Sunday, October 14, 2007

Find My Egg Rolls: Win $50

An Addiction to Frozen Eggs Rolls Leaves A Blogger Desperate

Someone once said that you could find anything in New York... and if you couldn't, it wasn't worth having.

I beg to differ.

I am addict. I'll admit it. My addiction is anything wrapped up in a pillow of dough or wrapper... and steamed, baked or pan fried. The dumpling, pot sticker, ravioli, pierogie and egg roll.

But what makes this addiction hard to deal with is the difficulty in obtaining the goods. Sure I can find a box of frozen egg rolls in the grocery store, but as those who share my addiction will attest, there are very few brands worth putting in your cart.

The king of egg rolls? Easy.

The brand is Michelina. The man is Jeno Paulucci. The magic?

Yu-Sing brand, Chicken Egg Rolls.

Those junkies out there that know egg rolls, may know Jeno. He is one of the most famous frozen food entrepreneurs alive. The son of Italian immigrants, Jeno began his incomparable career as a fruit stand barker in the 1940s, paving the way for him to begin his improbable Chinese foods company Chun King. He would go on to create Wilderness pie fillings and Jeno's Pizza. Yes, Jeno's pizza rolls! He would later open Michelina's, a tribute to his mother... and by far, his best venture.

But make no bones about it, the Yu-Sing brand Egg Roll is the best egg roll on the market today (this is coming from yours truly, a frozen egg roll connoisseur). If this was vodka, we'd be talking the Ketel One of Egg Rolls (compared to the current Chung King variety, which I would liken to a bottle of Popov).

If you hadn't had these gems, I would liken them to crack cocaine. Why?

They're perfect. The wrappers are super crunchy and never greasy. The fillings are great, and not full of some nasty paste made of cabbage and mystery meat. They are large in size and not tiny like the inferior and generally disgusting egg rolls on the market.

I first got addicted to these about 6 years ago. Living in Southern California, I had a terrible time finding them in LA (Albertsons would carry them on occasion, but rarely). Having a cabin up in the mountains, I would make the trek to Lake Arrowhead several times a month... and always stop at the terrific gourmet grocery store "Jensen's" to pick up my wares for the weekend.

Low and behold, they carried the egg rolls.

I bought so many boxes, the manager made sure he reordered in time for my next visit.

Imagine a shopping cart with fresh pasta, breads, San Marzano tomatoes, asparagus, peppered brie, ground veal, cornichons and 10 boxes of frozen egg rolls.

So here is your challenge. Find these egg rolls. Win money. I need my Yu-Sing.

Here are the rules:

1. First person to email me ( with the location of the egg rolls wins. Egg rolls must be in stock at the store when I arrive. Price doesn't matter, I'll pay anything.

2. The brand must be Michelina's YU-SING Chicken or Shrimp Egg Rolls. No others will qualify, period.

3. The egg rolls must be located in Manhattan. NO EXCEPTIONS!

Can you find them? No doubt, some Mom and Pop grocer carries them in NYC, so off you go. I know you could use the $50.... hell, thats an appetizer at Per Se!

Get Your Pierogie On

Moving to NYC, I was thrilled to learn that a thriving polish community would allow me to feed my pierogie fetish. Growing up eating cajun/polish food, I fell in love with pierogie at a young age, but almost never ate them.. as my polish grammy lived in New Hampshire.

Over the years I have learned how to make them myself... a rewarding but long process, that leaves you with a sore back. 8 hours in the kitchen can do that.

A few years ago, I did find an alternative.... mail order. And as much as it pains me to say it, these little babies are as good as any I can pick up in the East Village. If you don't believe me, order a few dozen and see for yourself!

Pierogies Plus

Online, from their little shop in Pennsylvania

One word. Helen. She's been making pierogie for 50 years. And these guys make them by hand. This is the real deal.

I've never been a potato pierogie guy... my variety is sauerkraut and mushroom. She also makes a terrific sauerkraut and kielbasa. I understand the hot sausage is quite good as well!

Order online and wait. They come fresh, to your door. Then, get out your non-stick skillet and heat it up. Add a chunk of your favorite butter, and place them in. Fry the pierogie in the butter, turning them until they are crunchy golden brown on both sides. Salt and pepper, a dollop of sour cream and Katie bar the door.

Fall Is Here, And You Need Your Gumbo

Yes, fall is finally arrived in the big apple, and it's soup time.

Well, at my house, that means gumbo and a hunk of crusty bread. For those of you who have no idea how to make a pot of real gumbo, I am re-publishing the recipe for you here. Remember, this recipe may look big, but having a quart of the stuff in your freezer on an icy day is a good thing.

Andre’s Gumbo Like I Like It

(Shrimp and Okra Version)

4- 5 Quarts Chicken Stock
4 pounds frozen okra
1 lrg can of diced tomatoes
1 regular can of diced tomatoes
2 large white onions, diced fine
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/⁄2 teaspoon chopped garlic, fine
1⁄/2 teaspoon salt
1/⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
3/⁄4 cup all purpose flour
3⁄/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon of lea and perrin’s
2 tablespoons crystal hot sauce (or frank’s)
1 1⁄/2 tablespoons of creole seasoning (Emerils or Tony’s or your own)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1⁄/2 teaspoon thyme
2-3 tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped parsley, fine
4 pounds peeled medium shrimp
Chopped green onions

In a separate pot, heat 3 tbl vegetable oil, and sauté white onions. Add garlic, frozen okra and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium low heat until tender (at least an hour, if not longer). Okra should be very tender and want to break up. In a large stockpot, heat oil (3/4 cup) and add flour to make roux. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure not to burn. Bring to desired color… peanut butter color is recommended for best flavor. Once desired color is reached, whisk in chicken stock, 4 qts first and save the rest if needed (chicken base dissolved in water can also be used , but NOT bullion). Add seasonings (wet and dry) and kitchen bouquet for desired color (a rich, dark brown is perfect). Add okra mixture and bring to boil. Reduce to low simmer, and cook for 1 1/⁄2 hours. Last half hour, add shrimp and parsley and simmer and very low temp, not to overcook shrimp. Serve in bowls, topped with a scoop of cooked long grain rice and top with sprinkle of green onion.

Gumbo is best if cooked day before. Make sure to cool completely before storing in fridge.... if not, the mixture will bubble and MUST be thrown out, as the onions will certainly turn.

*** Tips on Making a Roux

More than anything else, it's the roux that gives gumbo its particular character. Making roux is something of an art. It may take some practice to get good results. If dark specks appear, or if you smell something burning, you'll need to throw out the roux and start over. Don't try to base your gumbo on a burnt roux!

That said, let's make a medium colored Cajun roux, peanut butter in color. A Cajun roux is just flour cooked in fat until it acquires a darker color and a rich, complex, somewhat smoky flavor with nut-like overtones. Some folks have claimed that one can make a roux in the oven or even in the microwave, omitting the fat, but the one true way is to cook the roux on the stove top in a deep, heavy skillet or Dutch oven. The catch is that it will take plenty of time to cook the roux at the proper temperature so that it doesn't burn, and that you will need to stir constantly, working pretty hard the whole time. Some use a large whisk or a large spatula to keep the roux moving, but I find that a large, long-handled wooden spoon works best for me.

The choice of fat does affect the taste of the gumbo. Lard and bacon fat are the traditional choices (sometimes blended together), but other animal fats, or even vegetable oil or shortening, may be used. I prefer using a good vegetable oil. The choice of fat may be influenced by the kind of gumbo you are going to make -- duck fat for a duck and sausage gumbo, for example. You may decide to use vegetable fats for a seafood-only gumbo, and animal fats for your other gumbos.

Regular bleached all-purpose flour is fine for a roux. The proportions of flour to fat vary depending on how thick you want the roux to be. Approximately two parts flour to one part fat works well for me. If I need about a cup of roux, I use a cup of flour and about half a cup of oil, perhaps increasing the quantity of fat by a tablespoon or two depending on the result I'm looking for that day.