Things I learned while making potstickers for the first time:
- Homemade potstickers are totally worth it–if you’re patient.
- If the ground pork at the supermarket looks questionable, ground turkey makes a fine dumpling substitute.
- Supermarket round dumpling wrappers are convenient, but finicky as hell. They will tear at the least provocation. Be gentle, or go to an Asian grocery store for honest-to-goodness potsticker wrappers.
- Don’t do this on a weeknight. Make a stir-fry or something instead. Otherwise you will be lonely, exhausted, and cornstarch-covered at 11 PM.
- Don’t do this alone. Enlist your friends. Have a potsticker-pleating party. Save the wine for afterward.
- Speaking of pleats: they don’t have to be flawless. The goal is to seal the filling in and create a flat bottom for the pan, not to replicate the greasy perfection of your favorite Chinese restaurant. If you can pleat the perfect crescent dumpling, you are more impressive than I.
- Overstuffing is death. Think torn wrappers, gummy fingers, and raw meat everywhere. Don’t be like me–measure your filling.
- You can freeze the dumplings before cooking, using the old baking sheet-to-zip-top bag trick. If you’re cooking the potstickers straight from the freezer, be warned: they will spit and spatter something fierce. Act accordingly.
- The secret to great homemade potstickers? A nonstick pan. Who’da thunk.
- As with so many things in life, these are best fresh from the pan. Soft on top, juicy in the middle, crusty and dark on the bottom. I believe the verdict from my dinner guests was “addictive.”
- My friends will eat as many potstickers as I can put in front of them. There is no limit. See point 10.
This weekend, I took Slow Food USA’s $5 Challenge. The gauntlet laid down: to create a delicious home-cooked meal that costs $5 or less per person.
To commemorate the occasion, I wrote a poem. It’s called Ode to the Chinese Takeout Place Near My Old Apartment:
You seduce me, you know
with your glossy nuggets of floury meat
and your vegetables, crisp then yielding
like a starchy executive in a big-screen comedy.
Day after day you whisper
down the street and around the corner
to the white-walled living room with the anemic lightbulbs
and jaundiced molding
where I’ve collapsed fresh off the train.
“Come back to me,” you murmur,
as I wonder if the kitchen wouldn’t mind just one more day of disuse.
IT’S A TRAP.
So let’s get this out of the way, right here, right now. This is a post about chili. But not the old-school kind of chili. Not the kind of chili you put on a chili dog. Not the kind of chili that, when I was in college, I used to slop over fries and drench with nacho sauce and call it dinner. (I am shamed.) Oh, no, this is not your generic tomato-red, capsaicin-swimming, orange-grease-slicked Amurrican chili. If I ever enter this chili in a cookoff, they’ll almost certainly ride me out of town on a rail.
There are about a million and one traditional chili recipes out there in the ether, all more or less the same. What I’m after is none of them. I want chili that demands nothing but a bowl and a spoon and a sprinkle of cheese, that fills to the ribs without coalescing into a belly-brick. I want incongruous meats and funky textures, toothsome chunks of vegetation, beans of all different sizes. And I want something so far beyond the pale that it hardly qualifies as chili at all. My signature chili is absolutely killer, but it’s also miles away from tradition. It’s almost–dare I say it–un-American.
So here’s the proof. I’m done. Haul me away and lock me up. I surrender.