Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! Risotto!

OK, so "Reduce" doesn't exactly make sense. Reusing or Recycling Risotto, however, is a grand idea and definitely deserves exclamation points! Arancini are of Sicilian origin and traditionally made with a simple risotto and filled with a dollop of meat and peas ragu, coated in breadcrumbs and fried in oil. Arancini means little oranges in Italian, which they resemble after frying. I've actually seen versions of arancini labeled "Rice Balls" and sold at local fairs and smaller pizzerias here in New Jersey; which is not surprising since there is a large population of people of Italian heritage in this state. Unless you've been living outside the United States, you probably already knew that and have seen an episode (or season) of one of the growing number of ridiculous programs depicting Italian Americans, especially those from New Jersey, in an unfavorable light. While my husband (not of Italian heritage) finds humor in those programs, I invariably find something better to do while they're on (e.g. cooking, laundry, alphabetizing the pantry). Alas I digress...

Certain foods just do not make great leftovers. Pasta and risotto are two high on my list. Except for perhaps a baked pasta like pasticcio which can be reheated in the oven to a crispier version of itself which is equally delicious. This recipe for arancini calls for leftover risotto rolled into balls and stuffed with a little cube of cheese. Like many Italian recipes, once you learn the method of preparing a dish the ingredient combinations are limitless. Let your risotto refrigerate overnight and work with it just from the fridge to avoid sticky fingers. Once they're coated with breadcrumbs, you can freeze them on a tray and then transfer them to a freezer bag to pop into hot oil for a quick appetizer or dinner with mixed greens.

I used mixed mushroom risotto and muenster cheese because that's what I had around the house. What arancini varieties can you come up with?


2 cups refrigerated leftover risotto
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
20 or so cubes of cheese
vegetable or canola oil for frying

Mix 1 egg and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs into the risotto. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of risotto into your hands and begin to form a ball. Press one cube of cheese into the middle and reform the ball so it's completely sealed. Roll the arancino in the 2nd beaten egg then breadcrumbs until thoroughly coated.

In a heavy bottomed pot heat about 2 inches of frying oil to 350 degrees. Drop 3 or 4 arancini at a time and brown them all over turning occasionally. Scoop them out with a spider skimmer and let drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and Parmesan cheese if desired. Keep them in a low oven until all arancini are cooked. Serve alongside a green salad or simple tomato sauce for dipping.

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