Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns

Sophie’s Steamed Pork BunsChopped: Family Style
If we let her, my daughter would be totally happy to spend her days watching the Harry Potter movies for the eight hundredth time or binge-watching whatever is on Food Network. She has a number of Food Network favorites which is why last Saturday my family found us split into teams standing in front of a basket of “random” ingredients for our shelter-in-place version of Chopped.

It was a blast. I was in charge of coming up with the ingredient basket as well judging the final product. The ingredient list was difficult. I really struggled with it and it took me days to decide. What made it so hard were the different levels of culinary skill involved which ranged from “I’m awesome at pouring cereal” to “I make French Macarons just ‘cause”. I had to make sure that my husband and sons had a fighting chance. After wracking my brain and one sorta sleepless night, I came up with the following ingredient list: Ground pork, baby spinach, balsamic vinegar, wonton wrappers, and a condiment called Chile Crunch.

After a week of trash talk and posturing, the contestants were given 90 minutes to come up with their recipe and then make it happen. Dishes would be judged on a scale of one to ten for Execution, Creativity, Flavor, and Presentation. I got nervous watching my husband and son struggle to decide what to make with what they were given as my daughter literally pulled every bottle and spice she could out of my pantry and got to work. Eventually, everybody got to work and it was fascinating and at times frightening to watch.

My son, the cereal king, was paired with my husband. I was surprised and happy to see that said son took the lead and was more willing to take a chance on certain combinations. On the other side of the island, my daughter was channeling Gordon Ramsey (with fewer F-bombs) while telling (ordering loudly) her brother to chop the veggies. (NO! The carrots have to be julienned! You know, like little sticks!) She’ll either end up as Chef de Cuisine at some Michelin starred restaurant or as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It could go either way. Somewhere along the line, my husband liberated the wine which may account for a large part of the creative cooking techniques that were used.

When time was up I was presented with two dishes that were actually fantastic. The first plate held some spinach and ricotta ravioli with a spicy pork Bolognese and sourdough garlic breadsticks. So good! The second had a steamed pork bun on a bed of stir-fried vegetables with crispy won tons. Yum!

Not going to lie, judging was difficult. Both had great flavor. Both were impressive in execution. Ultimately, Mini Gordon and sous chef were the winners with their pork bun based mainly on creativity and presentation. Both teams put in great effort. The best thing to come out of this though besides a great dinner? The kids have asked if they each can make dinner one night a week…glory hallelujah! My work here is done…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns Recipe
Yields about 12 buns

For the dough
2-1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup water, warm
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk, warm
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the filling
1 pound ground pork
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 teaspoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon spicy chili crunch or chili sambal

Make the dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, yeast, water, sugar, baking powder, milk, and oil. Mix with a dough hook until a smooth dough forms (about 3-5 minutes).

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and proof until it doubles in size (about one hour).

Prepare the filling
In a medium saucepot, cook the ground meat over medium heat into crumbles. Once the meat is cooked, add the garlic, ginger, and chili crunch or sambal and sauté for 30 seconds.

Add the hoisin sauce, honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and scallions. Mix it into the filling and cool before using it.

Form the buns
Once the dough is finished rising, pat the dough out and divide it into 12 even pieces.

Keep the dough covered while working with each bun. Take a piece of dough and roll it into a 4-inch circle with the center slightly thicker than the edges.

Place a mound of cooled filling in the center and begin to press the edges together, overlapping them to close and seal the bun from the top.

Steam the buns
Once all buns are made, steam them in a bamboo basket for 15 minutes to cook the dough and warm the filling. Enjoy warm on a bed of sautéed vegetables and strips of fried wonton wrappers.

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