Adventures in Drool: Enjoying the fruits of our labor
As I sit in the sunshine on our back deck, I can't help but think how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and plentiful region.
The soil is rich, the water is clean and crisp, and local producers are abundant. Besides easily growing backyard produce, residents enjoy a plethora of local, small farmers willing to share the fruits of their labor.
This week I found locally-raised ground pork and mixed mesclun greens through local farmers. I have been creating delicious dishes all week with the produce, and wanted to share one recipe with Drool readers.
So, here is goes - Recipe Alert!
Thai Pork Egg Rolls
A brief backgrounder: When I was growing up, we had several Laotian/Thai families living with us and around us. They were refuges of their native countries and traveled to America for a better future. I remember cooking traditional egg rolls on the back porch, with the smell of heating oil and frying vegetables wafting outside where hoards of children played in the grass.
The older women would man the hot woks where tightly-wrapped egg rolls sizzled in the oil. I remember that smell most of all. There is a change in the smell when the egg roll is done. It's like the vegetables inside open up, mix with the garlic and pork, and scream out - "Eat me!" The mothers would wrap the egg roll in a paper towel, hand it off to a kid, and send us outside to eat and play.
When I made these egg rolls this week, it was that smell that brought the memories flooding back. I was in the living room and caught that smell and I knew it was time for dinner.
Now, what you all have been waiting for - the recipe!
About a half pound of ground pork (for two people) - We got ours from Greenbranch Organic Farm in Salisbury.
Garlic, minced, about one clove
1/4 head of green cabbage, grated
2 carrots, grated
2 scallions, finely diced
Handful of cilantro, finely diced
Red pepper flakes
Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder (optional)
Egg roll wrappers
In the morning: In a shallow dish, place ground pork, fish sauce and red pepper flakes to marinate up to 8 hours. I put it in the fridge before work, and take it out when I get home.
Also move egg roll wrappers to fridge, if you had been keeping them in the freezer.
When you get home (or after marinating): Take pork out of fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. Also assemble all remaining ingredients.
In a large, shallow skillet on the stove, add several cups of canola oil (or vegetable oil or peanut oil). I use a shallow skillet, but you can use a wok or large stock pot as well.
Turn heat on low or medium-low, depending on how your stove works.
Now, mush (yes, mush) the marinated pork with the vegetables, add seasonings, a bit more fish sauce and red pepper flakes, and a hit of olive oil if it seems a bit dry to you.
Set up your stations. At the egg roll filling station, you should have: your egg roll wrappers resting under a damp paper towel to keep them pliable; a plate for finished egg rolls; a shallow dish with a beaten egg or egg whites; and your bowl of pork mixture.
At the stove station, you should have: an empty plate with several paper towels on top for the egg rolls after frying; tongs; and your pan of oil safely away from the edge of the stove.
Wrap your egg rolls. Place one egg roll wrapper on a clean, dry area. Adjust it so it looks like a diamond as you look down at it. Place a small amount of the pork mixture in the corner of the diamond closest to you. Roll the corner over the mixture and use it to smoosh (yes, smoosh) the mixture into a straight line. Then roll up like a burrito, folding the sides in as you work to the end. Once at the end, brush on some egg to seal the egg roll. Place on a clean plate and continue until all the egg rolls are finished.
Take the plate of egg rolls to the stove station. Using tongs, place the edge of one egg roll in the oil. If it sizzles lightly, then the oil is ready. If the oil practically jumps out of the pan at you, reduce the heat.
I usually fry about three egg rolls at a time, but it depends on the size of your pan, and your concentration. I only have enough concentration for three egg rolls.
Fry on all sides - about three minutes per side. After 6-8 minutes, the egg rolls are done. They will be a nice tan color - not dark brown.
If this is your first time, you won't have the smell-radar like I do for when the egg roll is done. My suggestion for you is to do just one egg roll, and when you think it is done, drain it on the paper towel and cut it open to make sure it is cooked through. If it is, then you have your time frame.
Place all the fried egg rolls on the paper towel to drain. They will be very hot. I burnt my tongue, not once, but twice.
Assemble the rest of your meal while the egg rolls cool. I like to serve these delights with a simple (or relatively simple) garden salad.
I used chopped, fresh greens from Hattie's Garden, added some diced cucumbers, dried cranberries and a few dabs of goat cheese with a homemade light cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
I also served a peanut dipping sauce, but it wasn't really needed because the egg rolls were so fragrant and perfectly-spiced.