Twas The Night Before Christmas Dim Sum!
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a very special Learning Center cooking class, Christmas Eve Dim Sum!
I LOVE good Dim Sum, – there’s something about little pockets of dough filled with varieties of meaty (or veggie) goodness, sauced and spiced to perfection, but it can be tricky to find outside of big cities, so I jumped at the chance to learn how to make my own. I brought along a girlfriend for her birthday, and bonus: the class included wine tastings to accompany each course. We had a fun evening in store for us.
True to Learning Center style, everything was laid out for us in a beautiful mise en place presentation at each of our cooking stations when we arrived. Aprons on, glasses filled with sparkling wine, recipes in hand, we kicked off class at the front of the room where we gathered around to watch and learn as Learning Center Coordinator Clarina Cravins demoed the first dish – BBQ Roast Pork Buns!
But first, the dumpling sauce! Because a dumpling is only as good as it’s dunking potential. Our classic dumpling sauce consisted of 5 simple ingredients – soy sauce, (we learned you can substitute Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to better control saltiness), rice vinegar (there are 2 kinds – regular and seasoned, Clarina prefers the seasoned version which has slight balsamic-y sweet undertones), honey, scallions, and a dash of toasted sesame oil. Chop the scallions (pro tip: check out the Knife Skills class coming up in January to sharpen your slicing, chopping, mincing and even julienne skills!) Whisk all ingredients together into a delightful dipping dressing!
The smell in the classroom was already at mouth-watering levels, as Clarina had been slow roasting the pork shoulder for the buns in the oven for the past four hours. Some tips for slow roasting pork shoulder: choose a bone-in roast for the best flavor, salt and seasonings are only needed on the top of the roast, as the meat will baste itself in it’s own juices while it roasts, and you can shred your roast right in the roasting pan once it’s fall-off-the-bone ready, scraping up the delightfully delicious brown bits in the bottom of the pan.
For the Pork Bun Dough, we used a Kitchen Aid Mixer fitted with a dough hook, which is a much easier way to knead dough. Clarina made a new ingredient discovery out of necessity when she found we were out of Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, she substituted Powdered Goat’s Milk, and with amazing results! The dough rose almost twice as much as it usually did, to a perfect puffiness. We brought the dough that had risen to twice its original size back to our cooking stations, patted it into flattened balls with our fingertips, scooped the tantalizingly juicy pulled pork into the middle of each circle, and pinched them closed with our fingers into perfect purses of meat. Then into the bamboo steamers!
After 10 minutes of steaming, the buns were done! Perfectly doughy, steamy, juicy pockets of pulled pork goodness!
The bamboo steamers were so fun and easy to use, that I was inspired to pull mine out of the basement where it still sits in it’s original packaging, to give it a new life, and to add some new tricks to my home cooking repertoire.
Next up: Peking Duck Pancakes!
Duck cooks like a red meat, and is very fatty (which lends itself well to basting in it’s own juices, like the pork), so Clarina recommends cooking it to a medium rare temp. Before going into the oven, we seared our duck breasts in a very hot pan, skin side down, (tips for getting a perfect sear on your meat: let the oil get very hot first – hot enough to see ripples in the pan, like a helicopter landing on water, but not hot enough to smoke. The best sear is nice and brown, but not burnt!) Then we flipped and basted the breast with a soy sauce, honey, and Chinese Five Spice (which includes fennel seed, star anise, ginger and clove), before going into the oven for 10 minutes, basting once halfway through. Meanwhile, we made the Mandarin Pancakes with only three simple ingredients: flour, water, and a little bit of sesame oil; these were also finished in a very hot pan, to a perfect sear.
We added a smear of hoisin sauce to each pancake, layered with julienned cucumbers, scallions, and topped with perfectly juicy, flavorful slices of duck breast. Yum!
At this point, we were stuffed almost to the gills! Having enjoyed the fruits (and fun) of our labor, complimented with a couple glasses of wine, good conversation, and expert cooking tips. But wait, there was more! Last course would be Copycat Jim Fong Fried Shrimp Balls, this dish Clarina demoed for us and sat back and enjoyed. I’d never had shrimp balls before, but I can guess that these ones must have been some of the best! The shrimp was perfectly married to the ginger, garlic, white pepper and sesame oil flavors, expertly fried to a perfect crispiness in shredded spring roll wrappers, that came from the fryer looking like little brown birds nests – as pleasing to the eye as they were the palette! (Almost, because man were they delicious).
I’d highly recommend taking a Learning Center cooking class at Healthy Living to everyone, whether a novice in the kitchen or an experienced cook. It was a delicious, decadent night of fun, some of the best dinner and entertainment out there! Bring a friend and check out what’s on the schedule next.