When I asked my buddy Bob if he had a food request for the New Year’s party the fiancé and I were hosting in Red Bank last month, he said cheese steak egg rolls. Born out of a trip to a restaurant in Atlantic City years before, the simple yet amazing idea – and flavor, of course – of frying a cheese steak in an egg roll wrapper had stuck with him.
Having no idea how to cook an egg roll, let alone a cheese steak egg roll, I resolved to make it, of course. Like the struffoli I made for the fiancés’ family for their feast of the seven fishes less than a week before, the difficulty meter for this kind of thing is ramped up.
Why am I telling you this now? Because the first attempt was a success, and when the fiancé told her brother we’d bring cheese steak egg rolls to his Super Bowl shindig on Sunday, he agreed, and we, again, were tasked with making them.
You see, we’re pros now. As professionals, I feel the responsibility to tell the world of my successes, so that they too might share in them. After reading this article, you will have all the tools you need to go out and create your own cheese steak egg rolls, and, perhaps, a fiancé who’s comfortable enough to volunteer them at upcoming social events.
I admit I wasn’t simply born with the skill to create things like this from my own imagination. I’ve had egg rolls, I’ve had cheese steaks, and I’ve had cheese steak egg rolls, so I was pretty confident about what was involved, but exactly how to go about it required a bit of learning on my part. Thankfully, the internet is littered with recipes – many of them good.
It wasn’t so much about the recipe, however, but the technique. We knew what kind of filling we wanted – frozen, processed steak, onions, peppers, and a mild, quick melting cheese – but cooking it was all together something else.
When it comes to correctly folding an egg roll, making sure it’s tight enough to hold its content and withstand frying without any issue, written instructions are only so helpful. Like I mentioned already, I’m a professional, but the first time I made cheese steak egg rolls I had an assist from a step-by-step online video, so you should too if you’re looking to get it right the first time.
So let’s knock out the easy part first, the filling. Just imagine your favorite cheese steak, but diced. Though you’re certainly welcome to use just steak, or just steak and onions, I decided on using steak, onions, and some bell pepper. All the vegetables should be diced relatively finely. Don’t forget, this is an appetizer; you don’t want to take a bite and get all bell pepper.
All flavors in one bite, that’s what you’re looking for.
What you need for the filling:
- One large onion (the bigger the better)
- Half a red bell pepper
- Half a green bell pepper
- Large pack of Steak-umms, or any like brand
- Half pound of American Cheese, or any mild cheese that melts easily.
Sauté everything together – except the cheese of course – starting with the vegetables. Once they get soft and the onions translucent, add the steak a couple layers at a time. You should be able to break them up after just about 30 seconds, at which point you’ll add the next couple of steaks, and so on. When everything is cooked don’t forget to drain the grease.
While the mixture is cooling, start to heat the oil. There are a number of oils you can use to fry; I chose vegetable. Don’t skimp on the amount of oil you use, to get the egg rolls to fry evenly you need enough to cover the egg rolls and then maybe a little bit more. Think of it as a scalding hot bath for your egg rolls. Once you get the oil to about 375-degrees, turn your heat down and allow it to level off.
Rolling the egg rolls is a pretty simple procedure. First, you’ve got to find the egg roll wrappers. Not every store carries them, but I found mine at Wegman’s in nearby Tinton Falls. They come about 24 in a pack – I say about because both packs came up a couple wrappers short. With the filling recipe above, you should be able to make 24 egg rolls, or about 24 egg rolls, if that happens to be the case.
To roll the egg roll place a wrapper on a flat surface in the shape of a baseball diamond. Put about half a piece of cheese in pieces in the center of the wrapper, add a couple spoonfuls of the steak mixture, and put the rest of the piece of cheese on top, again, in pieces.
Dip your fingers into a nearby bowl of water (I did tell you to set up a bowl of water, didn’t I?) and trace the outline of the wrapper on all sides. This will help it stick and hold. Fold third base and first base over at the center of the wrapper. With this complete, take home plate – that’s the one facing you – and fold it up and over the filling. Pull the filling back gently along with the wrapper and start to roll. Make sure you keep it tight. Fold it all the way until you’ve got – ta da – an egg roll.
Frying is simple once you get a handle on it. I suggest test frying one egg roll to start, just to make sure you’ve got the oil at the right temperature. When I do this I always pick the ugly egg roll, the one that’s a little too small or a little too square. Don’t feel bad for this egg roll, he may be the most important egg roll of all. Invariably, he’s also the one I eat first.
It shouldn’t take much time to fry. If the oil is hot enough the wrapper will start to blister and brown in just a minute or so, with cooking completeness coming in just a couple of minutes. If it’s taking too long to achieve a nice golden color then your oil has probably cooled down. Cooking at too low a temperature will make your egg roll absorb more oil than it should, making it soggy and greasy.
It really is that simple. Serve with ketchup.