"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recycling Fridays: Arancini

You see them in menus all over the place these days: arancini ("little oranges").  Made meatier and a little spicier and hailing from Sicily rather than Rome, they are known as supplì al telefono, or "telephone wires", so called because of the strands of cheese that form when you pull them apart.  But they are basically the same thing:  fried risotto balls with melty cheese in the middle.

They are very, very good, but barring some kind of desperate hormonal craving for arancini, it bugs me to see recipes for arancini specifying the risotto made from scratch.  Why not just say, "Got any leftover risotto?  Well, this is what you do!"  I mean, you're going to have to cool the risotto down anyway, meaning that not only do you have a two-stage cooking process (and the first one, if the risotto is properly made, is fairly laborious in terms of stirring-until-you-scream) ahead of you, but also the cooling process (at least an hour) in the middle, and ufa!  Enough already!  I'll buy one from the café next door to work on Monday!

But if you have any leftover risotto, then guess what?  This is what you do.  And you can even plan it ahead this way (Google "planned-over": the planned alternative to leftovers), because when you're not cooking industrial quantities, cooking a little extra is exactly as much hassle as cooking the amount you were going to cook in the first place.  Risotto is best when freshly made, and, as I remind the family when I call them to table, waits for no man, so no matter how nice the leftovers are for lunch the next day, they cannot approximate the perfection of the creamy plateful you had the night before.  Arancini, however, are beasties unto themselves and will transform whatever risotto you had in the 'fridge into something Very Special Indeed.

Our arancini today were as good as the risotto they were made from, and seeing as it was Bettsy Boy's risotto, it was pretty good, full of his standards:  bacon, chicken, and whatever vegies were in the crisper on Monday.

You will need:
  • Leftover risotto of any persuasion
  • Mozzarella cheese, or some other delicious melty cheese
  • Egg
  • Breadcrumbs (no, the egg and breadcrumbs are not a crumbing set, so relax)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

What you do:

Leftover risotto will be crumbly; you need to make it into a cohesive mass.  This is what the egg is for.  How much egg?  My daughter could tell you, through gritted teeth:  enough.  Break down the risotto in a bowl, and add beaten egg while mixing with your hands, until it's a consistency that will hold together when pressed.

Take a portion of risotto in your hand and press it into a flattish patty.  Place a cube of cheese on the patty, and fold your hand over to enclose it.  Pat with your hands to form a ball.  (Needless to say, you can make these whichever size you like.  Bite size, snack size... MAN SIZE!  Just make sure the size of your cheese cubes corresponds.) 

Roll balls in breadcrumbs.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan to deep-fry.  If you have a thermometer, you're after 180oC, and if you don't, you want a cube of bread dropped in the oil to be golden in 10-20 seconds.  Add arancini, but do not crowd the pan (this would make the temperature drop, making them absorb oil).  Cook for a few minutes each side, until golden.

Drain on paper towels, and allow to sit for a couple of minutes before serving.  This will allow the temperature to equalise and let the cheese melt further, prevent mouth blisters (I know whereof I speak), and yes, they'll still be satisfyingly crunchy on the outside.

Enjoy with a sauce, or on their own with salad.  Or just enjoy.  You know.

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