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Christmastime always makes your BMG think of Chinese food.

Now I know what you’re thinking–wow, her family probably never cooked; they probably ordered in Chinese for the holiday, what abuse, what misery, poor Bad Mama Genny!

Au contraire, my sweet misfit poppets, au contraire.

You see, I came from a family that dedicated itself to crafting the perfect holiday. Thanksgiving with 15 sides (3 different kinds of jello, but of course), Christmas with a family-style spread that required an extra 8-foot folding table to accommodate the selection, and a traditional Polish Christmas Eve Wigilia meal the night before–for a grand fucking whopping total of FIVE PEOPLE OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE WORKING SO HARD MY FINGERS ARE BLEEDING INTO THE FIGGY PUDDING OH THE HUMANITY.  So where does the Chinese food fit in?

Well, somewhere between my mother’s 3 AM panic attack over getting the house clean enough, my brother’s emotional breakdown at the tear we’d managed to rip in the universe which sent all the world’s dirty dishes to his sink, and my impromptu nap at the kitchen table, vegetable peeler still in hand, five pounds of potatoes down, only three more to go…well, irony of fucking ironies, we all got hungry. My aunt would pull out the Chinese takeout menu, and forty bucks later, we were a united front once again, happily chowing down on Moo Goo something-or-other and wondering how the hell we had ended up in this gelatinous, technicolored, gumdrop-studded, whirling, twirling gingerbread house of horrors. That, my friends, is why, as I was decking my halls and ho-ho-ho-ing my way through my cookie list, I was hit by an overwhelming–NAY–insatiable desire for Crab Rangoon. Enter today’s recipe.

I recommend eating these with the Christmas lights on, “Jingle Bells” playing in the background, and a sobbing family memb–but wait; that’s my house, not yours.

So indulge your mother’s compulsive need to include the three primary jello colors. Peel potatoes ’til you pass out (fine, so there MAY have been some gin involved, I can’t really say…).  Embrace the dog when she eats the blinking angel tree-topper (she looks kinda cute with her tummy periodically lighting up like that). The love will get you through. If not, well, there’s always that gin.

Crab Rangoon
Makes 48

Go Get:
1 package (48 count) wonton wrappers
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
6 oz. flaked crabmeat
2 green onions, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. each tamari or soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce
approx. 1/4 cup cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

Go Do:
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the wonton wrappers and the cooking oil.

Lay out a won ton wrapper with one of the points facing you.  Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, and spread it out to make a horizontal, log-like shape.  Resist the urge to overfill, as this will cause them to burst while cooking.

Using your finger, moisten the edges of the wonton with water, and fold the bottom half to the top, pressing all the edges to seal.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers.  Place the finished rangoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and, using a pastry brush dipped into the oil, lightly brush both sides of all the rangoon.

Put the rangoon into the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until both sides are pleasantly browned, flipping once halfway through cooking.  Allow them to cool for a few minutes before biting into them.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauces and sides.

 

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You know, for a while I was really thinking that this panko stuff might have been all hype.  The culinary community has seen its share of hit-and-run fad foods…you know what I’m talking about.  If it’s not gnocchi showing up on every Spotted Pig-wannabe-gastropub’s menu (uh, like, two years too late), it’s a rash of clone-ish New York frozen yogurt shops reproducing faster than you can say Afro-Latino-Asian fusion.  Not that there’s anything wrong with gnocchi or frozen yogurt (and definitely not with The Spotted Pig); it’s just that after you’ve eaten your eightieth chipotle-soaked, creme fraiche topped cliche, you pretty much never wanna see the stuff again.

While I can’t say that panko isn’t next in line to be forgotten as quickly as it was hyped up, I am a genuine fan of its uncommon crunch and extreme versatility.  Fo’ sho’, misfits.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with panko, think Japanese breadcrumbs.  According to the good people at Ian’s Natural Foods…

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“panko” means child of bread; it’s lighter and crisper than your typical breadcrumbs, and it absorbs less fat, too.  You may have unwittingly tried them at a Japanese restaurant, as many roll their tempura in panko before frying.

A random visit to another food blog, The Missing Ingredient, reminded me that I’d been meaning to try panko at home.  The author of this blog adapted a Food and Wine recipe to make Panko-Crusted Chicken with Mustard Sauce.  Because I’m a bit over chicken this week, and wasn’t in a mustard state of mind, I used the recipe as inspiration to do my own thing.  I ended up dipping the shrimp (peeled, but with the tails on), into a thin wasabi-soy mixture that I devised, rolling it in the panko, and then baking it for 15 minutes.

This satisfies my innate, lifelong urge to peel things, dip them into wasabi-soy mixtures, roll them in panko, and then bake them for 15 minutes.  AND the shrimp don’t scream as piteously as a boyfriend which is HELLO LIKE A MAJOR BENEFIT.

Tah-dah-easy as anything, no frying involved.

Having officially popped my panko cherry, my thoughts now, naturally, turn to my next high.  Will i top a casserole with it?  Roll lightly-oiled chunks of vegetables in it before roasting?  Sprinkle it on a salad?  Sprinkle it on a baby?   How about you, gentle misfit readers?  Any other uses for my bag of panko?  I’ll put my money where my mouth is: the person who comments on this post by Sunday, November 30, with the best original recipe idea using panko crumbs will win a free bag!

Panko Wasabi Crusted Shrimp
Makes 2 servings, 1 if he’s not fast enough

Go Get:
1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined and rinsed, tails left on
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 Tablespoon wasabi paste (I prepare mine fresh from powder for the highest potency)
1 Teaspoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cups panko crumbs

Go Do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, tamari, wasabi paste, rice vinegar, olive oil, and enough pepper to taste. Toss the shrimp with the sauce and set it aside for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors soak in.

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Pour a third of the panko into a shallow bowl (to avoid waste, continue to replenish your panko in small amounts). Pick each shrimp up out of the sauce by its tail and drag it through the panko, using your fingers to pat as many crumbs onto it as possible. Gently lay it on the cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining shrimp.

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Put the shrimp into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tails turn bright pink and the crumbs develop a golden color. If desired, whisk some tamari or soy sauce with some dried ginger for dipping.

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