January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
This is my second Daring Cooks Challenge and I was super-excited that it was an arancini challenge! There is a local food truck called The Black Market Food Truck that normally has a specialty arancini on the menu and they are always amazing! They have had me itching to try my hand at this so what a perfect challenge!
If you have never heard of arancini you are in for a treat. Arancini are a traditional Italian street food, the word meaning “little oranges”, dating back to the 10th century so there must be something to them, right? Simply put, they are rice balls covered in some sort of breading and then fried. They are often stuffed with a ragu or sauce of some type and sometimes served with a sauce. There are no bounds to your creativity when making these as you can really make these to suit your tastes. Arancini are a great way to use up leftover risotto, which is never quite the same reheated. You make this big beautiful batch of risotto and then you reheat it and it is not the creamy, silken dish you had the night before. The rice tends to absorb more liquid and it becomes clumpy, soggy- heavy. But imagine turning that flavorful blob into a crispy and soft cloud of happiness. You can make arancini out of any flavor risotto you like, sweet or savory.
While you’re on a mission to make arancini, why not get two meals out of it? Make the risotto as part of an elegent dinner one night and then fry up the leftovers a night or two later! So this was my originial plan. I made a mushroom and pea risotto which I served alongside some seared salmon. Delicious meal, except I realized that frozen salmon in no way compares to fresh and thought to myself , “why did I buy this frozen salmon?”. But aside from that- awesome. There was plenty of risotto left from that meal to make arancini so I figured I was set to proceed with this Daring Cooks’ challenge. I planned to make a bechamel and stir in some shredded provolone and Parmesan to make a cheese sauce to stuff inside and drizzle down over the top. Delicious.
Until my brain got to ticking which it has a nasty tendency to do, especially in the middle of the night when I have to be to work at 6 am the next day. Siiigh. If you think back to September, I know if seems like so long ago now- hey it was last year!, you will remember that I made a rice pudding by making a sweet risotto and combining it with a creme anglaise and it was AMAZING! So I thought, hey make a sweet risotto and turn that into arancini with the creme anglaise stuffed inside and then draped over the top as a sauce.
Arancini two ways. It was a bit of work but it had to be done.
And it was worth it.
I don’t know that I would make both of these in such a short time-frame in the future because it does require making two risottos, two sauces and setting up two separate breading assembly lines. But at least I felt less bad about wasting fry oil because I was knocking out two projects with it. I expected Troy to go bonkers for the rice pudding arancini but he actually fell in love with the mushroom and cheese sauce arancini, although both were big hits. I’m not sure which I prefer but I will say that I could just make the creme anglais, stick a straw in it and call it a night… Dangerous stuff 😉
There is a lot of content here, recipe-wise, but pick and choose what you like or use your own risotto recipe and the basic technique described. They are quite nom nom, and a fun project for sure. I ate too much when I fried these up so it’s a wonder I’m even typing this blog post up right now LOL.
(Adapted from Manuela Zangara: Arancine al Burro – Arancine with Cheese Sauce)
- ~3 cups leftover risotto (Parmesan, Saffron, Mushroom, whatever flavor you like)
- 1 cup milk, hot
- ¼ stick unsalted butter
- 2¾ tablespoons + ½ cup un-bleached, all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 ounces of Italian cheese (mozzarella, fontina or provolone), diced
- 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 quart vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- Be sure your leftover risotto is chilled before assembly
- Make a béchamel sauce: Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
- Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.
- Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
- Add all the diced cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Stir well, until the cheeses melt
- When done, cover it (with plastic wrap) to prevent a film to appear on the surface if not using right away. (Note: If you still get a lumpy sauce, do not throw it out. You can still save it and make it smooth by using a hand stick blender).
- When the rice has cooled down, make 8-10 balls (the size of small oranges) with it and then open them by putting your thumb in one side. The hole has to be quite large to allow you to fill them as much as possible with the stuffing.
- Fill them with 1 or 2 tablespoons of cheese sauce and close the balls with your hands. Set them aside.
- Pour oil into a heavy dutch oven and heat over medium-high to 375 degrees F, monitoring the temperature with a fry or candy thermometer
- Place flour in a shallow dish
- Place egg in a shallow bowl
- Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish
- Roll each arancini first in the flour, then in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs
- Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve warm with leftover cheese sauce, if desired (you may need to thin the sauce out a bit with additional warm milk- whisk over medium heat until smooth and at the desired consistency)
I used a recipe from Food Network, more specifically from Giada De Laurentis for the risotto. I figured it was worth including here as it makes a mean arancini. It has a very robust flavor with is perfect in this application. I recommend serving it with the cheese sauce as directed above.
Mushroom and Pea Risotto
(Adapted from “Mushroom and Pea Risotto” http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/mushroom-risotto-with-peas-recipe/index.html )
- 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- ½-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup frozen peas
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms.
- Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
- Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil.
- Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.
- Add the white mushrooms and garlic.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan.
- Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes.
- Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
- Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth).
- Stir in the peas.
- Mix in the Parmesan.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Sweet Arancini (a.k.a. Rice Pudding Balls with Crème Anglaise)
(Parts adapted from “Risotto Rice Pudding” http://joythebaker.com/2011/06/risotto-rice-pudding-with-brown-sugar-and-vanilla/ and from “Homemade Cannoli” http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/homemade-cannoli-recipe/index.html )
Ingredients for the Sweet Risotto:
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 4 cups whole milk (2% will work as well)
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste (or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup raisins or dried, sweetened cranberries (or a combination of the two)
- Pinch of fine kosher or sea salt
- Pinch of allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Ingredients for the Crème Anglaise:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
Ingredients for Frying and Breading:
- ½ cup dry cookie crumbs (such as Nilla Wafers- just don’t use any with a filling like oreos)
- ¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 quart vegetable or canola oil
- Prepare the sweet risotto: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until just simmering. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting to just keep it warm
- In a large saucepan over medium-low heat melt the butter
- Stir in the rice and stir to coat with the butter and lightly toast, about 3 minutes
- Stir in the raisins and/or cranberries
- Ladle in about 1 cup of the warm milk and stir to combine with the rice
- Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently
- Ladle in another cup of the milk and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently
- Repeat this until the rice is almost tender and most of the milk has been added. You may only need 3 ½ cups of milk.
- Just before the final addition of milk, stir in the cinnamon, salt, allspice, vanilla and sugar.
- Continue to cook until the liquid has been absorbed. If you want to serve this as rice pudding you may leave it creamier but to make arancini you need it on the drier side
- Remove from heat
- Pour risotto onto a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. Pierce the plastic wrap all over with the tip of a knife to allow steam to escape.
- Refrigerate until fully chilled before proceeding (at least 4 hours)
- Make the crème anglaise: In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cream with the vanilla over medium-low heat until bubbles form at the edges. Stir frequently
- While the cream is heating, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth
- Temper the egg mixture by adding a ladle-full of the hot cream and whisking constantly
- Gradually add the egg yolk mixture into the pan of hot cream, whisking constantly
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool down for at least 10 minutes
- When the rice has cooled down, make 10 to 12 balls (golf-ball sized) with it and then open them by putting your thumb in one side. The hole has to be quite large to allow you to fill them as much as possible with crème anglaise
- Spoon in a generous tablespoon of crème anglaise and close up the rice ball around the filling
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F, monitoring the temperature with a fry or candy thermometer
- Place the flour in a shallow bowl
- Place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl
- Place the cookie crumbs in a shallow bowl
- Roll each arancini first in the flour, then in the egg and then in the cookie crumbs
- Once the oil is up to temperature, fry the arancini in batches, flipping with a spider if necessary, until lightly golden brown. Be careful not to burn
- Remove from oil to a paper-towel lined plate
- Serve with the remaining crème anglaise, if desired
I know they look a bit dark but that’s because the cookie crumbs I started with were on the dark side. I was worried at first that I burned them but nope! Delicious!
Want a bite?