It’s Festive Friday, so let’s throw a party! What shall we serve? Hmmm, it’s winter, Crab Season is in full swing, and Chinese New Year is right around the corner, let’s have Crab Wontons! And just because it is so cold outside and we need to warm up, let’s serve them with a homemade screaming hot chile sauce – YUM!
I love crab, but I wish it wasn’t so much work to clean and get it out of the shells. Some types of crab are easier than others, and growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dungeness rules. Thank goodness they are relatively large and easy to work with. If you have won the lottery, go ahead and buy fresh crabmeat already taken out of the shell. But I don’t have that kind of cash, so I’ll buy them whole and do the work myself. I do ask my fishmonger to thoroughly crack and clean them for me – which they are very willing to do. I order my crab and then finish my shopping while they are cleaned and cracked. Then I head home to a wonderful fresh dinner!
Most people think of crab cakes, but instead I’m going to use pre-made wonton wrappers (also sold as spring roll wrappers, or lumpia wrappers, etc.) and make dumplings. Buy whatever your store sells. You are looking for a package of about 50 to 60 pieces. They are usually located next to the produce section in the refrigerated area. You don’t want rice paper wrapper, which are sold in the dry goods/Asian section of the market. Note: If you are gluten-intolerant, use fresh lettuce leaves instead of the wonton wrapper. They are delicious, healthier and gluten-free!
Wontons are simple to form once you get used to making them. There is a really great website with photos that show you each step of the process. If you have any trouble, you can always roll them into little cigar-like shapes, with the edges folded over the filling to completely encase it. No matter how you fold your wonton, they will be delicious and have you clambering for more. This is a perfect family event or you can invite some friends over for a wonton folding party. Send everyone home with a bag of wontons to share. Having many hands working makes this a fun time instead of a tedious chore.
My dear friend Andrew Thomson from southern Australia, a passionate foodie who loves good wines, sent me his recipe for chile sauce. He makes it several times a year and recently finished a batch to give as holiday gifts to his family and friends. Sweet and savory, blisteringly hot with Asian overtones, this is a chili sauce that you will love with just about any food. By blending sweet and savory elements, it complements many different cuisines and ingredient combinations. The recipe makes a lot and you should brush up on the canning process if you are interested in storing this longer than a few weeks in the refrigerator.
When you are talking about chile peppers, did you know that there is a formal scale to rate their heat factor? Like the Richter scale measures earthquakes, the Scoville scale rates peppers. In 1912, Wilbur Scoville, a chemist working for the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company, developed a method to measure the heat level of chile peppers. Pure ground chiles were blended with sugar-water and a panel of “testers” then sipped the solution, in increasingly diluted concentrations, until it no longer burned their mouths. The rating was based on how much water was required to render the pepper edible. One part of chile “heat” per 1 million drops of water is rated at 1.5 Scoville units. Depending on growing conditions, soil, and weather factors, peppers will fall in a range. Try one to determine which you consider hot and go from there. But be careful when working with chile peppers. Wash your hands with hot soapy water often and never rub your eyes or nose – you will cry for a long time if you do!!
If you choose to make this as Andrew suggests, it will be hot enough to blow the top of your head off. The good news is, you can change the types of chiles you use and customize it to suit your personal tastes. I actually like to mix and match to take advantage of different flavors of a variety of chiles. A blend of poblanos, New Mexican Reds, and jalapenos is about right for my family’s taste. And, depending on the colors of the chiles you use, it may be a green, gold, or bright red sauce. If you want to boost the color, you can add a little food coloring, or try adding a pinch of turmeric for a gorgeous gold.
Happy Festive Friday – have a wonderful weekend!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Make the filling up to a day ahead but do not assemble wontons more than a few hours before either cooking or freezing. The sauces can be made as much as a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Or do as Andrew does and can his chile sauce for gifts!
- Crab Wontons
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/2 carrot, chopped
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tbsp peanut oil or olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, freshly juiced
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 lb lump crabmeat (Dungeness, if you can get it), picked through, pieces of shell discarded
- 1 (12-oz) package square wonton wrappers, about 50 to 60 pieces (use lettuce leaves & don’t fry if you are gluten-intolerant)
- 1 to 2 egg whites, for brushing
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cornstarch, for dusting
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp dark (toasted) sesame oil
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- Screaming Hot Chile Sauce
- 9 oz chilies (see NOTE below for suggestions)
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 9 oz golden raisins
- 2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
- 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, finely minced and smashed into a paste with 3 tsp salt
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- Make Wonton Filling: Combine in a food processor the ginger, shallots, carrot, green onion, cilantro, peanut oil and lemon juice. Pulse until fine. Put vegetable mixture in a mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise and the crabmeat, and season with salt and pepper. Be careful not to mash the crabmeat, you want that texture when you bite into the wonton.
- Lay a wonton wrapper on a flat surface and brush with the beaten egg white. Drop 1 tbsp of the crab filling onto the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton in half, corner to corner, to form a triangle. Press around the filling to knock out any air bubbles, then press the seam together to seal so the filling doesn't seep out. You can leave them this shape or continue on by brushing the 2 side points with beaten egg white. Lay your index finger in the center so you have something to press up against, then fold the 2 sides into the center, slightly overlapping, and press the dough against your finger with your thumb to form a tight seal. Lightly dust the filled wontons with cornstarch to keep them from sticking together and place them on a cookie sheet. (When these are folded they look like Pope or nurse’s hats.) Cover loosely with a towel to keep from drying out while you finish the remaining wontons.
- Cook Wontons: Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep heavy saucepan to 370 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Add a few of the wontons to the oil and cook, turning them 3 or 4 times to get them nicely browned all over. Carefully lift them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and onto a paper towel-lined platter to drain. Keep going to cook all of the wontons.
- Make Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce: Stir together the ingredients in a bowl. Set aside for flavors to blend. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to a week. Serve with the wontons.
- Make Screaming Hot Chile Sauce: Remove stems from chilies and cut in half lengthways. Discard the seeds and ribs if desired to reduce heat. Put chiles in pan with vinegar, raisins, ginger, garlic (crushed) with salt into a paste. Bring to the boil & simmer gently until raisins are soft.
- Add sugar, stir until dissolved, remove from the heat and cool approximately 15 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or transfer to blender and puree until smooth. Strain if you want a smoother sauce. Pour into clean jars and refrigerate to a week or two, or for longer storage, pour into sterilized jars and boil in water for about 10 minutes to seal lids.
- Yield: 40 to 50 wontons
- - Sweet Bell Peppers @ Zero Scoville units
- - Poblano, Ancho, Pasilla, or New Mexican @ 500 to 2000 Scoville units
- - Jalapeno @ 2500 to 8000 Scoville units
- - Serrano @ 8000 to 22,000 Scoville units
- - Piquin @ 40,000 to 58,000 Scoville units
- - Thai @ 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units
- - Birds Eye @ 100,000 to 225,000 Scoville units
- - Orange Habanero and Scotch Bonnet @ 150,000 to 325,000 Scoville units
Create a New Tradition Today!
Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook
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