I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. For me, they are usually a long list of things I think I ought to do instead of the things that actually get done. The notable exception to this is the year I resolved to pair up socks before putting them away. Totally manageable, and not so hard to achieve and repeat. So this year, instead of making a resolution that is hard to set into regular action, I’ve decided to give myself a challenge. Introducing, the 2012 10 Food Challenge. My goal is to make my way through the following two lists.
Six Items I’ve Never Made Before:
1. Beef Wellington
2. Spring Rolls
3. Non-Dairy Banana Cream Pie
4. Sunday Gravy
5. Spatchcocked Chicken
Four Items, A Search for the Ultimate Recipe:
1. Hamburger Buns
2. Pizza Crust
3. Pizza Sauce
4. Italian Sausage, for Pizza
I’m worried about some of these more than others. To start, I decided to tackle Spring Rolls – manageable ingredient list, not a ton of prep, and something my family will eat.
Turns out, Spring Rolls are not that hard at all. Most of the ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble. To me, this is a big deal. Most nights the time between when I start cooking and when we eat is pretty short, so if I can have most of the work done ahead of time it makes dinner much less stressful. One other thing I really liked about this recipe is that since each one is assembled separately, it makes customizing the spring rolls to the palate of the eater super easy. For example, Sophie hates shrimp and cilantro and carrots and cucumbers, so I made hers without those items. Martin hates rice wrappers, so he ate chicken and cucumbers while his Party Pizza was baking in the oven. Please note: Party Pizzas are not in the ingredient list for this recipe, but it never hurts to have one on hand.
The thing that kept me from making Spring Rolls for so long is the rice wrapper. How would I know when it was soft enough? Could I assemble them without tearing the wrapper? Would they hold together? Like many things in life, I worried about this far too much. Rice wrappers come in a package that looks a bit like a frisbee, and a quick soak in hot water is all it takes to turn the disk into a pliable wrapper. For me, this transformation took about 15 seconds (longer as the water cooled). I placed the soft wrapper on a flat surface, lined the ingredients in the middle, and folded over the top and bottom (see above). Then, folded one long end completely over the ingredients in the middle and tucked and rolled until I reached the end. I had a one roll learning curve to assembly confidence.
There are lots of variations on Spring Rolls, and this one is most like the Vietnamese variety. However, I added more vegetables, and adjusted the sauce to be more like the one served at a nearby Thai restaurant. So while not totally traditional, we thought they were delicious. I think it is a very flexible recipe – feel free to add other vegetables, use beef or pork, or omit meat for a vegetarian roll. As long as the ingredients are cut into strips and are cooked, it should work just fine.
1/4 c. water
2 T. lime juice
2 T. sugar
1 T. fish sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. sriracha
1/4 t. chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. chicken breast
1 oz. bean vermicelli
8 medium-sized shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, halved lengthwise
2 c. lettuce, shredded
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 c. carrots, julienned
1/4 c. cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 rice wrappers
Place all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped and everything is incorporated. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
Cook chicken breast in a pot of boiling water for 5-7 minutes until fully cooked. Remove and shred or cut into thin strips, set aside. In still boiling water, add bean vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes. Remove and drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
Prep all other ingredients and set up like an assembly line.
Add very hot tap water to a large bowl. Take one rice wrapper and place in the hot water and move it around so that it is fully coated. The rice wrapper will begin to soften. Remove the rice wrapper once it is just soft enough (a bit stretchy, flexible, but just before it starts to tear). When the water is hot, this takes about 15 seconds, and a bit longer as the water cools. Place the wrapper on a flat surface and add little bits of ingredients to the center. Fold down the top and bottom sides, then fold over one remaining side to completely cover the ingredients. Tucking as you go, roll as tightly as you can without tearing the wrapper.
Repeat with remaining rolls. Serve with a side of sauce.
Estimated calories: 106 cal/serving
Print it: Spring Rolls
– Feeling nervous about the assembly part? I was. Until I watched this, then I felt ready to give it a go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw-7pYq7wSc