Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy

It's officially fall! My favorite time of year :) I'm one of those strange people who loves and craves change, so the transition seasons (fall and spring) bring me great joy. I also grew up in Vermont, so the brilliant display of red, gold, and fiery orange leaves that dazzle the Northeast from September through November may have biased me a bit. Washington maples just aren't the same.... 

Other things that I like about fall are:
- Cozy afternoons sipping tea and knitting up wool Christmas presents
- Not having the kitchen turn into a sweatbox every time I turn on the oven
- ALL the fall flavors and foods (particularly pumpkin spice and butternut squash)
- The crisp, fresh air, especially in the early mornings

What are your favorite things about fall?

This dumpling recipe isn't specifically fall-inspired, but it is more of a chilly weather comfort dish. And if you make the dumpling wrappers yourself (which I hope you do), plan on spending a few hours in the kitchen. This is a great recipe for a rainy fall or an especially dark winter day

A few months ago (maybe closer to a year!) Noah and I took a dumpling making class at a Korean restaurant down the street. I wish I could remember all the dumplings we made, but alas, I lost the recipe packet :( It was super fun, though, and I promptly filled our freezer with all sorts of different dumplings in the following weeks. This one - a Chinese 5 spice pork dumpling - is one of our favorites. The pork is lightly spiced with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, sichuan pepper, and fennel and the wrappers are speckled with ground up black sesame seeds, which are more for visual appeal than taste. Once you get the hang of rolling out the dough, filling the wrappers, and folding them, this production goes surprisingly fast. Or you could enlist some friends and have a dumpling making party! To speed things up a bit, use pre-made wonton wrappers, but only if you absolutely need to. The braised bok choy is super easy to throw together and a great side dish for these flavorful dumplings 

// Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy // makes about 30 dumplings
Homemade dumplings do take time to make, but they are 100% worth it. I like to freeze extra on a baking sheet and then stash them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for nights that I don't have time (or want) to cook. You can save time by using pre-made wonton wrappers, but I highly encourage you to try making your own wrappers at least once :) 

For the dough:
2 cups (9 oz) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, ground (optional)
3/4 c (6 oz) hot water

For the filling:
1 pound ground pork
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded napa cabbage
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest

For dipping sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the bok choy:
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 thin rounds fresh ginger
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in 1 cup hot water (save water)
6 baby bok choy, thoroughly rinsed to remove dirt and sand from crevices. If bok choy is super sandy you can cut them in half and reduce cooking time
2 tablespoon sliced green onions to serve

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and black sesame seeds (if using) and mix until well combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the hot water. Mix water into flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Knead the dough with your hands several times in the bowl, then transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Kneed dough 8-10 times then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let sit on counter for at least 20 minutes

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and mix well. Test seasoning by cooking about 1 teaspoon of filling in a skillet. Adjust seasoning as needed

3. After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, it's time to make the dumplings. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Divide the dough into quarters using a knife or bench scraper. Keep extra dough pieces covered with plastic wrap while working. Roll dough out using a hand-crank pasta machine or Kitchenaid pasta attachment. You could also use a good old rolling pin. I used a Kitchenaid attachment and rolled my dough out to the #4 setting, but use your judgment on how thin you want to go. Err on the thicker side or else your dumplings will fall apart. Also make sure you flour your dough and surface liberally to prevent dough from sticking together. Once you have four long sheets of dough, use a circular biscuit cutter or rim of a drinking glass to cut dough into circles. I used a 3-inch wide biscuit cutter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of pork filling (more or less depending on side of circles) into center of wrapper and gently flatten filling, leaving space along edges to seal. Dap water along edges of wrapper, then fold dough in desired dumpling shape. I used the pyramid method found in this video, bit feel free to be creative! Place completed dumplings on parchment-lined baking sheet until ready to steam

4. Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve

5. For the bok choy, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, and ginger in a large heavy-bottomed dutch oven or pot. Drain shiitake mushrooms and add to pot along with two tablespoons reserved shiitake water. Bring broth to a low simmer over medium-low heat then add bok choy. Cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes or until boy choy are tender. Remove bok choy from pot and place on a plate. Turn heat up to medium-high and reduce broth for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened and intensely flavored. You can add a bit of cornstarch at this point if you want a thicker sauce

6. While broth is reducing, steam dumplings for 8 minutes. You may need to oil the surface of your bamboo or metal steamer to prevent dumplings from sticking

7. Pour reduced sauce over bok choy and top with green onions. Serve dumplings with dipping sauce. Eat!

Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy - Traveling Fork

Roasted Corn and Sausage Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

The weather is definitely changing around here. The nights are getting chilly and the days are starting to emanate that watery winter light. I know for a lot of people it's sad to say goodbye to summer, but for me it's kind of a sigh of relief. As much as I enjoy summer and the beach BBQ's it brings, I'm also a big fan of seasons. Most of all I love the transition of summer into fall when the crispness hits the air and it's time to put on another layer. Growing up this meant fall harvests from the garden, apple picking followed by warm apple pie, and the annual Harvest Market Fair with apple cider donuts and hay rides. While the seasons aren't nearly as extreme here in the Pacific Northwest as they are in Vermont, I still like to take a moment to enjoy the change in weather and celebrate with heartier meals made from late season harvests. A few weeks ago we got a couple ears of corn and a brown bag filled with Anaheim peppers from our Full Circle delivery and I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Anaheim peppers are mild chilis that are great for roasting and their firm flesh holds up well when trying to stuff them with a filling. (If you can't find Anaheims, green bell peppers will work just fine). This recipe transitions fresh summer flavors of corn and peppers to rich fall flavors of pork and spices. It's perfect for a chilly September evening or even a late summer BBQ on the beach.

  //  Roasted Corn and Sausage Stuffed Anaheim Peppers // Serves 6-8
As I mentioned above, these can be made with green bell peppers instead of Anaheims. I'd say you'd only be able to stuff about 4 bell peppers though. If you don't eat pork, you can substitute ground beef or even some crumbled tempeh to make it vegetarian. Finally, I like bold flavors and lots of spice. If you're the opposite you may want to cut down on the amount of seasoning. 

2 ears of corn, shucked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds discarded and finely diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 lb ground pork
1 medium red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 green Anaheim peppers

Cilantro sauce:
1 clove garlic
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Queso cortijo

1. Preheat over to 400° F

2. Place corn on a baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt

3. Roast corn for 25-30 minutes, rotating several times until kernels are deep golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven to 375° F.

4. In a medium sauté pan, gently heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until onions are translucent. Add jalapeño and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, chili powder, and paprika and mix well. Add pork, red bell pepper, lime juice, and sugar. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until pork in completely done. Turn heat off and stir in 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, egg, cheddar cheese, and salt. If needed, add another tablespoon of bread crumbs so the mixture holds together.

5. Slice open the peppers from stem to tip and remove the seeds. You may need to make another perpendicular cut just below the stem so the cuts look like a capital T. (If you're using bell peppers, cut off the tops and remove seeds). Stuff the peppers with the pork filling, pressing firmly so they are well packed. Place stuffed peppers on a baking sheet. If they fall over, use tin foil in between to prop them up. Bake peppers at 375° F for 20-25 minutes. 

6. While peppers are cooking prepare the cilantro sauce. In a food processor combine the garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and sugar. Process for 2-3 minutes until well blended. Scrape sauce into a bowl and set aside.

7. When peppers are done, remove from oven. Top with cilantro sauce, queso cortijo, and avocado. Serve immediately.