Edamame Truffle Dumplings with Sake Butter, Shiitake and Enoki Mushrooms

Happy Friday!

I made these dumplings twice now before writing about them, and let me just tell you that these are absolutely magical. If you are a fan of truffle salt or oil, you will love these. If you never had truffle flavored anything, you need to try these, especially if you are a mushroom lover.

My friend Cassandra and I were inspired to make these when we had them during my bachelorette party last August. I was taken to this amazing Japanese restaurant called Koi in Bryant Park (Manhattan).  They’re expensive at $20 for 4-5 dumplings, but my friends and I found these so irresistible that the price tag simply didn’t matter. Side note: If you’re ever at the restaurant, I also recommend the Foie Gras on Seared Tuna with White Truffle Oil as well.

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Of course, learning to make these at home has been very much worth the investment! These dumplings are life-changers.

If you have never eaten anything made with truffle oil, you are missing out! It is a distinctive earthiness that is really hard to replicated without it.  What’s trendy lately is truffle oil on French Fries. Those are fantastic.

**A cautionary note on Truffle Oil, however–you should never use too much, and you should never use it to cook. It should be a finishing product–you drizzle/sprinkle a little at the end. In the case of these fabulous dumplings, they are a part of the emulsion process, but the truffle is never used to, let’s say, fry the dumplings. The oil is too expensive to waste, and it can easily become overpowering if you use too much.

If you’re not sure where to get Truffle Oil or Truffle Salt, I would go to a more gourmet grocery store such as a Whole Foods or Wegmans. If your area does not have truffle oil or salt, Amazon has good quality and well priced truffle oil and salt as well.

The mushrooms, enoki and shiitake, are best found in Asian grocery markets, but usually a higher end grocery story would have these as well. Shiitake are relatively popular and will be easy to find dried. If you can’t find these mushrooms, you can omit these, but I personally think mushroom’s natural earthiness play well with the truffle-forward flavor of these dumplings.

The sauce of choice is sake butter, and like it sounds, it’s simply Japanese rice wine,  dry Sake, and butter reduced in a pan. We add ginger and a bit of lemon for freshness. It’s dynamite. If you don’t have sake, you can simply do a ginger-butter sauce and do fine. This recipe is forgiving with omission. The one thing you cannot take out of these dumplings is the truffle salt and oil–everything else is recommended, but not mandatory.

For $20 for 4-5 dumplings, what adds the luxury is the seafood: at Koi, they serve these dumplings with lobster. We decided to substitute lobster with langostino for cost-effectiveness reasons, but I personally would say that scallops would be my meat of choice second to lobster for this dish. Again, you could choose not to put seafood in here and just eat the dumplings, but it does add to the allure of this dish.

This dumpling recipe we found was from the head chef at Koi, but we made tweaks that we thought would be more practical for the consumer (for example, the recipe calls for actual truffle which, if you were able to find it afford it, costs about $5,000 for a pound). Because we actually ate these dumplings at the restaurant, we were able to tweak until we completely got the right flavor. Cross-referencing and having the best version of a dish is the best way to re-create a masterpiece.

These recipe is a great make-ahead as it is a little bit of tedious work, but you can yield so many dumplings that you can boil them up for a party in no time. It takes about two minutes in boiling water to cook the dumplings themselves, and the sauce comes together in about five minutes.

Edamame Dumplings (Makes about 50)

Ingredients for Dumplings

  • 1 pound cooked edamame, shelled (we steam these in the microwave first–they are in the frozen section. Make sure they’re shelled!)
  • 4 ounces of milk (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 6 ounces of good quality truffle oil (white)
  • One tablespoon of truffle salt (stir and add more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 50 wonton wrappers (usually one package is fine)
  • 1/2 of 1 lemon’s worth of lemon zest (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 egg

Ingredients for Sake Butter

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of peeled and minced ginger (use a Microplane if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon good-quality sake (feel free to add more)
  • A tablespoon of heavy cream (if desired)

Optional Accompaniments 

  • Seafood: Lobster, Scallops, Langostino, Shrimp (in order of preference), two ounces or more.
  • Mushrooms: Enoki and Shiitake (add to sake butter sauce and garnish dumplings with uncooked enoki). You would need about an ounce of each.
  • Garnishes:  Pea shoots and/or scallions for freshness and green on the plate.

Directions

  1. In a bowl, beat the egg with 1/4 cup of warm water to make an egg wash.
  2. If you have a frozen, microwaveable bag of edamame, follow the instructions on the bag.
  3. Once steamed, boil the edamame in the milk and butter for 6 minutes, until tender.
  4. Strain the edamame, but keep the milk and butter that you used to boil it.
  5. In a blender, blend the edamame, adding the reserved milk and butter and the truffle oil until it reaches a smooth consistency. Season with truffle salt, pepper,  regular salt, and optional lemon zest.
  6. Taste until you think it tastes good. Feel free to add more butter, salt, or lemon as needed.
  7. Assemble: Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Brush each with the egg wash at the edges of the wrapper. Fold on the diagonal like a triangle. Use your index fingers to press air out. Flip wonton to the back and fold left and right edges over. Flip the top piece on top of the edges. Flip dumpling back over and squeeze the ends to puff up shape. Place dumplings on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Click here for the video demonstration of the dumpling fold.

  1. When ready to serve, get a pot to begin boiling water to cook your dumplings.
  2. As the pot of water is boiling, begin making your sake butter.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sake (or more) and bring to a boil; cook until reduced by 2/3, about 3 minutes. Add heavy cream,  if desired. Bring the whole mixture to a boil; cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add remaining butter in batches, whisking constantly. Once all the butter has been incorporated and mixture is thick and creamy, remove from heat.
  4. Add about 10 dumplings at a time for about two minutes.
  5. In a pot, boil the dumplings until clear and tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Once they float to the top, they’re done. Drain and keep aside. Place five dumplings in a bowl, and pour sake butter over top, with optional lobster and mushrooms. Garnish with scallions and/or pea shoots, and bon appetite!

 

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Charleston’s Cafes: Best Breakfast Joints in the Low Country

Happy Sunday,

Last weekend, I took an impromptu girl’s trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I am always enchanted by this city each time I go. There is always something to do, and there is always something good to eat! I could go on and on about where to eat dinner, but when I was searching some travel blogs, very few wrote about breakfast. I know that some hotels include your breakfast, but c’mon! You’re on vacation. Treat yourself like royalty!

The two places I am suggesting are not in historic downtown (sorry), but they are right over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. They are very close to downtown, however! Interestingly, both of the places I love are in strip malls (looks are deceiving.) These joints have a blend of tourists and locals alike, and they clearly use the freshest, local ingredients. I go to both these places each time I go, and so should you!

Three Little Birds, 65 Windermere Blvd., Charleston, SC 29407

http://www.threelittlebirdscafe.com

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This place is where my friend Jen and I went first upon arriving to Charleston. Upon walking to this restaurant, you’ll see this unique ivy sprawled all around the front of the restaurant. The name, Three Little Birds, is likely an allusion to Bob Marley, and it has a very simple island vibe to it. This is the hipster/hippie’s paradise. They have mason jars (my weakness) and colorful coffee mugs with plates that are equally vibrant. Upon walking in, you’ll smell the freshly pressed juice (how rare is to find that these days?) and freshly ground coffee. Speaking of juice and coffee, please get both–the coffee is from a local vendor and is probably one of the least bitter coffees I have had (excessive cream and sugar not needed–it’s that good on its own), and the juice is refreshing and almost therapeutic.

Now let’s talk food! Last year, I had this “out of this world” Crab Cake Benedict; however, that was only a daily special for the time. I instead ordered the Sweet Potato Benedict which had Poached Eggs, Ham, and Hollandaise over Sweet Potato Biscuits with Cheese Grits. It only cost me $8.95, and boy did it satisfy. I will admit that I am partial to the special they had last year (that would be a 15/10), but as an aficionado of all foods with Hollandaise, I have to tip my hat off to Three Little birds again–it was spectacular. The eggs were perfectly poached and runny upon breaking their “love seal.” The ham was crisp but tender, and the homemade sweet potato biscuit was a great substitute for a tradition English muffin. The grits were good–the cheese were a bit thick of a shred for my taste, but once it melted in, it was great!

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Rating 9 out of 10

This is Jen’s breakfast, and she was very satisfied. Because she comes from California, I know that Jen is a good judge of fresh food. Jen is very used to eating local everything. Featured here is a daily special; it was a Scrambled Egg Burrito with Potatoes and Peppers with Fresh Salsa, Sour Cream, and fruit (strawberries and orange slices).

She was impressed with the whole dish, but she was especially impressed with the pressed seal of the burrito and the salsa. Sometimes, when you order any burrito out, it falls apart because it’s overstuffed and/or not wrapped properly. There was just the right amount of filling, and it was clearly pressed (similar to a panini) for the crisp texture of the tortilla on the outside as well as for maintaining all ingredients inside. She said this salsa she had (a regular item they have–don’t worry) was the best she has had since she has moved to the Carolinas. You know what that means–it competes with California! 🙂

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Rating 9 out of 10

**The next restaurant I am going to talk about I absolutely fell in love with last time; however, this time, there was definitely poor execution of our food (a few send backs on our behalf as well as others), but it does not mean I wouldn’t recommend this place. They had an off day, but once our food came back correctly, it was salvaged. Every place has its moments. I still recommend this place, but I am going to maintain integrity with my review. 🙂

Charleston’s Cafe, 1039 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

www.charlestonscafe.com

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It sounds really tourist-y to go to a place in Charleston with a name like “Charleston’s Cafe.” It almost sounds like a trap, but I promise you, this place has impressed the locals as well. When we arrived here on our way out of Charleston, it was relatively early on a Sunday (around 9 am), and we had to wait about 25 minutes. You know a place is good when there’s a wait for breakfast. And you also know its good as the outside of this place is brandished with awards locally as well as reputable companies like TripAdvisor and Zagat.

Upon walking in, you’ll feel like you’re walking into a mom and pop’s place; it has a very inviting family feel to it. There are always specials on the white board that are intriguing, but I know when I come here just what I want—A DEEP FRIED CINNAMON ROLL. And it comes at a reasonable price to clog your arteries with delight; it’s only 5 bucks! I told Jen (as I was salivating) how much I was looking forward to eating this Cinnamon Roll. It was one of the best things, if not the best things I ever ate dessert wise.

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Everyone loves a cinnamon roll; it can only get exponentially better by its preparation method and its icing. It is deep fried, which is dangerous, but makes it crispy on the outside but extra warm and gooey on the inside. The melted butter/cream cheese icing maintains that authentic nostalgic taste of a cinnamon roll and distributes decadence to each and every bite.

I probably gave it too much hype; I know it was all I could talk about for the 15-20 minutes we had to wait for our food, but it had been an entire year without this delectable dessert, and I was needing it. Yes. Need. And so, I ordered breakfast but wanted to order one to go (I considered buying two), and Jen ordered one to eat for breakfast, and one to go home. Yes, it is worth it.

But unfortunately, this time we both had to send back our rolls because they were overfried the first time. As you can see in the picture, it is slightly overcooked; it should be a golden brown not–“oh crap! I left it in the fryer too long” brown. It definitely was still good, but we needed to send it back because I have absurdly high expectations for it. Once we had the new rolls, we were much happier.

I do require (yes–REQUIRE) you to order this if you are in the Charleston area. It will change your life…and maybe your pant size too, but it’s worth it!

On that note, before I stop talking about this cinnamon roll that I could never get tired of discussing–the cinnamon roll actually tastes better if you let it sit. Seriously! If you order it and eat it about an hour or two later, you’ll hit the money spot. The butter and cream cheese melts into the cinnamon roll and makes it so moist and flavorful. So if you grab it, try to wait. If you can’t wait (which I totally understand), have a bite or two freshly fried and then force yourself to put it away. Slap yourself out of it.

Rating (ordinarily) 10 out of 10. (Our experience initially would give it a 7 out of 10)

So to try to balance out my palate, I ordered the Amber’s Choice Benedict: It had crab cakes, shrimp, kiebasa, and delicious Hollandaise. I think I was on a Benedict kick this weekend! Anyway, I have to say that this was excellent. My favorite part of this was the kielbasa; it was perfectly crispy and was a great substitute for Canadian bacon. The Hollandaise was smooth and not too lemony, and the shrimp had a butter poached taste. The crab cakes were delicious; however, they were slightly salty. I noticed if I put the Hollandaise on the crab cake bite it would cut the saltiness, but it still needed a little bit of a cut back. Unfortunately, when I went to break my poached eggs, they were clearly soft boiled and had no runny yolk. I sent back my eggs (as so did a woman next to me), but once they brought me new eggs, this dish was a home run. Again, this place had poor execution today, but the flavors and quality are still totally there.

Rating 8.5 out of 10

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Go to Charleston today! And don’t be afraid of the strip malls; they have these great places that I am so glad that I found, and I am so glad I could share them with you!

🙂

 

 

Restaurant Review: Sanducci’s Trattoria

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Happy Thursday!

I apologize for not posting in a while; I haven’t had a minute to spare!

This week has been dedicated to wedding planning, and it is probably one of the most time consuming endeavors I have ever encountered. In addition, I have dividing my time seeing friends and family. I have been in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania all this week (and sometimes, all three states in one day.) Even though I have been driving around like crazy, I am happy to be here to get my Italian/New York fixes.

Living in North Carolina for the past few months, I have missed out on a lot of great pasta, pizza, bagels (you know–the holy trinity of carbohydrates). While I am back “home,” I have to take advantage and eat them all–practically every day.

When I was visiting my friend Cassandra, author of Bottlesoup, she told me we should have lunch at her favorite local Italian restaurant called Sanducci’s Trattoria.

For me to review an Italian restaurant, it has to exceed my high expectations. As a native New Yorker, I did not need to go out often for Italian food growing up. It’s what my grandmother made, it’s what my mother made, and it’s obviously what I can do as well. I find myself disappointed often when I go out to eat for Italian–(except pizza: without the brick oven at home, the results can never be as good). There are a few gems, however, that are absolutely what I need from an Italian place: I need an upperscale interpretation of classic comfort Italian dishes with heightened complexity. This place can make what we all know and love but take it to the next level (all without totally breaking the bank: it’s a little bit more than going to your local pizzeria but less than going to a fine dining establishment.)  While I recommend this place, I will be honest about what I felt foot the bill, and what I could do without again…

Appetizer: Ginger Sesame Fried Calamari

This is definitely my favorite item here. I know what you’re thinking. Sesame and ginger are not Italian. But the way they fry the calamari is–it’s light and delicate, not rubbery or chewy. P.S: I am totally inspired to re-create this…

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Calamari must start with a flour based dredge; if you ever eat calamari with a heavy breading (breadcrumbs versus the latter mention of flour), move away. It is too light and delicate of a fish for all that! Also, calamari should always be lightly fried because if it is in oil too long, it will become greasy and tough to chew. This calamari clearly has perfect flour coating to get the crispiness necessary.

The sauce, like I said, un-Italian but rather Asian in its style, is absolutely delicious. It is a sweet chili base with hints of honey and red pepper flake (maybe some orange–that’s something I was sensing), and the sesame seeds really coordinate well with the crunch of the properly prepared calamari. The aroma is very floral and sweet from the glaze. The green onions also bring fresh, brightness to the dish by distributing just the lightest flavor of onion to the fish. By the way, if you want to sound like you’re an Italian New Yorker, say GAL-A-MAAAHD–the slang will give you some respect, or at least, will give you a laugh for a minute.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Soup: Pasta Fagioli

My favorite peasant food from Italy is Pasta Fagioli. I am obsessed with white beans (cannellini beans), and this soup is one of my favorite dishes my grandmother makes. But it’s not quite like my Nonna’s!

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Pasta fagioli is a white bean soup; however, my grandmother always made it thick so it was more like a sauce for pasta. The way she makes it looks like vodka sauce versus liquid-y soup like this. So of course, there is a bias there, but I will happily give it a go.

I tasted the garlic notes and the broth had the right amount of seasoning herb wise, but I believe it fell short on the parmesan. I needed to add the cheese to take it to a new height, or at the very least, what I expect pasta fagioli to do for me. The onion notes in the soup were present, and it was good–but again–it needed the cheese! If you order this, make sure you put copious amount of cheese because the parmesan base is missing here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Entree: Penne alla Vodka

The way to test an Italian restaurant is to eat a popular dish and see how it is prepared. The sauce was cheesy and creamy as expected; however, the meat (prosciutto) was a bit too large for the delicate pasta. This was very flavorful with a minor execution error.

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The tomato-y, creamy-base was very flavorful with the ham profile in the sauce. There was a balance of spice that was countered with the coolness from the area, without overwhelming the sauce. My only complaint of this dish is that the prosciutto was chunked almost like a piece of sausage. Prosciutto, dried, cured Italian ham, is an excellent complement to vodka sauce, but should be used sparingly. Thinly sliced prosciutto is better suited here. I also think more green would have made this great; I like vodka sauce with green peas!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Entree: Homemade Black Linguini with Chunks of Brazilian Lobster Tails in Pink Cognac Sauce

The last test of a good Italian restaurant is to see what they do beyond the expected–again, heightened complexity. This is Cassandra’s “go-to” that she orders often. As opposed to a typical “vodka sauce,” this blush rosa sauce is made with cognac which adds a touch of class and refinement. 

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This is one of those dishes you see on a menu and say, “Ooh–that sounds interesting!” One of the privileges that people should take advantage of when they go out to eat is to try something they could not readily make at home. Although making pasta isn’t necessarily difficult, fresh pasta should always be commended as it makes a world of difference for taste.

This pasta in particular is black in color; if this is off-putting to you, be comforted with the reason as to why: it is made this color from squid ink. Oh, you don’t like squid? If you like calamari, you like squid! The pasta has a very modern appearance when black–it does not look nor taste conventional. Although not overpowering, there is a slight seafood flavor that comes from the squid’s ink that is perfectly appropriate in this dish.

The sauce, because it has a cognac base, has a slight sweetness that pairs well with the tomato cream sauce. If you like vodka sauce, but want to kick it up a notch, this is the sauce for you to try. Cognac and lobster are the two ingredients that make this pasta become eligible as First Class. Brazilian lobster, when prepared properly, is excellent and succulent (I personally love Maine Lobster better as it is sweeter).

Cassandra mentioned that this dish usually has better lobster (she felt it was slightly overcooked the day we tried it); however, I could see how this dish is a favorite of hers, and how I will definitely look to order it again when I am back in Bergen county! This is Italian elegance with modern flair–a perfect, romantic meal.

Rating: 9 out of 10