I like to say that the Chinese and the Italians have an ongoing feud. Did Marco Polo bring pasta to the Chinese, or did he bring it back from China to Italy? Ever since a 4000 year-old bowl of noodles was discovered in a Chinese tomb it seems that China has the better claim. On one level an egg roll wrapper is flour and water, and maybe a little egg, depending on the manufacturer. On another level it's a noodle. It's also a mini pizza crust, the bottom of an hors d'oeuvre tostada, or a chimichanga wrapper. I can't read Chinese, so it's possible the characters on the front of the package actually say, "There's a party in here."
1. According to my web guy I've taught my Rustic Italian class more than 180 times since mid-2009. At an average of 20 mini lasagnas per class that comes to more than 3600 ramekins lined with an egg roll wrapper, filled with meat and cheese and sauce, and baked to a bubbly brown.
I've seen my mini lasagnas made by some pretty good cooks, I've seen them made by 12-year-olds, and I've seen them made by people who have good reason to be afraid of their own cooking. Based on my observations I'm comfortable saying that anyone who is genuinely motivated to succeed can make lasagna (and more) with egg roll wrappers.
2. If you make cannelloni you can use egg roll wrappers instead of the dry pasta tubes that need to be boiled, and inevitably crack when you try to fill them. Since the egg roll wrappers are fresh and soft they don't need to be boiled. Just be sure that the filling and sauce are extra wet, because the wrapper-cum-noodle absorbs the moisture.
3. Give me some combination of cheese, tomatoes, prosciutto, salami, onion, garlic, dried or fresh fruit, nuts, quince paste or fig jam, and I can make mini pizzas by quartering the egg roll wrappers. (Wonton wrappers are a smaller version of the same product, but the egg roll wrappers are a better value and offer more options). A light brush of olive oil before adding toppings assures a crispy crust. The mini pizzas are so thin that they cook in just five to six minutes. Great combos include:
- Gorgonzola (or other blue cheese) and pears, figs, or quince paste - with or without nuts
- Prosciutto (or thin shaved ham) and Gruyere (or any Swiss-type cheese)
- Sundried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella
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4 & 5. If your party is a fiesta you can make wafer-thin bean tostadas or for dessert mini chocolate chimichangas which, when hot from the pan and sprinkled with powdered sugar are addictive.
Of course, you can also make egg rolls.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.