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Corn dumplings stir-fried with kale

I seem to be in a dumpling-type mood lately. Maybe it's the cooler weather, but there is something pleasing about eating a plump, round dinner when it gets cold. I tend to prefer dumplings in soup, but stir-fried dumplings come a close second. I think it comes from really liking spaetzel with lots and lots of butter. I've been experimenting with the possibilities of tamale flour lately, as the refined texture seems to lend itself really well to smoother, less 'rustic' cornmeal dumplings. It has the advantage of being quicker to work with than normal flour dumplings, and is also more resilient to long cooking.

Later this evening, I am going to try pounding my own mochi from scratch (with real steamed glutinous rice) for torture's sake, then toast it, slather it in indecent amounts of butter and shredded toasted nori, then serve it to us. But I did want to get down my recipe for the cornmeal dumplings as a reference first. It's gluten-free, and can be as egg and dairy-free as one wishes. Dorian, my beloved food inspector cat, is at this very moment approving of the gluten, egg and dairy free version (posted below), because he's... like that.

The kale part to this recipe came about partly because I was craving greens, and wanted to try cooking curly kale, which is a very pretty vegetable. Curly kale is also deeply resilient to long cooking. Unfortunately, cooking does wilt the curls, but it's definitely a less thickly vegetal kale than the Asian versions I usually have.

Cornmeal Dumplings

2 cups tamale flour (masa harina)
1½ cups warm liquid (water or broth)
¼ cup oil
1 tsp salt

1. Mix all ingredients into a smooth paste. If the paste is too crumbly, add more liquid as necessary. Likewise, if the paste is too soft, add more flour, about a tablespoon at a time. You want an easily stirred paste you can roll into balls with your hands.
2. Scoop a teaspoonful of paste into lightly dampened hands and roll into a ball. Shape the dumplings as you prefer. I like to make a dent with my thumb in each ball of paste, so my dumplings look like little bowls. This seems to boil best for me.
3. Repeat step 2 until all the paste is formed into dumplings.
4. Boil a big pot of water.
5. When water is boiling, drop in dumplings. Cook uncovered for 8 - 10 minutes, until all dumplings float to the surface. Note: If you're cooking the dumplings as part of a soup, just leave it to cook in the soup during the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, covered. The corn flour will help thicken any broth you use. No other step is necessary beyond that.
6. Scoop out and strain dumplings. When they are not too wet, lay them out on a cookie sheet-lined tray, single layer, to dry out a bit more before frying. I usually leave them out for about half an hour. Watch for hungry cats.
7. To store, keep in a plastic bag in the fridge, or freeze for longer use.


1. Mix chopped fresh herbs, pesto or pepper paste into dumpling dough before shaping for different flavours.
2. Use cream or milk instead of water or broth for richer dumplings.
3. Use melted butter or tallow instead of oil for more intense creaminess and a shapely waistline.

Stir-fried with Kale

1 bunch curly kale (chopped fine)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
½ sweet onion (minced)
1 big handful of nuts (chopped)
Enough butter or oil to fry
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat butter or oil in pan. Add garlic, onion and nuts. Saute on medium heat until onions are translucent.
2. Crank heat up to high. Toss in kale, salt and pepper. Fry until kale is wilted to taste.
3. Add dumplings (above). Toss in hot pan until thoroughly warmed. Serve.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
Wait, two posts at once? I must put on a second pot of tea.

*runs to the kitchen*
Dec. 8th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC)
"a plump, round dinner"

Dec. 8th, 2012 01:59 am (UTC)
Now, now. She's diet Sif these days. Lighter, yet just as fluffy.
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
mmm toasted mochi! I recently had deep-fried toasty spaetzle somewhere and I really should make some.

And mmm dumplings. I hadn't thought to fry those either! Experiment time soon.
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
Frying dumplings (and spaetzle) is easy, but I've found the key thing is to dry them out a little first so they don't mush or splatter. Mostly, I just roll around spaetzle in indecent amounts of browned butter.
Dec. 8th, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
Is tamale flour the same as masa harina?
Dec. 8th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Yup. I should have made that clearer, sorry. Off to edit post!
Dec. 8th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
I was just checking, all this talk has got me wanting to make a batch of tamales. Maybe next weekend.
Dec. 13th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, this reminds me! I did eventually try boiling my tamales using just corn husk wrappers. They survived pretty well, but I would suggest using actual string ties instead of tearing off corn husk strips as ribbons. I lost about half my meat tamales batch because I underestimated how strong the corn husk ribbons were on certain packets.
Dec. 13th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
I actually have a tamale steamer (large pot with a perforated insert on the bottom http://www.imusausa.com/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=29&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=6). I don't tie mine, just fold steaming is much gentler but takes longer.

Dec. 13th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
I have always wanted a proper steamer, and should eventually invest in one. They sell tamales steamers in the local Mission markets here, but they always seem to be fairly large sizes, for clans of 10+. :) Some of the variety stores here sell Chinese-style steel steamers (a steamer is basically cross-cultural...) that do go down to more doable sizes for me. In my case, it's largely a matter of storage space.
Dec. 13th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Usually tamales are made in large batches around Christmas time and then frozen and eaten throughout the year, thus the big steamer. Last time I did tamales, we made a batch of 6 dozen or so and they lasted most of the year.

For everyday steaming, I use my rice cooker which has a steam tray and a steam setting.
Dec. 13th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
I have a rice cooker like that, but it's hopelessly small for many things I want to steam. I have a metal plate stand that turns most pots with a lid into a steamer, but my main draw for an actual steamer is being to put in a whole plate of whole fish, or lots of dumplings and buns at once.

It makes sense that tamales are made in big batches! It's that sort of family-style food. :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )