It was always a pretty scary proposition when my kids came onto the show to cook with me when they were young. Unlike almost all of my other guests, they were not chefs, or grown-ups, or practiced television performers. They were sweet and funny, of course, but they were children, and unpredictable, which is to say unscriptable, and that can be nerve racking.
We developed this recipe in anticipation of one of those shows. I tried to think of all their favorite foods and what they might enjoy preparing as well as eating. Chinese egg rolls seemed like a good idea at first, but egg rolls are deep-fried and we were not about to fire up a pot of hot oil with the kids around. Our solution was to develop a lighter version, in which the egg rolls are sautéed with just a little oil in a nonstick pan. We put in all the ingredients from the original recipe and the kids just loved them—and loved making them, too.
This was a very pleasant surprise. I had made healthy homemade versions of some of their fast food faves, but somehow my lovingly prepared macaroni and cheese, pizza, and baked coated chicken tenders just couldn’t compete with mac and cheese from the box, pizza from the shop on the corner, and those insidious little brand-name chicken nuggets.
After that show I perfected the recipe and made it many times with my children and their cousins, Katie and Peter, now all grown up. These egg rolls make great hors d’oeuvres for kids and grown-ups alike. If you make a double batch, you can freeze half for the next time. But when the time comes, don’t bother to defrost them first. Cook them straight out of the freezer, giving them just a little extra time in the pan.
For the Egg Rolls:
1/4 cup olive oil
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
One 1/2-pound boneless pork chop, cut into thin strips
2 scallions, white and 1 inch of the green parts, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup thinly sliced napa cabbage
1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
30 square wonton wrappers*
For the dipping sauce:
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil*
2 teaspoons sugar
Makes 30 egg rolls
To make the eggrolls, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the pork and stir until it turns white, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and set aside. Add the scallions, carrot, and red pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, stock, and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet and let the contents of the skillet cool to room temperature. You should have about 2 cups.
Lay the wrappers flat on a work surface. Brush the edges lightly with water. Top with about 1 tablespoon of the filling and roll unto a cylinder, tucking in the sides and pressing the edges to seal. (The egg rolls can be frozen at this point.) Heat the remaining olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, add the rolls and cook, turning often with tongs, until golden brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
To make the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar in a small bowl. Stir well and serve on the side with the rolls.
* Wonton wrappers are found in Asian markets, natural foods markets, and the freezer section of supermarkets. Toasted sesame oil is found in Asian markets and the International section of supermarkets.