Wow. If 54 degrees and sunny isn’t enough to remind me that spring is almost here, than I don’t know what is. Days like today make it possible for me to trudge through those last few gray, rainy, slushy months without despairing. Plus, I love being able to crack the windows just a bit so I can breathe in some fresh air throughout the day.
And my recipe for today is spring rolls! Is that perfect or what? Fritz and I made these little gems together as part of our Valentine’s day dinner, and I’m so excited to share the recipe. It’s not nearly as complex as I thought, and by baking them instead of deep-frying, they are good for you as well as delicious. Perfection.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls (from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 4 oz peeled shrimp, finely chopped (about 3/4 C)
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 C shredded carrot
- 1 oz cellophane noodles (a little over 1/2 C)
- 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T Vietnamese fish sauce
- spring roll wrappers (we used about 20)
Before starting, take out 1 oz of the cellophane noodles and soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes. When they’re ready, drain them and cut into 1″ lengths with scissors.
Fritz and I ran out to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, and when we looked at the meat prices, there was a sale on pork chops and not on ground pork. So what’s a girl to do?
Luckily, this particular girl has parents who recently bought her the meat grinder attachment for her KitchenAid for no reason other than that they love her (I probably would have bought pork chops to grind even if they were more expensive just to try the thing out)! It’s just an added benefit that it was cheaper and I got to cut off the extra fat and have truly lean ground pork.
Fritz made me promise not to post a picture of the meat grinder in action, because it looks really gross (think: the demon barber of Fleet Street). It literally took three minutes to set up, grind the meat, and take it back apart.
Anyway, back to the recipe. Combine the ground pork, shrimp, onion, garlic, shallots, carrot, noodles, pepper, and fish sauce into a bowl and mix.
Now it’s time to set up your rolling station.
You need a dish that can fit the spring roll wrappers, filled with an inch or two of warm water. Lay a damp dish towel flat on the table, and cover a baking sheet with another damp towel. You’ll roll the wrappers on the first towel. The wrappers are very fragile when wet, so you have to move carefully and cover the finished rolls with the second towel while you make more.
With dry hands (you don’t want the others to start sticking together), pick up a spring roll wrapper and hold it under the water until it softens, a few seconds. Gently lay the wrapper on the damp towel, and spoon a generous tablespoonful of filling in a 2″ line on the side closest you. Fold the closest edge over the filling, then the right and left sides, and roll it up tightly.
Place seam-side down on a baking sheet and cover with the damp towel. Repeat until you run out of filling.
Preheat the oven to 350, and bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, until browned. Flip over about halfway through.
Arrange these beauties on a plate, and try not to dive in immediately. If you have some leftover sauces from the last time you had Chinese take-out. this might be a good time to use ’em.
I love cooking on the weekend, because you get beautiful daylight-colored photos…not to mention there’s no rush to get dinner on the table because you just had school and now you have to get to the gym or go grocery shopping or–yes. Weekend cooking is the best.
Have a beautiful day! I hope this warm air inspires you as much as it does me.
As a side note, my lovely friend Breanna is running NYC’s Half-Marathon on a Team for Kids fighting childhood obesity. It’s coming up soon, and if you have any spare cash lying around, she could use the fundraising help. I am very passionate about this cause myself and whole-heartedly encourage you to donate if you can. Every dollar helps! Click here to donate on her page.