Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Love Letter for Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese,
How do I count the ways I love thee? Shall I fancy you as a single dollop destined for adornment atop my morning onion bagel? Blended into the creamy batter of an almond praline cheesecake, or paired with powdered sugar as frosting for dark chocolate espresso cupcakes? Or perhaps my love is most profoundly expressed when you are whipped together with diced crabmeat, onion, freshly minced garlic, and folded neatly into wonton wrappers for deep frying into golden, triangular-shaped perfection. Regardless of how you are prepared, today I am thankful for your versatility and willingness to be molded to my liking, beaten into submission with a mixing spoon, and deep fried in oil for the simple pleasure of my consumption,

Always hungrily yours,
Tina S.

If I were to ever fashion an ardent letter to one of my favorite spreadable cheeses, I imagine this is how it would transpire. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, the particular dish I’m fondly alluding to is Chinese-style Crab Rangoons. This recipe was inspired by my dear college friend Jenny P. (now Jenny S.), who generously shared the secrets of her Chinese chef parents many unmentionable (and by unmentionable, meaning so long ago that I can’t for the life of me recall when this oh-so-momentous occasion occurred) years ago. Since then, I’ve tweaked and added several ingredients to my liking, but the originally dictated scheme remains the same:

Crab Rangoon Recipe
Yields 40-45 Crab Rangoons

• 2 packages Philadelphia cream cheese (8 oz), softened
• 8 ounces imitation crabmeat
• 1/2-1 small white onion, diced
• 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
• ½-1 tablespoon sugar (add to taste)
• 1/8-1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (add to taste)
• 1 large clove garlic, minced (I use about 1 tablespoon worth - I like garlic :)
• 1 package square-shaped wonton wrappers (can get for ~$1.50 at any asian grocery)
• 1 raw egg, mixed (used for sealing wonton edges)
• vegetable oil for deep-frying, as needed

**Keep wonton wrappers and pre-fried rangoons covered with a damp towel or paper towel to keep them from drying out while preparing the remainder.

Combine the softened cream cheese (can microwave for 30 seconds post-refrigeration) and crabmeat. Mix in the remaining filling ingredients (up to the wonton wrappers) one at a time.

On a flat surface, lay out a wonton wrapper in front of you so that the tip is facing you. Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the middle, and spread it out horizontally toward the left and right points of the wrapper so that it forms a narrow oval or log shape.

Wet the edges of the wonton with the raw egg. Fold over the edges of the wrapper to make a triangle. Press together, pinching to help seal the rangoon better.

Heat wok or pot and add oil for deep-frying. When the oil is ready (temperature between 360 – 375 degrees; you can test this by dipping the edge of a wrapped Rangoon into the oil and watching for rising bubbles), carefully slide in the Crab Rangoon, taking care not to overcrowd the wok. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Serve hot with Sweet and Sour Sauce or Chinese Hot Mustard.

Preparing ahead of time: the filling can be prepared up to a day ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or the wontons can be filled and refrigerated in a sealed container up to one day ahead of time before cooking.

Storage: store filled wontons (separate individual wontons by layers of foil so they won’t adhere to one another) and freeze for up to 2 months before cooking. Cook frozen wontons per directions above, adding a few minutes to the cooking time.

And please wait for those scorchingly hot rangoons to cool before immediately popping one into your mouth and munching away without abandon. Your unscathed tongue and taste buds will most certainly thank you.

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