Firefly’s Our Mrs. Reynolds tells an age-old love story: boy meets girl, they’re drunk, they inadvertently perform the local marriage rituals, the town elder gives the girl to the boy as payment for his debts, and the girl, in an attempt to prove her worth on the spaceship, whips up a hot meal thus impressing the boy’s shipmates.
Apparently, life on a spaceship, rattling around the fringe of the universe 500 years in the future does leave much in the way of high-end culinary opportunities. When Captain Mal Reynolds tucks into his hot plate of dinner prepared by his newly accidental wife, Saffron, shipmate Wash swoons over the prospect of “fresh bao.”
You’ve probably seen fluffy, steamed char siu bao on dim sum carts. This recipe makes about 40 dumplings, which may seem like a ton, but invite your best spaceship-mates over for a dumpling-making party and freeze the leftovers.
First: make your bao dough. You want a fluffy white bread bun that is going to stay soft when you steam it. This recipe is loosely adapted from Momofuku’s famous pork bun recipe.
Mix yeast, sugar and water in stand mixer bowl and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. If the mixture doesn’t froth and expand, your yeast has gone bad and needs to be replaced.
Add the rest of the ingredients and attach the dough hook. Turn the mixer on low and mix until all of the ingredients have come together in a soft dough. Allow the stand mixer to knead for 8-10 minutes.
Place your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Set in a warm place for an hour and allow to rise. When dough has doubled in size, punch down and allow to rise a second time for 20 to 30 minutes.
BBQ Pork Recipe
NOTE: Pork butt (also called picnic pork or pork shoulder) works best for this, but pork belly is also a good substitute.
Mix garlic, five-spice powder and brown sugar together with a fork until fully combined. Pour in the liquid ingredients and whisk together. Stir in the pork and mix gently until coated. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes but up to 12 hours.
Drain from marinade, then cook for 5-8 minutes over high heat in a cast iron skillet or a wok.
Set filling aside to cool.
Fill a stock pot with water and set to boil. Add a steamer insert or set a bamboo steamer on top when the water starts to boil.
When dough has risen the second time, pinch off a golf ball-size lump of dough, then pinch and flatten until it’s roughly the size of your palm. Be careful not to stretch the center of your wrapper too thinly, or the pork will poke through it.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of the pork filling into the center of your dumpling, then pull the edges of the dumpling wrapper up. Pinch the edges of the dumpling together like a small purse. If you like, you can make five pleats like a star.
Steam the dumplings in batches, set about 1 inch apart in the steamer basket. Allow them to cook 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve immediately with hoisin sauce or soy sauce.
Emma Carew Grovum is a data journalist working at the Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington, D.C. She previously worked as the Digital Editor for The Cooking Club of America and blogs at kitchendreamer.blogspot.com Emma loves Star Wars, pandas and all things Joss Whedon. Find her on twitter at @emmacarew.