Plate and bowl by Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Making sorullitos de maiz takes me back to childhood, standing around Abuela Sara's clean and ample kitchen with my favorite aunt Titi Sara. Titi would paint my nails, comb my hair, talk and play with me and she taught me how to make sorullitos. These simple Puerto Rican corn fritters made with cooked cornmeal and cheese are still a point of connection to my family that I hold dear. Such simple activities meant so much to me as a growing child.
Titi Sara would cook the dough and then ask me to help roll them into little logs that looked like fingers. She taught me how to take a little mound of hot dough in my hands and to roll it quickly between both hands so that the dough did not burn. We would hover around the kitchen counter rolling a stack of sorullitos and talking. Once the sorullitos where rolled, Abuela Sara would drop them into hot oil to fry. We enjoyed them immediately after frying on a napkin-lined plate with a pink dipping sauce made of ketchup and mayonnaise.
Sorullitos de maiz are a simple but versatile appetizer. The process and ingredients are somewhat similar to those of making polenta. You can add herbs, spices or garlic to the dough. I have also experimented with many different types of cheeses and have found that sharp, dry cheeses like parmesan, romano or manchego are a wonderful substitute to the traditional gouda. Sharp cheddar and edam are good substitutes too. A finer grain of cornmeal works best for this recipe. Avoid using white cornmeal flour or coarse cornmeal as they do not yield the right consistency of dough. This recipe for sorullitos de maiz comes from Carmen Aboy Valldejuli's Cocina Criolla (translated into English as "Puerto Rican Cookery").
You can make the sorullitos up to step 2 ahead of time and freeze the rolled sorullitos. When you are ready to fry them, simply remove them from the freezer and drop the frozen sorullitos into the hot oil.
Sorullitos de Maiz Corn Fritters
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
canola oil, enough to fill a frying pan to a 1" depth
secret dipping sauce
1. In a medium sauce pan, bring water and salt to a boil. Remove from heat. While vigorously stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add the cornmeal. Continue stirring until the mixture comes apart from the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the shredded cheese and stir until well incorporated.
2. Roll the sorullitos, by taking a little mound of hot dough in your hands (about 1 tablespoon) and quickly rolling it into a ball. Using both hands roll the ball into a stick about 2 1/2 inches in length. Working quickly, roll the rest of the sorullitos.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat to about 375° F (the oil will be hot enough when a drop of water crackles on contact with the hot oil). Fry the sorullitos until golden, turning as needed. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
4. Serve the corn fritters hot or at room temperature with the sauce.
Makes approximately 50 sorullitos.