Food Network Favorites: Fried Crab Wontons with Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce
To finish off the Tyler Florence chapter in Food Network Favorites, here's a very good, very time-consuming recipe that's perfect for parties. Delicious wontons filled with an Asian-inspired crab stuffing make for a tasty hors-d'oeuvre. But I wouldn't try this one for a weeknight dinner.
The wontons are crisp and tasty, and the dipping sauce is a nice accompaniment. Assembling the wontons is a fiddly, time-consuming task, however, so I'd save this dish for a special occasion. One of the book's "Kitchen Tips" says that the wontons can be frozen uncooked and then fried for "impromptu guests." That's the extent of the tip -- there aren't any additional hints on how best to freeze the wontons, or if you need special instructions to cook them after you take them out of the freezer. This is an oversight on the part of Food Network Favorites that I find pretty egregious. You can't just say, "Oh, freeze them, they're great!" without more detailed instructions.
Anyway, to test this meager helpful hint, I froze a batch overnight and cooked them the next day. To freeze the uncooked wontons, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until completely frozen solid. Then you can place them in heavy duty freezer bags and not worry about them sticking together. To cook, take the wontons out of the freezer about 1 hour before you're going to cook them, lay them on cookie sheets so that they are not touching, and let them defrost. If the wontons are still somewhat frozen when you put them into the hot oil, they may take an additional 1 to 2 minutes of cooking time to become deeply golden brown. By making them ahead of time and keeping them in reserve for a party or other special occasion, you can take a lot of the work out of the day of the party. I would only keep frozen wontons for about 1 or 2 months before using them.
If you have a deep-fat fryer, you can use it instead of cooking the wontons in hot oil on the stovetop. Follow your machine's directions to cook the wontons, making sure that they get deeply golden.
Florence's recipe says to use Dungeness crabmeat if available, but I've removed that suggestion from the recipe. Even in season, Dungeness crabmeat can be very expensive, and I don't believe that it's superior to regular lump crabmeat in such a full-flavored recipe. At least, it's not superior enough to justify the cost. If you are able to find Dungeness crabmeat at a price comparable to lump crabmeat, then go ahead and use it. Otherwise, use the more cost-effective choice -- it still tastes great.
A couple of quibbles; First, Florence says to use a 12-oz. package of square wonton wrappers to make 60 wontons. My 12-oz. package contained 48 wrappers, and I did have some extra filling. To be sure none of your filling goes to waste, invest in an extra package of wonton wrappers, just to be sure. Second, I've modified some of the instructions; namely, Florence tells the cook to "chop" all of the vegetable and aromatics for the filling. I've modified this to say "coarsely chop," because the food processor will do all the work for you. Also, the original recipe says to put 1 Tbsp of the crab filling into each wonton. I found this to be too much, and have indicated a scant 1 Tbsp in the instructions. Experiment to find the right amount that will allow you to fill the wontons and still be able to wrap them without the filling squooshing out.
Lastly, don't do what I did for the first 2 or 3 wontons -- I didn't get the wrappers completely separated, and was grimacing and muttering about how difficult it was to fold them up into bishop's hat shapes. Oops...thankfully I realized pretty quickly that I was wrapping up the filling with 2 wonton wrappers, not 1. Pull the wrappers apart carefully so that you're using 1 at a time. They're pretty thin, so be careful not to tear them.
Prep Time: about 1 1/2 hours
Cook Time: about 10 minutes to heat the oil, and 2 to 3 minutes per batch for the wontons
Yield: about 60 wontons
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1/2 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp peanut oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked through for shells
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-oz. package square wonton wrappers
1 egg white, beaten
Cornstarch, for dusting
Vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
Make the wontons: In a food processor combine ginger, shallots, carrot, green onion, cilantro, peanut oil, and lemon juice. Pulse until fine. Put vegetable mix in a mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise and crabmeat, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine gently, making sure not to mash the crabmeat (you want some texture when you bite into the wontons).
Lay a wonton wrapper on a flat work surface and brush with the egg white. Drop a scant 1 Tbsp of crab filling into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton in half, corner to corner, to form a triangle. Press around the filling to squeeze out any air bubbles, then press the seam together to seal. You can leave them this shape or continue by brushing the 2 side points with egg white. Then with your index finger in the center so you have something to press against, fold 2 sides into the center, slightly overlapping, and press the dough against your finger with your thumb to form a tight seal. (When folded this way, the wontons look like bishop's hats.) Lightly dust the filled wontons with cornstarch to keep them from sticking, and place them on cookie sheets.
Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep heavy saucepan to 370 degrees. Add a few wontons to the oil and cook, turning 2 or 3 times to get them nicely browned all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully lift them out of the pan with a slotted spoon or a spider and place on a paper towel-lined platter to drain. Cook all of the wontons this way.
Make the dipping sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve with the hot wontons.