Pumpkin Bacon Wontons with Maple Balsamic Sauce

by Kelly on February 2, 2011

Confession time – I sometimes crush on a dish the way a girl normally crushes on a guy.  Silly, I know, but I do.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that my relationship with food borders on unusual most of the time.

Sometimes I am first acquainted with a new meal and it takes all the willpower I can muster not to become obsessed. I try my best to keep my mind focused on the things that should be occupying my time – work, friends, hobbies and the like – but my mind keeps wandering to said dish. I make other things for myself to eat but always wish I was having that dish instead.

Recently said dish was some pretty fantastic shaomai –  Spence Farm Pumpkin Shaomai with sage, brown butter, blue cheese and poached shallot to be exact.  They were so irresistible when I had them at Green Zebra, a fantastic mostly vegetarian small plates restaurant here in Chicago.  I found myself instantly swooning the moment my first bite slipped through my lips and have been thinking about them ever since.  So much so that they brought me back to the restaurant and I ordered them again.  This coming from a girl who prides herself on her desire to try things and to not have too many repeats.

So this past weekend when I held a winter-themed potluck at my house I know it was finally time  to acknowledge this dish that had been dancing around in my head, making everything else seem sadly inferior.  I knew that a perfect replication would be down near impossible, so I opted for inspiration rather than true replication instead.

And so these Pumpkin Bacon Wontons were born.  They took what I loved about the original – a smooth, creamy, and lightly savory pumpkin filling – and gave it a twist with a crispy exterior and some smokey bacon.  I know there is humor in starting with a vegetarian dish and making it oh so not with bacon, but I couldn’t help myself.  It does wonders to lend a savoriness to the pumpkin and surprisingly does a great job of adding umami without taking over the flavor entirely.  I served them with a maple balsamic sauce, with further enhanced the sweet and saltiness of the dish.

The result was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself.  I hate using such words because they are almost always hard to live up to, but this was easily one of the best things I’ve made in a long time.  Yes this recipe is a little bit putsy.  Yes it requires frying, which I know people will be tempted to forgo and bake these instead.  But it’s all worth it.  Because they are pretty divine.

Pumpkin Wontons

Pumpkin Bacon Wontons with Maple Balsamic Sauce
Dipping sauce adapted from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan
Yields approximately 24 wontons

Ingredients:

Wontons
-Cooking spray
-3 slices bacon
-2 tablespoons minced onions
-2 cups finely diced fresh pumpkin (or alternatively, two cups of canned pumpkin)
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-1 pinch cayenne
-2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (or alternatively, cream cheese)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1 package wonton skins/wraps (I used a
12 ounce package from Nasoya, which I found in the refrigerated case by the tofu, but any brand will do.)
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-Cooking oil for frying

Sauce
-¼ cup pure maple syrup
-¼ cup balsamic vinegar
-2 teaspoons unsalted butter
-1 medium clove garlic, minced
-1/2 teaspoon (rounded) sea salt
-1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
-3 tablespoons soy sauce

Method:

Lightly spray a skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat with cooking spray. Cook bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon from skillet with slotted spoon, reserving one tablespoon of drippings in skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels.

Return pan to the heat and add onions. Saute until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin through cayenne to the pan and if using fresh pumpkin, saute until the pumpkin has softened and broken down, about 5 more minutes. (If using canned pumpkin, cook until some of the moisture has evaporated and the mixture has thickened slightly and the brown sugar has melted.)

Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature. Once cool, add to a food processor or blender along with the mascarpone cheese. Blend or process until the mixture has a smooth consistency and everything is well incorporated.

Crumble bacon and add to the filling. If mixture is still on the runny side, allow to chill in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before stuffing wontons, giving the filling time to firm up. If not, proceed with making your wontons.

To assemble your wontons, on a flat, clean surface lay out a wonton wrapper so it form a wide diamond shape in front of you. Wet the wonton. Dip your finger into the beaten egg and use it to moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper. Add one teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture to the middle of the wrapper.

Fold the wonton. Fold over one side of the wrapper to meet the opposite side so the wrapper forms a triangle. Seal the edges. Use your fingers to press down all around the edges of the wonton to seal it. Re-moisten the edges if necessary. If you’d like to go a big fancier than the basic triangle shape, pull down the two corners of the folded edge to touch each other and use more egg to secure. Cover the completed wonton with a damp paper towel or damp kitchen towel to prevent the wonton from drying out and proceed to make the rest of your wontons. Using a teaspoon of filling per wonton, I got 24.

Heat your oil in a wok, dutch oven or deep fryer until the oil reaches between 360 and 375 degrees F. Add the wontons. Carefully add the wontons to the oil, being careful not to crowd the wok or deep fryer with too many wontons at one time.

Fry the wontons on one side for approximately 1 ½ minutes or until golden brown. Flip the wontons over and repeat the frying for another 1 ½ minutes.

Carefully remove the cooked wontons from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel. Repeat the cooking process until all the wontons are cooked. If desired, transfer the wontons on the cookie sheet to an oven on low heat (mine was set to about 200 degrees F) while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, combine syrup, vinegar, butter, garlic, and salt, in a saucepan over low heat and cook for several minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine arrowroot and tamari, stirring through until well incorporated. Add tamari mixture to saucepan, whisk to combine, and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil, stirring continually. Let boil gently for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool slightly (the mixture will thicken more as it cools down).

Serve wontons with sauce.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Bethany February 3, 2011 at 8:08 am

Gorgeous picture. And that recipe sounds amazing! I’m the same way with dishes — and with recipe ideas. There comes a certain point when I’ve been thinking about making something for too long, and I just NEED to make it!

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Rebel mel February 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

I think I am in love with you (in the least creepy way possible) for adding bacon and pumpkin to wontons.

My current food crush is the croque monsoir. Try it if you haven’t. Sooo good.

I’ve got a post scheduled for next week that you’re absolutely going to love, btw. I’m not going to give it away, but let’s just say you and I dream about food in very similar ways!

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5 Star Foodie February 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I love your filling of pumpkin and bacon, very creative, and the sauce sounds terrific! Yum!

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Carolyn Jung February 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Now, those look way better than the same ol’, same ol’ nondescript fried wontons with sweet and sour sauce we all remember eating for takeout. What an imaginative twist you’ve come up with.

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Hannah February 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm

What an unusual but intriguing flavor combination… And boy, do those ever look like they’re fried to crispy golden-brown perfection! I never fry my dumplings/wontons, but now I’m thinking that maybe I should.

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Kerstin February 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Both the filling and sauce sound fabulous – I love creating recipes inspired by restaurant favorites! I’m sad I never got to Green Zebra before we moved.

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Shannon February 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm

oh. my. gosh. these sound amazing!! i would love some of these right now 🙂

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CaSaundra February 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

I totally know what you mean about “that dish”. For me, I could date a plate of steak and potatoes–it always hits the spot!!!

Hope you’re staying warm & surviving this ridiculous winter!! :-/

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Reeni February 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I totally believe everything you said! Their deliciousness is obvious! The flavors sound amazing together and so addicting. I bet everyone loved them!

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The Duo Dishes February 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Everybody has summed this one up all the way. Even though it was a vegan recipe, the bacon is a great touch. A little sweet, definitely savory, salty and tangy. So good Kelly!

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