Potsticker party -
I'm hosting a Chinese potsticker /gyoza party with my foodie friends this weekend. it's going to be an marathon dumpling-making session. Maybe even dough from scratch - the Italian pasta-rolling machine my come into play here...
There will be 8 or 10 of us, attempting to make & consume at least 4 varieties of dumpling - classic pork & shrimp, beef & chive, shitake super-mushroom, and super-veggie bokchoy surpise. The idea is, any dumplings not consumed at point of production go home in tupperware boxes at the end of the session. Everyone happy.
Does anyone have tips how to organize such a big group working all together in the kitchen? I have no experiece as a line chef!
A smash hit! This foodie party will be the start of a new annual tradition. The results:
IN THE KITCHEN
Dough-rolling for hand-made herbed dough (not a traditional Chinese recipe, but much appreciated ne'ertheless). To supplement the store-bought dough. 2 people did this part-time.
Filler-making. Mostly made ahead of time, or, "bring your own" secret family recipe. 2 people part-time.
"Quality control". Fry pan (steam then fry method) or poached with shitake broth. 1 person part-time.
AT THE DINING TABLE
Stuffing/wrapping. As recommended by other posts, this was the primary focus of the day, and we had from 8 to 12 people at it at any given time. Set up ahead of time: a mug full of spoons, 'raw food' chopsticks; fingerbowls; trays for stacking; hot tea + cups; white wine + glasses; a separate mug of 'clean' chopsticks + bowls of soy dip + stack of small dishes for tasting.
The cook for each stuffing recipe set out the shape for their dumpling -
1. Simple moon shape. Spinach dumplings
2. Simple moon shape. Black mushroom dumplings.
3. Classic pleated moon shape. Chicken + 'fat choy' hair mushroom.
4. Tortelloni shape (herb dough). Beef with hot pepper.
5. Triangular 3-pleat standing seam. Classic shrimp + pork.
6. Square 4-pleat standing seam (herb dough). Beef and 'gao choy' chives.
Hundreds of dumplings were made and consumed. I will definitely do this again next year! Thank you all for your suggestions!
In addition to the cooking, for a group that has not worked together before,
I suggest you open up a few hours early and have everybody learn a few origami creations together (and as everyone arrives and brings their stuff). This is a quick bonding session (with beneficial results for the day) and will ease the strain of many people possibly learning a craft together. Get their concentration going. They will be comfortable with each other by the time everyone is there and the real cooking starts. And, then they probably won't mind if they but butts once or twice in the kitchen. This warm up worked great for us. We did two simple origamis and suggest you stick with simple, too.
THE SWAN and HAWAIIAN SHIRT
Trust me, I have lots of experience with this, organizing a gyoza (gyoza is the Japanese word for potsticker) party for about 30 people for 8 years now.
1. Purchase the gyoza skins and focus your energy on making good stuffing and the actual stuffing of the gyoza.
2. You will want lots of trays to put the made gyoza, plenty of bowls for the stuffings and several bowls of water to close the gyoza once stuffed.
3. If you are going to have different stuffings, and if you are organized enough, you can fold them in different manners. I typically offered your basic gyoza and a vegetarian version. The fold differentiated which was which.
4. Have good music going and enjoy the process.
That being said, we just made gyoza at culinary school here in Tokyo this week. Key points I learned include generously sprinkling salt over the minced cabbage and after resting, squeeze out the excess water. Also, placing the made gyoza on cornstarch which has been lightly sprinkled on the trays. When you go to cook them, this will help create a crust on the gyoza.
Last point of frying method is divided. Fry first in oil and then steam? Or my preferred method, steam first in water (about 1/3 up the way of the gyoza) and then finish with a bit of oil.
And when serving, you want plenty of bowls to make the dipping sauce of soy sauce, rayu (chili oil) and vinegar.
I did a jiaozi party (very similar to a potsticker party, but the dumplings were boiled rather than fried) in Hong Kong many years ago. There the routine was to have two people mix the dough for the wrappers and roll them out; then another couple of people chopped the vegetables and meats for the filling and mixed them up; then another couple were responsible for the sauces and a pair of people cooked them. It was a great big success, and we made hundreds of dumplings in no time at all.
I don't necessarily completley disagree with jellybelly, but I can suggest something else that has worked for me.
I sometimes volunteer-cater parties at a community center on a college campus, and I wind up with a lot of students and other volunteers helping me. I sometimes do Jellybelly's method, but you said your friends are all foodies -- if these are people who know how to cook, I think they would prefer to have a little more...artistic input? When students tell me they know how to cook, I usually hand them a recipe and tell them to just make it, and to ask me if they have questions.
A lot people would rather, for example, be responsible for one batch of dumplings rather than for chopping up veggies or lumping filling in. Just my opinion.
First off, I also have no experience in this area as my kitchen barely fits my husband and myself at the same time. BUT, that being said, what I would do is separate people into different production stages (think Henry Ford with the Model T!)
1. Prep - people dealing with the raw goods - cutting, mixing, etc.
2. "Pre-cooking" - may only need one person here, but have someone on the stovetop cooking any meat, etc. that you need cooked prior to going into the gyoza.
3. Stuffing - people taking the food from the "pre-cooking" station and actually assembling the dumplings
4. Cooking - person actually in charge of the pot-sticker cooking. Probably good to have one person as lord/lady of the cooking as potstickers require a bit of a knack that not everyone might be familiar with.
Etc. you get the point :-)
As a side note, Alton Brown (on Food TV) just did a piece on potstickers earlier in the week and recommended against making your own dough as it is REALLY labor intensive. I think he also said that even a pasta machine does not get the wanton thin enough... I'm pretty sure that's what he said, but I was only listening with 1/2 an ear. (I always buy them just because I'm too lazy!)
Good luck - sounds like a fun party!
I agree that buying the dough/skins is a lot easier than making them. There is also a great amount of variety of sizes of skins, thickness of skins, shapes of skins, and they even have green spinach skins. (Now, if only they could make them whole grain!!!...)
That all being said, there is something about the whole process of making the dough by hand...it's extremely sensual and harks back to a slower pace of life and is the type of thing our grandmas did ... a kind of get-to-know-you-better-while-we-chat kind of thing rather than speed-it-up-faster-faster-faster-gotta-make-as-many-dumplings-as-quickly-as-possible....
Depending on the type of party, and the number of people at the party, skins by hand may be the way to go so that everyone has something to do and feels like they are contributing to the end result.