Aside from making a side dish and hiding a few eggs, I was off-duty for Easter this year. Still, I started to ponder what one could do with 10 pounds of leftover ham and a rainbow of veggies, and came up with a tasty answer that involves nary a sandwich or omelette.
Since I technically didn’t have leftovers, I took what could have been left over – baked ham, steamed asparagus, scallions, and pea shoots – and got to work. I added fresh ginger and cilantro to infuse an Asian flavor; napa cabbage and peanuts for crunch; and, finally, wonton wrappers, giving my “leftovers” a total makeover into crispy, bite size treats. Dipping sauces put the finishing touch on these delicious morsels. The taste is so far from traditional holiday-meal flavors that you won’t even remember where this recipe got its start. Of course, these wontons don’t have to be Easter-specific; swap in different ingredients and give them a try anytime you’ve got leftovers to play with.
makes about 4 dozen wontons
1 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced (yield: 7-8 cups)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped peanuts
3 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus ¼ cup more if frying
1 ½ cups ham, diced
1 cup asparagus, diced
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
½ cup pea shoots, chopped
For dipping sauces
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
store-bought Thai sweet chili sauce
Cook’s Note: If you don’t have the leftover ingredients listed here, substitute what you have on hand. For example, use salmon in place of the ham or use peas, carrots, or green beans instead of the asparagus.
To make the filling
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, cilantro, peanuts, and scallions. Add ham, asparagus, pea shoots, and chives. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes, until ginger becomes fragrant. Lower heat to medium and add the cabbage-ham mixture. Cook for 4 minutes or until the cabbage just starts to wilt, and vegetables are softened but still brightly colored. Remove from heat. Using a stick blender or food processor, chop or pulse the cooked mixture for 1 minute. This will allow the filling to fit better in the wonton wrapper. Return filling to bowl to let it cool.
To make wontons
Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Fold wonton in half, making a triangle. Brush the edges with water and press to seal. Bring the corners together and overlap them. Brush with a little more water and press to seal.
The wontons can either be baked or fried depending on your preference.
To bake wontons: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat wontons on both sides with cooking spray. Bake in a 425 Fahrenheit oven for 8 mins or until the edges of the wonton get brown and crisp.
To fry wontons: Heat 1/4 cup of canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place the wontons in the oil. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil. Continue to fry the wontons in small batches.
To make dipping sauces
Soy-honey-lime sauce: whisk together 1/3 cup soy sauce, honey, and lime juice.
Spicy-peanut sauce: Combine peanut butter, water, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and red pepper flakes; stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
Thai sweet chili sauce: I serve it straight out of the jar!