Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spring into spring rolls!

I am so susceptible to suggestion when it comes to cooking. If I see something prepared on t.v. that looks good, I sprint to the kitchen immediately to try to recreate it. So when my friend, Mike, made spring rolls and posted a pic to Facebook recently, I had no choice but to make spring rolls of my own. And since it seems like spring has FINALLY come after the world's longest winter, what better thing to make as an homage to the season than spring rolls?

I used Alton Brown's recipe, and I followed it pretty closely, except that I mixed all of the filling ingredients together like a noodle salad of sorts, and then filled the wrappers. Spring rolls may seems intimidating, but they aren't that hard to make. However, I have two pieces of advice to help your learn from my mistakes. First, DON'T overfill the wrappers (as pictured below) or they will explode and make a big old mess--albeit a tasty one--when you try to eat them. Also, don't place the finished rolls on unlined plate or tray as you're making them. As they sit there, they will glue themselves to the surface, and you'll have a devil of a time picking them up without them splitting and, once again, exploding. That's where the lettuce leaves come it. Lay them out on your plate or tray and set a roll inside each leaf as you go, then roll up and devour!

Thai Shrimp Spring Rolls
(Source: Alton Brown via Food Network)

5 ounces thin rice stick noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 pound unpeeled large shrimp
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sambal chili paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (I omitted the mint, as I don't dig it)
12 (8 1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
12 leaves Bibb, Boston, or other soft lettuce

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Soak the rice sticks in enough hot water to cover by 1 inch for 15 minutes.

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil in a large pot set over high heat. Add one tablespoon soy sauce. Add the shrimp and cook until just firm, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cooked shrimp to a cutting board and cool for three minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel, devein, and coarsely chop. Set aside.

Return the water-soy sauce to a boil. Drain the rice stick noodles and add to the hot soy-water. Cook until tender, approximately three minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, remaining one tablespoon soy sauce, chili paste, and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl.

Drain the noodles in a colander. Add the noodles to the lime juice mixture, toss, and set aside while preparing the vegetables.

Toss the cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and mint (if using) together in a small bowl. Transfer any unabsorbed liquid from the noodles to the cucumber mixture and toss to combine.

Cut the noodles into small 1 to 2-inch pieces with kitchen shears.

Fill a pie dish with warm water. Dip one rice paper wrapper into the water for 10 seconds, then transfer to a cutting board until the wrapper is pliable and slightly tacky, approximately one minute.

Place 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture on the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper nearest to you. Spoon two tablespoons chopped shrimp on top of the vegetables. Top with 1/4 cup noodles. Bring the bottom edge of the wrap tightly over the filling, and then fold in the two sides. Finish rolling from bottom to top until the entire wrapper is rolled. Be careful not to tear the rice paper. Place on a parchment-lined half sheet pan and cover with a damp tea towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers until the filling is gone. Wrap each roll in a lettuce leaf and serve with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce:
Add all of the ingredients to a lidded jar and shake well to combine. Serve as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.

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