Dumplings, in their many forms, have helped feed communities around the world affordably for almost as long as people have been eating. Created as a filling, economical means of using up all kinds of leftover scraps of meat and vegetables, often bound and stretched with inexpensive starches like wheat, rice and potatoes, they also happen to be ultimate comfort food – soft pillows that have been poached, steamed or fried, simmered in broth or even baked in the oven, depending on your definition of a dumpling.
Imagining a dumpling may bring to mind the image of a little package, filled and pinched shut, like a gyoza, potsticker or perogy. But then there are solidly doughy dumplings, like gnocchi and gnudi, and those that are dropped by the spoonful and steamed atop bubbling stew or fruit. If filling isn’t a defining characteristic, perhaps it’s texture – though I love to fry boiled perogies in butter or bacon drippings until they’re golden and crisp, I envision a dumpling as something that has been boiled, steamed or simmered; when water is used as the heat conduit, they stay soft.
Here are two classics: Turkish manti are a lesser-known dumpling, but in essence very similar to Eastern European perogies, filled with lamb or beef instead of potatoes. Blueberry grunt is a classic eastern Canadian dessert, named for the sound the dumplings make as they cook on top of a pot of simmering berries. To make the dumplings golden and crunchy, you could bake it in the oven instead.
To make a grunt on the stovetop, simmer the fruit in a large, deep skillet until it starts to break down and release its juices, then drop the dumpling batter in spoonfuls on the surface, cover and cook until they’re springy to the touch. Or if you like crunch, golden biscuits on top, bake it in the oven.