KC 135 - Caj-ian Potstickers

KC 135 - Caj-ian Potstickers

Hello and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes, the site that’s sure to bite, I’m Jon O’Guin, and I swear, it’s much harder to match up “Cajun” and “Asian” in a way that’s visually AND audibly enjoyable, as today’s titled evinces. Shit, I dropped the verb form of evidence! We’re getting high-brow up in this bee-yotch! And it’s gone. Good. Well done me. Anyway, Cajian potstickers. Why? And How? Let’s dive in.

 

I Passed A Fast Pass Past the Last Mast To Match Matt’s Cast

Did I just write a tongue-twister for MYSELF to have to sort out? That’s weird. And it didn’t even use the right form of past for it to make sense as a lead-in. Is Title Jon Drunk or something? He’s not. I know, because I’m not drunk. I was just momentarily going crazy. My room has bad air-flow, and it’s right next to the heating for the house, so I’m convinced it’s hotter.  Complicating matters is my complicated relationship with clothing and blankets. Left to my own devices, I shun the constrictive confines of ‘shirts’ and ‘pants’ for the free yet concealing toga-esque comfort of a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and body like a traveller’s cloak.  Then I get too hot in the blanket, so I have to shrug it off, and now I feel exposed. A strange feeling, for a man who met one of his college professors in his underwear, but sometimes things are fine in public, but not in private, I suppose.

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And vice-versa, as Estonia must sometimes remind people. 

Oh my, I seem to have nattered on without a single useful word being uttered. This damnable heat, I tell you. I’m certainly most anticipating a cool peach tea to cool off…why am I a southern belle now? No, don’t answer that, shut up, I had a more important thought: has anyone ever seen a southern Belle Halloween costume? Like, Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, but southern? Because that’s a fucking amazing pun. A completely unexpected combination of disparate elements. Oh, look, I’ve hysterically stumbled back into the point.

As you may recall, some months ago, I held the second Theme Month for the site, where we did culinary mash-ups for all of May. Bloody Mary Pasta, Musubi Jambalaya, just a whole mess of mixed-up dishes. Well, the thing is, I didn’t pick those dishes at random: they were voted on, by our wonderful Patrons. But, because our Patrons also love to see me suffer, those who did vote spread their votes out so that everything they picked TIED. I had 6 equally requested recipes to cover, and only 4 weeks in May. So the last two Mash-ups got set aside, to be visited later. We tackled Ramen Burritos as July came to a close, so now let’s move to America’s Forgotten Coast, and see how de Cajun do down dere in de Bay-oo. (MORE ACCENTS? WHY?)

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Bonjou, mes amis! Konmen lé-zafè?Y'all cum down for de Mardi-Gras? 

 

Havin’ a Cre-Ole Time

Now, I’ve talked at LENGTH at where Cajuns come from, but what I have not talked about as thoroughly is the concept of Creole. Creole is an ethnic group and language spoken in southern Louisiana that is, as most American things are, incredibly arrogant. How can a group and a language be “arrogant”? Well, because Creole is a noun. Specifically, it is a noun for “ethnic groups that have arisen from the intermingling of differing cultures, predominantly due to colonialism, and the languages they speak”. That’s actually not quite right, as the languages that arise from the intermingling of different cultures are typically pidgins, which then evolve into Creoles. This is easier to explain through example.

Let’s say you’re a French…cobbler, in the 16th century. You hear that the colony of Saint-Domingue is having problems with keeping their slaves in shoes. You think “that’s a nice way to make money!” so you sail there. Once there, you meet a Brazilian woman. You two fall in love. The thing is, you don’t speak Portuguese, and she doesn’t speak French. Instead, you communicate through pidgin, a sort of half-language. She learned it from dealing with sailors from French colonies like Guyana, and you’ve picked it up since moving to the island. It’s LIKE French, but also not. Like, the moon, la lune, is now lalin. Bon soir is now bonswa, instead of saying “my brother is sick” (mon frère est malade) it’s now “Brother mine sick” (fre mwen malad). And it works. You can convey most ideas pretty easy.

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For another example, here's Naija, a Nigerian pidgin based on English. While it might look like nonsense written down, try saying it. "Awa pipul", "wosh im hand klin" . 
My favorite part is that veks means 'angry', which means they took it from 'vex', so it's clearly based off of Victorian English. Also, "bikos" is a much cooler spelling than "because".

And then you have some kids. Those kids are ‘creoles’ (more on that in a second). And they get taught that pidgin as their default language. And over time, they ‘push’ it into a more functioning language by taking words from you, or your wife, or your neighbors, and eventually the language is now a creole. Because it’s the language OF the Creoles. And then in 100 years or so the slaves on Saint-Domingue rise up, kill their French overlords, and make Haiti, because France’s history with colonies never went as well as England’s did.  But a lot of them still speak a Creole based on your language, so…you win the long game?

The reason America fucks this up is because we forgot what the word meant, because America believes it’s fine to keep USING a foreign word, but knowing how to use it is for pretentious dicks. Luckily, I’m here. “Creole” means, broadly, “Born in”. So, those kids in our example are, in French Creole du Saint-Domingue. So the French kept telling us that this weird swamp people were Cajuns, and that the biracial city folk were ‘Creole du Louisiana’, and we said “Louisisana Creole, got it.” Then, 80 years later, we said “why the fuck do we say  ‘Louisisana’ Creole? The ONLY Creole are from Louisiana!” Because this is 1840, and newspapers are for people who didn’t fight in the Seminole War, damnit! The first one, with Jackson. Not the shitty second one still going on. Or the third one in 15 years. Apparently FINISHING wars is also for people who didn’t fight in the Seminole War.

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That's right, Abner Doubleday! Eat a DICK, you street-car patenting, Civil-War surviving LOSER. 

 

None of which is relevant, because, as I’ve indicated, Creoles and Cajuns are different things, I just didn’t have much to say about today’s dish.

 

Straight From Saint Louis, It’s Cajun Delight!

Now, the idea of Cajun potstickers came to me in a vision. That vision was of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, where Guy Fieri visits the Highway 61 Roadhouse in St Louis, Missouri. The restaurant is named for Highway 61, duh, which is a highway that goes from New Orleans, Louisiana to Wyoming. Montana. The TOWN of Wyoming, Montana. The highway is kind of famous, because it’s supposedly the highway on which Robert Johnson met and then sold his soul to the Devil to play blues so well. A bunch of people have written songs about the highway since, including some dude named Bob Dylan who named an album after it.

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Nice enough kid, had some questions about walking down roads. 

 

Anyway, the Highway 61 Roadhouse does a bunch of food, including some Cajun fusion food, with stuff like “barbecue pasta” and “CajAsian Potstickers”. I saw the episode, and thought “Hey, I love potstickers! And I like Cajun food! I should consider making this sometime!” So when the time came, I put it on the list, and thus I got to here.

Now, there’s stuff that COULD be said about my process going into this, but I’m going to actually hold off on that until Thursday, because A, I spent a LOT of time talking about Creoles and rambling due to the heat. (Which I did eventually solve, by the by. I had momentarily forgotten that WINDOWS can be OPENED.) And B, I think it’s a fun journey to go by on its own, with a lot to analyze.

In the end, the recipe I came up with is relatively simple, and honestly, I have no idea how much like the original it is, because I’m dumb, which we’ll talk about on Thursday. The core of it is simple: take a standard pork posticker, and replace all the elements involved with Cajun ones.

Ground Pork? Minced Andouille.

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Honestly, can any of you tell this is Andouille? If I had diced up Polish sausage, it'd look much the same.
Is that a philosophical statement? 

And let me tell you, mincing Andouille is more frustrating work that you’d think. Maybe it’s just the firmness of the brand I used, but that thing got weird at certain points, with the pork fat starting to adhere to the blade, and the little segments of skin resisting the knife.

Then, instead of cabbage, you mince up green bell pepper, celery, and onion, because the Trinity is as Cajun as food gets. I also minced up some green onion, because that’s a nice bridge, being in both Cajun food and potstickers.

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I then buried it under the other ingredients, because I don't actually plan out the pictures in relation to the text before taking them, and then fail to plan out the TEXT in relation to the pictures. 

Instead of garlic or ginger, hit that sucker with some Cajun seasoning! Or…holy shit, CREOLE Seasoning! HA, ALL THAT SHIT ABOUT CREOLES TECHNICALLY PAID OFF! (I’m sorry if this is a little scatter-brained. I did more manual labor in the last 2 days than I have in…over a year, actually, so I’m a little punch-drunk at the moment.) Anyway, the brand is actually something I fully endorse because it was my dad’s favorite, so it’s kind of remained as a family go-to.

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It's also been like, 4-5 months, so it's not like we've had a huge need for Creole seasoning. 

Then, if you’ve never made potstickers, let me tell you how it goes: You mash together all the shit that goes in the potsticker, then wrap it up and fry it. We decided to fry our ingredients beforehand…for reasons I can’t explain until Thursday. (Actually, I can: I did it because it’s what literally every recipe but ONE that I checked did, so I blindly followed.) This may not have been a great idea. Because, spoilers, one of the main complaints with the resulting potstickers was the texture of the inside, which might have been better if the food hadn’t been pre-fried. OR maybe it would have been worse, I don’t know.

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You know, from above, they don't look so terrible. 

Anyway, once it’s fried, it’s time to fill, which means its time for the member of the household with the LEAST manual dexterity to delicately pleat potsticker wrappers around scoops of oily meat, while wetting the edges to ensure the dough sticks! (This was roughly as fun as it sounds, which is to say, miserable.)

A quick fry/steam, and the preparation of some sides, and we had POTSTICKERS!

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We also had garlic bread and dirty rice, because my family loves its starches, and we wanted to keep in the "Cajun" theme. 

How did they turn out? Disappointing, in a word. For several reasons. First, as stated, the interior texture was a little too distinct, too disparate. I think if/when I make these again, I’ll want a better binding medium. Probably a more sticky sausage. Or maybe see if under-cooking it helps. The other issue is that inside was also a little dry, because it was so fractured. Some kind of sauce inside would have boosted the Cajun flavor, AND made the potstickers moister. And finally, because I’m bad at making pot stickers. Seriously, EVERY one felt like it was filled to bursting, until I moved my hand away, and said “oh, this is a puny fucking thing.” Maybe with practice or smaller hands, you can get more satisfyingly made potstickers.

It was a useful failure, because it prompted analysis. “I SHOULD like this,” our minds told us, “So why don’t I?” We got some ideas that I’ll visit more on THURSDAY. SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT NOW

THURSDAY: WE TALK THE PROCESS OF HOW A RECIPE GETS DEVELOPED FOR THE SITE, AND HOW IT’S HONESTLY THE BARE-MINIMUM OF EFFORT MOST TIMES, IN ORDER TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND HOW YOU CAN TWEAK WHAT WE DO IN YOUR OWN HOME.

NEXT MONDAY: I’VE MADE A COUPLE THINGS, BUT I’M FEELING LIKE IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE WE HAD A STRONG STARCH ON THE SITE. SO LET’S MAKE SOBA SALAD WITH STEAK!  

 

Recipe

Cajian Potstickers

Makes 20-25 potstickers

 

Ingredients

2 andouille sausages, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup finely chopped celery

2 tbsp finely chopped green onion

¼ tsp Creole or Cajun seasoning

¼ cup vegetable oil, divided

25 gyoza wrappers

                For sauce

2 tsp Tabasco

2 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce

 

Preparation

1.       Heat 2 tbsps oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté all ingredients except the wrappers in the heated oil for 5 minutes to soften. Remove from heat and let cool.

2.       Once cooled, spoon roughly 2 tsp of filling into each potsticker wrapper, and close.

3.       Pour remaining oil into skillet. Place potstickers into pan, on oil. Add 1 cup of water, and steam for 8-10 minutes. Remove the lid, and let fry until bottoms are crisp and golden brown.

4.       While steaming, whisk sauce components together in a small bowl with a fork.

5.       Serve hot, with dipping sauce.