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Monday, September 5, 2011

Arancini, At Last

One of the things my Grandma talked about wanting to make but never did was arancini.  I'm not sure why she never made them, or why I never took a day and went to her house to make them with her, but it never happened.  And I thought of them from time to time, how delicious it sounds and how I'd like to make them.  When I see them on a menu, I order them.  So what is arancini you ask?   Having originated in Sicily, it's basically risotto that is shaped into a ball with some fillings in the middle, breaded and deep fried.  In the words of Ina Garten, "how bad can that be?"

Traditionally arancini start with saffron risotto and being the traditionalist I am, I would start with saffron risotto.  To make it, you need one small onion, diced and sauteed in a large pan on medium heat with a Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a Tablespoon of butter.  

Once the onions have softened and are translucent, add 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice.  Do yourself a favor and don't try and use regular long grain rice thinking it will work the same.  It won't.  You need a short grain rice like Arborio or don't even bother.   Add a good pinch of saffron.  It's expensive but a little goes a long way.

Stir together and saute for about 2 minutes.   You don't want the rice to brown or anything, but you want it to be nicely coated with the oil/butter.

Add 1/3 cup of white wine to the rice and stir until the wine is evaporated.  You should have another pot going with 5 cups of chicken stock.  I happen to not be able to find chicken stock in my favorite brand Kitchen Basics that week, so I opted for turkey stock.  And I didn't have any of my own available either.  You want to warm the stock but not boil it.  Just heat it gently.  Add one ladle of chicken stock at a time to the rice, stirring and stirring until all the stock is absorbed.  Then add another.   And keep doing this until you get the desired consistency of risotto that you want.  Normally it would take 5-6 cups of stock to get the loose risotto texture that is desired when eating risotto.  But since we are making arancini, you want the consistency a little stiffer.

Check out that color!  That's the saffron at work.   Once the risotto is done, set it aside to cool completely and make your filling.  I've had them with a tomato sauce, a meat sauce, peas, or cheese inside.  I had an idea for what I wanted to fill mine with and that's what I went with.   One pound of Italian sausage (either bulk or removed from the casings) browned with a diced small onion and some basil from my garden.

Once the sausage and onions are nicely and lightly browned, drain any grease off and mix it with the risotto.

Hot damn that looks good enough to eat right now!  But just wait.  Let it all cool completely and wait.  Chill.  You've come this far.  And so I chill.  Once the risotto mixture is cooled, it's time to start the arancini mayhem.  Put a pot on the stove with about 3-4 inches of oil (vegetable, canola, any light oil that has a high smoke point).  That oil needs to get to between 340 and 350 degrees.  I have a candy/deep fry thermometer that came in very handy for this occasion.   It is the first time I've used it for deep frying because I never deep fry.  Ever.   So this should be fun!

While it's heating I cut up the cheese.  Oh yes, there will be cheese.   Fresh mozzarella in fact.  Cut it up into a small dice.  Try not to keep eating it while you do that so there is some left for the arancini.

And now, assembly.   Wash your hands or if you're a wuss, put on some rubber gloves.  Take about 3 Tablespoons, give or take, of the rice mixture and form it into a sort of semi circle.  Then put one of your pieces of diced motz in the middle.

Take a little more of the rice mixture and place it over the cheese and then form the whole thing into a ball.  As you can see, mine fit in the palm of my hand.
Not too small, but not huge either.   A little bigger than a golf ball.  Once they are all formed, it's time to bread them.  Dip them in egg then in bread crumbs.  I'm using Panko.

And this is how many I got from the batch of risotto/sausage.

Look at those cuties.  From here I've washed my hands again, for about the 50th time and then check my oil.  It's ready!
Be careful with this huh?   It's hot freakin oil!  Gently put in three arancini at a time and don't go anywhere.  This goes fast.  Check out the action shot.

You can see they are getting brown really fast.   The temp of the oil shot up right before I put them in and this first batch got very brown in very little time.   But then I was able to get the temp down and things went a little smoother.

The one on the right was from that first batch with the too hot oil.  The one on the left, clearly perfect.   Money shot!

These were absolutely delicious.  The risotto was still creamy.  The sausage added a wonderful depth to the arancini and the cheese, what are you kidding me?  It's fresh motz, it's freakin fantastic anywhere at any time.  Try it.  Make them.  Don't fear the arancini!   You won't be sorry.

Buon Cibo mia Amici


Chexy said...

Oh man, that looks so good!



Dina said...

love arancini! and plan on making it really soon!

Dina said...

btw you have inspired me! I am gonna do it, I will use veal because that's traditional and although I quit eating it years ago, I will deal with the bad karma because there is no beating arancini with veal. I am busy this weekend and next so i will do it in a couple of weeks. did you make a light red sauce to go with?

Kathy said...

Hi Dina :) I don't eat veal either. And no, I did not make a sauce with it. The risotto is so creamy and moist, I didn't think it needed any. I know it usually has it, but it was fine without it =) Would love to hear how yours come out! Please let me know!