Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Beginners Guide to Arancini AKA Fried Rice Balls

So you've mastered the art of making risotto, and despite it's delicious results, you've followed my advice and have left yourself some leftovers for the following day...Now what? There's not a chance that anyone could get you to revive the goopy, gluey mess you have in front of you by simply re-heating. Although some of the best leftovers are merely reheated to achieve the same level of flavour from when they were first served, reviving risotto requires completely transforming the rice into an entirely new dish, largely unrecognizable from the creamy risotto it once was. Yes friends, I am talking about the miraculous transformation of renovating risotto into arancini! 

Arancini are also known as fried rice balls (or 'little oranges', referring to their appearance), and are made by forming the sticky leftover risotto into a ball, stuffing with cheese or other fillings like meat, and rolling in a breadcrumb mixture, to be fried into crisp and creamy balls. I had previously made arancini once before last year using leftover risotto from my culinary class at George Brown. Although my results were tasty, they were nowhere near the crispy on the outside, and outrageously creamy on the inside arancini that I had gone gaga over at Italian restaurants and events. I knew a big issue was my not-so-successful attempt at deep frying over the stove for the first time (something that pretty much scared the pants off of me!), but I knew that there was more that could be tweaked. The cheese inside hadn't melted quite as much as I had hoped, and I found the arancini a little on the dry side. What was I doing wrong?

For my second attempt at making arancini just a few weeks ago, after enjoying a delicious asparagus and green pea risotto, I decided to take matters into my own hands and tuck into some arancini research online. The hands-down best resource I found was from Serious Eats, where the chef had gone through some serious recipe testing to perfect the little fried balls. Although this method for making arancini was not meant for using leftover risotto (this recipe skips the risotto all together and goes straight to perfecting arancini), I was still able to take my arancini to a whole new level and gain amazing results using this resource as a guide. 

Although one of the very first things I learned from that resource was the success of using sushi rice as opposed to the traditional Italian short-grain Arborio rice, I stuck with the arborio rice because, well, that's what I had made my risotto with the night before! The recipe also encouraged making a bechamel sauce from chicken stock and milk to stir into the sushi rice to achieve a molten, not dry, interior. Once again, because I was using leftover risotto, I omitted this step, though it did give me a great idea for next time! The next time I make arancini I would love to mimic the method of making croqueta filling, by making a thick roux-like bechamel, cooling it down so it's pliable, and rolling it into balls so it can be stuffed inside the leftover risotto rice, along with cheese. This would ensure that, once heated, the bechamel would become liquid once again, achieving that molten filling that is so desirable. 

Though there were a few steps that I had to stray from in the Serious Eats method, there was certainly lots that I did take away. The first thing was the breadcrumbs. Although the chef found the best results by using homemade breadcrumbs, he stated that crushed panko breadcrumbs were a close contender. I didn't have any homemade breadcrumbs (nor any bread to make them with) but I did have plenty of panko! I pulsed it in the food processor as recommended in order to make the crumbs finer, so that the final result would still have the appearance of looking like little oranges. 

More than just the breadcrumbs, the way in which you adhere the breadcrumbs to the rice will also aid in achieving the ultimate crisp exterior. This method recommended making a 'slurry' out of water and flour to result in a "shatteringly crisp" exterior. To get the creamy and gooey cheesy interior that was lacking on my last arancini attempt, I cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes, adding several to each ball, so that they would melt at a faster rate. 

The final step to getting the arancini I had dreamt of was learning to control the oil. First off, I used far less oil than I had last time. There's no need to actually deep fry risotto, you can simply add a few inches of oil (about 4-inches) to your deep pot, allowing you to turn the balls as needed to evenly crisp. By adding less oil you will have so much more control over the heat. Have a thermometer handy to keep testing the temperature of the oil so that it stays around 375ºF, and adjust your stovetop as needed. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the balls, allowing any excess oil to drain off, and place on a paper towel-lined wire rack. While the arancini are still nice and hot, serve them with some good tomato sauce and you're good to tuck in and enjoy all that hard work! 

Yes, making arancini sounds a little complicated, especially when it takes me this long to accurately explain my process, but I promise you after that first attempt, it will all feel like play! It's actually so incredibly simple to make delicious arancini, it just takes a little research (which I've already done for you!) and a bit of practice. I was able to make my arancini in about 30-minutes on a weeknight, along with a main course, meaning it really can't be that difficult at all! If you're concerned about timing, form your arancini in advance, and pop them in the freezer until you're ready to fry. I love this idea for last-minute entertaining! 

Big thanks to Serious Eats for providing me with so much helpful information! I definitely encourage you all to check out the page and see what you can take away from it! Let me know how your attempt at making arancini went and share your results with me on Twitter: @thisgingerrose! 

Listening To:
Alt-J - The Gospel Of John Hurt

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