Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Arancini | Cheese Filled Risotto Croquettes

We discovered these little bites of rice heaven at the Boathouse, a local water side restaurant here in Richmond.  (They catered my wedding, yum!  Too bad these weren't on the menu then)  From the first bite, you just fall in love.  They have an unbelievably crispy exterior that breaks a bit when you bite into them, then you get the soft, creamy risotto, and the surprising stringy bite of mozzarella... OMG, these things are the best appetizer ever!  Seriously, can you go wrong when you combine fried crunchy, salty creamy and cheesy gooey?  Heck no!  They serve their Arancini with roasted red peppers and artichoke, but for my first time, I decided to stick to just the Arancini itself.

I looked up a billion recipes for these and have to say that if you give them a try yourself, keep it simple.  There was one suggestion that called for you to add an egg and heavy cream to the day old risotta, all I have to say to that is: DISASTER!  It took my perfectly old sticky rice and turned it back into a soft gooey mess.  Needless to say I had to start all over and was forced to wait another 24 hours.  I also suggest that you refrain from adding either pancetta or prosciutto inside with your mozzarella, not only does it add to the cost of this pretty inexpensive dish, the prosciutto becomes an unappetizing hard ball inside the was as yucky as it sounds.

I'm sad to say it was harder to make these than I was hoping, I think it's all in the texture of your rice.  I had to wash and thoroughly dry my hands in between every two balls!   Let me tell you, there was a lot of cussing and huffing and even a little rice throwing during this part.  The rice just did not want to stick together!  Once they were all formed though, the rest was a breeze, and they fry up in seconds.  You must make these, they were worth every bit of frustration and the unexpected extra day wait.


Risotto, refrigerated over night

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups Panko
1 cup flour
fresh mozzarella ball (cubed)
olive oil or vegetable oil
day old risotto, prepared
tomato sauce 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees.  You want enough oil to almost, but not completely cover your Arancini. 

2. Set up your dipping stations using three medium sized mixing bowls.  Fill bowl one with just flour, bowl two with eggs and milk (beaten), and in bowl three, fill with the bread crumbs and Panko.  Have a baking sheet (with sides) lined with parchment paper ready.

3. Take about 2-3 tablespoons risotto, form into a ball then smoosh into your hand.  Place 1-3 pieces of your cubed mozzarella cheese (depending on size) in the middle of your smooshed ball, cover and reform into a tight ball, drop into the flour.  I recommend doing these in groups of 3-4 at a time, once you have 3-4 balls in the flour, shake off excess then put them into the egg mixture, making sure they get well coated, then drop them into the Panko mixture.  Again, make sure they are covered well, shake off excess and place on the parchment lined baking sheet.

4.  Once all of your balls are formed you're ready to fry them.  The oil should be good and hot, they'll brown in less than a minute (probably about 20-30 seconds).  Don't stop moving them, turn them over regularly, once they're a nice rich brown, get them out and back onto the baking sheet.

5.  Heat the Arancini in the oven for 8-10 minutes, this will finish their cooking and melt the mozzarella inside.  Serve immediately with your favorite tomato sauce!

* When making your risotto, I recommend adding 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese.  Cool completely before covering and putting in the refrigerator, you do not want to trap any liquid in there.

Interesting tidbit:  Cheese Arancini are known as Telefono or Telephone Fritters for the string or 'telephone line' of cheese that stretches between the two halves when broken open!

If anyone out there has suggestions on the frustrating ball forming portion of this, I'd love to hear it, as I will be making these again and again!
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lisaiscooking said...

What a coincidence--I just posted arancini too! Yours look delicious.

Carrie said...

I had these once at a restaurant, adn they were probably the best appetizer I've ever had. Yours look amazing!

Susan said...

Got your comment. Thanks! I live just outside of Richmond! We should try and meet one day. :)

Alisa@Foodista said...

Now this is something I don't see everyday!It looks delicious!I'd probably have a hard time forming the balls but what the heck,I'm making this anyway :)

Melissa said...

These look soooo good! Tell me truthfully though, was it worth the trouble? Will you make them again or just go back and have them at the restaurant?

Angela [YourEverydayMama] said...

Melissa, you're too funny! I bet you know just how I often I too wonder if people are just talking them up. LOL!

Honestly, I'll do them again (and I may still eat them at the restaurant too)!

I just need to figure out how to get my rice just right so that it's a little easier. If you decide to try it, don't even bother heating up the oil until all of your rice balls are ready to go, I got it all going to early and it made me feel pressured and rushed.

I'd also make them slightly smaller, about the size of a golf ball, and I really want to ask them what they're doing to the artichoke hearts, because their arancini with roasted red peppers and artichoke is AWESOME!

Give it a go, you'll be glad you did I promise.

Melissa said...

Lol! They remind me of the pain of making truffles. They were good and everything. Everyone loved them and ate them, but.... they were no Godiva truffles and quite a pita! I may make them again, as gifts or something, but if I want a truffle, I'll go to the mall. ;o)

Angela [YourEverydayMama] said...

And that would be why I've never tried making them, especially since I always stick with the liquor ones!

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Avi said...

You should cook the arborio rice in a rice cooker replacing the water with stock. The rice cooker gets the consistency of the arborio rice just perfect. That way you don't have to cool the rice before rolling them into balls. I make arancini once every fortnight and had no trouble once I switched the method of cooking the risotto.