Confession No. 42 — There are lessons to be learned from eggrolls
I’ll say one thing about my wife. She’s the epitome of consistency. I don’t know how she does it, except that maybe she’s also honest — to a fault.
If you have ever read about the sauerbraten incident, this story belongs in the same chapter. This time, however, I was on the receiving end of some brutal honesty.
It was some time in 1995 or 1996. I decided to make homemade Chinese-style eggrolls. I’d made them many times to very positive reviews. These were nothing special as far as ingredients — just the standard cabbage, carrots, garlic, sprouts, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts — along with baby shrimp and some roasted pork.
But the production is something akin to making homemade tamales. You have to prepare the various filling ingredients; combine them (or not); get your beaten eggs and wrappers ready; heat your oil; and rock and roll. Like tamales, homemade eggrolls are not a make-them-for-one-meal thing. It’s a project.
On second thought, the ingredients are special. Why? Because the ingredients in my Chinese-style eggrolls are allowed to stand out, versus the black pepper or ginger-flavored versions you find in your grocer’s freezer, or at your local Chinese buffet. Oh, I use ginger and other spices in my recipe, but my Chinese-style eggrolls are so good that you don’t even need dipping sauce. Unless you ask my wife.
I’d been chopping and mixing, rolling and frying for at least a few hours when Catherine walked through the front door. Sitting on the edge of the counter was a baking pan with dozens of golden eggrolls stacked in a pyramid. Most of them would be cooled and placed in the freezer to enjoy later. But the prettiest Chinese-style eggroll — which I’d already set aside — would go to the love of my life.
“Looks like you’ve been making eggrolls,” she said.
“Just about all day,” I replied. “And these are so worth it. They are the best eggrolls you’ll ever eat.”
So, I dropped her eggroll back into the wok for a few seconds, then set it to drain and cool slightly. I’d also made her some homemade duck sauce using apricot preserves, cilantro, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. She didn’t need the dipping sauce, but I wanted to make my point as a cook.
She dipped her eggroll in the sauce and took a bite.
“Well? What do you think?”
“Mmm,” she said, chewing. “Good.”
Her ‘good’ wasn’t the sound of ‘Wow!’ good. It was more the tone you hear when that person has doubts — just this side of being a question, instead of a statement. I was insulted and devastated.
“Good? Is that all? It’s just good?” I asked.
And then she said the one thing that no guy ever wants to hear — no matter what the woman is talking about.
“Yours aren’t the best I’ve ever had, but they are good eggrolls.”
“Damnit, Catherine! You have to be kidding, or your tastebuds have some major growing up to do. What are the best eggrolls you’ve ever had?”
“I don’t know Adam,” she replied. “Don’t be so be so insulted. These are good. OK?”
As my rage grew, I grabbed the large pan of eggrolls and shoved them into the trash. I then gave her my dirtiest look, and stormed from the kitchen. Much of the discussion that immediately followed is not fit for print. Besides, I came up on the losing end of that little talk — and my eggrolls were gone.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this story. Fortunately, we learned them. For me, it was accepting that someone else might not consider my eggrolls to be the best. I say, to hell with them.
My wife’s lesson: You might have to lie to Adam about his food, else he could waste $50 in ingredients acting like a spoiled child.
I had planned to unveil my recipe for the best eggrolls ever, but it turned out to be a salad weekend. No, I’m not actively trying to improve my health. It was just that temperatures were in the 90s and I was swinging a sledgehammer for a few hours. Furthermore, construction continued on our soon-to-be new kitchen, and there was nary a place to work. The salad below was inspired by a similar bowl of greens I had at Copeland’s (Louisiana) a few years ago. It is only salad that I’ve ever ordered as a meal. My version uses my own Louis Dressing concoction, which is not too different from the original.
Shrimp & Avocado Salad
w/ Crab Croutons
6-8 cups – Romaine (or other) lettuce, torn
1 small – Purple onion, sliced
1 can – Large pitted Black Olives, sliced
2 – Avocados, sliced or chunked
15-20 – Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb. – Boiled or Poached Shrimp, peeled and deveined*
8 oz. – Crab meat, picked
1 egg – beaten, seasoned with black pepper to taste
1 cup – Panko crumbs, ground fine
Vegetable oil, for frying
Southwestern-style Louis Dressing
Preheat oil to 360-375F. Mix the egg and the crabmeat well. Place mixture in a strainer so that excess egg is removed. Sprinkle Panko crumbs over mixture and toss with your fingers, separating the crab pieces. Fry for about 1 minute — just long enough to achieve golden brown color. Remove from oil, place on paper plate and set aside while you are assembling salads.
Assemble the Salads
In a large separate bowl, toss greens with about 1/4 cup Southwestern-style Louis Dressing. Place equal amounts of coated greens into 5-6 wide bowls.
Toss shrimp in bowl used to toss greens, adding a little extra dressing, if necessary.
To each bowl of greens, add avocados, onion, tomatoes, black olives and shrimp, as desired. Top with crab croutons.
* The May edition of Southern Living Magazine offers a how-to for poached shrimp. If you don’t have access to the magazine, it basically involves bringing seasoned water to a boil, turning off and removing from heat, adding raw shrimp and covering for five minutes. Once all shrimp is pink, drain and place in ice water.
Southwestern-style Louis Dressing
1 1/2 cups – Mayonnaise
1/4 cup – Mild salsa
3 Tablespoons – Green onions, minced (include some green tops)
1/2 – Fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
1 Tablespoon – Lemon juice
1 teaspoon – Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon – Louisiana-style hot pepper sauce
Combine ingredients in a blender. Mixture should be smooth. Can be kept in refrigerator for 2-3 days, covered.