Monday, 15 February 2016

Ham & Potato Dumplings

This is a recipe that came out of one of my old cook books - I thought maybe The New Galt Cook Book (1898) or The Canadian Home Cook Book (1877), but I can't find it in either or those. So; a different one.

Rather than spend all day in the basement going through cook books, I will just recount my personal history with this recipe. The first time I made it, a little over a decade ago, it worked out perfectly. I published it on line; it was reviewed by someone for whom it failed, and every time I made it after that it was at least a partial failure for me too. The dumpling was to be boiled before being fried, but there was a definite problem with disintegration. I tried different flours, and it does seem to hold together better with stone ground organic flours, but this does not seem to be completely guaranteed. Mashing your potato as smoothly as possible helps too. But I never got successful enough results to call it a good recipe again.

This time I finally smartened up and tried something different. I made 2 dumplings, and instead of boiling both dumplings, I boiled one - which promptly partially disintegrated - and I steamed one. The steamed one held together beautifully, sliced beautifully, and fried beautifully. Hurrah, success! So, much as I wanted to stick to the original technique, I have to say NO - steam them.

These remind me, oddly enough, of Lo Bak Go; the radish cakes found at pretty much every dim sum restaurant. Like Lo Bak Go, they are delicious served with a chile-garlic sauce. I served mine with Beet and Red Cabbage Relish, though, and that was very good too.

If you want to make these, it makes a lot of sense to have a dinner of ham and mashed potatoes first, making plenty of mashed potatoes and saving some of the leftovers.

That very impressive egg, by the way, is a turkey egg from Cirrus Hill Farm. Wow - turkey eggs are great! I thought expensive at $6 per dozen, but upon reflection a dozen seem about equivalent in size to 18 large chicken eggs, so pretty standard, actually.

45 minutes to make the mashed potatoes - 15 minutes prep time
45 minutes to make the dumplings - 15 minutes prep time
15 minutes to fry the dumplings
4 to 6 servings (12 dumpling slices)

Ham & Potato Dumplings

Prepare the Mashed Potatoes:
900 grams (2 pounds) floury potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk or milk
salt & pepper to taste

This is basic mashed potatoes. Wash them, trim or peel them, cut them into chunks and put them in a pot with water to cover; boil until tender. Drain well and mash with the remaining ingredients. Set aside 2 cups of mashed potatoes to proceed with the dumplings. (This should make a bit more than you need, but not a lot.)

Make the Dumplings:
3/4 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup finely chopped ham
2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat

Fill the bottom of a large steamer with water to just below the level of the insert, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, measure the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt. Mix the egg and ham into the mashed potatoes, then mix in the flour.

When everything has amalgamated into a smooth dough - if it is more than slightly sticky, add a little more flour - turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper and form it into a rectangular patty about 2" thick. Steam for 30 minutes, until firm, and allow it to cool. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve (overnight). Slice the dumpling into 12 long slices. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the dumpling slices until browned nicely on each side - you will probably need to do 2 batches. Keep warm at 200°F in the oven, or of course you don't have to cook them all at once.

Last year at this time I made Parsnips au Gratin.

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