Chinese New Year is the sort of new year celebration I love.
Unlike the Western tradition of big blowout parties, Chinese New Year is a time to get together with family, to give thanks for what you have, to retire your grudges, and to look forward to a year of peace and happiness. I think of it much as I do Thanksgiving.
It's in the spirit of Chinese New Year that I've reconfigured one of my favorite dim sum dishes - shrimp toasts. Not familiar with dim sum? Think of it as Chinese tapas.
Traditionally, shrimp toasts are made of chopped or ground shrimp seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions and rice wine. This mixture is mounded onto little toasts and deep-fried. The result is creamy on top, crispy on the bottom, and richly flavorful through and through.
As with everyone else on the planet, if it's fried, I love it. In this case, though, I was hoping to get the crunch of frying without the fat.
I did a bunch of research and discovered while the toast in this dish usually is made of plain old white bread, sometimes it's swapped out for a slice of baguette. Eureka! Since baguettes become wonderfully crunchy when baked, I figured that that was how - without frying - I could conjure the crunchiness necessary for this recipe.
But then I worried the shrimp mixture would dry out during baking. It needed protection, or some sort of coating. That's when I reached for one of my favorite stealth ingredients - mayonnaise. It makes a terrific glaze. I spiked low-fat mayo with some sesame oil and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and, sure enough, it did the trick. The shrimp topping stayed creamy.
Baked Sesame Shrimp Toasts
•32 diagonal, 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices
•1/2 pound raw shrimp
•1 large egg white
•2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine, sake or dry sherry
•2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
•1 large garlic clove, minced
•1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
•1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
•Heaping 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/4 teaspoon sugar
•4-ounces water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
•2 scallions, finely chopped
•1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
•2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Spritz the bread slices on both sides with cooking spray. Bake them on the oven's middle shelf for 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven, turn over each slice, then set aside. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, combine the shrimp, egg white, sake, ginger, garlic, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil, the salt and the sugar. Puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the water chestnuts and scallions.
In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Mound a rounded tablespoon of the shrimp mixture on top of each toast and spread evenly over the toast. Brush the top of each mound with some of the mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake on the oven's middle shelf for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the shrimp mixture is just cooked through. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per toast: 120 calories; 20 calories from fat (17 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 5 g protein; 260 mg sodium.