Wonton Soup

Happy New Year, kids.

The advent of 2013 came and went quietly for me - quietly, and pleasantly, snuggled up on a couch in Vermont.  It was lovely to escape up there to Stowe, if only for a couple days, so that I could ski for the first time in a couple years.  My family used to go up to Smugglers Notch every February break, but scheduling got more complicated as I entered high school and Daniel (i.e. Brother) was off being all smart and stuff at RPI.  Upon going off to be all smart and stuff myself at UChicago, I didn't really get the opportunity to ski at all.  Chicago is a wee bit flat.  Anyway, skiing = outside in the cold for a long time = cold and hungry = hot and steamy and delicious noms = soup.  But oh, this isn't just any soup.  This is make-your-own-take-out Chinese food, people!

I won't lie, filling and folding all those little wontons takes some time, but it's totally worth it.  And I even cheat by using store-bought wonton wrappers.  Dear readers (whatever little following I have), you probably know by now that I'm someone who values homemade to the extreme, short of milking and butchering my own cows.  Maybe someday I'll have my own little farm and such a wonderful fantasy will become real.  Until then, I tend to make as much of a meal from scratch as I can.  But there are some nights, when I'm feeling particularly lazy, and I don't want to make fresh pasta.  That's really all a wonton wrapper is - it's pasta, and super easy to put together.  It just takes time, and since it takes long enough to fill and fold the wontons themselves, I used this shortcut.  I don't feel as badly about it, however, since store-bought wonton wrappers aren't dried (i.e. they're less processed).

I clipped this recipe from Saveur magazine about five years ago, but hadn't gotten around to cooking it until now.  I have a whole box full of recipes torn from Bon Appetit, Saveur, Whole Living, Food & Wine, La Cucina Italiana, Cook's Illustrated... The product of eight or nine years of collecting.  You can tell which ones I've prepared most often by the amount of splatters and smears on the glossy pages.  The broth of this soup is so bright and crisp, having been infused with ginger, a tonic for the sniffles and cold bones.  I happened to have ground turkey in my fridge for a different recipe, so I used it in place of the traditional ground pork - but by all means, use pork instead if you prefer.  This soup is a panacea for what ails ya' this winter.

Wonton Soup

8 cups chicken stock
4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
3 inches ginger root, peeled (2 inches sliced into medallions, 1 inch finely chopped)
3 whole scallions plus 1 tablespoon, minced
1 tablespoon mirin
2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 1/4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
~30 square wonton wrappers
~handful spinach leaves

Bring chicken stock, 4 cups water, sliced ginger, and whole scallions to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Let the broth simmer for ~10 minutes.  Remove from the heat while forming the wontons.

In a medium bowl, whisk the mirin and 1 tablespoon water into the cornstarch.  Combine the remaining scallions, remaining ginger, turkey, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil, handling the mixture as little as possible.  Fill a small bowl or cup with water, and place a damp cloth over the wonton wrappers.  To fill the wontons, dip your finger in the water and moisten the edges of the wrapper.  Place ~1 teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, then fold one corner to its opposite to create a triangle and press firmly to push out the air and seal the wonton.  Then, moisten the left and right corners of the wonton, and press them together firmly.  Keep the formed wontons under a damp towel while filling and folding the others.

Remove the scallions and ginger slices and bring the reserved broth to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the wontons.  Cook, ~5 minutes, until the wonton wrapper is soft and the filling is cooked through.  Turn off the heat, then stir in the spinach.  Let the spinach wilt ~1 minute, then ladel and serve.

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