The last Daring Cook’s challenge I was able to participate in was May 2013’s En Croute. For various reasons, I had to take a break from adventurous culinary forays. But I’m back now, baby, and what a challenge with which to come back. The Daring Cooks’ challenge this January was a ball– a risotto ball, that is. Manu from Manu’s Menu challenged us to make arancini – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
Since it was my first attempt at making these, I chose basic risotto and arancini recipes; however, there are loads of variations you can make.
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis’ Arancini di Risotto recipe
2 cups cold risotto
2 large eggs
½ cup parmesan
1 ½ cups dried Italian bread crumbs (see note in the directions)
2 oz. mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes (1/4 of an 8 oz. ball)
oil for frying (canola, vegetable, or peanut)
Gather all of your ingredients together before you get started. Making these is messy, so it helps to have everything ready to go.
Break out the cold risotto. The recipe is linked above in the ingredients list above.
It’s cold enough to hold an indention, and this is a very good thing. You’ll want that stickiness because it will help the balls hold together.
Stir one of the eggs, risotto, parmesan, and ½ cup of the breadcrumbs in a large bowl to combine.
Form them into 1 ½ inch-sized balls (though, were I to make these again, I’d make the balls substantially smaller– maybe 3/4 of an inch). Gather a palm full of the arancini mixture,
and compress it between your palms, rolling the mixture as compactly as you can. Pretend it’s gooey play dough.
When you’re done you should have a fairly compact risotto ball. Oh, and your hand will be a little on the eww side.
Place the balls on a sheet pan as you go.
Poke a hole in each ball,
and stuff each with a cube of mozzarella. (I wish I’d used more mozzarella.)
Carefully pinch the rice over the mozzarella, closing the ball.
Beat the remaining egg in a shallow dish. Dip the ball in the egg,
Make sure they are completely coated. I only used a spoon for these photos because I was trying to keep my hands clean so I wouldn’t goop up my camera (the husband took the shots of me forming the risotto balls). Otherwise, I’d suggest using your hands for this part.
and then roll the ball in breadcrumbs
until it is completely covered. A word about the breadcrumbs: I used plain Italian breadcrumbs, but there was just something lacking in them. If I were to do this again, I’d add some garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan to the breadcrumbs. It would have made a substantial difference.
Put the coated risotto balls back on the sheet pan.
Don’t they look delicious? Don’t eat them yet; refrigerate them for at least an hour.
I refrigerated mine for about 3 hours before finishing them up. When you’re ready, heat the oil of your choice to 350 degrees F over medium heat. I used peanut oil because that’s what I had and I like it. I shallow fried instead of deep-fried because I don’t like spending $15 dollars per fry on oil. It is what it is.
Fry arancini until golden brown. It takes about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. The oil drops about 10 to 15 degrees when you drop them into the oil, so watch your heat and adjust as needed. I highly recommend candy/ frying thermometer, if you can get one. Mine has made a big difference in my cooking.
If you’re shallow frying, flip them after a minute or two.
Remove them and set them on a rack over paper towels to drain. As you can see, though, those dark spots underneath are shadows, no oil. These were not greasy at all.
The biggest myth about frying is that it makes food greasy. Thing is, it only makes food greasy if you aren’t frying at the correct temperature. The oil should be hot enough that the outside sears at cooks the food inside at an even rate. Too cold and the outside won’t sear fast enough to keep the oil out. Too hot and the outside will burn before the inside has a chance to cook. This holds true for anything fried. If it’s greasy, it wasn’t done properly.
Serve hot with marinara sauce.
If these get cold, they can be reheated in a 250 degree F oven for about 7 minutes. We liked them much better hot than room temperature.
I certainly found a new use for my deviled egg trays.
The cheese inside was nice and melted; however, I think these would have been even better with diced pepperoni or even chicken. Or maybe a version with ham and Gruyère would be good to try. You’re only limited by your imagination.
Yield: 15- 1.5 inch balls
My take away from this challenge:
Next time I’ll amp up the breadcrumbs, power down the arancini size, and vary the fillings. They were okay as-is, but they could have been amazing.