Suggestions for steaming supper, anyone?

I have this idea for a steam powered summer dinner party for four -- one person per burner on my stove.

Inspired by Martha Stewart's Steamed Seafood Medley (watch the video on this page too, I think it's interesting how she puts it all together, it looks fun) recipe, I would build four identical stacks of bamboo steamers, one for each guest. After a few minutes of steaming, I'd take the top layer off the steamer and serve the appetizer, then a few minutes more and the next course, on and on down the steamer. Martha reminds me that the things that take the longest to cook should go on the bottom of the steamer and those that cook the fastest should go on top.

I went to Chinatown yesterday, looking for soup bowls and steamers. I didn't find soup bowls I liked and I realized I wanted to think more about a steamer before I bought one.

In keeping with the steam theme, I'd make a steamed pudding dessert. While standing in line at the grocery store check out earlier in the week, I found a recipe in Rachel Ray's magazine for a pudding that is cooked in apple cider steam. I'm not ready for fall-ish cooking ideas like that just yet, but it might be great for September.

One problem with this dinner idea is that I don't have four bamboo steamers. I don't even have one! They seem cumbersome to store in my small kitchen, so I'm wondering if I should invest. As an alternative, I could try cooking it all in one big steamer, or doing it in batches, but that seems to take a lot of the ease and excitement out of the process.

Also, is it just me, or does food that is steamed get cold very fast? I don't know how it's possible that food heated in different ways gets colder faster, but last night I steamed some broccoli for dinner. I sware that from the time I took it out of the pot, put it on my plate and brought it to the table, it was cold already.

I have more questions: freshness, fish and flavor. Good fresh fish, I find, is very expensive in New York City. If I would buy three different kinds of fish for four people -- it would get to be on the expensive side. In my experiments I've found I really have to concentrate on flavor when I steam. When you cook with butter or oil, you can count on those flavors. When you brown things, you get carmelization. Here it's ingredients in their most pure form.

Mr. S posted a comment on here encouraging me to steam summer sqaush. It was an elegant, simple take on one of my favorite vegetables.

Any more steam advice?


Anonymous Mr. S said...

white, flaky fish (especially striped bass) seem to do best with steaming, although scallops are not bad. oily fish like bluefish and tuna get really weird and kind of unappetizing (and grey). marinate in soy sauce, mirin, ginger and garlic (and add a few star anise, if you like), then steam with the garlic, ginger and anise on top. add some mirin to your steaming water for more flavor. i still like fish cooked "en papilotte" better, though. you can use a wider range of fish and cook it with all kinds of vegetables, which make a nice sauce as they cook. and you don't have to wrestle with the steamer and carefully regulate the heat.

besides vegetables (green beans, broccoli, squash, carrots, etc. etc. etc.), my favorite thing to steam is dumplings. once a year, i get together with one particular friend and we spend a day making dumplings and gossiping like a couple of grandmothers. last year i made three fillings, if i remember right - shrimp & water chestnut; pea shoot and garlic; and pork, ginger & scallion. it was all very easy, but very time-consuming. the dumplings steamed in about 8 minutes, and it turned out to be a great way to feed a crowd.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for your suggestions, S.

I've never tried "en papilotte". Do you use a particular recipe? Do you do it with paper or pastry?

I love dumplings. R* and I order dumplighs every couple of weeks from our favorite place in Park Slope. Have you ever gone to Dumpling Man in the East Village? I love to sit and watch them make dumplings.

Your dumpling making party sounds great. Did you freeze them or serve them right away? Got any pictures of them? I smell a guest post or the start of your own blog coming on.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Mr. S said...

i roughly follow a recipe i saw Julia & Jacques make on their show a couple of years ago, but really i just use whatever fish looks good at the store that day and whatever vegetables i have on hand or am in the mood for, plus some garlic and thyme. i have always used paper rather than pasty in the past, but would like to try pastry at some point. wouldn't that just make a giant empanada?

at the dumpling party, we serve them right away. i always plan to freeze some, but they end up getting eaten. next time i'll remember to take pictures...

as much as i love watching the ladies make the dumplings at Dumpling Man, the dumplings there are mediocre. (D, who is part chinese, is a dumpling snob, and it appears to have rubbed off on me). we prefer "Fried Dumpling" on mosco street (which also sells bags of frozen dumplings that come out perfect at home) and "Tasty Dumpling" on Mulberry just below Bayard. these places are both really cheap and really good, but the decor is really nothing special. and then there are all the places that make Shanghaiese soup dumplings...

i think i know what i'm doing for lunch today.

11:11 AM  

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