LEMONGRASS, SHIITAKE & SHRIMP WONTON SOUP
Have you heard? Mercury is in retrograde.
But hell, if you’re like me, you don’t need an astrologer to tell you that. This week has been nuts. My Spode plate-breaking spree continues at a cupboard-baring clip; my camera (my baby!) has gone completely caput, forcing me to wrap it up and send it to the Canon hospital; I seem to have misplaced my favorite pen/digital recorder/last paycheck/prescription sunglasses; I probably walked around all day with spinach in my teeth.
So, I considered it an even bigger accomplishment than usual when last night I simmered and folded together a great big lovely batch of shrimp wonton soup and managed to get it in my bowl and my belly without too much effort or a single hitch.
The stars are beyond our control. Our supper is not.
3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, brittle outer layer removed, and chopped into 2-inch chunks
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
2 stalks celery, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch chunks
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 star anise
8 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 lb. shrimp, rinsed and shelled*
1/2 leek, white part only, sliced into chunks
1 inch piece ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1/2 cup water
8 large wonton wrappers or spring roll skins
1 tablespoon corn starch
1. Combine lemongrass, garlic, onion, shiitakes, celery, ginger, star anise, water, chicken stock, salt, and pepper in a large pot over a medium flame. Bring just to a boil, then lower the flame and cover. Gently simmer, covered, for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from heat.
2. Using a colander or strainer, strain the stock into a large bowl. It should be a deep golden brown hue, clear, and fragrant. Pick through the strained herbs in the colander and return the softened shiitakes to the strained broth. Then return the strained broth to the pot. Stir in sesame oil and set aside.
3. In a blender or food processor (my Cuisinart Mini Prep worked like a charm) combine shrimp, leeks, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and red chile powder. Pulse 5-8 times, until mixture is well blended but slightly chunky.
4. Working two at a time, lay wonton wrappers on a flat, clean, dry surface. Place a scoop of filling in the center of each wrapper. (For extra large wonton wrappers or spring roll skins, spoon one tablespoon of filling into the center; for smaller wrappers, reduce filling to one teaspoon.) Moisten edges of wonton wrapper with water (your fingertips work best) and fold the wrapper diagonally, half over the filling, so that it forms a closed triangle. Press the edges firmly to seal. (Perhaps you’re feeling fancier and want your wontons to look like little blossoms? Or the flying nun’s hat? That’s easy, too. Just watch this great video tutorial from Asian dumpling master, Andrea Nguyen.) As you work, set finished wontons aside on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornstarch (to prevent sticking).
5. Place pot of reserved stock back over a medium flame and bring to a gentle simmer. Drop wontons into the broth. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes, or until wontons are soft, slippery, and slightly translucent. Turn off flame and let the wontons steep another 3 minutes, then ladle into large bowls and serve. Garnish with salt, pepper, chives, and sriracha sauce to taste.
* NOTE: Do not (I repeat: NOT) throw out your shrimp shells. Put them in a large pot along with peppercorns, onions, and a few other spices, cover with water, and simmer until you have a strong stock that you can freeze and pull out the next time a craving for seafood soup hits. (For guidance, check out the simple recipe here.)
photo credit: LSGC via Flickr