I can’t say enough about my love of the wonton wrapper. You know, those little pre-packaged squares and rectangles you buy in the produce section of the grocery store. They are so versatile that you can use them to make anything from ravioli to dumplings to fried noodles for salads. My personal favorite thing to make with them is egg rolls. I adore making egg rolls at home. Being a vegetarian, often when I go out to dinner, the egg rolls and spring rolls on the menu are filled with shrimp, pork, or both. When making them at home, I can be sure they contain no meat or meat-products, and the best part is, I can get creative!
And believe me, I get creative. I have made so many different varieties of egg rolls over the years, from sweet and sour vegetable egg rolls, egg rolls stuffed with root veggies and cream cheese, dessert egg rolls, even Italian egg rolls with marinara and mozzarella (kind of like a fat, homemade version of a Totinos pizza roll). I enjoy making them for parties and get togethers because they are easy to prepare, cook quickly and easily, store well, and taste fantastic. Sometimes I stray so far from the norm they probably wouldn’t even be considered egg rolls anymore, but they are always fantastic.
My new favorite egg roll to make is what I have somewhat cornily deemed the “Redneck Eggroll.” I call it this because I’m from north Georgia, born and raised, and all the ingredients used in the eggrolls are staples of the garden of my childhood. I have incredible memories of childhood summers, eating juicy ripe tomatoes, crisp okra, and biting into fresh, buttery corn on the cob. My Grandma always had piping hot, crispy-cornered cornbread on the table, and raw banana peppers to crunch on. Summertime is one of my favorite times for food, because everything is fresh, home grown, and healthy. It only made sense to me to take some of those great homey, summertime flavors and translate them into a deep fried party food. It sounds sacrilegious, but in reality, it’s just DELICIOUS.
This recipe is based on Hoppin’ John with Cornbread, one of my favorite meals to eat on hot summer days.
Redneck Egg Rolls
½ cup black eyed peas, soaked (you can also use frozen or canned black eyed peas)
½ cup corn kernels (off the cob, or canned)
½ cup okra, sliced
2 large banana peppers, diced (If you don’t have these, substitute ½ large green bell pepper)
1 medium sized stalk celery, diced
1 small yellow or Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 medium yellow squash, grated
2 large tomatoes, diced (use canned if you’re making this off season, but drain them well)
½ package sausage-style vegetarian grounds (meat eaters, you can use real sausage, or even diced ham)
1 medium sized jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup grits, prepared
2 packages won ton wrappers
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Vegetable oil for frying
1 container sour cream
1 package of ranch seasoning mix
When I’m getting ready to make these, the first thing I like to do is prepare my grits. They are meant to take the place of cornbread in the recipe, and also act as a glue to hold the wrappers together until they reach the fryer. You won’t need a huge amount, only about a cup, so don’t go overboard. I prepare mine with a little vegetable stock, milk and tons of butter, but make them however you like them – just make sure they aren’t too runny or they will ruin the recipe.
Once your grits are done, set them aside to cool, and begin the vegetables. In a medium sized sauce pan, heat a little butter or olive oil on medium high. When the pan is hot, add the onions, celery, peppers, and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes or until onions are transluscent and peppers softened. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the sausage grounds, squash, corn and okra. Saute until everything is cooked through, then reduce the heat to low, and add the black eyed peas and tomatoes, giving a light stir (don’t stir it too often, or the tomatoes will break up and make the vegetables too runny).
Now it’s time to start assembly. I generally start by spooning a small amount of grits onto one side of the wonton wrapper. Add a spoonful of vegetables, then a small sprinkling of shredded cheese. The grits should act as a glue to hold the wrapper in place once you roll it, but if you need a little extra help, having a small bowlful of water to wet the wonton wrapper will make it stick better.
Repeat until you’ve run out of wonton wrappers, fillings, or both. There are a few different ways to roll up egg rolls, so I will leave that up to your discretion.
Using a fryer or a large saucepan, heat your vegetable oil, and once it’s ready, drop in the egg rolls a few at a time. After about a minute, using a spatula or other safe utensil to turn them over to brown the other side. Each egg roll should only take 2-3 minutes to cook through. Once they are adequately browned and crisp, take them out of the oil and lay on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.
I like to serve these with a Srirachi Ranch dipping sauce. It’s incredibly easy to make and I cheat a little using pre-packaged ranch dressing mix (though if you want to make your own homemade ranch, more power to you, Betty Crocker!). In a medium sized bowl, mix together one 16 oz tub of sour cream with 1 package of ranch dressing mix. To the mixture, add 1-2 large scallion stalks, diced, and Sriracha to taste. I generally use quite a lot ““ at least 3 heaping spoonfuls or more, depending on the crowd I’m serving. Start with one or two, then taste, and if it needs more spice, add more.
These aren’t anywhere near traditional, but I’d like to think my Redneck Egg Rolls are a dish worthy of Missus Paula herself, y’all. Enjoy!