(Feb. 22, 2019) If you were to ask the question, “What is a chef,” most people would respond that it is someone who cooks.
But just as one accepts certainty and the connotations associated with it, the inevitable happens and there are exceptions to the rule.
Food preparation is a topic of many themes, and to limit a chef’s profession to cookery alone inhibits the flow of progression.
For example, when I am preparing a particular dish, I am focused on the presentation just as much as the flavors. Keep in mind, a cook is not only a chef but he or she is also an artist.
I also relish the thought of entertaining and am always exploring new ways to make my festive occasions more memorable.
Great tasting dishes are imperative for success but attainment is not confined to the boundaries of a kitchen. Anyone who has ever planned a party knows exactly what I am talking about.
History and science are fascinating and are an intricate part of culinary conception. An understanding of these topics increases a cook’s knowledge which affects the overall dish.
That being said, first impressions are lasting impressions and it is imperative to take advantage of every little detail. Gorgeous spring rolls are a delicious meal and a great way to impress your guests. A few pointers simplify and facilitate this Asian tradition.
Spring rolls can be fresh or fried; we will be concentrating on the fresh version. The beauty of rolling your own spring rolls is that you can customize them to any flavor profile you desire.
Mise en place is a French term meaning “putting in place.” Before you start to roll your spring rolls, it is imperative all of your ingredients are washed, cut and prepped. In other words, your work area is completely set up and everything is ready to go.
Mise en place is a good idea no matter what you are preparing, but it is especially important when rolling fresh spring rolls.
You can use any combination of vegetables you want, there is no set recipe. However, keep in mind that it is important to incorporate some crisp vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, or radishes. This will add texture to your roll but more importantly, they will serve as the backbone of your spring roll and keep them from folding over.
Select a bowl that is large enough to submerge your sheet of rice paper into the liquid without bending it.
Fill the bowl with 1-2 inches of warm water. Slide the rice paper into the water, gently rotating the sheet with your hands for a few seconds to wet both sides.
Let rice paper stand until completely pliable and slightly sticky. Remove the rice paper and blot with a damp tea towel.
Place approximately 1 cup of finely cut vegetables and shrimp in the center of the wrap. Fold over the bottom and sides toward the center of the wrap. Then, finish by rolling the wrap. The rice paper will be sticky and will self-seal itself. It’s that easy.
The rice paper sheets that hold the filling are translucent which facilitates a stunning appearance. Just remember, the bottom of the roll will eventually be the top, so make sure the filling is beautifully arranged.
Shrimp spring rolls are healthy and fun to make. You can even set up a buffet so family and guests can customize their own. Enjoy and allow the artist in you create your own, unique spring roll.
Shrimp Spring Roll
1 (6.75-ounce) package uncooked rice stick noodles
16 (8 ¼-inch) round rice paper sheets
3 to 4 cups red leaf or butter lettuce
1 bunch of fresh herbs such as cilantro, Thai basil, or mint
2 medium carrots, peeled, ends removed, and cut into matchsticks
5 mini cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
5 radishes, sliced very thinly
6 ounces fresh bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, stems removed, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
24 medium peeled, deveined, cooked shrimp, cut lengthwise
1. Boil rice stick noodles according to the directions on the package. Set aside.
2. Wash herbs and vegetables; then cut according to instructions.
3. Soak rice paper in warm water until pliable and slightly sticky.
4. Artistically place 1 cup of filling in the center of the rice paper. Fold the bottom and sides toward the center of the wrap. Roll up the wrap, seam side faces the plate.
5. Rolls can be served whole or cut in half at an angle.
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
½ cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons grated carrot
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
several pinches of black sesame seeds
½ scallion, thinly sliced
1 thinly sliced unseeded serrano chili (optional)
1. Combine all the ingredients. If necessary, adjust ingredients according to personal preference.
* The recipe for the Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce is taken from the February issue of Food and Wine magazine.
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