When you hear the word dumpling, what does it make you think of? Asian pot stickers? How about tamales, ravioli or bread pudding? Well according to the authors of The Dumpling, those all fit into the same category, and they set out to show us how through a big batch of Hungarian bread dumplings.The cookbook The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide sets out to categorize an elusive food that transcends cultures and continents. Defined as "a portion of dough, batter or starchy plant fare, solid or filled, that's cooked through wet heat, and is not a strand or a ribbon" the book walks the reader through seasons (it's broken up by month) and wildly different recipes from a Australian dessert dumpling called Cocky's Joy to Masa Ball Soup.
The emphasis is on variety, home cooking, the history of dumplings, the seasons and then, to make it all that much easier to approach, each chapter begins with the easiest recipe and ends with the most complex.
One of the authors, Wai Hon Chu, was there to guide us through how to make Root Vegetable Bread Dumplings, one of the easier recipes in the December chapter and a recipe that hails from Hungary (there it's called Zoldseggomboc). The recipe calls for parsnips, turnips and mushrooms, but you could easily substitute other root vegetables and squash, or fresh vegetables in the springtime. Overall this is a satisfying dish that would be a big hit for a potluck party or for feeding a bunch of people. The ingredients are simple and the how to is pretty straightforward. We were surprised how easy a dumpling could be since we had visions of fancy tools and complex techniques.
Root Vegetable Bread Dumplings
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4 cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 small turnip or kohirabi peeled and cubed
4 large cremini mushrooms, chopped fine
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
For the dough:
4 cups 1/2 inch crustless white bread cubes
2/3 cup of milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup unbleached flour plus some for dusting
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup coarse dry crustless bread crumbs
6 Tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper (and paprika!)
1. Do all the chopping of bread and veggies so you're ready.
2. Heat up a small pot over medium heat and melt the butter, add the onion and stir until soft, add in the remaining vegetables and salt and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure it doesn't dry out.
3. Once the mixture has browned, remove vegetables from heat and add in parsley and allow to cool slightly.
4. Mix breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl and mix until doughy. Do this with your hands, let it get squishy and gluteny and like paste.
5. Mix in the egg, flour and salt and finally add the slightly cooled vegetables. Refridgerate for about 20 minutes.
6. The fun part: using wet hands start molding the dough into little balls (th size of ping pongs), dust with flour and place on a tray.
7. In a large pot, boil salted water, when all the dough has been molded into balls, drop a few at a time into boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook about 8 minutes or until most are floating. Remove to platter with a slotted spoon.
8. Top serve, drizzle with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little paprika if you want to spice it up and a generous portion of sour cream!.
A big thank you to Wai for teaching us this great recipe and for sharing his labor of love, The Dumpling, with us! And another thank you to Yvette Roman for setting it up and letting us use her gorgeous kitchen!
• Buy the book: The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt, $23.10 at Amazon
(Images: Laure Joliet)