Matryoshka Mash-up

In food on 07/18/2009 at 7:55 pm

It’s the home stretch for the other half. 1.5 weeks until the bar exam. Needless to say, being homebound is making us both a little batty. Even with the requisite TV breaks to watch our fluff cooking shows and NCIS marathons, we are gnashing our teeth from cabin fever. 

Last night, the other half was inspired by a fritter created by an Italian chef on Chopped. The show is a cooking competition using mystery ingredients to create a 3 course dinner, a sort of Iron Chef lite. Most of the dregs they come up with is quite amateurish, but the other half is always subconsciously on the lookout for new ways to satiate the QQ carb fetish that comes from growing up in the Midwest.

For his fritter/hush puppy, the chef took pizza dough and kneaded in some chopped serrano ham and chives, deep fried it up in lil’ golf ball-sized blobs, but ran out of time before he could plate them all up. The judges were oohing and ahhing over the lone one that made it to a plate which they split up amongst the three of them. Now, I think nothing could top the Volcano for carb-on-carb action, but the household anti-potato law prevents me from investigating something so labor intensive. It’s alright though, I probably wouldn’t have the patience for it.

For dinner tonight, the other half took some herbed Trader Joe’s pizza dough and whipped up a version with ingredients we had in the fridge/pantry: deli maple ham bits and dried tarragon. I suggested a Greek yogurt and dill dipping sauce (mint would’ve been more refreshing). The results were, meh. The QQ was there, but it was kinda one note, no flavors really to balance. You’d think these balls would thud down into the bottom of your stomach, but they are actually light, fluffy and quite nice. Note to the other half: put a candy thermometer on the Christmas list (it’s really useful to know what temperature you’re frying things).

balls of fury

This morning, I’d been poring over my mountain of library-borrowed cookbooks, of which one was America’s Test Kitchen’s Lost Recipes. On page 5 was one I didn’t even know I was missing: cheese-crusted olive balls. Now, when something is called balls, I can’t help but smirk and gag simultaneously. How sophomoric of me, I know. But don’t tell me your mind doesn’t trip into same gutter.

Last summer, while visiting Door County, the thumb of Wisconsin, we were at a Washington Island hotel and sampled some of their olive balls in the cool, crisp afternoon. My mouth is salivating just thinking and writing about it. Biting into an hors d’oeuvre, the best appetite-whetting flavor to hit the tongue is the umami savoriness of cheese and olive. I remember wondering what the ingredients were for that concoction. Now, there they were smack dab in front of my face.

I had an epiphany. Why not combine the best of the other half’s fritter with the olive ball? The latter could use more QQ to counterbalance to kapow of the olive. And instead of a pimento-stuffed olive, a cheese-stuffed olive, and not just any cheese, the master cheese: Taleggio. The final masterpiece is like a Russian nesting doll, cheese in olive in dough made of cheese.  This is a mozzarella stick elevated to haute levels, a.k.a, a Midwestern foodie’s wet dream.

1 pizza dough round
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp paprika
bacon bits, browned and crispy
salt and pepper (minimal salt, maximal pepper, to taste)
chives, chopped
taleggio cheese, cubed same size as olive
pitted olives (your favorite kind, we like the small purple ones; NO canned)

Knead all ingredients into pizza dough except for taleggio and olives.

Pinch off dough balls and pat into a circle big enough to hold a piece of taleggio and olive in the center, about 2″ (Use a bigger piece of dough if you like a QQ crust). Bring edges together and roll between your hands until smooth.

Put onto baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes after finishing the balls to firm up.

Put 2″ of oil in pot. Preheat oil to 375ºF with a candy thermometer.

Fry until crust is golden brown, about 6 minutes, or when the oil surrounding the balls stops bubbling.

Serve with a marinara or tzatziki dipping sauce.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s