Who would think of North Country, and the Adirondacks in particular as being a place to enjoy amazing vegetable pot-stickers, prepared quite authentically in the Chinese way? Not I. When we moved to the farm, we also made peace with ourselves about not eating global cuisine the way we enjoyed it in NYC.
Sally Longo, photographed above, as she rolls the pastry to make the dumpling skins, chats with me, and talks about the joy of making dumplings for greedy others like Charlie and I. She is our local food celebrity. Author of Aunt Sally's Adirondack Kitchen.
How many people do we know that will drive an hour, during a snow storm, to come make dumplings for friends? Not many in my address book. Sally is such a generous and warm person. And a friend that one hopes to meet, but most often never does meet. We are lucky to have Sally in our lives. And North Country is blessed to have her in its midst. She is also the host of Dinner at Eight, a show that airs daily, and repeats many times daily, and weekly. It showcases Sally Longo's own repertoire, and also features the discoveries she has made in the local food scene up here. You may even find people on her show that seem strange to see on air, or not as deserving, but that showcases her belief in supporting all that are trying to make a difference. Inclusive could be her middle name! Some are happy to push products and books by people they gossip about behind closed doors. Shameless for sure. And tasteless. Sally is not like that. No wonder she will drive an hour to make dumplings for friends, who she knows will appreciate her efforts, and have culinary epiphany with each bite.
Here you can see Sally filling the dumplings and placing them on a sheet pan lined with plastic wrap. She is blessed with dumpling-filling-fingers.
Making dumplings, vegetarian or with pork, is a job that requires patience and a certain amount of skill, mostly patience though. Well, it seems that Sally Longo has both. Lucky us! We now eat great dumplings, right her in North Country, and without having to leave our farm, and never stepping foot in Chinatown in NYC. Well that latter part we miss, since Chinatown is quite an experience. One that challenges every sensory part of ones being. In having discovered Sally, having her as a friend, and having her book, we now can make the dumplings ourselves, and most often, have Sally in our kitchen, preparing them with us, for us, and enjoying them with us. It brings back memories of dinners at our very dear friend Ed Schoenfeld's home in Brooklyn. He has that same energy and generosity that Sally has. No one would ever leave either of their tables hungry or wanting for food and affection. They are true Mensch's.
Whilst Sally's book has a recipe for great pork and ginger dumplings, we came up with a vegetarian dumpling recipe for my next book. It has cabbage, carrots, corn and some other veggies. Of course herbs and spices too. This mix also keeps well frozen. In fact the dumplings we made last night, were made using a few month old filling, that we had made in the summer, when Hiroko Shimbo was at the farm one weekend. Vegetable filling needs to be drained of excess juices after being defrosted. I also threw in fresh scallions and cilantro. Contrary to what I had been told by friends I would usually trust implicitly around Chinese cookery, the filling did not go black. Yippee!
After all the dumplings had been filled, Charlie placed the sheet pan in the summer porch. Which is our walk-in freezer in the winter. This gets the dumplings crisp and set, and ready to be cooked or even frozen.
Whilst the dumplings were cooling on the tray in the porch, we enjoyed (Sally, Charlie and I) two big Margherita Pizzas made at home. These were enough food for us and so the dumplings got frozen for brunch this morning. This is how they look in a freezer proof ziploc bag. What a great snack to have for those moments when one is hungry and lazy or guests come unannounced, something that happens often in our home, and we are grateful for it.
Here you see the dumplings in a very hot pan with some peanut oil to cover the base of the pan. We love our dumplings nice and crispy on the bottom. That is why they are called pot stickers! And so you must ensure that the pan and oil are nice and hot. Sally likes to use some vegetable or meat stock for the steaming liquid, I am happy with just water. We used water this morning.
Ten minutes later, the dumplings were ready to be savored. They would have been better if Sally and I had cooked them a little longer before adding the water, but our greed for the dumplings we had been craving all day yesterday and last night, got the best of us. Usually, the dumplings are perfect in texture and shape. Forgive us please!
Sally was very kind to allow me to make the dipping sauce the first time she made dumplings for us. I made the dipping sauce using Ed Schoenfeld, Chai Siriyarn and the restaurant Sweet and Tart that used to be on Mott Street as my inspiration. Sally and all that tasted the sauce that night, fell in love with it instantly. So now, no matter where the dumplings are made, or by whom, the sauce is made using that same recipe. It has a mix of the usual suspects that you think of when thinking dipping sauce for gyozas, and a couple of not so usual ingredients as well. We each ate 9 dumplings this morning. And felt deeply satisfied. Each bite was gorgeous and a blessing. And each bite a reminder of how friends and family can make eating and living so special, if given a chance. Sally has blessed us with great friendship, food, love and care. And that is a blessing we had not expected as a given when we moved here.
Sally's cookbook came out of requests for recipes from locals that have attended parties catered by her, and the hosts that use her services. This is a book that shares the secret recipes most requested. I would be dishonest in saying that I use the book. In fact I have hardly ever reached out for it. I have never felt the need. I have the walking book often at my side. I do know that the food is very basic, in fact sometimes too basic for my personal taste, but Sally has a very different audience from me. I do love the Un-Biscotti that she makes for us that is also in her book. Make it and you will make biscotti often. It is very easy. Not too brittle. And wonderfully flavored with cranberries. If you need recipes for Spiced Pecans, you can find these in the book as well.
Most of all, open your hearts to friends and family members, and allow yourself to bring in a Sally-like person into your own life. You will cherish this person every day you live. And will find yourself blessed in ways you never thought possible.