Peter Michael Winery is actually named after Peter Michael, a British engineer who apart from starting the winery, also founded Cosworth and won a knighthood from the Queen. My friend Butter Boy introduced me to the Peter Michael wines when we had dinner together before he decamped from the Big Croissant. The winery is  based in Calistoga, California and the wines are pretty difficult to get, as the local monopoly has them only via the Signature banner, and generally only via offers (ugh – lottery). In the US, there is a “waiting list” to subscribe to before getting onto the mailing list to actually get the wines. So far, I have managed to acquire bottles of Ma Belle-Fille and Mon Plaisir, both of which are single vineyard Chardonnay.

The following is a bottle of the 2005 Cuvée Indigène, a barrel-selection Chardonnay.

If you want to read the vintner’s tasting notes for this vintage, they are here. It’s been 10 years since it went into bottle, so I was getting mostly dried apricot and plums, and a little citrus, but this reminded me a lot of Meursault. Beautiful deep golden yellow, very well balanced on the palate and with a very long finish. In thinking about it, the Cuvée Indigéne has the best of Old World and New World, and the best comment was that it’s got a lot of finesse but a subtle weightiness.

Also in hindsight, it was a really bad idea to drink it just before standing up to go make dumplings, because it’s 14.5% ABV, and especially bad after consuming a couple of glasses of this: the Bollinger Spécial Cuvée Brut. It has very fine bulles and goes down a little too smoothly, meaning that its relatively paltry 12% ABV gives the tingles a whole lot faster.

I wasn’t exactly speedy, and I’m certain I was listing slightly.

Dumplings (to me) are jiaozi, or 餃子; which can be 水餃 (boiled), 蒸餃 (steamed: still not my favorite) or 鍋貼 (pan-fried), which everyone and their dog seems to like, be it the traditional Chinese one, Japanese gyoza (ギョウザ), Korean mandu (만두), or the whole list that’s currently on Wikipedia.

I buy the skins because I hate making hot water dough and it’s really tedious to roll out the skins by hand (sue me for taking a shortcut). The skins I was using this time around are from the Berkeley Bowl’s organic area, and superior to what’s available in the Big Croissant. Better texture when working with them, great resiliency during cooking, excellent taste. They’re also slightly smaller in diameter, so make a smaller dumpling (more single-bite than two-bite).

For this particular production run, I was asked to show how to make these things, so my basic filling is essentially ground pork, napa cabbage, green onions, ginger, black pepper, shōyu, fish sauce (Red Boat 40ºN – I gave up Squid brand because the former is so much tastier), and sesame oil.

This is a photo of six exemplars of the dumplings. Half are made by a Michelin-trained chef who has made thousands of stuffed pastas (e.g. ravioli, agnolotti, tortellini), but who has never made an Asian-style dumpling until now. She crimped about 20 of the 56 final before being called away.

The other half (the exemplars here and majority of the final tally) were mostly made by moi. I’m pretty sure I’ve made at least a couple of thousand of these over the years.

Notice anything between the two sets?

Here’s a shot of the back:

There is more consistency in one batch. Height of the pleats, overall size.

I did manage to drink enough water so that I was actually paying good attention when cooking. Here’s a shot of the fried bottoms – not burnt, good singeing, still crispy.

I also made a soup (daikon, fish balls, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, cilantro).

The key is the chicken feet. They deliver a more unctuous mouthfeel (wow – I bet some fetishists are shivering right now from reading that, but I’m talking about the broth).

No leftovers. Nada. Dumpling demo? Done!


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