Title: Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls
1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until they are bright orange and just cooked. Drain shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them until they are cool. Peel shrimp and halve them lengthwise down the center. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Cook the rice sticks according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Clear a work surface, such as a large wooden cutting board, for rolling the summer rolls and prepare a pan that is roomy enough to hold the finished rolls in a single layer. Place all filling ingredients in separate containers, and arrange them in the following order around the board: rice paper wrappers, shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, hot pepper, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
4. Fill a wide, shallow dish, large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers, with hot water. Evenly submerge one rice paper in the water for about 30 seconds, or until it is soft and pliable. Remove from the water and place on the work surface.
5. Working quickly, lay three shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper. Layer a scant 1/4 cup of noodles over the shrimp, followed by a few bean sprouts, 3 mint leaves, 2 basil leaves, 1 sprig of cilantro, and 2 pieces of the hot pepper (if using). Place 3 to 4 cucumber sticks and 3 to 4 scallion pieces on either side of the noodle pile. Roll one piece of lettuce into a cigar shape, and place it on top of the noodle pile.
6. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding it firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire pile up to close the top. (Don’t despair, this takes some practice!)
7. Turn each roll so that the rice paper seam faces downward and the row of shrimp faces up. Place in the prepared container.
8. Serve summer rolls with Peanut Sauce.
9. Beverage pairing: Thomas Fogarty Monterey Gewürztraminer, California. Gewürztraminers can be great food wines, as long as they’re not too heavily perfumed and floral. This is why it can be good to go with a new-world Gewürz over an Alsatian. This wine, from California’s central coast, has beautiful flavors of ginger, white flowers and litchi, which make a nice foil for the toothsome summer rolls.
10. Set your package of wrappers and a dinner plate by the sink & run the water so it’s somewhere between cold and room temperature. One at a time, take a wrapper from the package, run it under the tap for about 5 seconds, turning it well to thoroughly wet it. Use your fingers to squeegee off the excess water, then put the wrapper flat on the plate. Repeat with up to 20 wrappers at a time. Cover the plate with a layer of damp paper towels about 4 layers thick. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Then carefully peel off wrappers one at a time.
The 5 minute rest is critical. If you use the wrappers as soon as they’re soft, they’re impossibly fragile. Letting them sit has some effect (developing the starch?) that makes them a bit rubbery and much less fragile and slimy —much easier to work with.