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Thomas The Accidental Gourmet

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pork Spring Rolls--Another way to eat the other white meat

My family is from the south, and my folks grew up in the post-depression era. Maybe that's why they always have a full pantry and freezer. Whatever the reason, I inherited that habit, and if I find a good deal at the store, I can't resist it.

Which is how we came to have 14 pounds of pork loin chops in our freezer (who can resist "buy one 'family size' package, get two free"?). Now, pork loin chops for about a dollar per pound is a great deal. 14 pounds of chops in the freezer, however, presents a challenge. After all, there's only so many different ways to cook pork chops, and then it starts to get boring.

So, we've been experimenting. Our latest foray was to try to make spring rolls. Took about 20 minutes start to finish.

Pork Spring Rolls

What you need:

Spring roll wrappers.


2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
10 ounces of pork (I used two pork chops), cubed into 1/4 to 1/2 inch
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 serrano (or similar chili--Thai pepper will be significantly hotter, so bear that in mind if you go that route)
1 tbsp onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger

Veggies (cooked):
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup each of carrots, celery and bell pepper (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 cup thinly-sliced napa cabbage (also called Chinese cabbage)

Veggies (raw):
1/4 cup cilantro (coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup pea shoots
2 water chestnuts (thinly sliced)

What to do with it:

Prep everything before you start cooking. The actual cooking time is around 6-8 minutes.

In a skillet about 10 inch round, place 1/4 inch water and heat until warm. Leave on stove.


Cover the pork with the spices.

In a separate skillet, combine the olive oil and sesame oil with the garlic and heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to turn brown. Remove the garlic and add the pork. Saute for about 2 minutes, then add the onions , ginger and peppers. Saute for another 4-6 minutes.


While the pork is cooking, in another pan combine the oil and soy sauce over medium heat. Drop in the hard vegetables for about three minutes (you want them still quite firm). Remove and drop in the cabbage for a minute, moving constantly (you want it only slightly wilted).

Now the fun begins. Place a spring roll wrapper in the water. The instructions on my box say to leave it in about 3 seconds. I found 5-8 worked better. Either way, don't leave it in until it's "done," because then it will just shred on your plate. It should still be firm when you pull it from the water (it will get more pliable).

Put the wrapper on a plate and dish out some veggies (raw and cooked) and meat. Roll it like you would a tortilla, but close both ends. So, if your food cuts across the diameter of the wrapper like this: (-----), you're going to fold the ends over thusly: )---( and then roll.

Mix up some Sriracha and soy sauce, or Chinese mustard and teriyaki, or peanut sauce, or whatever floats your boat for dipping. Consider adding mushrooms to the cooked vegetables and lemon grass to the raw vegetables and substituting watercress or bean sprouts for the pea shoots. You could also make this with chicken (maybe cook a minute longer) or shrimp (cook a couple minutes less).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fresh Salsa (Because life is too short for Pace)

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: hungarian wax peppers and banana peppers look very similar.

Another fact with which you may not be familiar: the hungarian wax pepper has about the same scoville scale rating as a jalapeno, whereas the banana pepper is more akin to a pimento. If you confuse the two, you're in for a surprise.

Recently, my parents bought a bag of what they thought were banana peppers. I thought they weren't. So, being the good son that I am, I asked my wife to try one. She took a small bite, and pronounced them banana peppers. I took a significantly larger bite, and then drank a lot of beer. Definitely NOT banana peppers.

Fortunately, the folks had also bought a bag of roma tomatoes. Best of all, my dad has a cage for the rotisserie for roasting veggies. So we had something to do with the peppers.

Fresh Salsa

What you need:

6 roma tomatoes
1/2 large red onion (or a regular white onion, though I prefer red)
2-4 serrano peppers, depending on your heat tolerance (jalapenos or hungarian wax peppers also work)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2-4 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime

What to do with it:

Roast the peppers and tomatoes. If you're lucky enough to have a cage, do them over coals or a flame. Otherwise, use a cast iron skillet. Roast them until the skin is blackened in places (not necessarily all over).

Cut off the stems of the peppers and the stem end of the tomatoes, then drop them in a food processor or blender, skins, seeds and all. Quarter the onion, and add as well, along with the lime juice. Smash your garlic cloves under a knife and mince. Add that and the cilantro, then blend. Now start adding the cumin and salt (this is a "to taste" kind of thing).

If you find the salsa too mild, you can always chop up another serrano and blend it in. Too hot? I haven't the slightest idea (my salsa has 4-5 peppers), but I suppose adding another tomato might take some of the bite out.