The Best Croutons in the World

If I ever have leftover rice or risotto, it *always* gets turned into arancini (ah-ran-cheen-ee): fried Italian rice balls, crispy on the outside, creamy rice on the inside and a melty cheese surprise right in the middle.  And since I usually load up my risotto with veggies, they’re in the rice ball party, too.  Although this may be sacrilege for hardcore risotto foodies out there,  I prefer using leftover risotto because it’s already sort of sticky and gummy and holds its shape really well in ball form.  If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can use any leftover rice, or cook up some of your own.

arancini assembly

 

There’s a small time expenditure getting the rice balls ready along the assembly line (I always keep power tools at the end, just in case any of those arancini get a little rowdy), but it’s worth it, and once everything is ready, the frying only takes a few minutes.  For these particular arancini, I used leftover risotto with roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

arancini

 

Arancini are traditionally served with a side of marinara for dipping, but I have come to like serving them on top of a salad–they’re the best croutons in the world!  This salad was a pre-packaged kale salad with yogurt curry dressing I found in Costco.  I usually make at least a dozen or more at a time (if I’m heating up a whole pot of oil, I better make it worth its weight in gold!)–they freeze really well and reheat crisp-perfectly.


ARANCINI

  • Servings: enough for a party
  • Time: 20-30 mins
  • Difficulty: medium, for time expenditure with assembly
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This recipe is adapted from Kelly Senyei’s Arancini recipe.  Part of my adaptation is using leftover risotto, so this recipe reflects “leftovers”.  If you don’t have leftovers, cook up some rice to use–Kelly does a great job explaining which rice works best.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups leftover vegetable risotto
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-15 one-inch squares of cheese.  {I have used fresh mozzarella, “Babybel” circles cut in fourths, a bunch of muenster cheese sandwich slices stacked and cut–whatever I have on hand, and they’ve all worked out just fine}
  • For the assembly line, have a shallow dish ready with 4 beaten eggs, and another shallow dish ready with 2 cups panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon italian seasoning and a couple shakes of salt and pepper, and a cookie sheet prepped with a sheet of parchment paper.  The arancini will rest here after forming into balls and before going to the fryer.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare a large pot with four inches of oil, place over medium heat.  Use a pot thermometer to ensure the oil reaches 375, not too hot or it will smoke and burn your arancini, and not too cool, or the arancini will be heavy and dense and full of oil, not light and crispy.
  2. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Assembly line:  I use a #40 cookie scoop (it measures to about 1.5 tablespoons), scoop one scoop of the rice mixture in your hand, place a square of cheese, then top with another scoop of rice and form into a ball.  Next, roll the rice ball in the beaten eggs until all sides are covered, and then roll around in the seasoned breadcrumbs.  Feel free to squeeze the rice ball in cupped hands to make sure it’s stable, and place on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  Continue forming the arancini until the rice mixture is gone.  Watch the oil while you are making the arancini so it doesn’t get too hot.  If the oil reaches 375 while you are still assembling, go ahead and start frying.  You’ll get the rhythm.
  4. Once the oil is ready, carefully drop 3-4 balls at a time in the oil to fry.  Roll them around in the oil using a slotted spoon or a wire-mesh spider, and pull out of the oil when they are golden brown, usually 3-4 minutes does the trick.  Have a cooling rack ready on the counter with paper towels under it to catch any dripping oil, and keep the arancini on the cooling rack–they’ll stay crispier there than a cookie sheet.
  5. Serve warm, with a salad (preferred!), or with a side of marinara.  Once they are completely cooled, you can put them in a gallon freezer bag, label with the date, and freeze for future devouring.

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