I was talking with my friend, Harriette Keen Jacobs, about a garden shed she had seen that looked like a faerie house. Harriette is a phenomenal writer; she has a blog also called South of the Gnat Line. Check it out. She’s positively gorgeous, well, yeah, she IS a Southern girl and has a farm in Georgia with many little lambs and fuzzy chicks and all manner of cute and quirky critters running around. Anyway, long after we stopped dreaming of the miniature faerie-house garden shed I thought of someone who actually had a tiny magic house. My cousin in Puerto Rico, Myrnita, had a Lilliputian play house that was every little girl’s dream. She’s the oldest of five but only her younger brother had been born during the years we played house. Her brother, Robertito, was all boy and nothing to do with us girls. He hid behind palms and tropical vines wearing cowboy boots, guns and holsters and played cowboys and indians. Myrnita’s a year or two younger than me and was the perfect summer playmate. Sometimes we would go to their country club and spend the day swimming and driving the lifeguards crazy by running around the pool in order to execute the perfect cannonball. Other times her handsome father, my uncle Tio Roberto, would pick me up in his big, old boat of a car and we would go to their house for a playdate. After the customary exchange of kisses and hugs of everyone in the house Myrnita and I would ask her mama, my Titi Myrna, if we could have some supplies for the little house. We had some cooking to do. My aunt was stunningly beautiful, gentle and loving. She never laughed at us or scolded us if we made a mess or spilled any of our ingredients as we tramped through the house. We discussed our pretend menu with her and she gathered the necessary ingredients. Well, most of them. It was pretend cooking outside so we weren’t allowed things like eggs. Or butter. But we could take as much uncooked rice as we wanted and dried beans. Bread was fine to play with and we always had snacks like Sorrullitos, little salty cornmeal fingers hot out of the fat that Titi Myrna had just made for us to take outside. Sorrullitos made our pretend play more real. When you bit into them you could hear the snap of the crackling outer crust. Oh, and fruit. We could take bananas, oranges, guavas, any fresh fruit still in its skin and then we’d take it all back in when we were finished “cooking”. So, out we’d go to the playhouse arms laden with our real and play food. The playhouse was made of wood and had a front porch. That still slays me. A front porch. I want a porch! At any rate, it was painted white with Carolina blue trim and a tile roof. God, I loved that little house. It had a real door that opened and closed and windows that were protected from the torrential rains and the searing rays of the sun by blue shutters which locked with a toggle from the inside. We’d throw those shutters open and the pretend party would begin! The playhouse was just one room but it had cabinets, counters and a pretend stove. The cabinets were all stocked with a plethora of plastic bowls, spoons and spatulas. There were two small chairs with cane seats and a small table up against a wall for our imaginary banquet. And she had a play refrigerator. The sun beat down upon that little house but the cool Caribbean breezes kept us happy and relaxed. The hours just sped by as we stirred our simmering meals and played grownup. It had always been planned that I would spend the night. My clothes had already been put away in Myrnita’s bedroom by loving hands. Tio Roberto would undoubtedly take us all out for ice cream after dinner. Or a handmade guava pastry. At around 6:00 in the evening the scorching sun would let up a little. The breezes would truly start cooling us down. I knew the routine back at my grandparent’s house. I would have been given my bath and dinner by now. Mama would be letting Cynthia and me play quietly, color or write letters home to Daddy. It never failed. That big, burning sun would start to turn all shades of pink, purple and blue and as it started its descent a wrenching homesickness would set in. Waves of sadness would roll over my little eight year old self. I knew I wasn’t going to stay. Hell, no. I wanted to go home and it was just a matter of telling my sweet, sweet uncle I needed to go home and no amount of tears from Myrnita will make me stay, okay? I always felt awful breaking the news that their plans for the evening were not going to happen. My aunt and uncle were very glamorous and social; they were always at black tie affairs, their pictures were always in the papers. So I felt rotten and slightly guilty that I had ruined their family night. But this girl was going home! My understanding uncle would always get me back just as the sun had set, right before the tiny frogs of the island, the Coqui, began their song declaring night had truly fallen. Back in my cotton nightgown, back to the adult’s hushed voices echoing off the high ceilings and back in Mama’s arms. Another perfect childhood day in paradise. Buenas noches!
Oh, Gentle Reader, these crispy little treats are positively addictive. And dangerous. Paired with a good sipping rum…all resolve just melts away! They are easy, inexpensive and quick to prepare. They’re great when entertaining because they can be fried in advance and then kept warm and crunchy in the oven. I like them also because they’re homemade but almost effortless. You didn’t open an air-filled bag or a frost covered box to delight your friends. No. YOU, clever thing, made these by hand. Furthermore, they marry well with mixed drinks, beer or wine. Def a win-win in my kingdom! A cheese called Queso de Bolla is used on the island but I really enjoy the sharpness of the Parm and I pretty much always have it on hand. You can use a cheese other than Parmesan if you like but the nutmeg and parmesan combination strike a nutty flavored balance the like of which I know you’ll flip over. In Puerto Rico often Sorullitos are served with a sauce that is a typically a mayo-ketchup mix. That SO grosses me out so I serve mine with a 50/50 mix of mayonnaise and Sriracha Chile Sauce. That’s it. Two ingredients for the dipping sauce. We like food spicy in our house so hold back a little on the Sriracha if that ratio is too hot for your taste or if you are serving children.
Sorullitos – Cornmeal Parmesan Fingers
yield: 25-30 thumb size batons
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good parmesan cheese
- 1 3/4 cups fine cornmeal
- canola or vegetable oil for frying
- In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
- Add nutmeg, salt and butter and then, while stirring, pour in cornmeal.
- Continue stirring until a soft ball forms that separates from the sides of the pot.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
- Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside for 10 minutes or so until cool to the touch.
- Form the Sorullito by taking a spoonful of cornmeal and with your hands form a baton or finger.
- Heat two inches of oil in a frying pan until you see tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pan or the top of the oil “shimmers”.
- Add the batons to the oil with your hands or tongs being careful not to drop into them oil.
- Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels.
- Fritters may be kept warm in a 300° oven.
- Serve with Sriracha Mayo sauce. Just combine the sauce ingredients to taste, mix and serve.