Friday, November 30, 2012

For the love of little oranges

I first stumbled across arancini (Italian for "little oranges") when my daughter and I were trying to come up with a cultural food that she could take into her class for a presentation.  We ended up using a recipe that we found at Noshtalgia.  The name comes from the typical size of the item prepared, about the size of a tangerine or small orange.  Following the basic concept of croquettes of various types, this is a great way to use up leftover risotto (has anyone ever used those two words together with a straight face?), or in our family's case, make some risotto to use to make what our friends have come to refer to as "Amazeballs."

If you don't have any leftover risotto - here's the basics for making one.

1.5 C short grain (arborio) rice
1 qt chicken stock
0.5 C white wine
1 small onion, chopped (~0.5 C)
0.25 C shredded parmesan
3 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil

Ingredients ready to roll
Heat stock to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and keep hot.  Melt 1 T butter in a heavy bottomed pan with 1 T olive oil.    Add onions to pan and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent.
 Add rice to pan and saute until rice has begun to brown slightly, and has a nutty aroma.

Adding the rice

Rice toasted versus rice at the start
Add the half a cup of white wine to the rice and stir constantly, until the wine has been absorbed into the rice.  Add the stock to the rice a half a cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the liquid has absorbed into the rice or incorporated into the sauce.  Repeat until the stock pot is empty or the rice is done - the grains should have a bit of toothiness, but no hard center and no white "gem" in the middle.  If you're making this risotto specifically for arancini, it's okay to overcook a bit, no one will notice.  Finish the risotto with the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the parmesan, stirring to incorporate.

Once the risotto has cooled, mix in the following:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 lb cheese, chopped small (I like a mix of mozzarella and provolone)
  • 1/4 lb Genoa salami, chopped into small pieces
Incorporate all and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to cook, you will need vegetable oil to fry the arancini in and bread crumbs to coat.  You may note that the original recipe calls for using the egg whites to coat the arancini before breading them, but I've found that 1) they're more of a mess than they're worth and 2) breading the arancini without the egg whites results in a crispier outer shell, which I prefer.

Roll the rice mixture into appropriately sized shapes - traditionally, the little orange, although I like these about ping pong/golf ball sized as an appetizer.  You do not need to roll perfect spheres at this point, as I recommend re-rolling them a second time after breading.

Little spheres of yumminess

Hot oil and bread crumbs

Breaded and ready

I use the chopstick method to test my oil for readiness for cooking.  Not precise, but effective enough.  One thing you absolutely do not want to do is cook arancini at too low a temperature - they'll come apart in the oil, contaminating the oil, making it frothy, and generally being a complete pain.

Bubbling arancini
Cook the arancini until the breading is a nice golden brown.  Drain against the side of the pan, then rest on a baking sheet with paper towels to drain the oil.  Serve hot, with a side of marinara to dip into.


Ready to serve

  If you're preparing for later service, set the cooled arancini onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze, then store in ziplocs until ready to reheat (oven, 350F, 10-15 minutes).
Into the deep freeze

Serve hot, cheesy, melty and delicious!

Ready to devour