A few weeks ago, I wrote about a very soothing dinner I made – Chicken Parmigiana, inspired by the hangover lunches of my not-so-distant youth. More recently, I went on a stew tear, making a relatively unsuccessful oyster stew and a somewhat more successful (if a little oregano-y) beef stew within a few days of each other. And every few days lately, I’ve made my cop-out gourmet comfort dinner: pasta from the Italian butcher. Apparently, January has been a month in which I needed some reassurance. Or something.
So when I read about Something So Clever’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge focusing on comfort food posts, I was psyched. Clearly, I'm all over comfort food. Easy reading. Easy writing. Then reality set in: what would I pick? What was most comforting? And does true comfort food have to be...comfortable to cook?
Unfortunately, I knew the answer all along. I was going to break the rules, and in the most egregious way. Ignore the cookbooks - to eat something totally embarrassing, and on a weekday, too. I tried to deny it, to bury the truth. But my conscience wouldn’t have it. So here it is – my #1 most comforting food: egg rolls. The shrimp kind. Greasier the better.
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.
How un-foodie is that? Egg rolls just might be the most Americanized ethnic food ever. There’s nothing exciting or challenging – or authentic – about them. And where I get them, there’s certainly nothing healthy about them, either. I’m not exactly talking about gourmet-use-only-the-freshest-local-ingredients food here. No, I’m talking about shreds of MSG-laced “vegetables” and “shrimp”, all mushed together and deep, deep, deep-fried.
I’m salivating just thinking about it.
I’m embarrassed by this, though I probably shouldn’t be. As a relatively new cook, I have a little bit of a complex: I feel as though I should constantly be in the kitchen, experimenting with whatever’s in season as I meditate on the recipes and techniques of Thomas Keller. That’s not a realistic vision, though, and I know it.
Which is why, if I am ever feeling a little bit down, or stressed, or tired, or if I just would rather paint my delicate little toenails than spend another minute in the kitchen today, I dress myself in yoga pants and an old button-down (of my husband’s or brother’s, and preferably paint-spattered), and I get on the horn to my favorite Chinese carry-out place. STAT.
Which is how I found myself Thursday night, sitting in front of the TV with duck sauce and the inevitable grease dripping down my chin, my mood has always improved. All thanks to a little frying oil and some cabbage.
In that moment, I was not at all conflicted about my love of egg rolls. Not in the least. I remembered the Chinese of my childhood, eaten on the floor of the living room. And I savored the texture and taste – the salty crunch of the wrapper and the savory cabbage next to the soft, sweet shrimp and the cold sauce. Tasting an egg roll is always more complex and layered than I how I think of it.
So, there it is. My confession. Now that I have this off my chest – that I’ve announced to the foodie world that I am something of a fraud (not to mention a rule-ignorer) – I actually feel much better.
And maybe next time I'm craving a grease-and-cabbage high, I'll get it together to actually make the egg rolls myself. A lot of recipes out there have a gazillion ingredients and most likely involve more chopping than they're worth. But this version looks relatively simple...not to mention full of grease and entirely Americanized. Just the way I like them.