We had leftovers to use up. Leftover Sauerbraten from this year's Oktoberfest dinner…leftover butternut squash…well, okay, just those two. And the butternut squash wasn't technically left over yet, as I'd only cooked it that day. But I quibble and digress.
I really don't remember how this formulated itself in my mind, but suddenly I was thinking Hey! I could combine the remaining butternut squash with the sauerbraten and maybe some onions and garlic and seasonings or something…and put little dollops of them in wonton wrappers and fry them!
And that's pretty much what I did.
But this time, for a change, I took notes on quantities so that I could share an actual recipe with you rather than just "so I threw in a bunch of this and some of that…" and trust that you'll have no trouble recreating it, if you wanted to do that.
Here's what I used:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 cups sauerbraten, shredded and then chopped fine
roughly 3/4 cup of roasted, pureed butternut squash
salt to taste
1 package small round wonton wrappers
Simple enough, right?
Okay, you combine the garlic, shallot, sauerbraten and squash in a bowl, mix it together really well, and then taste it. Add salt if needed.
Get yourself a little dish of water and a few plates.
On a dry surface, place a few of the wonton wrappers and then dip your finger in the water and dampen the perimeter of the wonton circles. This will help you seal the edges after you fill them.
Next, place about a teaspoonful – or less, even – of the filling mixture in the center of each wonton.
Carefully fold the wrapper in half so that the edges meet and you've got a semi-circle shape. Gently press out any air surrounding the filling and press the edges of the wrapper together tightly.
Place finished wontons on a plate, but don't pile them all on top of each other. One layer per plate, pretty much.
Try not to let the wontons get wet on the outside – they'll stick together and then tear when you try to pull them apart.
Continue in this manner until either the filling is used up or you have no more wrappers.
Next, heat up some vegetable or peanut oil, as you'll be frying these. If you've got a deep fryer of some kind, use that, otherwise fill a wide pot with enough oil so that you'll be able to completely submerge a batch of wontons. Have a wide metal slotted spoon handy, and also a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. And finally, put a platter or large bowl either in the warming drawer of your oven (if you have a warming drawer) or in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) – once your fried wontons have drained, you'll need to keep them warm, unless you've got people devouring them as soon as you produce them. (And if they're doing that, they'll be burning their mouths, because the insides of the wontons will be extremely hot initially. So shoo them away if you can.)
Heat the oil to about 360 degrees and then carefully place some of the wontons into the oil. Don't drop them; the oil will splatter and burn you and stain your shirt. Put in about a layer of wontons – so that as they come up to the surface they aren't crowded.
It also helps if your slotted spoon is nearly as wide as the pot you're using. Any air that's inside the wontons will expand when heated, and your wontons will puff up like little pillows. The thing is, the pillows will be puffier on one side (whichever side is on top initially) and if you try to flip it over so it will cook evenly, the persnickety little thing will roll right back to the way it was before, dark, cooked wonton skin on the underside, and pale puffy wonton skin on top. The best way to counteract that is to gently, with your big slotted spoon, press all the little wontons under the oil the whole time they're cooking, so that the oil can surround them and turn them golden brown evenly.
These little guys cook quickly. When they're done, set them on your paper towel-topped plate for a minute or so to drain off excess oil, and then put them in your warm bowl. Make sure the temperature of your oil is still hovering around 360 and put in your next batch of wontons. Continue this routine until all of them are cooked.
Now, since the filling is already safe to eat before you even put any in the wrappers, you don't have to be as concerned with making sure the wontons are cooked through. But just in case you want to check anyway, go ahead and sample one. BUT – remember I said they're extremely hot inside? I meant it. So put your sample wonton on a plate and cut it in half, let it cool a bit and THEN taste it. Try not to taste them all, though. You really should leave some for other people to eat.
While these little wontons are tasty on their own, it's nice to have a little something to dip them in, too. I made three dipping sauces – just winging them as I went along really. Oh, yes, and I brought ketchup to the table for the kids to use if necessary. With Alex, it was necessary.
My little sauces were these:
#1 – I combined the contents of two packets of Chinese mustard and two of duck sauce (we save these when we get Chinese takeout. Same with the soy sauce.). If you have more, make more. I only had two packets of the duck sauce, and the 1:1 ratio is very important (to me) so that was all I could make.
#2 – I put about….oh a third of a cup of mayo in a bowl, added…um…about a tablespoon of sriracha (asian chili garlic sauce) and…the juice of a third of a lemon, and some (couple teaspoons) honey. Really, once the mayo went in, everything else was to taste, so if you want more of something or less of something, go for it.
#3 – My husband picked out this salad dressing the other day…hang on, let me go look at the bottle…okay it's Amish Naturals Heritage Line Honey Lime Dressing. I poured about a third of a cup of that in a bowl and added about…a tablespoon of horseradish. Again – taste as you go. Always.
All of the little sauces were yummy, but Bill and I both liked the mayo-based one the best. Julia tried some, too, because she's going through a "I can eat spicy-hot things and it doesn't affect me in the least!" phase ever since Alex dared her to try some hot sauce Bill was using one evening. She's a tough little cookie, that one.
Anyway – nearly all of the wontons were gone by the end of dinner – Bill got the rest for lunch the next day. We had these with leftover red cabbage (I still need to post that recipe, don't I…) just so that there would be some non-fried, non-fatty component to the meal.
Of course, not everyone is going to have leftover sauerbraten and freshly roasted and pureed butternut squash AND wonton wrappers on hand all at the same time. But that's not really what this recipe is about. It's more of a think outside the box kind of lesson. Combine things you wouldn't ordinarily think of combining. Think about how this might taste in combination with that. Will it need something else to completely balance the flavor? The texture? And so on.
Be creative. Have fun. And try not to burn your mouth.