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.
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