February 27,2019

Dear friends:
I longed for something comforting to eat. The world had gotten bitey. My dog was in a vet hospital far from home, my stomach was aching and the plumbing was clogged. That’s when I read about surrollos in Barbara Kingsolver’s new a book, “Unsheltered: A Novel.”

In the book, Willa’s historic old house is splitting apart at the seams. The upstairs bedrooms, wet and cold, are abandoned for a bed of quilts on the living room floor. The gas had been turned off and any cooking that is done takes place on a camp stove.The cupboards were practically bare when Jorge, her daughter Tig’s boyfriend, decided to make something from nothing for dinner. He scrounged up cornmeal, sugar and a nubbin of cheese that he asked Willa to grate.

“He was stirring cornmeal into the boiling water in a meditative way, thickening it into a yellow batter. Tig lit the other camp stove burner and heated oil in a skillet. Jorge took Willa’s plate of cheese and stirred it into his batter….

“Jorge rubbed oil into his hands and began rolling the steaming batter between his palms into fat little cigars. …Jorge used (the oil in the skillet) to fry his cornmeal cigars. …

“He held out a plate of golden corn fritters….Willa took a bite and held it between her front teeth until it cooled enough to taste: crisp on the outside, sweet and melty in the middle. She made an appreciative noise with her mouth full.

“ ‘Yummy, right?’ Tig said. ‘You’re supposed to eat them with garlicky mayonnaise.’
Willa obediently got out the mayonnaise, found some garlic to peel and dice, and wondered what other miracles these kids would pull out of an empty larder.”

Recipe sites call them variously surollos, sorullitos and surullitos, but the technique is the same: Stir salt, sugar and corn meal into water, add grated cheese, shape into stubby cigars and fry in oil. Few ingredients and no hassle, which is what I’m in the mood for right now.

SURROLLOS

2 cups water
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups fine yellow corn meal
1 cup shredded cheese (any melty cheese such as gouda, Cheddar or Queso de bollo)
Canola oil for frying

Bring water to boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add salt and sugar. Slowly whisk in cornmeal. Reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until water is absorbed and dough pulls away from pot, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and continue stirring until completely melted and incorporated. When cool enough to handle, scoop up chunks and roll into finger-length cigars tapered at each end.

Heat 1½ inches of oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.The temperature should be 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer if you’re measuring. I just dropped in a dab of the cornmeal stuff and made sure the oil bubbled frantically around it. Fry in batches until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with garlic mayonnaise or ketchup mayonnaise for dipping.

GARLIC MAYONNAISE
1 cup mayonnaise
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced, or to taste

Combine ingredients, cover and chill until the garlic flavors the mayonnaise. Or eat immediately if you can’t wait.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Blue cheese burgers on buns, corn kernels and diced avocado in vinaigrette, a bloody Mary.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
A few bites of spaghetti with meat sauce and a piece of chocolate cake at the Shriner’s hall in Okeechobee; a piece of cornbread at Pogey’s in Okeechobee; a ham, egg and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts; raw oysters, conch ceviche, grilled tilefish, slaw and a hush puppy at Lightsey’s Fish Co. in Okeechobee; a Quarter Pounder and a few fries at McDonald’s; a chicken empanada, ham croquetta and a roast pork sandwich from Lazz’s Cuban Cafe food truck in Okeechobee; an egg roll and a few bites of “Hunan chicken” from Bucio, a Chinese food truck run by a Mexican family (and it tasted like it) in Okeechobee.

THE MAILBAG
From Dennis A.:
What I miss most at Lou & Hy’s is the Macadamia Nut Cream Pie. By any chance did Tage (the chef) give you this recipe? Do any of your readers have the recipe?

Dear Dennis:
That pie was one of the most popular items at the old Akron delicatessen. I never got the recipe, but Beacon Journal readers asked so often that we found versions that were close, such as this one from Evie Dobrin, owner with her husband, George, of Dobie’s Corners restaurant in Bath. It ran in the newspaper in 2002.

MACADAMIA NUT CREAM PIE
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell or graham cracker crust
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. coffee-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Whole macadamia nuts for garnish Prepare and cool pie shell.

Beat sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks in a small bowl until well mixed. Heat milk in a medium saucepan just to a simmer. Stir sugar mixture into hot milk, whisking rapidly. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about three minutes. Do not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cover with waxed paper and chill.

Beat one-half cup of the heavy cream until stiff; fold into cooled custard with coffee liqueur and all but one tablespoon of chopped nuts. Spoon into pastry shell. Chill several hours or overnight.

Whip remaining cream. Spread over pie. Sprinkle with reserved nuts.

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