Thursday, March 21, 2013

Arancini

I fell in love with arancini, a Sicilian-born croquette, while traveling in Italy. [arancini = Italian for 'little orange'; croquettes are often cylindrical or more oval shaped. I don't know about Italian, but in French, croquer = 'to crunch'.] There are lots of varieties -- different fillings including meat, shellfish, cheeses, veggies.

And these deep fried, cheesy rice balls somehow manage to crossover and be both a delicacy and an easy-to-grab-on-the-go fast food option. The recipe below includes pine nuts, which are delicious, but were nothing I ever had in Italian arancini. They make a nice side to meat and veggies, or a couple with marinara dipping sauce can serve as an appetizer. 

Ingredients:
3 C chicken broth
1 C arborio rice
2 Tbls toasted pine nuts 
½ C shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz) 
½ C shredded fontina cheese (2 oz)
2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs 
½ C grated parmesan cheese
1½ C breadcrumbs
vegetable oil (for frying)

Directions:
Bring broth to a boil (with a dash of salt). Stir in rice. Reduce heat to low; simmer until tender (about 20 minutes). Spread on parchment lined baking sheet; allow to cool completely.

Combine pine nuts, mozzarella, fontina and parsley in a bowl; set aside.

Beat eggs in large bowl, then stir in cooled rice, parmesan, and 2/3C breadcrumbs. Shape mixture into 12 to 15  1½" balls. Press your finger (or thumb) into the center of each rice ball, forming a small cup. Scoop 2 tsp of mozzarella mixture into 'cup' and pinch the rice around filling to enclose it. (This is definitely a hands-on, somewhat messy process.) :) Roll balls in breadcrumbs; place on parchment lined baking sheet. (With the filling, the finished balls end up about 2½".) Refrigerate 1-3 hours.

Heat ½" vegetable oil in large saucepan until thermometer reads 350°. Work in batches to fry rice balls, turning until golden on all sides (4-5 minutes). The refrigerated arancini will cool the oil. When the oil temperature drops the oil soaks in rather than frying at the surface...and no one wants greasy arancini! Don't add too many at a time, and monitor the temperature. Remove with tongs or slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.

Season with salt. Serve alone or with marinara dipping sauce.