The "Easy" Way

I am an extravagant girl. I will admit that for sure. My dad used to tease me and tell me that I'd better find a really wealthy man to put up with my shenanigans. You could put three items in front of me (without pricetags), ask me which one I liked the best and undoubtedly, everytime, I would choose the most expensive. Though I have exorbitant taste, I also have a hard time letting go of money. Once you give it to me, I just want to keep it. In order to pay my bills, I have to mentally prepare for the task, pour myself a glass of wine, and take many a deep breath so that my eyes don't well up with tears everytime I hit the "submit payment" button.

I was having one of those "submit payment" days and decided that, no matter what, I would NOT go to Whole Foods and spend MORE money on things I may or may not eat. Nor would I go and purchase weird and off the wall ingredients for that lone dish I would probably only make once in my life. No. I was going to use whatever I had, no matter how obscure, to feed myself that night. No matter how long I had to labor to make it work. Unfortunately for me, I noticed that it was going to take a bit of brainstorming to make what I had in the refrigerator work for me. Whole Foods was starting to softly call my name.

So I was faced with a link of Bratwurst that would finish off the package, yogurt, some leftover pork stock from my pork and bean fiasco (another time, another post), chicken stock, leftover capellini, half a tomato, frozen spinach, tortilla chips, a cucumber, colby cheese and an orange. Thrilling choices, wouldn't you say? I also had the benefit of kitchen staples (eggs, butter, milk, flour, herbs) that could carry me through. So I took inventory, poured a glass of Rose (this meal would have to compliment that too, I suppose) and sat down to create my masterpiece. My FREE masterpiece.

I was a little chilly that day, so I thought maybe a soup would be nice. I'll use the pork stock? I went to check it out again and noticed that it was totally congealed. Wonderful. So I suppose the chicken stock would be a better choice. I was kind of over the capellini after eating it for two days, so that got eliminated. I wasn't all too keen on a spinach soup with cucumber. I was kind of hungry and didn't think a broth would cut it. The only meat in the fridge was that lone sausage. Do you know how much fat and sodium is in a link of bratwurst? I won't tell you, you don't want to know. Trust. Then the lightbulb went off. I even found a way to use that congealed pork stock.

A while back, I'd seen an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain (one of my favourite shows) and I think he was in Shanghai. His guide took him to a breakfast spot where soup dumplings were being served. I watched as the cooks made the dumplings and watched as the guide instructed Anthony on how to eat his without getting burned. I remembered that they explained how they got the soup in that little bitty dumpling and realized I could do the exact same in my kitchen at home. The secret was gelatin. The pork stock becomes like a gelatin when simmered for a long time and when it cools, it's almost solid. It looks like the same congealed mess that graced my refrigerator shelf. You can combine the gelatin with the pork and since it's solid, you can fill your dumplings quite easily. When they are warmed, the pork gelatin becomes liquid again and the soup is encased in the dumpling. It wasn't too difficult and I impressed myself so that I had to brag to everyone I knew that I had made homemade Xiao Long Bao, like it was an everyday thing.

I made pasta from an egg and flour in the proper Italian way. I know it sounds brutal, but it's really not that hard. It takes about 5-7 minutes to make the pasta dough and 10 minutes to press it out (I totally "borrowed" my mom's pasta machine). Once you press it out all you have to do is cut it into squares. I took the casing off of the bratwurst sausage and placed a small bit of pork in the center of each pasta square. I topped it off with a bit of the gelatinous pork stock then wrapped it up (albeit crudely) in the shape of a dumpling. I boiled the dumplings until they floated to the top and steamed the frozen spinach. Done and done! Place the spinach at the bottom of a bowl, place the dumplings on top. Add a bit of soy sauce (this step can be eliminated if you are really following the rules) and pour warmed chicken stock into the bowl Garnish with scallions and serve. Viola! The broth is soothing, the spinach refreshing and the soup dumplings burst in your mouth. Delicious.

p.s. I used the rest of the sausage for taco salad later that night :)

What you'll need:

Bratwurst sausage: 1 link
Spinach (frozen or fresh)
Pork stock gelatin (I made my own, but you can substitute a consomme with gelatin)
Chicken stock

The Deal:
(per serving)
Calories: 223; Fat: 9.5g; Protein: 13.6g; Carbs: 20g