Wonton wrappers, wonton wrappers, what shall I do with the rest of you? I am quite certain I’m not alone in this predicament; those packets the size of my pinkie seem to yield a bottomless supply of paper-thin panes and a girl can only eat so many wonton crisps with her Ahi Poke. As is regularly the case with my culinary creations, I decided to adopt a fused approach. Wontons are from China, so let’s go with Italian pastry cream infused with Cardamom- primarily an Indian spice (I realize this is debatable). Throw in some chocolate from Belize and the Dominican Republic packaged by a UK company and you’ve got your next United Nations Convention dessert settled. Top it all off with Mexican dulce de leche made from goat’s milk called cajeta and garnish the plate with kiwi berries grown in Oregon (of all the places to miniaturize a kiwi!) and you’ve got a dessert that can take you around the world for a lot less than the cost of the plane ticket.
The miracle here is that this global mélange married so well on the plate and in the gullet. It’s a testament to the budding Northwesterner in me (from California originally with significant stops in Idaho and Italy along the way) that I’ve begun to adopt the “fusion” approach to cuisine. Don’t expect to see me donning Northface parka’s and hiking boots any time soon, however; I’m perfectly happy in my Burberry trench and snakeskin Louboutin’s for the time being. In the kitchen I think it’s more than ok to succumb to the region in which you are living, in fact it’s vital if you want to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients. That’s why I picked up the crazy kiwi berries grown in Oregon at the Nine Star Ranch and I was very happy I did since I’ve learned they are pretty much only available in September and October. If you were making this dish in Texas for example, you might substitute a small mild pepper for the kiwi goodness on the plate- both regionally- appropriate and great as a foil against the chocolate.
The cardamom-infused crema pasticcera was borne from a weekly experience I had during the few years we lived in Torino, Italy. All of the amazing pasta, truffles, cheeses and cured meats were irresistibly inspiring and delicious, but about once a week I needed a change. Jonas and I happened upon Karmacola one particularly frustrating evening. I think we had set out to do something simple like make change from a 20 euro bill and we systematically went to every UniCredit Banca in all of Torino (passing about 10 prostitutes and an equal number of nuns on the way) only to find that the entire city was apparently totally out of change.
These minor inconveniences were maddening at the time, of course now I’d take them any day over the orderly homogeny that can be Seattle. Anyway, famished from our foiled search, we happened upon an Indian restaurant adjacent to the Dora River, not far from the Mole Antonelliana. We decided to give it a go, and long story short, the proprietors became some of the best friends we made in Italy and the food transported us just enough outside Italy that it was safely different but not as appalling as a McDonald’s hamburger might have been. They made Indian food with the highly selective Italian palate in mind- something I have not been able to find in Seattle. Every once in a while there would be a hybrid item on their menu like semifreddo but with Chai spices, and those were always worth trying. I’ve been ruminating on cardamom lately and I thought a pastry cream would be a perfect showcase since I had to boil down milk anyway- why not throw in some cardamom pods? Without saying much more, I must state that this pastry cream will be a frequent member of my kitchen hereto forth.
Rather than make straight up dulce de leche for the caramel, I decided to go 50/50 cow milk and goat’s milk which makes it more of a cajeta instead- aka Mexican caramel. Last week I made it with straight goat’s milk, but this time I cut it with the cow’s milk because I had raw milk on hand and that is something I never let go to waste. I was very pleased with the result and will be making my cajeta in this fashion from now on.
The recipes you’ll need to assemble this dish follow, but I will outline the technique here. Melt half a Green and Black’s chocolate bar in a double boiler over low heat. Using an egg wash and a pastry brush, brush all edges of the wonton wrapper and seal closed two sides in a rectangular shape. You will be left with a pocket, of which the top edge is still opened. Dollop a bit of chocolate and a bit of crema pasticcera inside the pocket. Fold the top of the rectangular by pinching two sides closed in a “T” pattern (you can see by the illustrations what I mean). Make sure your wrappers are totally closed as when you fry them if there is an opening at all the insides will come gushing out.
Fry the wontons for about 15 seconds each in a pot of oil deep enough to contain them. Use a thermometer to ensure that your oil remains between 350-370°. Drizzle them with the cajeta and garnish the plate with kiwi berries.
What you will need for roughly 24 wontons:
(assuming 3 per person this serves 8)
- ½ bar of Green and Black’s chocolate or bittersweet melting chocolate of your choice
- Cardamom-Infused Crema Pasticerra (recipe follows)
- Cajeta according to this recipe- I half it and use 50/50 cow and goat’s milk. I also omit the cinnamon
- A package of kiwi berries sliced in half
Cardamom-Infused Crema Pasticcera
- 500 ml raw whole milk
- 2 tbsp cardamom pods
- 6 egg yolks
- 6 tbsp flour
- ¾ c sugar
- Set the all but 1/3 c of the milk over a low flame (preferably using a round-bottomed copper pot). Put the cardamom pods into a tea strainer and immerse them into the milk. The goal is to infuse the cardamom flavor into the milk without bringing it to the boiling point. I generally infuse my milk for about 15-20 minutes, this is subjective based on how much cardamom flavor you want in the end, so taste the milk as it infuses and pull the cardamom once you think there is enough flavor.
- Meanwhile, crack the egg yolks into a bowl and whir a couple times with the immersion blender. Add the milk, flour, sugar and salt and blend with the wand for about 10 seconds or until consistency is uniform and no lumps remain.
- Once you have removed the cardamom pods from the milk, bring it just to the point of barely boiling, remove from heat, and pour in a slow steady stream into the egg yolk mixture while blending with the immersion blender. Once all the hot milk is added, give it a few good blends, then pour back into the copper pot and return to heat over a low flame. At this point, stir constantly until the cream thickens- in my kitchen over my low gas flame, it typically takes about two minutes, but this will vary from stove to stove, so stir, watch, and remove from flame once the crema has thickened to the consistency of syrup.