Home-made frozen dinners--Gyoza 101

There are a lot of foods that are easy to make a double batch of and freeze the other half for later. This can also be done with half a recipe, or in single servings if there are only one or two people at home--more incentive to cook without worrying it will go to waste!

I know many people who freeze casseroles or baked goods. I also do it with soup, or like I mentioned before, with stock in ice cube trays before moving to bags for easy measuring. Over the holidays I experimented with freezing pre-made, but un-steamed tamales, with equally satisfying results. A family favorite, though, is home made gyoza. These are little asian dumplings made from a vegetable or meat filling in a little wheat or rice flour wrapper. In Japan, they are fried slightly, then steamed, while in China they are steamed only, and called jiaozi.

Basic Gyoza 101
1 lb ground or very finely diced pork, beef, chicken, or shrimp
1/4 head cabbage, finely shredded (food processor comes in handy here)
1 carrot, finely shredded
3-4 green onions, whites and greens finely shredded
1 clove pressed garlic, if desired
1 small nob ginger(about half the size of your thumb), peeled and grated with a citrus zester
soy sauce, around 1/4 cup
a few drops of sesame 0il

Mix together the filling ingredients. If you prefer a vegetarian filling, mushrooms make a nice addition. Open package of wrappers, and keep under a damp towel to keep from drying out. Get a little bowl for water, and a plate to keep the made dumplings on (also good to have a damp towel for).

Place a wrapper on your work surface, place some filling in the middle ( use a heaping teaspoon to keep it the same), then dampen one finger and rub it along the bottom edge of your dumpling, just below the filling(this will help the wrapper stick to itself. Fold in half, then crimp along the edge.

Keep going until all your filling is used up. Extra wrappers can be stored in the fridge, but must be wrapped tightly to keep from drying out. At this point, you can freeze some, either in individual servings of 4-6, or larger, family-size meals. Always place them in a single layer inside the bag to freeze, or else they will stick.

To cook, heat a pan with 2-3 Tablespoons of vegetable, peanut, or canola oil until it's almost ready to smoke. Have the frying pan's lid, and a cup with about 1/4-1/2 cup of water or stock in it. Place your fresh or frozen dumplings down on one flat side. There will be a big sizzle or pop, especially if they're frozen, so be careful. Don't crowd the pan, either, only cook up 6-9 at a time, leaving plenty of room around each individual gyoza. Watch them carefully for about 5 minutes: they will stick to the bottom of the pan, and then let go again as they create a nice, even brown crust. You need to find the right window, and it takes some practice. Take them off too soon, and you leave the bottom stuck to your pan, too long and they'll burn.

Once they start coming off, flip them all over, then add the water (I like to use the lid as a splatter shield, then clamp it down fast). They steam for 4-5 minutes, slightly longer if frozen. You know they're ready if you remove the lid, and the wrapper is puffed up like a little balloon, then pulls tightly around the filling as the cooler air hits them.

Remove quickly so they don't stick, and serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Served with rice, dipping sauce, and side dishes like sliced oranges and stir-fried mustard greens, makes about 40-50 dumplings, enough for my family of 4 to have 2-3 filling meals.

For more information about Gyoza, as well as recipe ideas, here are some helpful links:




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