Arancini — Risotto Finger Food

December 1, 2009

Tonic-clonic Sicilian croquettes.

A way to embrace those lonely risotto leftovers from the previous day—before you take the fateful, even shameful, step of simply discarding them. The name arancini derives from the shape and color of this street and café food, which is reminiscent of the small oranges found on Sicily. These deservedly glorified fried stuffed rice croquettes are an almost cult-like, centuries old Sicilian delight with distinctly North African roots, as oranges were brought to the island during Arab tenure there.

Once again, the struggles of conquest and occupation and the interlacing of disparate cultures leads to blissful cuisine. Food is so often the last haven for besieged peoples. Fusion is far from a recent culinary phenonmenon.

Dip these little comforts in aïoli once they cool some. (See Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli, January 25, 2009). Or tidy them over a nest of baby mixed greens and drizzle a simple balsamic vinaigrette over them (See In Praise of Balsamic, March 19, 2009). Do not feel limited to this recipe, as arancini can be made with most any risotto.

ARANCINI (RISOTTO BALLS)

3-4 C wild mushroom risotto, cooled (See Risotto, January 27, 2009)
1-2 C Taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 large eggs
2 C all purpose flour
2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 T parmigiano-reggiano
2 C fine fresh bread crumbs

Equal parts extra virgin olive and grapeseed oils, for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Aioli, for dipping or
Balsamic vinaigrette, for drizzling

Pour combined olive and grapeseed oils to a 3 1/2″ depth. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees F, using a frying thermometer. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet with paper towels to later drain and season the fried arancini.

To make an arancino, take about two tablespoons of risotto in one hand, make a hole with a finger and stuff it with 1-2 Taleggio cubes. Close the hole and then form and roll the risotto into almost 2″ diameter balls. Set aside on a pan covered in parchment paper.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well. Place the flour in a separate mixing bowl and combine with the parmigiano-reggiano, rosemary, sage and salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Place the bread crumbs in a third mixing bowl.

Roll the arancini first in the flour mixture, then dip into the eggs until well coated and then finally roll lightly into the bread crumbs.

Working in batches cook in the heated oil until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and season to taste.

To review:  1) roll arancini into 2″ balls 2) make a hole and stuff with 1 or so 1/2″taleggio cubes 3) whisk local, fresh eggs 4) roll in seasoned flour 5) dip into whisked eggs 6) coat lightly with bread crumbs 7) cook in heated, mixed oils — 350 F — for 3-4 minutes 8) drain cooked arancini on paper towels and 9) once cooled enough, relish with eyes rolled back.

Pourboire:  serve arancini on a plate which has copious dollops of basil pesto for dipping.

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