If there's one thing I'm good at, it's replicating recipes. Typically someone's "secret recipe" is no more than a Betty Crocker recipe that has been tweaked to their specific taste (example: add more salt, boil for two minutes longer, take out x-amount of sugar, etc). There is one recipe that has plagued me for literally years now.
Backstory: When I was pregnant with my son, my mother's boyfriend's mother (convoluted, no?) sent over some prepared food for me so that I could rest instead of cooking for the household. She was a little Italian lady who was from New York, and she was such a sweet person. This woman had never yet met me, and here she was sending food over.
Anyway, in one of the many Tupperware bowls she sent over, there were these little fried balls of something. I opened up the container and I was immediately hit with the scent of garlic and Parmesan cheese. Drool. I bit into one and it was one of the best tasting things I'd ever had. After eating one, I couldn't help myself and I ate another. And another. ...And another. I had eaten probably five or six before I put the lid back on and put them away. I would have eaten the whole thing on my own if I didn't move the bowl out of my sight. This was my first time ever eating Arancini.
Throughout my whole pregnancy, I craved those. She kept sending them over to the house because Phil (my mom's boyfriend) had told her that I couldn't seem to get enough of them. She loved making them, so she was happy to do it.
I never got a chance to really thank her. I mean...I told her thank you on several occasions. I even sent some of my own culinary creations to her after my morning sickness (see: all day sickness) finally went away. She passed away not long after my son was born, so I feel like I wasn't grateful enough.
She would never give me the recipe for those rice balls. I think she liked knowing that someone needed her to make them and I never had a problem with that. Since she passed away, I've been trying my HARDEST to replicate that recipe. I have looked at recipe book after recipe book, website after website.
I assumed at first that it was, like I said in the beginning, just a tweaked recipe. Apparently I was wrong. I've tried every single Arancini recipe I've ever found and not a single one comes close. So I took a basic one and I've been subtly tweaking it myself as I'm going. The ones I make now, after roughly three years of research, trial, and error, are so close! They're just not right, though. My husband thinks that it's maybe because SHE made them that they'll never taste the same. Kind of like how coffee tastes better when my husband makes it even though he does the same thing I do.
I am trying again tonight to replicate her recipe. Who knows, maybe one day it will be my kid or my kid's wife wanting MY recipe for themselves.
Side note: During my research for this recipe, I found a recipe book that was so old (mid 1800's) it said to, "..rake the coals before putting pot in hearth."