Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Suppli and Demand

Suppli al telefono is classic Roman street food. “Telefono” refers to telephone wires. When you bite into one of these gooey croquettes the strings of melted mozzarella are the wires. We think the origins of this dish must be in Sicily where its counterparts would be the “arancine.” Lots of good ideas came to Rome from Sicily when the Jews were expelled during the Inquisition; most of the culinary ones involved frying stuff. My version isn’t kosher but you can make it so quite easily. The rice is the star here, tweak it as you will. Don’t even think about attempting this with long grain rice. You begin by making a risotto which you can do a day ahead. You can even use leftover “sticky rice” of the cal-rose variety or Spanish “bomba.”
1 cup Arborio (or other short grain) rice
1 tbs butter
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron threads
3 whole eggs (2 for the rice plus one for your frying station)
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
¼ pound prosciutto or speck or spicy capacola (have it sliced thick), cut into ¼ inch dice
5 oz low moisture mozzarella
½ cup bread crumbs (panko)
½ cup all purpose flour
3 cups frying oil (olive oil would be Roman, but you can use canola or peanut oil as well)

Salt and pepper
1) Prepare the rice. Bring your chicken stock to a boil, add the saffron threads and lower heat to a simmer. Meanwhile melt the butter in your rice pan and add the onion. Allow the onion to color
2) Stir the rice into the butter with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until the rice is translucent.
3) Over medium heat add stock to rice and onion a ladleful at a time. Allow 25 minutes for rice to become al dente and remove from heat.
4) Turn your rice out into a large bowl and allow to cool. Beat two eggs and add them to the rice with several spoons of pecorino, plus salt and pepper. Using your clean hands squish everything together into a lumpen proletariat like mass.
5) In a large pot, preferably cast iron, enameled or not, heat frying oil to 370 degrees.
6) Again using your clean hands, shape the rice into egg shaped balls and insert a piece a chunk of mozzarella and a chunk of your preferred hammage. Close the ball tightly.
7) Your frying station consists of a plate of flour, the remaining egg (also beaten) in a bowl, and a final plate of bread crumbs mixed with more pecorino.
8) One by one, roll the suppli into flour first, dip into egg and finally roll in bread crumbs.
9) Carefully lower your suppli into your hot cooking oil. If you displace too much oil you won’t be yelling “Eureka” like Archimedes. You’ll be dialing 911. Allow your suppli to get nice and golden brown. Serve hot but with care.

Note to cook. There are many variations for suppli and they remain open to argument. Welcome to Rome. Among my favorites would be a ragu of regaglie (chicken giblets), which you could substitute for ham.

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