Saturday, May 15, 2010
Suppli al Telefono
The other day I had a date. I've been having a lot of dates lately, but this one was particularly good because it included homemade risotto. Next to Acme walnut bread, risotto just might be my most favorite food. I love for all the seasons: heavy with butternut squash and pancetta in the fall, bright with asparagus and favas in the spring. I love it plain too, with lots and lots of parmesan cheese, a big green salad and a large glass of chewy, earthy red wine.
That's how we ate it the other night. It was a cold spring night in San Francisco which meant that a warm bowl of risotto and a glass (or two!) of wine seemed the perfect prescription to a long and stressful day. And the fact that I wasn't the one stirring and stirring over a hot stove? Well that made everything even better.
There was enough risotto left over that it could have been reheated for lunch or perhaps even a light supper. But then the urge to cook came back. "Arancini!" I proclaimed. "Suppli!" he said.
What exactly is the difference? Not much, it turns out. Both arancini and suppli are fried risotto balls stuffed with something very good in the middle. Arancini usually feature peas and mozzarella and occasionally meat, while suppli simply have cheese, often something gooey and good like mozzarella or fontina.
Suppli are more Roman, while arancini hail from Southern Italy and the feisty Sicilians. I was cooking for a man who had lived in Rome, so suppli we would eat.
But as committed as I was to the suppli (and the man!), I wasn't sure how I felt about frying. This recipe, for baked suppli, made risotto balls that were crispy on the outside, soft and cheesy on the inside. I did briefly pan fry the suppli before popping them in the oven to help encourage a crisp and crackling brown shell. It made them slightly more decadent, but without the mess of splattering oil and a smoke filled kitchen.
A dinner redux with suppli, simple greens dressed with olive oil, balsamic, and lemon, another big glass of wine, and hands held across the table? It felt like a roman holiday.
P.S. Apparently they are called suppli al telefono because when you bite into them the cheese stretches out long and thin like the best roman telephone wires. Romantic, no?
Prepared Risotto (made from a 1/2 cup of dried arborio)
2 ounces mozzarella, torn or cut into pea-sized pieces (you could also use fontina or gruyere)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigano
salt and pepper
1 warm cup marinara (I made my own by sauteing one half a yellow onion and a minced clove of garlic till soft and then whirling it all in the blender with a can of fire roasted tomatoes)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a shallow bowl, combine 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, the parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine the risotto, egg and the remaining bread crumbs in a large bowl. Using a small ice cream scoop or your hands (if using your hands, it helps to keep them wet), shape the risotto into roughly tablespoon-sized balls. Cradling a shaped ball in your palm (to keep the shape intact), use your thumb to tuck a piece of mozzarella into the center of the ball and reshape the ball around the cheese, so the cheese is fully enveloped. Place each formed and stuffed ball onto a plate. When all the risotto has been used, place the plate in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.
Once the balls have chilled and firmed up, roll each one in the bread crumb mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, turning halfway, until the suppli are golden brown. Serve with marinara for dipping.