Are you sitting down? Good. Because it's time to share with you one of my all-time favorite recipes. I bought an electric countertop deep fryer just so that I could make this recipe... Okay, so that's not exactly true. But my wife and I did agree today that the fryer was worth purchasing just so that we can make this, and had we known this recipe existed before we bought the fryer, we would have bought it just so we could make this recipe.
So what is this wunder-recipe?
Aran-what, you say?
Air. Run. CHEE. Knee.
It's hard to believe there was a time when these were missing from my life, but I had never even heard of them until a few years ago. I was at a sales conference in Arizona, and these were served to us on our Italian-themed dinner night. One of my colleagues dubbed them "deep-fried balls of goodness", and the name has stuck. Specifically, these deep-fried balls of goodness are made from cold risotto that is stuffed, breaded and fried. And believe me when I tell you that they are sublime!
In theory, arancini are a great way to use up leftover risotto. I say "in theory" because I've never actually made these with leftover risotto. Every time I make these, I prepare the risotto specifically for them. But if you happen to have leftover risotto sitting around, and need something to do with it, this could be the recipe you've been waiting for. And if you don't happen to have leftover risotto sitting around, make some. I promise it's worth it.
Alas, arancini are not so sublime the next day. Which means that they will need to be eaten all in one sitting. Pity...
Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock (room temperature or warmer)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley or chives (if using dried herbs, cut amount in half)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup cubed cheese, such as fresh mozzarella (small cubes are best)
1/3 cup chopped ham, prosciutto, pepperoni, salami, or other ready-to-eat meat
Peanut oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup flour
1 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
Marinara sauce, for serving (optional)
1. Saute chopped onion in melted butter and oil over medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes, but do not let the onions brown. Add rice and stir to coat with oil for about 1 minute.
2. Add the white wine, and cook until it has been absorbed by the rice, stiring frequently.
3. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken stock, and stir occasionally until it has been absorbed. Once it is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup stock and stir occasionally until it has been absorbed. Continue this process until the rice is tender and the texture of the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes. You may not necessarily use all of the stock.
4. Add cream, cheese, and herbs, and remove from heat. Mix to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let risotto cool completely, preferably overnight in the refrigerator (the colder the risotto, the easier it will be to form into balls).
5. When risotto is thoroughly chilled, add 1 egg to risotto and mix well to combine. Prepare "assembly line" consisting of risotto and individual bowls containing cubed cheese, meat, flour, 2 beaten eggs, and bread crumbs.
6. Using your hands, form a spoonful of risotto into a ball a little bit larger than a golf ball. With the risotto ball in the palm of your hand, use your thumb to make a deep indentation into the ball. Add a few pieces of cheese and meat to this indentation. Close the ball back up around the filling, and roll in your hand to restore to a ball shape. Place on a plate and repeat until all of the risotto is used.
7. Bread the risotto balls by rolling them in the flour to coat, making sure to shake off any excess, then dip them in the beaten egg to lightly cover, and finally coat them in the bread crumbs.
8. After you have breaded all of the risotto balls, place them in batches into oil that has been heated to 360 degrees fahrenheit. If not deep-frying, there should be enough oil in pan to come at least half-way up the side of the risotto ball. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per ball. If your oil is not deep enough to cover them, you'll need to rotate them during cooking so that the entire ball is fried (figure about 2 minutes per side in this case). As each batch is completed, place on a wire rack over paper towel (and I also use brown paper bags) to drain.
Note: Arancini can be prepared in advance through step 7. Simply refrigerate until ready to fry. They could probably be frozen, as well, and fried straight from the freezer, but I haven't tried this yet. I will update here once I've tried it.