I was just commenting to chu_hi that I was being remiss and needed to do a food post again sometime soon. (Sure, ok, there were the gingerbread cookies of Catan not too long ago, but I mean a proper food post, with recipes and whatnot.)
And as it happens, AWA’s volunteer thank-you / Christmas party is on Tuesday, so ’twould seem to befit the occasion.
Also as it happens, a little while back Calgary Cinemathèque held an after-party at Pulcinella where they served us these amazing arancini (breaded and deep fried risotto balls) with which I totally fell in love. Noting at the time that the risotto tasted almost exactly like that produced by the recipe I have used and loved for
So: what better time than the present?
(Note: the risotto needs to be made ahead of time — preferably 1 or 2 days — to give it time to develop cohesiveness.)
Part 1: Risotto alla Milanese
- 8 C vegetable stock
- ¼ C light olive oil (not extra virgin!)
- 4 shallots (enough to give at least ¾ C)
- 2 C long grain rice
- ½ C risotto (or short grain) rice
- ½ C dry white whine (I like sauvignon blanc)
- 20-30 threads of saffron (enough to give ⅛ tsp)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 C Parmesan cheese
- Bring the stock to a simmer in medium saucepan and keep simmering over low heat.
- Finely mince the shallots and add to a large stock pot with the olive oil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 7-8 minutes – do not let burn or brown.
- Add both kinds of rice to the pot and stir for 1-2 minutes until grains glisten and are almost opaque:
- Pour in wine and boil until almost completely absorbed.
- Turn heat to low. Add 2 C from the stock and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until almost completely absorbed.
- As you do this, set aside another 2 C of stock. Grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle, add it to the stock you just set aside, cover and let steep.
- Once the first 2 C of stock has been absorbed, add the second part (with the saffron) and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until almost completely absorbed.
- Continue adding stock, 1 C at a time, letting absorb while stirring, until the stock is completely gone.
- Once the stock is gone, the rice should be tender, hearty and sticky, and bright yellow. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese with a fork:
If you just want to make risotto (qua risotto), you are done. Serve immediately.
If you want to make arancini, cover, put the pot in the fridge, and forget it exists. If you think about it you will be tempted to mess with it. Or eat it. In either case it will be ruined. It needs a day (or two) of forgetfulness to develop the cohesiveness that will prevent it from falling apart when you fry it.
So far, this is vegetarian. It can be made vegan fairly easily by substituting vegan margarine for butter at the end (I actually do this anyway, ha) and leaving out the cheese. It loses something by omitting the cheese, unfortunately, but I don’t know whether there are any good Parmesan substitutes that would work. If you are vegan, you probably have a better idea than I do. The cashew and/or almond based substitutes that Google turns up sound like they may be promising?
Part 2: Marinara sauce
- 5-6 decent size (e.g.: brandywine or celebrity) tomatoes
- 1 medium sweet yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic (or to taste – I tend to use a lot more)
- ¼ C extra virgin olive oil (yes, now you do want this)
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 C chianti (or red wine of your preference)
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- ¼ tsp powdered sage
- ½ tsp dried chili flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- cracked pepper, to taste
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4-5 sprigs fresh oregano
- ¼ C fresh parsley
- 4-5 large leaves fresh basil
- Peel the tomatoes (I prefer the boiling water method, but really, up to you) and set aside:
- Chop the onions (how finely is up to you and how chunky / “rustic” a sauce you want), mince the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a sautée pan over medium-low heat, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Crush the dried rosemary in your palm, add it in along with the red wine, and cook until the wine has almost boiled off.
- Add the tomatoes, one at a time, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pan. Stir. Add the paprika, sage, chili flakes, bay leaf and pepper. Let cook another minute.
- Finely chop the thyme, oregano and parsley. Add them to the pan and give it a stir. The sauce should still be fairly liquid, but this will depend on the consistency of the tomatoes used; if not add ½ C water:
- Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pluck out the bay leaf.
If you just want to use the marinara as-is, then chop the basil, add it to the sauce, stir and you are done. Serve with pasta or something else yummy.
If you want to use it for the arancini, hang on to the basil for now and set the sauce aside. We’ll get back to it.
Part 3: Putting it all together
Now for the exciting part!
- Vegetable oil (enough to deep fry at 4"-5")
- 12 oz soft mozzarella cheese (I used the stuff labeled “pizza mozzrella” with 20% milk fat, 50% humidity and it worked really well)
- 4-5 oz thin sliced, dry-cured prosciutto
- 2-3 C plain bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsp cornmeal
- 3 eggs
- 1 C 1% milk
- 4-5 C panko bread crumbs
- Balsamic vinegar
- Remove the risotto from the fridge. Set out a pan (e.g.: baking tray) lined with wax paper.
- Cut the cheese into blocks about 1-1½ tsp in size – maybe an inch or two long, and ½ inches across. Cut the prosciutto slices into strips:
- Wrap each cheese block in a prosciutto strip.
- Take about ¼-⅓ C of the risotto in your hand, flatten it into a disc, add a cheese block, and “mold” the risotto around it:
- Roll the cheese-and-prosciutto-stuffed-risotto into a ball with your hands, and set aside on the wax paper.
- Repeat making balls until your risotto is all gone.
- Mix the plain bread crumbs and cornmeal in a bowl. Crack the eggs into a second bowl and whisk together with the milk. Put the panko bread crumbs in a third bowl.
- Bread the arancini as follows: roll a ball in the plain crumbs (the risotto is sticky enough that they will just stick directly to it). Then coat in egg mixture and finally in panko crumbs. Return to wax paper:
- Place the tray back in the refrigerator to chill for at least another hour. Or you can make ahead and they will keep at this stage for at least (another) day or so.
- Prepare plates by spooning ½-1 C of the marinara sauce onto each plate. Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar over the marinara sauce. Mince 1-2 basil leaves (from part 2) and sprinkle over the plate:
- Fill a pot with vegetable oil (with at least 4"-5" depth). Heat up to 350° and maintain at about that temperature (but definitely between 335° and 365°).
- Using a wire basket (or slotted metal spoon), immerse each arancina in the oil and fry until golden brown (about 3 minutes).
- Remove and place on a paper towel to let the oil drip off.
- Place the arancini on the prepared plates, garnish with a couple sprigs of parsley, and voilà!
This can easily be made vegetarian by removing the prosciutto (or replacing with veg. chorizo or something – I can imagine that working quite well). I have never tried breading anything while keeping it vegan, so uh?? The first coating of bread crumbs, as I said, stuck well straight to the risotto, so you may be able to get away just fine with just doing that. Might be worth trying, anyway. But if you do, you may also want to try just pan-frying them instead of deep frying.</random-thoughts>
Om nom nomf:
I am seriously stoked that it came out tasting better than the restaurant version that inspired the thing in the first place! (If, uh, I do say so myself...)
Makes about 18 baseball-sized arancini (ETA: or about 32 golfball-sized arancini).