One recent rainy night, between downing several pints of stout and an entire bottle of Laphroaig scotch, we invented a sublime, fatty fall concoction — roasted eggplant and potato mashed with sweet Thai basil and stuffed into fragile squash blossoms, caked with flour and pan-fried until crisp. This unexpected but opportune flavor mash-up led to one of the best questions you can ask inside a kitchen: “What else could we do with this?”
Well, lots of things. For starters, we thought: ‘Japanese yams instead of potato.’ Rather than mashed by hand, pureed in a food processor led to a much more luscious goo. What with the zen-mountain vibe of this creamy mixture, we tried piping it into egg-wrapper dumpling skins. While steaming, the dumplings become translucent, letting you see their vivid yam guts. We steamed and fried them, but that’s your call. Popping them in soup could work.
Meanwhile, the perfect recipe for those rainy-day squash fritters is still in the works. You can’t rush perfection.
Zen Yam Dumplings
2 Japanese eggplants
4 stalks lemongrass
2 – 3 scallions
1 cup purple basil
20 egg wrappers
1/4 cup kimchee (optional)
1. Peel your yams (if that isn’t a soul song waiting to happen, we don’t know what is…) and cut into large cubes. Add to a medium-sized pot of cold, well-salted water and put on high heat. Slice 2 stalks of lemongrass into 3-inch pieces, add to the pot for flavoring. Once you hit a rolling boil, turn down the heat and let sit in hot water for 5-10 minutes..
2. Set the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplants in half, place face down on a well-greased baking tray or roasting pan. Stick in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until skin is brown and flesh is mushy to the touch. Remove to cool.
3. Strain the water retaining just yam pieces, and toss the lemongrass. Place yams in a food processor along with chopped scallions. When eggplants have cooled, peel their skins off and put just the meaty flesh into the food processor. Pulse for several minutes or until creamy.
4. Dump the yam-eggplant mixture into a mixing boil. Add kimchee for moisture and flavor if on hand. Thinly slice jalapeno and chiffonade your basil, adding bowl to the mixture and stirring well. Salt to taste, you wanna balance out that sweetness.
5. Put a large pot of water on to boil, adding the remaining two lemongress stalks and the sesame oil for steam-flavor.
6. Remove your egg wrappers and fill one-by-one. Place about 1.5 teaspoons of filling in the center of each wrapper, fold two opposite tips together to form a triangle and use a fork to press down the sides and corners around the filling. Set aside. Once all your dumplings are assembled, spray down your steamer or pot insert with canola oil to prevent sticking and place each inside delicately. Steam for about 10 minutes or until insides are blazing hot and skins are wrinkly and transparent.
7. To finish, carefully remove dumplings and let cool for several minutes. Heat a skillet or cast iron with canola oil and pan-fry the dumplings several at a time until brown on each side. Serve with a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and wasabi or ginger paste.
Beverage: The Bruery’s Coton
Soundtrack: Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith covering “Sweet Jane”