Asian Comfort Food - Pot Stickers!
By Dennis Linden
This month’s featured recipe comes from the remote desk of Terri Falcone, Melissa’s category area manager working with Heinen's Grocery Stores. Heinen's is a three generation, family-owned and operated regional supermarket chain in Northeast Ohio and the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Terri uses a combination of Melissa’s seasonal fresh produce items as well as a several of our packaged products to create a platter of delicious Pot Stickers that are as easy to make as they are addicting to eat!
Pot Stickers – an odd name so I did a little research and found a plethora of theories and legends on the ‘net. My favorite dates to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1280 A.D.). Legend has it that the emperor’s chef forgot about a batch of Chinese dumplings that he was boiling in a wok for a royal dinner event. Once the water had boiled away, the dumplings stuck to the bottom of the pan. With no time to start over again for fear of keeping his boss waiting, he pried the dumplings from the wok and served them anyway. In fact, he covered up his culinary screw-up by presenting the dish as his own creative twist on the traditional dumpling recipe. Apparently the emperor and his guests loved the contrasts between rich filling, tender skin, and crusty bottom. Over the years, the Mandarin name for pot sticker, which is “guotie”, stuck no pun and was translated into English as “pot sticker”, as a wok is the basic pot in the Chinese kitchen…and the rest is, as they say, wok history!
“Two things I love about pot stickers,” said Terri. “With our crazy work schedules, sometimes spending time in the kitchen just cannot be done as much as we would like. The cool thing about pot stickers is that you can make a big batch, freeze them and pull as many out as needed at the end of a hectic day or for unexpected guests and still look like a culinary rock star with a just a few minutes of cook time.” She added with a laugh, “Plus, when a pot sticker is done right, life is good!”
Terri’s filling for this ancient dumpling dish is a tasty mix of baby bok choy, tofu and our Steamed Lentils, seasoned with the flavors of shiitake, shallot and a dash of teriyaki sauce. This mix gets enveloped into a Melissa’s Won Ton Wrapper that is then fried to a crusty-bottom and finished with a quick steam in vegetable stock. The combination of textures and flavors have a warming, comfort food goodness to it that is hard to describe. I can say that after dipping my first pot sticker in Terri’s wonderful Pixie Tangerine-Teriyaki sauce laced with Sriracha, I immediately understood…life IS good, as in delicious with a pleasantly spicy kick!
Terri’s recipe is pretty straightforward, though there are a few things to note about the prep of this dish. The actual forming of the half-moon shaped dumplings will probably sacrifice a few wrappers during the learning curve – patience. I found that pulling the top and bottom corners of the wrapper together first and then folding the left and right corners in towards the center of the mix, made for the most compact dumpling. Have a small cup of water nearby to keep fingers wet for better seal the wrappers edges. Once sealed the won ton is quite pliable and can be easily shaped into a 3-sided half-moon. I worked on a floured cutting board that helped to dry the finished dumplings of any excess moisture.
One very cool ingredient twist for me in this dish is Terri’s use of dried shiitakes as an almost powdered seasoning. Instead of grating the mushrooms, I used a “mini-stick” hand food processor, which ground the shiitake into a much finer grate than I could achieve by hand. I think this helped the distinctive shiitake flavor meld into the filling. Actually, this way of using dried mushrooms has opened up a whole new palate of seasonings for me. As a fresh produce professional I have always opted for fresh mushrooms in my cooking and, frankly, have wondered why anyone would use the dried version unless on a camping trip! However, a dried mushroom of any variety, grated very fine, does make sense as a powerful seasoning. I tried the same technique to flavor an omelet with delicious success. Thank you, Chef Terri!
Terri Falcone has been representing Melissa’s with Heinen's for, as she described it, a little more than three wonderful years. “I not only get to work with upper management at Heinen's on merchandising programs, but I also work one-on-one with each of the company’s 22 stores,” explained Terri. “My days can vary between building merchandising programs and working on ads to conducting produce department backroom “educational huddles” with a store’s staff about the culinary attributes of our products or doing consumer tasting events.”
When she takes off her Melissa’s cap for the day, Terri enjoys her two rescue dogs, Jameson and Aine (Gaelic for Anya - the queen of monster fairies); she satisfies her creative side with cooking and crocheting, which her mother taught her as a child.
“I love to create, whether I am playing in the kitchen to put my own twist on a recipe or maybe making a scarf for someone I care about,” Terri said. “I like the idea of creating something from nothing; like transforming a simple piece of yarn into a scarf or blanket (or whatever) with a specific person in mind. The most important person in my life is my mom – a 5-foot, 71-year-old, feisty redhead) -- she is my greatest influence and made me want to be better. I have a lot of my mom in me. In fact, it was my mom who told me that if I find something I love to do for a living, it will never seem like a job. I finally understand what she meant!”
Vegetarian Pot Stickers with Tofu and Lentils
Yield: about 60 Pot Stickers
1 package Extra Firm Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (cut into small chunks)
2 heads Baby Bok Choy, minced very small
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Lentils, lightly mashed with a fork
1 Shallot, minced
⅓ cup Teriyaki BBQ sauce
1½ Tablespoons Corn Starch
4 Dried Shitake Mushrooms, grated
60 Melissa’s Wonton Wrappers
2 cups Vegetable Stock
Ojai Pixie Tangerine Dipping Sauce:
½ cup Teriyaki Sauce
¼ cup Ojai Pixie juice; off-season option: Satsuma Tangerines
1 Tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
Combine ingredients and use as a dipping sauce for Pot Stickers.
Mix the tofu, lentils, baby bok choy, shallot, corn starch, and dried mushroom gratings in a medium bowl, just until combined. Start with about half the teriyaki sauce and add more as needed until mixture is moist but not wet. Taste, and add salt and pepper if desired.
Wet all four edges of each wrapper and add about 1 tbsp. of the filling to each one. Carefully close each one into a triangle, pushing out the extra air as you seal them along the edges. At this point the dumplings could be frozen for cooking at a later time.
Heat a medium skillet to medium-high heat and brush the pan with a small amount of vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, add about 10 pot stickers at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes until they begin to brown on the bottom. Add ⅓ cup vegetable stock, quickly cover the pan and lower heat to medium-low. Let them steam for 2 minutes then remove. Wipe the pan clean and brush with oil again before making the next batch.