|I made fresh bao - just call me YoSaffBridge! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
It seemed like all signs were pointing towards a meal like this for Valentine's Day, as the Prime was fresh off the delicious high from the luncheon hosted by Monsoon East, for Andrea Nguyen's book. I have to admit much Epic Shame that I didn't make the dumpling skins from scratch, even after her very easy tutorial over how to make them, and the fact that I had the book in-hand. I had already bought a package of premade wrappers and just promised myself, "next time, I swear." I made a filling that was used in all the dumplings, which included ground pork, chopped mushrooms and peppers, garlic and ginger. Not a typical mix, but I had made the mistake of getting mushrooms from Costco and if of course meant I had to put 'shrooms in everything that week to use them up. I hate letting food go to waste -- you know how I roll.
|Hello, my little dumplings! Photos by Wasabi Prime|
I used the large package of dumpling wrappers to practice a few different shapes. Everything was cooked the same way, potsticker-style -- seared in a pan with oil, add a bit of water, cover to steam, and hopefully you don't eat them all before they get plated. I had mixed results with the open-topped pork-stuffed satchel-shaped dumplings. I didn't use enough oil, so many just stuck and had to be torn up and scraped out of the pan -- FAIL! But they were still cooked and edible, so they became ugly lunch for the following week. But lesson learned, either use a nonstick pan with a little oil or just add more oil and let our arteries figure it out later.
The flank steak was marinated in a mixture of seasonings and sake, which gave it a nice hint of sweetness. Seared and left to rest, the pan was deglazed with kimchee, and served together. With the different-shaped dumplings and the kimchee beef, it was defnitely a pretty dinner to have for Valentine's Day. All the flavors were fairly similar between the three options, since I used a lot of the same ingredients, but after taking so long to take the photos of the food, we were too hungry to be picky about flavor profiles and just ATE.
|Like rice pudding, on crack! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
For dessert, I had been inspired by the pancakes served at Wild Ginger for brunch -- spongey flapjacks with a peanut and coconut sauce. I wanted to do something similar, so I made a batch of rice, steamed in coconut milk and vanilla, with a bit of sugar. It was pressed in a mold to form compact little squares which were then oiled and pan-fried to give a nice crispnness to the outside. Fresh mango slices were seared and the cakes were placed over the fruit, sprinkled with toasted macadamia nuts and more mango chunks, and a sauce of brown sugar, coconut milk and peanut butter was poured over. It kind of made me think that Elvis would have liked it, as it was reminiscent of his famed cravings for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Just call it an Elvis Goes Hawaii dessert. It was a nice mix of sweet, fresh, and a little savory.
As for the ju bao, this was both a solution for finishing off the leftover dumpling filling and penance for using store-bought wrappers. No, no, I shouldn't say penance, because that implies it was a chore to make the dough -- it totally wasn't and the results are worth the effort! It was simple enough to make, although I'm a clumsy baker, so I had to add more flour to keep the dough from being too sticky. It didn't affect the final result, as the finished pork-filled buns were a heavenly bite of springy dough and a crisp outer shell. I made giant-sized ones because I knew they would be like ready-to-eat meals and added a little flourish of sesame seeds on top -- kind of makes it look like a fluffy hamburger bun. The dough is simple enough to make and neutral in flavor to where you could fill it with anything. It makes for a great solution of getting rid of any odd leftover bits that aren't enough for a full portion.
This was the 10th Valentine's Day for Mr. Wasabi and I, and we've never gone out for a Valentine's dinner. I'm certainly not sad about it, as we've always liked making it a more personal holiday instead of going out and being in a busy restaurant where everyone else is there for the same reason. The first Valentine's Day, Brock took the whole day off from work and made an amazing meal, with a big bouquet of roses waiting for me. A couple of years ago, he literally made a portrait of me out of different kinds of chocolate, and put it on a creme brulee -- for reals! I don't think I can ever match some of his amazing and thoughtful Valentine's Day capers, but the 14th definitely makes me thankful for his sweet, creative heart.