Guo Tie (Pan Fried Dumpings)

Quality guo tie are easy to find in the frozen section, but I’m realizing that there is a certain taste to homemade versions that cannot be replicated. This was my first attempt at the Chinese potsticker or any Chinese dumpling, of which there are many varieties. (if you feel like nerding out on dumpling varieties, check out this Lucky Peach guide, complete with illustrations) So I learned during attempt #1 that making panfried dumplings is a definitely a process, as one can imagine, but so worth making if and when you have 2-3 hours to spare.

Being a fan of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s column on Serious Eats, I decided to go with his recipe over the ones in my home cookbooks. (sorry, Fuchsia Dunlop, sorry Ken Hom, I’ll try your versions next time)

Making the dough is as easy as can be. If you are used to pie crust and tortillas and such, you’ll have no problem here- only flour and boiling water are combined in a food processor and left to rest. The filling is a little more difficult to pinpoint. The salt and spice ratios are said to be starting points in the recipe. It calls for you to heat up a small bit of filling and taste, making salt and other adjustments here before moving on. I decided to simply go with the listed amounts, leaving me with a slightly under-salted and under-spiced batch. Nothing terrible, and a little vinegar and chili oil made up for flavor in the end.

After the dough is rested, it’s time to roll out the dumplings. This is where recipes tend to differ on the technique: some call for rolling out a log rope of dough and cutting pieces from there. This recipe calls for rolling out tablespoon-sized balls from hunks of dough. Seems to be a matter of preference.

Guo Tie01

The toughest part for me is the sealing off the dumpling edges. As you can see from the photos, I don’t have a perfect pleating technique down. This video from Anita Lo was super helpful and helped me struggle a little less mid-batch. Be nice and give me time, though- I think it’s only fair to get critical after the 3rd try.

The end result was a healthy amount of flavorful, super-fresh dumplings. They were perfect with a smashed cucumber salad on the side. (this one is courtesy of Fuchsia.) All I need to do next time is amp up the salt and spice blend- and practice my dumpling pleats, of course.

Guo Tie02Recipe Credit: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats

Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4. Flour, food processors, and raw pork equals a lot of clean-up.

Recommended For: Hungry dumpling fans on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Group Dinner Prep

Not Recommended For: Weeknight dinners.

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie

Lately there seems to be a sort of pumpkin backlash out there. I get it, the proliferation of “pumpkin spice everything” was pretty intense for a few years. But the hate is strong, too strong in my opinion. I don’t see why one should act like it’s fun to be OVER pumpkin. Pumpkin is basically essential to the season, right? No sense in beating a squash down because of a few cloyingly sweet latte versions.

Pumpkin pie is incredibly important to my overall baking repertoire. I tend to try about 2-3 new versions every November. I usually go back to an old beloved standby that involves a crumble topping. What can I say; I love butter crusts and crumble topping, and to have an orange-hued spiced squash custard sandwiched in-between these two details is pretty much the best.

It was that time of year when I end up having a pie pumpkin handed to me as part of my weekly CSA package. You’re either gearing up to make soup or pie with that sort of gift, and I usually go towards door #2. All I needed was a recipe. I decided to go with a version from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook, as I am a big fan of their bake shop. In fact I used to live dangerously close to the storefront for a couple of years. It is really, really difficult to not go in a top-notch pie store constantly when you’re right down the block.

This recipe is overall strong, but in the end it’s really not close enough to my favorite kind of pumpkin pie. It’s well-balanced, creamy, and flavorful, all positive remarks, but just not exactly my thing in the end. Maybe this sounds too harsh, but it shouldn’t- in fact, my personal pie preference shouldn’t deter anyone from trying this recipe out. The brown butter flavor adds a lovely full touch and their pie crust always makes an impressive base.

The oven temperatures listed worked perfectly for me, and I would likely use canned puree next time instead of roasting the pumpkin. My puree was slightly more watery than the canned stuff, which made it slightly softer than I would have liked. One more thing to mention: the word “butter” is definitely in the recipe name and don’t forget that detail. This is an full-fat pie. (Only a word of warning, as most pumpkin pies worth eating are going to be decadent no matter what.)

Always served with a little whipped cream.
Always served with a little whipped cream.

Recipe Credit: Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Kitchen Mess: 2.5 out of 4. A typical pie-making mess.

Recommended For: Fall Weekend Desserts, Holiday Potlucks

Not Recommended For: Evil Pumpkin Pie Haters, People Who Like to Habitually Diet?