About this time of year, among all the holiday baking, I start to think about what sort of food I want to have during the playoffs and for the bigger bowl games. (Sorry Music City Bowl, you’re not on the list of snack-worthy events.) Hearty snacks that are easy to make and can be made ahead of time if needed. People love Kung Pao chicken and they love egg rolls, and few things are better on game days than a finger food made for some serious munching. (As I have said many times before, I am a nervous eater so crunchy things like egg rolls are perfect for the playoffs.) The heat from the peppers goes with great with beer while the meatiness of the peanuts help round out the egg rolls.

Don’t get hung up on if this is a traditional Kung Pao recipe, it’s not. There is no need to rush out for Shaoxing wine or black vinegar, you can use cooking sherry and rice wine or white wine vinegar just fine. If you have access to Asian facing heaven peppers, go ahead and use them for your red chiles. If you don’t, use the small thin dried red chiles you can find in most grocery stores, often labeled “Asian chiles” or “Chile Japones.” And if you’re really in a pinch, you can use a couple of teaspoons of dried red chili flakes in place of the dried chiles, but they don’t have the same richness and “pop” as freshly sliced chiles. I use eight chiles in my egg rolls and they have a fair amount of heat, but if you like your food even hotter, you can add in one or two more without ruining the Kung Pao.

I do bake these to cut down on fat from oil frying, but how you crisp your egg rolls is up to you. Honestly though, these are just as good out of the oven as they are the fryer and it’s a lot less hassle and clean up, which is what you want when you’re trying to get food from the kitchen to the living room during halftime.

Kung Pao Chicken Egg Rolls

You will need:

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Marinade:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (White wine vinegar can be used in place of rice wine vinegar.)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 red chilies, seeds removed and sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup low salt or salt-free roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped scallions, white and green sections. (About four to five scallions.)

Egg roll wrappers (Egg roll wrappers generally come in one pound packages. 1 package is enough.)
Vegetable oil for baking

Mix together the cornstarch, sherry and soy sauce for the marinade in a large bowl. Add in the chicken and toss the meat until it is well-coated with the sauce and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour, up to overnight.

When ready to make the egg roll filling, whisk together everything for the sauce.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok with medium-high heat. Toss in the chilies to allow them to open up a bit in the oil and saute for a minute or so.

Once the chilies start to sizzle, add in the chicken and brown the meat. Once the chicken is almost done, pour in the sauce and reduce the heat to medium and cook down the sauce until almost completely reduced. Stir in the garlic and the peanuts and cook for a few more minutes to soften the nuts. Remove from heat and add in the scallions.

Preheat oven to 400º while you assemble your egg rolls.

Turn the egg roll wrapper so one point is facing away from you. In the lower third, evenly spoon out 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture. Brush the edges of the egg roll wrapper with a small amount of water. Fold up the bottom point and start to roll upwards, then fold in the side points into the middle as you come to them, then roll until completely closed. Repeat until you have used up all of your Kung Pao filling.

Place the egg rolls on a cookie sheet and brush all over with a small amount of vegetable oil, or if you want, spray with cooking spray. Bake at 400º for about 15 minutes, turning over halfway during cooking. (And if you want to fry them, you can. Just heat about a 1/2 cup or so of oil in a skillet and fry on both sides until crispy.)

Yields about 2 dozen egg rolls. If you want a sauce to serve with them, you can make a spicy peanut sauce, but these egg rolls stay moist enough you don’t really need it.

These Kung Pao egg rolls can also be frozen ahead of time for later preparation. After you have assembled the egg rolls, place them on a flat board or cookie sheet and put in the freezer for thirty minutes. Once you have flash frozen them so they won’t stick together, transfer to an air-tight container or freezer bag. Bake as directed above, adding maybe a minute or two to the baking time.

These easy egg rolls always are a hit. Once I got the recipe right where I wanted it, I probably made them two Sundays and a MNF in a row they were so popular. Spicy, meaty and crunchy, they hit the football holy trinity of snacks.

Need more football watching-centric recipe ideas? Find the complete archive of Football Foodie recipes here, and all recipes that have appeared on KSK here.