Ladies and gentlemen, clean out the pantry cabinets 2011 continues. It’s not sexy, glamorous or all that exciting, but I know it’s a dilemma you face, too. After Ryan and I came home from the farmers’ market this afternoon and carefully tucked away the largest, most fragrant bunch of cilantro I have ever laid eyes on, I took stock of what lurked in the back corners of the freezer and pantry. A forlorn frozen chicken breast and unlabeled package of rice noodles seemed the perfect palate to create a light dinner involving plenty of cilantro.
After only a few minutes of meticulous chopping and a quick stir fry of chicken, ginger, garlic and mushrooms, these little guys were ready to roll. Spring roll wrappers are a marvelous thing — they can be deep fried, or become mailable after a 20 second soak in hot tap water. Like plastic wrap, the rolls like sticking to themselves, so any qualms about the rolls falling apart mid bite are quickly quelled.
Truth be told, I haven’t cooked dinner at home in over a week, as errands and socializing have taken me away from my tiny kitchen again and again. I still can’t muster the strength to turn on the oven even though the weather has been unexpectedly cool but after a perfect morning walking the stalls of the market and dreaming of bigger kitchens with fancy appliances I came home and felt perfectly at home in my own kitchen. We made quick work of these spring rolls, any hope I had of taking the leftovers into work tomorrow vanished after the first bite. But, I can see this spring roll recipe serving as the base for other clean out the fridge late nights — extra cooked meat and bits of chopped vegetables make a surprisingly satisfying meal once wrapped tight in a clear sheet of tapioca flour. Wonders never cease.
8 ounces dried skinny rice or mung bean noodles
vegetable or peanut oil
7oz (give or take) chicken breast, cut into very thin slices
4 dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, half sliced into matchsticks and half finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
12 large spring roll wrappers
1 small bunch mint, leaves plucked
1 small bunch basil, leaves plucked
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves removed
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, very thinly sliced (optional)
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 green onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
Boil a medium saucepan of water and add the rice noodles. Remove from the heat and let soak for 8 minutes. Drain, rinse and let come to room temperature. Set aside.
In a medium to large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking add the chicken, mushrooms, garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and five spice powder. Stir until the spice evenly coats the chicken. Let the chicken cool for about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle.
Fill a large, shallow bowl or plate with very hot tap water. Dip the spring roll wrappers in the water one at a time in the water until softened, about 20 seconds.
Spread the wrapper out flat on a clear surface. In the center of the wrapper add several leaves of the mint, basil and cilantro, then a few pieces of the chicken mixture, then a few of each of the vegetables. Fold in two sides of the wrapper to the middle, then starting at one of the other ends, roll the wrapper the other direction (just like folding a burrito). Repeat until all of the spring rolls are filled. Serve immediately.