How to Make Spring Rolls

16 01 2013

When I lived in DC, one of my favorite restaurants was Cafe Asia. Pretty much every time I went there I would order their summer rolls: Fresh rolls with shrimp, lettuce, rice noodles, mint leaves & cilantro. They were served with a peanut sauce that was the perfect pair. Now, every time I’m at a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant, I look for fresh rolls or spring rolls on the menu. 🙂

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(old photo from Eating Club, Stuff it!)

I had never attempted to make them at home because I was always a little intimidated by the rice paper. I kinda put it on the same level as filo dough: thin, fragile, and difficult to work with. I decided to face my “fear” and try to make them this week, and I learned that they’re actually quite easy (and fun!) to make. And you can mix and match ’em, filling them with whatever you want!

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So, without further ado, here’s how to make spring rolls!

First, make sure you’ve got the right kind of wrapper for your spring rolls. They should be rice paper wrappers. I almost purchased egg roll wrappers by accident! Here’s the kind I got:

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(found in the “ethnic” aisle at Whole Foods)

Then, I prep your fillings. Cut your veggies, boil the vermicelli noodles, cook your shrimp, etc. You’ll want to have all of this done before you start assembling the rolls. There’s no time to cut up the cukes in the middle of it all!

I wanted to make a vegetarian version, so I cut up a cucumber, an avocado, some cilantro, and some tofu. I also cheated and bought pre-shredded carrots, and a bag of spinach.

veggies for spring rolls

You’ll also want to turn on some water to get hot- warmer than luke warm but definitely not boiling.

Figure out your work space. You’ll need a shallow dish that is big enough to fit the wrappers in, and that should be placed next to where you will be filling and rolling your rolls. And of course, all of your fillings should be easy to reach from your work station.

When everything is prepped, it is time to get to work!

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Fill a shallow dish with about 1/2″ of the hot water. Place the rice paper wrapper in the water for about 20 seconds, or until it becomes pliable. You’ll want to make sure it is nice and soft before you pull it out of the water. When you take it out of the water, don’t just grab the top of the wrapper, but rather use two hands at about 10 and 2 (like driving a car, right?) and spread your fingers some to keep the paper from sticking to itself.
Hold the wrapper above the water for a few seconds to let the water drain, and then lay it down as flat as you can on your work surface.

Now it’s time for the fun part! Stuff the roll with whatever toppings you want! Lay the toppings about 2 inches or so from the side of the wrapper closest to you.

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Fold the side closest to you over all of the toppings, and then pull in the two sides, as you roll it up! Repeat as necessary. 🙂

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I served mine with Mama Pea’s Peanut Mmm Sauce, and it went perfectly!

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So, if you were ever wanted to try making some spring rolls at home, go out there and do it!

 

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How I Prepared My First Thanksgiving Turkey

30 11 2012

Vegetarians beware: this post contains some explicit pictures of raw turkey.

I know this is quite a bit late, but I figured I’d share my experience in preparing my first ever turkey. I hope it might serve as a good “how to” for some first time turkey cookers.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Before I got my hands on (and in) a turkey, I did some research. I spent a few days googling “How to roast a turkey” and reading the latest Food Network Magazine and the little Thanksgiving handout from Williams Sonoma. I also was curious about brining, so I read up on that too. The Serious Eats Food Lab had a really interesting article about the science behind brining. It was a little too detailed, but I did pick up on a few things.

Anywho- my indecisiveness paired with my desire for perfection caused me to flip flop between whether or not I was going to brine or not brine. In the end, decided to go for it.

I loosely followed The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for her favorite turkey brine. Man, did it fill the house with a wonderful aroma! I started this several hours before I went to bed on Wednesday night because the brine needed to come to a boil and then cool completely before sticking the turkey in.

Note: if you are going to brine a turkey, use a fresh turkey and make sure it hasn’t been pumped full of sodium already! I’ve read too much Michael Pollan and watched too many food documentaries to buy one of the run of the mill Butterballs, so I opted to spend a little extra money on a free range, organic turkey. Worth it? I dunno, I’ll just tell myself it was.

(um not sure what is up with my eyes/eyebrows in this picture…)

Next came the icky part- finding the giblets and such and pulling them out from inside the turkey. I rinsed the bird and then dug in.

Don’t forget to check both openings of the turkey! I made that mistake and only checked the obvious opening. I didn’t realize they might have stuffed the other end with the bag of innards until after I talked to my mom, when the bird was already brining in the fridge. Whoops.

I used one of those oven bags and filled it with the brine and turkey, wrapped it up tight, stuck it in a bowl and put it in the fridge to brine overnight. I think it may be possible to overbrine the turkey by letting it soak for several days. My turkey brined for about 14 hours.

Thanksgiving is all about backwards planning, starting with the time you want to eat, and then calculating how long it will take to prepare the bird, including the brining, the resting, the cooking, and more resting. (Not to mention figuring out when to cook the sides when the oven is monopolized by the turkey!) My bird was 10.8 pounds so I was guessing it would take close to 3 hours to cook since I was going to stuff it. I wanted to let it rest for about 30 minutes before putting it in the oven and I needed to let it rest about 30 minutes after it came out of the oven, so I took it out of the refrigerator about 4 hours before the planned meal time.

While it was resting, I prepared my stuffing.

I didn’t really follow a recipe, but here’s what I used: 1 roll of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage, 1 onion, ~8 celery stalks, 1 loaf stale German Dark Wheat Bread, 1 Braeburn Apple, fresh Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Salt, Pepper to taste.

I patted the turkey dry and filled the it with the stuffing.

My turkey came pre-trussed, but if yours isn’t, just use some twine and tie together the legs.

I filled all of the crevasses I could with stuffing, and let it overflow a little. Once stuffed, I buttered and seasoned the turkey all over. I probably could have used more butter, but oh well!

Now it was ready for the oven!

Well, almost. Before sticking it in the oven, butter a piece of foil that will fit on top of all the stuffing. Put it butter-side down onto the stuffing so that it doesn’t burn.

It’s also worth noting here that a lot of what I’ll call “purists” shy away from stuffing the turkey, and instead make the dressing on the side. Stuffing the bird prevents it from cooking as evenly, and you need to be extra careful that the stuffing is at least 165ºF so no one gets sick.

I popped it in the oven at 400ºF for the first 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 325ºF for the remainder of the cooking time.

Not gonna lie, I was a little lot worried out when I pulled it out at 30 minutes at the tips of the wings were already a dark brown and clearly crispy. But Bill assured me it would be okay and that no one really eats the wings anyhow:-)

I basted the turkey every 30 minutes with a mixture of butter and chicken broth. I think I might have been doing something wrong because I always expected to baste the turkey with drippings in the pan. But every time I pulled the bird out, there was just some pieces of the turkey browning on the bottom, no juices…

3 hours later, my first turkey was done!

Not quite as photogenic as I would have liked, but it will do!

Carved and plated was much prettier:

I’d say this turkey was a success! The meat was juicy and flavorful. I definitely think the brine helped! The stuffing was delicious and I made a flavorful gravy with the pan drippings. (Side note: I unstuffed the bird and put the stuffing in an oven-safe pan and threw it back in the oven, just to make sure any contaminants were cooked off.) What a great meal!

I was a little intimidated by the whole process going into the holiday, but when it was all said and done, it wasn’t all that bad. Sure it’s a pretty labor intensive process, but I love being in the kitchen, so I didn’t mind it.

Now that I’ve got one under my belt, I’m ready (well, maybe not until next Thanksgiving) to tackle another one, and make it even better next time!





Mom’s Applesauce

17 10 2011

Hey 321delish readers! My vacation has arrived! Right now I’m somewhere out at sea…or already on the beach with a tropical drink! 🙂

Today I have a very special post for you, written by my mom! She’s been making applesauce in the fall for as long as I can remember, and it is TASTY! She wrote up a great “How to” post so you can make it too!

Enjoy!

What equipment do you need to make applesauce?
Either a Foley Food Mill or a Victorio Strainer, pint size canning jars, lids and rims pot for your applesauce to cook in, a canning pot and sugar.

What apples do you use to make applesauce?
The internet says to use naturally sweet apples: Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Winesap, McIntosh, Yellow Delicious or Mutsu, but never use just one kind.
I prefer to use McIntosh because they are softer and take less, if any sugar. The apples I used to make the applesauce below were Jonathan and Winesap.

How to:

Step 1:  Wash and scrub the apples and the canning jars.

Step 2:  Cut and core the apples.  It is best to at least quarter the apples then make thin slices all the way across the quarter to help the apple to cook faster.


Step 3: Cook the apples with a little water until they are soft.
Step 4:  When the apples are done put them through a Victorio Strainer like below where cooked apples are placed in top, apple skins go in a bowl and applesauce comes out in another bowl.

Step 5:  Pour the applesauce into a pot and cook on low heat, stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.  Also at this point taste the sauce to see if you need to add sugar.  When it is almost done, get your jars and lids hot.


Step 6: When everything is hot, pour sauce in hot jar

slide a knife all around the inside edges to get out air bubbles,

wipe off the outside and rim of jar,

place lid and then rim on jar and tighten

and place in water bath.

Cook for 20 to 25 minutes.  Take the jars out and place them on a cooling rack for 24 hours.  Then you can take the rim off or leave on.  I like to freeze mine, but you can just put them on a shelf.

Question of the day: Have you ever made applesauce or tried canning? Tell me about it!