Eggplant & Lamb Dumplings


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

"I particularly love this dish because it reminds me of something I would do with my family—it is perfect for a dinner party. This is a communal dish, and everyone at the dinner party can take part in its creation. As long as you have the filling ready, everyone can have fun wrapping the dumplings. I make the wrappers myself, but you can also buy them at a store for ease. Additionally, these dumplings are super-quick to cook once they’re prepared.

It’s always really good to find the best produce in your local farmer’s market. When you’re there, find an eggplant that is firm and unblemished. I also suggest getting to know your farmer. Drumlin Farm has a stand in the Union Square Farmers Market and they are great. Also, Sparrow Arc’s Matthew Linehan, who offers CSA shares, has a really awesome variety.”

Makes 24 dumplings

1 large Italian eggplant
1 tablespoon sesame oil sea salt, to taste
1½ pounds ground lamb
2 scallions
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2¼ teaspoons ground coriander
2¼ teaspoons cumin
2¼ teaspoons ground fennel
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1½ teaspoons salt
½ bunch basil, chopped
1 package store-bought round wonton wrappers
Soy sauce, for dipping

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut eggplant in half and lightly score flesh. Drizzle with sesame oil, salt lightly, and stud with garlic cloves. Place on a baking sheet cut side down and roast in the hot oven until very soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Scoop out eggplant flesh and garlic into a large bowl, mash with a fork, and chill.

Once the eggplant has cooled completely, mix in the ground lamb and all other filling ingredients. Cook a small piece of filling to taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.

Open the package of wonton wrappers and start an assembly line by laying out 8–10 wrappers at a time, then placing a heaping spoonful in the center of each wrapper. Wet edges and pull two opposite side together to make a half moon, pinching together at quarter-inch intervals to “pleat” the edges. Repeat until all the filling has been used up, setting the dumplings on towel-lined trays sprinkled with cornstarch to prevent sticking.

When all the dumplings have been made, prepare a tower of bamboo steamer baskets for cooking over simmering water. Fill each basket with dumplings and steam for 7–8 minutes.

Serve with plain soy sauce for dipping, or make your own dipping sauce by stirring a dribble of sesame oil into ¼ cup soy sauce and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, along with a squeeze of chili sauce, some minced scallion and cilantro, and some cracked black pepper