Two years ago, I posted a recipe for baked spring rolls on foodiePrints. Today, recessionary pressures are making cooks and chef’s a like re-evaluate their approach to food. Frugal cuisine is again becoming popular, so I decided to revisit the baked spring roll.
According to the Ottawa Citizen’s Ron Eade and chef/owner Derek Benitz of the Benitz Bistro,
it comes down to attitude and your approach in the kitchen. Canadians have a pretty thrifty attitude to cooking, but a little guidance can help. At the end of the day, it comes down to reducing waste to one garbage bag a day at our restaurant…
During a recession, the amount of garbage thrown out can make the difference between a restaurant succeeding or failing. Chef Benitz extols the virtues of using left overs, trimmings, and odds and ends to add flavor and variety.
Like Chef Benitz, I like to cook and eat “nose to tail.” Very little in my kitchen goes to waste, even leftovers. This is where baked spring rolls come in. They allow me to mix together odds and ends to make an easily portable confection. Borrowing from Mexican cuisine, leftover fried rice, bolstered with meat stripped from a roast, has even found its way into an Asian-take on the burrito.
Disastrous Baked Spring Rolls
In the past, I’ve used an egg wash to crisp up and colour the spring rolls during baking. That stopped when this happened:
When baked at 350 F, this batch of spring rolls somehow formed a dry pasta-like shell.
The batch came from a forgotten pack of spring roll wrappers that I found in the freezer. Freezer burn had set in so, when the wrappers defrosted, I had to soak each in egg to soften the wrappers enough to work with. The resultant spring rolls came out surprisingly inedible, considering that I’ve soaked old spring rolls wrappers in egg before.
I guess soaking the wrappers and then brushing them again with egg wash was just too much. Perhaps, replacing lost moisture with egg caused the wrappers to take on some protein that toughened when baked.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only lesson I took away from this disastrous batch of spring rolls.
If you’re going to include lettuce as filling for a spring roll, do not pre-cook it. Unlike spring onions (aka: scallions), lettuce loses its colour and takes on an unhealthy yellow hue when baked in a spring roll.
Fool-Proof Baked Spring Rolls
Here’s the solution my better half came up with to avoid the shellac problem: brush the spring rolls with oil.
This particular batch was the result of my cleaning out leftover vegetables from the fridge one Sunday afternoon. It came out very crispy.
For the filling, 2 large Spanish onions, 2 red bell peppers, and 4 stalks of celery were finely chopped and then sweated in a tbsp of olive oil and a generous pinch of kosher salt on medium heat. Once the vegetation was translucent and any emergent liquid was cooked out, it was taken off the heat and left to cool in a mixing bowl. Approximately, a cup of chopped leftover pernil (Puerto Rican slow roasted pork) was then added to the chopped vegetables along with a cup of flat leaf parsley leaves and 2/3 cup of breadcrumbs. Why breadcrumbs? I wanted something to soak up any liquid from the filling should any juices emerge from the meat during baking. It is the same reason that breadcrumbs are added to a meat loaf.
2 tbsp of filling was then stuffed into spring roll wrappers.
Jenn brushed each side with canola oil and broiled the spring rolls on racks in the toaster oven for 15 minutes on each side.
Given that spring rolls are supposed to be deep fried, brushing the wrappers with oil caused them to crisp under the broiler and take on more of their traditional texture. That is, without the trouble to putting a heavy dutch oven on a burner and watching over a very large vat of high smoke point oil.
And, to address an oversight in my original baked spring roll entry, here’s how you wrap a spring roll:
Spring roll wrappers can be found in most local mega marts alongside North American wonton wrappers. Me, I head to my local Asian supermarket.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve entered the world of homemade spring rolls. Now you’ve no excuse to let those leftovers go to waste.