I had a blowout on my hands. A band was scheduled to do a one-day session, during which they intended to record and overdub three songs, an ambitious amount of work to do in a day even under normal circumstances. Over the course of a couple hours at the start of the day, two tape machines and the air conditioning unit for studio A all took a dump. Given that we were short-staffed, moving a third tape machine in from the second floor would take a long-ass time and the studio was getting uncomfortably warm, so the band decided to pull the plug. I felt awful about the studio letting the band down, so I offered them an additional day on the house so they would have enough time to get done what they wanted without feeling rushed. The whole thing put me in a rotten mood, and by the time everyone split it was early evening, so I decided to invent something for dinner to take my mind off it. I had been thinking about boiled dumplings, and wondered if I could enrobe something in a dumpling dough to make a more complex, less stodgy dish.
Don't get me wrong, I love plain dumplings in soup or stew, but I wanted something less solid, and with surprises inside. We still had a couple of fresh bratwurst from Paulina Market, and sausage is a pretty good surprise*. Instead of mixing uncased sausage into a forcemeat filling, I decided to cut the sausage into little nuggets and surround them with minced vegetables inside the dumplings. To firm them up prior to cutting into portions, I put them in a pot of cold water and turned on the fire. While they were coming up to temperature, I made the vegetable portion of the filling.
I had made lunch for Heather to take to work the day before, some little rice paper parcels full of mixed greens, which I decorated by including some colorful herbs, vegetables and apple. I only needed a half-dozen slices of apple for her lunch, so I sliced and dressed the rest of the apple for future use. I made a vinaigrette of rice vinegar, mustard, sesame oil and some left-over steak rub containing ground espresso coffee, yellow curry powder, salt, pepper and ground chile de arbol, and coated the apple slices with it. After marinating overnight, they were slightly pickled and chutney-like. I diced the apple slices fine, and did the same with some slices of carrot, ginger, red pepper and plum tomato, then mixed them all together with the residual apple dressing and a couple of mashed garlic cloves.
The sausages had come up to a simmer, which was enough to make them firm, so I took them out of the water and let them rest and stabilize until time to make the dumplings and turned my attention to the dough.
Since rice flour has virtually no gluten (the rice flour marked "glutenous" is actually a nearly pure starch useful primarily as a gelling agent), I needed to bind the dough with something to keep it together. Normally I'd use eggs, but the fat in the yolk tends to weaken the dough. The interior of these dumplings was going to be lumpy and wanted a pretty sturdy casing, so I used a couple of egg whites instead, mixing them into a mixture of rice flour and brown rice flour. This also had the effect of keeping the dough a pure white. When the dough had come together I let it rest for a moment while I cut the sausages into inch-long segments.
For each dumpling, I patted the dough into a circle, then filled the middle with a spoonful of the vegetables and a sausage nugget, then pleated the dough closed and rolled everything together into a smooth ball between my hands. The dough was barely holding together, and if I tried anything more decorative it was likely to tear or puncture. I placed the dumplings in simmering salted water and let them bob around until done. The hot water cooked the egg whites and stabilized the shape so the dumplings were sturdy enough to manipulate once they came up to temperature.
While the dumplings were poaching I made the gravy. I started by putting the remaining vegetable compote in a skillet with some olive oil, and when everything had caramelized slightly I added some vegetable stock and some leftover saffron rice. Once everything was cooked soft, I ran a stick blender through it. The rice thickened the gravy without the pasty effect a refined starch can leave in your mouth. After seating the dumpling in the gravy I dotted the bowl with some Siracha for spice and color, snipped some nori shreds over the bowl with scissors and scattered some black volcanic sea salt. I was happy with the result.
The next night I made another gravy for the remaining dumplings using apple, tomato and onion, but the leftover rice was gone, so I used a roasted red pepper to provide body instead, and the gravy came out a nice deep red color. I made a quick mayonnaise with olive oil, mustard and fresh horseradish, and dotted the sauce with that in a kind of photo-negative mimic of the Siracha.
I got so wrapped up in making the dumplings I totally forgot I was in a rotten mood. I hear that's why alcoholics drink booze. I hope I don't have a problem.
*Really? That's where we're going with this?