stanley's before or after.

I was up last week, so I visited my little Asian market down the street and came up with a pork dashi broth garnished with scallions, culantro, Thai basil, roasted pork belly and handmade-by-me-not-handmade-by-someone-else-that-so-many-restaurants-like-to-post-on-their-wordy menus pork and ginger dumplings, shaped in the form of tortellini. Sadly, the old "crunching the last 3 of 8 hours of making this soup that should really be made over the course of a few days into 30 minutes plus oh my God I need to somehow transport this scalding soup and it's accompaniments across town in the next 5 minutes" conundrum arose, so I didn't get pictures towards the end. Nevertheless, there is a photo of the finished product on the Soup and Bread page linked above. Swimming against my own stream of not really posting recipes, I'm going to post it here. Seems like something like this might require it. Here is the recipe as I wrote it for the Soup and Bread site:

Pork Dumpling Gang
Pork Dashi, Roasted Pork Belly, Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Pork and Ginger Tortellini Serves 6

Dashi is a basic stock used ubiquitously in Japanese cooking. It gets much of its flavor from Kombu (pictured), a dried kelp that lends the stock its salty, nearly meaty backbone and Katsuobushi, dried, fermented and smoked bonito tuna flakes. In this adaptation, influenced by David Chang’s Momofuko, I wanted to go for a more porky, meaty flavor, so I omitted the Katsuobushi and pumped things way up with pork neck bones, chicken bones (if you can find chicken backs, or are in possession of a chicken carcass, this is best) and a few cubes of concentrated lamb stock I had in the freezer. All ingredients can be found in an Asian market. Don’t worry if you don’t have frozen cubes of various meat stocks in the freezer.

For the Pork Dashi:
3# pork neck bones
1 large piece Kombu
1# chicken backs or bones
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup Cane Vinegar, or to taste
1/4 cup Soy Sauce, or to taste
2 T Fish Sauce, or to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
Heat oven to 400°. Put pork neck bones on sheet pan and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Flip bones and roast for an additional 15-30 minutes, until bones are deeply roasted.

While bones are roasting, put kombu in large pot and cover with 10 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes. Remove kombu and discard or save for another use.

Put raw chicken bones into the kombu water and return to the stove over medium heat.

When the pork bones are done roasting, pour off any melted fat and save for another use. Add roasted bones to the water. Put roasting pan over a high flame and pour a cup or so of water into the pan to deglaze it. Scrape the pan with a spoon or spatula to remove any flavorful bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour all of this goodness into the stockpot with the bones. Be sure bones are submerged. If more water is required to submerge bones, add whatever it takes.

Bring stock just to a simmer, and allow to simmer slowly (a bubble or two every couple of seconds) for about 6 hours, occasionally skimming any scum that forms on top. Naturally, water will evaporate from the pot, so take note of the liquid’s starting level and replenish every hour or so as necessary.

When one hour of cooking time remains, add mushrooms, onion, carrots and scallions. Simmer for final hour.

When the stock is done, remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes or so. After resting, strain the stock through the finest strainer available. You can use a double layer of cheesecloth to help get things nice and fine. Reserve mushrooms for the pickled shiitake mushrooms and discard everything else.

Let stock settle and skim fat from the top. Save fat for another use. Taste stock and add cane vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice. Stir stock completely and taste again. Adjust flavor using additional amounts of these four seasoning agents. This pork dashi should last about seven days.

For the Roasted Pork Belly:
1-2# pork belly
depending on how much you love it, skin off
3 T kosher salt (per pound of pork belly)
3 T dark brown sugar (per pound of pork belly)
Any spices you might like (this is up to you and by no means necessary and will develop as you develop your pork belly roasting mastery. Suggestions? 5-spice, fennel, cumin, coriander, etc.)

Rub pork with all other ingredients. Put in a plastic bag and seal. Place in refrigerator and let cure overnight. If you can’t do overnight, give it as much time as you can. Even an hour.

Heat oven to 400°. Remove pork from bag, discard any liquid, and place pork in roasting pan, fat side up. Roast for 60 minutes. Lower oven to 250°. Roast an additional 60-90 minutes until outside is crisp and inside is tender. Remove from oven and let cool in a refrigerator. When cooled, slice into thin chunks. Use in the next couple of days.

For the Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms:
Reserved shiitake mushrooms from pork dashi, sliced thin
1/4 cup pork dashi
1/2 cup cane vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 T sambal (chile paste)
1 T freshly grated ginger

Bring all ingredients but the mushrooms to a boil. Pour over mushrooms and let cool. Cover and keep refrigerated. This’ll keep for about a week.

For the Pork and Ginger Tortellini:
Makes 24 tortellini

For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl and knead well until a smooth, cohesive consistency is reached. Let rest for 20 minutes. Roll to your pasta roller’s thinnest setting and cut into 3” diameter circles. Keep covered so dough does not dry out.

For the filling:
8 ounces pork shoulder or loin, cubed
2 ounces pork fat back, cubed
1 T freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 scallion, finely minced
2 tsp sambal
3 T cane vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 T Thai basil, minced
1 T culantro (A cousin of cilantro, thus cilantro may be substituted), finely minced
1 egg
Place your grinder in an intimidating position and let it menace your cubed pork as pictured. Grind pork and fat, or finely mince. Add all other ingredients and combine well. Poach a small sample and taste for seasoning, making any necessary adjustments.

To assemble:
3 “ dough circles
Pork and ginger filling
1 egg yolk

Brush half of a dough circle lightly with the egg yolk. Place a small amount of filling, roughly 1/2 tsp, in the middle of circle. Fold bottom of circle up to create a half moon containing the filling. To create tortellini shape, place the flat edge of the half moon across your pinky so it forms a cross with your pinky. Wrap the dough around your pinky, overlapping the two ends and pinching them down to seal. Use egg to help adhere the two ends to each other if necessary. Remove from finger and place on floured sheet pan.

To assemble dish:
Pork and ginger tortellini
Roasted pork belly
Pickled shiitake mushrooms
Culantro, chiffonade
Thai basil, chiffonade
Scallions, sliced
Pork Dashi

Steam or simmer tortellini until filling is cooked all the way through. Place 4 tortellini in the bottom of a soup bowl. Add a few slices of pork belly and a few pickled shiitake mushrooms, arranging in an attractive manner. Sprinkle a pinch each of culantro, Thai basil and scallions in bowl. Present to your guests. At the table, ladle hot pork dashi into each bowl. See the goodness. Smell the goodness. Taste the goodness. Feel the goodness.

There it is. Long, huh? Sometimes I get wordy. If you'd like this emailed to you as a PDF or Word document, email me at and get the pork products ready. At this point in human history, there isn't a way to make this "healthier", vegetarian or low fat. Sorry. But if you can, do make it to The Hideout one Wednesday night. Just give yourself more time to get there than I did.