My mother’s egg rolls
I started this blog to create a record of my own cooking experiences, and as I’ve written this blog I realized that successful blogging is harder than it looks. When talking about my blog the question that often comes up is how I started cooking. I grew up in a home where we ate supper together every night around a kitchen table. Those home-cooked meals were often followed up by homemade desserts (usually containing chocolate, my mother’s favorite).
Once I was out on my own, I realized that if I wanted to keep eating the way I grew up, I needed to learn how to cook. I did have a head start since I’d been helping my mom since I was too small to do much more than stir something in a a bowl. As an adult, I’ve been learning new techniques and trying different flavor combinations. My parents’ “try everything at least once” policy has turned me into a more adventuresome eater and cook than my mother, but lately I’ve been craving some of her specialties. Especially, the meal that I always requested for special occasions – egg rolls.
My mother’s egg rolls probably aren’t very authentic, but no other meal can quite recapture the essence of my childhood table as much as egg rolls. The only problem is that my mother made the recipe up and she doesn’t measure anything. So a few months ago, I asked her to come to my house to make egg rolls, and I would watch what she did and help measure the ingredients. This summer my parents both came up and we spent an afternoon preparing a large batch of egg rolls (some of which we froze and I ate later) and then cooked them on my deck using a gas burner on the side of my grill (to keep the grease smell outside).
After all the chopping, measuring, and cooking my mother and I sat down to go over our notes to work out the recipe. These aren’t fancy, or full of exotic ingredients, but they are delicious. Making a batch of egg rolls is time consuming, but not super difficult. My directions for shaping them are short, but many egg roll wrapper packages have illustrations that may be useful. If you have any wrappers left they freeze well, or if you have any filling leftover – it’s pretty tasty all by itself with some sauce.
Chicken Egg Rolls
1 pound green cabbage
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 pound chicken breasts or tenders
4 tbs oil
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
1 package of large egg roll wrappers
Warm up a large skillet with the oil. Using a food processor shred the cabbage (like you would for coleslaw) and carrots. Add to the pan along with the onion, green pepper, and garlic. Chop the chicken into small bite-sized pieces (this is easier if the chicken is slightly frozen), and add to the skillet.
Stir well every few minutes, while keeping the skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the salt, pepper (about 1/2 tsp pepper and 2 tsp kosher salt), and the ginger over the cabbage and stir well. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked thoroughly and then taste for salt and pepper. You will probably need a little more salt. Let the filling cool.
Clear off some counter space to shape the egg rolls. Open the wrappers, but cover the container with a damp (not wet!) paper towel to keep them moist. You can dust the counter with some cornstarch if you’re afraid that the wrappers will stick. Mix together 2 tsp cornstarch and 2 tbs water in a small bowl. You’ll use this as your “glue.”
To fill and roll the wrappers, use about 1/4 – 1/3 a cup of filling for each roll. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, place the wrapper with one corner of the diamond closest to you. Place the filling in the center of the wrapper. Roll the corner closest to you over the filling. Using your finger, brush the top corner with the cornstarch and water slurry. Fold in the sides of the wrapper and continue rolling the egg roll up until it is closed. Press to seal, set aside, and continue with the remaining wrappers. You’ll want to put the egg rolls on a platter covered with a damp paper towel until you’re ready to fry them.
At this point you can place the prepared, but raw egg rolls into freezer bags and freeze for cooking later. Since the filling is already cooked you’ll be able to fry them directly their frozen state, but it does work a little better if you let them thaw out some.
When you’re done rolling all the egg rolls, prepare a few bowls for the cooked rolls to rest in. I suggest folding some newspaper in the bottom of a deep bowl and topping that with one paper towel (folded if necessary) to allow the excess grease to drain out of the egg rolls.
To cook the rolls, heat some oil (about 3 inches in the bottom of a large heavy pot or skillet) over medium high. When the oil is hot, cook a few egg rolls at a time – the size of your pot will determine whether you can fry 2, 3, of more at a time (just don’t crowd the pan too much). Move the egg rolls around so that each side rests in the hot oil and cooks to deep golden brown. When they’re done remove with tongs and place them upright in the prepared bowl. Continue frying until all the egg rolls are done (may let people start eating as you cook because they are best piping hot). Serve with dipping sauce (see recipe below).
Egg Roll Sauce
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce + 1 can water
2 tbs diced onion
2 tbs minced green pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp Tabasco (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp water (or your leftover slurry from rolling the egg rolls)
salt and pepper
Stir the first five ingredients together in a small sauce pan. Simmer on medium low for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook for another 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.