Fish Wontons & Outdoor Party Favorites

Fish Wontons: New Year’s Party Favorites

Depending on your winter weather, you may have to “fish” in your freezer for fillets to make any fish dumplings. Dumpling is our English word for an ancient delicacy called “wonton.” In American-Chinese cuisine, wontons are served in two ways: in a soup and as an appetizer, fried wontons. Wonton is also spelled wantan, wanton and wuntun.

Fried wontons are commonly served with a meat filling, (usually pork in Asian food restaurants) and eaten with duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce or hot mustard. Crab Rangoon is a version of fried wontons filled with cream cheese and crab. Another version is filled with a mixture of cream cheese, green onions, soy sauce and garlic. These are best when served with a sweet and sour sauce. American fried wontons are typically eaten dry, but don’t hesitate to serve them with a dipping sauce that complements the contents, such as ketchup, on fish wontons.

We buy wonton wrappers, but you can make them with flour, egg, water and salt. Cut a square of dough, spread the wrapper flat in the palm of your hand or on a flat surface, place a small amount of filling in the center and seal the wonton into the desired shape by compressing the wrapper’s edges together with your fingers. Adhesion may be improved by moistening the wrapper’s inner edges by dipping a fingertip into water and running it across the dough. As part of the sealing process, press air out of the inside to avoid having it rupture from internal pressure when cooked.

You can use your imagination to create numerous variations for frying wontons by thinking of the foods you like, making a mixture, spooning some onto a wrapper, making a “purse” and frying ‘em up.

We’re making fried crappie wontons and my favorite jalapeño wontons to serve as appetizers. We also have three fish entrées and a beans-n-rice dish that can be served as a side or an entrée.

‘Tis the season to celebrate, and eat well.

Fried Fish Wontons (Fish Dumplings)

1 cup finely chopped cooked fish fillet (I nuke the fish, easy-peasy)

4 individual 8-ounce packages

softened cream cheese

3 chopped green onions

1 teaspoon sugar

3 cloves crushed garlic

2 (12-ounce) packages wonton wrappers

Canola oil, enough to deep-fry

several wontons

Mix cream cheese, chopped fish, green onions, sugar and garlic thoroughly. Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a wrapper. Bring all corners up at top of mixture to form a square packet and pinch to secure. Deep-fry wontons in hot oil 1 minute or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 50-60, but recipe can be halved.

Jalapeño Wontons

1 individual 8-ounce package

softened cream cheese

1 8-ounce package of pepper jack cheese, cut in 1/4-by-3/4-inch chunks

Jalapeños cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices (depending on how hot you like ’em)

12 wonton wrappers

Put a piece of cheese and pepper slice in each wonton, fold and pinch to seal. Fry until golden brown. Drain. Makes 12 wontons. Double or triple the recipe to suit your needs. TIP: Wonton wrappers will last in your refrigerator for the short term or you can freeze them for longer storage.

Sautéed Fish

8 fish fillets (4-6 ounces each)

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/4 cup lime juice

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fillets to the skillet and sprinkle with garlic powder. Pour lime juice over fish (use more or less to suit your taste). Sauté the fish until fillets are opaque and flake with fork. Turn once during the cooking.

Cajun Pancake-battered Fish

2 to 3 fish fillets per person

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup pancake mix

1 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (more or less to suit your taste)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (more to suit your taste)

Canola oil

Hot pepper sauce, vinegar-based (optional)

Stir pancake mix, milk and egg in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix cornmeal, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Dip fillets in wet mixture, completely covering the surfaces. Roll wet fillets in dry mixture to cover fish. Fry fillets in oil in a medium-sized skillet until both sides are golden brown. Serve with vinegar-based hot pepper sauce.

Potato Flake Fillets

2 to 3 fish fillets per person

1 cup instant potato flakes

1/3 cup flour

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Canola oil

Other seasonings to taste (optional)

Combine flour and any other seasoning you wish to include in a medium-sized bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. In another smaller bowl, beat eggs until smooth. Pour a generous amount of potato flakes onto a plate or other flat surface. Roll fillets in seasoning mixture. Dip them in the egg wash to wet the surfaces. Roll fillets in potato flakes, completely covering them. Fry in oil until golden brown, turning once.

Southwestern Black Beans & Rice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup black bean broth (or water)

2 tablespoons brewed coffee

2 cups cooked rice, cooled

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy, cast-iron skillet. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add beans, broth and coffee. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add rice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Garnish with cilantro. Serve.