Ever since the NFL football season started, I've been taking advantage of game days by trying my hand at new munchies.
While mixing in the usual suspects - buffalo wings, shrimp kabobs and salsa dips - here and there, I've been expanding my arsenal of culinary techniques by tackling at least one new dish a week. Last Monday it was my all-time favorite Chinese appetizer - the egg roll.
It seemed like a relatively easy process. Roll, fry and eat.
Yet, when I learned the list of ingredients typically packed inside the egg roll dough, I knew I was in for an evening of chopping, slicing and dicing.
My Taste of Home cookbook estimated 25 minutes of prep work and 20 minutes of cooking time for a whopping eight egg rolls.
Of course, I never stick to one single recipe.
Laid out on my kitchen table were two more versions for pork egg rolls - one came in the package of wrapper dough and the other I printed from Allrecipes.com.
In addition to the basic stuffing elements: ground pork, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, green onions, minced garlic, soy sauce and sugar, I threw in a cup of chopped pre-cooked shrimp.
From below the stove I pulled out the largest skillet I could get my hands on and got the pork going over medium heat until the juices ran clear.
Had I put more thought into cutting corners, I would have bought a bag of coleslaw instead of a whole head of cabbage. In that case I needed a box grater, too.
With a wedge of cabbage in my right hand and my left securing the grater, I shredded up and down until my knuckles got too close for comfort.
Turning off the burner, I put the pork in a bowl on standby while I chopped the onions, bean sprouts and garlic before stir-frying.
Like confetti, shreds of cabbage dotted the counter top and floor beneath me. Behind me, dishes were piling up in the kitchen sink. What a mess.
When it came time to add a tablespoon of Chinese rice cooking wine (which you can find in the Asian food aisle of most all grocery stores) to my veggies in the pan, I was stumped.
Does rice wine have to be refrigerated or not? Since I couldn't read the label, and it was my first time using the ingredient, I resorted to a quick Google search. According to About.com, rice wine can be stored in the cupboard.
Next on deck were my egg roll wrappers.
Next to the nutrition facts on the back of the package were detailed illustrations on how to properly wrap the rolls.
You see, there is a certain technique to follow and it begins with folding the bottom corner over the filling (I found keeping a damp paper towel draped over the wrappers helped to separate them without tearing).
It took me a couple of tries before I got a feel for how much filling to stuff inside without it bursting at the seams.
To seal the final corner, the recipe suggested brushing the dough with an egg wash (which is basically a raw scrambled egg mixture) or dampening it with water.
From the batch of filling I used, I came out with 15 egg rolls, which I fried in a cast iron skillet to a golden brown.
For dipping, I cracked open a jar of store-bought sweet-and-sour sauce.
Overall, I'd say my Monday night football fare came close to a touchdown. Crunchy and savory, yet sweet with the sauce.
And, while I didn't need any special kitchen gadgets to pull off a batch of egg rolls, one thing I'd recommend you keep on hand, if you give this recipe a try, is a broom. That is, unless your cabbage came pre-shredded.
Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.