Caramelized onions, thinly sliced roast beef and American cheese taste as great inside a crisp egg roll wrapper as they do on a soft hoagie roll. These could be served as a hearty snack, but, as author Ann Hodgman writes in the original recipe's headnote: "If I'm going to the trouble to make these, I'm not going to serve them as an appetizer."
A word about those onions: Hodgman mistakenly indicates they are optional. See the NOTE about how to do them; they take at least a couple of hours to cook on the stovetop, so you might wish to prepare them a day or two in advance. You start with a lot, but they cook way down. Caramelized onions freeze well.
You'll need an instant-read or stationary thermometer.
Make Ahead: The spiced ketchup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The egg rolls are best served about 5 minutes after they are made.
Yield: Makes 16 egg rolls
- For the spiced ketchup
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (any kind except raspberry will work fine)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- For the egg rolls
- 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 16 slices American cheese, such as Horizon Organic brand
- 16 egg roll wrappers, such as Nasoya brand
- 12 ounces very thinly sliced deli roast beef
- 1/3 cup caramelized onions (see NOTE)
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling
For the spiced ketchup: Combine the ketchup, scallions, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Divide the mixture among individual ramekins for dipping.
For the egg rolls: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat the oil in a pot with tall sides over medium-high heat. You're looking to reach an oil temperature of 350 degrees, so adjust the heat as needed. Combine the cornstarch and water in a measuring cup, stirring to dissolve.
Following the directions on the egg roll package for placement, put a half-piece of cheese in the center of each egg roll wrapper. On top of that, fold a slice of roast beef to cover the cheese with as little overhang as possible. If you're using the caramelized onions, spread about a teaspoonful over the meat. Put the remaining half-slice of cheese on top. Fold the wrapper as directed on the package, sealing every possible sealable edge with the cornstarch mixture. (Do not skip that step; otherwise, the cheese will find a way to leak out during cooking.) Repeat to form a total of 16 egg rolls.
When the oil is hot enough, use tongs or a Chinese skimmer to lower 3 or 4 egg rolls into the oil. (The pot should not be crowded, and the egg rolls shouldn't touch the edges.) Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, using the tongs to turn the egg rolls over so they brown evenly. The color should be a deep golden brown. Transfer to the wire rack; if desired, sprinkle lightly with the coarse salt. Transfer the rack-baking sheet to the oven to keep warm. Repeat to fry the remaining egg rolls, 3 or 4 at a time.
Divide among individual plates; serve warm, with the ramekins of spiced ketchup.
NOTE: Cut 5 pounds of yellow onions into thin slices. Heat 1/2 cup of water in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of sugar; toss to coat. Cover and cook for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the onions have reduced and turned a deep caramel color. The yield is about 2 1/4 cups. Use about 1/3 cup for this recipe and reserve the rest for another use.
Adapted from "Beat This! Cookbook," by Ann Hodgman (Houghton Mifflin, 2011).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.