Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oakland Goodbye

Our last morning in Pittsburgh started out with some free orange juice and mini muffins at the hotel, and then it was time to pack up and hit the road. We had plans to stop for lunch and ice cream before leaving the city, and then to drive the old Lincoln Highway all the way east until we hit Gettysburg. We were deliberately taking the "back roads" instead of the interstate, but we had a whole list of places we wanted to visit on the way, the types of roadside spots you would miss on the toll road. It was our Pennsylvania road trip, so we wanted to see as much of Pennsylvania as possible.

We decided to spend our last moments in Pittsburgh in an area called Oakland, home to a lot of universities in the city. We were mostly heading there because A wanted to take me to an ice cream shop that he liked, and before we left, I looked up places that might be nearby for lunch on Yelp. There was a taco joint with good reviews down the street, so we decided to try that. What we didn't realize was that it was actually a Mexican grocery store with a griddle and taco bar on the street outside, but that was actually better for us since we weren't entirely sure whether we were parked in a legal spot (signs were a bit confusing) and eating outside would mean we could keep watch on our car.

We got three different tacos -- chorizo, chicken, and pork -- which came on doubled corn tortillas with no toppings. The reason for that was because they had an entire bar of toppings and salsas next to it so you could pile on whatever you wanted. For us, that meant some guacamole and salsa verde, and tons of pico de gallo, onions, and cilantro. We love eating tacos with a garden on top of them, and this one had lots of options.

We don't remember a ton of the details about the tacos four years later, stuff like which one we liked best, but we do remember they were really tasty. I wish we had taken notes, because they look really good in the photos and I would love to remember more about the experience.

After the tacos, it was time for ice cream from Dave & Andy's, known as one of the best ice cream shops in Pittsburgh. A had been there once before when he was in college and really enjoyed it. The thing Dave & Andy's is known for, besides good ice cream, is that they put an M&M on the bottom of the cone to prevent the ice cream from dripping out. Smart idea.

We each got a cone. For me, it was a no-brainer to get birthday cake, which made my favorite food memories list back in 2013. They mixed yellow cake and sprinkles into the ice cream and it was delicious. The waffle cone, even though I'm not usually a cone person, was crispy and sturdy, and it was just a great ice cream cone all around. A doesn't remember exactly what he got (maybe something coffee-based), and back then we didn't always take pictures of the menu board, but he does remember he liked it.

Back when A went there the first time with other Pittsburgh folks, they told him that the thing to do there was to try to guess the color of the M&M at the bottom before you got to it. No idea if this is a real tradition or not, but we did it anyway because it was fun. I guessed blue, and it was blue. A guessed orange, and his was orange. We were pretty happy that we both guessed right.

After our tacos and ice cream, we drove over to the Lincoln Highway to start meandering our way across the state. We had a lot of stops planned -- the Flight 93 Memorial first, followed by a really fun and mind-boggling trip to Gravity Hill (completely worth it), and more -- but for now, it was goodbye to Pittsburgh!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Eel Burgers

When news broke earlier this month that Shake Shack would be collaborating with Chef Fergus Henderson of St. John in London on a special limited edition burger, we were really excited. We love chef collaborations, and the description of the eel burger they had planned sounded interesting. While we were really looking forward to it, I did have a couple of lingering doubts in the back of my mind. First, my experience with eels on our trip to London wasn't the greatest. Although this sounded completely different, those jellied eels are still one of my food nightmares. Second, we hadn't lined up for a chef collaboration or special limited edition item at this Shake Shack for a while, not since the epic 3.5-hour wait for the shrimp stack back in 2014. While I was prepared to wait on line for this event, I wasn't willing to go through a repeat of that stressful time.

My plan on Friday morning was simple. While I was getting ready to head down to Madison Square Park (the only Shake Shack with the eel burger), both A and I would keep an eye on the Shack cam. If the line circled all the way around the park to the point where the end was out of camera range, I would seriously reconsider going. Not just because the wait would be long, but because we had no idea if we'd get a special burger at that point. There was a real lack of detail in the announcements about the event. What time exactly would they start selling eel burgers? How many were going to be available on each day? How many were we allowed to get? (My main worry there was whether any office interns would buy out the entire supply.) We figured that if we watched the line get to a third or half of where it was on shrimp stack day before lunch even started, it probably wasn't worth taking a chance and ending up with no burger and lots of frustration. Lucky for us, some combination of it not being summer, it being a two-day promotion, it not being Momofuku, and maybe some people being grossed out by eels or not liking the flavor of eel led to a much more reasonable, I'd even say short, line.

Although our main focus was on the eel burger, they were also selling St. John vanilla custard doughnuts that they were calling "pillows of joy," so we had figured that even if they ran out of burgers by the time I hit the registers, there would at least be doughnuts left to buy. (There was wine too, but we didn't really look into that.) By the time I got to order, it was around 11:25, but they still had everything. I ordered two eel burgers and a doughnut for us to share. Success!

First up, the doughnut, mostly because we took one bite of the eel burger and then decided we should eat the entire doughnut first, so that the eel burger would be the last thing we tasted. (There were also fries which we snacked on in the beginning and then as a palate cleanser between the doughnut and burger.) The doughnut had "sourdough notes and lemon zest, filled with creamy custard filling." I'm not a fan of custard doughnuts in general -- they're more A's thing -- but I appreciated being able to see flecks of vanilla bean in the custard. I ate a little of the custard and thought it was nice, but concentrated more on the sugary, chewy exterior of the doughnut, which was pretty great. I'd love to eat a doughnut like that without any filling. A, on the other hand, thought that overall it was a good doughnut, but that the custard tasted better than the doughnut part.

After we finished off the doughnut, we moved back to the eel burger, savoring every single bite and remarking over and over again about how good it was. Piled on a soft bun was the smoked eel burger, along with smoked Niman Ranch bacon, pickled red onion, creme fraiche, fresh horseradish, and watercress. The eel burger was kind of like a fish cake patty, and the smoked flavoring was amazing. (Then again, we are fans of smoked fish in general, like the year that two dishes with smoked fish ended up on my favorites list.) All the other ingredients complemented the eel patty well. The smokiness of the eel, combined with the smoky saltiness of the bacon, the freshness of the watercress, the creamy bite from the horseradish and the creme fraiche, and the sourness of the pickled onions, made for "a perfect melody of flavors" (A's words which I think are quite fitting here).

We were so happy with our lunch, and it was definitely worth the walk and wait on a very muggy and hot morning. It was much better than the shrimp stack that we waited so much longer for, and that was even after walking with these finished burgers for almost a mile to where we were meeting to eat them. We had thought we would probably like the eel burger, since we both like eel, but I'm not sure we expected it to be this good. It was so good that we might even like it more than the regular ShackBurger. We were sad when we remembered that it was probably going to be the only one we would ever get. Really wish this were becoming a permanent part of Shake Shack's menu.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Week 33 - Midnight Snacks

What do you usually eat for a midnight snack? These days for me, it's usually some frozen berries or a piece of candy, or maybe some chicken nuggets if I'm hungrier. In college, it was a sandwich or sometimes fried rice or pizza (all takeout, had no kitchen). None of those really seemed right for the midnight snacks challenge, so I thought about what I might have gone for back then if I had had a kitchen. Quesadillas came to mind, so I went with that.

The ingredients for the quesadillas were:

- 4 whole wheat tortillas
- 1 can of chicken
- taco seasoning
- shredded cheese
- about 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves

Pretty simple, and on the side, we had the southwestern chopped salad kit from TJ's. This was good for an easy weekday meal, although it did take a little bit of time since each quesadilla had to be made separately in the pan.

The steps were easy. Mix the chicken with taco seasoning. Tear up the cilantro leaves into smaller pieces. Heat pan. Lay tortilla flat in the pan. Add thin layer of cheese, followed by taco chicken, a sprinkling of cilantro leaves, and then another layer of cheese. Fold quesadilla over and cook on both sides until done. No idea if this is how other people make quesadillas, but it's the way that makes sense to me.

I like these whole wheat tortillas because of their texture but also because they're handmade. That presented other challenges though, like the fact that they weren't perfect circles and didn't always fold over exactly evenly. Even if a little uneven, they turned out fine.

The first quesadilla I made, I thought I had put enough stuff in it, but it turned out pretty thin and with not that much melted cheese. I increased the amount of cheese in future ones, and by the third one, I had much better ratios for the filling which was evident in the photos of the cross-sections.

The quesadillas were pretty good, although they tasted like "healthy" versions of quesadillas. Maybe it was the wheat tortilla, maybe it was less cheese, less oil. I didn't mind though. Since we were eating it with salad on the side, I didn't bother thinking about sides of sour cream or pico de gallo, but we think they would have been better with that.

Overall, not a bad dinner. Not sure I'd go through all this work for an actual midnight snack though.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 32 - Salad

For over a year now, I've carried around a list in my phone of ingredients for a recipe that I hoped to make, roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs, the first recipe in the cookbook Jerusalem by Ottolenghi. I was hoping to start a cookbook project where I started from the beginning and just made the recipes in order, skipping over any that we wouldn't make at home normally (deep frying, for example) or couldn't eat for intolerance/allergy reasons. But the ingredients sat and sat in the notes app on my phone, waiting for the day when we could find the fresh, ripe figs that would be needed for the recipe.

When we were at Trader Joe's during the weekend of their anniversary sale (and what a great sale that was), A noticed that there was a big display with boxes of fresh figs. They looked pretty good, and after getting advice from a nice gentleman who was buying multiple boxes for himself, we picked one up and decided we would finally get around to making this recipe. I didn't think of it at the time but realized later it would be perfect for the Week 32 salad challenge.

The ingredients for the dish (adapted from the original) were:

- 4 sweet potatoes, small to medium sized
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 bunch of green onions
- chili flakes
- 8 fresh figs
- 5 oz goat cheese

For whatever reason, I kept thinking of this like an appetizer so wondered if we needed to eat more afterwards. But when I stopped to think about it rationally, it would be equivalent to eating 2 sweet potatoes each, which would be enough for a good dinner.

The steps for making the dish (as adapted) were:

1. Wash sweet potatoes and slice lengthwise, continuing to slice into wedges until they are desired thickness.

2. Cover sweet potatoes in olive oil, and top with salt and pepper.

3. Bake sweet potatoes skin side down on a baking sheet at 475 degrees for about 25 minutes. [They were definitely done by then, but probably could have done it for less time.]

4. Once sweet potatoes are soft, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Make the balsamic reduction by adding the balsamic vinegar to a small pot, and simmering until it thickens.

6. Wash and chop the green onions into medium sized pieces.

7. Add olive oil to sauce pan, add green onions, and shake on chili flakes. Cook for a few minutes until green onions are softer but still have some sturdiness to them.

8. Slice figs into quarters.

9. Plate! Sweet potatoes on the bottom, then the green onions and infused olive oil, then figs, balsamic reduction, and topped off with crumbled goat cheese.

Wow. That was really, really delicious. I didn't doubt that the dish would be good since we've had Ottolenghi salads from our time in London, but that first bite of a little bit of everything together was amazing. And I say this as someone who doesn't especially love fruit in savory dishes, but this definitely worked. Not a ton of ingredients, but every one played a role in the flavor. We would definitely make this again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week 31 - Inspired by Magic

I had no clue what to do for the inspired by magic challenge. Harry Potter came to mind, but I already did that for a previous challenge where I made the only HP-related thing I could think of (or that I wanted to make), so that wasn't going to work. Besides little cakes, I couldn't think of any other food from The Magicians. I was just drawing a complete blank. Once the challenge week started and people started posting things, I saw that someone had done something with beans because of the magic beans from Jack and the Beanstalk. Done. Magic beans, bean salad. Totally doable and something I'd actually want to make for dinner.

We decided to go with a Mexican bean salad recipe I found on Allrecipes, and stuck to it decently closely as far as ingredients with just a few adaptations. The ingredients we used were:

- 1 can black beans ($0.75)
- 1 can kidney beans ($0.75)
- 1 can cannellini beans ($0.79)
- 1 can corn ($0.72)
- 1 red onion, chopped ($0.99)
- 2 green peppers, chopped (would have done one green and one red like in the recipe but no good red peppers at the store) ($1.98)
- 2/3 batch of cilantro, chopped ($1.15)
- 1/2 cup olive oil ($0.75)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar ($0.75)
- 1 tbsp lime juice ($0.10)
- juice of 1 lemon ($0.29)
- 2 tbsp sugar ($0.10)
- salt ($0.05)
- spoonful of minced garlic ($0.10)
- cumin ($0.05)
- black pepper ($0.05)
- hot pepper sauce ($0.05)
- chili powder ($0.10)

Considering all the ingredients, this wasn't a super inexpensive salad, coming in around $9.52 (although most amounts up there are estimates). But considering that it filled a really large bowl and lasted for days, and there was far more in it than any salad you could get outside for that price, it felt worth it.

Making the salad was pretty simple. Everything from the cilantro to the end of the list got combined into a dressing, with the hot pepper sauce (we used the new TJ's taco sauce) and chili powder being added to taste after everything else was mixed together. A worked on that while I did prep on the rest of the ingredients.

My part basically involved rinsing and draining all the beans and corn, chopping the onions and green peppers, and then mixing it all together. By doing this together as a team, it got done so much faster.

We paired the salad with some fish sticks (nothing to do with magic that I can think of, but that's fine), and had a really tasty dinner. We liked the salad, and it was quite good with corn chip dippers in the following days too.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PNC Park

One of the things that prompted our PA road trip was the desire to knock another ballpark off our list in our attempt to visit them all. A had been to PNC Park before but I hadn't, so now we could even out our lists again. (The opposite was true when we made our visit to Camden Yards a couple of years before that.) PNC Park was gorgeous on a clear (but chilly) fall night, and I was stunned at how beautiful the city and river views were from our seat. At least you've got an amazing view even if the game isn't going so well.

If you ask anyone about Pittsburgh food, one of the things that comes up often is Primanti Brothers, now a mini-chain, which is known for its sandwiches stuffed with French fries, cole slaw, tomatoes, and meat. I think the only time we had ever passed one together, the lines were really long, so it was nice to find an outpost at the ballpark. Love when there's local food at the ballpark. We got the Pittsburgher (cheesesteak) option. Good, solid sandwich choice, but I'm not sure it really lived up to the insane amounts of hype surrounding it.

Since A had had Primanti Brothers before, he also picked up a single order of wings from Quaker Steak and Lube, another chain that has its origins near Pittsburgh. (There are apparently branches not too far away in NJ now, but not sure if they existed back then.) He had had them before, and these were fine. Not the best wings he'd ever had, but fine.

At some point during the game, we also got some chili cheese fries from one of the stands on the upper level. Don't remember anything about them, like whether they were from a local chain or not, or whether we had marked that down in advance to try, but they were probably good, because it's hard to go wrong with chili cheese fries and we love them.

To end the night, despite the fact that it was in the 40s and my hands were freezing, I went for some Dippin' Dots. It's just so hard to not get these at the ballpark, since I can't really get them anywhere else and I really like them. And they were birthday cake flavor, another thing I really like.

When the game ended, we got to witness a spectacular fireworks show with the backdrop of the city behind it. It may have been cold, but it was a pretty nice baseball experience overall. Pittsburgh folks are pretty lucky when it comes to baseball games that they get to go to games in such a gorgeous setting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Visit to the Strip District

We had one full day in Pittsburgh on our road trip. We were planning to spend the second half of that day at a Pirates game, but for the first part, we wanted to get in some sightseeing. It wasn't my first time in Pittsburgh since A had lived there for a few summers with his family, but it was my first time doing any real sightseeing there. Since it was lunchtime, we decided to start out over in the Strip District, which had developed over the years into a historic market district. A had been there several times during the time he lived there, mostly with his mom to go food shopping, but hadn't really spent much time wandering around or eating at the various vendors since they went there specifically to shop at a couple of stores.

A suggested we start out with Wholey's, a grocery store that had been in Pittsburgh for over 100 years. We strolled around the aisles, but couldn't really buy anything because of our schedule. After that, we went to some other shops, like Penzeys Spices and also open air markets. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, the narrow streets were packed with people, very slow-moving, and it took forever trying to get anywhere. As a result, we didn't investigate too many places before deciding to get something to eat for lunch.

We started off with tacos at Edgar's Tacos, which had a sign proclaiming themselves the best tacos in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, four years and probably at least a hundred tacos later, I couldn't even tell you which tacos we got here. Even though the details are a bit fuzzy (I really wish we had taken notes on this trip), I do remember that the portions were generous and that the tacos did taste good. That was a nice start to lunch.

Our next stop was at S&D Polish Deli, where we split the Polish platter. The platter had three pierogi,  haluszki, and stuffed cabbage, and also came with a drink. Don't remember which type of pierogi these were, but they were good, as was the stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce. The haluszki, I think, was the "Pittsburgh style" with cabbage, onions, and butter. All of the food was really good, and we were really happy with our platter. After eating, there was some customer service-type drama relating to getting a bathroom key which had me steaming for a bit until I wrote it all out in my journal to get it out of my head forever, and that must have worked since I don't remember the majority of the details anymore. So our takeaway from here was that the food was good, but maybe not worth dealing with the foot traffic and the potential for a bathroom key drama repeat.

Our last stop was at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, which we went to partially because we wanted a snack and partially because we loved the name. We got the cinnamon sugar (in part, because they were giving out samples before we ordered) and the Samoa donuts. Both were fine, although we think the donuts we have at home in NYC (or when we visit Chicago) are better.

Overall, while it was nice to visit the Strip District, what we ate and experienced wasn't so different from anything we could get at home, including all the crowds. We have since accumulated other bookmarks for places to visit in Pittsburgh, so I'm not sure if we'll do this Strip District visit again, but I'm glad we at least did this together once.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Meat and Potatoes

After driving into Pittsburgh and getting settled at our hotel, it was time for dinner. Before leaving on our road trip, we had made a reservation for Meat and Potatoes, since we liked the menu, it was close to the hotel, and we heard they were a pretty busy place. The restaurant was indeed crowded and bustling when we got there, so we were glad we had gone the advanced reservations route (since we often don't when on vacation).

Meat and Potatoes was a gastropub serving comfort food, with a menu heavily focused on (obviously) meat and potatoes. We started off with some beer, like this Bell's Brown Ale which was sweet and malty. Not a ton of hops, but a great beer to pair with burgers.

To start, we got the fried Brussels, figuring that we needed some vegetables to go along with all the meat and potatoes in the meal. The sprouts were crispy and full of flavor, topped with a little bit of parmesan cheese, and accompanied with some aioli. From what we remember (it's been four years...), these were a good start to the meal.

One of the things we were really looking forward to was the bone marrow, because we really like trying that in various places. This one came with three pieces, some grilled bread, and garnishes of salt, gremolata, pickled onions, and capers. It was really well-executed, nice and creamy with complementary toppings, and we were really glad we ordered it.

We had already gotten a substantial amount of food with the bone marrow (those were not small pieces) and sprouts, but still on the way were our main courses. We had decided to get a burger and a sandwich to split, and each of those came with a generous portion of fries, which we remember as being quite tasty and well-seasoned.

The sandwich we got was the Korean reuben sandwich (which is the only thing we got that isn't still on the restaurant's menu according to the version online). The sandwich had corned beef, Brussel kimchi, "Korean special sauce," and Swiss cheese. We both like reuben sandwiches, and this one had nice griddled bread, good flavors, and a ton of corned beef. It was pretty large with quite a lot of meat piled on there.

For the burger, we split the pub burger with pork belly pastrami, horseradish cheddar, fried egg, and "special sauce" on a housemade bun. The burger was really good (amazing in A's words), and it's the part of the meal A most remembers this many years later, especially that dominant flavor of horseradish cheddar (dominant in a good way). The combination of the bacon (well, pork belly pastrami) with the creamy horseradish cheese and the egg was just perfect. While both the burger and sandwich were good, we clearly liked this one better.

The food at Meat and Potatoes tasted good, but we were so full by the time we rolled out of there. What I actually remember the most about the meal was just how stuffed we were. After digesting for a little bit, we couldn't just sit around in our hotel room feeling as full and heavy as we did, so we ended up going to the gym later that night. It was the only remedy we could think of for how we felt, and I guess it helped a little bit. Good food, but very, very full.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ohiopyle Bakery

We're coming up on the fourth anniversary of our road trip through Pennsylvania, so our travels are on my mind a lot. When we last left off, we had just visited Fallingwater and had lunch at their cafe. Fallingwater is still one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen, and we're so glad we made the trip out to Western PA. Back to the recaps!

After lunch at Fallingwater, we lingered around the property some more, trying to take in as much as we could before hitting the road. Our plan was to drive over to nearby Ohiopyle State Park and go for a walk. When we had initially researched Ohiopyle, we wanted to go bike riding, but we just didn't have enough time for that on this visit, considering we still had one more stop to make that afternoon before heading up to Pittsburgh.

I had made a full list of activities we could do that afternoon, trying to take advantage of our brief time in the southwestern corner of the state, but since we didn't end up leaving Fallingwater until after 2, most of those plans ended up going out the window. It also meant we only had a very short window of time at Ohiopyle, just enough for some strolling, seeing one of the waterfalls, and grabbing a snack.

We had heard good things about the Ohiopyle Bakery, so we stopped in there for some sweet baked goods to tide us over until dinner. It was mostly cookies and some doughnuts from what we remember, and we went with both of those. The doughnut was your regular yeast doughnut with some chocolate glaze and sprinkles (of course in Steelers colors). We also got a couple of sugar cookies, because it's hard to go wrong with sugar cookies. While they didn't have any unique variations or flavors at the bakery that we could see, what they did have was done well.

After our snack and a little more time at Ohiopyle, it was back on the road for a short drive over to Laurel Caverns. I had never been to a cavern before, and A's only visit had been when he was really young. We didn't know when our next opportunity would be, so we definitely wanted to check that out. After our tour, we began our trip up to Pittsburgh (of course, in rush hour), where we would spend a couple of days before beginning our drive home.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Week 30 - Charcuterie

Week 30 involved making a charcuterie board. Well, that wasn't the specific directive as the theme was just charcuterie and you could do other stuff with the meat, but making a board seemed like the most logical and convenient thing to do.

Our board (which A arranged much better than I could have) consisted of a bunch of Trader Joe's products - the turkey summer sausage (previously reviewed), cubes of Jarlsberg cheese (which we mentioned recently), and some roasted garlic and onion jam. The sausage was good on its own, the cheese was better with the sausage than on its own, and the jam was better with both of those than it was on its own. We had excitedly picked up this jar of garlic and onion jam when it was first released a while ago at TJ's, and it has just languished in our fridge for ages. We thought we would love it (garlic and onion, why wouldn't we?), but it was just so much sweeter than what we usually prefer. Charcuterie night seemed like a good time to use up more of it. To complete the TJ's night, we ate all of this with some of the multigrain crackers that we really like.

It wasn't the healthiest dinner, that's for sure, and the sodium content was pretty high, but that was the challenge. Of all the items on there, the only thing we'd get again if we were making a board would probably be the sausage (and of course, the crackers). Hopefully by the time we make another one of these though, we won't still have that jam in the fridge.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Week 29 - Dim Sum

I put off the dim sum challenge for a long time. The challenge week was in July, and I didn't make anything for it until September. I'm behind in challenges generally, but I just lacked motivation for this one. I think a big part of that was because dim sum has always seemed like a lot of work for something that is consumed very, very quickly. For example, A's mom made dumplings completely from scratch one night for dinner when we visited, and the 130+ dumplings she made were consumed in maybe half an hour. Another part of it was probably because we've had a lot of dim sum over the years, and I knew whatever I made wouldn't live up to it. Yet another part of it was probably because I wasn't going to make a multitude of dishes, but only one, and that really wouldn't replicate the dim sum experience. It just seemed easier to go out for dim sum than to do this challenge.

But part of this challenge is forcing me to go outside of my comfort zone, and sometimes to do things that I don't actually want to do. So I eventually forced myself to pick up some dumpling wrappers and try to make the dumplings that I used to love when my grandmother would make them for family get-togethers. It had been a while since we had them, but we sort of remembered what went into them and got some tips from her and my mom. The ingredients we used were:

- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (probably should have used more)
- 1 can of water chestnuts (probably should have used more)
- 1/2 cup of scallions, greens only (probably should have used more)
- about 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce (definitely should have used more)
- about a capful of shao shing wine
- 1 pack of thin dumpling wrappers
- 1 egg, beaten
- chicken bouillon + water, enough to cook the dumplings in

As you can tell, we didn't really measure anything, and we weren't working off a recipe so all the amounts are estimates. The one thing we both agreed on soon after trying them was that we definitely should have used some more soy sauce. Next time.

The steps for making the dumplings were:

1. Combine ground turkey in mixing bowl with soy sauce and wine, and let sit while prepping vegetables.

2. Rehydrate shiitake mushrooms, reserving the soaking water, and then cut off stems. Put mushrooms, water chestnuts, and scallions in a food processor until chopped well. Add to turkey mixture and mix well. Allow to sit for a few minutes.

3. Combine the water from the shiitake mushrooms with chicken broth (chicken bouillon and water in our case). Bring to boil.

4. Make dumplings. Put a small amount of filling in each dumpling wrapper and seal with egg. [I should have put in more filling. I always overfill everything, like tacos, lettuce wrap, etc, so I think I overcompensated here and didn't put enough. Next time.]

5. Boil dumplings in batches of 10-12 for about 10 minutes until meat is cooked.

Since I didn't put enough filling in each dumpling since I was afraid they would burst, there was a lot of turkey left over at the end. I ended up making about seven giant meatballs (with the turkey mixture, some of the beaten egg, and some more soy sauce) which, after pan-frying for a bit, we then added to the soup that would accompany the dumplings. The soup was my grandmother's idea. She said the dumplings would be even better made with chicken broth instead of water, and that you could then just add vegetables and drink it. Perfect idea. We added in some chopped mushrooms (regular mushrooms, not shiitake) and the rest of the scallions, along with the meatballs, and it was a really clean soup.

In the end, the dumplings were good but not great. There were hints of the flavors I really like from our family's dumplings, but there was something missing. I don't think it was just more soy sauce though. Maybe it was more mushrooms, maybe more water chestnuts, maybe all of the above. Maybe it was some other ingredient that I was missing. I also need to put more meat in each dumpling next time, because there was way too little filling in these. We did enjoy eating them for dinner though, and they were also good out of the refrigerator the next day (cold actually has always been my favorite way to eat them). May take some more experimentation and practice to get this right, but I'm certainly not opposed to it!