Monday, March 11, 2013

Egg Rolls- more is better!




Egg rolls! Who doesn't love 'em? Ever look at a package of egg roll wrappers, and say to yourself, "Gosh, I'd love to try to make those, but a package makes so darned MANY of 'em! It'd be a waste."
Nope!
Let me tell you how to make a wonderful convenience food, from start to finish- and no food wastage! Your family will thank you, and so will your wallet! (Have you seen the price of frozen dim sum? Yikes!) 

Egg rolls are really easy, and made from scratch, really inexpensive, and you will have NO waste, I promise. This batch cost me $8.19 to make- for 40 full-sized egg rolls! (Would've been even cheaper, if I'd gotten the ingredients at the Winco, instead of the Freddy's- but some days, ya just don't feel like going further afield for your grub.) Have you ever seen or heard the term, "I.Q.F."? It means "individually quick-frozen". And while the mass-produced food industry would love for you to remain ignorant of this, it's something that you can do at home- all you need is a cookie sheet, and a little freezer space. And the technique works for everything- egg rolls are only the beginning. I make most of my family's "convenience foods"- it's good to know what's in 'em, and how they were handled in processing. Plus, it's said that over 70% of all processed foods contain GMO's. There is great peace of mind, in making your own foods! So here we go-

To make the egg rolls, you'll need:

1.5 lbs. ground pork or chicken (not ground chicken breast, as it will be too dry)
A 1 lb. or so head of Napa cabbage
3-4 carrots, julienned (cut into matchsticks)
2 or more t. minced ginger
3 or more cloves garlic, minced
A T. or three of oyster sauce
A T. or more good-quality soy sauce
1 can water chestnuts, julienned
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
3 T. to 1/4 c. cornstarch
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
40 egg roll wrappers (about 2 packages)
Peanut oil, for frying
Put the meat, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, cornstarch, and soy sauce into a mixing bowl. While you're doing this, float your Napa cabbage and cilantro in bowls of cold water, to perk them up, and to remove residues and dirt. (In the case of the cilantro, this will also allow for easy removal of any little dead pieces of leaves- soaking it in water makes them magically separate from the bunch, and easy to pour off. Plus the grit. I hate grit in my food!)
Remove the main stems from the cabbage, and slice finely.

Mix the cabbage and the carrots with the meat- it'll be sticky! Add salt and pepper to taste.
While you're mixing it up, start heating a Dutch oven or large skillet. When the skillet's good and hot, cook off your egg roll filling. Note: some egg roll recipes call for the filling to be rolled up with raw filling- I prefer a cooked filling, as there is far less chance of food poisoning. With a raw filling, you always run the risk of it being underdone, and when you're working with ground raw meats, it's not a risk worth taking!

So, cook it well- for a little extra zip, throw some of this in your pan:

And when it looks more like this-
It's ready for the next step.

You can add the water chestnuts at this point, but cool the mixture before adding the cilantro- you want the cilantro to release all of its flavor into the filling, not the air!
Chop it up, and add to the cooled mixture-
Give it a taste, adjust the seasonings to your liking, and prepare for wrapping it up!

Here's a shortcut that will save you some serious prep time- when you're going to be wrapping a lot of anything in Asian-style wrappers, and it's a type that you have to seal with water, don't screw around with the bowl of water/fingersealing method.
Lay out your egg roll wrappers, four at a time, in a big square. Take a spray bottle of plain water, and spritz all the way around the outside edges of your square, and then in a cross, through the center lines, getting all four edges of each wrapper. Viola! You just got all four in under 10 seconds, instead of having to individually fingerpaint each and every one! You'll want to take a paper towel to your board or counter after each batch of four, so that the next wrappers don't stick to the surface, but it's a small price to pay for speed and ease.

So, your wrappers are prepped- now to fill 'em!
Blop a heaping soup spoonful of filling on each wrapper.
Roll up a corner, tucking the filling in, until you're about halfway across.
Fold your edge corners over the rolled part, and stick 'em together- the sprayed-on water will glue them in place.
Roll it the rest of the way, and-
Seal 'er up!

Now repeat that about fourty more times. Put the finished rolls on cookie sheets or cutting boards, and start heating your oil, in your now-clean Dutch oven or fryer. Then do this:
When the oil is hot, brown them in the oil. If you're going to be freezing the bulk of your batch, fry the ones that you're saving only to barely brown- they're going to brown off a bit in the oven, when you reheat them. The ones that will (inevitably) be eaten right away can stand a little more browning. Because the filling is already fully cooked, the frying will go very, very quickly.
There's Inevitable, after swiping at least two of 'em! Meet Thing Two, a.k.a. Johnathan. He's extremely fast, and hard to catch. He's also voracious. Like a blue-eyed velociraptor.
Now, to freeze what few remain:
Place the rolls on a sheet pan lined with foil...
...and I.Q.F. 'em! All that it means is, freeze them solid before you bag them. The blower in your freezer will accomplish this in a couple of hours, tops.  You can do this with literally just about anything- berries to burritos! After that, bag those babies! I've found that I can neatly fit 6 egg rolls per quart ziplock- just about the right amount for snacking *cough* er, a side dish with a balanced meal. Ahem.

You may have a wrapper or two left over. Cut those into triangles, and fry them off, too. Children and husbands LOVE them- they're basically the same thing as "Fried Won Ton" appetizers. They will vanish rapidly.
Now, when the time comes that you want an egg roll in the middle of the night *cough*, er, with your Asian-themed, extremely well-balanced dinner, heat the oven to 375F, and place the desired number of egg rolls (at least 20! No, just kidding!) on a sheet pan, and bake for 20-30 minutes, turning over once to ensure even browning. Easy, convenient, and totally worth it! 
And just to let you know, you can play it fast and loose with this recipe- sub in a few ounces of chopped shrimp, crab, even ham or BBQ pork, for part of the meat, or try some different veggies or seasonings- the sky's the limit! If you're feeling really adventurous, give 'em a Vietnamese flair, and throw in some glass noodles. You can also double or even triple the batch- typically, I do 80-120 of these at a time. (For your benefit, Dear Reader, I scaled it down to a more reasonable level. That, and the Big Deep Freeze went to heaven a couple of months ago...we now have a medium one, so I'm having to curb my food-hoarding  tendencies. A big shout-out and THANK YOU to Scott and Celeste, for selling us the Freezinator Jr., or we'd be so hosed!)

In a few days or so, I'll tell ya how to make a dish similar to a good Pork Hong Kong, to give you an excuse to heat some of these up- stay tuned!

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