I was adventuring through Boston’s Chinatown in Boston looking for a decent-looking establishment where I could have lunch. To my surprise it was an aroma that made my choice for me, emanating from a dim sum restaurant.
Duck dumplings with shiitake mushrooms were on the menu, and were immediately appealing. The dark meat of duck is more moist and flavorful than chicken or turkey. And I love mushrooms.
By the time I got home I was plotting how to create my own version of duck dumplings using a roasted duck from a local Chinese restaurant. I’m a professional chef, but rarely cook duck unless I am catering a party or cooking for friends.
If I’m entertaining friends I like to triple the recipe, so I’ll have some left over post-party. Though I love duck I don’t buy it often, and special occasions are as good excuse as any to get some and make something delightful.
The recipe I developed is easy if made in stages; see Make-Ahead Tips how to store the dough, filling, and uncooked prepared dumplings.
Duck Dumplings with Shiitake Mushrooms
For the dough*:
180 grams (6-3/4 ounces/1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for kneading
*Or purchase premade dumpling dough from your local Asian market
For the filling:
Half a roast duck, preferably Beijing-style
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) granulated sugar
170 grams (6 ounces) spinach, washed and trimmed
60 ml (1/4 cup) finely chopped water chestnuts
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
23 ml (1-1/2 tablespoons) minced fresh ginger
15 ml (1 tablespoon) soy sauce
5 ml (1 teaspoon) cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
- To make the dough: Place flour into food processor and pulse to sift, then slowly pour in 15 ml (4 ounces) cold water while running. When it forms a loose ball, remove from work bowl and knead on floured surface for 5 minutes to form a smooth, firm, elastic ball. (If you began the dough in a bowl, lightly dust a clean, dry surface with flour before kneading.) The dough should not be sticky and should bounce back when pressed with a fingertip. Divide in half with a bench knife and roll into two 15 cm (6 inch) logs. Sprinkle each log evenly with flour, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling and filling.
- For the filling: Separate the duck meat from the bones and skin; shred the meat finely by hand. Cut the stems from the mushrooms and discard. Squeeze excess moisture from the caps and chop finely. Transfer the duck and mushrooms to a medium bowl.
- In a 30 cm (12 inch) skillet, bring 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of water and the sugar to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring until wilted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Squeeze the excess water from the spinach and transfer to a cutting board to cool. Chop finely.
- Stir the spinach, water chestnuts, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1.25 ml (1/4 teaspoon) black pepper into the duck and mushrooms. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
- To finish the dumplings: Cut each log of dough in half crosswise. Cut each half crosswise into thirds, and then slice each of those pieces into three even coins. You should have 36 pieces of equal size. Toss the pieces in flour to coat evenly and then cover with a clean towel so they don’t dry out. Using a small rolling pin, roll a piece of dough into a thin 8 cm (3 inch) circle; with the dough in one hand and the pin in the other, roll from the edges toward the center as you rotate the dough. This rolling technique helps create a round with thin edges and a thicker center.
- Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons of the filling onto a dough circle, fold it in half, and then if you’re going to boil the dumplings, seal it by pinching along the curved edge. If you’re planning to pan-fry the dumplings for pot stickers, make your first pinch at the center of the curved edge and then pleat toward the center on both sides to create a rounded belly. This wider shape allows the dumplings to sit upright in the pan and form a flat surface for browning. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. As you work, arrange the filled dumplings in a single layer without touching on large plates, so they don’t stick together.
- To boil the dumplings: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 2 or 3 batches to avoid overcrowding, quickly add the dumplings one at a time, making sure they don’t stick to each other. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, gently stirring occasionally, until the dumplings float and are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce.
- To pan-fry the dumplings: Heat 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil in a large heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working quickly and in batches if necessary (adding more oil for the second batch if needed), arrange the dumplings belly side down in concentric circles starting from the outer edge. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Add about 15 ml (4 ounces) water or enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of the dumplings, bring to a boil, cover, and cook until all of the water has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking just until the dumplings are dry and crisp on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Loosen the dumplings from the pan with a spatula. Invert the pan over a plate to flip the dumplings, browned side up, onto the plate (or transfer with a spatula). Serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce.
Make Ahead Tips
The dough can be covered with plastic and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. If refrigerated, return to room temperature before rolling. The filling can also be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Filled, shaped dumplings may be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours or frozen for up to three months. To freeze, arrange just-formed dumplings in a single layer on lightly floured baking sheets and freeze for at least four hours. Once they are frozen through, transfer the dumplings to freezer storage bags. The dumplings can be boiled or pan-fried directly from the freezer; simply increase the cooking time by three to four minutes.