Week One, and I've already realized how foolhardy it is to expect to create a completely new recipe. The Flavor Bible's subtitle is "The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs". Likely, the people who make their living being creative with food have tested any combination that I may think is my own inspired thought.
I'm a visual person. My approach when I'm looking for inspiration is to pull everything out of the pantry that qualified as a complimentary ingredient; dump it all on the counter; and stare at the pile. Then as ideas begin to bubble, I'll start putting away anything that doesn't fit.
I reviewed the complimentary flavors for plums and found a pantry full of eligible spices. Many more than should be sharing space in one dish. Then there were lemons, butter, candied orange peel, hazelnuts, red wine, fresh ginger, vanilla, brown sugar, honey, & prosciutto. The honey, hazelnuts, allspice, ginger, vanilla and bay leaves all went back into the pantry.
My mind wondered through some of my favorite plum applications and one of them was homemade Thai plum sauce. That Asian drift led me to steamed buns. So instead of the traditional pork stuffing, why not steamed buns stuffed with a spiced plum sauce mixed with prosciutto? The prosciutto would cut the sweetness enough to allow steamed buns to be an appetizer instead of dessert.
The first thing I did was start a spiced red wine reduction, simmering all of the following ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat until the liquid is reduced by 1/2:
1 c - dry red wine
1 T - chopped candied ORANGE peel
1 - 4" CINNAMON stick crushed
5 - green cardamom pods crushed
1 t - freshly grated nutmeg
3 - whole cloves
2 - sage leaves
1 - 4" sprig thyme
1/2 t - fresh ground black pepper
juice of 2 LEMONS
While wine is reducing prepare ingredients for plum/prosciutto mixture.
24 - Italian Prune PLUMS, diced w/skin on and stones removed
1/3 lb - prosciutto in a single 1/4" thick slice.
1 T - unsalted butter
1/3 c - lightly packed brown SUGAR
1/2 t - kosher salt
grated peel and juice of one small LEMON
1) Trim the fat away from the prosciutto & reserve.
2) Dice Prosciutto into 1/4" cubes.
3) Render fat in a hot pan, remove whatever didn't melt, add butter.
4) Caramelize prosciutto in melted fat & butter. Remove prosciutto and drain well on paper towel.
5) Add diced plums, brown sugar, salt, lemon zest and juice to the fat that remains in pan.
6) Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
7) Once pulp begins to separate from the peel use a fine mesh strainer to remove all solids from wine reduction and add to plum mixture. Continue to cook, stirring frequently.
8) In a food processor, pulse drained, cooled pieces of caramelized prosciutto into a coarse meal. then add to plum mixture. Continue to cook mixture down to the consistency of a very thick jam, then remove from heat and cool completely.
Having the advantage of some great resources in St. Louis for international foods, I elected to let someone else do a little of the work for me. Instead of making my steamed bun dough from scratch, I used two boxes of Tippy Salapao Mix - enough for 24 steamed buns.
However, if you need to make yours from scratch, you can do an internet search and find several great recipes. Here's one I found: http://www.annathered.com/2009/03/26/how-to-make-steamed-pork-bun-dough-with-yeast/
So, follow the directions on the package or the recipe for scratch. When you are ready to assemble buns, you will need to have small squares of parchment cut and ready to hold the buns while they steam.
Lay a flattened piece of dough on a parchment square and put a heaping teaspoon of plum/prosciutto mixture in the center.
Cup the edges up around the filling; pinch the top edges together; and give it a final little twist.
Bring enough water to boil in a wok to not quite touch the bottom shelf of the steamer. Place half the buns on the bottom shelf and half on the top. Cover and steam for about 15 minutes.
I've decided to report the results of each week with the following grading method:
Home Run (will follow the exact recipe next time); Good (but will make some minor changes next time) & Flop (need to start from scratch).
I've graded my first week's effort Good. I will make this again. But, I'll do three things differently.
1) I used prosciutto because it was listed as a complimentary flavor. I now realize that it doesn't lend itself well to caramelization the way pancetta would have. Next time, pancetta and adjust the salt.
2) With that much work on the filling, I should really put the effort into making my own dough from scratch.
3) Spice adjustment - more black pepper.