Thursday, April 23, 2015

Arancine (fried risotto balls)

Hello, everyone!  Happy Thursday!  The weekend is well on its way, so why don't we celebrate with some fried stuff with cheese?  I don't know if you're familiar with arancine, but these little lovelies are just leftover risotto, surrounding a filling of choice (mine just happened to be little balls of mozzarella cheese), coated in panko bread crumbs, then fried until golden brown and delicious!
These crunchy babies make a perfect appetizer, or as a perfect snack.  If you have any leftovers, you can pop them into a freezer safe zip top bag, then pull them out as needed/wanted, and bake them at 350* for 15-20 minutes.  
These are perfect for make-ahead appetizers, you can either form them and put them in the fridge for up to a day, or fry them and put them into the freezer for a couple of months!   
Here's what your grocery list for this one:
1 C All purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 C Panko bread crumbs, finely ground
Mild flavored oil, for frying
Table salt, or other finely ground salt

*If you don't have any leftover risotto, make some up:
1 C arborio rice
2 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 C dry white wine
1/2 Tbs dried parsley
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 C Parmesan cheese

I'm going to quickly go over how to cook the risotto, in case you don't have any leftovers (and, lets be honest, when you're making risotto, how often are there leftovers?  Never in my house!).  If you would like  more in-depth instructions about how to make risotto, check out my other post on it.  
However, to get started, put your chicken stock into a medium sized sauce pan and warm it to a bare simmer, over medium low heat - you don't want to shock your cooking rice with cold stock as you add it in to your rice.
While your stock is warming, heat the olive oil in a skillet, over medium high heat.  Once the oil has heated for two to three minutes, add the rice and let it toast for about five minutes.
 
Once your rice has toasted, add in the grated garlic.  I always use my zester to grate my garlic - this grates it so finely that the garlic just melts into the dish. 
 
After you have stirred in the garlic, add in your dried herbs and white wine, stirring constantly.   
 



At this point, your chicken stock will be at a bare simmer, you can see that there are just a couple of bubbles in the stock.  You don't want it to be much warmer than this, or else the chicken stock will all just evaporate away before you can add it to the risotto.  Once the white wine has cooked into the risotto, add in 1/2 cup of the warmed chicken stock. 
 



Add in the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until the rice is cooked all of the way through, stirring constantly; you have to wait for the previous 1/2 cup of the chicken stock to be absorbed by the rice before adding more.  Just before you turn the heat off, stir in the Parmesan cheese, until well mixed. 
Once your risotto has cooked all of the way through, let it cool completely before proceeding to the next step.
In a small glass bowl, beat the two eggs, and set them aside.  I wanted to use a small bowl like this, because it would be easier to dip the rice balls into a bowl like this, rather than a plate that you'll be chasing the balls around on. 
 
In a food processor, puree your panko bread crumbs until they are finally ground.  This is an optional step, but I wanted a finer crumb on the end result of my arancine, and running your panko bread crumbs through the food processor doesn't affect the crispness of the end fried result.  It is still just as crunch as if you left them alone. 
 
I put my flour and panko bread crumbs into bowls, and set up my breading station: flour, beaten eggs, and panko bread crumbs.  I also pulled my small balls of mozzarella (called mozzarella perlines, but whatever you can find will work fine) cheese next to my flour, since you have to form the rice balls, before rolling them in the flour.
 



Now then, take a palm full of the cooled rice, and stick a ball of mozzarella in the middle (make sure to dry the cheese ball off first), then form this into a ball, making sure that the mozzarella is completely covered, adding more rice if needed. 
 
Once your ball is formed, roll it in the flour, then into the egg, and finally in the panko, making sure that the all of the extra egg has dripped off.  I used forks for moving the ball from one station to the next, to keep my hands from getting too goopy. 
 

 

 
After the ball has been coated, set it aside on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Don't worry about them loosing their ball shape, they will remain perfectly formed. 
 
I wasn't ready to fry these just yet, so I stuck them into the fridge for a couple of hours.   
Once you're ready to fry, heat up your oil to 375* in a medium sized sauce pot.  If you use a somewhat smaller pot, you won't have to use a lot of oil, and you can still fry these 3-4 at a time.  As they get to be golden brown, about 4-5 minutes, pull them out with a slotted spoon, and place them on a cooling wrack set on a baking sheet.  I line mine with aluminum foil, for easier clean up.  Don't forget to salt them as they come out of the fryer!
 



It is best to serve these hot, with your favorite tomato marinara sauce.  These balls are about the size of large golf balls, or small tennis balls, so really, 2 or 3 per person makes for a perfect appetizer!  You can make the risotto a few days ahead of time, and form the rice balls a day ahead, and just fry them up the day of!  They look so impressive (and taste even better!) and no one has to know how easy it really was!  I do hope you'll try this recipe, and let me know how you like them when you do!