Saturday, November 17, 2007

RECIPE Mandarin Pancakes

You're going to have left over turkey this weekend. Why not have fun with it? Make Peking Turkey!

I love making Mandarin Pancakes (aka Peking Doilies or Lotus Pancakes). They're fussy and fun, and really not that hard. And this is the same dough you use for potstickers and green onion pancakes. This recipe makes 16 small (4 inch) doilies.

All you need is:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • a little sesame oil (plain salad oil will do in a pinch, or any other fat, for that matter)
  • 1/2 cup more flour for rolling the pancakes out

For the filling:
  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Green Onions
  • Leftover Turkey (or chicken or pork -- don't forget this is a good use for the skin! For vegetarians, I have made fake duck skin out of dried bean curd skin -- moisten it, and then fry it until the surface is crispy.)

I also recommend a covered plate or some tin foil -- in which to keep the cooked doilies warm and moist while you roll and cook the rest. Oh, and you'll need a ROLLING PIN (or something that can be used as such -- you could try a tortilla press, but I don't know what effect that would have on the layers).

Boiling water dough is sweeter and more tender than most doughs, but mixing in the very hot water is a trick. A friend got me a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer this year, and I love it for this -- you can pour the boiling water in as the thing mixes (be sure to use a dough hook!). No problems holding the bowl, the spoon and the container of hot water. However, you can make it just fine with a bowl and a wooden spoon. Just pour the boiling water in all at once, and then start stirring. It won't look like it wants to combine right, but have faith. Lumps don't matter in this dough.

Eventually, as you stir, everything will come together into a sticky ball. Scrape that onto a sheet of plastic wrap (...oh yeah, you'll need plastic wrap, or something like it), along with any loose bits left in the bowl. Wrap it tight, and let it sit for a while -- anywhere from ten minutes to a full day. This step is essential. It not only allows the sticky gluten to "rest" (which makes it less sticky, and more pliable), but it also gives the water a chance to soak more evenly through the dough. (I told you lumps don't matter. Although if you ended up with a bunch of hard lumps, you'll probably want to let it sit longer than if you didn't.)

While you wait, get your other stuff ready -- chop the green onions, shred or slice the meat, get out your bottle of hoisin. If you want to be really fancy, you might mix up a sauce to taste with hoisin, sugar, oyster sauce and water, but plain hoisin will do. And if you want to go whole hog and make scallion brushes, you have to cut a 2 inch piece of scallion, cut little slits in each end to make the "brush" part, and then stick them in ice water to make the brushes curl up.

Now, get out a covered plate or a big sheet of tinfoil in which to keep the cooked pancakes. Get out your rolling pin, and put a scoop of flour onto the surface where you'll roll out the pancakes.

When you unwrap the dough, it should be sticky, but firm enough to hold its shape. Just scrape loose anything that sticks, and pat a little flour onto the surface. You don't need to knead it. Just pat flour onto sticky bits so you can handle it. It is easiest to divide this evenly by rolling it into a tube shape, and then cutting it in half. Cover half with the plastic for later so it won't dry out, and then divide up the remining bit into eight peices. (Just keep rolling the snake out thinner and cutting it in half and in half again.) You want to try to get the pieces all the same size, but if you can't, that's okay. You just want to remember to use littl pieces with little pieces and big with big.

Take two pieces. Pat them into disks. Pour a drop or two of Sesame oil on one of the disks and spread it around to cover the surface -- this will allow the two pieces to be separated later. Stack the dry disk on top of the oiled one, press them down a little flatter, and start rolling them out as a two-layered pancake. Pat the sticky bits with more flour as necessary. When they are as thin as you can reasonably get them (about a four-inch tortilla), it's ready to cook.

Have a pan already warmed up on medium to medium-low heat. A dry pan, no oil! These won't stick to a dry pan. After a minute or so, the dough will start getting translucent. Flip it over. The other side should have formed some white spots that were just beginning to turn brown. A little bit of brown spots are okay, but if you get big brown spots you cooked it too long or too hot (probably both) -- and if you do that, it will be hard to pull them apart. It is okay if you under cooked it a little, because you can always flip them over again. While cooking the second side, you'll start to see the pancake puff up -- that's a sign it is done, although it's good to let it puff more for a minute, as long as you aren't burning it.

Put the cooked pancake in a covered container -- in tinfoil or under a lid -- until you've cooked more of them. By the time you're done with all (or if you're impatient, with half), they should be just cool enough to handle, and you can start pulling them apart -- just remember there still might be some HOT steam inside the freshest ones.

The edge where you can pull them apart won't be as obvious as in the picture, but it's kinda like opening a plastic vegetable bag at the market. Just keep teasing the edge until you find a seam. If it starts to tear, back off, work it along the other direction, or try to get your fingers inside and separate them from the middle. (The edges are where they are cooked together, after all.)

Spread on some hoisin sauce, drop in some meat, and sprinkle generously with onions, wrap it up, and voila! You have a fun and delicious treat.


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