This week I’m throwing my hat into the trendy Asian-Fusion kitchen, with a bit of Italian flare. I’m calling it Itali-Asian Fusion. What I’m doing is taking sausage filling that you would use in a ravioli or a stromboli (aka sausage bread), and I’m using it to fill wonton wrappers. I came up with the idea when planning to make sausage and peppers stromboli for a family birthday party. The combination of the sausage, peppers and broccoli rabe mixed with some parmesan cheese was a natural, go-to favorite Italian taste, and the wonton wrappers made for easy single servings along with puréed red peppers for dipping. The wonton wrappers can be prepared in a number of ways when stuffed (fried, steamed in steamer baskets, or baked – I chose to bake mine for quick and easy serving time).
The easiest method that I use to prepare sausage and peppers as a meat filling is to combine the raw ground sausage with chopped peppers in a baking dish and to bake it until the meat is browned and slightly crispy (a mixture of sweet and hot sausage is my preference). This eliminates the extra oils from frying and frees up some time as well. While you let the cooked sausage and peppers cool, you can prepare your broccoli rabe. When the broccoli rabe is done cooking, combine it with the sausage and peppers and either chop it with a knife or with a few quick pulses in a food processor. This helps mix the filling and allows for easy assembly, regardless of what your using the filling for.
As I mentioned above, you can prepare the stuffed wontons a number of ways. Frying is the traditional way, which will give you the crispy texture. Baking will also give you a slightly crisp coating, if sprayed with a cooking spray. And steaming will give you a soft, ravioli-like texture.
SAUSAGE, PEPPERS & BROCCOLI RABE DUMPLINGS
Makes 40-48 Dumplings
1lb ground sausage (hot, sweet or a mixture of both)
Two 7-oz jars roasted red peppers (one for mixture, one for dipping sauce)*
1 bunch broccoli rabe (bitter broccoli)
2 tblspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
One 12-oz package wonton wrappers (found in the produce section of your grocery store)
*you can use one bell pepper, red pepper or any other pepper of choice in place of the roasted red pepper for the mixure
Mix the ground sausage (remove casing if needed) with one jar of chopped roasted red peppers. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes, or until sausage is browned, up to slightly crisp. Remove from oven, set aside to let cool.
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and let cook for 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from pot and drain excess water. In a large pan, heat 2 tblspn olive oil, add garlic. Add broccoli rabe to pot, mix with garlic for and saute for 10-15 minutes until desired doneness. Remove from pan, season with salt and pepper, let cool slightly, mix with sausage and peppers.
Using either a knife and fork or a food processor, mix and chop the sausage mixture, broccoli rabe and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese just a bit to make for easy filling.
Taking one wonton wrapper at a time, place a full teaspoon of the sausage mixture in the middle of the wrapper. Using either your finger or a brush, wet all 4 of the edges of the wonton, fold in half diagonally, press and set aside. When all 48 wontons are stuffed, you can either fry, steam or bake the stuffed wontons.
To fry: Heat a wok or nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add 10 – 12 dumplings, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom is browned. Add 1/3 cup water, cover, and steam the dumplings until the liquid is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Remove and cook the remainder of the dumplings.
To steam: Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer’s surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.
To bake: Place dumplings on a sprayed baking sheet without touching each other. Bake at 350º until crisp.
Place the second 7-0z jar of roasted red peppers in a blender, purée, heat and serve as a dipping sauce.
If you’re looking to serve these to a crowd of family and friends, and knowing that some may not like sausage, or may be watching their calorie/cholesterol intake, you can substitute the sausage with Gimme Lean (rhymes with Jimmy Dean….get it?!), the vegetarian sausage substitute that is found in the produce section of your grocery store. Now, let me say this up front – I am not a real big fan of this sausage substitute product on it’s own. I’ve tried it a few times. It looks like sausage and smells like sausage…but believe me, it ain’t sausage! I’m a firm believer of moderation and calling food what it is. If a cow climbed into a tree, you wouldn’t call it a bird, right? However, if you flavor Gimme Lean with extra sausage seasonings (garlic powder, fennel seeds and rosemary to taste), mix it with the peppers and bake it all together, the flavors actually do come together to make for a decent sausage filling…once you also add the broccoli rabe and parmesan cheese. Again, I personally prefer using real sausage for the best taste. But if you are looking for a healthier alternative to keep everyone happy, or if you enjoy using vegetarian substitutes, this little trick will work well for a dish like this…and I can almost guarantee you that nobody will know the difference!