Steamed Chicken Dumplings

#RecipeUpTop (details to follow):

  • 1/2 pound ground chicken thighs (home-ground preferable);
  • 300 grams all-purpose flour;
  • 200 grams warm water;
  • 8 grams salt;
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce;
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger;
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion or shallot;
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic;
  • Cabbage leaves (optional);
  • Schmaltz (optional);
  • Dipping sauce (optional);

Method: Sweat the aromatics in the schmaltz (or other fat), then par-cook the chicken in same, adding soy sauce at the end. Combine the dough ingredients, and roll out to make dumpling circles. Stuff with the chicken filling, and steam for ten (10) minutes. Serve hot with sauce(s).

The Details

Alright folks, this is where it all starts to come together. Processing your own chickens; keeping a weird survival hoard of flour; a concerning interest in odd kitchen implements. We decided to make these at 3:30 in the afternoon, because they sounded good. We had everything on hand (and I’d just finished grinding chicken from our monthly haul).

When we lived in South Florida, one of our favorite delivery indulgences was steamed dumplings. They were almost always made with “pork,” and the filling had a texture reminiscent of Vienna sausages or SPAM, but they were delicious and welcomed after a long day of arguing with the world about nonsense.

They fill the same purpose here, but we make them ourselves from better ingredients, and it’s still the same party when they’re done. And, because of how we’re set up, they have that same “impulse buy” feel when we decide last-minute that they really sound great.

This is a long one post, so strap in. It is, however, absolutely worth it, and not nearly as tough as it looks (if it were, I wouldn’t do it). But there are some things here that need explaining, even if they don’t take that long to actually do in practice. Also, it’s mostly pictures, so…

Step one: get your filling done and cooling. Here, we’re going to mince the ginger, garlic, and green onion (or shallot, which I’m using here):

Rough mince is fine. This ins’t a contest.

Here’s the first big flavor hand-grenade. Remember that post about making chicken stock, with a side product of schmaltz? GET YOUR SCHMALTZ.

Into the pan to sweat the aromatics

This is your starting point. Add a spoonful or two to the pan and let it melt over low heat, then add your aromatics with a tiny bit of salt. Sweat until the veggies soften:

Using of’ faithful here as the skillet.

Fair warning, this will make your house smell absolutely incredible. Once those veggies are softened, add your ground chicken, but NO ADDITIONAL SALT:

Low heat

This is where I run afoul (a fowl?) of dumpling purists. I’m going to par-cook my filling. Yes, heresy, I know, but I have good reasons. First, I’m not cooking it all the way, just most of the way. Second, this is a pretty fatty chicken grind, so it will stay juicy and delicious even after a par cooking. Third, I don’t trust raw chicken, even if I’ve processed and ground it myself. I just feel better cooking it ahead of time, and getting a little more flavor into it with the aromatics plus the schmaltz. Last, I think par-cooked filling is easier to work with than the raw equivalent when it comes to stuffing the dumplings.

Anyway, you don’t want to brown the meat, just cook over low until it looks about 3/4 done:

Still some pink in there. which is perfect.

Get it off the heat and let it cool. Meanwhile:

Step two: make your dumpling dough. Sharp eyes may spot this is the exact same ratio that we use for our ravioli, except here we’re using water instead of eggs. We’re getting two (2) parts water into three (3) parts flour, with a little salt, then kneading it into a nice, elastic dough:

Get this covered and let it rest for half an hour, so the gluten can form up and the flour can fully hydrate.

Next, we’re going to roll it out. This is where I’ll be lambasted a second time by dumpling purists, because I roll into a sheet and cut my rounds. Traditionally, the real masters make a dough “snake” which they divide into the individual rounds, and then roll out each one individually with a little wooden dowel. It’s art, and maybe someday that’ll be me, but for now I’m bad at it and I like the control of one big piece of dough:

Of note, you don’t want this too thin. You’re looking for the same thickness as a standard pie crust.

You can (and should) re-roll the remainder for another round of wrappers. Just make sure to let the dough rest and relax for a bit, or else it’ll be like silly putty.
Make sure to get flour in between the rounds, or else they’ll fuse like Jeff Goldblum and that fly.

Step three: stuff. This is the part that loses a lot of people, but it’s not that bananas. This dough is also really elastic and forgiving, especially if you left it thick (like I said). Here’s a montage of how I do it:

Dough round in left hand, thumb at the ready.
More filling than a ravioli. You can go pretty full here.
Start pinching it closed and using your thumb to push the filling into the pocket
Keep sealing
Close up the end

So, that’s it. From here, I like to give the seal a little pleat, which is literally just some little extra pinches:

Before you know it: dumplings.

Get these covered with a towel and let’s get to cooking. Tonight, that means steaming with our bamboo rig.

Shortly after I bought this thing, I was researching the best ways to actually use it without destroying it, and stumbled across some woman selling a metal doughnut she called a “steamer basket adapter” for like forty bucks. Me, I have another solution:

I use my wok ring. Yes, WOK ring, get your giggles out now. This fits the bottom of the steamer basket, and keeps it up off the actual hot surface. All around, it really helps maximize the experience for everyone.

So, whether you’re steaming on a bamboo rig like this, or something else, you need to make sure the dumplings don’t stick. My favorite solution is cabbage leaves, because I have them around, and it turns out they’re actually delicious at the end of this process. Win-win:

Get your steam flowing, and load up your leaves and your dumplings, and cook for five (5) minutes once you see steam coming out of the top of the rig:

Try not to let them touch, because they’ll stick.

When the cooking is over, get them to a platter and serve with your favorite sauces. Personally, I like the same sauce I use for fried rice (hey, it’s tasty stuff) and sriracha sour cream, which you may be shocked to learn is sour cream mixed with sriracha:

That’s it. A fast-food favorite of ours, made on a whim from the staples we have in our house. The filling is chicken on steroids, with punchy notes of the garlic, ginger, and soy, and you may have noticed, there aren’t any other seasonings in this thing. It’s awesome, and it’s wholesome. So getsome.

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